"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, or, at the very least, is one hell of a Fallen Hero if they weren't always like that). 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 Revolving Door Revolution. 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.
open/close all folders
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.
- The Survey Corps, from Attack on Titan. They try to avert this trope as long as they can, but then the government sends in the 3DM death squads (think about how awesome 3D-Maneuver gear has been used against Titans. Now think about what would happen if you traded the blades for guns installed in the grapple controls.) and sends in serial killer Kenny Ackerman, so they have to step up their game. Armin murders a hesitating Secret Servicewoman to save Jean, and it gets worse from there.
- 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.
- Judge Dredd: The comic, much as it is a satire of zero-tolerance policing, also satirizes freedom fighters. Mega City One is a totalitarian Police State, the terrorists are democratics. The regime is incredibly brutal, but rebel movements like Total War have no problem with killing millions of people in their own city by detonating nuclear bombs.
- 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.
- The secession of Westerguard in What About Witch Queen? zig-zags this and the opposite. On one hand, large majority of population is with the secessionists and Hans makes sure to arrest rather than kill the opposing forces. On the other, ship sequester turns into bloody mess, and friendly fire issues are visited.
- A problem for Pancho Villa in Viva Villa! Madero coaxes Pancho into supporting him by saying that the revolution needs to be civilized, and that Pancho needs to fight in an organized army and not murder the enemy soldiers he captures. Pancho is reluctant, but agrees, and does become civilized for a time. But after Madero is killed Pancho fights back in his old prisoner-killing bandit style, which costs him the support of idealists like Don Felipe. And when he takes over as President of Mexico Pancho is an incompetent administrator, which he eventually admits.
Pancho (to Madero): You can't win a revolution with love. You've got to have hate. You are the good side; I am the bad side.
- The rebels in Proof Of Life most certainly count. After they stopped receiving foreign monetary aid for the revolution, the guerillas turned into farming coca plants and kidnapping and ransoming important foreigners. They also have little qualms about shooting civilians or police officers.
- The workers in Fritz Lang's Metropolis are somewhere between this and an Angry Mob.
- The Wind That Shakes the Barley, starring Cillian Murphy, won the Palme d'Or award for its application of this trope to the Irish Revolution (and then the Civil War), so it must have done something right. note
- The Alternate History film It Happened Here, set in a Nazi-occupied Britain, deliberately subverts the gallant resistance trope. The protagonist witnesses the death of her friends in a shootout between local partisans and German soldiers, and the movie ends with prisoners from a British SS unit being massacred by their captors.
- Discussed in Lord of War:
Yuri: "I guess they [African militants] can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters."
- The anti-government resistance group, the Fishes, quickly turn into this in Children of Men when the more radical Luke hijacks the organization, after assassinating his predecessor.
- The Battle of Algiers, where we see bombings and shootings directed at civilians...on both sides.
- Red Dawn (1984) has the protagonists (American teenagers fighting a guerrilla campaign against a brutal Soviet occupation) shooting prisoners and enemy wounded.
- One of the most important tropes in the French film Army of Shadows. The film follows a cell of the French resistance battling the Nazi regime. While the Nazis are portrayed as terrible monsters, it's repeatedly highlighted that the French have to get their hands dirty as well. Much of their work consists of executing traitors, including their beloved female comrade. While the movie isn't a pro-Nazi film, it clearly suggests that war is disgusting and hellish even if you're one of the good guys.
- Black Book catalogues Jews who were sold out to the Nazis by members of the Dutch Resistance. After the liberation, the Resistance harasses people who collaborated with the Nazis, even if it was done out of fear or as a part of their cover as double agents. To cover up their tracks, they even arrange a relatively good Nazi official to be executed for the crime of collaborating with the communist members of the Resistance.
- In TRON: Legacy, Clu's revolution against Flynn's leadership kicks off with the genocide of the Isos, followed by establishing a police state that routinely "rectifies" delinquent programs into soldiers in Clu's army, or pits them in gladiatorial games to the
- In The Baader Meinhof Complex, the Red Army Faction morphs into this trope over time. They start as a motley collection of political activists, juvenile delinquents, left-wing youths, and journalists who mainly participate in protests and rallies and undertake some occasional arson and vandalism with a political message. Eventually, they become brutal terrorists, robbing banks and bombing American military installations. Later "generations" of the group get progressively more radical and violent, taking and executing hostages, hijacking aircraft, bombing a newspaper, and kidnapping and assassinating public figures.
- In contrast to the rebels of the later films, the Separatists in the Star Wars prequels are almost entirely shown as being evil. Their rebellion against the republic is little more than a big business backed attempt to rule the galaxy in the name of profit, with all of the big names fully aware of this. Being controlled by a sith lord and a homicidal cyborg certainly didn't help their causes reputation either. It's only the planets that revolt against the Republic in hope of receiving Confederacy assistance that actually believe in the moral cause beyond lip service.
- The Rebel Alliance itself is actually aware of this trope according to supplemental materials; it specifically does not permit this kind of behavior from its cells, lest the Imperial propaganda painting Rebels as iconoclasts and destructive terrorists start to actually ring true with the general public.
- Raza and his revolutionaries in The Professionals. Although the heroes have some sympathy for Raza's cause, we are still shown Raza's forces massacring the troops on the government train they capture.
- The Bolsheviks in Doctor Zhivago.
- Franco's revolutionaries in Pan's Labyrinth.
- In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane presents himself as a revolutionary trying to free Gotham from the control of it's corrupt elite. His methods? Gather an army mostly made up of mercenaries and escaped convicts, trap most of Gotham's police underground, put all members of high society and other dissidents through a Kangaroo Court, and threaten to detonate a nuke if anyone tries to interfere. And through all of this, Bane is not remotely interested in helping Gotham. The entire point of the "revolution" is to spread chaos and distract the populace from his true plan of destroying Gotham.
- In Utu both the Maori rebels and their British oppressors become increasingly brutal as the war drags on.
- In To Kill A Dragon, after the Dragon is slain, the city descends into anarchy, so rape, robbery and senseless violence ensue.
- The coup in No Escape is violent, bloody, and not only involves civilians but actively targets them.
- Land of the Blind is built around this trope.
- 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 all his novels:
- His Notes from Underground was a rebuke to Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What is to be Done?, an utopian novel about Russian progress and reform. Dostoevsky responded to it with his novella about a man who will never be part of the New Order, and that humanity is fundamentally self-destructive and flawed. He developed this further with Crime and Punishment where fantasies of change only hurt the innocent and that finally in The Brothers Karamazov that ideas and wounds are collective and that a desire for change, even in the form of new ideas, leads to an act of Patricide.
- Demons argues that violence is a tool of binding revolutionaries together in a single unit, since everyone is equally dehumanized and guilty, and moulded on the path to discipline. The revolutionaries in the book are so obsessed with this form of discipline that they never think of actual political ideology. So they become corrupt and abusive, led by Pyotr Verkhovensky, their ideologist who preaches about the necessity of wiping out millions of people for the victory of the revolution and finally kills one of his own cell members at the suspicion that he could be The Mole. Likewise, the original ideologist of the group, Nikolai Stavrogin who they all believe to be a Byronic Hero is in fact a self-destructive nihilist reeling from guilt at the time he raped a little girl. 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.
- The nasty-as-can-be French revolutionaries in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities written under the aegis of counter-revolutionary doctrines like Edmund Burke's Reflections and Thomas Carlyle's history of the Revolution, still it's definitely true to the events.
- 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 MacLeod'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. Rather similar to their primary Doylist inspiration, the original Committee of Public Safety under Robespierre, it begins its reign with a massive purge of the fighting arm of the fleet and political figures with actual or potential ties to the previous regime. This serves in cementing their power base by undercutting the primary lines of opposition, but at a tremendous cost in blood. They then went one step further beyond that and established not only a separate branch of political commissars to ensure the loyalty of the People's Navy, but also a policy of shooting any commanders who lose.
- 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 (2003): 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 attempt to use the same magical weapons of mass destruction the D'Harans had used on their people against D'Haran loyalists.
- 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.
- The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron is the Trope Namer. In this musically accompanied poem Scott-Heron predicts that the revolution will not be broadcast on TV for you to enjoy from your lazy seat, but it will indeed be a real society changing revolt that not to be taken lightly.
- In Fireaxe's The Servant of Pain, it initially looks like the revolutionaries are just well intentioned extremists. Then they break into the Citadel, and we find out what becomes of the royal family...
- 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.
- Bertolt Brecht being a Marxist explored the concept of revolutionary violence in many of his plays.
"You can only help one of your luckless brothers/By trampling down a dozen others."
- His most controversial was his Lehrstruckes ("Teaching Plays"), one of which is The Measures Taken, the plot consists of a Revolutionary cell executing one of their own when the latter becomes a liability. The victim himself realizes that his death is necessary for the greater good and accepts it with stoicism. This was so controversial that at his HUAC hearing, Brecht was interrogated specifically about it.
- His play The Good Person of Szechwan has a protagonist Shen Te invent a violent Alter Ego Shui Ta to protect herself from exploitation and harm. Shen Te is normally pacifist and meek, Shui Ta is not. Shui Ta finally says, in typically pithy Brecht-style:
- 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.
- Their earlier game Assassin's Creed III makes it clear that the Revolution is essentially led by a group of wealthy white slaveowners who will attack native villages and displace them from their land.
- 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.
- King Genn Greymane repeatedly refers to the Northgate Rebels of Gilneas as terrorists. Since they have hidden an important quantity of explosives in the capital, he might not be entirely wrong. Additionally, the general pointlessness of the civil war (on both sides) puts a point on it. Rebel Lord Darius Crowley's status helps a little.
- 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 & 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.
- Enough investigation of NSF terminals reveals the higher ups do not approve of the worst behavior you see NSF grunts involved in, such as hostage taking and robbery, and are deeply concerned about the effects of this behavior on public perception of their cause. Yet they also recognize such behavior is hardly surprising, given that by necessity their organization is largely made up of poorly trained would-be revolutionaries of all descriptions fighting against a ruthless enemy that outguns them badly, causing bad decisions to be made in the heat of the moment.
- 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. Which you can eat.
- 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. Then in the ending your benefactor ends up being worse than the Big Bad, by using the hijacked satellite (which you helped doing in the final fight) to initiate the apocalypse.
- An Octave Higher has Libertad, an extremist group that resents the upper classes of Overture for their wealth and easy access to Mana Potions and wants to improve the miserable lot of the proletariat. Their motives may be commendable, but their members are not above attacking people on the street to steal their Mana. After the Time Skip, they only get worse.
- The Freemen of the Dales from Dragon Age: Inquisition are deserters from the armies of both Empress Celene and Gaspard de Chalons who became weary of fighting a civil war and are attempting to claim the Dales. They are incredibly violent and will attack both the Inquisition and refugees fleeing the civil war on sight. As well, they are the unwitting pawns of the Elder One, as they were coaxed on by his servants and are used to transport red lyrium through the Dales to be used by the Red Templars.
- Invoked by characters pulling the strings in Aviary Attorney. The Rebel Leader is angry but inclined towards justice, fairness, and nonviolence, and the revolutionaries tend to listen to her. But certain of her people believe that a civilized transfer of power won't lead to them getting power and go to very gory lengths to rile up her and the police and turn the revolution bloody.
- 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.
- RWBY: The White Fang was once peaceful freedom fighters who sought equality between humans and Faunus, but their current leadership opted to go for a more "hands on" approach; thus, they became terrorists who seek to wipe out humanity completely.
- 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.
- Liberty's 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.