The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized
"Citizens, do you want a revolution without a revolution?"
The anti-trope to The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified
, this is a considerably Darker and Edgier
version of La Résistance
. This is different from the The Remnant
, in that the remnant are the leftover of the Empire after it has fallen
. However, it is important to mention that these rebels tend more often than not to be portrayed heroically (at least at first). The rebels are all antiheroes
at best, as brutal or more so than their enemies. At worst, for every idealist there's five thugs who signed up for the looting and/or psychos who just want an excuse to rape and kill people (if the Rebel Leader
is one of these, than it might be an indication that the rebellion is villainous in this case). No matter whose side you're on, it's sacrifice, honor, duty, and "shut up and follow orders!" They will usually be led by a rebel version of General Ripper
, or possibly a subversion of that archetype. The more desperate the circumstances, the more brutal the rebels get; expect lots of Rape, Pillage, and Burn
on any village that they even suspect
isn't sympathetic to their cause, Cold-Blooded Torture
and other forms of extreme cruelty towards POWs, and lots of Make an Example of Them
to frighten those who are on the fence into supporting them, often in the form of horrifically brutal public executions
. Depending on the nature of the conflict, genocide may or may not wind up entering the picture; if the ruling power is largely comprised of one specific ethnic or religious group, it's probably a safe bet that all members of that group will be targeted.
If you fall, another might rise to take your place, but don't expect your comrades-in-arms to mourn. You were dead already the moment you put on the rebel uniform. Remember that Failure Is the Only Option
, and whatever you do, Do Not Go Gentle
. If you are caught, you are on your own. You never existed. This is war, and people do things during war that can never, and should never be forgiven. Do you know whose side you are on now?
Can lead to a violent ideological backlash
against supporters of the old regime, as seen in history
. But more importantly — more important because of the irony
involved — it can lead to He Who Fights Monsters
(i.e. the revolutionaries' brutality is no better than the Empire's) and also to violence against some of the revolutionaries themselves, often valiant leaders and close friends of near past, as in the most famous case of Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins guillotined by orders of Robespierre
and his Jacobins during the actual Reign of Terror
. Robespierre tasted his own concoction later as of the Thermidorian Reaction. The reasons and debate on whether revolutions have to be, or inevitably will be un-civilized are quite complex and a subject of study by many historians. Most revolutions do not happen in a vacuum of ideological freedom. Luck, chance and Realpolitik
play a major role, and even the most severe revolutionaries like Che Guevara, Trotsky or even Robespierre did not start out as politically radical to begin with, rather they radicalized as a result of circumstances and existing pressures. And of course, even if a Revolution is successful, The Remnant
of the earlier regime might decide to foment allies from neighbouring nations who also feel that the Balance of Power
is becoming upset, and the existing revolution is creating a bad example for their own people. The end result can be that a revolution on behalf of the people ends up becoming a power-play between governments of two nations, neither of them really have the best interests of the people on the ground.
See also Right Wing Militia Fanatic
. Generally falls under Black and Grey Morality
. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified
and Velvet Revolution
Likely to overlap with Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters
. If the revolution is against The Empire
or other terrible government, examples of this trope may also be Well Intentioned Extremists
. If the revolution is against The Good King
or if The Empire looks better by comparison
, then maybe Hobbes Was Right
(in which case La Résistance
had better hope no members of the royal family escaped
Succeeding could well turn into People's Republic of Tyranny
. Some characters in such a setting may be Necessarily Evil
and the more self-aware of those will realize that there's no place for them
in the world they're creating. The victory may be not the end of it, since there always can be a "postscriptum" — The Purge
. Motive Decay
occurs in revolutions that have been dragged on for long enough; as you continue having to drag in new recruits, they will have less of an understanding of why they are fighting beyond the current regime being bad news and the revolutionary forces being good news, which leads to even further dehumanization of the opposition and makes them think far less about doing truly awful things in the name of their cause.
If the rebels act like this trope but are still treated like heroes
, than the result might be the audience Rooting for the Empire
See also Full-Circle Revolution
and Revolution Revolving Door
The title of this article is a pun on The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
by Gil Scott-Heron
, in case you didn't know.
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Anime & Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin, the flashbacks to the mid-1860s in the manga around the beginning of the Jinchuu arc and the Remembrance OVAs, and Ishida's group in Peacemaker Kurogane. However, in reality, the first wave of "Patriots of the Restoration" was a lot worse than shown in Ruro Ken, murdering any merchant who had dealings with westerners.
- In Black Lagoon Rock encounters an ex-Japanese Red Army member in "Lock And Load Revolution". The old man was an idealist working for a world revolution, and verged into terrorism. After the movement fell, he joined forces with other terrorists, in present, an Islamic group led by a Lebanese Jihadist. Also, the super-Meido Roberta was a Cuban trained assassin and a FARC guerrilla who became disillusioned when she realized she was just a guard dog for The Cartel.
- The Reverse Organization from Letter Bee have typically been displayed as not terribly nice people, but the government they've been rebelling against has shown hints of being equally not nice, particularly if half the things Reverse has said about them are true. However, they may have exceeded this trope and gone on to just straight 'evil' following recent chapters, wherein they used an innocent young nun as a human sacrifice, essentially destroying her soul and condemning her to a slow death in order to lure in a gigantic armor bug to attack the capital.
- Magi – Labyrinth of Magic: In the Balbadd story arc, the anti-government Fog Troop were quite nasty before Alibaba took charge of them. So much so, in fact, that when Alibaba and Sinbad change the organization from thieves and vigilantes to a legitimate rebellion several members leave on the spot. Even worse, after the Fog Troop finally succeeds in overthrowing the corrupt king, all the former members of the Fog Troop show up... and use magic to work the citizens of the nation into a frenzy, turning the bloodless revolution into a massacre purely out of spite.
- Metropolis: The Zone 1 rebels are shown to lash out against the defenseless robots, and launch a violent assault against the Marduks working for the Red Duke. Ultimately, they fail because their uprising was engineered by their opposition, and the rebel leader falls to a trap alongside his troops.
- In Naruto, perennial antihero Sasuke Uchiha announces he intends to become Hokage and change the world so that no-one will have to suffer like he did. He later clarifies that he intends to do so by sealing away the Tailed Beasts and killing the Five Kage while they're still trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi, as well as anyone else who tries to stop him.
- V for Vendetta: V makes no bones about the fact that he is a terrorist. note
- Quite a few Star Wars Expanded Universe comics have attempted to extend this to the Rebel Alliance, trying to soften the line between good guys and bad guys, as well as explain how the cash-strapped outfit got its money. Sometimes its just down to the occasional jerkass pilot, such as Jal Te Gniev (who later makes a Heroic Sacrifice after watching a teenager he'd abused take the blaster bolt for him—and shooting with a gun that he'd bought to kill Gniev). However, it did sometimes come down to situations where in order to keep working, the Alliance and later New Republic would have to kill innocents themselves.
In fact, after the Rebels won at Endor, destroying the Death Star, one of the first acts of the New Republic they established was to execute Grand Admiral Osvald Teshik for war crimes after he was captured in this battle. With Palpatine and Vader dead, he was pretty much one of the highest ranking Imperials captured. Tragic fact that Teshik was one of the few decent Imperials.
- In the Marvel Universe, Skrull Kill Krew.
- Between 1980 and 1983, the Star Wars fandom was inundated with stories speculating on how — or if — Han Solo might be thawed out of the carbonite in which he'd ended The Empire Strikes Back. One particularly memorable story, "The Revenant", had him being unfrozen thirty years later. Leia is dead, Chewbacca is dead, Lando is dead ... and Luke, who arranged Leia's death to bring a group of unaligned planets to the Rebellion's side, is First Citizen of a New Republic oppressive as ever the Empire was.
- Travels Through Azeroth And Outland presents the Defias Brotherhood as completely nihilistic and destructive.
- Technomad's two Tomorrow Series fics, Taking Care of Business and Ellie's Heroes, show Ellie Linton and her friends as considerably Darker and Edgier than they were in canon.
- A major story arc in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is The Whirlwind, continent-wide rebellion in the culturally diverse Seven Cities. It is an affair of extreme brutality that is soon revealed to be an organizational clusterfuck.
- Those La Résistance factions that actively oppose the government in the Strugatsky Brothers novel Prisoners of Power act like this. Or worse.
- The Brotherhood in George Orwell's 1984, while having motives much more ethical than the Party's, are not much better in their methods. Made even more complicated by the fact that the Brotherhood may not even exist and everything O'Brien told Winston about it might have been a lie.
- In the vein of the Militant Godless, Camus' The Rebel. Complete with atheist suicide bombers.
- Fyodor Dostoevsky used this trope in his novel Demons. The revolutionists in this book are portrayed as ruthless terrorists, led by power-hungry Pyotr Verkhovensky, and their ideologist preaches about the necessity of wiping out millions of people for the victory of the revolution. At the end some of them are dead, the rest(except Verkhovensky) are arrested. What is even worse, the leader of this group has a prototype from real life - Sergey Nechaev, one of the most infamous Russian terrorists of that time.
- Older Than Radio: The nasty-as-can-be French revolutionaries in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.
- In the Darksword trilogy, pretty much all of the revolutionaries are Black Magic users who are just as evil as The Magocracy they're rebelling against.
- In the third book of Dread Empire's Fall, guerrilla leader Sula leads a brutal resistance against the aliens, complete with car bombings, assassinations, and purposefully goading the government into executing innocent hostages. While she doesn't purposefully murder schoolchildren, she considers it their own fault if they wandered too close to her bombs. "Human warmth is not my specialization".
- The theme of The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton, set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. Innocent bystanders get killed and those at the sharp end find themselves manipulated, or even targeted for killing, by their superiors. In the final novel the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing of La Résistance forms an alliance with The Quisling government to destroy their hardline members (including the protagonist). The novels end on a former Resistance member, now Minister of the Interior, announcing new anti-terrorist measures to counter 'subversion'.
- Ken Mac Leod's Fall Revolution books jump back and forth in time quite a bit, but often imply that the various quasi-utopias in the far future were arrived at by, say, slaughtering a large percentage of the world's population.
- This is a major theme in Mockingjay, the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. By the end the rebellion only avoids simply becoming a direct copy of the Evil Empire they were trying to replace by a narrow margin.
- The Black Company, although POV is on The Empire side and revolution ultimately fails in the first book. Played more or less straight in the third book.
- Honor Harrington features the Committee of Public Safety led by Rob S. Pierre.
- In Michael Flynn's The January Dancer, Jumdar characterizes the Loyalists as this, neglecting to note they were the legitimate government fighting a coup.
- In On the Razor's Edge, Gidula tells Donovan that as Padaborn, his rebellion had killed many innocents who had just gone to their jobs early.
- In Darkness at Noon, Rubashov ironically recalls having advocated civil war and other extreme measures as the only way to win the Revolution, and that as a Full-Circle Revolution its only consistency with past ideology is its denial of decency. Rubashov sees his nemesis Gletkin, who received none of his education in pre-revolutionary times, not as a betrayer of the Revolution but as its logical product, and calls him a "Neanderthal."
- In Myst: the Book of D'ni, after Terahnee falls, the charismatic slave Ymur feels that only when the Ronay are slaughtered to the last child will there be any lasting freedom. He suffers Motive Decay quickly.
- In The Powder Mage Trilogy it opens with the hero leading a coup against a corrupt king. The revolution quickly escalates to mass public beheadings of the nobility, riots, and war.
- In Blood's Pride, Faroth and his revolutionaries don't pay much attention to nuance, and just want to kill all the Norlanders without regard to the fact that some of them are sympathetic (and also without regard to the fact that some innocent Shadari die too). Faroth also treats the revolution as if it were his personal property, and won't let anyone else have a leadership role. One character explicitly describes Faroth's group as more like a gang rather than the band of good people she'd hoped for.
- The rebellion in Daughter of the Lioness. While the native Raka people have clearly suffered for centuries under terrible oppression, and the current monarchy is clearly corrupt, the rebellion has to do some very moral grey things to usurp them (including the murder of innocent children). The main character spends much of her time ensuring that it won't be more of a blood bath than it needs to.
- A recurring element in the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, where the ruling Protectorate is repressive and fascist but there's a lack of good alternatives. Kovacs is reluctant to join the neo-Quellist revolution in Woken Furies because in his experience, revolutionaries rarely turn out to be better than the people they're overthrowing. He had personal experience with this in Broken Angels with Joshua Kemp, a charismatic revolutionary who used Quellist rhetoric to justify using nuclear weapons on innocent civilians.
- Alien Nation: Udara in the telemovie of the same name, a group of Tenctonese terrorists who resorted to brainwashing their own children into assassins and suicide bombers to fight the Overseers on the Slave Ship. Even after the slave's emancipation, Tenctonese sentiment was divided on whether the Udara were freedom fighters or extremists who did more harm than good.
- Babylon 5: Has plenty of violent uprisings - Free Mars. Other Mars Resistance cells, the Narn Rebellion against the Centauri. The Telepath Resistance, however, straddle the line between this and The Revolution Will Not Be Villified.
- Battlestar Galactica (Reimagined): Gaeta's Mutiny and especially the New Caprican Resistance.
- Blake's 7: While La Résistance are clearly better than the Federation, the main cast are all anti-heroes at best and Blake is often called on his devotion to the Rebellion over taking care of his people. And then he was replaced with Avon, who didn't even pretend to take care.
- Doctor Who:
- This crops up from time to time.
- The Reign of Terror, natch.
- "The Ark" has the Monoids, who were slaves for the humans until they rebelled.
- In Warrior's Gate, the Tharils once ran a slaver empire, until the slaves revolted and enslaved them.
- The rebels in "Day of the Daleks" are fighting the Daleks and are portrayed as quite brutal people, killing UNIT soldiers ruthlessly. A suicide bombing by them is responsible for a Stable Time Loop that caused the wars they were trying to prevent.
- Legend of the Seeker: In "Deception", a rebel group proves itself quite ruthless, killing an unarmed D'Haran prisoner of war who's been Confessed by Kahlan already simply to vent their rage when one of their own is killed, and then use seek to the same magical weapons of mass destruction against a village that's loyal to the D'Harans.
- Revolution: Played with. Episode 3, episode 5, episode 9, and episode 13 show that some members of the resistance are very unmerciful to any Monroe militia member (former or otherwise), are willing to torture as part of interrogation, are willing to sacrifice civilians to kill off militia officers, and show signs of becoming similar to the militia. However, episode 14 and episode 16 show that some resistance members are careful to ensure that no faction uses an atomic bomb and anthrax as weapons in the war effort.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajoran Resistance. They were anti-heroes at the very best, had a running mantra of I Did What I Had to Do and were sometimes even explicitly referred to as "terrorists", and not just by Cardassians (though usually). Ditto the Maquis.
Kira Nerys: None of you belonged on Bajor. It wasn't your world! For fifty years you raped our planet, and you killed our people. You lived on our land and you took the food out of our mouths, and I don't care whether you held a phaser in your hand or you ironed shirts for a living. You were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets!
- Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter: In this German drama, between the Germans, Soviets, and Polish Resistance, the latter are usually the best of a bad lot, but are not above a bit of pillage or anti-semitism. This is exemplified when they ambush a train bound for Auschwitz and loot it for weapons, but are prepared to leave the prisoners in the cattle cars to their fate.
- V: The Miniseries: The Resistance used biological warfare against the enemy. Given that most Visitors lived in sealed starships and thus had the option of simply leaving unharmed, it's not quite as nasty as it sounds.
- In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Abaddon makes clear that her attempt to overthrow Crowley as the King of Hell is going to be vicious.
- That Mitchell and Webb Sound played with this by having a pair of vapid TV talking heads discussing, in a very civilized manner, the boiling alive of Queen Elizabeth II after a clearly violent and horrible revolution.
- Much of Tom Stoppard's The Coast Of Utopia trilogy, set during the 19th century in Europe, primarily Russia and France. Let's just say it had a historical basis and one of its main characters was Mikhail Bakunin, and I don't mean the guy from LOST.
- In Urinetown, the rebels take the Corrupt Corporate Executive's daughter hostage and threaten to hang her to get their revenge and make themselves "feel powerful for a moment."
- Rocket Age: The Ebb Revolutions on Mars were brutal socialist uprisings sponsored by the Soviets which usually involved a city's entire Silthuri, Kastari and Pilthuri castes being executed, along with anyone else deemed counter-revolutionary.
- Assassin's Creed: Unity is set during the French Revolution, which as it turns out was actually instigated by the Templars in order to destroy the corrupt monarchy in order to re-establish their own authority.
- In the Crusader games, the Resistance is very, very much willing to use hardball tactics. The best example of this is the protagonist, the unleashing of whom on a target is not unlike using a tactical nuke, but in the manual it also notes that while General Maxis seems sincere in his ideals, the WEC has tried to get him to surrender himself, dismantle the Resistance, or do less drastically stupid things by threatening civilians. Maxis has never given in, nor tried a third option.
- The Scoi'a'tel in The Witcher. The game does go to great lengths to explain the understandable grievances that led to their formation and continued existence (being conquered, treated as second-class citizens and subjected to violence and pogroms by the humans), but also makes it very clear that they are ruthless murderers who attack innocent or not-so-innocent civilians, sometimes in particularly gruesome ways, rather than the oppressing government's armed forces. Quite a few Dwarven and Elven NPCs express their profound dislike for them.
At one point early on, a member tries to convince Geralt to let him take some crates of medical supplies. If you give them to him, it later turns out they really contain some really nasty weapons that only work on unarmored civilians. Which they use to prominently assassinate an unarmed civilian. Who happens to have a second job as a drug pusher, making addicts of elvish teenagers so he can force them into drug-controlled slavery and/or prostitution. Or at least that's what the moderate dwarves and elves say. So, that one particular incident was probably justified, but later it gets worse.
- The Defias Brotherhood in World of Warcraft may count as an example of this. The Defias began as a group of disgruntled stonemasons who were cheated by their government. Unfortunately, they became too heavily involved with criminal elements and ended up robbing and killing the peasants.
- The Takers in Geneforge 2 (and to a lesser extent in Geneforge 1 as well). Then a fair chunk of the rebellion (especially the drakons) in Geneforge 3-5.
- Rebels are always bad guys in the FreeSpace series, most notably the Neo-Terran Front, a violent anti-Vasudan rebel organization that believes it can forge an alliance with Omnicidal Maniac Starfish Aliens, and the Hammer of Light, a band of Scary Dogmatic Aliens who believe that the aforementioned Starfish Aliens are the prophesied "Great Destroyers" who must cleanse the universe to prepare it for the enlightened (i.e., the Hammer of Light themselves).
- Both the UFLL and APR in Far Cry 2. Sure, they both claim to be fighting for their people's best interests, but really they're both as corrupt and vicious as each other. The game's ending has the player rejecting both factions and siding with The Jackal, and killing every named leader in either faction.
- In Halo, there are secessionists who want to break off from the UNSC (they mostly appear in Expanded Universe material, outside of a few brief appearances in Halo Wars multiplayer and a few mentions in Halo: Reach and Halo 4). At the beginning of their campaign, they were viewed sympathetically, as all they wanted was their independence. This view largely ended when they began killing people (most infamously when one group deliberately nuked the Haven arcology, killing two million civilians and injuring 8.3 million), and now they're squarely in this trope.
- The Renegades from Tales of Symphonia are a group dedicated to fighting the organization that "guides the world," Cruxis. How do they do this, you may ask? It's implied that most of the time, when a Chosen fails in the Journey of Regeneration, it's because the Renegades kill them, thus prolonging the cycles of Regeneration. Hell, even after forming an alliance, Yuan still resorts to his plan to hold Lloyd hostage and force Kratos to undo the seal. Even Kratos seems to acknowledge that Yuan is serious with his threats.
- AVALANCHE in the Final Fantasy VII games are the protagonists, but certainly not civilized — Final Fantasy VII itself starts with these rampaging eco-terrorists committing a massive bombing, killing a lot of innocent people — and then the next day, they do it all over again! Not to mention the fact that some of the members (read: Barret) act thuggishly when not on the job too.
- Played straight in Command And Conquer: Generals with the Global Liberation Army. Your first mission involves "liberating" a local village by flooding the valley it is in, wiping out half of the village in the process. Your second mission involves stealing aid supplies from more poor villagers, and you are explicitly ordered to shoot the villagers if they are taking supplies and level their homes. The third mission involves a massive riot and leveling and looting half a city, and by the final mission, you've gassed a major Chinese city. Any doubt that the GLA are not utter bastards is wiped away very, very quickly.
- Armored Core is filled a bunch of extremely violent rebel movements who are either a) A fake movement or b) plans to start their rebellion by causing as much destruction.
- Just Cause 2 has The Reapers led by Bolo Santosi and the Ular Boys led by Sri Iriwan. The path to "revolution" for both is to get Rico Rodriguez to, in Bolo's own words, turn Panau into a "smoldering ruin".
- In Modern Warfare, Khaled al-Asad's revolution in his unnamed Middle-Eastern nation is explicitly shown to be brutal and violent, as the player experiences it from the perspective of the deposed President of the country as he's driven through the street. At first there's beatings and arrests in the streets, followed by civilians being shot as they run away and execution squads shooting people in the street. It ends with the President being marched into a square and executed on international television.
- The revolution in Valkyria Chronicles II is essentially a racial purge led by racist nobles opposing the Archduchess for revealing her Darcsen (Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalent of Jews) roots. Later on, it's revealed that it's really just a coup for Count Gassenarl to usurp the throne.
- The mage revolt in Dragon Age II is very brutal, and when Thrask goes down the hotheads take control and run away with it.
- In Freelancer, there are many factions triyng to overthrown the Colony government. Every Colony has at least one. In storyline, Lane Hackers, Blood Dragons and Bundshchuh are even played as good guys. And even other factions like Mollys actaully have at least not ultimately evil intentions. But how all this factions making their point? By attacking innocent trade convoys not unlike other utterly criminal pirate factions without any morale.
- A large part of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's plot involves the beastpeople of Morgal's recent, successful, and terribly bloody revolution against the kingdom of Sana. Among other things, a little girl is captured and condemned to Cruel and Unusual Death in Belinsk, just for being Sanan nobility. The Grave Eclipse is caused by the king of Morgal forcing you to activate what he believes is a superweapon, which he intends to use on Sana and on Morgal's other neighboring country, Bilibin.
- In Bioshock Infinite, the floating city of Columbia is controlled by Zachary Comstock and the Founders, xenophobic white-supremacists who brutally oppress all black, Irish, Chinese and Indian citizens within the city. Opposing them is the Vox Populi, made up largely of the people mistreated by the Founders and led by Daisy Fitzroy. The Vox Populi's grievances are understandable, but they have degenerated into vicious marauders who mercilessly bully and butcher the citizens of the city. When the revolt gets underway, Booker and Elizabeth come across the aftermath of many a firing squad and towards the end, Fitzroy even tries to kill Booker and Elizabeth (though Burial at Sea retcons this as her reluctantly following the orders of the Lutece twins).
Vox Populi member: Your homes are ours! Your lives are ours! Your wives are ours! It all belongs to the Vox!
Booker DeWitt: When you get down to it, the only difference between Comstock and Fitzroy is how you spell their name.
- The NSF note from Deus Ex. The game starts with JC going after them to retrieve a couple crates of plague cure they stole to give to the poor. Whether they should be considered terrorists or Well Intentioned Extremists is rather up for debate. All part and parcel of the game's Grey and Grey Morality.
- The higher ups in the organization seem to be Well Intentioned Extremists at best. However, for the lower-ranking members, dialogue that can be had with a bum being hassled by NSF mercs indicate that the NSF happily takes anyone in and arms them, and some people just use that as a chance to get free guns and ammo to do whatever they want.
- In Syndicate (2012), the Syndicates are unquestionably evil by 20th/21st century Western standards. However, the Subverters opposing them are Bomb-Throwing Anarchists little better, who are unable to offer any alternatives other than "kill as many bourgeois as possible", with leader of the New York branch Kris Delaney gleefully anticipating the civilian collateral damage. It's hinted that a less militant wing of the Resistance is working on a more scientific solution, but you don't see them in the game.
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has two of these: The Stormcloaks, a significant chunk of which is blatantly racist in their 'Skyrim for Nords' approach, and the Forsworn of the Reach. While the Forsworn definitely have good reasons to feel angry, the wholesale slaughter of civilians combined with a tradition of human sacrifice and alliances with thoroughly nasty monstrosities kind of ruins the 'noble rebel' effect. The Forsworn's leader acknowledges this, saying there are no innocents in war, only the guilty and the dead.
- The Chots from Messiah were originally rebels against the dictatorial rulers of Earth, but with time have degenerated into a society of sewer-dwelling, savage cannibals. They don't even remember their origins anymore and don't fight for any cause (save for that of having enough people to eat.)
- Homefront: The protagonists joins the Resistance who are willing to use white phosphorous mortars on GKR mooks, who are portrayed as monstrous. But the Resistance are quite tame compared to the survivalists who are jerks to everyone who aren't on their side, and are very racist against Asians.
- The Rebels in FTL: Faster Than Light are heavily implied to be human supremacists.
- The Pitt DLC for Fallout 3 has an overarching theme of Gray and Grey Morality, exemplified in the struggle between Ashur's brutal slave regime trying to engineer a cure for the mutations plaguing the place, and Wernher's rebellion who want to just as brutally take the cure by force. Also, the cure is a baby.
- It looks like Satellite Reign will fall into this. The organization you and your Agents belong to are nominally fighting against the oppressive Mega Corps, but since this is a Spiritual Successor to Syndicate, assassination, embezzlement, brainwashing civilians into involuntary meatshields and all other manner of morally suspect behaviour is definitely on the cards.
- The various Jidahist factions in Shooting War, though Abu Addalah takes the cake.
- Tech Infantry has various rebel factions, from the Christian Federation and their penchant for suicide-ramming freighters into enemy vessels, to the Liberation and their campaign of terror-bombings. Even the Resistance has as their main gripe the fact that supernaturally-powered humans are forced to serve in the Tech Infantry Space Marine forces. These forces are fighting against alien Bugs that want to eat everyone, other aliens that want to kill all humans and take their planets as living space, and still other aliens who want to enslave humans and work them all to death. This makes their occasionally violent tactics seem a bit extreme.
Although the Earth Federation and the Middle Kingdom that replaces it are both quite nasty, the aliens — especially the Bugs — are usually worse, and the endless rebellions, mutinies, and civil wars make it darn hard to fight the Bugs as a united front.
- A World of Laughter, a World of Tears sees the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement collapse thanks to a drastic misreading of the political climate by President Disney. Martin Luther King, Jr. gets publicly egged, destroying his credibility, and the movement falls under control of the Nation of Islam. One word: jihad.
- The French Revolution in Look to the West starts out being as violent as our history's...and never really calms down. In the long term this has the effect of forcing nearly all reformist movements to be more nonviolent by default, just to avoid the comparison.
- Both this trope and it's inverse characterize the Red May Revolution in Reds While the communist revolution in America doesn't lead to a Soviet style nightmare, it is far from a tea party. The revolutionaries may have the moral high ground in the face of the dictatorial reaction by the old regime, but they still have their own Red Terror and Kangaroo Court system. Anti-authoritarian currents in American society appear to have won out by the present day, as the Red Terror seems to be pretty universally regarded as a mistake.
- In the short story The Revolution, the protagonist witnesses his wife, oldest son, and scores of others die at the hands of his own government. Once given the chance to fight back, he racks up 134 kills in just a few months, and vows to not stop until the rest of the tyrannical government is dead or about to hang.
- A couple examples from Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Jet's Freedom Fighters are not a particularly nice bunch. Despite being a charming group of kids who initially help out Team Avatar, they're actually willing to do pretty terrible things to wipe out the Fire Nation. At one point, they attempt to flood a town filled with innocent civilians, simply because the Fire Nation was occupying it. To their credit, the group realizes their mistake and makes a Heel-Face Turn shortly after the flooding fiasco. Despite efforts to do the same, Jet himself ends up stuck in the Heel-Face Revolving Door, though he eventually ends up on the right side.
- The Omashu Resistance also does some unscrupulous things in their efforts to drive out the Fire Nation occupying their city. The first thing we see them do is attempt an assassination of the governor's family, including his infant son. Again, they perform a Heel-Face Turn shortly afterwards.
- The main antagonists of the first season of The Legend of Korra are the Equalists, a revolutionary group dedicated to seizing more power for non-benders and attempting to bring down bending all together. After a terrorist attack in a public event, they end up bombing the city- and while the show can't explicitly say civilians died, anyone looking at the wreckage knows they did.
- The Red Lotus in season 3 desire to bring down the very concept of government so that humanity as a whole will be free and live as they should, with no nations of any kind and in total anarchy. Suffice to say, they're quite ruthless and violent, and ultimately their efforts end in vain as most of them end up dead or see the arrival of a true tyrant in Kuvira, after their actions destroyed the Earth Kingdom.
- The Decepticons from Transformers are occasionally this, depending on the incarnation. In particular, Transformers Animated and the Aligned continuity depict the Decepticons as having legitimate grievances with a morally grey Autobot government, but they're just too extreme in their methods. Beast Wars suggests that the Predacons might be in the same boat, but we don't learn enough about the situation to properly judge.
- In Transformers Prime, for instance, the Decepticons were originally a movement to abolish the Caste System that had large portions of the planet functionally enslaved. They then grew so brutal that their home planet was turned into a lifeless husk, and the Decepticons slowly came to care more about winning, or at least making their opponents lose more, than actually trying to make a better future.
- The Supertrooper riot in Galaxy Rangers. They were created from birth to be living weapons. A Corrupt Bureaucrat circulates Psycho Serum in the barracks, and the Troopers go berserk, believing that their creators are out to kill them. With the sole exception of the youngest (who was at the shooting range at the time), they all go Phlebotinum Rebel, kill one of their handlers on-screen (possibly more off-screen), and escape.
- Libertys Kids takes a surprisingly sophisticated look at The American Revolution for its intended audience. For instance, while it treats the overall goals of the American Independence as a good thing, the negative elements like mob violence, slavery and the privations Native Americans suffered in the conflict are not overlooked while the British/Loyalist side are allowed to express their point of view.