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Professional Killer
"Death is my business, and business is good..."
Agent 47, Hitman: Contracts

For most characters, killing people is not something they do on a regular basis. For an Affably Evil Big Bad who believes Utopia Justifies the Means or an Action Hero on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, killing a few mooks or Red Shirts is all in a day's work. But for a Professional Killer, it is the work. Whether you call him an assassin, a hitman, or a hired gun, it means the same. Killing is his job.

While soldiers, mercenaries, Private Military Contractors, snipers, or professional terrorists typically have to kill someone to accomplish their mission, that mission typically involves something other than just killing - protecting a VIP, destroying or capturing an objective, spreading fear amongst the local population, etc. A Professional Killer's job typically is to kill one specific person, and nothing else.

A wide range of colorful characters can become drawn to the trade of killing for cash. Some might be Wicked Cultured and tend to wear nice suits. Others might be psychotic killers who are more drawn to the carnage and combat than the money. Some might be Punch Clock Villains who pull shifts at Murder, Inc. or belong to a Weird Trade Union to pay the bills. They might be a Consummate Professional or a snarky jerk. A Hitman with a Heart might follow a code of honor, such as not harming women, children or innocents. If they live in the past, they might be a Ninja or a Hashshashin. Whatever their style or personality, their employers are typically only interested in the results.

See Assassin Outclassin' for when the Professional Killer fails drastically.

If you were looking for something that kills your career, not something that kills you, see Career Killers for a list.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kirika and Mirielle in Noir are assassins and their enemies are also professional killers. The most dangerous ones seem to always be women.
  • Golgo 13: The title character is a Consummate Professional assassin.
  • Both Claire Stanfield and Ladd Russo from Baccano! are assassins by trade. Ladd is an Ax-Crazy Psycho for Hire for the Russo family, while Claire is a freelancer with a strange sense of justice.
  • Certain characters from One Piece, particularly the members of CP9 and Baroque Works (or, in the latter case, the Mr. 1 and Mr. 5 pairs for sure), are Assassins.
  • Laura from Mnemosyne is an assassin who sports all sorts of firearms and explosives. The problem is, Rin is just that badass (not to mention immortal) that she beats her almost every single time.
  • The MacDougall brothers from Outlaw Star are both assassins. Ron is a Bad Ass while Harry starts out as a bit of a loser before Character Development improves him.
  • For the Zaoldyecks from Hunter × Hunter, assassination is the family business. Even the gender-confused 10-year-old kid can kill you. With confetti and a paper fan, no less. On top of all that, they're badass enough that they can give out business cards with their phone number and home address on them. Of course, they live in a Big Fancy House hidden somewhere on their mountain estate (their mountain estate encompassing basically the entire mountain), and anyone who wants to get to them has to first get past the 10-foot-tall Angry Guard Dog automated, dog-shaped killing machine, and a small army of battle butlers, an apprentice of which once singlehandedly took down a group of 100 bounty hunters with ease. Yeah....
  • Shanin from Angel Heart is an assassin trained from early childhood for the job. She develops a heart, kills herself, and is resurrected with a donor heart which carries with it the memories and soul of the dead woman it belonged to.
  • The members of Weiss in Weiß Kreuz are assassins, and also the heroes of the piece, although they consider themselves Necessarily Evil.
  • In Black Lagoon, the entire city of Roanapur is composed of either hitmen or people who cater services for hitmen, anyone who has worked in the trade long enough gets really pissed off when they have someone running around messing up potential profitable contracts or clients. It's one of the reasons nearly the entire city gets behind trying to clear off Hansel and Gretel, who are themselves hired killers who know no other way of life. Anarchy just ain't good for business. The series is notable for de-romanticizing the idea of the assassin: Roanapur is filled with people who kill other people for a living, and Revy points out several times that the act itself isn't very hard, it just takes the will to do it. While all of the hitmen on Roanapur (and beyond it) are certainly badass and in several cases impossibly skilled at what they do, they are neither wealthy nor especially mentally healthy for the most part, and seem to be a mix of broke or living a lower-middle class lifestyle at the very best. The somber message fits given the tone of the series.
  • Magi - Labyrinth of Magic: As a child, Jafar was an assassin. He grows up to become a parliamentary official of the kingdom of the man he was supposed to kill. Doesn't keep him from kicking ass, though.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn!:
    • The Varia are elite, if somewhat eccentric, assassins. They're certainly well dressed, and have no problem killing anyone (or each other). They prefer to remain independent from the more peace-loving Vongola however, as Benevolent Boss Tsuna is too nice for their liking. Though their own boss served as the Big Bad for a time, now they're more antiheroes than anything.
    • Reborn: The title character is a self-described "Hitman," never an "Assassin." There seems to be a clear distinction between the two in the Vongola Family, and the title "Hitman" appears to command the utmost respect. Reborn himself is highly honorable and wise, if a bit of a prankster. Although we're repeatedly told he's the best Hitman alive, we never actually see him kill anyone (but we do see that he is an uncannily good shot.)
  • In the manga Dead End by Shihoei Manabe, the (warning! major spoiler!) former lives of all the main characters consisted of running contract jobs for their creators. It was implied from their uniforms and methods of execution that they had some military backing, but it's never fully disclosed. Oh, and then you have all the Enemies who have one purpose...
  • Most Contractors in Darker Than Black are either career killers by profession or kill in the course of carrying out missions. The British agents are probably the most professional and potent. Hei, the protagonist, is badass and stylish looking with his Badass Longcoat, but he doesn't live a particularly glamorous private life, and a Running Gag is that most of his missions start with him infiltrating somewhere by getting a menial job there.
  • Naruto:
    • While most shinobi carry out specified missions in teams on the order of their leader, hunter-nin stand apart. It is not uncommon for them to hunt criminals solo and they likely bring in large bounties for disposing of traitors and worse.
    • Some missing-nin take up this career after leaving their villages. Likely due to the stigma of being from another village or having committed criminal acts, they have difficulty getting honest work. However, a black market exists for bounty hunters who locate, kill, and retrieve targets for interested parties.
    • All ninja in Naruto are de facto career killers and are expected to be ready to kill on command, and all ninja villages accept contracts on someone's life, though this is only one of a range of jobs they might do. ANBU Black Op's may assassinate on direct orders of the Kage when more discretion is required, such as against a friendly village- ANBU's ROOT will do this without the Kage's permission. Hunter-Nin are not bounty hunters but ninja tasked with tracking and eliminating known missing-nin, which are ninja who have went AWOL and usually commited a serious crime against the village, though they may be wanted by other village's apart from their native one. The storyline does'nt gloss over this as assassination plans against characters like Orochimaru and Sasuke are both addressed.
  • In Slayers, Zuuma is an incredibly badass assassin who is hired to kill Lina Inverse. He follows a strict code, only revealing his name to his employer and his target, and always completing a job even if the person who hired him has died in the meantime. In the novel version, he became an assassin simply because he felt a psychological compulsion to kill; the anime version gives him a bit more of an origin story.
  • Trigun:
    • It gives us the Eye of Michael, an organization of contract killers who appear to have their corporate origins in some kind of plant-worshiping cult. They fill three slots in the Gung-Ho Guns, something Knives doubtless finds very useful since if one of these three is killed the Eye sends in a replacement without his having to go to the trouble of another recruitment drive.
    • This is what netted him Wolfwood, an Eye member previously known as Nicholas The Punisher, who shot his mentor Chapel to take his place so as to get closer to Knives in hopes of killing him to save the world. This plan did not work, but hey.
    • As implied above, in both adaptations Wolfwood is a Professional Killer, taken under Chapel's wing as an orphan boy. The manga version is just more explicit and detailed, and includes some Strapped to an Operating Table. Legato isn't the only one to get Bowdlerized.
  • In the anime Black Cat, Train Heartnet is an assassin after being forcibly raised by the Professional Killer that killed his family.
  • In Bleach, Soi Fon AKA "Captain Bitchninja", leader of squad 2 and supreme commander of the Onmitsukido. While she excels in mastery of shunpo and hakuda, her two-hit kill shikai is her signature skill.
  • In Queen's Blade, Irma is the leader of the Fang Assassins guild The position was formerly held by her mentor and ex-lover Echidna.
  • In Fate/Zero, Kiritsugu Emiya becomes one of these after, as a child, witnessing the kind of horrific effects experiments carried out by magi can have. He became known as "The Magus Killer", known for combining magic and mundane weapons and specializing in killing magi, though he would target anyone who was causing harm to others. Interestingly, he became a killer out of a desire to be a hero... his idealism clashes rather heavily with his job, a fact that is central to his characterization.
  • Dragon Ball has Tao Pai Pai, known in the English dub simply as Mercenary Tao, an assassin who wears a pink outfit with "Kill You!" written on the back. When we first meet him, he's been in the assassination business for 20 years and has never failed to eliminate a target.
  • The students of the titular Assassination Classroom are mere middle school students with no prior experience in the killing arts. They have only one target: Koro-sensei, their nigh-invulnerable homeroom teacher who's hell-bent on destroying the world at the end of the year. Irina, a professional Honey Trap assassin, becomes the students' foreign language teacher after her initial attempt on Koro-sensei's life fails miserably.
  • A guild of them exists in Stealth Symphony, and a notable member among them is Soya, the Vice-Chief of the Assassin's Guild. How good of an assassin is Soya? When Jig is rampaging as the Black Dragon and about to raise the Ark, he literally pops up behind him and cuts off his head.

    Comic Books 
  • The aptly titled Le Tueur (The Killer) centers around one.
  • Hitman: Tommy Monaghan, is the eponymous hitman. His life is hard, dirty, bleak, and short, but he's not really the villain.
  • Most of the Marvel Universe's Mercs probably fit. Taskmaster, Bullseye, Crossbones, Daken and even Deadpool at times, messing with the heroes because the heroes are their intended targets, or simply because the hero gets in the way.
  • There's also Elektra, Daredevil's adversary and one-time girlfriend. Typhoid Mary probably counts too. (In fact, Daredevil seems to have a thing for this...)
  • Supposedly, the best assassin in Marvel continuity is the man known as the Foreigner, who formerly headed an organization of hired guns called the 1400 Club until it was shanghaied by Justin Hammer. Virtually nothing is known of his past (although Silver Sable is his ex-wife) but it is believed his skills are second to none other, and that he has never been identified, much less convicted or incarcerated. Primarily a foe of Spider-Man, his most notorious act was using mercenaries to kill Spidey's friend Ned Leeds after being hired to do so by the mercenary Jason Macendale (who thought Ned was the Hobgoblin; Macendale would later become the second Hobgoblin).
  • Likewise DC Comics, who has an entire League of Assassins that seems to encompass nearly every highly-skilled killer-for-hire in that particular universe. See also Marvel Comics' Assassins Guild.
  • The title character in Ramba is a female assassin.
  • Sin City features quite a few hitman, owing to its Film Noir roots.
    • Shlubb and Klump are two particularly colorful two low-rent hitmen with Delusions of Eloquence.
    • Marvin encounters a few hitman and notes in his interior monologue that he loves hitmen because he never feels guilty about what he does to them.
    • The Salesman is a particularly interesting assassin who starts the whole series off by sympathizing with his target and turning his job into a Mercy Kill.
  • The titular Ichabod Azrael is, in the very first strip, assassinated by a gang of notorious outlaws led by Bloody Bill Sterling.
  • Laura "X-23" Kinney, the Opposite-Sex Clone of Wolverine created by The Facility to be a emotionless, merciless assassin whose services would be sold to the highest bidder. They succeeded, but she got away and joined the X-Men and X-Force. She's begun trying to leave her training behind and bring her actions more in line with X-family practices, but her complete ruthlessness makes her at times even a more efficient killer than Wolverine.
  • Valentine D'Eath from 2000 AD (specifically "Shakara") is an assassin with all the exaggeration inherent to a gonzo Space Opera scifi setting.
  • The Punisher runs into hitmen and assassins on an almost daily basis. Predictably, none of them have managed to actually kill him. Special mention must be made of The Russian from Welcome Back, Frank, who earned special notoriety for going to warzones on vacation, and eating a man, whole, on a bet.
  • Black Widow. Although her origins have varied over the years, this tends to be a common element of most of her backstories. A controversial issue of The Avengers (#11) strongly implies that SHIELD has assigned her to assassinate a group of war criminals, or she chose to do so of her own accord, suggesting she remains an assassin, even though she is also a member of the Avengers.
  • Fire, a DC Comics superheroine, is revealed to be a former assassin. Her talent for killing is one reason why she is recruited into the secret organization Checkmate in the post-Infinite Crisis continuity.
  • In Dead Mans Party: the enigmatic hitman known only as Ghost is an incredibly lethal assassin who is forced to put a contract out on himself.

    Film 
  • Danny from Killer Elite is a hitman who dresses in ordinary clothing and lives in an R.V. However, he is the protagonist of the story and looks down anyone who kills civilians or children.
  • Ichi the Killer has the titular Ichi, a deadly assassin, and Kaneko, a rather unsuccessful hitman.
  • The movie 2 Days in the Valley has contrasting hitmen. Dosmo is balding, aging, overweight, and down-on-his-luck, while Lee Woods is smooth and intelligent. However, Dosmo has the Jerk with a Heart of Gold thing going on, (along with a very rough code of honor) while Woods is a ruthless killer who likes to play with his victims beforehand, and will kill anyone who gets in his way.
  • Vincent from Collateral is a Wicked Cultured contract killer with a nice suit, a detailed knowledge of jazz, and military training. He never shows his face to his employers and always leaves a dead patsy behind to take the fall for a job.
  • Both Rath and Bane from Assassins are assassins, complete with the Weird Trade Union and all. However, Rath looks down on Bane for Bane's greater willingness to kill, including innocent bystanders or cops.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Smith: the title characters are married assassins who don't know that the other is also an assassin.
  • Jules and Vincent of Pulp Fiction are hitmen and Hired Guns for the local mob boss. They wear nice suits to their jobs and are so blase about killing that they breezily shoot the shit right up to the moment they go on the clock.
  • Brighton Beach's young in Little Odessa are all either hitmen or hitmen wannabes. They live in a sucky neighbourhood, wear leather jackets, have slicked-back hair, and are generally unrefined and not too bright.
  • The Big Bad of The Man with the Golden Gun is Francisco Scaramanga, a highly sought-after and very expensive (one million dollars per victim) assassin who uses a gun loaded with gold-plated bullets to make hits. (He has much bigger plans over the course of the film, however.)
  • Grosse Pointe Blank: Martin Q. Blank is a Hitman with a Heart who suffers an existential crisis over his chosen profession. The villains of the film are Jeremy Grocer and his hitmen, who try to form a Weird Trade Union for hitmen and won't suffer a scab to live.
    "They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? 'I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?'"
  • Brand Hauser, John Cusack's character in War, Inc.. (which has been described as "an informal sequal to Grosse Pointe Blank) is an expy of Martin Blank.
  • In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks' Anti-Hero character is his mob family's designated hitman. He eventually must content with an independent Psycho for Hire played by Jude Law.
  • Chev Chelios, in Crank has is a professional killer with a girlfriend who thinks that he's a video game designer. He's pretty much a one-man army during his Roaring Rampage of Revenge that makes up the whole film.
  • Julian Noble in The Matador is a deconstruction of a James Bond style assassin, played by Pierce Brosnan, a former Bond actor. He is handsome, often charming, highly skilled and a world traveler. However while off the job is he's tacky, lonely and suffers guilt-induced panic attacks.
  • The Unnamed hitman from the short film made of the Stephen King story Battleground lives a visibly high-class lifestyle. He ruthlessly shoots dead the unarmed CEO of a toymaking company, but uses a tranquilizer gun against his two security guards. Other techniques include using a rubber facemask to conceal his features (it appears to be a real face to a casual observer), a fake bomb to get the guard to open the security door, and wearing a headset so people won't engage him in casual conversation. Unfortunately he has a habit of taking trophies from his victims, which isn't a good idea when the victim's mother is a witch.
  • In Bruges, Ken and Ray are hitmen, though Ray has only one job under his belt and he bungled it. They're both pretty much Punch Clock Villains. Ken is an even-tempered man with an appreciation of art.
  • In The Assassination Bureau Ltd., the titular bureau is filled with the former.
  • The title character from Leon, the Professional possesses the skills and reputation of an unholy killing machine, but he barely spends any money, lives a monastic, anonymous existence, and has an almost childlike personality.
  • The Boondock Saints have to deal with two hitmen in the course of the movie. One of them is a "sick fuck" who their colleague Rocco drove to his job one time, who "takes out a whole family — wife, kids, everyone — like he's ordering a fucking pizza." The other hitman, Il Duce, shows up shortly after the three finish off the "sick fuck," and was sprung from prison by the Big Bad in order to kill Rocco, who he believes is responsible for the Saints' killings. He turns out to have a Leon-esque code about "no women, no kids," shows himself to be a consummate badass who gives all three saints the fight of their lives, and eventually turns out to be the McManus brothers' long lost father.
  • Jet Li's character in... well, Hitman lives an extremely unglamorous life. He rooms with three other bottom-feeder hitmen/thugs, dorm style. To get a job, they essentially have to find an agent to essentially advertise them as skillful. And even Jet Li's agent is a bottom feeder. The only character with the style of an assassin is the "Killing Angel" who starts the mess of the movie to begin with, and he's not even doing it for the money. He's a vigilante cop.
  • In The Mechanic, Charles Bronson's character trains a young man to also become an assassin.
    "Murder is only killing without a license."
  • Willi Cicci in The Godfather parts I and II. As he tells the Senate subcommittee in Part II he was a soldier or "button" for the Corleone family. "When the boss says push a button on a guy, I push a BUTTON."
  • Jef Costello, lead character of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai is a Badass in a Nice Suit, extremely suave, highly disciplined and cunning. He's vert reticent, barely speaking except when necessary; he lives in a two-room dump of an apartment with the paint peeling off the walls and only his pet bird (who also doesn't talk) for company. His only concerns are practicing his craft with the utmost professionalism and perfection, and maintaining an exacting sense of honor...especially when his employers try to have him killed.
  • Ben of Man Bites Dog is a well-paid, Faux Affably Evil hitman with pretensions of being Wicked Cultured (he discourses knowledgeably on such subjects as poetry and architecture); he clearly styles himself as a glamorous and erudite assassin from fiction.
  • The Tournament is about a tournament where Professional Killers and soldiers fight each other to the death to win a lot of money, all for the amusement of decadent, rich people. The movie portrays both sympathetic killers who genuinely want to quit their business as well as Ax-Crazy ones.
  • Joubert, the freelance Alsatian killer in Three Days Of The Condor. Always polite, even to the extent of giving the protagonist a lift to the train station when he no longer has a contract against him.
    Joubert: Well, the fact is, what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay.
    Turner: I would find it... tiring.
    Joubert: Oh, no. It's quite restful. It's almost peaceful. No need to believe in either side, or any side. There is no cause. There's only yourself. The belief is in your own precision.
  • Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a soulless mercenary who hunts down and executes targets for the money. He's portrayed as an utterly cold-blooded sociopath who doesn't so much as bat an eye while having a man tortured in front of him, extorts money from prisoners of war, and always sees a job through to the end once he's been paid.
  • The two main characters in Kill List are former soldiers turned professional killers.
  • This seemed to be Puss n Boots' job in Shrek. (He didn't seem to be very good at it, however.)
  • "J" is the hitman who is commissioned to Get Carter (1971). He's a Cold Sniper and never speaks. He's so above the muck of the plot that we never even learn his name. He's identified only by the letter on his signet ring.
  • In The Star Chamber, the hitman who carries out the secret court's death sentences against murderers who got Off on a Technicality, though its hard to say if he falls in the first or second category.
  • James Bond. In the films, he is directly referenced occasionally as a professional killer, such as by Scaramanga in The Man with the Golden Gun. Despite this, in the 50-plus-year history of the Bond films, he has only been shown committing outright assassinations a handful of times, with the majority of his kills either occurring in the heat of battle or as self-defence.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has the titular villain. It isn't so much for money as it is brainwashing. Nonetheless, the man is a killing machine with ruthless efficiency that will use any means necessary to finish the mission assigned to him — the mission in the movie being Nick Fury, and eventually Black Widow and Captain America himself.
    • The film handwaves away the fact Black Widow is herself supposed to be an assassin (either in the past or present).
  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, which reworks Lara into a female James Bond, strongly suggests this is part of her background, when she tells a colleague she cannot become involved with him because she might have to kill him.

    Literature 
  • James Bond
    • Bond himself is an secret agent with a License to Kill. He's sometimes characterized as simply a glorified government assassin. In both the novels and the films, however, pains are taken to reduce the "cold-blooded" aspect of his work. Ian Fleming, on several occasions, devotes ink to Bond brooding over the fact he's had to kill someone.
    • The eponymous Francisco Scaramanga from Ian Fleming's The Man with the Golden Gun uses an actual golden gun. he developed his marksmen skill as a child trick shot circus act. In his career, he's worked for the Spangled Mob, US drug runners, Cuba's secret police and freelance. In both the novel and the film, he is depicted as what Bond could have become if he did not have a strong moral center.
  • Discworld: Ankh-Morpork has an Assassins' Guild.
    • Inigo Skimmer from The Fifth Elephant is a Scholarship Student and therefore is more of a craftsman than artist at his job.
    • Despite being stylish, the Assassins of Discworld tend to be mostly unsympathetic with some notable exceptions, such as Pteppic, who decides he can't kill anyone, and Vetinari, who notably subverts and breaks a number of Guild rules.
    • And then there are people like "Snowy" Slopes, who appears in Jingo: "He's an Assassin?" "No no. He just kills people for money."
    • Making Money has a guild member who was implied to be another scholarship boy and was a "cleaner" for the villain.
    • Also important to note that most of Ankh-Morpork's prominent families send their children to be educated at the Assassin's Guild, making it an important political force and that most of those who went there are not technically assassins. The Guild even has a sense of civil responsibility, refusing to take on contracts they feel would harm the city or its interests in an unacceptable fashion. Vetinari and Vimes have both been taken off the register as it was felt their removal would 'not only spoil the game but smash the board'. Though that Vimes survived 9 attempts may have contributed.
    • The teachers at the Guild sometimes send students after Vimes to teach them humility. Most of the traps that Vimes has set to them are very lethal - for example loose roof-tiles on greased rails, placed where a hapless Assassin will fall onto an spiky, ornamental, but more importantly, spiky fence, bear-traps, water pits that you can't climb out of, precarious beams above the dragons' cages, etc.
  • Jyan and Chen in Robert Wingrove's Chung Kuo series are hitman.
  • Cindy Stoker in the Thursday Next series.
  • From The Dresden Files, we have the half-demonic mercenary Jared Kincaid, better known as the Hellhound. He stands out for his practicality: in a world rife with overly dramatic villains, he doesn't care whether his victim dies by knife, sniper bullet, or explosion, as long as the job gets done. He's extremely Genre Savvy about dealing with wizards, too, as evidenced by Harry hiring to kill him, as he was the only person he could rely on to get the job done.
  • The Bourne Series: Carlos the Jackal as a 'Master Assassin' as the primary antagonist for the first and third books, though he was also something of a hired terrorist as well as a hired killer.
  • Mara Jade Skywalker from the Star Wars Expanded Universe fits this trope perfectly, sexy clothing and all - she's actually one of the best assassins in The Empire (yes, that Empire), and by extension, the galaxy. Being a Jedi Master hasn't hurt her abilities either. Her son, Ben Skywalker, is explicitly described as one in Sacrifice, but he doesn't really fit the trope, despite actually carrying out an assassination mission - he has too much compassion from his parents, especially Luke. Many fans were angered when she was killed off.
  • The title character in The Day of the Jackal is an assassin.
  • In The Executioner series of action-adventure novels, Vietnam veteran turned vigilante Mack Bolan is alternatively pursued by, or poses as (to infiltrate various Mafia factions) a 'Black Ace', one of the elite contract killers employed by the New York Commission. They are held in awe by the average Mafia foot soldier and are often described as radiating 'class' and charisma. Although the authors of the literally hundreds of Bolan novels do change things up from time to time, the books usually end with Bolan putting a bullet into the villain's head, regardless of whether they beg for mercy or (most often) not.
  • Konrad, from William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties is a rather philosophical Assassin who is a rather dedicated follower of Taoism.
  • In "Johnny Mnemonic," a Yakuza assassin comes after Johnny. He looks like a humble little Japanese tourist, but he's actually a vat-grown super-assassin who ultimately tangles with Action Girl Molly Millions.
  • In Neuromancer, Molly remembers the two assassins the Yakuza sent after Johnny. She describes the first assassin, from the original short story, as all speed and flash, a rather typical affair. The second killer the Yakuza sent, however, was like a monk who walked right through all of Johnny's traps and defenses like they were air.
  • Master Chiun and Remo Williams from the Destroyer series are both assassins.
    Master Chiun: Professional assassination. It's the highest form of public service.
  • The Mongols go up against the historical Assassins in the third Conqueror book. They're certainly stylish and cool, but still come off as evil.
  • John Clark in Tom Clancy novels is a government assassin, a highly trained Cold Sniper. In Without Remorse, he decides to apply his skills on a free agent basis to a vendetta against several local criminals, both the criminals and the police comment on the differences between the way he commits a murder and the way Mafia hit men would carry it out.
  • The Night Angel Trilogy "Assassins" are brutish hitmen who have targets. "Wetboys" are suave assassins with magic powers that have deaders, because their target's death is assured as soon as they accept the contract. "Assassins have targets because they sometimes miss."
  • Dragaera: The House of the Jhereg is the organized crime house of the fantasy world. They draw clear distinctions between members who are merely muscle and those who are assassins who have "done work." Vlad Taltos starts out as an assassin in the House and gradually develops a heart. He first meets his wife, one of the Jhereg's top killers, when she and her partner are hired to kill him. There are a number of ther Jhereg assassins throughout the stories, including the legendary Mario.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars stories, every Red Martian city seems to have an assassins' guild. While not exactly legal, assassination is common enough that most people of means take measures against it. Pretty much everyone knows who the assassins are, but no one (well, no one but John Carter) wants to take them on for fear of being, well, assassinated.
  • H. Beam Piper's short story "The Last Enemy" is set in a culture with a Society of Assassins that operates openly and under a rigid code of ethics.
  • Forgotten Realms:
    • Artemis Entreri is one of these, known as the king of assassins in his home city of Calimport. He's also, not coincidentally, the best human swordfighter outside of epic-level characters, capable of going toe-to-toe with practically any non-magical opponent in the books. The fact that he also seems to be intelligent and refined (outside of battle, anyway: see Combat Pragmatist) doesn't hurt, either. However, despite his professionalism, he is painted as unsympathetic and rather hollow, devoting his life to killing Drizzt early on because he has literally nothing else in his life to look forward too. During his later series with Jarlaxale, we see just how empty he feels most of the time, and how little pleasure his craft really gives him.
    • Entreri is one of the best swordfighters period. He can go toe-to-toe with Drizzt himself. (Normal Drizzt, not "Hunter" Drizzt. "Hunter" Drizzt is a match for a god-blessed super-orc armed with a flaming BFS)
  • Sorta-subverted in the series Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah Monette. One of the main characters, Mildmay, was, in his teens, the most feared and competent assassin in the entire city. However, he didn't even get money for his jobs — it all went to his Keeper (a woman he was totally subservient to and abused by). And the after-effects of his past continue to haunt him, though he says he "doesn't feel guilty".
  • Hugh the Hand from The Death Gate Cycle combines elements of both subtypes, though he's called an assassin. Like a hitman he's crude, unsophisticated, and ugly, but he when things get tough he demonstrates an assassin's intellect and deadly skill, and he always exudes an impressive aura of Badass. He's considered the second deadliest killer in the world... and the first is way past her prime.
  • The titular character of Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series is a completely unapologetic CIA assassin, worst nightmare of terrorists and slimy thugs the world over. He prides himself on never having killed an innocent bystander. Also, what seems to be his preferred method of killing doesn't involve a cut throat or a broken neck.
  • Vin, heroine of Mistborn is an Assassin, though she kills out of loyalty to La Résistance and later, the kingdom it morphs into rather than for money.
  • From The Stormlight Archive, Szeth is a reluctant but incredibly effective Assassin — his people, the Shin, are an inversion of the Proud Warrior Race who value pacifism above all else and treat violence as hideously dishonorable, and consequently they treat their warriors as little more than slaves who have to obey whoever holds their "oathstone". Szeth, a particularly deadly Magic Knight, got traded to outisders, and because of his deadliness and skill at stealth, he normally gets used as an assassin by his masters. He hates himself for it, but his honor won't let him disobey.
  • "American Harry" in The Sacred Art of Stealing is at the "hitman" extreme of the scale: he has few real principles, can be casually violent towards people who try to mess him around and, although he is smarter and more level-headed than some of the people he kills for, he is a somewhat jaded character who seems to have a fairly dull and unglamourous lifestyle.
  • In the last two books of the Time Scout series, a small horde of these follow a few of our heroes through a number of time strings.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: In the original book by Gaston Leroux, according to the Persian, Erik, the titular phantom, did this as part of his work for the Sha-in-Sha:
    He took part calmly in a number of political assassinations;
  • The Dragaera series features a number of professional assassins, including Vlad Taltos, Cawti and Mario Greymist.
  • Belisarius Series: Range from thugs-for-hire to martial arts experts comparable to Ninja.
  • George R. R. Martin's fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire includes two guilds of assassins: the Faceless Men, a group of elite monk-assassins who worship the god of death, and the Sorrowful Men, who always apologize to their target just before killing them.
  • The se-Tufi Who Walks In Humility, of the Liethe clan, in Courtship Rite. Most Liethe are courtesans and entertainers to the rich and powerful, but Humility is one of their secret assassins who is called in when seduction alone isn't enough to further Leithe goals.
  • David Baldacci's The Innocent and The Hit
    • Will Robie is a CIA assassin, and currently considered the best in the business. He is extremely pragmatic about his job and approaches it in a logical, almost disturbingly detached manner — he is given orders to kill, and so he does. However, he is also a Hitman with a Heart and has put himself and his career in jeopardy in favour of doing the right thing.
    • Jessica Reel, introduced in The Hit, was the only active CIA assassin who could match Robie in skill, although the plot kicks off with her going rogue and murdering her handler. Also like Robie, she is a Hitman with a Heart and turned against her employers in order to stop a Take Over the World plot that they'd engineered despite knowing that she would almost certainly end up dead herself by the end of it, or — at best — constantly on the run for the rest of her life.
  • In Lullaby, the middle-aged realtor Helen uses the culling song, which kills whomever you're thinking about, to run a side business as an assassin. She simply gets the names, thinks for a few seconds, and her target dies. She spends the money on antique furniture.
  • Best Served Cold is a showcase of various types (often hired by or allies ofour heroes) ranging from common thugs who will do anything for cash, a slightly better class of thug with some kind of defining quirk, the Master Poisoner Morveer (who thinks of himself as a "gentleman of leisure"), to Shenkt, a Consummate Professional Immortal Assassin.
  • The Radix: Erich Metzger, is not only the world's most dangeors and expensive killer, but also a kind of poet, always trying not to just kill his victim, but to deliver a Karmic Death.
  • Joes World: The central character of the first book is Greyboar, a professional strangler famed for his exquisite fingerwork.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The assassin in the aptly-titled MacGyver episode "The Assassin."
    • MacGyver tangled with more than a few. In addition to the above (who was also a Master of Disguise), there was also Axminster in Season 1, and Deborah later on in the series. And of course, there's the Big Bad of the series, Murdoc, who eventually turns out to be part of a fraternity of assassins named HIT ("Homicide International Trust").
  • Charmed basically based an entire story around this in the season 2 episode "Ms. Hellfire". After the sisters killed her, Prue had to impersonate the assassin to discover who had taken the hit out on them and the thing she regretted having to give up at the end was the wardrobe.
  • JAG: The eponymous Hemlock in “Hemlock” who’s out to kill Russian President Boris Yeltsin while in Washington, DC is not just a professional killer, but also a Master of Disguise.
  • John Mercer from the British series The Fixer is an assassin who lives on a Council Estate.
  • Sarah and Casey on Chuck are both assassins with different personalities and methods. Several episodes touch on Sarah's concern about Chuck becoming a professional killer.
  • The Argentinian assassin from the first season of Miami Vice, sent to clean out a list of targets for mob boss Calderone. He looks like a holdover from the 70's, has a small afro, and has one of the quickest draws humanly possible (he was played by a real-life trained marksman). In fact, he kills Sonny Crockett's boss and most of the targets before being taken down, and that's only because more than five police officers (including Tubbs, Valerie and vice officers) shoot at him at the same time.
  • The X-Files. The shapeshifting alien 'bounty hunter' fits this trope. He's ruthless, but not without standards; he shows his true alien face to another alien he's been sent to kill so he can die with honor. And of course there's the various Men In Black types who are often highly-trained government assassins, though not of the Hitman with a Heart type. The Cigarette Smoking Man is himself one of these, though he has graduated to management level.
  • The licensed-to-kill British agents in Callan are on the "flat beer" end of Spy Fiction rather than the "martini" end.
  • Ziva David in NCIS is an assassin.
  • The Accountant, from the short-lived Kidnapped, is an assassin.
  • Criminal Minds had these in "Natural-Born Killer" and "Reckoner". In the former, the guy was actually a serial killer (someone who kills to satisfy an inner desire as opposed to for money) who was working as a mob hitman so he could get payed for his murders. In the latter, it was a common hitman, and he wasn't the primary antagonist, it was his employer.
  • Steven Matrix in Matrix started out as a Mafia hit man.
  • The Wire: Brother Mouzone is a particularly dangerous hitman on loan from New York. As few seasons later, Chris Partlow is Marlo's designated hitman who is so feared that the hoppers tell ghost stories about him. Snoop is his sidekick.
  • Burn Notice has had its share of both, but the recurring one is Larry (yes, dead Larry).
  • On Person of Interest Shaw was this going after targets on the relevant list, Northern Lights has several on the payroll. Reese was something of this, though he had more doubts about it.
  • There's the Russian sniper Yuri in The Sentinel, who leaves Russian coins as his calling card.
  • Caprica gives us Bill Adama's uncle Sam, a hitman for the Ha'la'tha, the Tauron Mafia.
  • Mr Lucky: If you're a corrupt dictator struggling against La Résistance, don't let Andamo pick your dinner date. She may be a literal femme fatale.
  • On Castle one was featured in a relatively minor role but with a strong emotional impact as a professional killer murdered Beckett's mom on orders from a former DA who is now a US Senator. Beckett was forced to shoot him before figuring out who hired him to save Castle.
  • Day Break: Miguel Dominguez aka "El Huron" is the contract killer who murdered Assistant District Attorney Alberto Garza, for which Hopper is framed. He's normally incarcerated, but he has an agreement with the corrupt authorities to release him occasionally so he can take out people whenever his employers want him to.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Killer characters in Feng Shui are usually either Assassins or Hitmen With A Heart.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • It has a "Professional Training: Hitman" for Hunters.
    • Another New World of Darkness example is the Tolltaker Knighthood from Changeling: The Lost. The Tolltakers are, to the last, thugs and hitmen whose special powers rely on designating a target via a contracted hit. Some Knight Bannerets try to only take jobs that deal with "necessary targets" (such as the Gentry, Loyalists and Privateers, and other threats to the freehold), whereas others will just take any job that pays.
    • For an Old world example, we have the Assamites of Vampire: The Masquerade, an entire vampiric clan with close ties to the hashhashin (to the point that the original Mount Alamut is their home base). The face they present to the rest of the Kindred is that of assassins and brokers of war, but their numbers also include scholars and sorcerors. Unfortunately, one of their castes has a flaw that means they find vampire blood especially delicious...
    • For another Old World example, the Euthanatos from Mage: The Ascension are often stereotyped as this, but it's more a matter for the Golden Chalice faction. Even then, their actions aren't entirely about killing for pay; as they view themselves of agents of "the Wheel" of life and death, they make it their business to target those whose actions unbalance the Wheel towards death.
  • Most agents of the Officio Assassinorum in Warhammer 40,000 generally off a person in a clean yet horrifically painful way (snipers, shapeshifters, Anti-Magic guys). An Eversor assassin, on the other hand, kills everyone in a straight path between him and his target. Then maybe explodes from the combat drugs.
  • Rifts and several other Palladium Books games have a partial subversion: Special Forces types typically have two options for their variety of close-combat training: "Hand-To-Hand: Assassin" and "Hand-To-Hand: Commando". Assassin is typically only allowed to characters of an outright evil alignment, and offers supreme lethality but no automatic dodge and fewer raw attacks a round.
  • Dungeons & Dragons introduced an assassin class in Blackmoor. The class also appeared in the first edition of AD&D. It was omitted from second edition core, but appeared in The Complete Thief's Handbook and Player's Option as a kit. Third edition reintroduced the class, and it also appears in the fourth edition. In addition, there are several other classes that could perform a similar role.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • Anna and Nina Williams from Tekken.
  • Assassins are commonly hired to kill your party in Fire Emblem, but they fit type two (the word "Hitman" probably didn't exist back then). Assassin is also a class you can get, and party members with this class commonly fit type 1.
  • Hitman:
    • Interestingly enough, the Player Character is an Assassin. The game can also be played as a Hitman, too, you just have to kill everything you come into contact with.
    • A better example of a Hitman in the series would be The Dragon from Blood Money: Mark Parchezzi III. One of his kills you can read about has him emerge from a car in broad daylight, gun down the president of some nation, and then run like hell.
    • Agent 47 falls right between the two. He takes prestigious contracts and operates in exotic locations but he lives a Spartan life and in Blood Money it appears that he was still a mere pawn of The Agency. He doesn't get much respect but he apparently also doesn't need any.
    • Absolution introduces The Saints, a group of women who wear fetish nun costumes.
  • Max Payne:
    • Mona Sax is definitely an Assassin, though she has some Hitman tendencies (she's implied to have come out of the mob and calls a decrepit funhouse home).
    • Rico Muerte and Frankie Niagara from the first game were Hitmen, as were the Punchinello Trio.
    • As were Kaufman and the Cleaners working for Vladimir Lem from Max Payne 2, though those seemed to have Military level training.
    • The Killer suits from the first game have the appearance and training of Assassins, but are really more like Hitmen.
  • Assassin's Creed I: The protagonist is a Hashashin, the Ur Example and the ethimological origin of the word "assassin".
    • Ezio Auditore in Assassin's Creed II is even MORE fitting of the Assassin mold, being very suave and gentlemanly, where Altaïr was mostly resolute and focused on the job alone.
    • And now you have Connor Kenway (AKA Ratonhnhaké:ton) in Assassin's Creed III, a half-Mohawk assassin whose main goal is to fight the Templars and protect his people. Interestingly, in his trailers, Connor seems less likely to stay hidden than his predecessors and mainly just slaughters everyone. The fact that his favorite weapon seems to be a tomahawk instead of a hidden blade implies that he prefers to act more openly (one trailer involves him literally charging onto a battlefield just to assassinate a British colonel).
    • If you want to be technical, the English word "assassin" is a mangled version of Arabic word "Ḥashshāshīn" (meaning "one who smokes hashish").
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney:
    • Shelly DeKiller is the assassin type, and even calls himself a "gentleman killer". It's hard to deny that he has some of the best manners of any killer in the series. This is probably why most people don't mind his Karma Houdini despite the fact that he kidnapped Maya Fey and was willing to kill her if Phoenix didn't defend Matt.
  • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth:
    • Victim Mack Rell was described as a "hitman" who was brought down to the precinct numerous times. Unlike de Killer, though, Rell was reckless, unrefined and unprepared (hence why he was caught easily).
    • Gyakuten Kenji 2 (Miles Edgeworth 2) has Ryōken Hōinbō (or Sirhan Dogen in the fan translation), a blind assassin who used knives and his large dog to carry out hits before getting imprisoned.
  • Virtua Fighter:
    • Goh Hinogami is a subverted assassin. He's a creepy looking albino and a relentless killing machine. Still, he does work for and was trained by J6.
    • Jean Kujo plays this straight, and he also works for J6.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    Sniper: (on phone with his father) Not a crazed gunman, dad, I'm an assassin. ...Well the difference bein', one is a job, and the other's mental sickness! (and later) "Feelings? You know who has a lot of feelings? Blokes what bludgeon their wives to death with a golf trophy. Professionals have standards. Be polite. Be efficient. Have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
    • Given that the line between Hitmen and Private Military Contractors can get somewhat blurry, a case could be made for including most of the team, with the possible exception of the Medic and the Engineer (who seem to be more in it For Science!).
  • Lieselotte of Arcana Heart. German Little Miss Snarker assassin dressed in an Elegant Gothic Lolita outfit.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • The Morag Tong guild is a guild of Assassins, whereas the Dark Brotherhood is more of a guild of Hitmen; the former is depicted as the good and honorable one as a result.
    • The Morag Tong is the legal option, and they have rather strict standards. The Dark Brotherhood can't even be contacted legitimately without performing some sort of heinous act to get their attention. They come rather closer to Assassins than Hitmen in Oblivion than they do in Morrowind though, since they're a playable faction then.
  • Killer7 includes a rogue's gallery of them, including MASK DE Smith, Dan Smith, and Curtis Blackburn.
  • Zevran from Dragon Age: Origins belongs to a notorious assassin's guild, the Antivan Crows.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Grand Theft Auto IV all feature main characters that take contracts to assassinate people.
  • Mass Effect
    • Thane Krios in Mass Effect 2 is the most feared and deadly assassin in the galaxy (his training began at six and he made his first kill when he was twelve). He also has something to say about all those other 'professionals' you've fought: "You've spent too much time fighting thugs who think custom-painted armor makes them professionals."
    • Zaeed Massani has killed more than his share of people for the money, though it isn't all he does as a mercenary.
    • Mass Effect 3 gives us Kai Leng, an evil cyber-enhanced assassin who works for Cerberus, and is a Hero Killer who offs several fan-favorites including Thane, if he's still alive in that game with a shirasaya blade. It is immensely satisfying when you finally kill him with your own omni-blade.
  • No More Heroes:
    • Travis Touchdown is a bit of both. His weapon of choice (a Beam Katana), impressive feats of physical skill and endurance, occasional displays of chivalry and honor, and overall competence are very assassin-like. But his Perpetual Poverty, complete lack of stealth or subtly, and overall tastelessness push him more towards the hitman category.
    • In addition, being an assassin seems to be the occupation of choice in Travis's world. It's a highly glamorized job with lots of good publicity; most of the people Travis meets is either an assassin, trying to be an assassin, or works directly with one. Considering the sheer numbers of these guys and the impressive hits they accomplish (the moment someone acqires any sort of fame, a rival will send an assassin to kill him or her, unless that someone is an assassin or has hired one as a bodyguard), it's a wonder there's anyone left.
  • The Elder Scrolls has an assassin class, and all the games except Arena (which didn't have any joinable guilds) have assassins' guilds, though Morrowind's has the advantage of being sanctioned by the government.
  • In Suikoden V, Lyon and the members of the Oboro Detective Agency are all former members of Nether Gate, an assassins guild that used to serve the queendom of Falena. The guild was disbanded by Queen Arshtat and her husband, Ferid, sometime after the bloody succession war that took place between Arshtat and Haswar's mothers.
  • In Bloody Roar, both Long and Bakuryu are former assassins of the Tylon Corporation. Each quit for their own reasons: Long gave up his career to atone for the lives he took while working for Tylon. Bakuryu was taken in by Yugo and unofficially adopted. Of the two, Long remains a target of his former employer due to having been one of their top assassins and knowing far too many of their secrets.
  • Christie and Bayman in the Dead or Alive series.
  • The protagonist from Hotline Miami. The game gives bonuses for being reckless and downright Ax-Crazy.
  • The Bounty Hunter class from The Old Republic is aligned with the Empire and, well, hunts down bounties and wanted individuals. Individual players can decide to be motivated by cruelty or patriotism, but the default assumption is that they're only in it for the money, and possibly a bit of glory. This is in contrast to the Imperial Agent, which is generically considered patriotic, and the Sith classes, which are usually Obviously Evil.
  • The Whalers from Dishonored. They are led by the Knife of Dunwall, Daud, a born killer who received The Outsider's Mark. Daud uses the Mark to share his powers with the other Whalers, making them very good at their job.
  • Zer0 from Borderlands 2 is the Assassin Class character, and though he doesn't take on any unique assassination missions in-game that the other characters don't, his wanted poster has a $32 billion price on his head for "political assassination".

    Web Comics 
  • Sluggy Freelance:
    • Kusari is a badass Assassin.
    • The "Phoenix Rising" storyline contains several types. In (very) brief flashbacks we see that the Canadian mafia sent over a hundred "hitmen, criminals, and thugs" to take control of the town of Podunkton. All were killed by Oasis. After a new boss took over the syndicate, he decided to send down a much more badass assassin with a cool costume, lots of guns, and in-battle quips.
  • Mordecai Heller from Lackadaisy Cats. Has OCD.
  • Marilith Millions, main character of Marilith, is an assassin.
  • Most of the cast of Knights Errant are mercenaries in a fantasy setting reminiscent of Renaissance Italy. The mercenary group the story focuses on, the Errant Knights, are noted in-story for having a code of honor. The protagonist Wilfrid also spent some time as a freelance assassin before joining the Errant Knights.
  • In Monsieur Charlatan, the count hires an assassin to kill his wife.
  • Jack Friday from Rock-Paper-Scissors is one of the two main characters of the story and is a somewhat skilled assassin working for The Doctor, leader of the Cavellos.
  • Harry the Dagger Is a hapless hired killer. He calls himself by the classy name Assassin, but he's a low-level hitman barely above a mook.
  • Seven of Hexenringe is the newest member of Lucky Seven, a group of assassins that specialize in killing and capturing comic characters.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Combustion Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He's freaking humongous, with a metal arm and leg. He's also an intimidating, silent badass who can blow crap up with his mind using Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man's Enforcers are well-regarded assassins commissioned by the Big Bad to eliminate Spider-man. They fail miserably, but one, Montana, escapes and adopts the supervillain identity of Shocker to complete his job. Throughout his battle with Spider-man, he expresses a fondness for his work as a killer.
  • Young Justice has the League of Shadows, an organzation of assassins founded and run by Ra's Al Ghul. Its assassins include Cheshire, Black Spider, The Hook, and Professor Ojo.
  • From Batman Beyond, there was Curaré, the best (supposedly) member of the Society of Assassins, a group who themselves who were notorious for being the best. Accepting an assignment to assassinate DA Sam Young brought her perfect record to an end at the hands of Batman and Barbara Gordon, and made her a target of the rest of the Society... Which in turn led to the destruction of the whole organization.
  • Scorcher from Adventure Time; a hitman who will NOT quit until his targets are killed, and negotiation is not an option.

    Real Life 
  • The Hashshashin are the source of the word "assassin."
  • The Ninja are popularly portrayed as assassins, though spying was their real job in feudal Japan.
  • The employees of Murder, Inc. and other hitmen.

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alternative title(s): Assassin; Professional Killers
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