"In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law."The Vigilante Man is a man who brings criminals to justice by any means necessary, even if it means killing the criminals outright. Although he is breaking the law, he is presented as the good guy. If the police are after him, expect them to secretly sympathize with his goals. Occasionally, one officer is determined to catch the Vigilante Man, but you can be sure that his fellow officers aren't working very hard to help him. The "good" Vigilante Man refuses to fight the police, and if confronted, will either surrender or die before harming them. The "bad" Vigilante Man is willing to kill anyone who tries to stop him. The people the Vigilante Man is after are always guilty - or at least, in his mind, especially if he's the villain. Most Vigilantes will (try to) not hurt an Innocent Bystander; he will often go out of his way to avoid killing them, if possible. In the rare times they do, it is only to provide some Wangst as the Vigilante Man wonders if he is doing the right thing. Expect a Finger in the Mail to show up and convince the Vigilante Man that his job of catching the Ax-Crazy Psychopathic Manchild and saving the child held captive makes it worth it. The Vigilante Man's favorite method of execution is (obviously) the Vigilante Execution. If he's also a police officer, this makes him a vigilante-driven version of the Killer Cop. A cop whose method towards disposing criminals is just as final but who does operate within the law goes under Judge, Jury, and Executioner. A subtrope of the Anti-Hero and Well-Intentioned Extremist. May be Neutral Good, True Neutral, Neutral Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral or even Chaotic Evil, depending on setting. If he stops discriminating between innocents and bad guys, he might end up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and become that which he despises. Sometimes he can be a Reformed, but Not Tamed character. See also Serial-Killer Killer. The Asshole Victim is often this guy's target, as is someone who (deservedly or not) is Convicted by Public Opinion.
— Frank Castle, The Punisher (2004)
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Anime and Manga
- The Sociopathic Hero of the manga Akumetsu is one of these, although rather than just targeting criminals, he goes after anyone he considers bringing evil to Japan. Disturbingly, although the stories have a forward stating that the character should not be considered a role model, his frequent rants on what's wrong with Japanese society give an impression otherwise.
- Lelouch in Code Geass, in creating the terrorist group the Black Knights, is trying to overthrow Brittania's racist, Social Darwinist regime, so as to create his sister Nunnally's longed-for "beautiful world."
- Light Yagami, the Villain Protagonist of Death Note. Death is the only punishment he can dish out. Early on, he states that he's going to create a world filled with only good-hearted people he approves of. He's simply going to start with the criminals... and he quickly crosses over into "bad" vigilante man territory, when in the second chapter he leaps off the slippery slope and begins to target and kill all those who oppose Kira, including law-enforcement officials. With the exception of his family and officials he considers useful enough, he is very ruthless when dealing with his opponents.
- Jellal becomes this in Fairy Tail, forming a small independent guild that hunts down dark guilds, something the Council doesn't allow of the guilds in its jurisdiction, as it counts as illegal warring between guilds.
- In Future Diary, the Twelfth is a vigilante whose heart seems to be in the right place: his goal is usually just to capture criminals to help the police, not kill them outright. However, he dresses and acts so creepily that the people he's trying to help often beat him up or arrest him. Then he gets involved in the Diary Game and starts killing with no remorse, since he feels that "Justice" is on his side.
- In Ghost in the Shell, Section 9 is frequently doing some work "off the record". But unlike most other law enforcement agencies, they don't do it for their own gain.
- Hibari Kyouya from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!. He rules Nanimori with an iron fist and does whatever he pleases since people are too afraid to call him out on it, but god help you if you so much as look at his hometown the wrong way.
- In Romeo X Juliet, Juliet starts out disguising herself as one of these, nicknamed "The Red Tornado".
- The Samurai Gun exist to avenge the evils of the Shogunate, though in practise this means avenging the deaths of large-breasted women.
- Lunatic in Tiger & Bunny. As opposed to Heroes who take part in HeroTV who only seek to arrest criminals, Lunatic actually kills them. Though he tends to save this for people who REALLY deserve it.
- Tista from the Tista manga would probably constitute as a female example of this. She is an assassin who kills immoral people who the law cannot catch.
- Triage X follows an entire team of medically-themed vigilantes who kill gang leaders, mob bosses, and other menaces to society.
- Rage of Bahamut: Genesis has former straight-up villain Azazel become a vigilante known as the "rag demon" in the second season, Virgin Soul. In this guise, he stalks and murders humans who abuse his fellow demons.
- Batman himself isn't really a cozy guy, but in his earliest comics, he was a straight-up murderer. The Golden Age Batman is legendary for using guns on criminals, letting crooks drop to a painful death in a vat of acid and a lot more.
- Jason Todd became one of these after coming Back from the Dead, criticizing Batman for being too "soft" on criminals and wanting more than anything to kill the Joker.
- The Crimson Avenger, who also has the honor of being (disputably) The DCU's first masked superhero.
- The Huntress became a vigilante after her family was murdered by rival mafiosi.
- The Paladin, who appeared in a Justice League of America story where Anansi was changing all the heroes' stories, is an alternate Bruce Wayne who picked up Joe Chill's gun while he was running off, and shot him. He became a gun-toting vigilante in a cowboy hat, whose story (until Vixen interferes) ends with him and Commissioner Gordon in a Mexican Standoff.
- The federal prosecutor Kate Spencer, who became the vigilante assassin Manhunter after she got tired of criminals dodging legal justice.
- In The Question, the Mikado was a physician who started inflicting Karmic Justice on those who caused the pain he saw every day in the ER. A man who scalded his newborn baby was boiled alive, for example.
- Superman was this in his earliest appearances. For starters, he demolished an entire housing estate and left the city to deal with the damage themselves, he trapped a bunch of socialites in a mine where air was limited, he threw villains to their deaths, he left criminals hogtied in the middle of nowhere and actually scared more than one mook to death.
- DC Comics' Adrian Chase—a district attorney, and later judge, who hunted down and killed crooks who got off—was named simply The Vigilante, though Chase eventually became a Deconstruction of vigilante justice, and ended up committing suicide due to his guilt over the increasing violence of his methods and actions.
- Wild Dog is a largely unknown vigilante. He's basically per his creator Max Allan Collins in Amazing Heroes#119, a modern version of the Shadow, Zorro, the Lone Ranger, and the Green Hornet.
- Victor Ray from 100 Bullets kills criminals in his spare time to balance out the awful things he does on behalf of Agent Graves
- John Dusk, the protagonist of Absolution. He's a superhero in a setting where the superheroes are all legitimate law enforcement officers, which means they have to observe due process and other pesky legal restrictions. One day, he gets fed up with having his hands tied, and starts killing.
- The Blue Knight in Astro City.
- Eric Draven in The Crow. Although, since he's already died and has resurrected as an unkillable zombie, he's technically a Vigilante Thing.
- John Tensen from The New Universe title Justice. In early issues, when he thinks he's a warrior from a Magical Land, he goes after criminals in general. After a Retcon reveals that he's actually a paranormal, he devotes himself to policing his brethren, punishing the ones who use their powers for evil.
- Paperinik New Adventures: In the early stories, Paperinik (Donald Duck's superhero alter ego in some Italian stories) was not actually a superhero, but an anti-hero vindicator inspired by Diabolik and Fantômas that punish bad people with terror and humiliations. The writers toned this aspect down later and turned him into a Batman-style heroic avenger instead, and he started targeting the criminal population of Duckburg, in particular the Beagle Boys.
- The Punisher (Frank Castle) is a vigilante and Anti-Hero in the Marvel Universe.
- Find a hero who doesn't fit this trope in Sin City.
- Casey Jones from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
- V from V for Vendetta. While throughout the series he's seen as more of a... vengeful terrorist, he does show some (although few) signs that he started out as one of these and simply got tired of not making progress.
- Judge Dredd: Naturally, as a brutal By-the-Book Cop, Judge Dredd will crack down hard on vigilantes in Mega-City One who think they should "assist" the Justice Department in its duties. They're not the law, HE is the law.
- The Archer in Path of the King is one of these.
- In the Worm x Dishonored crossover fanfic, A Change Of Pace, Taylor serves as this by virtue of being an independent hero, not being affiliated with the PRT. There are measures she can take because of how the setting works, but more than half walk because they can't make official arrests.
- Master/Traveller from the Freedom Planet fanfic Freedom Dies With Me is this, across the multiverse no less, to atone for his past atrocities. He is even labeled a 'Multiverse Vigilante' by multiple characters and himself, with hints that his kind are so well-known that even Torque's people have heard of them (and that there are enough of them to be considered a 'kind' in the first place).
- In Ranma Saotome, Chi Master, Ranma's guru spends much of her time tackling crime in Hong Kong, using lethal force if necessary. During the time he lived with her, Ranma aided her in her activities.
Films — Animated
- In TMNT, Raphael becomes the Nightwatcher while Leonardo is in South America. TMNT being a kids' movie, Raph doesn't kill anybody, but he doles out some major beatings to all criminals he comes across.
Films — Live-Action
- The "vigilante hero" subgenre became an staple of action movies roughly between the 1970s and the very early 1990s mainly as rising crime rates and increasing police corruption (and racism in the case of blaxploitation films) led people to lose faith in the long arm of the law and act for themselves instead.
- The Death Wish movies. Paul Kersey becomes a vigilante after his wife is murdered and his daughter is sexually assaulted by muggers. Also an Unbuilt Trope as the film pioneered the urban vigilante concept, but it also showed how dangerous it would be. By the time of Death Wish 3, Kersey is infamous for harrying the police, who are powerless to pin any charges on him (but are happy to take credit for his crime-fighting accomplishments). Police Chief Richard Shirker tries to contain him, but ends up joining the fray when Kersey is ambushed by gangsters.
Kersey: You stuck your neck out for me?
Shirker: (dying) It was you or them.
- Contract on Cherry Street (1977) has Frank Sinatra as the leader of a team of NYPD detectives who turn vigilante on The Mafia after one of them is killed.
- The Star Chamber (1983) is about a judge who decides to join a secret 'court' of judges who hire a contract killer to carry out their 'sentences' of accused criminals in death penalty cases who get Off on a Technicality. However when two drug dealers are judged guilty of a child murder, then later turn out to be innocent of that particular crime, the protagonist finds himself in a dilemma.
- Savage Streets (1984) has Linda Blair as a tough high school girl who turns vigilante after a vicious gang called the Scars rape her deaf-mute sister and murder her best friend.
- Joey Rosso from Rolling Vengeance (1987). His weapon of choice happens to be a Monster Truck.
- Some of the Dirty Harry films feature vigilantes:
- In Magnum Force, Dirty Harry finds he is actually on the opposite side of some vigilante men. It might be considered impossible that he would object, but when the vigilante men kill a police officer, we can guess even Harry figures they went too far. This movie actually explains the difference between Cowboy Cop (Harry) and Vigilante Man (the vigilante policemen). Dirty Harry uses excessive force when fighting criminals who forcefully resist arrest or directly endanger innocents (his iconic do I feel lucky? speech actually taunts the criminals to give him reason to use lethal force). He doesn't hunt and kill unsuspecting criminals (when Scorpio is released on a technicality, Harry tries to scare him; when Ricca is acquitted on legal loophole, vigilante cops immediately kill him, his lawyer and even his driver).
- In Sudden Impact: Jennifer Spencer tracks down and murders the people responsible for brutally gang raping her several years before. Oddly enough, Dirty Harry doesn't arrest her once he discovers the truth, a significant change from his actions and attitude in Magnum Force.
- The Batman movies by Tim Burton took this to a new extreme. While Batman normally acted like your average grim and gritty crime-fighter, he had no problems with killing over 20 people in the first movie. For example, he lit a couple of mooks on fire, he killed several mooks with his not-rubber bullets and used a handgun in the NES game based on the film.
- Much like the Tim Burton Batman, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice also features a Batman that kills criminals without batting an eye. He uses guns with no hesitation, runs over mooks with his batmobile, and brands criminals he deems particularly reprehensible, resulting in them getting killed in prison. He also wants to flat out murder Superman because he thinks Superman is a threat to the planet.
- Inverted in the Western movie Hang 'Em High. Clint Eastwood is the innocent victim of vigilantes who mistake him for a murderer/cattle thief (he unknowingly bought the cattle off the real killer). He then becomes a deputy to bring them to justice, and must resist pressure both situational and personal to take the law into his own hands.
- Billy Jack is one of the strangest ones, a Liberal Vigilante Man.
- Jodie Foster in The Brave One plays a liberal, female vigilante, in a meditation on the paranoia and isolation the life of the Vigilante Man (or Woman) would entail, especially if they used to be a "normal" person. Interesting callback to the first Death Wish in her chosen method too.
- In Pyrokinesis, the protagonist is a female example, killing criminals with the title psychic power. She manages to stay a good guy despite fighting against the police, because the chief of police is also the head of the snuff ring she's been targeting.
- The Sally Field movie Eye for an Eye has Field's character lose her daughter to a serial killer, and stumble onto a conspiracy of Vigilante Men at a support group. They have very specific requirements: They only target killers whose guilt is obvious yet get Off on a Technicality, and they won't make the kill for someone else. Instead, they teach newcomers how to make the hit themselves. Something of a strawman case; the FBI has recognized a pattern of suspicious deaths among acquitted killers and has planted spies in support groups to protect those killers. Fields discovers the spy in time to keep from incriminating herself seriously, but the agent still threatens Fields with life in prison despite being fully aware that the killer she's after has killed again. Ultimately, the FBI is powerless to protect the killer, as Field pulls off the conspiracy's plan perfectly - make herself the killer's next target, then kill him in self-defense.
- Hard Candy: Hayley may qualify as one due to her crusade against pedophile rapists. That or she may be a budding Serial Killer.
- In Man on Fire, John Creasy takes it upon himself to track down and kill the people responsible for kidnapping and murdering a girl while he was working for her family as a bodyguard.
- In the movie Punisher: War Zone, the "victims are always guilty" rule was notably averted: near the beginning of the movie, he discovers that one of the people he killed was actually an undercover FBI agent with a family. He feels so guilty about it that he offers the agent's widow a bag full of mafia money, as well as the chance to shoot him.
- The titular John Doe: Vigilante. True to form, his victims are all Asshole Victims—child molesters, abusive husbands, culminating in the guy who killed his wife and daughter.
- In Murders Among Us, Hans Mertens almost becomes this, but instead decides not to kill Bruckner at the insistence of Suzanne.
- Vigilantism is attacked in the 1943 western The Ox-Bow Incident, wherein three obviously innocent men are persecuted and ultimately murdered by a lynch mob.
- Seemingly deconstructed in Law Abiding Citizen, with Clyde Shelton Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. On the other hand, it also seems to portray the criminal justice system as ineffectual.
- Deconstructed with Keller Dover in Prisoners, who nails the wrong man for kidnapping his daughter, crosses the Moral Event Horizon as a result, and is left to die in a pit by the real kidnapper for his trouble. The ending leaves it ambiguous whether or not he will be rescued.
- Justice Wargrave from And Then There Were None. Although he lacks the physical prowess of a typical Vigilante Man, the idea is the same: kill people who have escaped legal justice.
- Mack Bolan, the protagonist of The Executioner series of novels, started out as this. The series eventually had him join the government, in a black ops organization. He did have a moral dilemma breakdown during one mission in China however, when he was forced to strangle a 14-year-old girl to death because she was a gun-toting fanatic. From that novel onwards he's one of the more restrained members of the Stony Man Farm.
- The success of the Executioner series spawned a number of knock-off novel series all with essentially the same plot (organised crime kills the protagonist's family causing him to become a one-man army on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge). These series included:
- The Assassin
- The Butcher
- The Marksman
- The Sharpshooter
- The Veteran: James Vansittart deliberately makes sure the killers are released so rogue members of the Metropolitan Police Service can strangle them to death. , 
- The nameless cabal in Already Dead doesn't kill their targets themselves. Instead (for a hefty fee), they offer to hunt down the person who committed the crime and turn him over to the victim — complete with a very large table full of things like drills, knives, hammers, and blowtorches.
- Kyle Youngblood in the Dr. Death series of novels winds up living up to his name to his friends and family as well as his enemies, as their retribution drags them into the crossfire often. The only friend he has who never dies is Rafe, the one who accompanies him personally on missions. Everyone else? They're gonna get snapped, gunned down, or exploded sooner or later. Interestingly, he prefers to use traps whenever possible as opposed to charging in guns blazing. The mercenary known only as "Big Cherry" (due to his eye having been gouged out, and refusing treatment or a covering due to the badass points it gives him), plays the trope straighter despite being a designated antagonist. He'll take out those he finds unpalatable on the way to his intended targets. Kyle usually kills his bosses, causing Cherry to once more swear revenge.
- The Saint is a Gentleman Adventurer version who does his vigilante thing not because of any specific need for vengeance, but because he enjoys the challenge of defeating people who believe they are untouchable. In the earlier novels, he was much more likely to kill the villain of the piece; later stories saw this toned down, and by the time the stories were no longer being written solely by Leslie Charteris, it had virtually vanished. Every so often he would remember his 'bad old days' and choose to extract fatal vengeance on someone the law couldn't touch.
- The Spider, The Shadow, and numerous literary adventurers of the pre-World War II era fit this trope. In fact, these personages adopted secret identities due to the fact that they knew that the police would arrest them for their sudden justice. Other than Doc Savage (who didn't kill his opponents except when it was completely unavoidable — he just shipped them off to be lobotomized or the equivalent) and the 1939 introduced The Avenger, relatively few of the serial magazine protagonists of this era worked with the open approval and admiration of the police.
- Tom Clancy dipped into this genre with Without Remorse, which probably owes some inspiration to The Punisher. Deconstructed in that the protagonist himself is a little worried by his own lack of guilt over some pretty unpleasant methods of questioning, even on an unrepentant monster.
- The Bluejay, also known as Mortimer Folchart in The Inkworld Trilogy shows shades of this, particularly in the third book.
- Vigilante man? Try vigilante GENERAL!!! Ben Raines of the Ashes series by William Johnstone. Imagine if the Punisher saved America by being the post-apocalyptic George Washington. Imagine the rest of the world is made of alternately criminal drug-running dictators or tree-hugging communist hippies. And now imagine he's just been elected president. And you still only have a TENTH of the insanity of this world. Raines does such downright crazy and morally black shit sometimes that not even The Emperor would approve of (like blitzing a city of war orphans being brainwashed into child soldiers just so it won't cost him a single Red-White-And-Blue-Blooded American life, or monologuing about how children who grow up in slums can never know what the good life is to reporters, then gunning them down on live television). Essentially, he commits vast atrocities on par or above standard Crapsack World characters simply because he is as risk-averse as a cuddly soccer mom. A cuddly soccer mom with nuclear arms, miles of artillery shells, and a fetish for napalm and fuel bombs. Small wonder anybody with any semblance of religious leaning considers him the Antichrist. (A lot of it scarily justified through 'sins of the father/brother/sister/mother' arguments.)
- In Ian McEwan's novella Black Dogs, the narrator becomes a Good Vigilante Man after he sees a man in a restaurant smack his kid across the face so hard the kid's chair is knocked over backwards and cracks on the floor. The narrator challenges the man to "fight someone his own size" and then manages to break the guy's nose and knock him out with a few punches. He is called off by a waitress and stops him just before he becomes He Who Fights Monsters and kicks the guy to death. This moment provides a contrast from the Grey and Gray Morality of the rest of the book.
- Nuklear Age presents The Civil Defender, a crazed vigilante hell-bent on eliminating all crime, no matter how small. Complete with machine gun and futuristic body armor, the Civil Defender took up being a vigilante when his sandwich was stolen, and gives out tickets written on notebook paper when he's sane enough to have his finger off the trigger of his machine gun. He has repeatedly given out tickets for littering because of the pile of other tickets he personally threw to the ground.
- Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: This series is about Vigilante Women. They obey a Thou Shalt Not Kill code, give villains a Fate Worse Than Death, and they are usually careful to Never Hurt an Innocent. The book Free Fall had them being arrested by the police, but that's okay, because the judge, prosecuting attorney, and defense attorney are secretly on their side, as well as them being considered heroes by a lot of people. Later on, you have a group of Vigilante Men made up of Jack Emery, Harry Wong, Bert Navarro, Ted Robinson, and Joe Espinosa.
- The Dresden Files: Harry Dresden has always been more or less willing to blast his way out of trouble (for which he's earned a reputation in the magical community as a thug), Karrin Murphy not so much. She believes in the power of the law, and her gradual acceptance that this trope is ever okay is a large fraction of the Darker and Edgier path the series has taken.
- Lee Child's Jack Reacher has no problem killing the villains of each book. He doesn't even make a token attempt to call in the law. As with many of the classic Vigilante Men, he only kills those he's positive are guilty, and he does his best to avoid harming innocents. By the fifteenth book in the series, Worth Dying For, there are strong implications that various law enforcement agencies know who he is and what he does, and may be subtly guiding him to situations that they can't touch.
- Rose Hathaway in Blood Promise. She goes on her own unsanctioned Strigoi-hunting mission, breaking a lot of guardian rules in the process.
- Marian from MARZENA, although not a man, loves to make herself appear as a Vigilante as to justify her sadistic nature and sell herself as the hero.
Live Action TV
- Two Fathers Justice (1985). A newly married couple are killed by drug dealers, and their fathers reluctantly team up to track down their killers who've fled the country.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- Willow Rosenberg kills Warren (whom everyone figures deserves it) and tries to kill Andrew and Jonathan, even though they're only guilty by association.
- Strictly speaking, Buffy herself fits this trope, as she is acting outside of the bounds of the law by hunting vampires and demons (admittedly, the laws aren't really written with anything of the sort in mind, due to The Masquerade).
- Dexter Morgan from Dexter sometimes sees himself as a vigilante for killing murderers, and in one episode fantasizes about being a superhero who is applauded by the public and in another, has a brief daydream where he acts as a Batman style vigilante Superhero but quickly dismisses it as ridiculous. In his darker moments, however, he admits that he's just a monster with a little more self-control.
- The TV series The Shield is about a cop who is a Vigilante Man. Interestingly, the series constantly shows that Mackey's vigilantism is a bad thing, always for his own self-interest, and never in the interests of justice. Then, it goes on to show his Cowboy Cop side, where he bends or outright breaks the law to serve the greater good (a criminal will go free, but the young girl he kidnapped will be saved from being raped and murdered). Notably, the series never specifically casts judgment on Mackey's karma directly, leaving it to the viewer to decide whether he has overall good karma or bad.
- Deconstructed in an episode of Michael Chiklis' previous series, The Commish. The episode features a vigilante who tapes his acts and sends them to the press. At first, his actions are relatively innocuous (running criminals off the road, then humiliating them), and even the cops are cheering him on. Commissioner Tony, however, thinks the guy is bad news. He's proven correct later when the police arrest a man for a brutal rape/murder, then release him after realizing he's innocent. The vigilante, wrongly believing the innocent man got Off on a Technicality, goes to the guy's home and clubs him to death. The vigilante then becomes the cops' target for the rest of the episode.
- Mr. Chapel in Vengeance Unlimited is the rare Technical Pacifist Vigilante Man. Because sometimes making them wish they were dead is better than actually killing them.
- Disgruntled cop Manny Lopez in the MacGyver episode "Tough Boys" decided to use his Marine skills to train a bunch of kids to become the Tough Boys of the title, and crack down on drug dealers after snapping from the trauma of having a crack-addicted daughter go missing without a trace, leaving him with his drug-addled baby granddaughter. Predictably, the episode ends with Mac having to save the Tough Boys from being nearly killed in a shoot-out and preventing Lopez from blowing himself up along with a major drug dealer.
- The Equalizer clearly draws on the vigilante justice issues raised by Death Wish and the Goetz trial (as seen in the Mad Magazine spoof of this TV series, where Robert McCall, Charles Bronson and Bernard Goetz argue over who should shoot a subway mugger). McCall never actually shoots anyone in cold blood however, preferring to use psychological warfare to inspire a confession (though quite a few villains conveniently pull a gun at the end so McCall can shoot them in self-defense).
- Millennium. The Judge is a pig farmer who uses ex-convicts to inflict Karmic Death on people he believes have escaped justice, such as a landlord whose negligence caused the death of an elderly tenant and a detective whose false testimony sent an innocent man to prison. He invites Frank Black to join his cause, but when he refuses the Judge hits the police with a lawsuit to make them back off. Unfortunately for the Judge his ex-convict killer regards this as hypocrisy, hamstrings the Judge and throws him to his own pigs to be eaten alive.
- Dark Justice, about a judge who delivers Karmic Retribution to criminals who get off on technicalities, with the aid of various helpers, usually low-level criminals working off their 'community service' sentences.
- The protagonist of the ITV series The Fixer killed his aunt and uncle for molesting his sister. This apparently qualified him to work as a covert government hitman. In one episode he's ordered to kill his predecessor, who has turned Rogue Agent and started killing drug dealers and prostitutes.
- In Justified, Boyd Crowder seems very much this after he apparently gets religion, but the series leaves it ambiguous as to whether he really is or is just faking it an attempt to erect his own criminal empire. Unlike most vigilante men, he doesn't seem to prefer lethal force, and at one point kills someone innocent even by his Well-Intentioned Extremist standards. Rayland harries him the entire season, but when the chips come down, he is revealed to actually be a vigilante man after all, and at the end of the season he goes off apparently to basically become Batman.
- Criminal Minds
- The ones from "A Real Rain" and "Reckoner" were fairly standard, killing people who'd been acquitted of crimes or who got lesser sentences (though the one from the latter was actually a Professional Killer paid to act as a vigilante)
- The one from "True Night" killed off members of a brutal street gang, but was psychotic and didn't even know what he was doing. The BAU mentioned that because he was so severely ill, it was only a matter of time before he became a danger to ordinary people as well.
- The priest from "Demonology" could also count, since he was killing the men believed to be responsible for the death of a fellow priest, and close friend of his.
- Played with in the Season Ten episode "Protection," while the killer acts like one, a witness account reveals that the killer was having delusions of crimes being committed. He killed the boyfriend of the witness, who was making out with her, due to the fact that the killer was deluded into thinking that the witness was being raped
- In Flashpoint, there was an episode of a man going after drug dealers and ultimately the main drug lords because his brother had been killed from a drug overdose given to him by these people.
- In Bones, Broadsky the rogue sniper fancied himself a vigilante but is really just a madman who will kill anyone who gets in way and feels no guilt for killing innocent bystanders.
- Person of Interest. It's significant that the mysterious Mr Finch recruited a former CIA assassin to do his We Help the Helpless work rather than a private detective.
- Russian 2009 series Меч (The Sword) presents a group of vigilantes hunting both criminals and corrupt officials who help criminals evade justice. Interestingly, the group consists predominantly of former or active civil servants (an ex-detective who resigned after being proposed a bribe by his own superior, an ex-cop sentenced for murder of a rapist, a young traffic police officer, and a retired FSB agent and state prosecutor).
- Arrow - 'The Vigilante' is even one of Oliver's titles in the show...
- The Castle episode "Heroes and Villains" features a vigilante that actually dresses like a superhero. While he initially used nonlethal tactics, he eventually commits a murder. It turns out that the vigilante, a female police officer by day, was innocent of the murder. The real killer impersonated her.
- Equal Justice: The defendant in "The Big Game and Other Crimes" (2x06) is accused of arson for burning down a crack house he felt was a threat to his neighborhood.
- Accused: In "Kenny's Story" Kenny and his friends attack the man they believe violated his daughter. The plot shows why this is a very bad idea, however. The man was innocent, and Kenny's convicted of murder after he dies.
- Deconstructed in Series 3 of Luther, in which Luther suggests that such a person is likely driven by narcissism and entitlement rather than by grief or idealism, and sure enough, the vigilante killer Luther is looking for turns on law enforcement and suffers severe Motive Decay when his savior complex isn't properly validated.
- Sweet/Vicious features a college version of this with its protagonist, the sorority sister and rape survivor Jules, who dons a hoodie and ski mask to torment the sexual predators at her school since the campus' security force seems to not even care about the epidemic of rape at the university. She's joined by Ophelia, a rich kid hacker and weed dealer who runs into her at night when she's on the prowl and manages to figure out her identity.
- Hand of God: Pernell and KD become this, believing they are God's servants-the titular "Hand of God".
- The Abney Park song "Victorian Vigilante" is about one of these.
- Woody Guthrie's "Vigilante Man" is actually about how American workers would be attacked and beaten by the people of the towns they passed through during The Depression.
- The New World of Darkness sourcebook Slasher, which is all about serial killers who rise above the cut, has an entire Undertaking dedicated to this — the Avenger. They get the ability to take on multiple foes at once without being overwhelmed, but have to actively make the effort to break from their pursuit.
- Dark Champions contains rules for several modern-day action genres, but defaults to vigilantes taking down criminals. This shouldn't be surprising, as the original 4th edition book was inspired by Steve Long's personal PC the Harbinger of Justice, who is this trope cranked to max.
- In the backstory of Warhammer 40,000, the Primarch of the Night Lords, Konrad Curze, was this. The planet he arrived on after the scattering of the Primarchs was a crime-ridden Wretched Hive named Nostramo, and ultimately Curze decided to bring justice in the most brutal, unforgiving manner possible, essentially acting as a grimdark Batman whose body count left the sewers choked with corpses. He was so successful that he was made the planet's ruler and the entire populace towed the line out of fear that he would kill anyone who broke the law. His story also shows the logical problem with such methods: because the only thing keeping the population in line was fear of Curze, once he leaves to join the Great Crusade, Nostramo slips right back into its old ways.
- Tales of Vesperia.
- Yuri Lowell grew up in the slums of The Empire with his friend Flynn Scifo and joined the Imperial Knights with him. After growing disgusted with the government's weakness and the cruelty of the nobles, he left Flynn to try and reform the Empire from within while he seeks to give the commoners the justice that the current system denies them. Later on, he joins up with the Guild Union in the hope of eliminating injustice from the world completely. He is rather Genre Savvy; knowing that his actions are unlawful and may bring him closer to what he hates, he is willing to break the law anyway if it serves the greater good.
- There is also a sidequest involving a Vigilante Man who has less scruples than Yuri.
- Mass Effect 2 has Archangel, who turns out to be a Cowboy Cop frustrated by being hindered by ineffectual bureaucracy. Nicknamed "Space Batman" by the players, though he's much closer to Space Punisher as he has no problem killing criminals. He's so good at it that three rival mercenary groups that hate each others' guts team up to take him down. He also isn't above cruel punishments, like killing criminals by sabotaging the air supply of their space suits or infecting them with their own bio-weapons. There's some Deconstruction later on; his loyalty mission involves hunting down a guy who set him up to dole out some vigilante justice, but if you take the paragon route and convince Archangel that letting him live is punishment enough, he comments on how Grey and Gray Morality doesn't have a lot of place for this, and that he prefers to see things as black and white because it makes things easier.
- Ace Attorney Investigations:
- The Yatagarasu, a noble thief who steals information on corrupt business dealings and sends them to the media. Establishing the identity and motivations of the Yatagarasu and its target are a big part of the game's plot. Kay Faraday tries to pick up the tradition after the first Yatagarasu is put out of action. She's not very good at it.
- The sequel's Big Bad is driven by both Killing In Self Defense and Revenge against the internationally powerful Greater Scope Villains who have terrorized him for most of his life. However, he's also willing to frame innocent people in the process, thus making himself the He Who Fights Monsters variety of this.
- The title character in the aptly named Vigilante is officially this, although the focus is more on the quest to rescue his girlfriend.
- Frost Ace has become this in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. It's almost like he's trying to become a Henshin Hero version of Batman.
- The title character of Anaksha Female Assassin is a vigilante assassin who has taken it upon herself to clean up the streets of Santa Lina, one scumbag at a time.
- To a degree, Yun and Yang from the Street Fighter series, as the twins strive to protect their beloved Hong Kong from all kinds of peril and use their martial arts to do so. Specially emphasized in Street Fighter Alpha III, where Yun chases after Fei-Long when he and Yang take rumors about him being in the drug trade at face value. The real culprit is Vega/Bison.
- Max Payne:
- The title character — his motivation is Punisher-like — his family is murdered and he'll throw everything he's got at the people who did it to make sure they pay.
- According to supplementary material for 3, the Cracha Preto were originally lawmen hunting down criminals the law couldn't or wouldn't touch. Originally.
- The protagonists of Final Fight are out to stop a criminal organization that took over the city and kidnapped the mayor's daughter. They include a ninja, the mayor's daughter's boyfriend, and the mayor, himself! (Helps that said mayor is a former wrestler.)
- The three protagonists of the original Streets of Rage were police officers, but when The Syndicate took over the city, including the police, the three officers quit in order to take on Mr. X and company themselves.
- The heroes of Interstate '76 are outright called Auto-Vigilantes - men and women taking to their Weaponized Cars in a worse version of the 70's gas crisis, who have to deal with criminals themselves because the police are either too incompetent or too corrupt to do anything about them.
- The 2014 game Watch_Dogs features a protagonist that is a rather high-tech version of this, relying on a smart phone as much as a gun. He is also trying to break free from the stranglehold of information control while also righting some personal wrongs. It just happens that this involves going up against the Chicago mob and being against the law.
- Deconstructed with The Fans in Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number - despite going up against armed criminals, they do that for the sake of violence, aimlessly improvising targets for their massacres on the go and quickly finding themselves doing favors for their friends after finding out there's not many people to kill.
- Grand Theft Auto games have the Vigilante missions, accessed from any law enforcement or military vehicle, in which you need to kill increasing amounts of people in a time limit.
- The Vigilante is a role in Town of Salem. Vigilantes have three bullets and can shoot someone they suspect of being a member of the mafia at night. However, this can backfire: if he shoots a fellow town member, he kills himself the next night out of guilt. Vampire Hunters can also become Vigilantes if all the Vampires get staked, however, he only gets one bullet.
- Oasis from Sluggy Freelance took on this role when she lived in Podunkton, killing pretty much the entire mafia establishment in town, as well as any miscellaneous crooks who pass through. She seems to do this largely out of boredom. However, since she had previously been an Ax-Crazy assassin who'd kill anyone who came between her and Torg, this vigilante justice is actually a sign of Oasis becoming less violent.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, Dr. McNinja is a doctor and a ninja. Who desperately wants to be Batman. The police of Cumberland know who he is and what he does, but he's made a deal with them: after any action they could arrest him for, if he can get back to his office and declare "Base!" before they catch him, he's off the hook for it. He's never shown actually doing so, and most episodes end with him back at the office and no evidence that the police even tried to catch him.
- In Homestuck, Terezi is pretty obsessed with this kind of justice, which funnily enough is not too different from the actual court system in Troll society. She also used to partner up with Vriska in FLARP session to kill off other players, but only the ones that really deserved to be punished. She leaves when Vriska starts murdering indiscriminately.
- Axe Cop. The police are after him, everyone he kills is evil, and he uses lethal force against pretty much everyone "bad". Though he switches back and forth on the killing of public servants (he beheads many FBI agents to protect Uni-Baby, but is unwilling to kill the police officers trying to arrest him).
- Midnight in Acrobat.
- LessThanThree Comics' Shadow attacks crooks in the street, and uses fear to scare them straight. It's worked pretty well so far.
- The Flying Man is a deconstruction of the trope, depicting a scenario where a ruthless vigilante has somehow gotten Flying Brick superpowers similar to Superman. The result is a horrifying Humanoid Abomination that brutally murders over thirty criminals in about a week, sometimes right in front of innocent civilians, simply because no one in the city has the power to stop him. Intriguingly, the ending suggests he may have a more human side to him, as he spares a small-time crook upon seeing that the man has a young child.
- TLF Travel Alerts: The Signals at Earls Court are not going to play by your rules, but they are going to get results! Delays.
- The SWAT Kats kinda count; although their reason is because the Enforcers aren't flexible enough to take down the supervillains who attack on a weekly basis. Indeed, they were once Enforcer pilots, but got kicked out by their Jerkass Commander, Ulysses Feral, after Feral pulled an idiotic Only I Can Kill Him move while they were trying to capture one of the chief villains, Dark Kat; after he demoted them to working in a junkyard, they promptly realized the Enforcers were throwing a lot of good stuff away, and used this to build their arsenal (including their Cool Plane, the TurboKat) and handle the villains on their terms.
- Lin Beifong from The Legend of Korra drops her job as Da Chief and goes vigilante in order to fight Amon. Though she's still a policewoman at her core and doesn't kill anyone. Korra herself gets into some trouble early on with the police when she tries to hunt down criminals: she feels she's justified in that she's the Avatar, while the police are annoyed at some naive civilian girl interfering in their work. As the show goes on and Korra gets some Character Development, she begins to learn to cooperate and work with the police, rather than just blindly charging in on her own. More often than not though, the police and government are willing to let Korra deal with the situation as she sees fit.
- Bernie Goetz was labeled the "Subway Vigilante" after he gunned down four men who werenote mugging him. The incident sparked a national debate on vigilantism, though his actions do not fit into the classic mold of a vigilante.
- Jack Ruby, who killed Lee Harvey Oswald to avenge his (?) assassination of John F. Kennedy. On live television. He himself was arrested. The various conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination have meant that Ruby, naturally, has come under a lot of scrutiny, with many theorizing that he killed Oswald not to avenge the widow Kennedy and her family but to silence him on behalf of the true perpetrators of the event.
- Three-time killer William Inmon was a self-proclaimed vigilante. His arguments for this are unconvincing.
- The term comes from the Vigilance Committees set up in the old west when settlement had outrun the law. The actual behavior of these committees was more complicated than the traditional Torches and Pitchforks angry mob, though that picture is hardly without merit. Some lawmen, for instance, found it useful to use these as material when forming posses.
- The Whitechapel Vigilance Committee tried to be this in the days of Jack the Ripper. Tired of the police not catching the criminal, they sent out men on patrols round Whitechapel and tried to investigate the case themselves. Which didn't do a lot, the Ripper himself was confident enough he wouldn't get caught he sent the letter with half a human kidney attached to their leader.
- In Italy it was so diffused that Italian language has the word giustiziere specifically to denote this. The fact it's derived from the Italian word for "justice" should be enough to explain why it was so diffused, and why the mindset is still there.
- Vigilante killings of suspected drug traffickers incited (and are still inciting) bitter Flame Wars when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte came in power with the promise to stamp out crime, corruption, and illegal drugs.