So Commander Kill 'em All is a bad guy. A really bad guy. Why is he so bad? Because He says so, and he would know right. He kicks puppies, drop kicks babies, and isn't afraid of any Knight in Shining Armor. He's no Harmless Villain. He's a potential Big Bad... Except he's not. And when a situation comes up where he proves it, nobody is more surprised than he is. That's right. You're actually a good guy. Whereas Heel Realization is where a character finally realizes he is, in fact, the villain of the story, Face Realization is the opposite. It's distinct from You Are Better Than You Think You Are, in that the character realizes it on his own, without anyone needing to tell him, because he proves it with an indisputable act of goodness and heroism. Why was it so hard for him to see this? Maybe he spent so much time pretending to be a not-so-nice guy and hiding that golden heart of his that he started to believe it himself, or perhaps after after being turned down by the heroes he decides to embrace villainy but finds that kitten eating doesn't suit him no matter how pissed he is at the hero. In other cases, Good Feels Good can creep up on you — but sometimes it takes a while to sink in past the pretense that it's all a front. Whatever the case, now that he knows what kind of man he truly is, there's no way he'll remain one of the black hats. Being nice may be optional, but now he's one of the good guys. See What You Are in the Dark for when this happens privately, and You Are Better Than You Think You Are for when this comes from an outside influence. The obvious end result is a Heel-Face Turn.
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Anime and Manga
- Vegeta in Dragon Ball Z was a murderous, egotistical, power hungry bastard, but after getting married and raising a family, he found it hard to go back to his more villainous (and in his opinion more powerful) self. He had to cut a deal with a evil wizard to make himself evil again, and even then, he was still too good. It finally sinks in that he is no longer the villain he used to be when, after asking the Namek Dragon to restore every person on earth who was killed by Majin Buu except the evil ones, he is brought back to life along with them.
- Angel Densetsu:
- Played for Laughs with Ikyno, who realizes that rather than 'accidentally' beating up thugs, she is to her surprise, "a lot nicer of a person than [she] thought".
- This also happened with Yuji toward the end of the story. One of his old delinquent friends notes that his delinquent activities with Kitano involve things like studying and community service and no actual delinquent activities at all. Yuji finally realizes that Kitano isn't really a delinquent and that he no longer is one either, and it doesn't bother him.
- Played with by Evangeline in Mahou Sensei Negima!. She insists that she is a Big Bad no matter how much evidence is presented that would disprove it. It may be that she just doesn't want to admit it out loud. That and she's powerful enough that few characters can call her on it, with the exception of Albireo, who relentlessly trolls her.
- Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Grandis and her two henchmen: Hanson and Sanson. They initially serve as the antagonists, constantly in pursuit of Nadia and her gem. Despite this, it doesn't take long to see they're a Quirky Miniboss Squad, rather than an actual threat. So it came as little surprise to anyone (but themselves) when they turn over a new leaf upon joining the Nautilus crew. Due largely in part to Grandis falling head over heels for Nemo.
- During his brief stint as an Arc Villain in Fairy Tail, Laxus tries to finish the fight against Natsu and Gajeel by invoking Fairy Law, a spell that annihilates anyone the caster sees as an enemy. Laxus is shaken when the spell fails to hit a single person.
- In Thunderbolts, a series about a group of supervillains posing as a superhero team as part of a scheme by their leader Baron Zemo, most of the team have this realization sooner or later. When Zemo reveals their secret, most of them turn against him. Atlas at first thinks himself still loyal, but when Zemo goes to kill Jolt, he revolts.
- General Hummel in The Rock eventually finds himself unable to go through with his plot to blast San Francisco with a deadly toxin. Of course, his (former) co-conspirators don't quite see things his way, and you know what happens then...
- Played with in Night Watch. Arina at some point realizes that she is doing mainly good deeds instead of Chaotic Neutral, so she changes alignments.
- In addition to being one long Heel-Face Turn, the movie Megamind could be seen as this for the titular character. When push comes to shove, he actually ends up being a better hero than a villain.
- Despicable Me is all about a supposed Evil Genius gradually realizing that he's actually a good guy.
- In Return of the Jedi, in the very last moment of his life, Darth Vader says to Luke, "You were right about me." While his Death Equals Redemption move doesn't exactly scrub away his countless Kick the Dog acts, on the whole, his tragic life actually produced many good things, culminating in the destruction of the Sith.
- Igor. The Beleaguered Assistant Igor of the Mad Scientist realizes there's more to being evil in their setting where Bad Is Good and Good Is Bad.
- In Kamen Rider: The First, the movie remake of the original series, Hayato Ichimonji is constantly telling TakeshiHongou that he and only he will beat Hongou. Then he will take the girl and return to Dai-Shocker. That is until the climax of the Film when they raid the Dai-Shocker together to rescue the reporter girl. During the fight, Hayato tries to run, but when he sees Hongou continuing to fight, he comes back, leading to this conversation:
Hayato: I didn't know. So I'm really a good guy.Hongou: Yeah. That's what I said.
- This seems to be used regularly in works by David Gemmell. He would often have a character who because of a tough life thought of himself as a mean bastard who only did things for selfish reason. The character would join the protagonist(s) because it seemed to benefit him. However, at the end he would find that he really is a good person though it often preceded a Heroic Sacrifice.
- Morningstar had the titular character constantly proclaim that he was only doing things to get rich or to save his life. It's only after he becomes a legendary hero revered by a nation that he realizes that he did all of these things because he is a good person.
- Waylander has a scene where a known liar, thief and murderer is scanned by a pair of telepathic villains who deem him no threat to their evil plans and proceed on their way. The idea that these mooks would consider him as morally irredeemable as themselves offends him so much that he performs a Heroic Sacrifice just to prove that there is some good in him.
- In the book series Sisters Grimm, Puck is often seen shouting that he is " a villain of the worst kind", and playing pranks... but when it comes right down to it, he's one of the most heroic characters, to the point of nearly getting killed to save Sabrina's life- more than once! When other characters point out how heroic he is, he flips out and sulks for a while, then tries to prove how evil he is with a prank or two. and then the cycle repeats.
- Jherek from Threat From The Sea trilogy was a hard case. Tried long and hard to convince everyone starting from himself that as a pirate's runaway son he can't possibly be any good, before being forced to admit the painfully obvious (for everyone else) fact that he's a paladin and when he happens to heal someone with a touch, it's not because of some cheap amulet.
- In Going Postal, Moist imagines, at the end, running off and returning to his con-man life. Instead, he lets Adorabelle hold his hand, and he tells himself that it's enough to be able to tell himself that he can leave at any time.
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: Realizing that stealing all the Who's presents did not stop them from celebrating Christmas, the Grinch realizes that "Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." In both the animated special and the live-action film, the realization comes as he tries to stop the sled with all the presents from going over the cliff.
- One of Dumbledore's running schemes in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is to save Draco Malfoy by convincing him that he doesn't belong with the Death Eaters. At the moment of truth, when Draco has Dumbledore dead to rights...he can't bring himself to do it. The moment Harry saw Draco lower his wand, Harry stopped seeing him as a hated rival and started pitying him. Though Draco doesn't quite manage a Heel-Face Turn in the next book, he's extremely unhappy with all of the torture and murder happening around him. The same applies to his parents. Once they get him back they basically go neutral although Narcissa was never all that evil to start with.
Live Action TV
- In Xena: Warrior Princess, Joxer comes from a long line of warlords and tries his best to be evil, but he just can't do it. He's the White Sheep of the family, and quite embarrassed about it.
- In Breaking Bad, Jesse Pinkman comes to accept that he is the "bad guy" and from then on tries to invoke several Kick the Dog moments such as selling meth to a support group. Come the end of that season; he is emotionally exploited into murdering another person as a scheme of Walter White, as a result Jesse breaks down into tears in the act and spends most of the next season in a Heroic BSOD.
- Seeing how a face is generally considered to be any wrestler that gets cheered for, any wrestler who finds themselves getting cheered for consistently will realize they are a face. That said, face doesn't always mean "good person" in professional wrestling. William Regal will always be a dirty rotten scoundrel with hate in his heart, no matter how much you all cheer him. Then again, even he can look "good" next to, say, Evolution or La Resistance.
- Macaela Mercedes, taken aback by the fact the fans of the Apocalypse Wrestling Federation were actually cheering for her, felt inspired to wrestle cleanly from there on out.
- Mistico tried his hand a being a rudo, liking the "all is fair in love and war" philosophy he learned his Arch-Nemesis Averno was living by when they were forced to team up by CMLL. However, after trying to live it out, Mistico realized he was no good at it and went back to wrestling as a technico.
- Kevin Steen tried to reform but when that didn't work, he drove Jimmy Jacobs and Steve Corino off the right path and started Suffering Ugliness Chaos Mayhem(SCUM) to destroy Ring of Honor to show the triumph of evil, spite Jim Cornette and act as a stepping stone to the toppling of the whole industry (Chikara would be next). But after declaring Steen a failure and kicking him out of the group in favor of Matt Hardy, Steen watched them go on to try and destroy ROH without him and realized he still liked the promotion.
- Rin Tohsaka in Fate/stay night is constantly trying to be a typical magus (many of whom aren't that nice) while belittling Shirou for trying to be a hero. But is every route, she realizes that that just not the person she is. Most tellingly, in Heavens Feel, where she can't bring herself to kill her sister Sakura, who has become an Eldritch Abomination who's been (at first unknowingly) killing everyone around her. She acknowledges that she no longer has any right to berate Shirou afterwards.
- In the He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special, Skeletor makes a slow Heel-Face Turn thanks to the charms of a robotic puppy and two children. When it comes time to deliver the children to Horde Prime, he instead attacks Horde Prime, and exclaims "I don't know what's come over me!"
- During the second "Boiling Rock" episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Mai pulls a You Shall Not Pass to save Zuko. After being captured, she prepares to face Azula's wrath. Which is when Ty Lee surprises everyone, including herself, by blocking Azula's chi to prevent her from killing Mai.
- Spongebob Squarepants: SpongeBob and Patrick try to reform Mermaid Man's archnemesis Man-Ray, who is prevented from doing evil by a tickling belt. After many tests which Man-Ray fails, the belt goes haywire and Man-Ray begs to be freed, even saying "Please", which for SpongeBob is good enough to consider him rehabilitated. Man-Ray immediately packs all the weapons he can find and goes to the nearest bank with the intention of robbing it. However, he finds that every time he tries, he just breaks out in laughter. Realizing that "the urge to do bad is gone", he gives up being evil for good. (Or at least until his next appearance.)