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Heel-Face Turn
The Grinch before and after a wondrous change of heart.

"And what happened then?
Well, in Whoville, they say,
The Grinch's small heart
Grew three sizes that day."

When a bad guy turns good. This usually makes for a good plot, for three reasons:
  1. It lets them reintroduce the villain as a "darker, edgier" hero.
  2. It reinforces a desired notion of the inherent goodness within people.
  3. It prevents the Worthy Opponent from falling victim to What a Senseless Waste of Human Life.

There are even more reasons for the turning:
  1. An encounter with an All-Loving Hero or gaining a Morality Pet.
  2. Discovering that Being Evil Sucks possibly that Good Feels Good.
  3. An Enemy Mine situation leading to Fire Forged Friendship or The Power of Love in the form of Deliver Us from Evil or Love Redeems changing their priorities. Conversely Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal makes them rethink their loyalities.
  4. Realizing that they are a Noble Demon.
  5. A Heel Realization, if he had never considered his actions evil or wrong in the first place.

Sadly, all too frequently Redemption Equals Death, and when it doesn't, someone still needs to draw their "Get Out of Jail Free" Card. Otherwise they may find the good guys unwilling to believe them, their conversion met with a Heel Face Door Slam. On the other hand, the bad guy may reject their chance at turning over a new leaf altogether, in which case it's Redemption Rejection.

The many reasons and the probability for a turn are listed in the Sorting Algorithm of Face Heel Turning. A very common fate for the lone female character in any evil group. Beware, some authors know the stereotypes of Heel Face Turning and will play with it accordingly.

The term "Heel Face Turn" comes from Professional Wrestling, in which an evil wrestler (a "heel") sometimes has a change of heart and becomes good, thereby becoming a "babyface". Magazines and other promotional material from the various wrestling leagues comment on various wrestlers' changes in alignment nearly as frequently as they cover events in the ring themselves.

Compare the Reverse Mole, who is secretly working for the good guys all along. May be the result of a person that was Good All Along. When someone who doesn't care one way or the other is forced to fight they become Neutral No Longer.

This is the opposite of a Face-Heel Turn and is generally found in stories with Black and White Morality. It has two subtropes: Heel-Face Brainwashing, more or less the opposite of Brainwashed and Crazy, and High Heel-Face Turn. See also Mook-Face Turn when the bad guy doing it is a Mook, and Heel Race Turn when an entire faction does it.

In real-life the nature of Heel-Face Turn and Face-Heel Turn is subjective (one person's "seeing the light" is another person's "heartless betrayal" depending on what group the individual is going to or leaving) No Real Life Examples, Please!.


Example subpages:


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     Card Games 
  • In the artwork of "Advance Zone" in the Yu-Gi-Oh! OCG, it is suggested that "Steelswarm Roach" was purified by the Vylons. This can be further proven by his idle and laid-back appearance in "Breath of the Valient"'s artwork as the "Divine Serpent" passes by. Later on, "Steelswarm Roach" becomes "Evilswarm Exciton Knight"

     Newspaper Comics 
  • It would almost be easier to list how many of Flash Gordon's friends didn't start out as his enemies. Even Zarkov was pretty scary in the very beginning. To his considerable credit, Thun is one of the few people on Mongo who treated Flash decently from the word go. Thun's a cool dude.
  • Dick Tracy's allies B.O. Plenty and Gravel Gertie used to be crooks. (Who later married and had a gorgeous daughter named Sparkle.)

    Religion 
  • Christianity features a few canonical examples, possibly the most significant being Matthew the Apostle who used to be a tax collector before his conversion. Also, Saul, before he was renamed Paul the Apostle, was a Pharisee, a member of a very zealous Jewish sect, and he was on his way to Damascus to murder members of the early church when the Lord Jesus Christ came to him in a vision. (Acts ch. 9)

    Theatre 
  • Edmund in King Lear goes from helping to plot the death of the play's most sympathetic characters to (ineffectually) attempting to save them: "I pant for life; some good I mean to do/Despite of mine own nature."
  • In The Merchant of Venice, Shylock, partly because he wants to get out of his predicament alive and partly because Antonio suggested the order to convert to Christianity out of a desire to redeem his soul, agrees to become a Christian, departs from the court in poor physical health from what he had just gone through in his unsuccessful attempt to get the pound of flesh from Antonio, and signs the deed offscreen when the court delivers it to him.

     Visual Novels 
  • In Fate/stay night, Ilya is the main threat for the first half of the series, but she becomes an ally when her monstrous Servant Berserker is killed in Fate scenario (she couldn't keep fighting at that point, but that didn't mean she had to join the True Companions). In the Heaven's Feel scenario, she goes so far as to sacrifice herself for Shirou in the Good End.
  • In the science fiction visual novel Bionic Heart, the Corrupt Corporate Executive's brand new android henchwoman turns on him when the psychic human brain he placed in her head allows her to have visions showing the destruction that will result from his future plans.
  • In Umineko no Naku Koro ni Episode 8, Lambdadelta manages to do an awesome one, going up against Bernkastel .


Hair of Gold, Heart of GoldGoodness TropesHigh Heel-Face Turn
HeelTropeNamers/Professional WrestlingHeel Face Door Slam
Happy EndingJustForFun/Tropes of LegendFace-Heel Turn
The GunslingerHeroesHenshin Hero
Heel Face ReturnHeel Face IndexHigh Heel-Face Turn
The HedonistAdministrivia/No Real Life Examples, Please!Heel Realization
Hand WavePt/Índice de TraduçãoFace-Heel Turn
Face Monster TurnBetrayal TropesHeel-Face Brainwashing
The GrinchImageSource/Animated FilmsIce Age
Heroic SacrificeOverdosed TropesGenre Savvy
Author TractReligious EdutainmentDeus ex Machina

alternative title(s): Face Turn; Turn To The Light Side; Evil Turns Good; Bad Guy Turns Good
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