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Villain Respect
Professor Moriarty: Rest assured, if you attempt to bring destruction down upon me, I shall do the same to you. My respect for you, Mr. Holmes, is the only reason you are still alive.
Sherlock Holmes: You've paid me several compliments. Let me pay you one in return when I say that, if I were assured of the former eventuality, I would cheerfully accept the latter.

In some works, there's an antagonist who isn't known for being friendly with the protagonists. But sometimes, in situations when one of said protagonists (often the main/lead character, but supporting characters qualify as well) exhibits a heroic or otherwise positive character trait that sufficiently impresses the antagonist, the latter will not be above commending them or otherwise showing his approval of them or their character trait in question. It will particularly stand out if, previously, the antagonist was hostile or (more usually) simply dismissive of the targeted protagonist.

The action may usually be performed by the Noble Demon, but bonus points if it's the Big Bad delivering the praise. Note that the commendation is sincere, and is not an attempt by the villain to screw with the hero's head. The villain may also do it because he and the hero are Not So Different after all. It may also be a Pet the Dog moment to show the villain isn't such a bad guy after all (even if he won't admit it).

A Lawful Evil character, or a character with Evil Virtues, may have this as part of his/her personality, especially in a situation where Villains Never Lie. This can also be a trait of the Friendly Enemy (though depending on the work, it probably won't reach Go Karting with Bowser levels). The Antagonist in Mourning may also do this as a tribute to the fallen hero (whether the hero is actually dead or not).

May frequently overlap with Combat Compliment and Worthy Opponent, where the praise is given during a fight. Compare Villain Takes an Interest, where the villain may become interested in being a mentor to the hero, and compare and contrast We Can Rule Together, where the villain tries to convince the hero that they would do better working together instead of against each other. Naturally there is also a large overlap with Sympathy for the Hero.

Contrast Your Approval Fills Me with Shame, where a villain praises the hero for a negative trait or action and the hero feels disgusted as a result. Also different from Baddie Flattery, wherein the villain is still sincere in his praise of a positive trait but the praise comes across as utterly creepy and disturbing (though this might be a sister trope to that one). And, again, note the second paragraph above.

Please note: The character to whom the praise is given is generally a true-blue hero. If the Anti-Hero or the Anti-Villain is the recipient of the praise, it's a bit trickier since the former has villainous characteristics while skirting the line between good and evil, and the latter has heroic characteristics while still not being a clearly good guy. If the villain respects something relatively minor about the hero, it's The One Thing I Don't Hate About You.

Examples include:

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 
  • Kenichi of Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple has gotten this from several antagonists, including three members of the Yami group's One Shadow Nine Fists martial artists and at least one member of Yami's disciple group YOMI.
    • Agaard Jum Sai, the One Shadow Nine Fists' Muay Tai master and the Rival Turned Evil to Ryouzapaku's Apachai Hopachai, is the first noted example among the One Shadow Nine Fists. Shortly after Kenichi defeats Tirawat Koukin, Agaard's student and a member of YOMI, Agaard commends Kenichi on his tenacity and praises his ability as Apachai's disciple, while at the same time telling Koukin there's no shame in losing to such a skilled opponent. Plus he gives Kenichi pointers on defending himself against a Master-class weapons user moments afterward, himself unable to help directly due to being temporarily paralyzed from his fight with Apachai.
    • The second example is "God Fist" Akira Hongo, the Rival Turned Evil to Ryozanpakou's Sakaki Shio. When he momentarily derides his student Sho Kanou's Redemption Equals Death sacrifice to protect Miu during the D of D Tournament arc, Kenichi angrily declares that Sho's sacrifice was not a waste and he won't allow Hongo to say it was (interestingly, insulting Sho's memory is in fact a Berserk Button for Hongo). The exchange between them goes this way:
      Hongo: (Sho) committed a mistake...and it is my responsibility that the softness inside of him was not totally erased.
      Kenichi: THAT'S WRONG! He...that time, I thought that he was really incredible! As a person and as a man! That's why I don't want you to say that his last action was some kind of mistake!!!
      (Beat)
      Hongo: ...Sakaki's disciple, huh...your name?
      Kenichi: Ryouzanpaku first disciple...Shirahama Kenichi.
    • The third example is the One Shadow a.k.a. Saiga Furinji himself, who commends Kenichi for his determination in protecting Miu, and later flashes his gauntlets to Kenichi from a distance as a mark of respect. Possibly subverted, since he was Good All Along anyway.
      One Shadow: A man like you is worth trusting.
    • As recently as Chapter 500, the newest member of YOMI Berserker expresses acknowledgment of Kenichi's fighting prowess even as they begin their skirmish at the amusement park where Kenichi and his friends had gone to relax (meanwhile, the other YOMI members are fighting Kenichi's friends).
      Berserker: Indeed, you're quite good. No-one has been able to dodge my attacks so perfectly after I trained as a YOMI, so far. I was right in choosing you as my target, Kenichi Shirahama.
  • While few of the antagonists of Eyeshield 21 are evil, characters originally portrayed as Jerkasses like Kakei or Mizumachi do come to respect their opponents. Also, it's revealed that Clifford, possibly the most antagonistic character in the series, came to respect Sena as a player and invited him to play for Notre Dame.
    Agon: "Please. There's no trash on the field that can touch that kind of speed."
    • Shin gets these moments for everyone, especially after Yukimitsu manages to see through his plan.
    Shin: "Even though you're an enemy... that was brilliant.
  • In One Piece, Luffy gets this from at least four major figures over the course of his journey.
    • The first is Dracule Mihawk, who as a member of the Seven Warlords of the Sea is technically an enemy of all pirates but who proves himself to be somewhat of a Friendly Enemy to the Straw Hat crew and to Luffy and Zoro in particular (Luffy due to Mihawk's past association with the former's idol Shanks, Zoro due to Mihawk being impressed with his tenacity as a swordsman).
      Mihawk: Youngster, what is your goal?
      Luffy: Pirate King!
      Mihawk: (smirks) That is a path of incomparable danger. Even more difficult than to surpass me.
      Luffy: I don't care. I will become one anyway!
    • The second is God Eneru, the Big Bad of the Skypiea arc, when Luffy declares that he is going to be Pirate King (this example could also be a Combat Compliment since they're in the middle of a fight at the time).
      Eneru: Pirate King? What country does he rule?
      Luffy: He is the king of the sea!
      Eneru: That doesn't sound half bad... Let's finish this in the sky.
      • In the Kaizoku fan-sub airing of the anime's version of that scene:
        Luffy: He (Pirate King) is ruler of the entire ocean!
        Eneru: I see. A laudable title.
    • The third is Rob Lucci, during the Enies Lobby arc, who commends Luffy on his leadership skills and tells him that he (Luffy) is a better leader than Lucci's boss Spandam (who, to be fair, is an idiot).
    • The fourth is Blackbeard, who commends and encourages Luffy to pursue his dreams no matter what anyone else says. Notable because this happens both before and after Luffy finds out who the person actually is, and the second time may be interpreted as being closer to Baddie Flattery.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, during his time as The Dragon to Takeda Kanryu, Aoshi Shinomori has just unleashed his illusionary sword technique to inflict a (he thinks) fatal wound to Kenshin. Upset at this, Yahiko declares that he's not going to run away even if Aoshi kills him. Prompting this response from Aoshi (and fortunately Kenshin gets back up shortly afterward):
    Aoshi: You've got spirit. Too bad you're going to die here...
    • A later example is seen when Hajime Saito first appears, arriving at the Kamiya Dojo while posing as a medicine man. Sanosuke immediately sees through his disguise and punches him in the face (in the manga, hard enough to send him flying). However, while Saito suffers absolutely no ill-effects from the punch, he commends Sano's strength even as he then outlines why the punch was ineffective.
      Saito: Your punch is worthy of your reputation. However...your punch was born during the peaceful Meiji era. It would not have any effect on a fighter from the Bakumatsu.
    • Makoto Shishio, the Big Bad of the Kyoto arc, gives an indirect version of this about Sanosuke after the latter has blocked Shishio's henchmen's bullets by punching the ocean surface and destroyed his battleship. Shishio freely admits that it was because he underestimated Sanosuke's worth (as well as Kenshin and Saito's Genre Savviness) why his plan to bomb Kyoto with said battleship ultimately failed.
      Shishio: (after Sano bombs the ship) So he's not just a weakling...
  • Wilhelm Josef Von Herrmann, a Noble Demon in Mahou Sensei Negima!, gives a respectful but laughter filled compliment after being defeated by Negi (Chapter 71 in the manga).
    I gotta thank you, Negi-kun...I'll look forward to the day I get to fight you, all grown up...don't disappoint me, young man!
  • Fist of the North Star: Two examples stand out, both times delivered by Raoh.
    • When Raoh first fully appears in the series, he holds Toki, one of Kenshiro's staunchest fighting allies, in considerably high regard—in fact, for him, Toki is the only fighter around who could conceivably match him in a fair duel, the only drawback being that Toki is suffering from a terminal illness caused by nuclear fallout. It helps that Toki was previously seen as a Messianic Archetype and, prior to the nuclear war, was considered (including by Kenshiro himself) to be the most suitable candidate for Hokuto Shinken successor and would probably have gotten it were it not for his illness. (It also says something when even Jagi is acknowledged by Ken to have admired Toki greatly.)
    • Raoh also gives this to Ken himself following their final fight (initially, Raoh had been dismissive of Ken being the Hokuto Shinken successor). It pulls multi-duty as a Final First Hug as well as a heartwarming and sad moment.
      Raoh: Come, let me see the face of the man who has defeated Raoh...You are magnificent, my little brother.
      Kenshiro: Big brother...
  • In Naruto, Itachi's interactions with Naruto have been quite polite for an antagonist, and he ends up giving a smile when Naruto declares that he will bring back Sasuke to Konoha. As well, he acknowledges Maito Guy's Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass credentials, escaping as soon as the latter shows up when he and Kisame first show up in the series. This may be a complicated example, though, as he was never truly a bad guy to begin with.
  • In the Virtual World filler arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, Noah Kaiba praises Yami Yugi's skill during their duel, then tries to convince him that they could rule together.
    Noah: You possess both the skill and judgement necessary to catch your enemies off guard the second they lose focus. When you think about it, you and I have no reason to be enemies. If you swear your loyalty to me, I'll save all your friends from hell this very instant!
  • This basically defines why Lupin of Lupin III, is a Friendly Enemy to Inspector Zenigata. After all, Zenigata's dedicated and determined enough to keep on Lupin's trail no matter how many times the master thief dodges him, but is also reasonable enough to realize that many times the criminals they both have to face off against are far worse than Lupin himself. As a result, Lupin will go out of his way to ensure Zenigata isn't killed, while Zenigata in turn will sometimes seem to allow his rival to escape just so the chase can continue.
  • As far as Freeza from Dragon Ball was concerned, Bardock was merely some no-name Redshirt. When Goku faced him however, he soon remembered Bardock's famous last stand.

     Comic Books 
  • This characterizes Ra's Al-Ghul's attitude toward Batman, as he consistently addresses the Dark Knight as "Detective" as a show of respect to the hero's intelligence and determination. The few times he faces Superman he calls him "Icon." The only other person Ras extends this honour to is Tim Drake (Robin III/Red Robin), who is regarded by Batman as the one person who will surpass his skills as an investigator.
  • In DC's Richard Dragon series, Richard battles against his Rival and Arch-Enemy, Lady Shiva (also a Bat-family Anti-Villain). Both of them have been, at different points in history, considered the greatest martial artists in the world, but Lady Shiva believes that the only true fight is a one-on-one Duel to the Death. During their match, Richard gains a decisive advantage and is poised to deliver a fatal attack, the Leopard Blow. With Shiva sure to die, one of her over-protective Mooks jumps in to save her. An angry Shiva immediately kills the Mook and apologizes to Richard for the interruption. They resume the fight, and this time Shiva comes out on top, killing Richard. She expresses sincere regret that the fight ended this way, because by all rights Richard should have won.
  • Magneto has this attitude toward Charles Xavier, despite their widely-differing views on human-mutant relations (it helps that he realizes they both want what's best for mutantkind, even if their methods can't mesh).
  • Doctor Doom:
    • He usually combines this with Worthy Opponent and The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, with regard to Reed Richards, due to both of them competing for the title of smartest man in the world (albeit the competition's mostly one-sided on Doom's part).
    • He also has a kind of grudging respect toward Doctor Strange, as the sorcerer was willing to aid him in rescuing his mother's soul from Hell.
    • He also has respect for fellow brainiacs Tony Stark, Henry Pym, and Bruce Banner—the top men in their various fields. Their accomplishments are mere child's play to someone like Doom, but they are worthy of respect nonetheless.
  • When Thanos of Titan was dead, his ghostly specter visited the wasted and cancer-ridden Captain Marvel on his deathbed, saying "I've always had great respect for you, Mar-vell. You have always been my greatest foe, my arch nemesis. For one such as you, death should not come gnawing like some vermin. For you, death should be...a glorious event!" Thanos then seemingly restored Captain Marvel to his full health and provided him with his costume so that they might have one last battle together.
  • In The Flash, The Flash's Rogues Gallery tends to have this as their defining trait toward their nemesis (prominently toward Barry Allen when he was wearing the mask during the Silver Age, but also toward Wally West as well), to the point that their code of conduct forbids them to ever kill any Flash. It helps that most of them have standards to begin with. (However, this doesn't carry over to their Justice League Unlimited incarnations, where they're more than willing to kill Wally West at the first opportunity.) It does carry over to their incarnations in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, albeit limited to Barry Allen (they are dismissive of Jay Garrick and Wally West).

     Film 
  • In RoboCop 3, there's a Japanese Corrupt Corporate Executive who commissions a very humanoid-looking robot to destroy Robocop. Naturally, Robo trashes the Japanese 'bot...and when the executive meets Robo in person at the end, he bows in traditional Japanese style as a show of acknowledgment.
  • In Man of Steel, when Colonel Hardy draws his knife on Faora after witnessing her slaughter his men and absorb countless bullets without even flinching, she seems genuinely impressed by his courage.
  • In Thor: The Dark World. Though throughout the movie exactly how villainous Loki actually is is put into question somewhat, there is the line:
    Loki:You lied to me! I'm impressed.
  • X-Men:
    • This is emphasized in X-Men: The Last Stand, when he chews Pyro out for indicating he (Pyro) would have assassinated Charles Xavier if Magneto had given the word.
    Magneto: Charles Xavier did more for mutants than you will ever know. My single greatest regret is that he had to die for our dream to live.

     Literature  
  • In the final book of The Dark Is Rising; Wil turns down the Dark Rider's Hostage for MacGuffin offer. He's impressed.
  • In Deryni Rising, Charissa finds Morgan in the royal library while he researches Kelson's empowering ritual. During their tense verbal fencing match, she mentions having just looked in on the prince as he slept, and Morgan insists his magical Wards Major are impenetrable.
    Charissa: That is probably true. You set your wards most effectively. In fact, even I was impressed with your skill. I had thought a half-breed Deryni incapable of such highly developed expertise.
  • Voldemort to Neville (former Butt Monkey) at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: "You show spirit, and bravery, and you come of noble stock. You will make a very valuable Death Eater. We need your kind, Neville Longbottom."
  • The Bible gives us an example in Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. Although he overthrew Judah, as documented in Jeremiah 39, he gave orders that the prophet Jeremiah should be well taken care of (it helps that Jeremiah, under orders from God, had tried to convince the Jews to submit meekly to Nebuchadnezzar instead of trying to revolt). Later on, in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar showed regard to Daniel as the man who correctly interpreted his dreams (despite throwing Daniel's three friends into the fiery furnace). Both cases occur before his Heel-Face Turn, which he himself talks about in Daniel 4.
  • In Warrior Cats, Tigerstar (grudgingly) admits that Firestar has great strength and spirit and says that he would need both if they met again.
  • Moridin from The Wheel of Time generally comes off as much more respectful of his opposite number Rand than he is of his own Quirky Miniboss Squad; while he frequently comes off as deeply exasperated dealing with them, he saves Rand's life during a brief Enemy Mine and later is quite civil when they start showing up in each others' dreams, chatting about his personal philosophy and their opposing roles so civilly the narration actually compares them to old friends. He remains respectful right up until the Final Battle, when Rand really sets him off by calling him irrelevant, because this respect only flows one way- Rand respects the man Moridin once was, but has only a kind of horrified pity for him currently.
  • In Path of the Seer, Thirianna is surprised and impressed by Imperial void shield technology on their warships, which she'd originally thought was beyond humanity's comprehension.
  • Darken Rahl to Richard Cipher in the first Sword of Truth book, Wizard's First Rule. Rahl's reaction on finding out Richard had resisted torture by partitioning his mind, a trick that only those with the Gift could pull off, his reaction is to assure the torturer that he was not going to kill her for failing because the failure wasn't her fault, and he shows some respect to Richard for pulling it off.
  • Several villains, including Cowl and Nicodemus, express respect for Harry Dresden in The Dresden Files, usually trying to recruit him or asking him to stand aside because they think he's got talent and ability, and would rather not kill someone with so much potential just yet.
  • Neither of them fit hero-villain molds neatly, but in Dinoverse Janine and her old bully Candayce have a stormy confrontation, where it comes out that Candayce is half-scared of Janine partly because she can't control or easily hurt her, half because she admires Janine. Janine would never betray a friend, and she isn't afraid of what people think.

     Live Action TV 
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "The Illusion of Truth," commentators on the martial-law-era ISN network make a point to praise Sheridan as a great hero of the Earth-Minbari War, but put on "experts" who state that he was psychologically damaged and fell prey to "alien influences" through no fault of his own.
  • Zig-zagged a bit in Stargate SG-1 with Ba'al, who seems to hold SG-1 as a whole in relatively high regard (for a Goa'uld). But looks down on and insults Carter every chance he gets, apparently due to being a chauvinist.
    • Lord Yu might be a straighter example, who despite his senility does not appear to be a chauvinist.
  • In Kamen Rider Fourze, the Big Bad Chairman Gamou generally treats the members of the Kamen Rider Club in an Affably Evil manner, but holds a special respect for the main Power Trio. He worked alongside Kengo's father, and obviously sees echoes of his former friend in the young man. Yuki managed to impress him with her enthusiasm for and knowledge of space exploration, and actually regarded her as a kindred spirit when she said that as a child, she heard voices she was convinced came from aliens trying to make First Contact (because Gamou heard the same voices in his own youth).
    • As for Gentaro, in one episode he outright goes to Gamou to try and resolve a conflict between Yuki and the Monster of the Week, the Chairman seemingly impressed by Gentaro's honest and forthright nature. Not to mention The Movie, where Gentaro is in danger of dying and needs the help of 40 people with strong feelings for him; when time is running out and they're one person short, Gamou appears and offers his services of his own free will. The fact that his efforts worked speaks volumes.

     Video Games 
  • Dhaos from Tales of Phantasia praises the heroes for saving the World Tree from its death, something he wanted to avoid in the first place. This doesn't stop him from engaging them in a Final Boss fight seconds later.
  • Some of the character-specific win quotes in Super Street Fighter IV qualify.
    Vega: (to Chun Li) Your beauty and strength impress. I shall remember this day.
    Juri: (to Ryu) I enjoy taking on fighters like you. You actually put up a fight.
    Seth: (generic post-fight quote) I did not expect you to put up such a fight. You have impressed me.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, after Connor kills his father Haythem, before he dies he tells Connor that he's proud of the qualities Connor has (having great conviction, strength, and courage).
  • In Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Torres uses his last breath to praise Edward for finally fighting for a cause greater than himself.
  • In Dragon Age II, you can earn the respect of the Qunari Arishok (the Final Boss of Act II) by always staying honest and blunt with him and his people. Doing so even earns you the achievement "A Worthy Rival".
    • "I have a growing lack of disgust for you."
  • From Marvel vs. Capcom 3:
  • Implied in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, where the security system in Bowser's Memory Banks is a Dual Boss fight against crude, blocky representations of Mario and Luigi. Keep in mind Bowser has an ego about as big as he is, which all but guaranteed that his mind would choose a representation of Bowser to defend itself, or maybe an army of his minions. But it chose Mario and Luigi, showing that Bowser has a lot of respect for their fighting skill, at least on a subconscious level.
  • In Street Fighter X Tekken:
    Heihachi (to Ryu): Heh, if I'd met you 10 years later, it would've been bad news. Good thing you're still a pup.
  • In Mass Effect 3, The Illusive Man constantly shows respect for Shepard and believes that they should be working together to save the galaxy from the Reapers (unaware that by this point he's been indoctrinated by them). Averted however by Kai Leng, who seems to be offended at the idea of showing respect to Shepard, who he sees as a traitor to both Cerberus and humanity, and underestimates at almost every step of the way.
    • The Reapers also show this, albeit in a more limited way considering what they are and their (not completely unjustified) egos. They note that Shepard has genuinely hindered their plans and will turn their guns away from entire fleets to attempt to kill him/her.

     Western Animation 

So Proud of YouAdmiration TropesWorthy Opponent
The Villain Sucks SongVillainsVillain Sue

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