"I will not yield,This is one method for avoiding doldrums from having an Invincible Hero. Scenes of Villainous Valor show the antagonists to be outmatched, forcing them to rely on daring, cunning, skill and determination to hold their own against the heroes, or at least go out with a little dignity. They sometimes even continue a hopeless battle for higher reasons than spite! This often results in a tense back-and-forth as the heroes' raw power is set against whatever the villains brought. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but the mark of Villainous Valor is that it sees the "bad guys" using tropes that you wouldn't expect from them. In fact, if you were just tuning in, you might even be confused about who you're expected to root for. A fight between the Knight in Shining Armor and The Dragon with his Spikes of Villainy will often leave you cheering for The Hero, but what if The Dragon locks swords with the hero and gets between the hero and his master, to allow him time to escape? The scene changes completely. This often appears in shows where the villains are sympathetic or the heroes questionable. Nevertheless, this is not a trope about viewer sympathy so much as bravery, ingenuity and skill on the part of a villainous underdog. If the villains are acting more like the soon-to-be-slaughtered protagonists of a horror film, we might be looking at a Mook Horror Show instead. Contrast David vs. Goliath, where the hero is the weaker one. This valour may show up more easily in an Evil Versus Evil fight. The Badass Normal villain may be arrogant, determined, sure of himself and Defiant to the End against the Badass Normal hero, but what if he has to fight against an Eldritch Abomination? Perhaps he is defeated easily, just to prove that the eldritch abomination means business. Or perhaps... he will be arrogant, determined, sure of himself and defiant to the end, even in the face of armageddon. In that case, he may earn our admiration. And if he even manages to punch out or scam the eldritch abomination, even more so. Compare Worthy Opponent. See also Evil Virtues. This sort of behavior is the staple of the Noble Demon. This trope also has a complicated relationship with Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work, wherein villains are capable of being depicted committing actions that are from a logical point of view beneficial to the protagonist and also entirely necessary, but would conflict with a protagonist's moral code; when the villain does this in a self-sacrificing or at the very least supremely cool manner, then it combines the two tropes. However as often as not, the villain really is doing actually reprehensible things that just also happen to require astonishing resolve and bravery to pull off.
To kiss the ground before Young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff;
And damned be him that first cries: 'Hold, enough!'"
To kiss the ground before Young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam Wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff;
And damned be him that first cries: 'Hold, enough!'"
— Macbeth, Act 5, Scene 8.
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- Greed's chimeras in Fullmetal Alchemist are unswervingly loyal to him since he not only freed them from prison but is also surprisingly good to them. Two of them end up taking on Wrath knowing full well they won't last a minute just so Greed can escape, a third attempts a sneak attack to kill him (and fails), and the rest are killed taking on the State Military for pretty much the same reason.
- The soldier taken hostage by Olivier to get the city gates open, who shouts at his men to keep them closed no matter what. Olivier, who'd earlier chastised him for being an armchair general with no thought to what real soldiers go through, is impressed despite herself.
- King Bradley/Wrath is a genocidal bastard and more than a bit of a Blood Knight, but he took on a tank frontally armed only with a sabre and a stick grenade.
- In the early engagements against the Combat Cyborgs in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, we're presented with a small group of specialists carrying out a daring mission against a whole world full of mages led by a pair of warriors who could mop the floor with them in a straight fight. (The Numbers who can stand up to Fate and Nanoha are introduced later.) Nevertheless, through a series of hair-raising encounters and desperate escapes, they finally win through and make off with the Macguffin's box.
- Mitigated by the fact that they are backed up by a very literal army of robotic drones armed with state-of-the-art antimagic technology and show no compunctions about being willing to open fire on an unarmed transport carrying, among other things, a helpless child; later revelations about said child's nigh invulnerability notwithstanding.
- For instance, and before switching to the good side, Fate Testarossa shows an exceptional amount of bravey, particularly when it becomes evident the Time-Space Administration Bureau is going after her and her own mother and boss using the girl almost like an expendable soldier, she still presses on in finding the Jewel Seeds.
- This is one of the lesser-observed common threads often found in Nanoha. The Wolkenritter in A's start out stronger on an individual basis than the protagonists, but they're massively outnumbered and, by the middle of the series, outgunned as well. They still carry on their fight, though, until The Reveal.
- This appears many times in the Gundam series. Given the nature of the universe, it makes sense.
- Several versions feature enemy aces piloting machines that are no match for the Gundams, but able to hold their own thanks to superior skill.
- Early on, Zechs Marquise of Gundam Wing managed to disrupt Heero's descent despite him being in a 15-year-old mech while Heero was in what may have been the most powerful Gundam at the time and just curb stomped his two wingmen. Then there are the characters like Walker and Otto, who perform Heroic Sacrifices because they're that loyal to Zechs.
- And then there's the final battle, where the Earth's forces exclusively use said 15-year-old mech despite the fact that their enemies are state-of-the-art Mecha-Mooks that give even the Gundams a hard time.
- Char was introduced this way: the Gundam had been shown invulnerable to the Zaku II used by Zeon at that time, then Char arrives in another Zaku and makes clear the only thing SAVING Amuro is said invulnerability of the Gundam. Later lampshaded by Ramba Ral, who, upon having his Gouf destroyed by the Gundam, remarks that Amuro only won because the Gundam was more powerful. Later inverted in the final battle: Char finally has a mobile suit that is superior to the Gundam, but the only reason Char pulls a draw is that Amuro dragged the fight so the rest of the Federation armada would be able to attack Zeon's space fortress without having to deal with Zeon's most capable shipkiller.
- Another UC example, from the original series: right after Ramba Ral's introduction, the White Base is sighted by a group of Zeon soldiers who, knowing that the Gundam was on board and hoping to be allowed to return home, decided to take on the Gundam in spite of knowing well they were underequipped. They nearly destroy the Gundam after nearly dying placing time bombs on it, and after Amuro narrowly disarms the last they decide to be good sports and, dressed as civilians, come to the White Base to say hi (Bright sees right through it but allows them to leave). Nobody will ever be more successful than them against the Gundam until Amuro use it as a bait to take down Char.
- Garma Zabi kamikaze-ing his ship into the White Base and Dozle Zabi's One-Man Army attack with the Big Zam on The Federation.
- The early parts of Gundam 00 have this in spades, as the pilots of Celestial Being crash around invincibly and the rest of the world scrambles to keep up. You even see Mooks making Heroic Sacrifices.
- Zeta Gundam has Captain Ben Wooder an Elite Mook and Mauve Shirt who appeared in episodes 17-20. Initially little more than a Smug Snake, Wooder quickly proved to have an intense dedication to carrying out his orders, no matter what he had to do to make them possible. When supremely powerful Cyber-Newtype Four Murasame deserted, leaving the Tsudori without a pilot for the Psyco Gundam, Wooder climbed into the cockpit himself, despite having no experience with it and no Newtype powers. That alone would probably qualify him, but it's his exit in Episode 20 that really cements his status. With Four defeated, and the rest of his ship's mobile suits out of commission, Wooder orders the rest of his crew off the Tsudori and prepares to ram the Audhumla with it. When Four returns and tries to stop him, he shoots her himself. When Kamille tries to stop the Tsudori and steal a rocket booster off of it, Wooder climbs into a gun turret and tries to shoot the Mark II Gundam down himself, despite the danger this presents to the ship. His bravery is such that it inspires a number of his men to stay behind and make the Heroic Sacrifice with him.
- Given that he's a Badass Normal in a mook suit facing down a telepathic and telekenetic hero in a Super Prototype with whom he Can't Catch Up, Villainous Valor is Jerid Messa's entire shtick. Yazan Gable, who while unsympathetic, earns the respect of the audience and the undying hatred of the main cast for the ingenuity that he brings to his attempts at taking them down. Like Jerid, he's a Badass Normal, yet he still manages to be a Hero Killer in a show full of psychics.
- Deconstructed in Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, Carta Issue along with her bodyguards are honourable soldiers who sought to defeat their foes in a honourable duel, which fell into deaf ears when Mikazuki Augus indiscriminately kills every last one of them when they are outside their mechs as brutal as he can without giving a damn. They had it coming for killing Biscuit.
- Several versions feature enemy aces piloting machines that are no match for the Gundams, but able to hold their own thanks to superior skill.
- Fights in Hellsing are often shown more from the villains' perspective, and we get to see their horror/resolve while Alucard goes One-Winged Angel and cackles like a madman. You may even feel a whisper of sympathy for the Nazi Vampires as a SR-71 Blackbird crashes down on their heads and a shadowy Eldritch Abomination bursts out of the flames to destroy them.
- Take a look at the opening scene of the third Inuyasha movie. Setsunano Takemaru, a normal samurai with a simple sword, charges into a flaming castle missing one of his arms to confront a powerful Demon Lord wielding freakin' Sounga. He was unquestionably a wretched punk who deserved everything that was coming to him, but damn.
- Cell from Dragonball Z shows this from time to time, as he's pitted against near impossible odds, yet finds ways to still outsmart his opponents. When he finally reaches perfection and realizes he's no longer the underdog, he gives the heroes more time to prepare as a concession that someone may prove to be a Worthy Opponent. It's later subverted when Cell breaks down and runs out of all his tricks but one to defeat Gohan.
- At times, this might apply to Majin Buu as well. In terms of raw power, he frequently ends up outclassed, and there's often a back-and-forth between the protagonists and Buu over who is actually stronger. Come to think of it, that's what much of the battles in Dragon Ball Z revolves around. Even matches are rare.
- Much of Vegeta's popularity and various trips around the Heel–Face Revolving Door are fuelled by the fact that he is genuinely courageous in a fight, and is a true Determinator when it comes to pushing himself harder and further to achieve the standards he sets himself.
- Here's a simple one. In the final episode of Noir, Kirika is attacked in close-quarters by a knife-wielding battle nun. After her first attack is dodged, the nun finds a gun in her face while her knife is poised too far away to stand a chance of killing Kirika first. Does she give up and beg for her life? No. She steels herself, moves to flip the knife downwards again and promptly gets shot in the face.
- In Naruto when Gaara and Rock Lee fight Kimimaro, the latter displays a respectable sense of honor throughout the fight. In the end he is trapped underground, outmatched, when in a final dramatic effort he is stopped dead inches away from killing Gaara by his own disease.
- Actually a lot of the bad guys in the Naruto universe show traces of this. Bad guys like Haku, Zabuza, Nagato, etc all fight with a level of determination that earns the respect of the good guys.
- Kisame is possibly the best example of this trope. Ax-Crazy kidnapper that thinks nothing of cutting limbs off Jinchuriki so they can't get away he may be, but when backed into a corner, rather than let his enemies forcibly read his mind, he bites off his own tongue to end the mind reading, and commits suicide. Say what you will about the cause itself, Kisame was ready to die for it.
- Obito regains control of his body and mind from a potential world-destroying Eldritch Abomination through The Power of Love. If his status as Big Bad wasn't so cemented through all the horrible things he's done, this could be mistaken for the hero's climax.
- Seen in episode 4 of Katanagatari with the Maniwa Insect Squad and Nanami. Sort of. It was quite scary.
- Almost certainly intentional, at the end of the first season of Code Geass, Lelouch finally gets the upper hand over the arrogant, racist Cornelia... in the most douchy way possible, and inspires her and her men to put up a valiant defence against overwhelming odds that ends up making her look like the hero. Cornelia might qualify as this before as her greatest virtue is her valour, but this is the first time she's truly outmatched.
- One of the reasons Jeremiah Gottwald became so ridiculously popular was that, much like Cornelia, his racism and arrogance was tempered by genuine courage on the battlefield, and his loyalty to those he served. Consequently, his Butt Monkey Chew Toy status at the start of the series seemed somewhat unfair, and fan demand turned him into something much more.
- It's possible to overlook the fact that Shirabe is actually the bad guy for her fight in Mahou Sensei Negima! considering A. she has a legitimate reason for her behavior B. was outnumbered six to one C. has good intentions and D. showed some awesome Plucky Girl and Undying Loyalty credentials since hse was fighting for the guy whom she owes her life to. The fact that this resulted in Asuna being put back on the ritual altar without any means of getting her back off of it only hits you a moment later.
- Made even better by the fact that the good guys' victory would have resulted in the magic ritual activating improperly, which would have wiped out almost all life on Magicus Mundus, as it's implied the ritual had gone too far for even the bad guys to stop it.
- There's also Fate's first fight with Jack Rakan. Going into the fight, Jack is clearly show to be much stronger than Fate, but Fate keeps fighting despite clearly losing, and actually managed to hurt him, which is definitely impressive since outside of flashbacks to the war and Negi absorbing one the energy from one of his attacks, everything thrown at Jack is treated as No Sell.
- Viral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. Constantly.
- Space Battleship Yamato has some, starting from Domel, who, after his master plan to destroy the Yamato backfires at the last moment, try to stop it and the doom it brings for Gamilas by blowing up himself with the ship, to Deslar, who, in spite of being the Big Bad of the first series and The Dragon in the second, is an extremely brave character (and, in spite of inferior technology, much more effective against the Yamato than the generals of the White Comet Empire) who later pulls a Heel–Face Turn. Later the third season gives us one combined with Rooting for the Empire: we are first introduced to the Bolar Federation as one of their fleets try and fails to fight a Galman fleet (shown crewed by Gamilas people, usually the villains), and, later, one of their officers, Ram, is shown as a sympathetic character who dies in battle after apologizing for unwillingly involving Earth in the war between Bolar and Galman. Only later we find out that the Bolar are space Nazis, and then that the Galman soldiers that attacked the Yamato are Well Intentioned Extremists working for the post-Heel–Face Turn Deslar.
- In One Piece: Hannyabal versus Luffy in the Impel Down Arc. Hannyabal knew he was outmatched by Luffy but never gave up trying to prevent Luffy from escaping Impel Down. The touching "World of Cardboard" Speech he gave during the fight certainly helped too!
- Before then, during the Enie Lobby arc, when Chopper was fighting Kumadori, Chopper went into his Monster Point and started kicking Kumadori's ass all over the room. Even though he was up against a 30ft tall monster who was No Selling any of Kumadori's previously dominant moves and was terrifying Kumadori on a subconscious level so he lost control of his Prehensile Hair, Kumadori still stood and fought to the end. Kumadori even stated that it was a man's duty to fight against impossible odds. Of course, Kumadori, despite his occupation as a Killer For Hire, was always portrayed as Laughably Evil and a ridiculous if honor-obsessed ham. And considering that he's working for the the legitimate (if corrupt) government in a completely legitimate manner (defending a government facility against pirates) it's hard to call Kumadori evil in the first place.
- Bellamy post Time Skip is considerably friendlier towards Luffy but still fights him when forced to by Doflamingo. Even after Doflamingo stops controlling him, Bellamy keeps fighting him because he wants to be acknowledged by his boss.
- Kunzite in the anime version of Sailor Moon. He's shown to be stronger than the main five Sailor Senshi, and is arguably stronger than Queen Beryl (unlike the manga which clearly showed her to be stronger than him), but when Usagi gets the Silver Crystal, she clearly has Kunzite overpowered and he has no chance of beating her, but despite that show an amount of determination rivaling the series' heroes' when things are hopeless for them.
- Yami Bakura in the Memory World Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! isn't facing that bad a disadvantage in the RPG they were playing. He only has a handful of characters against Yami Yugi's entire army, all seven Millennium Items, and all three Egyptian Gods. Bakura's only advantages were a handful of one shot gamebreakers and knowledge of what was actually going on, but considering one mistake would have led to a quick defeat and it was well known he was evil at that point, it was still a delicate operation until Zork was finally summoned.
- Marco of Eyeshield 21. Unlike most villains in the series, Marco is fully aware of his own limitations, and of the fact that the opposing teams pose a serious threat to his own continued health. Yet he continues to risk his neck, operating as both safety and quarterback, because he refueses to make his team do anything he wouldn't do himself.
- Starscream of Transformers Cybertron initially frequently opts for a "tactical retreat", but later grows to almost embody this trope. Notable moments include taking on the entire good guys' team in his first Crowning Moment of Awesome, growing to giant size and takes on everybody at once soon after in an Awesome Moment of Crowning, growing even bigger (to the size of a planet) to take on a Physical God, and living up to his name in a massive Beam-O-War-turned-Punch Parry against his former boss Galvatron as a Dying Moment of Awesome.
- Haguro from Wolf Guy - Wolfen Crest. Morality aside, he fights off and kills a horrifically transformed Chiba with a katana. His goal is to kill a super-powered werewolf after crying like a baby the first time seeing it.
- A humorous moment in Digimon Xros Wars occurs after FlameWizardmon absorbs Tagiru's energy, and then proceeds to throw out every hot-blooded shounen quote in the book, because that's the spirit that empowers him now. Doubles as an example of Not So Different.
- Binolt from Hunter × Hunter, a minor (Anti) villain in the Greed Island arc, has the power to analyze the whole body of his enemies by eating their hair. When he analyzes Biscuit's hair, he knows he will lose, but he still challenges her as a fighter. Biscuit acknowledges this valor and that he isn't just scum.
- Reiner Braun from Attack on Titan is pretty much made of this trope, being a Tragic Anti-Villain with a strong sense of duty. He's noted for his great determination and courage, as well as always thinking of others before himself. When faced twice with large hordes of Titans, his only thought is for the well-being of his partner and he willingly places himself at a disadvantage to protect them.
- Pops up from time to time in Kinnikuman. One of the most famous being when Ashuraman and Sunshine acknowledge The Power of Friendship for one another and even forfeit their fight against the Muscle Brothers tag team.
- Say what you will about Evil Prince Ruu-Kain in Blue Comet SPT Layzner, but he will NOT cheat if he fights you and he will NOT tolerate anyone cheating in front of him. i.e, when one of his men cheats during a fight, Ru-Kain disapproves and has him jailed.
- Given that Superman is practically the poster boy for the Invincible Hero (at least according to some) and his arch-nemesis is an unpowered human, it would be a shock if this never happened in his stories. Grant Morrison has commented on this and considers it a vital part of Lex's character; you have to, on some tiny level, root for Lex to at least come out of the story ok for the simple fact that he's a normal man trying to battle a demigod, typically armed only with his wits and whatever finances/tools he can get his hands on.
- Admit it, it takes balls to go up against the Goddamn Batman when your motif is penguins because you have the physique of one.
- The Scarecrow's own phobia is the constant fear of Batman himself. That's right: the one and only thing in the world he himself fears is the thing he is most constantly willfully opposing, and someone whom he frequently seeks out and starts the fight with of his own accord. Although it may not so much be valor as a sort of emotional masochism... He craves fear.
- In the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, Anne is one of the chief "Purifiers" (elite paramilitary soldiers) for the story's Big Bad, Reverend William Stryker. She's shown to be cool and ruthless in her attacks on mutants, who (as per Styker's preaching), she genuinely believes to be evil. There's a scene in which she and other Purifiers are in an elevator, taking captives to a basement level of their base, when Magneto yanks the elevator out of the building and through the air (they don't call him the Master of Magnetism for nothing, baby!) and his erstwhile allies, the X-Men, enter the little chamber, recover the captives, and take the Purifiers prisoner. All, that is, except Anne, who escapes by prying the door open, leaping out of the elevator, and (barely) catching herself on the edge of the base's roof. Wow. The lady may be whack, but she is brave, determined, and impressive. It's hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for her later, when she discovers she's a mutant herself, and Stryker, her revered mentor, casts her away because of it.
- Although his role as a villain is questionable, Secret Six's Catman has gone toe-to-toe with the big black Bat every so often, and the fights usually end in a draw. Which may make Catman the poster boy for this, considering this is Batman we're talking about.
- Crisis on Infinite Earths: It's an Evil Versus Evil scenario, but you've got to give Superman's pre-Crisis Evil Counterpart, Ultraman credit, flying into the Anti-Monitor's antimatter wave in a last attempt to save Earth-3 from destruction. When Power Ring demands to know what he's doing he gives a classic Superman smile and replies "What I have done all my life. I fight to the very end."
- Skurge the Executioner in "The Death and Life of Skurge the Executioner", a Thor graphic novel. Single-handed, he held off an army of the dead. "He had a grin and a gun and the grit to do it."
And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head, the answer is always the same: he stood alone at Gjallerbru, and that answer is enough.
- Marvel villain Whiplash/Blacklash must have solid steel cojones, given that he repeatedly goes up against Iron Man armed with... a titanium whip and nothing else. No power armour, no magic, no lasers, no nothing.
- Similarly, the audience is almost always rooting for Ghost to come out of the story okay despite the fact that he's a supervillain. His odd code of honor, cleverness, and sheer bravery in taking on a guy decked out in power armor means that it's next-to-impossible to not like the guy.
- In Daredevil, Wilson "The Kingpin" Fisk is many things, but a coward is not one of them. For instance, when he is confronting a criminal committee who is trying to run his criminal organization, their hired killer, Bullseye, steps up behind Fisk and is ready to shoot him in the head. Without breaking a sweat or his cool, Fisk is able to persuade Bullseye to work for him to the point where the maniac happily lights his cigarette and offers to kill his former employers.
- Doctor Doom may be a ruthless would-be conqueror with a senseless vendetta against Reed Richards, but he also is a ferocious force to be reckoned with when the people of Latveria are oppressed by others, as the insane Prince Zorba found out. Or as shown in the page-image above, any time he's faced with a fight.
- In Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, you might just, to your own surprise, find yourself rooting for Zilla when he goes up against the original Godzilla in Issue #2, pitting his tunneling skills and strategic thinking against the King of the Monsters' Nigh-Invulnerability, atomic Breath Weapon, and superior size. Despite these odds Zilla—both the antagonist and The Scrappy in the eyes of most—acquits himself well, outstrategizing Godzilla for most of the fight and eventually escaping.
- The final Brian Michael Bendis Avengers story (for now) has the classic original four Avengers (if Hulk was there it'd be everyone) Thor, Giant Man, Iron Man, and Captain America head to the 'Microverse' to rescue the presumed-dead last classic Avenger, Janet Van Dye. They find her involved in battle with a villain named Lord Gouzer, and assist her in his defeat. They return to the normal world, only to find Lord Gouzer taking advantage of their process to follow them for revenge...and due to plot circumstances, finds himself confronted by both then-current Avengers teams, who had gathered to provide backup if needed. So what does Gouzer do when confronted with 20+ superheroes, seven or eight them VERY heavy hitters? HE CHARGES AND IMMEDIATELY ATTACKS THEM. True, he had no idea who they were, and the assembled Avengers (heh) stomp him into the ground in about ten seconds, but still...points for effort and balls.
- Baron Zemo, archenemy of Captain America and the Avengers, frequently has moments like this. Despite being a normal human being who's only real physical advantage is good combat training, he's always taking on enemies that should be way beyond his abilities. Captain America is a Super Soldier who's famous for being the ultimate badass, and yet Zemo never hesitates to grab a blade and leap into battle with Cap. This is a guy who once took on Captain Universe in a one-on-one fight and won, using nothing but his own wits and manipulation skills to briefly get himself imbued with reality warping powers.
- Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire: Even though you know that the Pogs are the bad guys at that point, it's hard to not get a bit misty-eyed when a single rifle platoon gets sent out to fight J-bots and Uligb mercenaries. The platoon leader's response says it all:
"Awright, you heard the impossible order! FIGHT!"
- In Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, once the villains' evil plans have been foiled, they often end up going on the run, and are usually quite ingenious in their attempts to get away. This sometimes makes them seem sympathetic, even if we've seen them acting like monsters earlier in the story; Gould was certainly savvy enough to play this up deliberately (such as when the injured Brow is taken in by Gravel Gertie, or when Sleet gets blackmailed while hiding out), but then the villains usually get a couple of Kick the Dog moments during the chase, just so we don't forget who we're supposed to be rooting for.
- This is the focus of The TSAB – Acturus War. The Democratic Republic of Acturus cannot win against the Bureau, but it will do its best to bleed the enemy out as far as possible.
- In The Service has more than one comment on the bravery and discipline of the common New Belkan soldier. No matter how badly the situation around them goes, no matter how little chance there is they will survive the effort, they will carry out their orders. Some characters think them brave far beyond the point of stupidity. Others think they're the finest soldiers the universe has ever seen, with some of the worst training and leadership.
- Inner Demons: One must give Trixie credit — she will do anything to fulfill Queen!Twilight Sparkle's orders, no matter what. This is best demonstrated during the Battle of Fillydelphia, where Trixie takes on all of the protagonists at once, invoking the Storm Avatar spell to fight them. Even after the spell drains her and she's been knocked down by the heroes, she — beaten and barely conscious — forces herself to keep going long enough to at least partially fulfill Queen!Twilight's orders by nearly killing Rarity.
- Two cases occur in short order in the very first episode of White. First the titular character (A hollow Ichigo) fights an entire shinigami squad and two captains both as revenge for his fellow hollows they slew and to protect Raptor, an adjucha who was leading them. After White and Raptor escape, the latter asks the former to eat him, acknowledging himself as "just a stepping stone on [White's] path to greatness", only asking that White use his power to destroy the shinigami.
- In Team Four Star's Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, after Walter and Seras subdue Jan Valentine, there's this exchange:
Walter: Now, you are going to tell me everything I want to know.
Jan: Alright, what you do is, you go down to the local pharmacy, you ask for something called Viagra, and it'll help you GO FUCK YOURSELF!
Films — Animation
- In the film Mulan, there's a reason why Shan Yu is nowadays considered one of the most badass of Disney villains: he's strong enough to easily break down a barricaded door or effortlessly slice through a massive pillar with his sword. He's also very proud of his army, as shown at the beginning when he thought it was perfect that all of China knew they were coming after the signal fire was lit, and when he flatly refused to avoid the Imperial troops and instead opted to take them head on, knowing that they are the elite of China's armies.
- Frozen: The two soldiers sent by the Duke of Weselton to kill Queen Elsa. They go up against a virtual demigod with nothing but crossbows. Then, Prince Hans of the Southern Isles saves them from the wrath of Elsa's cryokinetic death spikes, even as his real intent is to secure the throne of Arendelle by getting rid of Elsa.
- Yzma in The Emperor's New Groove is a comedic villain, but at one point she pursues the heroes down the high sheer wall of a castle via improvised bungee-jumping.
- Ruber in Quest for Camelot is a psychotic (but quite human) murderer who faces down and kills an enormous threatening dragon with his bare hands.
- Megamind certainly qualifies, at least according to Roxanne Ritchi:
"The Megamind I knew would never have run from a fight, even one he knew he had absolutely no chance of winning. It was your best quality. You need to be that guy right now."
- Played with here, however, in that she says that as Megamind is about to complete his Heel–Face Turn. But it is still an accurate description of his past behavior.
- Batman: The Dark Knight Returns has the Mutant Leader. When Batman shows up at the mutants' lair in his giant tank of a Batmobile and begins taking out his minions, the Leader discovers that he's been using rubber bullets, which prompts the Leader to walk up to the Batmobile... and start mouthing off to Batman, calling him a coward for not being willing to kill and challenging him to fight man-to-man and in the ensuing fight, he would have nearly killed Batman had Robin not intervened. And even in their second fight where Batman has the upper hand and begins fighting strategically, the Leader still holds his own. He may be a violent psychopath, but anyone willing to take on the goddamn Batman has some serious brass ones.
Mutant Leader: All this metal, and you don't even use it to kill! It's just a shell to keep you safe?! What's the matter? Ain't you got the stomach for it?! I call you COWARD! Come out here and face me like a man! I kill you! I Eat. Your. Heart! Prove you can take me! Prove you can fight with your hands! Come on, man! You're boring me!
Films — Live-Action
- Phantom's lackey in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen throws himself between our heroes and the Phantom after the tables turn on the villain in Dorian Gray's library. Instead of being just another faceless, soulless henchman, he screams "Run James!", and courageously sacrifices himself to allow the villain to escape. If we didn't already know the Phantom was the bad guy, a newcomer would be excused for thinking that this villain was an innocent man on the run from armed thugs.
- Freddy Krueger in Freddy vs. Jason displays this, oddly enough, when the climatic battle finally goes down. Freddy is a lot more vulnerable and less practiced with killing somebody face to face than Jason is. Yet, even after being pulled into the mortal world, where he is at a severe disadvantage (for starters, he can actually be killed), he doesn't hesitate for a moment to stand his ground and starts duking it out with Camp Crystal Lake's killing machine.note
- In the film United 93 the youngest terrorist (who looks about 14) puts up a disturbingly valiant fight when he's rushed by half the plane's passengers at the end of the film.
- In Scanners, Revok plots a daring infilitration of ConSec headquarters to assassinate their last scanner, and then escape. As the head of a major scanner underground he could have sent in underlings, but he decided this was something he had to do himself. Also, toward the end of the movie, it's The Hero who pulls the Not So Different card instead of the villain.
- In Five Minutes To Live, the evil gangster played by Johnny Cash takes a hostage (six year-old Ron Howard) in order to escape from the police. He quietly tells Ron that he has nothing to fear; Johnny would never kill a kid. When this doesn't stop the police from shooting at him, he's outraged, and you can't help but agree with him.
- Colonel Miles Quaritch from Avatar is a killer who attacked a civilian (though the line between military and civilian among the Na'vi is very blurry) target with a massive firebombing. But some people can't help admiring his sheer determination when things don't go his way. At one point he is set on fire and he waits until his AMP suit is prepared to drop before putting the fire out. It helps that the Na'vi are Unintentionally Unsympathetic.
- The Nazis in several scenes of Inglourious Basterds come across as very noble.
- The Nazi officer who refuses to give up his comrades' positions even under the threat of torture is presented as brave.
- Shosanna seems impressed by Zoller's tale of bravery, despite her burning hatred for Nazis. Even for the audience, as the film's primary target audience is Americans, given that Zoller is hailed as a hero for single-handedly killing hundreds of American soldiers.
- In Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus, "The Man" finds himself lying battered, lacerated and hacking blood before the newly energized hero. However, when the hero tosses him his sword, he rises and prepares to give a good accounting of himself even though he knows he doesn't stand a chance. In the Director's Commentary, Kitamura described that as the "spirit of Versus." Also, depending on how you take that business in the epilogue, it's possible that the whole movie was a case of Valiant Villainy.
- When Blonsky (with a little help from some Captain America serum) first fights the Hulk as a human in The Incredible Hulk, you can't help but be impressed by the guy. Sure, he's a creepy jackass, but this is an almost ordinary man trying to go hand-to-hand with the friggin' HULK!
- The Nigerian gangster boss Obesanjo from District 9. You really need huge balls to laugh at the hero while he aims a Big Fucking Alien Gun at your head, that had just smashed your bodyguards through a wall seconds ago.
- Riley Biers from Eclipse. Fighting for his lover, and actually putting up a good struggle against a werewolf after losing a hand.
- The bomb maker from the beginning of Casino Royale (2006) probably earns quite a few fans with his skill at Le Parkour as James Bond chases him.
- The Jamaican gangster King Willie from Predator 2, who believes that the titular Predator is actually a demon spirit. Despite this, after it approaches him, he calmly whips a sword out from his cane and duels the damn thing, even though it had single-handedly slaughtered a large portion of his gang as well as the rival Colombian gang.
- Ironbar in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. At one point, while he's hanging from a pipe extended off the side of a speeding train, the train goes over a bridge, and he repeatedly has to hoist his body over metal substructures studded along the span's length. It's impressive that the actor/stuntman was even able to shoot the scene.
- Mutiny on the Bounty: Lieutenant William Bligh is a tyrant who terrorizes his men until the eponymous mutiny. He's then set adrift in a rowboat with some of the men who didn't join the mutiny, so many that the boat's sides are just inches above the water. In this seemingly hopeless situation, he manages to navigate them to Timor without losing a single man. This was Truth in Television. In spite of his Historical Villain Upgrade, Bligh was a brave and decent man, and a truly incomparable seafarer.
- The Sheikh's Number Two in Taken puts up quite a fight against Liam Neeson's character, even after being wounded by him. He's fighting for his Sheikh, after all.
- Uncle Les in Braindead spends most of the film as just a lecherous, repulsive Jerkass. Then the climax hits, and he surprisingly becomes quite a zombie-killing badass, with a Crowning Moment of Awesome where he single-handedly takes out about twenty of them with a pair of cleavers.
- In Battleship, the aliens show signs of this many times. Throughout the movie, they're clearly outnumbered and outgunned by the combined forces of Earth, and their mission seems to be "fight off the superior human fleets and try to send a distress signal back to the homeworld". The most apparent part, however, is when they launch a rescue mission to save one of their number who had been captured by the human heroes. The fact that they seem to be Noble Demons in a White and Grey Morality setting certainly helps.
- Scarface has a variation of this trope for Villain Protagonist Tony Montana. In by far the most famous scene in the movie, he gets high on cocaine, grabs a M16 assault rifle, and takes on a veritable army of goons alone. Even when badly injured by gunfire, he stands and taunts his assailants. It takes a shotgun shell to the back at point blank range to finally put him down for good.
- Captain Vidal in Pan's Labyrinth. A monster whole and through, but he's also capable of doing The Slow Walk into battle, without taking cover, while firing at the enemy. Vidal inherited a clock that his father crashed when he fell in battle to mark the time of his death, and he wanted nothing in life but to die in battle and do the same, passing the clock to his (unborn) son.
- In Jurassic Park, the last raptor attacks the T.rex despite the Tyrannosaurus killing her remaining partner with a single bite and outweighing the raptor by several tons.
- Shingen Yashida from The Wolverine. Jerkass or not, throwing yourself towards an immortal adamantium-boned warrior with just a Katana takes some balls.
- Imhotep from The Mummy Trilogy is presented as a ridiculously powerful, unstoppable supernatural menace in the first film. In the climax of the second film, Anubis takes away all of his powers and makes him a mortal, but he still elects to take on the Scorpion King, and even fights Rick to a standstill.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Koba may have been a psychotic, human-hating monster, but how many bonobo apes do you know that can take on entire squads of humans behind fortified defenses by holding an assault rifle in each hand, and destroy a tank single-handedly?
- In The Interview the control room technician put up not only a valiant fight against Seth Rogen's character, but a truly vicious one as well. Case in point: he bit Seth Rogen's character's finger off to stop the live feed. To top it off he didn't stop fighting even after he was planted on a control stick that went up his butt and only stopped when shot in the head.
- In Kingsman: The Secret Service, Gazelle fights Eggsy one on one during the climax after Merlin takes out all of Valentine's other soldiers by hacking their loyalty implants to explode. It's a very close fight and delays Eggsy long enough that while Valentine is eventually stopped the likely consequences are far more injuries and fatalities across the world.
- The General from Lord Jim. Any other villain in a Hollywood movie would have tried to escape when they had the chance. Not the General. When the heroes launched their second attack, he stayed and fought, eventually going out in a blaze of glory while wounded and trying to put out a fuse, instead of trying to save himself escaping through a secret tunnel like Cornelius did.
- The General is very reminiscent of Eli Wallach's earlier role, Calvera from The Magnificent Seven, who fought alongside his fellow bandits during the climax.
- In The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren treats the Dark Side like a knight's code of honor (he actually worries aloud at one point that he's being corrupted by the Light Side, then follows through with a horrifying interpretation of Honor Before Reason when he tries to prevent this by putting the Dark Side before his family). His Determinator attitude when starting and eventually losing his duel with Finn and Rey, even after being shot by Chewbacca also smacks of this.
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Say what you will about Koba, but he charges a tank while unarmored and on horseback...and wins. Had he retreated or given up, that might have been the end of the ape civilization.
- The Lord of the Rings
- In Return of the King the Haradrim troops keep fighting after Sauron's defeat, and the author comments how they are brave and noble warriors who just happen to be on the evil side of the fence.
- In The Two Towers, when the Éored commanded by Éomer manage to catch up to and attack the orcs that have kidnapped Merry and Pippin, most of the orcs break under the attack and try to run. By contrast, Uglúk was mentioned to be one of the few orcs who maintained formation and showed actual combat skill, as he rallied a group of Uruk-Hai who grimly tried to fight their way into the (false) safety of the nearby forest. Ultimately, Uglúk died in a dismounted duel with Éomer himself.
- There's a great scene in Treasure Island where the pirates all want the map that they think Jim has, which he doesn't. Long John Silver picked the map from Jim's pocket, but he allows the other pirates to go on thinking that Jim knows where it is, because as long as he's the only one who knows where it is, they can't hurt him.
Dr. Livesay: I can almost find it in my heart to hope he makes it.
- There's another bit at the end, where Long John knows his chances of escape will be improved greatly if he shoots Jim in the head, but he can't bring himself to do it. Jim, unwilling to use John's mercy against him, helps him escape anyway.
- In the first trilogy in S.M. Stirling's Emberverse, Dark Action Girl Tiphaine Rutherford (later Tiphaine d'Ath) performs a daring rescue/kidnapping on the good-guy Mackenzies' own land, finds herself outnumbered four-to-one in a confrontation with a quartet of Rangers, and is betrayed by a member of her own band, who attacks while he's in full armor and she's in her civvies. She's not a nice person, and her objectives are often questionable at best, but it's hard not to applaud the combination of courage, dexterity, and quick-wittedness with which she consistently beats the odds.
- In the Dale Brown novel Air Battle Force, several scenes are dedicated to the Taliban detachment's brave struggle against their numerically and technologically superior enemies.
- Cato in The Hunger Games. Faced with a pack of vicious, genetically engineered wolves and armed with only a sword, does he freak out and run? No, he calmly and smartly fights back, taking quite a few down until he is finally overwhelmed.
- In John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming, this role goes to Manannan, king of the Selkies, who knows that if the Great War comes about, his people are going to suffer horrible casualties if the Dark Side wins—and be exterminated altogether if Light wins. He consequently spends the series desperately playing one side against the other in an effort to stave off the war altogether. He fails, but the heroes sympathize with his goal enough to give him One Last Smoke.
- In Soon I Will Be Invincible, Dr. Impossible is a supergenius with mild superstrength and limited invulnerability. The fight scene where he goes from quietly drinking his coffee to fighting off a team of superheroes despite being ludicrously outnumbered and overpowered is one of the best in the book.
- The Sardaukar in Dune
- In the opening chapters of The Three Musketeers, the titular characters and D'artagnan are engaged in a duel with five members of the Cardinal's Guard, the traditional enemies of the Musketeers. After four members of the Guards have been wounded, one fatally, all four of the protagonists turn to the single remaining Guard and ask for his honorable surrender since he is outnumbered four to one. The Guard refuses, however, and is ready to fight all of the Musketeers until his superior officer, who had been wounded earlier in the fight, orders him to stand down. He accepts the order, but breaks his sword over his knee rather than surrender it, and his enemies concede his valor and bravery.
- Elizabeth Bear's All The Windwracked Stars: "... The heroic old woman in her frayed brown sweater, indomitable, uncowed before the armored witch on her iron beast of Hel." Guess which one's the hero.
- In Freedom there's one part where the Major is trying to escape the wrath of Daemon operatives who have already captured or killed his partners. The odds are quite against him and he has quite a few close calls, so you can almost want him to make it. Unfortunately, he does and it comes back to bite the heroes in the arse.
- In Scaramouche, the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr is an honest, intelligent, honorable man who (even though he knows he's outmatched) shows no fear in the face of danger.
- This carries over to Mel Ferrer's portrayal in The Film of the Book.
- Voltan, from David Gemmell's Midnight Falcon, might be a cold-blooded killer and a ruthless enforcer for an oppressive religious order, but when the odds turn against him he shows an admirable bravery in the face of imminent death.
- In Captain's Fury, the fourth book of Codex Alera, when Gaius Sextus unleashes a fearcrafting on Kalarus' Legions the entire force is instantly routed. Many simply die of fright, and the rest are paniced to collapse and flight. However, one single legionare resists the mental assault and actually raises his sword in defiance. Amara feels pity for him and regrets that the reward for his courage, which was greater than the entire rest of his Legion, is to be killed effortlessly by the First Lord
- In Margaret Sidney's Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, little Phronsie Pepper interrupts a burglary. One of the burglars rushes at her, "his arm upraised", but the other one grabs him, shouting, "Stop!" They flee, leaving her unharmed and the loot behind.
- In the His Dark Materials series, the fact that many of the villains consider themselves soldiers of God makes them extremely willing to sacrifice themselves. In the first book, the narration (which is a mixture of omniscient narrator and Lyra's own thoughts) describes the Bolvangar guards (who are involved in the most horrifying process imaginable) as "magnificently brave" for the way they maintain discipline and keep firing even as a massive armoured bear is charging towards them while their bullets bounce off.
- In Robert R. Mc Cammon's Stinger, the character Mack Cade, a sleazy, selfish used car dealer/chop shop owner involved in organized crime and drug cartels, goes into a junkyard where an alien creature has just brutally killed at least one person, in order to find his dog that had bolted off into said junk yard. Before leaving, he gives his prized Mercedes to one of the protagonists and tells him "You gotta know who your friends are, kid. Gotta stick up for them. Think on these things."
- In The People of the Black Circle of the Conan the Barbarian stories, there's the Evil Sorcerer Khemsa, who defies his masters, the demonic sorcerers of the Black Circle, for the love of his girlfriend Gitara. When the four demons come to punish them, he fights all four of them to a standstill out of his urge to protect Gitara, failing only when one turns its powers on her and drives her over a cliff edge to her death, which gives them the edge they need to blast him down in turn. Even despite his mutilations, a twisted combination of The Power of Love and The Power of Hate compels him to cling to life and to try and claw his way back up the cliff to destroy them for murdering her, and he lasts long enough to give Conan an enchanted protective belt and urge him to use it to slay them. Khemsa is so remarkable that it's probably best the story didn't end in a showdown between him and Conan, because some readers might have found it rather difficult to root for the Cimmerian by that point. (It's not like Conan never betrayed anyone to get what he wanted.)
- In Lois McMaster Bujold's The Spirit Ring, the Big Bad fights an animated red-hot metal statue with a sword. Even the heroine is awed by his courage.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Everyone in the Seven Kingdoms knows Jaime Lannister is an oathbreaker with shit for honor (and later, rumors fly about his supposed, and true, affair with his sister). The reader knows he Would Hurt a Child who knows too much. But even the Northmen, who hate him perhaps most of all, have to admit he seems utterly fearless in combat and is a very deadly man with a sword; in a battle meant specifically to entrap him, when he saw he was surrounded, he attempted to fight his way to the northerners' king, hoping to kill him before being killed himself (he failed, and was captured instead).
- Jaime later reveals that he killed the Mad King because he was about to murder the entire population of King's Landing. Another villainous character who shows valour at the same incident is Charlton Quelsted, who, upon hearing of Aerys' plan, resigned in disgust. Aerys killed him for it.
- Clayton Suggs, a knight in service to Stannis Baratheon, is an all-around rotten character with an unhealthy obsession with torture, sacrifice via burning, and invoking Country Matters on women such as Asha Greyjoy. But faced with what could possibly be an entire enemy army, he immediately rips out his sword and prepares to take them all on to give Asha time to warn the rest of the army.
- The Belgariad: Out-Gambitted and realizing he is not walking out of a situation alive, High Priest Ctuchik chooses not to roll over, but gets into a duel with a seven-thousand years old arch-mage who also happens to be Ctuchik's religion's Satan-analogue, and matches him blow for blow for quite a while. He's only destroyed when in a fit of panic he tries to unmakenote the Cosmic Keystone rather than let it fall into the hands of the Amnesiac God.
- Vermin leaders are almost entirely Asskicking Equals Authority types, but when the time comes to demonstrate this against someone who isn't on their side or entirely defenseless fall into two types: snivelling cowards who run and end up Hoist by Their Own Petard, or actual fighters.
- The best of the latter type is undoubtedly King Sarengo, a ferret who led an expedition into Mossflower, ended up running into an adder and her children, and when the rest of his army lost their nerve, managed a Mutual Kill against the mother adder (she bit him, he bit her hard enough to break her spine). In addition, his flail twisted itself around the tails of the young adders, binding them together for the rest of their lives and giving Redwall its first hydra.
- Riggu Felis, a wildcat who was betrayed by his own son, whose loyal retainers tried to keep him out of the throne room. Riggu's response was to throw all three down the stairs before they knew what was happening.
- Gulo the Savage, an aptly-named wolverine. Give Chase with Angry Natives is a time-honored ploy among Redwallers, running through areas infested with insects or wild creatures to hold off an enemy, and here it worked not because Gulo was afraid of being killed, but because he spent so much time killing the attacking crows that his numbers diminished without him realizing it.
- Iron Warriors: Averted. At one point, an Imperial Guard soldier mentions offhandedly that he has to credit the bravery of the Chaos Mooks, only for a Space Marine to shut him down hard, telling him that the Mooks are only charging the walls so unflinchingly because they're more afraid of their masters than of the fortress. That said, the Iron Warriors themselves do occasionally demonstrate bravery, or at least a grim refusal to ever back down that can pass for it in poor lighting.
- The Traitor Son Cycle: Jean de Vrailly, while a Jerkass of epic propotions, has a strict code of honour and never strays from it, even if it means switching places with the King after learning about an upcoming assassination attempt or going to what he knows will likely be his death to protect his army.
- The Dresden Files: Besides his other Noble Demon traits, Chicago's crimelord John Marcone has this in spades. Sure, he's set himself up to be nearly untouchable by mundane means and over the course of the series wises up to and takes working precautions against supernatural threats as well — that's only sensible in his line of business, after all —, but from keeping his cool while hanging over a pit as intended werewolf fodder over going into battle right alongside his hired mercenaries to the ups and downs of his relationship with Harry Dresden (possibly the man best qualified to take him down if it ever comes to that) himself, the man also just plain appears to know no fear whatsoever.
- In the poem "Cliche Came Out Of Its Cage," Christian writer C. S. Lewis compares modern forms of "paganism" (Communism, secularism, etc.) to their ancient forebears (Lewis being a big fan of mythology):
Take as your model the tall women with yellow hair in plaits
Who walked back into burning houses to die with men,
Or him who as the death spear entered into his vitals
Made critical comments on its workmanship and aim.
Are these the Pagans you spoke of? Know your betters and crouch, dogs.
- Almost certainly the reason for Spike's early popularity on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, being simultaneously the first vampire adversary of Buffy to be depicted as more than a soul-less monster, and the first to avoid the Curb Stomp Battles that were endemic in season one.
- An episode of the classic World War II series Combat! called "The Cossack" had the most tenacious German soldier of all time. In the teaser, he fails to blow up a strategically important bridge during the German retreat, and tries to complete the task before the rest of the American army comes through. He infiltrates the local Church and disguises himself as the town priest. He manages to keep his disguise with all the Americans around him, making up cover stories for his German accent ("I'm Swiss.") and being near the bridge ("I'm going fishing.") on the fly, even managing to get away with killing the young Catholic GI who sees through him without anyone seeing. It was almost disappointing to see him fail in the end, he'd worked so hard up to that point.
- Happens to Davros, of all people, in the Doctor Who story "Revelation of the Daleks". Even though he's as nasty as usual, it's hard not to respect him for having apparently found himself completely alone on the planet, with none of his usual allies, and still got himself into the top position.
- This could apply to the Daleks themselves. No matter what The Doctor does to them, they still manage to keep themselves going.
- The villain team of every Power Rangers season usually has at least one member who gets this, although it's often during infighting. Several seasons have an evil General with a Dark Knight gimmick who takes his honor and principles very seriously.
- A good example is Treacheron from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, who keeps fighting against Leo despite being been badly injured and having his sword broken.
- Bully Beatdown pits bullies against pro MMA fighters for the chance to win $10,000. Nobody likes bullies, but the deck is clearly stacked against them, and one can't help a twinge of admiration for those who hold their own and don't get stomped outright.
- Alphas had a one-off villain called The Caretaker whose job it was to look after Mitchell, an Alpha with the ability to store anyone's memories inside his brain. When Hicks and Cat remove Mitchell from his holding location, The Caretaker comes charging after them. In terms of pure fighting ability, he's outmatched: Hicks has Super Reflexes and Kat, due to her superhuman muscle memory, has a number of devastating fighting moves (and has recently completed the entire FBI Academy course load in about two weeks, meaning she is now trained in the use of a firearm as well.) The Caretaker has one advantage though: A Healing Factor. The guy shrugs off getting shot, having his neck broken, and being rammed with a Mack truck all in the name of taking care of his charge. He only dies because Kat exploits the fact that he can't swim while healing.
- Most people who face HHH or the Undertaker. Especially Undertaker. In general, this applies to whenever a beloved mid-carder with perceived superior skills goes up against an opponent they could not legitimately be expected to defeat for story reasons.
- The best example for pro wrestling has to be the match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XIII, where Austin went in as the heel. The sheer balls he showed throughout the entire match, fighting dirty like a heel but never acting cowardly like one, earned the fans' respect. When he refused to tap out to the Sharpshooter, face covered in blood and eventually passing out from the pain, the fans switched, and in one night, a Face–Heel Double-Turn was completed in one legendary match.
- Subverted with Muhammad Hassan in 2005. A radicalized Arab-American from Detroit (although played by Italian-American wrestler Mark Copani), he certainly had good reason to be angered by anti-Arab prejudice at the height of the Iraq War. He denounced other Arab-Americans as Uncle Toms for being ashamed of their native culture, and would enter arenas in a Bedouin headdress and wailing loudly like a muezzin just to outrage bigoted audiences. He even seemingly had the courage to challenge Undertaker to a match for the Number One Contendership to Batista's World Heavyweight Championship at the Great American Bash in July. But Hassan was a lot more cowardly than he appeared at first glance: he took on Undertaker, yes, but only after garroting him with piano wire and having several black-clad, faceless "sympathizers" beat the tar out of him. 'Taker finally punished him by powerbombing him through the Buffalo arena's entrance ramp, apparently killing him (which was actually a result of Executive Meddling, since WWE thought that the character was in bad taste after a terrorist bombing in London).
- Done twice with The Shield in 2013 alone; in both cases with Roman Reigns as a focal point:
- On September 23rd the Authority (Triple H and Stephanie McMahon) essentially threw the Shield to the wolves by attempting to placate the aggrieved faces with an eleven-on-three elimination tag team match... though the Shield had tried to stack the odds by attacking members of the eleven-man face teamnote beforehand, they too had to recover from a pre-match attack by the Rhodes brothers as well. Nevertheless they almost evened the odds with quick eliminations of five faces, with Reigns in particular eliminating Titus O'Neill, Justin Gabriel and Zack Ryder with spears in less than a minute without tagging out. It would take Daniel Bryan dropkicking Ambrose and Rollins to isolate Reigns before the faces were able to outnumber him just enough to pin him, the sheer Oh, Crap! look on Ambrose and Rollins' faces at the sight of this — the only time that Reigns was pinned in his time on the main WWE rosternote — signalling that the tide had irrevocably turned; Ambrose and Rollins would go on to eliminate Darren Young, and after Ambrose's elimination Rollins eliminated R-Truth as well before finally being overwhelmed by the remaining Ziggler, Uso brothers and Bryan.
- On November 24th at Survivor Series, the Shield were paired with The Real Americansnote against Jimmy and Jey Uso, Cody and Dustin "Goldust" Rhodes, and Rey Mysterio. When Dean Ambrose argued with the ref over a call, Cody Rhodes rolled him up for a quick elimination after which The Real Americans were dispatched in short order as well, leaving Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins alone against a still-intact face quintet. Cue Reigns going on a tear by single-handedly taking out Cody Rhodes and Jimmy Uso with spears, Seth Rollins taking out Jey Uso with a curbstomp before himself going down, Reigns quickly avenging Rollins by spearing Goldust, and then intercepting an attempted 619 by Rey Mysterio with... you guessed it, a fourth spear, leaving Reigns the sole survivor.
- Though the Imperium is most often presented as crumbling, it is still the most powerful faction in Warhammer 40,000. In stories set from the 'Evil' faction's POV, we can often see just how much firepower the Imperials can bring to bear against them. And the fact that it's a Crapsack Galaxy for them too.
- In the Inquisitor guide Using Space Marines, the author recommends this as a way to deal with ludicrously powerful Space Marine PCs. We are reminded that Space Marines don't sneak about, so the enemy will likely have plenty of chances to lay ambushes and traps before the rampaging behemoth.
- Virtually any faction in Warhammer gets moments of this really.
- Tucker's Kobolds are a textbook case. Even though they were no match for the high-level adventurers in a straight fight, they used the terrain to their advantage and set up a variety of clever traps to make the PCs' lives hell.
- Most Rocket Age villains tend to have some very admirable traits, even the Nazis. One is an absolute gentleman for example, while another might be unspeakably brave despite his cruelty. However their deficiencies in... other areas tend to leave them somewhat less palatable.
- The title character in Macbeth gets a moment of this at the climax of the play. Despite being subjected to two No Man of Woman Born moments in rapid succession (including the Trope Namer) leading him to realize that his opponent would probably win and Macduff's offer of clemency, he refuses to stand down. This is appropriate since while it does not undo his horrific acts it does confirm his status as a Tragic Hero.
- Command & Conquer:
- While this is a series with Black and Gray Morality, the soldiers of the Brotherhood of Nod, the 'bad guys' of the game, show during Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars exceptional bravery, just consider the bulk of Nod military is formed of civilian militia from the ravaged and impoverished Yellow Zones armed with assault rifles, portable missile launchers and light vehicles(they are backed by some elite forces), these guys first manage to outmatch for some time the Global Defense Initiative, which is a coalition of the world greatest powers, and then they hold their ground against a massive alien invasion force with technology capable to disrupt the laws of physics and GDI's full operative military power. It helps that their leader, Kane, is a very cunning strategist, and most of their generals are competent as well.
- Command & Conquer: Generals: the GLA. Yes, they're absolute monsters and are in no way sympathetic, but they end up taking on both China and the United States, with only hideously outdated weaponry, guerilla tactics and vast numbers. The GLA even manage to bring a crushing defeat to the American forces in Europe, although they are soon crushed themselves by the Chinese afterwards.
- Maleficent in Kingdom Hearts, especially in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. She never gives up on her ambitions, or allows herself the luxury of true failure. Evil as she is, you have to respect that. She even fought Sora face-to-face in the first game without hesitation or fear. Remember that Sora hasn't just defeated all her allies and most of her Heartless troops before the battle but also he had the help of Beast, a nine foot tall creature with claws and teeth who has no problems taking down even the strongest Heartless with just one punch. It takes guts to fight something like that.
- The Turks in Final Fantasy VII, who lack the mako-enhancements and materia arsenal of the heroes but still put up a good fight when confronted.
- Fire Emblem:
- In some games, the player gets dragon units, in these cases one also has to admire the guts of the mooks for being able to stand toe to toe with (or even outmatch) a creature that is three times their size.
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn subverts this slightly, as the ones having villainous valor are good guys (well, one group of them) forced into being bad. 2 countries against 3? Even match for the enemy. 1 1/2 countries against 4 1/2? They absolutely DEVASTATED the enemy army.
- In the freeware RPG Last Scenario, the Omega Team does this twice in quick succession. First, after the heroes defeat the Big Bad, they rally to defend him and fight as a full team for the first time, resulting in a Boss Fight many times more difficult than their leader. They manage to escape after losing, but the weight of their unconscious leader allows the heroes to catch up before long. So the alleged "Reliable Traitor" Helio stops to perform a Heroic Sacrifice, using a Psycho Serum that he knows will only allow him to stall the heroes while his comrades escape, and will kill him even if he wins. But not before delivering a combination between Villainous Breakdown and "World of Cardboard" Speech proving his unwavering loyalty to his team and their leader.
- The short roguelike Smart Kobold features a tribe of kobolds which your character could kill effortlessly in a straight fight - so, their cave has guards posted to raise an alarm the moment you walk in, and when it goes off the kobolds immediately start snatching up all their weapons, valuables, and babies, and retreat (setting traps as they go) to a large room where they can easily snipe you to death. Where this really crosses the line from cleverness to outright valor, though, is that if you corner one of their mages or archers, he'll often snap his wand or bow in half, so you can't use it when he dies (and you'll need a ranged weapon to have any hope of winning). The implications of this are profound.
- Several antagonists are quite valiant in their efforts to defeat the main party in Tales of Symphonia. The final boss in particular. Just before he dies, he states that he doesn't regret any of his actions and would do it all over again if he could.
- In Transformers: War for Cybertron, Megatron spends the first half of the game being outmatched and trying to accomplish "impossible" goals (such as controlling Dark Energon, storming Autobot City and defeating Omega Supreme) only to come out victorious in all three tasks, despite everyone (both allies and foes) pointing out that the odds are against him. In the sequel, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, he gets off to a rocky start, but soon one-man armies his way nearly to total victory.
- Partially Subverted in God of War 2 due to the ways of Kratos. With Zeus being the King of the Greek Parthenon it would be hard for any one to defeat him unless you're the son of the god himself.
- Since the bad guys are depicted simply as soldiers serving their country enemies in the Ace Combat series often display this, be it going after the seemingly invincible pilot(s) to turn the tide of the faltering war, or to defend against an attack on a vital or sensitive installation. At one point in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, the enemy stays in a vital munitions storage dump due to it's strategic importance despite it blowing up around them, since their comrades on the front lines need these supplies.
- Something of a subversion, since nobody is really a ''hero'', but in Saints Row 2, during the Boss' raid on the Brotherhood headquarters, The Boss ends up cornering their leader Maero. Matt, who was little more than the gang's tattoo artist jumps on him/her and tells Maero to run. it becomes something of a Heroic Sacrifice when The Boss cracks him in the head with a brick, killing him.
- In Dawn of War 2: Chaos Rising, Eliphas is fought twice and both are difficult battles, even for Terminator-equipped squads. The Blood Ravens regard him as a dangerous foe because of this. In the next expansion pack, Retribution, Eliphas is a Villain Protagonist in the Chaos single-player campaign, and here he takes on several powerful armies and Bigger Bad Kyras, who respects Eliphas' strength and guile.
- From the original Dawn of War II, The Eldar get in on this trope during the Battle of Angel Forge. Farseer Idranel blankly refuses medical aid in favour of hurrying their goals, and she too serves as a tough boss fight when you reach her, holding off your entire force alone. The lady may be an arrogant, myopic, human-hating bitch, but one thing she isn't is a coward. Also notable is pre-Ascended Extra Ronahn taking potshots at your force from a window, shouting that his mentor (who you assassinated in a previous mission) was the best of them and that he would avenge him or die trying.
- If you play as the Dark Eldar in Soulstorm and defeat the Chaos Stronghold (which is very likely given the close proximity of the two faction's territories), it is mentioned that the Chaos forces "fought heroically" to push back the Dark Eldar tide, to no avail. It compounds just how evil and wicked the Dark Eldar are when the forces of Chaos seem downright heroic in comparison.
- No love for the Ork Warboss from Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine who takes on dozens of Khornate daemons, gets piled on and seemingly falls to his death, and then climbs back up unharmed and takes on the Chaos Sorcerer who summoned them and makes a good account of himself?
- Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has a couple moments during the Grozni Grad escape sequence. First you see the enemy soldiers dragging their wounded allies from the burning hanger and yelling to them not to give up, and then you watch a helicopter swoop in front of the quickly advancing Shagohod to rescue a single soldier so he won't be run over.
- World of Warcraft has General Nazgrim in the Siege of Orgimmar. Unlike every other boss who's been corrupted or is simply flat-out evil, Nazgrim is simply doing his job and will not let anyone invade Orgimmar while he lives. He even congratulates the players when they win.
- In Starcraft: Brood War, Kerrigan spends most of the game at a large disadvantage compared to her enemies. It's only with a lot of guile and manipulation that she's able to play these enemies off one another, before ultimately taking control over the Zerg broods and becoming the most powerful individual in the Koprulu Sector.
- Undertale flips this around on its head. If you go for the Genocide ending, which turns you into a despicable murderer out to Kill 'em All, you end up having to fight Sans, who seeks to punish you for your various atrocities, and turns out to be the single hardest boss in the entire game, thus making you the valorous villain in this scenario.
- In Final Fantasy XIV, various Garlean forces, along with the Heavens' Ward of Ishgard display this trope; in particular Gaius van Baelsar and his lieutenants. Arguably anyone that willingly engages the Warrior of Light fits this trope, considering the player's reputation as a God Slayer.
- In Cheshire Crossing, The Wicked Witch Of The West repeatedly faces off against Mary Poppins. Poppins is depicted as a stern, overpowered witch who flattens her opponents with brute force, and shows off in both magical matters and mundane with little flourishes that let others know just how in charge she is. The Witch of the West on the other hand is made out to be a bitter underdog, defeated before at least once, who spends her time in search of arcane secrets and power sources. When they encounter each other for the first time while in Oz, Poppins is able to knock the Witch of the West around until the Witch of the West gets the drop on her with a bucket of water. Oz has special rules, and Poppins hasn't done her homework.
- In A Miracle of Science, one may find it hard not to root for Doctor Haas as he strives to take over the world despite being hunted down by not only the police, but also a godlike Hive Mind. (It helps that the comic is the Trope Namer for Science-Related Memetic Disorder, providing an explanation for his actions beyond simple two-dimensional villainy.)
- In Drowtales, althought not villains per se, the dvergar who choose to fight the drow rather than trading with them shows this. Even after being reduced to a remnant by the desperate, fleeing dokkalfar (and later outright invading drow) and having no mana, they still are a real danger to drow trade caravans and get in a few good blows against the Highland Raiders. The last is a bit like Somali pirates attacking a US battleship in terms of power levels.
- Also demonstrated by a leader of the Hermiones, a humanoid race that's been moving into the areas once controlled by dokkalfar. Despite first getting his people burned and then subjected to an Emotion Bomb that knocks everyone (including the other two elves) out cold he keeps attacking and is only stopped by a two-sided attack via a sword to both the back and the noggin, and even though his dialog is left untranslated it's implied he gets out one final curse against the elves.
- Caliborn in Homestuck. Though he may be a petulant, sociopathic Jerkass, he's also a Determinator who defeats his session of Sburb despite nearly impossible odds - including his own implied mental issues.
- Tweedle in Girl Genius is an arrogant, ruthless, would-be conqueror of Europa, but he certainly has no lack of courage.
- The Salvation War has shades of this. As horrible as the demons might be, they fight heroically against the humans' modern technology and get pasted. Later, it causes divisions between those humans who respect this and those who do not.
- In this video that is violently opposed to the Skyrim arrow to the knee meme, a short, fat, nerdy guy goes to type the joke into a YouTube comment when the game's main character bursts out of the screen, kneecaps the nerd with arrows to both knees, then begins to strangle the nerd and tell him how much he sucks for liking meme jokes. He goes to make some gory and violent death threats should the nerd ever do it again. The nerd responds by making an arrow to the knee joke. Sure, it gets him Killed Mid-Sentence, but as the top-rated comment on the video says "I have to admit, the nerd has balls."
- Displayed by Adolf Hitler of all people during his second appearance in Epic Rap Battles of History. He's ready to rap (against Darth freakin' Vader) only seconds after having been thawed from carbonite, a process that is agonizing, debilitating, and blinding. He then goes on a veritable roll, hitting every single one of Vader's Berserk Buttons, culminating by declaring the Sith Lord's life to be a giant Epic Fail and referring to him as both "Annie" and "The Emperor's Whore." It gets him dropped into the Rancor Pit, but damn.
- This is regularly displayed by supervillains who show up to battle the Endbringers, which are steadily killing humanity as a whole and generally kill one-fourth of the capes that join the fight against them per battle. Villains are generally less coordinated than the heroes, so they take more casualties, but they keep showing up.
- On a more personal level, there's Skitter, who in one case spends two minutes sparring with Mannequin, a Serial Killer who has turned himself into the perfect counter to her powers and is one of the most deadly people on the planet, in order to protect civilian refugees.
- We often see Brock Sampson from the henchmen's point of view in The Venture Bros.. The most notable case of Valiant Villainy here would probably be Henchman Number 1's stand against him, or maybe the lightsaber thing.
- The Zuko vs Azula fight at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender season 3 would count as this. Azula is clearly losing her mind, and the fight. It's hard not to feel bad for her all of a sudden, over the course of the last couple episodes, especially since even as he makes the challenge Zuko still thinks that if she were sane he wouldn't be able to fight her.
- In the same episode, after Ozai unlocks Aang's Avatar State, he manages to dodge Avatar State Aang's Sphere of Power for several minutes, even managing to get a few attacks off. Still doesn't work.
- There's Zuko's attempts at defeating Aang in the first season despite getting curbstomped every time they meet. This along with Zuko's woobie status can easily drive a viewer to root for him simply out of sympathy.
- Lesser villains get their share of valorous moments, as well. For example, the thoroughly unpleasant prison warden from "The Boiling Rock" declares that he would rather jump into the boiling lake surrounding his prison than let a single prisoner escape. When he's taken hostage he proves his boast true when he orders his men to drop the gondola they're riding into the lake, even though he would die as well.
- The Legend of Korra, Avatar's sequel, has some valiant villains as well.
- Season 1 has the Equalists, nonbenders who regularly get into fights with not only benders, but the Avatar herself - who has mastered three elements at the series start - and hold their own. Two of them have an all out fight against Korra (said Avatar) and Mako (a firebender of formidable skill) and manage to match them for a bit, though they're eventually forced to retreat.
- Season 3 has Zaheer. Before gaining airbending from Harmonic Convergence, he was a skilled martial artist, nonbender, and member of the Red Lotus who managed to gain the trust of three powerful benders (winning the heart of one of them.) and led them on an ill-fated mission to capture Korra when she was younger. After gaining airbending, he immediately and singlehandedly breaks his cabal out of their prisons to finish what they started. He is always seen on the front lines with his gang and even provides cover when their plan to capture Korra in Zaofu goes awry. Even during his final confrontation with Korra, who is in the Avatar State and in an Unstoppable Rage mode that makes Aang's worst look mild, Zaheer doesn't back down and continues his attempts to kill her, nearly succeeding had it not been for the intervention of Jinora and the Airbenders. Zaheer is many things, but coward is not one of them.
- Season 4 has Kuvira, who commands the entire Earth Kingdom (renamed the Earth Empire) but seems to think little of going alone into battle with a half-dozen opponents. At one point she goes one-on-one against Korra for control of Zaofu, and announces to her troops that she wouldn't send any of them into a battle she wasn't prepared to take on as well. She absolutely refuses to give up, even in the very rare times where it's clear that she's outmatched. At worst, she makes strategic retreats or a fallback plan, but never outright surrenders until Korra makes her go through a Heel Realization.
Korra: Kuvira! Give up!
Kuvira: (Quietly) Never.
- In Justice League Unlimited, the Villain Episode "Task Force X" followed a band of Badass Normal Boxed Crooks employed by Well-Intentioned Extremist Government Conspiracy Cadmus to infiltrate the Watchtower and steal a magical artifact from inside. The episode goes to great lengths to show how the normal humans are awed by the Metahuman leaguers and how they (in their own worlds) "feel like they're infiltrating Mount Olympus". The episode commentary has the writers going into detail on how and when they were invoking this trope.
- It could be argued that it's deconstructed: Everyone in the team is The Sociopath and they really can't care for each other. Everything they do, is egoist, not heroic in a sense of helping others. The mission plan developed by Clock King counts on this: as long as everyone looks for himself, and only for himself, the plan will work and everyone will be safe (the heroes aren't going to kill them, after all). Unfortunately, field commander Rick Flagg, Jr. is not a Boxed Crook nor a sociopath, he's a normal person who believes My Country, Right or Wrong. So he insists on extending the plan because he believes in getting his team out alive. This causes the disfigurement, or death, of one member of the squad. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, indeed!
- Though that only happens because said member insisted on using their last explosive to kill a League member instead of escaping - and of course the most dickish member of Task Force X shooting the explosive the former had on her, as the rest of the group teleports away. Less to do with Flagg being the "good guy" (relatively speaking) of group, and more to do with the inherent toxicity and destructiveness of having a group of sociopaths in a team together performing dangerous missions.
- It's perhaps telling that once the mission is over, the first thing Flagg does in debriefing is to slug said dickish team member right in the gut, unable to hold his contempt back any longer.
- The trecherous general from Sym-Bionic Titan. Yes he betrayed Galaluna, but he could have fought and killed Lance easily with his Power Armor or let the Mutrati tear him apart, instead he opts to fight him in a fair sword fight. Granted he was considered much more skilled than Lance, but it takes guts to take on a prodigy like Lance with just a sword when he could have finish him off without a second thought.
- In Gargoyles, Owen seems to just be Xanatos' butler for the first several episodes; however, when he catches the gargoyles trying to take the Grimorum Arcanorum and they challenge him to stop them, he calmly takes off his glasses, holds up his fists and fights them for it. He doesn't win, of course, but it's the show's first hint that Xanatos keeps him around for more than paperwork and dry humor.
- In Young Justice Black Manta's men carry themselves very much like a professional, competent military force who are all personally and unwaveringly dedicated to his cause even in the face of superheroes who outclass them.