Mills: I killed your son because he kidnapped my daughter!It's relatively common that the reason that Alice wants to kill Bob is because Bob killed Charlie. Revenge seems pretty straightforward. But it gets a lot more murky when Charlie was trying to kill Bob and Bob was just defending himself. They were in a war, it was a fight, Charlie surprised Bob at the worst time, it was an accident, the list goes on. Bob didn't really want to kill Charlie, and would have avoided doing so if possible. It's likely Bob regrets it greatly. But all of that doesn't matter to Alice. Bob has to pay for what he did to Charlie. Supertrope to Avenging the Villain, but there are also other cases that it covers where Charlie wasn't specifically killed for committing and/or trying to commit evil. For example this also applies when:
Murad: [slaps Mills] I DON'T CARE WHAT HE DID!
Murad: [slaps Mills] I DON'T CARE WHAT HE DID!
— Taken 2
- Gray and Grey Morality is in effect, such as (but not limited to) wars and family feuds where both sides are flawed/justified to an extent at some point.
- Charlie is a good guy.
- Charlie was Not Himself, being possessed or such.
- Charlie was going about his business when a fatal accident happened, even if he was an Evil Empire mook.
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Anime & Manga
- One episode of Kino's Journey had Kino meet a woman and the man she had hired as a guard as they were about to set out on a journey. She sat with the man for a while, and learned that he had killed her husband several years ago accidentally while robbing his store, and had been reformed and set free by their justice system, on the condition that he make it up to the woman by mutual agreement. It's made clear that his reform and desire to help the woman any way he can in penance for his crime are genuine. They part, and later Kino is riding through the woods when she hears a gunshot - it turns out the woman wasn't so big on the penance idea after all.
- In Samurai Champloo, Jin killed his master Mariya Enshirou in self-defense. Try telling that to Mariya's other students, who are hunting for Jin throughout the series to avenge him. Particularly notable is Not-So-Harmless Villain Ogura Bunta, who managed to hold his own against Jin when he finally encountered him. The shame of his defeat, however, caused Bunta to be Driven to Suicide, according to Jin's Unknown Rival Yukimaru. For his part, Yukimaru doesn't care about their master, and just wants to kill Jin to absorb the reputation of the thousand man killer.
- Dragon Ball: Both the Crane Hermit and Tien Shinhan are furious at Goku for killing Mercenary Tao, their younger brother and mentor, respectively. Goku calls them out on it, pointing out that Tao was a Psycho for Hire who was hired by the Red Ribbon Army to kill him and he was only defending himself; neither of them cares.
- The Russians in Judge Dredd tend to fall into this trap whenever they show up after the Apocalypse War. They're driven by vengeance towards Mega-City One for nuking their own home city - and Judge Dredd in particular, who launched the missiles. The fact that they started this war to begin with, and nuked half of Mega-City One to oblivion, never crosses their mind let alone their conscience.
- Supergirl villain Reactron wants to kill Kara because she wrecked his healing radiation-containment suit... which happened because she was stopping him from killing her when he assaulted her, completely unprovoked, the first time they fought. So in retaliation he murdered her father in New Krypton, tried to kill and rape her several times in story arcs like Who Is Superwoman?, Codename: Patriot and The Hunt for Reactron-, and in War of Supermen he murdered her mother and blew up her planet and race.
- David in the Animorphs fanfic Animorphs Redux; he's determined to get revenge on the Animorphs for their previous defeats of him, which ended in him getting trapped as a rat, completely ignoring the fact that not only did they do that after he tried to kill them, but more importantly, he's now in an alternate timeline where none of the team had done ANYTHING to him before he started trying to kill them.
Films — Live-Action
- Kill Bill: Looked at objectively, none of them can be considered good guys considering their careers; but The Bride's former crew killed her innocent new family, which is reason enough for her to kill them all back. She is in the right for wanting to kill them, she just doesn't see that she is not much better than them.
Bud: That woman deserves her revenge, and we all deserve to die. But then again, so does she.
- The Spy Who Loved Me: In the opening scene, James Bond kills Anya's lover, who is trying to kill him at the time. When she finds out about it she vows to kill James. She never goes through with it, giving it up after they manage to foil the villain.
- Star Trek:
- Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Lampshaded even. After Khan explains his beef with Kirk, Chekov says, "Captain Kirk was your host. You repaid his hospitality by trying to steal his ship and murder him!" Khan ignores the fact that Kirk, in simply exiling Khan to his own planet, was more charitable than he had to be given Khan's actions both on the Enterprise and as a fugitive from international justice 300 years ago. Kirk could have easily taken Khan and his people back to Earth and put them in the hands of Federation justice, which might end in a number of ways unfavorable to Khan, his crew, and his girlfriend. Plus, Kirk left them on a very nice planet, and it's hardly his fault it underwent a drastic climate change and Khan's wife died.
- John Harrison and Kirk in Star Trek Into Darkness. Harrison seeks revenge on Admiral Marcus, and ends up killing Christopher Pike in his attack on the admiral. Pike's death then drives Kirk to swear revenge on Harrison. Both of them thus end up largely playing into the hands of Admiral Marcus and his plans to instigate war, blinded by their personal desires for revenge. Even across timelines, Khan never changes...
- As the page quote shows, Taken 2 is driven by Murad wanting to avenge his son Marko, killed in the original by Retired Badass Bryan for kidnapping his daughter in Paris. Murad doesn't care if Marko worked in a crime ring, and destroyed many young women's lives by forcing them into sex slavery (a fate Bryan's daughter escaped just in time). He just wants to ease his pain by killing the man responsible for Marko's death (and his loved ones), and to add salt to the wound, intended to do so by finishing his son's original intentions.
- The entire plot of Oldboy (2003) in a nutshell. Oh Dae-su wants revenge against the man who abducted and imprisoned him for 15 years. Lee Woo-jin in return wants revenge against Oh Dae-su for indirectly driving his sister to suicide.
- The dilemma of Toy Story is set up by escalating (thanks to misunderstandings) cases of this; Woody gets jealous of Buzz's inadvertently becoming the favorite toy of their owner Andy, so tries to knock him under the bed to regain attention, he instead knocks him out the window by mistake. Buzz, thinking he did it on purpose, attacks Woody during a car trip, accidentally leaving them stranded, leaving Woody once again livid with Buzz. This is lampshaded in their Blame Game argument following this:
Woody: We're lost! Andy's gone... and it's all! Your! Fault!
Buzz: My fault?!? If you hadn't knocked me out of the window in the first place...
Woody: [scoffs angrily] Well if you hadn't shown up in your stupid little cardboard spaceship and took away everything that was important to me...
- Triad boss Terence Wei from The Replacement Killers wants the young son of police detective Stan Zedkov dead for Zedkov's own killing of Wei's son. Aside from the messed up sense of vengeance that characterizes this Revenge by Proxy scheme, Peter Wei, the son in question, was a murderous twenty-something Triad lieutenant in the drug trade, and Zedkov had tried to take him alive, even telling him not to go through with trying to kill him and the other cops.
- In Jason Bourne, The Asset wants to kill Jason because exposing Blackbriar towards the end of The Bourne Ultimatum got him outed and captured. Except that Bourne never would have found out about Blackbriar if the Asset hadn't murdered his father, thereby driving him into Treadstone, Blackbriar's precursor organization.
- Colonel Packard of Kong: Skull Island becomes obsessed with killing Kong in revenge for the deaths of his soldiers, ignoring that they (albeit unknowingly) started it by bombing the island, and later the revelation that Kong is vital to stopping an even worse threat to humans from coming to the surface.
- In Enűma Eliš, Tiamat does her best to avenge Apsu's death at the hands of the Annunaki, completely ignoring the two small facts that Apsu was actively planning to kill them and that she herself ratted him out to them, allowing a preventive strike.
- In David Eddings' The Redemption of Althalus, when working as a mercenary, Eliar kills the ruler of the city state the mercenaries were attacking. He ends up being captured and Andine, the daughter of said ruler, enacts personal revenge. He gets rescued eventually. And she eventually gets over it. They end up married.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire Lord Karstark wants revenge against Jaime Lannister for killing two of his sons. He does this by killing two of Jaime's relatives who were held captive, killing several men on his own side to get to them. It's pointed out that killing defenseless prisoners and your own allies is not the same as killing an enemy in battle, but the distinction seems lost on him since he's basically half-mad with anger and grief by that point.
- There are other instances where someone (Balon Greyjoy and the Sand Snakes) acknowledges that the people they spent years plotting revenge against are all dead, yet they still want revenge against their House. It gets rather ridiculous with Balon, who blames Ned for the death of his two eldest sons due to Ned fighting on the opposite side to Balon, one of them dying in a battle Ned wasn't even present at.
- The Martells are seeking vengeance against Ser Amory Lorch, Ser Gregor Clegane and his liege lord Tywin Lannister for murdering Princess Elia Martell and her children during the overthrow of the regime that she married into. (True, it was a war and the children were in line to the throne, but it was a particularly brutal and unnecessary murder.) Tywin tries to get around it by blaming all the murders on Lorch after their death. Oberyn Martell is granted the chance to fight the Mountain in a duel... and when he loses fair and square, his children, the Sand Snakes, start clamoring for revenge against the Lannisters for HIS death, even though Gregor admitted his crimes and died rather agonizingly of his wounds anyway, and Lord Tywin is dead from unrelated causes (namely, Tyrion finally getting fed up with his father and killing him).
- In Diane Duane's novel Spock's World, the Big Bad is seeking revenge on Spock for the death of a mate. What the Big Bad fails to take into account is that the mate took a suicidal risk to get closer to the Big Bad because the mate thought that said character's brooding over the last encounter with Spock was romantic.
- In the Honor Harrington series, Solarian Fleet Admiral Rajampet Rajani states, in no uncertain terms, that he does not care how justified the Manticorans believed they were in killing Admiral Josef Byng, and goes on to say he doesn't care how justified they actually were. His biggest concern is the blow to the Solarian League Navy's prestige their actions have caused and the precedents it could set. This attitude is not helped by the fact that the Manticorans keep Curb Stomping his navy.
- In Cold Days, Titania refuses to tell Harry information that would keep Demonreach from exploding- taking out half the Midwest with it- because he killed her daughter. (Her daughter was attempting to commit genocide on the Fae, which would have had apocalyptic consequences on Earth's climate and life as a whole, in addition to letting the Outsiders unmake reality itself. Titania admits Harry was fully justified in his actions, and for that reason she allows him to live...but she still can't work with him. Even to prevent mass murder on a continental scale.
- In the fifth and sixth Harry Potter books, Malfoy makes it clear he wants revenge on Harry for putting his father in prison, even though his father was arrested for helping his genocidal Evil Overlord master try to attack and/or kill quite a few people, Harry included.
- In the Maximum Ride series, the reason Ari targets Max specifically during so many of their fights is because he blames her for stealing his father's love (which is not entirely as petty as it sounds - Ari's father leaving to secretly raise Max and her siblings left Ari unprotected to be experimented on by the Whitecoats). Max tries to point out several times that she was a child at the time and had no idea what was going on beyond being rescued from a scary, painful place, but Ari refuses to listen. When faced with the reality that he's going to die soon, in the third book, he finally does admit to Max that he knows she had no more control over the situation than he did. Considering that Ari's mentally and emotionally a child, his reaction is justified.
- Malazan Book of the Fallen: At some point, Clip gets the idea into his head of taking revenge upon Anomander Rake aka the Black-Winged Lord aka the god the Tiste Andii of Bluerose worship for allegedly allowing them to degenerate and eventually be slaughtered by the Letherii. As far as Clip is concerned, Anomander Rake deserves to die. Never mind that neither had he anything to do with the fate of the Andii of the Andara, they did not even ask him if it's okay to worship him as a god and expect anything in return. It's questionable whether he even knew of their existence.
- In Imager's Challenge, the D'Ryel family tries to destroy Rhen's family and Rhen himself because he had partially blinded Lord D'Ryel's son in the previous book. This blinding was done in self-defense in a fight that the noble started over something Rhen didn't do, and may not have even happened at all.
- Angel: Turns out that Wesley took Connor to protect him from a False Prophecy stating that "The father will kill the son." Angel accepts this, and tells Wesley so before picking up a Vorpal Pillow. Having one's child sucked into a hell dimension can do that to a person. To be fair, Wesley wasn't the one who sent his son to a hell dimension. The people who did had cut Wesley's throat by that point.
- Farscape: In the very first episode, Crichton accidentally crashes into a ship piloted by Bialar Crais' brother, killing him instantly. Crais becomes insanely obsessed with ferreting out Crichton and killing him, an obsession that lasts most of first season, to the point where eventually Crais loses his job because his priorities are entirely focused on revenge — despite the fact that Crichton continually tries to convince him that it was an accident.
- In an episode where an Evil Sorcerer brings both of them (or, at least, their minds) into his "temple", he does his best to fuel Crais's desire for revenge. Crichton once actually manages to almost convince Crais that it wasn't Crichton's fault by pointing at simple facts: Crichton's Farscape One pod is nowhere near as advanced as a Peacekeeper Prowler (no weapons, minimal defenses, pitiful maneuverability), so there's no way his brother's death could have been intentional. Unfortunately, Malgus chooses this moment to show an image of his brother burning to death, knowing how Crais will react. After Crais becomes a temporary ally, he admits that his own career was waning, and he was projecting this frustration onto his brother's "killer".
- Game of Thrones: In a massive change from the books, Brienne of Tarth murders Stannis Baratheon as he is responsible for the death of his younger brother Renly Baratheon. However Renly was trying to usurp the throne which Stannis had more right to, and intended to kill his brother despite Stannis offering to make them his heir. Brienne even has the audacity to call Renly "the rightful King" before she murders Stannis. Unsurprisingly this change has proved very controversial, making Brienne The Scrappy for many viewers.
- Once Upon a Time: This defined the relationship between Captain Hook and Rumplestilskin. Hook had fallen in love with Rumple's wife, Milah. Rather than leave a Dear John letter, Milah and Hook faked her kidnapping and let the then-human Rumplestilskin and his son believe she had been murdered by pirates. When the current Dark One Rumplestilskin found out about the deception, however, he murdered Milah and cut off Hook's hand. Swearing revenge, Hook vowed to find a way to kill him. However, since Rumplestilskin is near-unstoppable while the Dark One, most of Hook's attempts have involved hurting Rumplestilskin's true love, Belle, who has never done anything to Hook.
- Revenge: Victoria Grayson wants retribution against Emily for what happened to her family, actual or perceived. Thing is, after what Emily went through, and how much of it for which she was responsible, she had it coming, especially given that her season 3 finale fate of being committed to an asylum was exactly what she did years ago to young Emily.
- "Pilot" starts with a group of militiamen trying to take Ben Matheson into custody peacefully, and he's even willing enough to go; all he asks is a few moments to make arrangements for someone to care for his children, which the militia leader grants him. Unfortunately, his son Danny overreacts and rouses half the settlement to resisting (and dying). The militia may be bad guys, but this particular scene was a pretty clear cut case of self-defense. The heroes don't see it that way.
- "No Quarter" has one militia soldier guilty of it as well, in a far more blatant and infuriating fashion. Danny Matheson kills one of the militiamen (Templeton) and the friend of this militiaman (Private Richards) gives this speech about how "that soldier had a name and a family", clearly trying to up the guilt for Danny's "senseless slaughter". When Danny coldly points out that said soldier killed Danny's father first, just seconds earlier, as the first shot fired in the battle, the soldier's friend simply chuckles and says, "Well, let's be honest, that was no big loss."
- Soap: Danny wants to kill Burt, his stepfather, because he killed his father. Burt also feels horrendously guilty over this fact, but it turns out that Burt only killed him in self-defense. Danny eventually agrees with him.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "The Battle", the Ferengi DaiMon Bok wants to avenge his son, whose ship had been destroyed by Captain Picard during the Battle of Maxia, even though Picard destroyed the ship entirely out of defense.
- The Walking Dead has The Governor get a vendetta attitude about Michonne because she finished off his zombie daughter, even though he had previously sent men out to kill her simply for not buying into his false utopia (without which it is unlikely she would have returned), and even after acknowledging his daughter was already dead.
- The dwarves of Warhammer Fantasy keep an enormous Book of Grudges, in which every slight and insult made to a dwarf is inscribed (even those who were not done on purpose or are absurdly inconsequential, such as a kingdom missing twelve pieces of gold out of three wagons full that were promised as payment for a job). These are avenged in blood, which naturally causes more dwarves to be killed, and their names are added to the Book, despite the enormous toll this takes on the population.
- In Injustice: Gods Among Us, Harley Quinn's main motivation is to get revenge on Superman for his killing of the Joker. What Harley appears to have conveniently forgotten is that the Joker got himself killed on purpose by tricking Superman into killing his wife Lois Lane and their unborn child, thus activating a detonator the Joker rigged to her heart that activated when she died and detonated a nuke that destroyed the city of Metropolis, then going out of his way to torment Superman over this, which he did purely because he was tired of always losing to Batman and wanted to get an easy win over Superman. Or that she herself was complicit in the Joker's actions. So Superman's actions were entirely justified, while Harley clearly has a bad case of Never My Fault about the whole thing. Which is very typical for Harley's character in general, as far as she and her Puddin' are concerned.
- This crops up a few times in the Ace Attorney franchise:
- Manfred Von Karma blames Gregory Edgeworth for ruining his perfect trial record so much that he raised his son, Miles, to be a cold, ruthless prosecutor. And, for good measure, it turns out he murdered Gregory and framed Miles for that murder and another. The thing is, the only reason Gregory was able to put a mark on Von Karma's record was because Von Karma brutally interrogated a suspect until the suspect broke down and gave a false confession.
- Dahlia Hawthorne considers Mia Fey her mortal enemy for catching her over several murders she committed. In revenge, she works with her mother on an overly-elaborate plan that involves her being channeled after her execution so that she can murder Mia's sister... after Mia herself was already dead. Eesh...
- In Mystery Skulls Animated Lewis has come back as a ghost hellbent on getting revenge on Arthur for his murder. Unfortunately he is either unaware or doesn't care that Arthur was possessed at the time and was visibly horrified at Lewis's murder at his own hand. Further complicating matters Arthur seems to have forgotten Lewis's death and is now desperately seeking his missing friend on a visible lack of sleep that may be causing hallucinations meaning he's not likely to recognize Lewis's flaming skeletal ghost and wouldn't be able to even try and explain what really happened if he did.
- In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lydia frequently insulted Lizzie, making comments about how she would need to change if she wanted a boyfriend. But when Lizzie bluntly told her that she would need to change her ways to have a successful career (something Lydia wasn't interested in), Lydia was offended and remained furious for a long time, viciously criticizing Lizzie and guilt-tripping her about Lizzie's fear of abandonment and lack of people skills.
- This is implied to be the case the two families that make up SCP-2039. Mabel Pike essentially made a Deal with the Devil that left her family and the Wagner family in an eternal feud, because Blaine Wagner, the family's patriarch, murdered Mabel's girlfriend when they were younger. The exact circumstances are never given though, the feud itself only began because of the supernatural aid of a mysterious entity, and the Foundation report indicates that Blaine suffers from night terrors while frequently murmuring the name of Mabel's girlfriend.
- In American Dad! episode "Escape from Pearl Bailey": Steve get's revenge on a group of popular girls after he finds they smeared his girlfriend in a class political campaign. He later finds out that it was actually his friends who did the smear, and tries to explain this to the now angry popular kids, which doesn't matter as Steve had disfigured one girl and given the other an STD all for a few insults. The kids proceed to beat up both Steve and his friends.
- In the X-Men: Evolution episode "Blind Alley", Mystique pretends to be Scott's brother Alex, supposedly stuck in Mexico after losing his passport, in order to lure Scott out on his own, knocking him out and leaving him stuck in the middle of the Mexican desert without his glasses to stop his eyes, saying "That's payback!" after Scott let her get captured inside a military base in "Day of Recovery". However Scott did that because she had abducted Professor X and impersonated him throughout the two-part episode "Day of Reckoning", and refused to divulge the location of the real Professor X. Note that when he managed to find his way to the city, she intended to knock him out and do it again, somewhere even more remote.
- The Dexter's Laboratory segment Mandarker cements Mandark's motive for outshining Dexter, as revenge for destroying his lab (through Dee Dee). But while it does a good job creating sympathy for Mandark, what it fails to mention is that Dexter did that in retaliation for Mandark forcing him to shut down his lab. He curiously doesn't blame Dee Dee (who he has a crush on) even accusing Dexter of tricking her into doing it. A later episode reveals that Mandark's real motive is payback for Dexter making fun of his original name - "Susan".
- Frizz and Nug were at the constant receiving end of this in The Dreamstone. The heroes thrived on punishing them for trying to steal the title stone and ruin dreams (often far more severely than the crime itself). They never take notice to the fact they are The Drag-Along in every instance, either due to being Press-Ganged by Sgt Blob and Urpgor or because Zordrak threatens to execute them if they don't. It's implied the heroes went through a great few Urpneys in this manner, before Zordrak simply got bored of offing minions. Later episodes try to make the heroes more pragmatic, as well as give them a much better provocation so their vendetta seems more proportionate, though the fact nearly all Urpneys are unwilling slaves is still never remotely brought up between them.