Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot

Our usually-male protagonist is first introduced as a self-centered Jerkass who doesn't care about the feeling of others. Expect a series of scenes of our soon-to-be-hero being rude to subordinates, ditching his nerdy friend or kicking a woman out of his house in the morning. He is usually rich, good-looking, successful and/or charming, but lacking in friendship and love.

Then the plot happens, our hero undergoes some trial and tribulations, eventually saves the day, and in the process discovers how much of a jerk he's been, learning a lesson in humility and kindness. Yay! He'll also find love and/or true friendship in the process.

This is a specific Character Development plot and a subtrope of both Break the Haughty and Took a Level in Kindness. It is a form of redemption story where the protagonist was never actually evil, just self centric and unpleasant. A Jerk To Nice Guy Plot is more common in one-shot stories such as movies or single novels than long-runners, such as TV shows.

This character arc is likely to happen to an Insufferable Genius or Jerk Jock. Compare Sudden Humility and Redemption Quest. Often, when a sequel is made, the character suffers Aesop Amnesia and returns to the old, Jerkass ways (only to learn the same lesson again).


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Boku no Hero Academia: The Deuteragonist, Bakugou Katsuki, starts off as the protagonist's bully who takes pride and joy in torturing and ridiculing him and destroying his things, at one point even telling him to go kill himself. After entering UA, he becomes The Friend Nobody Likes because no one wants to hang with a bully, gets showed off by his former victim and the class's The Ace and gets kidnapped, unwittingly causes the retirement of his own childhood hero. While he's still greatly unpleasant to everyone but Kirishima, he is far more humble and less prone to violent outbursts.

  • Attempted with The Irredeemable Ant-Man, who started as a guy that did such things as petty theft and (on the series' advertisement) shrink in order to get on girls' bosoms, and eventually would become a more conventional hero. Unfortunately, Marvel's mishandled advertisement and the blatant, not-really-played-for-laughs-that-well Jerkassery of this opening part of the character's arc meant that the series fell straight into Audience-Alienating Premise territory (Evangeline Lilly, who played Hope Pym im the Ant-Man movie, even went as far as saying on interviews that she had read the series for research and considered it "garbage") and the series got a pretty quick death.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Discworld tale Gap Year Adventures, by A.A. Pessimal, a sub-theme involves a classic Jerkass who has spent the previous seven years being utterly despised and derided by his peers at the Assassins' School, with good reason. When his path crosses that of two far better former Guild students than he was, he realises he is pretty much dependent on the goodwill of two people who have no particular reason to love him. The day is saved for him by his former student peers, in fact; his role is minimal, but earns him a little grudging approval. He inevitably grows up - a near-Death experience or two help - and a newer, better, version emerges at the end. The fact he is not-so-secretly in love with one of his rescuers adds a bit more bite - he realises he has to grow up and shape up, or lose her. Or she'll lose what wasn't a great amount of patience to begin with, and she'll definitively lose him.
  • Extremely Nice: In a plot to get Adrien back, Chloe turns to Marinette and Charisse to learn how to be likable under the guise of seeing the error of her ways.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Beast's character arc in Beauty and the Beast is this. In the beginning of the movie, he's a selfish, vain prince, who gets turned into a literal monster until he can change his ways. First he is really harsh with Belle, but gradually softens up to her and becomes a nice, selfless person, ultimately breaking the curse.
  • The first Cars movie has Lightning McQueen start out as an egotistical rookie race car who clearly dislikes his job advertising Rust-eze medicated bumper ointment and having to be around rusty cars, and longs to be the new spokesman of the Dinoco gas station. He ends up lost in Radiator Springs and put on community service, and over the course of the movie, he learns to be more humble, becomes friends with Mater, a rusty tow truck, and turns down the Dinoco sponsorship when it is offered to him as a reward for helping Strip "The King" Weathers cross the finish line after a nasty accident.
  • Despicable Me: Gru becomes a better person and a father after he adopts three orphan girls, intending to use them for his evil plan.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: Spoiled, vain Emperor Kuzco is turned into a llama, has to endure a difficult journey to return home and makes friends with a peasant named Pacha, and becomes a better ruler in the end.
  • The Jungle King is about Maximilien, a pompous lion that behaves as an asshole to everybody. After being kidnapped, escaping and saving his kingdom, he learns from his brother (who was impersonating him) thay he must be nice to his people.
  • In The LEGO Batman Movie, Batman starts out as a selfish jerk who enjoys working alone, but he eventually learns to trust his friends and to bond with them properly, becoming a lot nicer by the end of the film.
  • Megamind: Megamind starts out as a jerk but through the events of the film discovers the power of good and realizes he is better as a hero. This is both a Jerk-to-Nice-Guy Plot and an actual Heel–Face Turn.
  • Jim Hawkins of Disney's Treasure Planet starts out as a cute urchin, then undergoes a fifteen year Time Skip to be seen as a sailboarding ne'er-do-well poised for juvenile incarceration. His trip to Treasure Planet as the ward of astrophysicist Delbert Doppler, and the time Jim spends as the ship's galley boy slowly file down his jerkass tendencies. Jim proves his mettle in saving the ship and surviving crew from certain doom, earning a place in the republic's starfleet academy. His mother beams with pride.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Iron Man: After rich, egotistical genius Tony Stark is kidnapped and held prisoner by a ring of terrorists, he has a change of heart and becomes the superhero Iron Man, learning in the process how to be less of a jerk.
  • What Women Want: Suave womanizer Nick Marshall gains the power to hear women's thoughts, and after a series of wacky misadventures resulting from his newfound power, he learns to see women as people and finds true love.
  • Green Lantern: Jerk Jock Hal Jordan learns a lesson about responsibility and being a better friend when he is chosen as the bearer of the Green Lantern Ring.
  • Groundhog Day. Phil Connors is contemptuous toward almost everyone and makes no attempt to hide it. Fate decides to put him in a "Groundhog Day" Loop (Trope Namer), causing him to re-live the same day over and over again. He decides to help other people avoid being hurt, betters himself by learning to play the piano and create ice sculpture, and falls in love. When he has improved his personality enough he's freed from the loop.
  • Scrooged. In this update of A Christmas Carol, Frank Cross is a selfish, sleazy and greedy television executive. He's put through a series of ghostly encounters that teach him the error of his ways and becomes generous, honest and loving.
  • In the origin story of Green Hornet, Britt Reid is just a Spoiled Brat that makes whatever he wants, usually parties, being a shame for his father, who wants to manage the family business that is the newspaper. When his father dies misteriously, Britt not just get the newspaper business, also he becomes the vigilante known as the "Green Hornet". Also, during the movie, he changed his ways to be a better person and a best hero in general.
  • Jesus, Bro! is about famous internet celebrity (and Jerkass Hollywood Atheist) Rick "The Rickhead" Whitehead who meets Santa Christ after passing out drunk. He becomes a Jerkass Hollywood Christian who is set to convert all of his followers and accidentally causes the Rapture in the process. It is only then when he realizes the consequences of his selfish actions does he decide to be selfless and risk being damned for eternity by God when Santa Christ promises to save his friends if he takes the blame for his involvement. God hits the Reset Button and Rick learns that it does not matter what religion you follow or what God you worship, only that you are a good person in the end.
  • Zach Siler in the movie She's All That is a popular jock who makes a bet that he can turn the ugliest girl in the school into prom queen. He pretends to befriend Laney Boggs, who is a dorky artist. Zach's intentions change, however, after he falls for Laney.

  • Eustace Scrubb from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader starts off as a whiny self-obsessed jerk, but after getting turned into a monstrous dragon due to his own greed, he grows out of it and becomes much more helpful and considerate as a result, earning a transformation back into human from Aslan. In the later Narnia books, Eustace becomes unambiguously one of the heroes, transformed by this experience on the Dawn Treader.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol may be the Trope Codifier- a classic christmas story about a rich old curmudgeon who is taught a lesson and learns to be a good guy and appreciate the joy of christmas.
  • Nils Holgersson from The Wonderful Adventures Of Nils is a lazy, mischievous Bratty Half-Pint who torments animals just for fun. After a magical elf turns him only a few inches high and capable of talking to animals, and a flock of wild geese take him on a journey over Sweden, he learns humility and respect for nature, and becomes a kind and selfless person by the end of the book.

     Video Game 
  • DmC: Devil May Cry: The Dante from the 2013 reboot goes through this during the plot of the game. At first, he's only interested in defending himself and openly tells Vergil he doesn't care what happens to humankind. As the story develops, he begins to witness the way that humans are suffering too, not just him, and expresses sympathy. By the end of the game, he steps up to their defense unprompted.

    Web Original 
  • RWBY: Weiss starts off as a spoiled Jerkass who consider her teammates beneath her level and is openly distraught over the fact the young Perky Goth Ruby is her team leader. After being called out by Professor Port as a Spoiled Brat, she realizes that she should work in being a better teammate than try to be the leader. After that, she befriends the rest of the team and acts overall nicer to everyone, even becoming Vitrolic Best Buds with Ruby.