->''"The mark of a true hero is somebody who's willing to sacrifice his own personal morality to help keep the world safe."''
-->-- '''Tess Mercer''', ''Series/{{Smallville}}''

Most great fictional heroes fall into one of two broad categories: the IdealHero, such as TheCape or a KnightInShiningArmor who is pretty much exactly what one would hope for in a hero - skilled, courageous, morally pure, etc., and the AntiHero, who lacks one or more qualities normally considered necessary for an IdealHero. For example, a ClassicalAntiHero lacks ability or self-confidence. A KnightInSourArmor lacks a positive attitude, and a NominalHero lacks morally pure intentions and has purely selfish motivation.

A Pragmatic Hero lacks the "moral cleanliness" of an IdealHero. When fighting evil, they often commit acts that might seem more characteristic of a villain than a hero. However, Pragmatic Heroes have morally good intentions and often hold themselves to strict moral standards--it's just that those standards aren't always what others might expect from a hero. This type of hero tends to be much more concerned with whatever heroic business the plotline has assigned them than the niceties of proper heroic etiquette. However, with the exception of unintentional mistakes, they will rarely if ever commit a villainous deed that doesn't further the cause of good in a way.

This character is one step further towards the gray side of AntiHero from the (first type of) KnightInSourArmor. While the KnightInSourArmor will do the right thing, but cut the niceties, the Pragmatic Hero is more about doing the right thing whether anyone likes it or not, and will shove aside more idealistic heroes who give them a WhatTheHellHero moment.

At the end of the day, their justification is typically IDidWhatIHadToDo, they ''love'' giving TheReasonYouSuckSpeech to a poor WideEyedIdealist, and they might evolve into [[CynicalMentor cynical mentors]]. However, they will never say "SillyRabbitIdealismIsForKids," and are quite likely to view any unpleasant actions they take as DirtyBusiness and seek to avoid it if reasonably possible. Deep down, they want the best for others, and this character may have shades of ChronicHeroSyndrome as he/she will often be the one to defend a captured minion or fallen hero.

Being pragmatic, they also have both the flaws and strengths a more passionate hero lacks, so are less likely to let [[ItsPersonal personal]] intentions get in the way of their job, possibly seeing that kind of behavior as shortsighted and [[ConsummateProfessional unprofessional]], since acting without thought for the consequences of one's actions is against everything they believe in. In this sense a Pragmatic Hero contrasts a BloodKnight or HeWhoFightsMonsters.

However, if their [[ShootTheDog methods]] ''are'' [[UpToEleven excessively violent]] or otherwise distasteful, they've become [[UnscrupulousHero Unscrupulous Heroes]]. Compare GoodIsNotNice if the "good guy" extends his jerkassery towards non-villainous characters as well and GoodIsNotSoft in for the instances when they get their hands bloody in the name of the greater good while remaining more or less decent people.


[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Homura Akemi from ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'', who is willing to do anything to protect Madoka. This eventually gets [[{{Deconstruction}} deconstructed]] [[spoiler:when she ultimately decides the only way to protect and keep Madoka safe is to [[FaceHeelTurn become]] [[ProtagonistJourneyToVillain the Devil to her God]]]].
* ''Manga/{{Patalliro}}'': Most of the cast, to an extent, but Bancoran fits the most as a {{Yaoi}} Franchise/JamesBond {{Expy}}. He shows it by having a sense of honor and duty during missions and usually being the first to show kindness.
* ''[[Manga/SailorMoon Minako Aino]]'', of all people, graduated to this at the end of ''Manga/CodenameSailorV'' when she [[spoiler:killed Ace, ''her true love'' for being Kunzite's {{Dragon}}]]. Had shades of this since the start, as her first kill was [[spoiler:Higashi, the disguised youma on which she had a crush]], but she was holding hope she could ''save'' [[spoiler:Higashi]], while she attacked to kill when facing [[spoiler:Ace]].
* Fakir in ''Anime/PrincessTutu'', to the point that [[WideEyedIdealist Duck]] (and most of the audience) thinks he's a ''villain'' in the first few episodes. He tries to kill the resident DarkMagicalGirl (and threatens to kill [[MagicalGirl Princess]] [[UnwittingPawn Tutu]], as well), and his overprotective treatment of Mytho can only be described as emotional abuse (or would be, [[EmotionlessGirl if he had any emotions to be abused]]). However, his only goal is to protect [[TheWisePrince Mytho]], since he feels it's his duty as the Knight, and once his original plans fall through, he teams up with Duck to find another way to help him.
* In ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'', [[spoiler:Itachi seems to be one of these, as revealed by his comments after he is brought BackFromTheDead. Despite all the [[DirtyBusiness terrible things he has been forced to do]], he still believes in the ideal of the Will of Fire, and considers himself a shinobi of Konoha.]]
* Ange in ''Anime/CrossAnge'' is willing to dirty her hands if need be but she's doing it so that her squadmates are safe from harm even if she has to KillSteal from them. Also disgusted with the society of mana after witnessing its harsh bigotry when nearly executed for being a Norma, and wishes to destroy it, but remains to be seen how far she will go. She was definitely disgusted when she found out [[spoiler:the [[=DRAGONs=]] she and her comrades had been killing were part-human]].
* [[Anime/CodeGeass Lelouch Lamperouge]] is a master at this trope, being more than willing to do manipulate people and act immorally to achieve his goals. Occasionally he's even able to use the Britannians' sense of honor against them, as when he accepts a Britannian commander's offer of a one-on-one duel....only to collapse the platform holding much of the commander's men so his own forces can sweep in and attack.
* Manga/AttackOnTitan has several of these, [[CrapsackWorld given the kind of world they live in.]] The most evident are Erwin Smith and Levi, who puts the necessities and survival of the human race above anything else, even if it means risking the lives of many of their men to achieve it. They don't enjoy it, but with the significant circumstances against them, they have no choice but to use these methods.

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Wolverine}}'' is sometimes portrayed as this, for example in the 2013 CrisisCrossover ''ComicBook/AgeOfUltron'', where he [[spoiler: goes back in time and murders Hank Pym before Ultron can be created.]]
* ''Franchise/WonderWoman''. While she will always try to find a peaceful solution first, she is perfectly willing to kill if she cannot find an alternative method to ending a conflict.
* Comicbook/BlackPanther will often look for a diplomatic solution, but is not above using lethal force or other morally dubious methods to save the day. He's one of the few heroic examples of the {{Chessmaster}} archetype.
* ''ComicBook/{{Huntress}}'' is pretty much the same as Wonder Woman and has no problem using lethal force if she feels it's necessary. Naturally, her and Batman don't tend to get along.
* ''ComicBook/NickFury'', Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., he has done plenty of rather questionable things. But he did it for the good of everyone, and so that the superheroes would look better than him.
* Eric Finch from ''ComicBook/VForVendetta''.
* Jason Todd is this in ''ComicBook/RedHoodArsenal''.
* The DarkerAndEdgier Italian branch of ''Disney'' created one in Paperinik, WesternAnimation/DonaldDuck's superhero alter ego: at the start, and before ''ComicBook/PaperinikNewAdventures'', he was merely an avenger of himself who brought in criminals and the likes merely because he would not tolerate people taking the easy way.
** Quite appropriately, Fantomius, the GentlemanThief whose journal inspired Donald into becoming Paperinik (even wearing his very costume and using some of his gadgets in the first story, before acquiring some identical costumes and new gadgets), was one. He would steal, but always from {{Jerkass Victim}}s, and only because he saw that the best counter to criminals masquerading as gentlemen was a gentleman masquerading as a thief.
* ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd'': Joe Dredd is a jackbooted JudgeJuryAndExecutioner who above all else has to maintain order in a decaying megalopolis with horrible crime rates. He frequently kills perps and sentencing of those he arrests is extremely harsh, but Dredd does this purely out of a sense of duty and his belief that law is absolute. At several points in his career he's actually come to question the legitimacy of the Justice System.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In the ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'' fic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10163620/1/Before-Beacon-The-Founders-Story Before Beacon]], Otto is this.
-->''The village, he sensed right off, was in trouble. Grimm had likely been troubling it for days, weeks, months- he didn't know and couldn't tell. He needed to clear it, for the villagers' sake. And he would be damned if he didn't get a nice pile of gold doing so.''
* [[WesternAnimation/TeenTitans Cyborg and Persephone]] hate the idea of [[ThouShaltNotKill killing]] anyone in the finale of the ''Fanfic/CoincidenceAndMisunderstandings'' series, but understand that it's likely going to be necessary when storming a base filled with villains.
** Likewise when Mammoth [[MercyKill mercy killed]] Otto/Plasmius, Persephone remarked on how tragic it was that such a thing was necessary. By contrast, Nightwing arrested Jinx for murder after she destroyed Overload.
* [[Manga/{{Naruto}} Sarutobi]] allows Naruto to get away with being a KleptomaniacHero in [[http://naruto.adult-fanfiction.org/story.php?no=600105466&chapter=3 Demon's Dirty Dreams]] partially because Naruto is so good at LoopholeAbuse that it can't be proven he's actually stolen anything. Mostly however, it's because 1) rich merchants losing things they can easily afford to replace is a small price to pay to keep the resident jinchuuriki from going nuts and 2) Naruto turns in anything he steals that points to a traitor or someone cheating the system.
* ''Manga/FairyTail'' story ''Fanfic/AngelsBreath'' has Ryusuke Yugure, a genuinely nice man with [[{{Jerkass}} some]] [[DeadpanSnarker unsavory]] tendencies who is perfectly willing to torture an enemy to get information on a group who may endanger his guild.
* In ''Fanfic/PastContinuous'' Eleya isn't overly fond of the Cardassians but she notes early on that CDF officers like Berat ''should'' be involved in the operation to eject Loriss from Deep Space 9, because they saw Dominion War-era Dominion tactics and planning as friendlies, meaning they have a potentially useful perspective the Federation and Klingons don't have (demonstrated by Berat seeing a detail in Loriss' formations that Eleya and Admiral Marconi couldn't). She comments that a bit of the Vulcan "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations" mantra rubbed off on her from a Vulcan operations officer (probably T'Var).
* WordOfGod states that Sarutobi is aware of more than Naruto realizes in ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/3665921/1/Black-Flames-Dance-In-The-Wind-Rise-of-Naruto Black Flames Dance in the Wind: Rise of Naruto]]''. He doesn't have Naruto arrested because the crimes he does know about aren't worth losing a jinchuuriki that's S-ranked at graduation. However there are other crimes which he would arrest Naruto for, he just doesn't know about them.

* The title character of the ''Film/DirtyHarry'' franchise.
* Some Jedi in ''Franchise/StarWars'' do not object to the creation of clones genetically engineered to defend the Republic from the separatists. Then again, they have strongly held ideals, and think the Republic is the best possible regime.
%%* Glinda from ''Film/TheWizardOfOz''
* ''Creator/JohnWayne'' played many, many tough Pragmatic Heroes with guns, though they verge on being [[UnscrupulousHero Unscrupulous Heroes]] at times.

* In ''Literature/ABrothersPrice'', the Whistlers are a very pragmatic family. Some of their great-grandmothers were executed for treason, but no one ever considered taking revenge on the royal family; they ''were'' criminals, and that's the price you pay. Jerin, therefore, is quite a pragmatic hero. At the start of the novel, without regard for his own reputation and chastity, he leaves the house guarded only by his preteen sister, carries a wounded soldier to the family farm, and strips off her clothes, chaperoned only by his toddler sisters. Later on, [[spoiler: after he's been kidnapped]] he gives his word of honour to [[spoiler: make no attempts to escape if his companion is spared]] He later admits that he had no intention to keep his word.
* Much of ''LightNovel/FateZero'' is spent describing Emiya Kiritsugu's cold pragmatism. Originally, he wanted to be "a hero of justice" who would help the weak and needy, but a necessarily brutal career turned him into an assassin capable of committing atrocities in his belief that the needs of the many outweigh those of the few. For Kiritsugu, sacrificing a hundred people to save a thousand is something he would do without batting an eye. Despite this, Kiritsugu never gives up his ideal of achieving a everlasting peace without conflict, and is willing to do anything necessary to bring such a utopia around sooner. This leads to his willing participation in the Holy Grail War for the artifact's supposed wish-granting power.
** Honorable knight Saber despises her master Kiritsugu for using ruthless and dishonorable methods to achieve victory. Kiritsugu retorts that not only do his methods end the war quickly, but they also leave survivors averse to further bloodshed. Meanwhile, chivalry perpetuates war by ennobling and glamorizing it.
** [[spoiler: As a child, he is forced to gun down his own father when the senior Emiya's research into immortality infects an entire island with vampirism. At the end of this, he meets freelance cleaner Natalia, who trains him and becomes his mother figure.]]
** [[spoiler: Many years later, he makes the choice to kill Natalia during a botched assassination contact aboard an airliner. The target magus booby-traps his own body to release swarms of bees that irreversibly zombify anyone they stung. Knowing that the airliner could endanger entire cities if allowed to land, Kiritsugu shoots it down even though his mother/mentor is on board. In their last exchange, she seems to approve.]]
** [[spoiler: His ideals are finally tested when he has won the Holy Grail War and obtained said wish-granting Grail. The newfound knowledge that it would bring "peace" to the world through bloody means little different than his own leads Kiritsugu to destroy the artifact instead.]]
*** The consequences of his actions in ''LightNovel/FateZero'' lead Kiritsugu to pass down his ideals to his adopted son Shirou, who later strives to become [[AllLovingHero a hero who doesn't sacrifice anybody]] in [[VisualNovel/FateStayNight his adolescence]].
* ''Franchise/HarryPotter'' is constantly breaking the rules and ultimately [[spoiler: uses two out of the three unforgivable curses, and robs a bank]] to stop Lord Voldemort's schemes.
** Dumbledore as well. He leaves Harry in the care of the Dursleys (who are far from the ideal guardians ever), but does so because [[spoiler:his living with them will invoke an ancient magic that protects him from Voldemort]]. Notably the times when he ''doesn't'' follow this trope (he keeps from telling Harry vital information because he doesn't want to cause him distress from the knowledge), it backfires horribly since Harry walks into danger as a result.
* Grimble from ''Literature/GuardiansOfGaHoole'' fits here, like some other owls in the series do, by virtue of the high stress they have put on efficiency in [[CombatPragmatist fighting for]] good.
* In ''Literature/TheMistsOfAvalon'', Vivian may be one, [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation or]] [[TheHighQueen be]] [[KnightTemplar anything]] [[TheHero else]]...
* Edmund Pevensie from ''Literature/TheChroniclesOfNarnia'' is this, especially when compared [[TheHero to the chivalrous, idealistic Peter]]. Edmund seems to have a more cold-natured thinking, a sharp mind and logic. He is rarely driven by emotions and is mostly collected and down-to-earth, having an acute sense of justice, going to the point where he becomes unsympathetic towards enemies and downright cruel, as opposed to Peter, who is more impulsive and emotional. This is proven when Peter battles Miraz, because Edmund tells Peter not to be chivalrous and to strike Miraz. The scene suggests that, if Edmund had been in Peter's place, he would not have hesitated and would have killed Miraz in a heartbeat.
** Further shown in the novels when we are told the titles of each of the Pevensie children. Peter gets "The Brave" whereas Edmund gets "The Just". [[GoodIsNotNice Giving people what they deserve]] [[GoodIsNotSoft does not by any means always mean mercy.]]
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'' features violent fights, tough decisions, and cats betraying the warrior's code, but some of the cats implicated do it for the right reasons.
* The good guys in Creator/DavidWeber's ''Literature/{{Safehold}}'' are clearly good anyhow, but they justify and present their actions and motivations as purely pragmatic moves. Better to be merciful and honorable to defeated enemies so future foes will be more willing to surrender rather than fight to the last, better to treat your people well so they'll be loyal to you in turn, and so on.
** Frequent remarks are made along the lines of "Isn't it nice when the moral thing to do and the pragmatic thing to do are the same thing?"
* ''Literature/CiaphasCain'', HERO OF THE IMPERIUM, insists that, contrary to his image, he's an abject coward, and almost always seems to have an explanation as to why a given course of action seemed to best ensure his personal safety. He also tries to complement and be nice to his subordinates, because many a CowboyCop hard-driving Commissar has been "accidentally" shot by the men he was leading into battle. Note that the series hints that the claims of cowardice aren't always true; there have been plenty of times when he's been unable to come up with a pragmatic explanation, and blames it on shock or injury when it's clear he's acting out of genuine caring.
* Joseph Carrion from the ''Literature/MediochreQSethSeries''. Mediochre at least ''tries'' to be an IdealHero but [[AntiHero isn't very good at it]]. Joseph, by contrast, never saw any need to restrict himself to "good" actions in the first place, and is perfectly fine with gunning people down if it's for a good cause and there's no better option available.
* Pretty much all of Mike's followers in John Ringo's ''Literature/PaladinOfShadows'' series
* Lord Vetinari of the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' series always has the smooth operation of the city in mind, but the people in the city aren't as carefully considered.
* Tennyson Hardwick, small time actor, part time detective and bodyguard, former gigolo and hero of the eponymous series by Blair Underwood, Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due is a man hardened by his past enough to kill when he has to but is still moral enough to regret having to do it, even though he acknowledges that the men he killed had it coming. He also bends or even break the law often enough to sometimes put him at odds with his former cop father and current cop brother figure.
* ''Literature/ASongOfIceAndFire'': StupidGood has a very short shelf-life in this series; but, that doesn't make trying to be smart and good any easier.
** Stannis falls firmly into this. He has a very strong sense of what is right and will not hesitate to do whatever it takes to achieve that right; including having his own brother Renly assassinated with blood magic. It helps that Renly was a {{Jerkass}} who intended to kill Stannis, but what he had to do still torments him. Though it is still a matter for debate among the fandom how responsible Stannis was for Renly's death. Later Stannis considers burning a bastard nephew of his in a ritual to raise a dragon (for which King's Blood is required) but is clearly very reluctant to do so, and tells Melisandre if it fails she'll die slowly. [[spoiler:However his honest advisor Lord Davos Seaworth sends Edric away from Westeros before Stannis can do so.]]
** Daenerys Targaryen is... learning. Depending on you ask in-world, however, the [[NotQuiteTheRightThing various outcomes]] prove she's a [[PragmaticVillainy Villain]], not a Hero. However, in reality, she tries to go in doing the right thing whatever the cost, bleeds for every mistake she makes and is genuinely ''learning'' from both her success and failures. The problem is, gaining experience with pragmatism through trial and error (and a massive resolve to not be like [[StupidEvil her brother]]) is a good way to wind up in deep, deep trouble.
** Like Daenerys, Jon Snow has to start climbing the learning curve at top speed when he arrives at the Wall. He also finds out that trial and error with a fairly flexible code (for a Stark) while trying to be Good gives mixed results, to the point of putting strain on both his heroism and sanity at points. But, on the plus side, he doesn't get himself into ''as much'' trouble as his less pragmatic family members. Poor Arya (although not one of the particularly unpragmatic, rigid Starks), by contrast, starts to lose her grip on her original "hero" setting by having to become as pragmatic as humanly possible to simply ''survive''.
* In ''Literature/{{Acacia}}'', in contrast to her older brother Aliver who is an IdealHero , the Acacian princess Corinn is this [[spoiler:while she still retains quite a bit of her morals, she's not one to worry too much about that. How so? She overthrows her family's usurpers through treachery, continues her empire's use of drugging the population to pacify them (though she concedes a bit by using less of them), mind-controls opponents and even her own siblings if they get out of line, and drops the equivalent of a magical nuke on an enemy city that does various horrible things including causing a victim to be flayed alive. However her pragmatism makes her queen while his idealism ends up getting her brother killed]]
* ''Literature/JourneyToChaos'': By the start of ''Looming Shadow'' Eric is fully willing to use any means at his disposal to win a battle, complete his mission, and keep his team alive. He'd also rather avoid battles unless there's profit involved (he's a mercenary after all) or ItsPersonal.
* Conrad Nomikos in ''Literature/ThisImmortal''. He is not above resorting to guerrilla warfare, standing aside and potentially seeing someone killed or [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking insulting sensibilities by dismantling the pyramid of Cheops]] to prove his point and acieve the greater goal of an autonomous Earth with its inhabitants returned. He does, however, take the time to first make damn sure it's the best course of action towards that goal.

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* ''Series/TwentyFour'': Jack Bauer is a highly unconventional government agent who won't hesitate to torture his enemies to find out what he wants to know. Given that knowledge may be the only thing standing between the world as we know it and some very bad things, he falls in this category.
* ''Series/{{Angel}}'':
** The eponymous character thinks he has to take down the forces of evil by any means, and tries to distance himself from humans because they make him more remorseful, and ultimately, less ruthless. He also joins a dubious organization. Possibly momentarily downplayed when he tries to turn into Angelus, his Enemy Without.
** It becomes a plot point in season 5, when it drives him further and further away of his function of Champion. Eventually, it resulted in the murder of [[spoiler: an innocent champion called Drogyn.]]
** A perhaps even ''larger'' example of Angel's pragmatic hero complex is in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' Season Eight comics. He [[spoiler: adopts the status of a masked figure called Twilight]] under order of the Powers, intentionally putting himself against [[spoiler: Buffy and supposedly the Slayer organization]] to keep her focused and alive for the [[spoiler: inevitable Twilight prophecy]] because he believed Buffy would die, along with the rest of the world. In the end, it resulted in the deaths of [[spoiler: 200 slayers and Buffy's watcher, Giles.]] Though he ''was'' possessed in some areas (Long story ... )
** Wesley also frequently displayed this trope. He [[spoiler: was against rescuing Willow from the Mayor for a box]], [[spoiler: tortured a woman in a closet]] to gain information on Angel's wherabouts and stabbed a [[spoiler: a girl that was getting high off vampire's feeding off her]] to find out where Angelus was:
-->'''Wesley:''' "You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everyone killed."
* Oliver Queen from the Series ''Series/{{Arrow}}'' is a prime example in season 1, killing the bad guys to save the day. RealityEnsues as his allies and friends are aghast at his casual nature of this, and after suffering a series of tragedies by the end of the season, he takes up a ThouShaltNotKill oath going forward.
* ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'': Giles, later in the series. Buffy avoids this. Faith doesn't, when a good girl she will ShootTheDog and seek out RevengeByProxy, as well a keeping a cynical, pragmatic and decadent attitude, but is altruistic just the same.
* ''Series/{{Camelot}}'': Merlin sees himself as this. It is unclear whether he is actually this at the end of the series, but it seems he wants to be this and will succeed later.
* ''Series/TheCloser'': Brenda Leigh Johnson is a Pragmatic Hero, verging on the Lawful choice of the dilemma ToBeLawfulOrGood because she genuinely thinks she has to (but choosing good ultimately, though a rather tough good).
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The Doctor is this, [[spoiler: at one point sacrificing a city to prevent the world from being ruled by the villains]]. However, this tends to vary between incarnation, and sometimes even episodes. In one episode the Doctor will be willing to commit genocide against a destructive race and in the next he'll be refusing to wipe out the Daleks (AKA the worst things in the universe). A big theme of the revived series is whether the Doctor is a messianic figure or a narcissist hypocrite who looks down on others for not following his high and inconsistent standards. The [[Creator/PeterCapaldi Twelfth Doctor]] in particular does a lot of soul searching over what kind of a man he is and how his first companion Clara gradually becomes more pragmatic due to his influence. It's telling that Twelve comes to regard himself not as a hero or even a good man, but rather an idiot who passes through the universe helping others, forever striving to live up to a heroic ideal he's set up for himself and not always succeeding at it. As he puts to Clara in "Flatline", when she asks if she was a good Doctor in his stead during the crisis of the week, he says she was exceptional, but "Goodness had nothing to do with it."
** Jack Harkness too, although he swings widely between this and UnscrupulousHero, especially in ''Torchwood''. In ''Doctor Who'' proper, he is more often between Disney and Pragmatist.
** This is pointed out in "The Sirens of Time", where the 6th Doctor says all his incarnations are pragmatic but he is more so, stopping the villain by shooting the controls.
* ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'': Elliot Stabler, possibly. He uses IDidWhatIHadToDo as a CatchPhrase, because he is highly moral, but also sometimes too determined in achieving what he thinks are the best results. He has a closure rate of 97%, after all.
* ''Series/LegendOfTheSeeker'':
** First of all, it is [[{{PlayingWithATrope}} played straight]] with the [[TheFettered incorruptible]] Kahlan. She sacrifices her chances to get her immediate happy ending with the man she loves, her safety and the right to have the normal life she dreams of since so long ago, but can be a bit too extreme, even after her LoveInterest. For instance, when she learns that [[spoiler: [[ItMakesSenseInContext her baby niece is actually a baby nephew]], and discovers he'll be a member of the AlwaysChaoticEvil male Confessor kind]], she initially goes along with the Mother Confessor's plan to drown him. She also advises Richard several times to leave innocent people to their fates rather than [[ChronicHeroSyndrome helping them,]] because their mission is more important.
** Zedd seemed to show signs of being this, but it gets [[{{SubvertedTrope}} subverted]] when he is willing to get revenge on Panis Rahl when it wouldn't help his quest, or his goal, or even to fulfill his personal standards, morally or otherwise. Then, it gets DoubleSubverted, as he refuses to do so when he realizes how bad it would be.
** It is [[PlayingWithATrope played with]] with Cara, who behaves like one due to Richard's orders (but it is unclear whether she completely or just partly adopted this mentality).
** [[{{SubvertedTrope}} Subverted]] with Richard, who is supposed to be turned into a PragmaticHero by his training but always TakesAThirdOption, remaining (depending on your point of view) either a HeroicArchetype, either a hero with shades of a ClassicalAntihero
** It gets [[{{Deconstruction}} deconstructed]] for antagonists such as [[TotalitarianUtilitarian Darken]] [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans Rahl]], [[spoiler: [[BrokenBird Nicci]], [[ShootTheDog the first Mother Confessor in the series's run]], and [[TroubledSympatheticBigot the Sisters of The Light]], except [[TokenGoodTeammate Verna]]]], who see themselves as this, but unlike Kahlan, Zedd and Cara, refuse Richard's solutions about taking a third option.
* ''{{Series/Medium}}'': The heroine, Alison Dubois, uses death threats, emotional manipulation and horrible phobias to make people get caught by the police, or confess their crimes. Sometimes, she even lets murderers die when they can't get caught. She justifies it by thinking they cause a threat, but is several times seen rejoicing, which is justified again because she has many proofs of the afterlife.
* ''Series/{{Merlin}}'': [[GoodIsNotSoft Merlin]] from this BBC show could be seen as this. Merlin [[spoiler: [[IDidWhatIHadToDo poisons the innocent Morgana]] to save the good future he works for]]. Gaius encourages him on this way, and they both end up talking about how hard making difficult choices can be, but how it becomes necessary. Morgana is later characterized by her [[DefiedTrope lack of planning and impulsivity]], which cause her to go to great length either to make something way too extreme happen, either to prevent one of this situations realize, until the season 4 premiere, in which she accepts to do an enormous sacrifice.
* ''Series/{{NCIS}}'': Ziva David was once a DarkActionGirl, who used manipulation and brutal intimidation to save her country. Since officially joining the team and under Gibbs influence she has dialed back to being a KnightInSourArmor.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Miles Matheson, thanks to Charlie's influence, goes from Unscrupulous Hero to this type of hero as the series goes on ("[[Recap/RevolutionS1E6SexAndDrugs Sex and Drugs]]", "[[Recap/RevolutionS1E7TheChildrensCrusade The Children's Crusade]]"). He wants to take down his old friend Sebastian "Bass" Monroe and atone for his misdeeds ("[[Recap/RevolutionS1E3NoQuarter No Quarter]]"). Still, characters have had to intervene to make sure Miles doesn't go too far ("[[Recap/RevolutionS1E16TheLoveBoat The Love Boat]]", "[[Recap/RevolutionS1E18Clue Clue]]").
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'':
** Has [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans Tess]] [[BecauseDestinySaysSo Mercer]], who defines herself and people who are really heroes, as the people who are ready to do the dirty work for the good of the many.
** [[AntiHero Oliver Queen]] refuses to adhere to Clark's ThouShallNotKill policy pretexting that it prevents him from being this. This argument is possibly used by [[MagnificentBastard Lionel]] [[BigGood Luthor]], and all those who wish Clark would at last become more effective and implicated, or who want him to went JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope.
** [[TheCutie Chloe Sullivan]] becomes this to protect Clark at one point, but she is guilt-stricken in the afterwhile.
* ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'': Practically all three of the main characters fall into this category:
** [[KnightInSourArmor Dean]] is the most consistent example. More cynical than his brother Sam, he knows firsthand you can't save everyone and believes killing people is sometimes necessary in the fight against evil. However, he never kills without reason and genuinely believes he's doing the right thing.
** [[ByronicHero Sam]] went through his phase during his [[spoiler: demon blood addiction]]. He [[spoiler: tortured and bled an innocent woman possessed by a demon]] so he could kill Lillith and stop the [[spoiler:Apocalypse]]. Ironically enough ... [[WhatTheHellHero he started it]].
** Castiel through seasons 4-8. He [[spoiler:stole souls, nearly destroyed an entire town to stop the Apocalypse, killed countless angels and people while trying to stop a Civil War in Heaven, killed countless ''more'' to restore heaven, and killed a innocent girl while believing he was uniting his angels]]. Yeah, he did this a lot ...
* In ''Series/{{House}}'', [[DrJerk House]] is a very ...complicated example. He constantly complains about how terrible the world is and how HumansAreBastards but it somehow doesn't stop him from going to often desperate (and illegal!) measures to help people. He's just a JerkWithAHeartOfGold...[[AlternativeCharacterInterpretation or he's a]] [[JerkWithAHeartOfJerk Jerk With A Huge, Fragile Ego And One Hell Of An Inferiority Complex]]. Like they said, complicated. While it is repeatedly stated that he only cares about the puzzle, there are some moments of ambiguity, in which House [[SuspiciouslySpecificDenial always comes up with an excuse.]]
* Alex Russo from ''Series/WizardsOfWaverlyPlace'' is as sour as a Disney heroine is allowed to be and at one point describes herself as an angry loner who occasionally does good and doesn't want anyone to know about it.
* Clarke from ''Series/{{The 100}}'' manages to be both this ''and'' an AllLovingHero. She's an incredibly caring and kind-hearted person, who does her level best to save everyone, even people who have attacked her or murdered her friends. However, she also has an uncanny knack for ''suppressing'' the part of her that cares for people. If Clarke believes there's no way out of a situation without someone getting hurt, then she's going to decide who needs to be sacrificed and act on it with barely any hesitation. Even close friends and lovers aren't safe if Clarke decides TheNeedsOfTheMany have to come first.

* Elite Agent Rotor in ''Roleplay/DinoAttackRPG'' happens to be guilty of multiple war crimes, but he's also fighting to save the world from Mutant Dinosaurs and does a dang good job at it.

* In general, this is where characters from ''{{TabletopGame/Warhammer 40000}}'' who are most worth considering as heroes fall.

* [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Shakespeare's]] ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' lets his beloved lose hope in their future together to do what he thinks is right, thus qualifying if you [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation agree that he is doing what is right]] in fighting against the (possibly) traitor queen and her king.
** Macbeth in ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'' was probably one (some see him as a DarkerAndEdgier version of Brutus from Theatre/JuliusCaesar, as he wanted to promote non-hereditary monarchy) before [[LadyMacbeth his wife]] mended his ways...

* Prowl in ''Franchise/TransformersGeneration1'' is often portrayed this way in contrast to the rest of the Autobots tending to be far more idealistic. How far it goes ranges from him just being TheSpock in [[WesternAnimation/TheTransformers the original cartoon]], to being kind of a dick in [[ComicBook/TheTransformers the original comics]], to being a WellIntentionedExtremist in some of the recent comics (''ComicBook/TheTransformersIDW'', ''ComicBook/TheTransformersLastStandOfTheWreckers'', ''ComicBook/TheTransformersRobotsInDisguise''...).

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Yuri Lowell from ''VideoGame/TalesOfVesperia'' [[IDidWhatIHadToDo did what he had to do]] to Cumore and Ragou and many a TheReasonYouSuckSpeech are given by him to Flynn Scifo.
* A Renegade Commander Shepard can be quite pragmatic in ''Franchise/MassEffect''. With a general "IDidWhatIHadToDo" philosophy as the core tenet of the playstyle, all kinds of morally questionable actions can be done.
** Even ''[[GoodIsNotSoft Paragon]]'' Shepard slips into this during the second and third game.
** Mordin Solus falls into this. He's a decent person and firmly on the heroic side, but he's also extremely pragmatic and isn't afraid to be ruthless and do horrible things for the sake of the greater good. He is first introduced as a doctor who willingly went into a heavily plague-infested area to save as many lives as possible... and who mercilessly gunned down mercenaries trying to stop him and hung their corpses up outside his clinic as a warning to others.
-->'''Daniel:''' You're a doctor! You're supposed to help people!\\
'''Mordin:''' Many ways to help people. Sometimes cure patients. Sometimes execute dangerous individuals. Either way helps.
* Raiden from ''VideoGame/MetalGearRisingRevengeance'' firmly believes that some people have to die in order for innocent lives to be saved. His evil alter ego, Jack the Ripper, makes him a borderline UnscrupulousHero.
-->'''Raiden''': There's a saying I like: 'One sword keeps another in the sheath.' Sometimes, the threat of violence alone is a deterrent. Sometimes, by taking a life, others can be preserved. It's the code the samurai lived by...
* The new ''[[VideoGame/TombRaider2013 Tomb Raider]]'' game has Lara develop into this over the course of the game. While she starts out as a ClassicalAntiHero who must simply kill in self defense merely to survive the extreme conditions around her, she gradually becomes more and more jaded and numb until she's spouting BadassBoasts that imply she's now come to revel in the carnage she reaps. She even has a standard "brushes off of an attempted WhatTheHellHero" moment.
** Although that moment came directly after [[spoiler:a friend [[HeroicSacrifice sacrificed himself to save her]] and the WhatTheHellHero speech was used to unfairly ''blame'' Lara for his death]], so she was both justified in brushing it off ''and'' not in the best frame of mind at that point.
* Jim Raynor in ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft II}}''.
* Lee Everett in ''VideoGame/TheWalkingDead'' can be pragmatic depending on player choice.
* ''VideoGame/HectorBadgeOfCarnage'', Hector is willing to use any means to get where he needs to be, even if it involves lying, black mail, stealing...anything to get the job done.
* Captain Walker in ''SpecOpsTheLine'' certainly considers himself to be one of these. [[spoiler:Whether the player still agrees with him by the end of the game is another story...]]
* Shadow from the ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' series became one after discovering his true purpose in his [[VideoGame/ShadowTheHedgehog self-titled game]]. He realizes that Maria's wish for him is to protect the world, but he has no qualms in going the extra mile in doing so, especially if it involves fighting against Sonic and the other heroes. He also has no problem using lethal force if he feels it's justified.
** Sonic himself is this in ''[[VideoGame/SonicStorybookSeries Sonic and the Black Knight]]''. [[spoiler:He was fully willing to allow The Grand Kingdom to come to an end rather than allow Merlina to use her magic to make it eternal at the cost of turning it into a monster-ridden CrapsackWorld, unchanging and undying.]]
* ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight'': Archer shifted towards this from IronWoobie in his former life, working his best towards being an idealistic crusader while recognizing that the world wasn't that convenient and knowing he'd have to kill a few to save many. [[spoiler:After he became a guardian spirit and lost his free will, he crossed the DespairEventHorizon and lost all faith in his ideal, even though he technically acts on it through his role. Despite this, in the first two routes Shirou can still convince him that the ideal is worth pursuing]].
** [[spoiler: Shirou decides to become this in the Unlimited Blade Works route, accepting that he can't save everyone but still deciding to try to live up to his ideal the best he can.]]
* Michael Thorton of ''VideoGame/AlphaProtocol'' can be played this way in the Taipei mission, reasoning that saving President Sung from assassination will make it easier to rein in the resulting unrest and keep Taiwan from going to war with China, making it more important than preventing the deadly riots his assassins are also planning to start. The villain Henry Leland admires this particular attitude in him.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', Armsmaster, a BadassNormal GadgeteerGenius, is a clear example of this. He notes to [[VillainProtagonist Taylor]] that she should avoid fights where she can, develops technology specifically to incapacitate the villains of his city, and [[spoiler:gets several supervillains deliberately killed in order to give him a chance to kill [[OmnicidalManiac Leviathan.]]]]
** A later and even more extreme example is found in Alexandria of the Triumvirate, who is ''entirely'' willing to manipulate the system that ''she created'' to keep parahumans under the control of normal people to put her civilian identity in a position of authority where she can do the most good with her Thinker powers, threatens the lives of a villain's friends in order to force her to give in, is willing to work with a far worse villain for the sake of maintaining security of the foremost parahuman prison, and [[spoiler:is guilty of enough crimes against humanity to push her into WellIntentionedExtremist territory.]]
* The ''Wiki/SCPFoundation'' is ultimately trying to protect the world (and reality in general) from potentially dangerous items. This occasionally means they are forced to do morally ambiguous things for the sake of their mission. Among other things, many of the items captured are non-malevolent sentients, or even humans. Knowing that a child RealityWarper is rarely more than a childhood trauma away from [[WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds initiating an apocalypse]], and that even [[LethalHarmlessPowers the most innocuous items]] can be abused in the wrong hands, the foundation [[IDidWhatIHadToDo does what it has to do]].
* WebVideo/MatthewSantoro, {{the protagonist}} of his web series. In ''A New Planet & Antimatter!", for example, he believes that the antimatter isn't safe with the scientists who have it because it could accidentally destroy the world. He's correct, but he resorts to the questionable act of having [[{{Nerd}} Eugene]] sneak into the research facility with the antimatter and steal it, in order to ensure the safety of the world.


[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Princess Bubblegum from ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'', of all people, given some of the depths she will go to at times. Finn and Jake have even [[WhatTheHellHero called her out a couple times]], though not always face to face.
* Batman in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''.
* Kyle from ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' often plays this role, particularly when confronting one of Cartman's many schemes.
* Rose from ''WesternAnimation/AmericanDragonJakeLong'' is most likely this, being willing to pull off a FinalSolution to save her family and the entire Magical World from the Huntsclan.
** Though this is only after she finds out Jake's secret, up until that point she's an AntiVillain.
* Few of the heroes in ''WesternAnimation/TheDreamstone'' seem to really give a flying fish if the Urpneys are TrappedInVillainy, and will take any measure to stop them. This bordered on BloodKnight or UnscrupulousHero territory in early episodes, though later seasons made their retaliations more passive, often disinterested in attacking the Urpneys outside the means to protect the stone or even showing mercy if it made for a simpler victory. They ''sometimes'' relapsed however.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLandBeforeTime'': The heroes are not averse to fighting dirty when confronted with [[TyrannosaurusRex sharpteeth]].
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Popeye}}'' holds himself to a strict moral code, but this doesn't stop him from beating people or animals to a pulp (occasionally for little to no reason, in the early shorts anyway). And sometimes when he rescues Olive, he does so to prevent Bluto from having her rather than for her own safety.
* Many of the past avatars from ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' and ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', most notably Kyoshi, who wouldn't hesitate to murder somebody if it would save the lives of innocents.
** Sokka tries to take this approach in "The Painted Lady", when the group comes across a village suffering from pollution, hunger and sickness. Katara wishes to stop and help them, but Sokka insists that they don't have time to help everyone they meet and that they would be doing a lot more good by succeeding with their plan to invade the Fire Nation.
* Benson on ''WesternAnimation/RegularShow'' is the [[GrumpyBear grouchy]], [[HighPressureEmotion hot-tempered]] boss who is always threatening to fire the main characters Mordecai and Rigby unless they repair the damage caused by the EldritchAbomination [[MonsterOfTheWeek of the Week]]. Despite this, he is portrayed to be [[BenevolentBoss an honest, courteous, and kindhearted person]] who cares about his co-workers, [[FireForgedFriends even his mischievous slacker underlings]]. This was beautifully demonstrated in the episode "Benson Be Gone" which is basically [[spoiler: him getting fired and replaced with a female boss who ends up being another eldritch monstrosity, leading to Benson [[SugarWiki/MomentOfAwesome returning to save the day in epic fashion]]. ]]
* Six from ''WesternAnimation/GeneratorRex''. Despite looking and sounding like a unemotional TheMenInBlack agent, he has principles he won't compromise; Rex is in fact alive thanks to him, and he has admitted that he stopped being a mercenary [[MoralityPet *because* of Rex]].
* In ''WesternAnimation/MoralOrel'', Reverend Rod Putty eventually becomes this, being one of the few characters not utterly blinded by hypocrisy and actually caring about the well-being of the main character.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Daria}}'' is as cynical as it gets, but she deeply values her personal integrity and any slip maintaining it is deeply upsetting to her.