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Best Served Cold

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"From hell's heart, I gnaw on thee..."

"You see, it's the slow knife, the knife that takes its time, the knife that waits years without forgetting, then slips quietly between the bones. That's the knife that cuts deepest."
Talia al Ghul, The Dark Knight Rises

A long time ago, a certain character suffered malicious harm at the hands of another. Maybe this foe of theirs killed their parents, cheated them out of their inheritance, or framed them for a crime and got them unjustly locked up. The aggrieved character swore undying revenge on the one who did it. However, they couldn't get revenge at the time for one reason or another: maybe the perpetrator was too powerful, while the victim was too young and weak to stand up to them. Maybe the victim didn't even know who the perpetrator was except for some cryptic clue. But they didn't give up on the idea of vengeance, oh no! They just decided to take their time about it.

Years later, they spend their time Walking the Earth, getting ready for that fight, somehow. Maybe they're fighting to become strong enough to best the villain, or battling evil in the hope they'll meet the villain (or someone suitable for getting revenge on the villain with). They may be doing this to help others, saving them from their fate, or if the enemy is a monster, they'll hunt those down with a passion. But what they really want is to find the one who messed up their life, bring them to bloody justice and, through that sort out their problems. Pity the poor hero whose target declares that for them, it was Tuesday. Or who bides their time only to find that someone else has beaten them to it along the way or that they died some other way.

Named for the French (or Sicilian, or Klingon, or drow, depending on who you ask) proverb, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." At least in the case of drow, it also means one can have well-planned revenge and drive them mad with fear as a bonus. Contrast Restrained Revenge, where the wronged party only takes a lesser, symbolic, revenge. Very rarely involves Revenge Is a Dish Best Served, though they are occasionally combined to complete the phrase.

As this trope can be integral to certain plots of fictional works and is fully realized at their resolutions, be warned that there will be spoilers. Read at your own risk!

For the 2009 novel by Joe Abercrombie, see Best Served Cold.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • 91 Days is all about this trope. The protagonist Angelo Lagusa's parents and brother were murdered before his eyes when he was a child by the Vanetti family. Seven years later, he receives a letter informing him exactly which members of the family were the killers, and he makes it his goal in life to destroy the Vanettis.
  • Afro Samurai has spent his life since childhood on a quest for revenge on the man that killed his father for the number one headband.
    • The villain even lampshades this trope.
      Justice (to Young Afro): It's unfortunate you had to see this, boy. This moment'll always haunt you. You will be consumed by hatred for me. Challenge me, when you're ready to duel a god!
  • In Basilisk, Tenzen has a grudge against both the Koga and Iga clans, as his mother was a member of the Iga who was killed by a member of the Koga (Tenzen's father). Tenzen was raised among the Koga but defected the Iga as an adult, and plotted for a long time (being immortal, while he looks about 40, he's actually over 200) to fan the flames of hatred between the clans in order to cause the deaths of everyone else in both groups. He succeeds.
  • After the events of the Eclipse which led to the fall of the Band of the Hawk, Guts from Berserk spends several years Walking the Earth, hunting down and killing the demonic Apostles of the Godhand as the Black Swordsman. He's hoping to become powerful enough to take on his former friend Griffith, who has become one of the Godhands themselves and was responsible for betraying his True Companions and driving his Love Interest insane.
  • Inverted in Black Cat. Train spends the entire series racing after his stalker/ex-partner Creed who wants to rule the world alongside him, because Creed murdered his only friend, tried to kill his new partner, and is trying to become ruler of the world. This is seemingly at odds with Train's unspoken vow not to kill. However, in the last couple chapters, Train reveals that he doesn't want to kill Creed, he wants Creed to redeem himself — and that's what he did all this work for.
  • Bleach:
    • Over a century ago, Aizen engaged in activities within the Rukongai that involved stealing pieces of people's souls. It killed most, but a few survived... and one remembered. Gin witnessed Aizen stealing a piece of Rangiku's soul when they were children; he became Aizen's right-hand man solely to find a way to avenge Rangiku. When Gin finally finds the moment, after a hundred years of waiting, he discovers that Aizen not only knew all along but made it a part of his plan to use near-death experiences to gain new levels of power.
    • A thousand years ago, Yhwach conquered the northern kingdoms of the World of the Living. In the process, he destroyed the forest and homes of two quincy children, who vowed to grow stronger and earn Yhwach's trust as their only realistic option for obtaining revenge. The dominant friend, Bazz-B, made the decision for both children, assuming they were like-minded. However, it's implied that Haschwalth's guardian was abusive, making Haschwalth's decision to serve Yhwach - his accidental rescuer - more ambiguous than Bazz-B realises.
  • Clare from Claymore becomes one of the eponymous warriors and trains for years specifically to take down Priscilla, after Priscilla kills Clare's mother figure, Teresa. It takes her over a decade to finally track Priscilla down. Priscilla has no idea who Clare is and finds her more annoying than anything else. Nevertheless, Clare remembers, and she's been waiting for this moment. And then subverted horribly when Clare loses the fight. Priscilla is the strongest character in the story by far, and Clare can't even scratch her.
  • Much of the plot of Code Geass revolves around the protagonist seeking revenge on his dear old daddy the Emperor for refusing to save his mother's life and his sister from being crippled by an attack inside the castle, displaying apathy when he requests that vengeance be exacted (worse still: punishing him and his sister for being "weak"), abandoning him and his crippled sister in Japan, and then invading the country and leaving them for dead.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, Dr. Gero spied on Goku with Literal Surveillance Bugs for fourteen years after the fall of the Red Ribbon Army. He analyzed Goku's abilities to make sure his androids were more than powerful enough to kill him and get his revenge for Goku defeating his employers. In Trunks and Cell's timelines, Goku died of a heart virus before Gero could act. In the main timeline, because Gero didn't send his trackers to Planet Namek, he didn't know about the Super Saiyan transformation and badly underestimated Goku and his group.
  • Fairy Tail: Cobra of Oracion Seis waited seven years in jail and for a whole Time Skip for the right chance to get back at his Bad Boss Brain for nearly murdering him for the crime of not winning decisively enough against The Hero. Just to twist in the knife, he waits until after getting the Oracion Seis out of jail and waiting for Brain to give a big speech about how it's a new era for them before tearing out his side and leaving him for dead.
  • Get Backers drops a few hints toward Kazuki being like this, but he doesn't come into the full trope until he actually thinks that he's getting close to the enemy that murdered his family. Since it doesn't end before they kidnap his gang, who were with him mostly to facilitate his revenge, it gets pretty messy.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Diamond is Unbreakable: In the 4th Another Day novel, Takuma's revenge against Teruhiko and his accomplice Hanae takes years of investigation and seduction of Chiho to come to fruition. Takuma has planned his every move so it hurts Teruhiko as much as possible.
    • Stone Ocean: After DIO was killed by Jotaro at the end of Stardust Crusaders, Enrico Pucci, DIO's closest follower, waited 20 years to enact a plan by luring Jotaro into a trap by getting his daughter Jolyne sentenced to prison so that he will be able to steal Jotaro's memories containing the information that would allow him to fulfill DIO's master plan.
    • JoJolion: Josuke avenges himself by killing Tamaki Damo, the one who ruined both Kira and Josefumi's lives and forced them to fuse into Josuke.
    • Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan: In one of the episodes, the main character Rohan Kishibe accidentally sits in the priest's place at a confessional and gets to listen to a man confessing to him. The man talks about angering a spirit of a homeless beggar whom he refused to help and the spirit vows to take revenge only once he's the happiest in life. Several years passed by and now, the man is a rich businessman with a family a man could only dream of. His realization of how great his life is summons the angered spirit that swore to torment his soul years ago. Angered spirit kills him, but it turns out it wasn't the man he wished to take vengeance on. The man at the confessional confesses that he sacrificed one of his naive servants to save his own skin, and now not only he is haunted by a deadly spirit of a homeless beggar, but also one of his poor servants.
  • Maria no Danzai: After learning that her son Kiritaka did not commit suicide and was indirectly sent to his death by bullies, Mari spends two years plotting revenge against the perpetrators, and finally makes the first move by becoming the nurse at their school, before picking them off one by one and giving each of her victims a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Char Aznable is well known for holding onto grudges. He spent years serving in the Zeon military, and all that time he was simply waiting for the opportunity to take vengeance against the Zabis for his father's death at their hands.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury: After the Ochs Earth massacre which saw her friends, her husband, and her life's work all swept away in a bloody, politically-motivated purge, Lady Prospera has been planning her revenge on the man responsible for twenty-one years. In all that time, her hatred hasn't cooled one iota — as she reveals to Miorine, despite her composed appearance, she's driven by the voices of her dead comrades constantly urging her to avenge them, and it's not quite clear if this is merely a figure of speech. Part of the reason for the wait is that she's been raising her daughter, the other survivor of the purge, to be her weapon against him. Another reason is that she Can't Kill You, Still Need You, and has been working with him to take advantage of his resources to achieve another, just as personal objective before she destroys him.
  • In Naruto, Sasuke Uchiha wants to kill his brother Itachi Uchiha for killing the rest of the Uchiha clan, especially their parents. Once he is told by Obito that Danzo was the one that convinced him to do it he decides he wants to destroy the whole damn Leaf Village (even though they purportedly killed the clan because they were about to start a civil war).
  • One Piece:
    • The Dressrosa arc is the culmination of Trafalgar Law's thirteen-year grudge against Donquixote Doflamingo for murdering Corazon (aka Donquixote Rocinante, Doflamingo's younger brother), Law's savior and idol.
    • The Wano Country arc tops that by serving as the culmination of a twenty-year grudge against Kurozumi Orochi, The Usurper to Wano's Shogunate, and Kaido of the Four Emperors, Orochi's enforcer. Some of the avengers involved even resort to travelling in time for the sake of getting revenge.
  • Suitengu of Speed Grapher is practically a patron saint of this trope. When he was 13, his parents fell into massive debt to the wrong people and killed themselves, leaving him and his little sister at the hands of their amoral debt collectors. They were both sold off, he to a military organization and she into prostitution. Once he is free and finds his sister worse than dead, he begins his decade-long revenge plan. He builds himself up to the right hand of the most powerful CEOs in Japan, then kills her and takes over her company, becoming worth over 3 trillion dollars. When the time comes, he eliminates all of his targets in one swift stroke, personally murdering the man who kidnapped and sold him and his sister, then destroys the entire fortune of the corporation, shattering Japan's economy and severely injuring other world powers who had much invested in it. So, at least two decades after he was wronged, he successfully executes a plan that not only kills the men responsible for destroying his family but the entire corrupt society that allowed such practices to become commonplace.
  • Barnaby from Tiger & Bunny becomes a superhero with a very public identity in order to provoke the man that killed his parents out of whatever hole he's been hiding in for the last twenty years. This would have been a better idea if it wasn't the killer himself who suggested it.
  • Transformers: Armada's Wheeljack ends up accidentally abandoned while trapped in the middle of a fire. He survives, eventually tracks down the one he believes responsible, and traps himself, the other guy, and a mostly innocent bystander in a burning factory. All three survive.
  • Vampire Knight: Zero gets his revenge on Shizuka four years after the murder of his family. Granted, he isn't the one to kill her in the end, but he gets to shoot her several times with his Bloody Rose gun, enough to enable her death shortly afterwards by Kaname.
    • It doubles as a bit of a Pyrrhic Victory however as Zero feels his revenge was "stolen", and memories of Shizuka keep tormenting him afterwards (then again, only for a little while.)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! VRAINS: Yusaku Fujiki, the protagonist, was one of six children who were kidnapped for the Lost Incident/Hanoi Project and locked up, being forced to duel with VR equipment. If they lost, they could be severely electrocuted to the point of being knocked back. They would also be starved. After six months of this torture, Yusaku was left with a wide range of mental illnesses including PTSD. This all happened when Yusaku was only six years old. Ten years later, in present-day, Yusaku seeks revenge against the Knights of Hanoi in an attempt to regain the time he lost.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman, who took up a life of crime-fighting after seeing his family killed before his eyes, is a great example of how it motivates someone. Depending on the Writer; some, like Frank Goddamn Miller, try to move him onto a more noble level, such as trying to create a world where he isn't necessary (well, in Batman: Year One, at least).
  • Fantastic Four: A villainous example in Doctor Doom, who may be a Magnificent Bastard and a world-conquering supervillain, but whose entire purpose in life is to cause Reed Richards as much pain and suffering as possible as revenge for bruising his ego.
  • Red Sonja accompanies an Egomaniac Hunter known as Lord Kinzara on a hunt for a mythical beast known as the Cloud Tiger. Sonja convinces him to journey to the top of a mountain with just her and leave his hunting party behind. When they are confronted by the Cloud Tiger, it is revealed that Kinzara was the leader of the bandits who murdered Sonja's family and raped her when she was a child. Sonja has spent years tracking him down and used his obsession with hunting to lure him to his doom. Sonja leaves Kinzara to be killed by the Cloud Tiger and avenges her family.
  • Taken to a whole other level in Superman & Batman: Generations. The Ultra-Humanite is nearly killed in 1939 by Superman. His body ruined, he has his brain transferred into his minion Lex Luthor's body. He then spends the next fifty years getting his revenge, first by turning Superman's son against him, then murdering his family, then just to twist the knife further he has Superman's friends like Jimmy Olsen and Perry White Jr. killed while Supes is too consumed with rage to do anything but chase "Luthor". And then it turns out this was all part of a Gambit Roulette to steal Superman's body.
  • Lampshaded in Wanted. After Mister Rictus guns down a boy's parents in front of him, his henchmen ask him what to do about the kid and he replies:
    Mister Rictus: Leave him. With any luck, he'll spend the next eighteen years training himself to avenge these idiots and give me someone interesting to fight when I'm an old man.

    Fan Works 
  • best served cold (Nyame): Laurel spends five years dating, marrying and seemingly having a child with Malcolm for the sole purpose of gathering enough evidence to turn on him and ruin his life for sinking the Gambit and killing Sara and Oliver.
  • Fairest (Afterandalasia): Snow White was abused by her Evil Stepmother for years. As a teen, her stepmother also tried to kill her. After the Queen survives her Disney Death, Snow White has the Queen healed of her injuries, but at her wedding she enacts revenge. She forces hot shoes onto the Queen and makes her dance to death in them.
  • In New Blood (artemisgirl), after Hermione almost dies in an assault by older Slytherins in her First Year, she is unable to get revenge as most are from powerful old families. She turns up the next day looking like nothing happened, and life goes on. But she doesn't forget, and enacts revenge over the following years. So far she has framed two as having less than pure blood, spoiled another's chances at Quidditch by having him crash into the ground during tryouts, and framed Rhamnaceae Rookwood in regards to the Chamber of Secrets openings/attacks, causing her expulsion. The names of a few of these people got out at a public trial whilst Hermione was under a powerful truth compulsion.
  • Marinette's revenge in the high road is not exactly deferred, but it is slow, careful, and subtle. Rather than confront or accuse Lila, she'll be Lila's best friend and supporter. She'll drag every other class member into the overblown schemes that Lila cooks up, she'll make everyone endlessly adapt and adapt again to Lila's falsified disabilities, she'll bring them crashing face-first into the consequences of Lila's lies, over and over again, with a smile on her face, and if they should begin to come to their senses, she'll refuse to listen to their concerns, and insist on defending Lila, until the whole classroom is a bubbling, boiling pot of resentment. But she doesn't rush it to that point; she works steadily for months, giving every appearance of worshipping the ground Lila walks on until the room explodes of its own accord.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles:
    • The Weasley Twins appoint themselves as Rigel's PR agents, so they sign "his" name on a significant fraction of the flower messages delivering personalised compliments and thanks to everyone in the school. Upset that "everyone thinks I'm a puddle of goo", Rigel carefully prepares and delivers a potion that causes the Twins to pour floods of pink goo from every pore.
    • After they launch a Valentine delivery service in Rigel's name, revenge is even colder, planned out for months — and then, once the Twins have been ambushed in a misdirected secret passage and covered in "just desserts", Rigel turns up eating an ice cream, for maximum coldness.
  • In Twillight Sparkle's awesome adventure, Enemy Boss Leader's original reason for joining the Enemies was to get revenge on ADMIRAL Awesome for killing his family.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 47 Ronin: The eponymous ronin want revenge for the death of their master, Lord Asano, which was more-or-less brought about by the scheming Lord Kira. Many of them want to attack Kira's compound right away, even though they will almost certainly be slaughtered. But their leader, Kuranosuke, elects to wait for a year, telling the rest of the ronin to lay low and himself acting like a drunken buffoon. Finally, when Kira's guard is down, they strike.
  • Played for Laughs in Angels with Dirty Faces; Laury Martin waits for decades before paying back Rocky for pulling her hat over her face when they were teenagers. Her elaborate revenge is no more than doing the same thing back to him and running away, and he seems more amused by it than anything.
  • Alan Hardy in Bostock's Cup has spent 25 years nursing a grudge against the host and producer of the Film Within a Film, over his having brought a Brazilian player over on a fake visa in order to help the titular team reach the FA Cup final, costing Hardy his place in the cup-winning final squad. When a dinner is held to commemorate said producer, Hardy arranges for footage to be shown at the dinner proving that the producer bribed a referee, had sex with the wife of the team's manager, and used some Loophole Abuse to bankrupt the team and buy their ground after the cup win.
  • In Clear and Present Danger, a Colombian drug lord kills the American who stole from him, also his wife and kids. When his security chief tells him that he shouldn't have killed the kids because of the bad press, the drug lord tells him he wasn't going to wait around for them to grow up and come after him.
  • In Clegg, Francis Wildman waits 20 years before killing the men responsible for his father's death because he wanted them to build up empires based on the money they embezzled so it would hurt more when he stripped it from them.
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982) has Conan searching for Thulsa Doom, who killed his family and put him in slavery (and turned innocent young Conan into Arnold Schwarzenegger).
  • Revenge is the main motivation of the Big Bad in The Dark Knight Rises. For something that happened a decade earlier.
    You see, it's the slow knife, the knife that takes its time, the knife that waits years without forgetting, then slips quietly between the bones. That's the knife that cuts deepest.
  • In Death Rides a Horse (AKA As Man to Man or Da uomo a uomo), a 1967 "Spaghetti Western", Ryan says to Bill, "Somebody once wrote that revenge is a dish that has to be eaten cold. As hot as you are, you're liable to end with indigestion."
  • Do Revenge: Eleanor was outed and wrongly accused of sexual assault by Drea four years before the film, and didn't get a chance to get back at her until now - and when she realizes she has that chance she goes all in.
  • In The Fall, all five of the men in Roy's story have a reason to be going after Odious, ranging from revenge for a loved one's death to being banished from their homeland.
  • Flawless (2007). A janitor heists a diamond corporation's entire stockpile of diamonds to financially and professionally destroy not the corporation but their insurance underwriter, who decades ago sold medical insurance to poor folks including the janitor, then refused to cover the cost of the janitor's wife's medical treatments leading to her early death. Facing total ruin the insurance executive commits suicide never knowing he was the janitor's target. Satisfied, the janitor allows the stolen diamonds to be recovered and disappears never to be found.
  • The Fury Of A Patient Man: Jose's wife was killed in a robbery. All of the robbers escaped except the getaway driver, who stayed with the car and got caught. Jose spends the next eight years befriending the family of the getaway driver so that, when the driver gets out of prison, Jose can extract the identities of the other robbers from him and kill them.
  • In Gladiator, Maximus declares that he will have his revenge on the man who killed his family, in this life or the next.
  • In The Godfather Part II, young Vito Andolini's father was murdered by Don Ciccio, Mafia Don of Corleone, Sicily. Shortly after, Vito's brother is killed while out for revenge, and Vito's mother is killed when she goes to Ciccio to beg for Vito's life, and the boss refuses because Vito will grow up and seek revenge. Sure enough, that's exactly what happens—Vito manages to escape to America and takes the name Vito Corleone, making his fortune as a gangster. He returns to Sicily some 20 years later and finally takes his revenge on the elderly Ciccio by stabbing him to death on his own front porch.
  • I Shot Jesse James: After his brother Jesse is killed, Frank James waits over ten years before he tries to kill Robert Ford. It doesn't work initially, but he does get his revenge indirectly.
  • While the Bride was already rather skilled before her Roaring Rampage of Revenge in Kill Bill due to her training as an assassin, it's also implied that the daughter of Vernita Green was set up for this archetype after seeing the aftermath of the battle in which the Bride kills her mother. The Bride tells her she'll be expecting her.
  • In Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), Louis D'Ascoyne Mazzini sleeps with his old rival's fiancee on the day before their wedding. As Louis remarks:
    "I couldn't help feeling that even Sibella's capacity for lying was going to be taxed to the utmost. Time had brought me revenge on Lionel, and as the Italian proverb says, revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold."
  • Lady Snowblood. Oyuki lives entirely for this purpose. After being jailed for killing one of the criminals responsible for her husband and son's murder and her rape, Sayo begins seducing every guard in sight in order to get pregnant. While dying birthing Oyuki, her mother gets her cellmate to swear to raise Oyuki to continue pursuing her revenge.
  • Last Knights, a kind of western adaptation of the 47 Ronin story transplanted to a feudal-European society, follows the same plot. At one point, their leader Raiden even pretends to be unmoved when his lord's daughter is presented to him as a Sex Slave, which is what finally convinces the villains that he's truly broken - the final scene of the movie has him sending some of his knights back to save her, of course.
  • In Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde watched helplessly as his wife and daughter are killed. Years later, he executes both perpetrators in the most ruthless manner possible. And it doesn't stop there.
  • Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns:
    • In For a Few Dollars More, Col. Mortimer has spent years honing his skills as a bounty hunter, tracking down the bandit who raped his sister and murdered her lover in front of her, which led to her suicide.
    • Harmonica in Once Upon a Time in the West has spent most of his life hunting down Frank, who murdered his brother when they were teenagers. By putting a noose around the brother's neck, and forcing him to stand on Harmonica's shoulders until his legs gave way, no less.
    • Played for laughs in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, where a one-armed man trains himself for months to shoot left-handed and get revenge against Tuco, the titular "ugly", who caused his mutilation. When he finally tracks him down, he goes on to give him the obligatory monologue, until an unimpressed Tuco kills him with his concealed pistol, annoyingly quipping "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk".
  • Leonard Shelby, of Memento, is so traumatized by his wife's rape and murder that he literally cannot remember anything else. Not even that she survived. Or that he already killed the guy who did it.
  • In Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971), Morat waits 20 years before taking revenge on Cesarr and his troupe: the spur being Cesar marrying Madeline.
  • In One Foot in Hell, Mitch Barrett cooks up a revenge scheme to ruin the town of Blue Springs, and to kill the three men he holds directly responsible, for the death of his wife that takes more than a year to come to fruition and involves him becoming sheriff and a respected member of the community.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Will (and the audience) learns that a decade before the film's events, Captain Jack Sparrow's crew mutinied against him, and Barbossa, his traitorous first mate, marooned him on a desert island with nothing but a pistol with a single shot (to be used for committing suicide as opposed to dying from starvation). Jack escaped the island after three days thanks to some rum runners and swore to use that single pistol shot to kill Barbossa. After ten years of waiting and planning, he succeeds in doing so at the end of the film, shooting Barbossa in the heart just as he becomes mortal again.
  • The Princess Bride: Inigo has spent 20 years doing nothing but practice fencing to avenge his father, armed with the sword that his father made and the knowledge of the killer having six fingers on one hand. When the time comes for vengeance, however, Inigo is anything but cold.
  • The western The Quick and the Dead has the heroine tracking down the man, and his gang, that made her kill her sheriff father.
  • In Ran, Lady Kaede has been planning her revenge against Lord Hidetora Ichimonji for decades since he killed her family when she was a child. She eventually succeeds in manipulating two of Hidetora's sons into bringing about the downfall of their entire clan.
  • Four guards of a juvenile prison regularly abuse and rape the boys under their charge in Sleepers. Many years later, two boys who have grown up into hardened street criminals encounter and shoot one of the former guards to death. The criminals' two friends who were also victims of the four guards, take the opportunity to carry out an elaborate, long-planned revenge on the other three former guards. The Count of Monte Cristo is even invoked by the four friends.
  • In Sleepy Hollow (1999) the wife of Baltus Van Tassel had actually been planning revenge on his family for years for stealing her family's home. Thus gains control of the horseman to fulfill this plan.
  • Star Trek:
  • The Stone Killer (1973). A Sicilian mobster plans a mass hit using mercenaries to avenge a similar purge committed 42 years ago.
  • In Thirteen Women, Ursula waits 10 years before initiating her scheme of vengeance against the 13 women who had ostracized her at school because of her race.
  • In both West of Zanzibar (1928) and its remake Kongo, the protagonist is an Evil Cripple who decides to avenge himself on the man who stole his wife and crippled him by taking the man's infant daughter and raising her to be an alcoholic prostitute. The end of the scheme has the man presenting his enemy with the ruined shell of the daughter, 20 years later.

  • Probably downplayed in this joke: A boy and his grandfather are out walking, and someone insults Grandpa. The boy picks up a brick and is about to throw it.
    Grandpa: Tut-tut, count to ten.
    (the boy counts to ten, then feels a whole lot better, no more inclined to throw the brick at the insulter)
    Grandpa: Now throw the brick. You'll aim better.
  • A dentist talks to their patient as they're preparing their tools for work:
    Tell me, Teddy, do you remember elementary school, when I used to sit right in front of you, and you used to constantly prick me with a pin?

  • In the Dale Brown novel Act of War, Renegade Russian Colonel Yegor Zakharov seeks the destruction of Harold Kingman and his oil company for taking over Zakharov's old oil firm. National Security Adviser Robert Chamberlain, a former employee of Kingman's, also wants in, and naturally the two are in cahoots.
  • In "The Adventure of Foulkes Rath" (Part of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr), Holmes says the proverb ("the old Sicilian adage that vengeance is the only dish that is best when eaten cold") after it turns out the murder victim was killed by a person whose brother he framed for robbery and murder twenty years ago.
  • In the Age of Fire series, Wistala spends years planning revenge on Thane Hammar (who killed her Parental Substitute) and even longer planning revenge on the Wheel of Fire dwarves (who killed her actual parents, and her sister). Ultimately, by playing them against each other, she's able to gain revenge on both at the same time.
  • In Ancillary Justice, the protagonist decides only after everyone believes her dead that she will take revenge for all the horrible things her creator forced her to do. She is a kind of killer robot, and her creator doesn't even consider her a person — for him, it was Tuesday.
  • In David Eddings's The Belgariad, The Hero Garion swears vengeance against the Grolim sorcerer Asharak after finding out that he was responsible for burning his parents alive in an attempt to kill Garion as an infant. He eventually lights Asharak on fire in an early example of his magical ability.
    • Belgarath buries Zedar alive in repayment for four thousand years' worth of atrocities and crimes.
  • Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold is (obviously) centered around this. The protagonist is betrayed and left for dead, and spends several months in recovery and the rest of the book methodically seeking out the seven men who did it and taking revenge.
  • In Cornell Woolrich's novel "The Bride Wore Black", a woman spends years tracking down and methodically murdering the men who drunkenly ran over her groom right after the wedding. Only too late she found out they didn't do it and her husband was shot down as the car sped by, missing him. She also finds she had the real killer at the point of a gun but let him go — not knowing what he had done.
  • In A Brother's Price, the villains turn out to have spent years on their scheme to wipe out the current royal family and take the throne themselves, as revenge for losses suffered in a civil war between family members. They go so far as to sacrifice members of their own family by marrying their brother to the princesses to get an inside track on things like the palace layout, as well as gaining a trusted position and a claim as legal heirs, and blowing up family members they don't consider trustworthy in the course of an attempt to wipe out as many of the royals as they can.
  • The Barry B. Longyear novel City of Baraboo includes an alien race whose culture reveres elaborate revenge scenarios. The central characters, an interstellar circus, fall victim to one such scenario perpetrated by their human enemy. They defeat the scenario by putting on a show, proving that the scenario is not causing them the suffering that it demands to be accepted and successful.
  • In Codex Alera,
    • Gaius Sextus waits twenty-five years to avenge the death of his son, killing one of the High Lords responsible via volcano and getting another eaten by Vord.
    • Learning from the above, the Vord Queen refuses to kill the mother of Gaius' grandchild in a gambit to draw him to her in vengeance. Live bait is a better choice in this situation.
  • Alexandre Dumas's The Count of Monte Cristo, probably the greatest revenge story of all time.
    Count: "And now, farewell to kindness, humanity and gratitude. I have substituted myself for Providence in rewarding the good; may the God of vengeance now yield me His place to punish the wicked."
  • In the Andrew Vachss Burke book Dead and Gone, it eventually turns out that the villain who ordered the plot-critical hit was an old enemy of Burke's who wants him dead for what had been done to him in the past.
  • Discworld: Harry King, one of Ankh-Morpork's most triumphant Rags to Riches stories, spent his youth searching drains for clogs of trash that might contain valuable items. His first find was promptly stolen by a bigger boy, which taught him to roll with the punches and accept setbacks in life. Speaking of punches, after he built up his wealth and prestige, he hired a group of trolls to pay that long-ago thief a visit.
  • In Doctrine of Labyrinths, Mavortian von Heber spends years looking for the man who seduced and abandoned his lover, Anna Gloria Pietrin. He's willing across a continent with crutches, risk burning by provincials, and face down an Evil Sorcerer to have his revenge.
  • Doglands:
    • Dervla is a German shepherd who was stolen from her owners by burglars. Dervla was beaten into submission until she became an Angry Guard Dog for them. Once the Furgul and the rest of "Dog Bunch" free her, Dervla tries to enact revenge upon both of her abusers. Furgul stops her from mauling one of them, but Dervla later kills the one who personally beat her up.
    • After the racing greyhounds are let loose, many of them bite to death a man known as "the Gambler" who assisted in treating them like slaves for years.
    • Furgul leads Deadbone into the pit where he had dropped all the greyhounds he had killed over the years. Dedbone ends up impaled by the bones of the dogs that he had shot when they couldn't run for him like he wanted.
  • In Dragonriders of Pern, a ten-year-old Lessa waits for another decade to bring vengeance upon the man who slaughtered her family. In that time, she hones her Psychic Powers and uses her power of suggestion to bring Ruatha Hold from a prosperous land to ruin and engineer the murder of Fax via F'lar.
  • In The Dresden Files Harry muses on the nature of long-lived supernatural beings like wizards and vampires who will spend decades or even centuries gaining power to avenge an injustice they suffered in the past. Bianca is one such case, a Red Court vampire who was unmasked by Dresden during a tussle and spent a few years training and making alliances so she could kill him in Grave Peril.
  • In the Ender's Shadow series, this is a major plot point and point of worry for Bean and co. regarding the villain Achilles. Because he always seeks revenge on those who see him helpless and because he can wait indefinitely, use whatever methods, and always makes sure it's done where nobody can trace him, the heroes have to be very careful to never let themselves alone where he can get them. Bean and Suriyawong learn how to exploit this.
  • Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan: The Executioner, and all his homage characters such as The Punisher.
  • The Hagakure: The author Tsunetomo strongly disagrees with the idea of biding your time for revenge, saying that if you don't take revenge immediately you're more likely to lose your nerve and never go through with it. He actually criticizes The 47 Ronin for taking so long to implement their plan, since it would have been all for nothing if Lord Kira had died of illness during that time. He goes so far as to say it's better to rush in like Leeroy Jenkins even if you get cut down before you reach your target since that is at least an honorable way to die.
  • The In Death series: Vengeance in Death reveals that it took time for Roarke to gather the money, resources, and power needed to take on Marlena's murderers. When he did, he was careful to take them out one at a time, kept the kills at two a year, and cover his tracks. The killer of the story spent years preparing to take on Roarke and his associates. Cold.
  • The narrator in David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest mentions that Enfield Tennis Academy student Michael Pemulis is very fond of taking revenge against those who had done him wrong years afterwards (which for a 17-year-old high school student is more or less geologic). He's noted to like spiking the target's food/drink/whatever with drugs for the desired effect.
  • Iron Druid Chronicles: The Norse god Thor has spent most of his immortal existence acting like a Jerk Jock and pissing off anyone he could. Some of those he offended were immortals themselves and they spent a long time finding a way to get back at him. Gunnar is a werewolf who waited over 300 years to get his revenge. Leif became a vampire specifically so he would have the time needed to get his revenge. It took him over 1000 years to put together a group of immortals that would have a chance to kill Thor. Väinämöinen (demi-god) and Perun (pagan god) have waited even longer.
  • I've Got You Under My Skin: Enforced in Blue Eyes' case; the reason he waited five years after killing Greg Moran to go after his wife and son was because Blue Eyes was in prison for a parole violation and only got out five months ago. Prior to that, he had to wait thirty years because he was in prison for manslaughter; it's revealed he wants Greg, Laurie, and Timmy dead to get revenge on Laurie's father Leo, a retired cop who Blue Eyes blames for ruining his life.
  • Judge Dee: Chiao Tai turned outlaw when the Imperial court refused him justice against the general who betrayed him and his whole command to the Tartars.
  • Kane Series: In "Sing the Last Song of Valdese", the cultist of the Chaos Gods Korjonos waits seven times seven years to get his revenge on six men who raped and killed his lover Valdese and left him for dead.
  • Known Space: Kdatlyno have a profound sense of personal honor that demands repayment for personal slights, but doesn't demand immediate action. As such, kdatlyno will wait for years or even decades for the chance to get payback on those who wronged them, waiting for just the right moment to act while plotting and replotting their revenge. It's said in the interstellar grapevine that the species as a whole is planning the mother of all vengeances on the Kzinti Patriarchy for having enslaved them.
  • The core of the plot in Henning Mankell's novel The Man from Beijin is a murderous revenge exacted for wrongs inflicted on the Big Bad's grandfather.
  • "Dolan's Cadillac" by Stephen King, found in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Equal parts this trope and The Perfect Crime. With a dash of awesomeness.
  • The Raven Tower: The god known as Strength and Patience of the Hill is revealed to hold a possibly centuries-old grudge against the Raven for having indirectly starved his followers with a trade war and having spoken him dead during his invasion of Ard Vuskia. The Strength and Patience of the Hills takes vengeance merely by continuing to exist, as the friction of the Raven's words not being true is slowly killing the Raven. The events of the book eventually bring that revenge to fruition, with the Raven dead and the kingdom he had built about to be torn apart by invasion and revolt.
  • In Shadows of the Empire, this trope is the reason why Xizor waits so long to get vengeance on Darth Vader after a bio-experiment the latter was in charge of leading to the destruction of the former's family. 'It was never a question of if, but rather a question of when. Xizor gets his chance when he learns of Luke Skywalker's connection to Vader and decides some karma is required.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: This trope drives the first 7 books of the series, with some of the characters wanting Revenge for wrongs that go back at least 20 years ago! Unfortunately, you might find it difficult to sympathize with the main characters after a while.
  • In George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, Doran Martell has been patiently waiting and plotting his revenge on House Lannister for their brutal murders of his sister Elia and her two young children. He intends to restore the Targaryens to power, utterly destroying the Lannisters in the process and taking away everything they gained from Elia's murder.
    • Lord Manderly doesn't exactly serve his revenge cold: he serves it piping hot, well-seasoned, enclosed within a flaky crust and with an excellent gravy, all at a wedding feast... to their oblivious next of kin. Om nom nom. And, this is plainly just the starter to his planned, multiple-course banquet of revenge for all the wrongs he feels that the Freys and Boltons have perpetrated on him and his. And, most of his House and the small armada they've been building for months is on-board... so, even if he dies getting a good gloat or two in, it's likely still going to bite them.
    • Then there's Arya Stark, who after seeing her father betrayed and executed starts an ever-growing list of people she plans to get revenge on, which she repeats before going to sleep each night.
    • Petyr Baelish was told where to go by the universe at large when it came to trying to court Catelyn Tully's hand. Um... whoops? Most of the plot is him basically cutting everything and anything down by the hamstrings in slow increments to pay the world back by eventually slitting its throat...
  • Star Wars: Bloodline: After Lady Carise leaks information she was sworn to keep secret that Leia was Darth Vader's daughter - ruining Leia's political career in the process - enough time goes by without Leia taking action that Lady Carise believes Leia will not doing anything but simply fade away into obscurity. However, she comes to find out that Leia has been busy contacting the heads of all the Elder Houses about The Oath-Breaker in their midst. The Elder Houses strip Lady Carise of all her royal titles, forever. Leia finds that infinitely more satisfying than any other form of retribution she could take against Carise.
  • Turns out this is the whole reason behind Scourge's sudden turn on Tigerstar in Warrior Cats. When Scourge was a kitten, Tigerstar (then an apprentice) brutally attacks him for straying onto ThunderClan territory. When the two meet as adults, Scourge recognizes Tigerstar and waits until the exact right moment to eviscerate the cat who hurt him so long ago.
  • Wu Song of Water Margin doesn't wait long to get his vengeance, but he provides a masterful example of the spirit of the trope by ordering things carefully. Although his sister-in-law claims his brother died of heart pains, Song begins to hear rumors that he was poisoned after he had learned of his wife's affair. Song has a reputation for rash violence (his claim to fame was beating a tiger to death); he had already predicted something like this would happen; he is even told by his brother's ghost that it was murder. Still, he proceeds to find witnesses and politely gets their stories, and he tries to have the crime properly prosecuted. After that fails, he gathers all of the neighbors at his brother's house and forces a confession out of his sister-in-law and her accomplice, having a neighbor dutifully write it all down. Only with all that out of the way does he savagely disembowel her and offer her entrails on his brother's memorial altar, then hunt down her lover and hurl him out a window, and behead the both of them. Impressive, considering he was seething with rage the whole time.
  • Thomas Cromwell is motivated by this in Wolf Hall. Rather than being portrayed as The Starscream to Cardinal Wolsey, he is intensely loyal and never forgives Wolsey's untimely death, nor the obscene masque depicting Wolsey dragged to hell by five demons. Cromwell rarely addresses it directly in his internal monologue, but when it comes time to have Anne tried, she says he must never have forgiven her for her part. He also settles on the five men who played the demons in the masque for her "adulterers"note  and mentally categorizes them by the parts they played: left forepaw, etcetera. This happens six years after Wolsey's 1530 death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Daniel Holt in Angel. Angelus killed his family, so Holt has himself frozen, sends himself magically forward in time to present day, kidnaps Angel's infant son and raises him in a hell universe for sixteen years before sending the boy back to our dimension to kill his father. That's dedication.
  • Slade Wilson is a villainous example in Arrow. After he decides to take revenge on Oliver, for a mix of reasons that are both justified and downright ridiculous, he vows that it will not be as quick and painless as killing him- Oliver must suffer first. To that end, he manipulates Oliver into giving up his position at Queen Consolidated through his right-hand woman Isabel Rochev, drives away Thea, murders Moira, and then sends a group of thugs with Super-Strength to tear Starling City apart.
  • Gus Fring in Breaking Bad builds up a sizable drug empire over 20 years purely with the intention of taking revenge on Don Eladio and his supporters for murdering his lover. In spite of being a fantastically rich kingpin, he spends none of his wealth on himself and instead maintains a low profile to better position himself for his ultimate revenge. The prequel series Better Call Saul portrays how he works his way up the cartel hierarchy, amassing the power he needs to achieve his goal.
  • Principal Wood in Buffy the Vampire Slayer fought vampires in the hope of finding the one who'd killed his mother. Turns out it was Spike, pre-Heel Face Turn.
  • An earlier episode of Castle had the murder victim's husband, the main suspect, end up dead a year after she went missing. It turns out, the victim was killed by her husband and her father murdered the husband after investigating the crime himself and finding out he was the one who did it.
  • An episode of Cold Case dealt with a man whose son was molested and murdered in 1987. The father was pegged as the killer and spent 20 years in prison before being exonerated, and when he gets out, he starts killing one registered sex offender or pedophile a day, vowing not to stop until the real killer of his son is arrested. At the end, he corners the murderer, planning to kill him before committing suicide, but is convinced not to by his ex-wife, who still loves him. Upon finding out who the main suspect was in his wife's hit-and-run death, Detective Jeffries goes after him with a gun but does not kill him.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Both the 1964 and 1998 versions. The story of a framed up French sailor, Edmond Dantès, who escapes prison, finds a treasure, and under a new Secret Identity of a rich and mysterious nobleman called the Count of Monte Cristo, proceeds to patiently ruin the new lives of his wrongdoers.
  • An episode of CSI had a particularly epic example of this. While at a sports game, a morbidly obese woman was in the winning seat, and got called down. A Jerkass in the audience started jeering her and got everyone else going (a regular occurrence, as his other "victims" stated). She was utterly humiliated, her fiance left her and things actually got worse from there. Obsessed, she dieted, worked out, etc. excessively, eventually becoming stunningly hot, succeeded in joining a sports team's cheerleaders, rigged the winning ticket contest so that the loudmouth jerkass won, and kissed him when he came down, killing him via poison she had put on fake lips.
    • Likewise, CSI: Miami has a college girl humiliated by a trio of students at Spring Break. Over the next year, she drops a hundred pounds, changes her name, and, at the next Spring Break, hunts each of her tormentors down to kill them (the team originally thinking they were dealing with three unconnected murders).
  • Cassandra's motivation in Doctor Who is getting revenge on The Doctor and Rose for almost killing her. This is also the reason why she is willing to bite her pride in order to snatch Rose's body even if she sees her as being too brassy for her taste. Well, at least until she takes a closer look at her figure and somewhat changes her mind about her new appeal.
  • In the climax of the third episode of The Escape Artist, Will murders Foyle by making him die painfully from a minor stab wound... which gets infected by a kind of seafood that Foyle is allergic to, as revenge for Foyle murdering his wife.
  • On Friends, Chandler starts dating Susie (Julia Roberts), a former classmate who doesn't seem to recall how, back in the third grade, Chandler pulled her pants down at a school event. They get kinky enough that she convinced Chandler to wear her underwear on a night out. She gets him into the men's room, has him strip down to said underwear...Then locks the stall and grabs his clothes.
    Susie: for the third grade.
    Chandler: What? What do you mean?
    Susie: What do I mean? What do you mean, what do I mean?! My skirt? You lifted? I was "Susie Underpants" until I was 18!
    Chandler: That was the third grade! How can you still be mad about that?
    Susie: Well, call me in twenty years, see if you're still mad about this.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Yoren gives a monologue in "The Night Lands" about his long wait to kill the man who murdered his brother.
    • After Yoren shares how in bed he would say the name of the man he planned to kill as "a prayer almost," Arya keeps a list of those she intends to take revenge on and even checks a few off it, with the list growing longer each day. She finally gets revenge on her main target, Walder Frey, by killing him in the very same room as the Red Wedding.
    • Varys explains his Origin Story in a monologue — he was castrated by a sorcerer and thrown out to die, causing him to decide to do absolutely whatever it took to live, and then gain power. The climax to this story is him opening a large crate containing the sorcerer who castrated him all those years ago. After nursing his grudge for several decades, he finally gets to act on it — he had the sorcerer shipped to him with his lips sewn shut so he could take his time with the son of a bitch. It's easy enough to guess what happens next.
  • The Glory: Moon Dong-eun had no choice but to drop out of school at the age of 18 after her bullies horribly tormented her, burning her with a curling and clothes iron amongst other terrible things. She begins taking her revenge when she's 36, almost two decades later, having gotten her GED and went to study education to become a teacher in hopes that she would one day become Yeon-jin's child's teacher as part of her revenge.
  • Gotham: Midway through Season 2, Tabitha Galavan kills Oswald Cobblepot's beloved mother. Two years later, in the Season 4 finale, Penguin finally takes his revenge for this by killing Tabitha's boyfriend Butch, so she can live with the pain of a lost loved one like he has.
  • Inside No. 9: In the episode "The Last Weekend", Joe and Chas have been boyfriends for nine years, even through Joe's devastating cancer diagnosis. The episode follows the two as, faced with finally saying goodbye, they take one last getaway at a remote cabin. In the climax, Chas falls asleep in what Joe claimed was a mud bath, but was actually a tub full of quick-drying cement. When Chas awakens, sealed in the tub, Joe reveals that their entire relationship has been revenge for Joe's daughter's suicide, which was caused by Chas cyberbullying her. With Chas stuck in place and waiting for the nearby bugs and rats to eat him alive, Joe goes downstairs to have dinner, remarking that he'll "have it cold."
  • Inspector Morse uncovers that almost three decades ago, four men had killed and disposed of a call girl who they hired to entertain them at their orgy, and got away with it ever since. She was a single mother of a little girl, and now in the present the grown daughter together with her mother's friend, who took care of her since the disappearance, carry out revenge on them.
  • Dubenich from Leverage achieves this in "The Radio Job" with the help of Latimer. The next episode is Nate and the team getting back at them both.
  • While not training, Sawyer in Lost swore to track down and kill the man who drove his father to Murder-Suicide with his mother. And he did, some thirty years later.
  • The overarching plot of Monk is that Adrian Monk is trying to figure out who killed his wife and bring him to justice. He finally succeeds in the series finale, though the killer cheated justice by killing himself when his crimes were proven.
  • Power Rangers Time Force: The Big Bad Ransik was poisoned by a mutant named Venomark, and would've died. But a kindly doctor Lewis Ferricks found and healed him. In response, Ransik stole his robots and blew up his lab, leaving him for dead. However, Dr. Ferricks instead survived, transforming himself into Frax, Ransik's scientific robot advisor. Then, after being in the past for a bit, he unleashed the same mutant to distract Ransik. Then while Ransik was out trying to kill it, Frax smashed up all the serum he needs to survive, destroying the last one in front of him, planning to give him a long painful death. Ransik ended up finding an alternate source of the serum, and thus the two would clash for the rest of the series.
  • Slasher: In the Ripper season, The Widow is dishing out payback to those who were involved with the murder of Margaret Mehar and the wrongful execution of Andrew May Sr. for it, twelve years after the fact. Many characters lampshade this and are puzzled by it. It's because the Widow herself, Regina Simcoe, is Margaret's daughter and was a child when her mother was killed. She took years to train as a fighter and ingratiated herself into the city's elite inner circle to learn exactly what happened to her mother before beginning her rampage.
  • The brothers in Supernatural are out to avenge their mother, a task they succeeded in. Inadvertently starting a chain of events leading directly to the end of the world. Nice job breaking it, woobies.
  • In True Blood, Eric proves to love icy revenges. Russell killed his whole family when he still was a human Viking, and he waited more than 1000 years to kill his husband while fucking him.
  • Wolf Hall, a six-episode adaptation of Hillary Mantel's books, covers the time from Thomas Cromwell's employment with Cardinal Wolsey to the execution of Anne Boleyn. His arc is defined by his intent to avenge Wolsey against the political foes who hounded him to his death, methodically learning their weaknesses while working with them so that as soon as he sees an opportunity, he has them all convicted of treason and executed.

  • The song "Bad Blood" by the Bonzo Dog Doodah Band tells of a one-eyed man who trains for three years, then wanders four more to get revenge against the man who left him like that. When someone else beats him to it, he's rather miffed:
    "Hey you, mutton-head, I've been lookin' for that particular son-of-a-bitch for nearly seven years, man! You've just spoiled everything! I could have been a doctor or an architect!"
  • Melanie Martinez's song "Milk And Cookies" centers around a literal lethal chef who plans to murder her lover.
    Do you like my cookies? They're made just for you.
    A little bit of sugar, but lots of poison too.
  • "Run" by Disturbed
    ...You really don't know how long I've waited for your destruction / I'm telling you, you just can't get away / A whole lifetime planning out your destruction, with no other function / You really don't know...
  • "A Boy Named Sue", written by Shel Silverstein and performed by Johnny Cash, tells of a man who's hunting the man who named him Sue — who it turns out gave him the name so he'd grow up tough. It works.
  • "The Mariner's Revenge Song" by the Decemberists is a sea shanty ballad about a man who spent his whole life searching for the seaman who caused his mother's death when he was a child.
    We are two mariners, our ship's sole survivors, in this belly of a whale / its ribs are ceiling beams, its guts are carpeting, I guess we have some time to kill / you may not remember me, I was a child of three, and you a lad of eighteen / but I remember you, and I will relate to you, how our histories interweave...
  • 'In the Air Tonight' by Phil Collins. 'I can feel it coming in the air tonight, O Lord/ I've been waiting for this moment for all of my life, O Lord ... '
  • "The Rain" by Oran "Juice" Jones narrates finding out his younger girlfriend cheated on him with another guy in the rain, contemplates "pulling a Rambo" on the spot, but composes himself (without the couple ever even knowing this,) closes her bank account and gets rid of every gift he gave her (packing the stuff she first showed up with into suitcases), welcomes her home to give her a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about the whole thing then sends her off right back out into the rain, alone.
  • "Death Throes of the Terrorsquid" by Alestorm includes this trope, but subverts the exact wording.
    Revenge is a dish best served fried. Deep-fried.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Super Crazy cost Jorge Rivera a tag team match at a Dragon Gate USA show in 2009 out of revenge for a mask vs mask loss he suffered in La Arena Neza to Rivera, then El Seminarista, during his rookie year, over twenty years ago. Most of the DGUSA viewers weren't even alive in 1988.
  • The sneak attack on Cheerleader Melissa's knee prior to taking the SHIMMER title from her in 2012 was "Sweet" Saraya's revenge for Melissa nearly severing her leg five years earlier. Saraya had sent her own daughter and the Canadian Ninjas after Melissa while she was unable to get at Melissa herself but it wasn't revealed that they were acting for that reason till Saraya was able.
  • Ta'Darius Thomas went to The House Of Truth to pursue a career as a pro wrestler only to distance himself from them after coming to the (correct)conclusion that Truth Martini was no good. Eight years later he was set to win Ring of Honor's 2013 Top Prospect Tournament only to be screwed out of victory by Truth Martini. Thomas was still proven correct in the long run, as his "replacement" Matt Taven got to learn what bad company Martini was the hard way.
  • At Ring Warriors 2013 February Fury, Bruce Santee finally got the revenge on Steve Corino he had been waiting ten years for. He went on to state that as Grand Champion his run would be dedicated to avenging himself as his former naysayers chased him for the belt.
  • Seth Rollins betrayed The Shield to the The Authority, incurring the wrath of his former best friend Dean Ambrose. But no matter how much Ambrose tried, all his attempts at revenge failed thanks to the intervention of other parties. Eventually, Ambrose learned to harness his rage and lie low, so Rollins would no longer think he was a threat. Fast forward two years after the betrayal: Rollins has just returned from a major injury that cut his first world title reign short, and doggedly pursues after the title that he claims he never lost. Come Money in the Bank 2016, and Rollins wins his title back from former teammate Roman Reigns...only for Ambrose, who had won the MiTB ladder match earlier that night, to blindside him from behind, cash in, and win the title off him, finally getting his revenge in the process.
  • At Royal Rumble 2011, CM Punk and his minions attacked Randy Orton and cost him his match. The next day, Orton demanded to know why he did that. Punk said he was getting revenge for the time Orton and his minions assaulted him at Unforgiven 2008.

    Recorded and Stand-Up Comedy 
  • In the title routine on his album Revenge, Bill Cosby recalls an incident where, as a kid, he got back at nemesis Junior Barnes, who hit him in the side of the face with a slushball (a kind of snowball built from very wet snow and gunk, which has the effect of messing up a kid's clothes and underwear). Cosby built the perfect snowball and stored it in the freezer, and waited. Until July 12th, his birthday. By the time that day rolled around, his mother had found the snowball and thrown it away, and Cosby had to take his revenge by spitting on him.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • In The Bible, David's oldest son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister Tamar. Tamar's other brother Absalom finds out immediately but waits two years for the opportunity to kill Amnon.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Ravenloft module printed in Dungeon Adventures #42 "The Price of Revenge", where the plot involves a Gypsy Curse placed upon a vampire (which the heroes are meant to deliver) the saying is said to be an old Vishtani proverb. Fittingly so, because curses laid by the Vishtani are almost always done out of revenge. It's also fitting for the story's setting, which takes place in the dead of winter.
  • Warhammer Fantasy lore is full of these, mostly due to the dwarfs. The dwarfs combine a much-longer-than-human lifespan and an obsessive need to record and repay every wrong ever done to them (which, given the innate belligerence of your average dwarf and the Warhammer world being a minor Death World, means their backlog tends to be somewhat long). Dwarfs tend to deal with Grudges when they are good and ready to do so, oft-times several generations after who- or whatever originally caused it to be written down is long dead and forgotten (the dwarfs will then take their revenge on whatever the Grudge-causer left behind, including relatives, property, friends and little dog).

  • The Kentucky Cycle: Jeremiah Talbert's revenge, as he explains explicitly to the Bowens. He could have just killed Patrick Bowen for murdering Jeremiah's father and kidnapping and forcibly marrying his sister, but that wouldn't be enough. So he waited 27 years to buy the debt on Patrick's land, taking literally everything Patrick owns and leaving Patrick a sharecropper on what was once his own estate.
    Jeremiah: So I decided to let you live, but take away everything in your life that meant anything to you, just like you done to me. And now I own you, Rowen—own all of you Rowens.
  • From Macbeth
    There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled
    Hath nature that in time will venom breed,
    No teeth for the present.
    • In other words:
      We killed his dad and he's gonna be pissed when he grows up.
  • Benjamin Barker was transported for life by Judge Turpin in order to steal his wife. The play begins fifteen years later with his return to London as Sweeney Todd, ready to exact his revenge.

    Theme Parks 
  • In The Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios, it's implied that Sideshow Bob had been waiting for the moment that Krustyland opened to put his elaborate revenge scheme into action.
    Sideshow Bob: A served cold.
    Homer: Is it ice cream?
    Sideshow Bob: NO, REVENGE!

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed
    • In Assassin's Creed II, it takes Ezio twenty years to get to the man who ordered the deaths of his father and brothers. Although the man who directly kills them dies much earlier. And even then he doesn't outright kill him, the evil pope. He just kicks his ass and punches him brutally. that's right: Ezio kicks the ass of the then-current POPE. It takes another game for the pope to finally die, and not even at the hands of Ezio, but by his own poisoned apple. And even after that, he still keeps fighting evil in the hopes that it leads him to the answers he desires.
    • Assassin's Creed: Valhalla: The end of the Mastery Challenges has Eivor dealing with an extremely delayed case of this. Before the Precursor civilization went up in flames, one of them discovered Odin and his inner circle were planning to cheat death and leave everyone else to die. She objected, tried to stop them, failed, and was thrown in a cell. But before this Freyja gave her a device which she passed along to her daughter, with the instructions to use it to find Odin's reincarnation and kill them. Flash forward seventy-five thousand years, and her distant descendant has done so. However, Eivor has no idea what's going on. As far as she knows, some old lady is suddenly trying to smash her head in with an axe while screaming nonsense about the gods.
  • In Devil May Cry, Dante's goal is to keep killing demons until he "hits the jackpot" and finds the one who killed his mom. When he finally confronts Mundus, the demon in question, and gets the finishing shot on him, Dante seals the deal by declaring "Jackpot!". Apart from the game's taglinenote  making it obvious, this dialogue sequence is one of the earliest plot points in the series that heavily imply revenge as one of Dante's motivations in slaying demons.
  • In the backstory of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, this is implied to be the true reason why the Empire signed the White-Gold Concordat with the Thalmor. Both sides were severely weakened after the Great War and simply agreed to a truce for the sake of biding their time for an inevitable second war.
  • In Final Fantasy XII, Montblanc had formed Clan Centurio to seek revenge on Yiazmat, who killed his master. Later, the hero, Vaan, can accept a mission from him in order to slay it.
  • In F.E.A.R., Alma waited several decades after she died for the revenge she sought against Armacham. Her chance comes with the second Synchronicity event when her second son Paxton Fettel is a psychic commander of an army of unthinking clones.
  • In GreedFall, successfully convincing Síora's sister Eseld to forgo vengeance after she got nearly killed by the colonizing troops via the Charisma option has her "agree", by noting that waiting for revenge will only make it sweeter.
  • Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon: The whole plot is King Boo's revenge plot against Luigi and friends. And this time the villains are putting the protagonists in paintings (he only mentions Luigi, Mario, the Toads, and Gadd as targets; whether he has plans to do this to anyone else is uncertain).
  • After witnessing her father's murder by three mysterious men as a child, Primrose in Octopath Traveler spent years as an enslaved exotic dancer waiting for a chance to kill them. She finally learned of the location of one of them and killed her abusive "master", escaping slavery and eventually killing all of the murderers.
  • In Octopath Traveler, Olberic seeks out Erhardt, a fellow knight of Hornberg who killed the king they served. At the end of Olberic's second chapter, he learns that Erhardt had been plotting his vengeance since before he became a knight, having blamed the king for allowing Erhardt's home village to be destroyed. Gustav, an old comrade of Erhardt's, remarks that revenge is made sweeter by the passage of time.
  • The protagonist in Sid Meier's Pirates! embarks on a pirating career of 20 years or more to get revenge on the Marquis de Montalban for imprisoning his family. Eventually, however, the Marquis admits he's beaten and agrees to serve as your personal valet.
  • Quoted verbatim and played for laughs in Sonic Lost World.
    Zazz: Time for some REVENGE! Right, Master?
    Master Zik: Correct! Revenge is a dish best served cold!
    Zomom: Aw man, now you made me hungry! Let's hurry up and destroy him!
  • The event that causes Starcraft's Arcturus Mengsk to take up arms against the Confederacy is the assassination of his father, mother, and sister by three Confederate Ghosts. Two of them are killed early in his rebellion, but the third is Sarah Kerrigan, who defected from the Confederacy to join Mengsk and his Sons of Korhal. Sarah learns of this connection at Mengsk's execution of the second Ghost, but he says that Sarah's actions and loyalty have given him cause to forgive her. She's caught completely by surprise when, years later, Mengsk simply doesn't bother sending evac to her on a world about to be overrun by the zerg.
    • In an ironic twist of events, even Mengsk gets on the receiving end of one by Kerrigan herself at the climax of the Heart of the Swarm, when she siccs the Zerg Swarm into Korhal to force Mengsk out and ultimately killing him in the process.
  • In Yggdra Union, antagonists Luciana and Aegina have been waiting to get revenge on Yggdra for seventeen years as they were exiled and supposed to be killed while Yggdra, their younger sister, was pampered and groomed to receive Fantasinia's crown. The valkyrie twins believe Yggdra's ignorance to be almost as bad as Ordene's crimes. Then we have Nessiah, who's been waiting to get revenge on Asgard for the way they treated him for a thousand years. Served cold, indeed...
  • In Lost Judgment, when Jin Kuwana obtained evidence of a case of incredibly brutal bullying, rather than immediately turning it in (since it would be simply be swept under the table as a case of "kids will be kids") he deliberately sat on it until the perpetrators were adults with things to lose before he used it to blackmail them into doing his bidding.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: While Manfred von Karma's revenge on Gregory Edgeworth was served hot, his attempted revenge on Gregory's son Miles was fifteen years in the making and delivered just as the statute of limitations on Gregory's murder was running out. He adopted Edgeworth after he murdered Gregory just so he could take advantage of his traumatized, impressionable state in order to raise him as a ruthless prosecutor who valued winning above all else — everything his father stood against. He then framed and prosecuted Edgeworth for the murder of the man who defended Gregory's supposed killer, and then when that falls through in court, for the murder of his own father. Luckily for Edgeworth, Phoenix Wright and Maya Fey come to his aid and vow to prove his innocence in both crimes.
  • In Beyond Eden, villain protagonist Alex Wake spends 12 years grieving and planning his revenge against the Edenic family for the mysterious death of his sister Beth. Given he was only about 13 when it happened, the long planning period was needed for him to come into his own and build up enough wealth and influence to carry out his plans, and it also meant most of the Edenics were unaware of his continued grudge, making it easier for him to turn them against each other.
  • In Daughter for Dessert, this is possibly why Cecilia waited almost 20 years to track the protagonist down and try to destroy his life. As a legal adult, Amanda could make her own life decisions without his consent.
  • A recurring theme in The Devil on G-String. Several of the characters have been affected in their childhood, and their primary motivation is getting revenge for the things that happened to them. The most obvious one would be the protagonist towards Azai Gonzou.
  • In the Voltage, Inc. Romance Game Kiss of Revenge, the protagonist's mother died in the hospital due to an error which was then covered up. The protagonist spent the next twelve years working to become a doctor so that she could take a position at the same hospital and get revenge on the hospital director, who was responsible for the cover-up.
  • At the end of Lucy ~The Eternity She Wished For~, the protagonist's Evil Luddite father ends up setting Lucy on fire and destroying her after being convinced that she's corrupting his son. His son then spends decades exacting his revenge, as shown in the epilogue, where his father is too old to take care of himself, and since his son is too busy at work, he sends him a highly-advanced caretaker robot, even taking the extra effort to upgrade her and keep her top-of-the-line just to annoy him. Then, on the day the protagonist is finally set to have a day off to spend a day with his father (who's actually looking forward to it,) he strings him along until that evening before sending a rebuilt Lucy to tell him that he's severing all ties with him. Lucy, however, feels guilty about her involvement in this, and promises to the protagonist's father that she'll do whatever she can to get the protagonist to give him another chance.

  • Taken to new extremes with the Big Bad of 8-Bit Theater, Sarda, who waits for billions of years to get revenge on the main characters after they scarred him for life, murdered his family, murdered multiple sets of foster parents, and destroyed the orphanage that he lived in in addition to all of the other atrocities that they committed.
  • In Cwen's Quest, Cwen is seeking revenge on her father for trying to kill her when she was a child. In fact, you could say she is fairly obsessed as she has thus far expressed little interest in other activities like helping others or amassing wealth in favor of her singular goal of revenge.
  • In Darths & Droids, Jango Fett spends ten years building an army and plotting the destruction of the Jedi Order and the downfall of the entire Republic, just to get revenge against Obi-Wan for killing his "business" partner.
  • In El Goonish Shive, the shadowed character known only as "The Child Left Behind" trained for years for the chance to avenge someone he knew who was killed by Damien only for Grace to do the job for him. He now seeks Grace to properly thank her.
  • In an EverQuest fan comic, a high-level female Barbarian warrior approaches Cros Treewind (an NPC who kills players he sees fighting animals) from behind and yells "Cros Treewind, your ass is mine!", while he stands frozen with an Oh, Crap! expression on his face. The caption says revenge is best served many levels later.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The initial quest of the main story is Roy's attempt to fulfill his father's blood oath to destroy Xykon for killing his master. (The revenge motivation is later replaced by a sense of duty to stop Xykon, whose actions pose a threat to the entire world.)
    • The Lawful Good Inigo Montoya parody Yokyok seeks to avenge his father's death by killing Chaotic Evil protagonist, Belkar, in a bizarre inversion.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Exaggerated (in terms of time) in a couple of strips where humans are shown as getting revenge on the fish that made fun of their amphibious ancestors. In one, it's merely that eating fish makes a human feel powerful for unconscious reasons, but in "Four Legs", the pacific garbage vortex is presented as a knowing act of revenge.
  • Anaak Jahad from Tower of God lost her parents due to the rules of the Jahad family, which forbade Princesses like her mother to have children. Several hundred years later she is ready to climb the Tower and kill every single member of the Jahad family. That includes an Amazon Brigade of princesses and the immortal Physical God and King of the Tower, Jahad himself.
  • In Widdershins, Ms. Acedia comes back when the people who foiled her lover's plot in their youth are old enough to have adult grandchildren.
    "Heh. If there's one thing I have, it's patience."

    Web Original 
  • Critical Role: Percy waits four years - and twenty-seven in-game episodes - before finally heading to Whitestone to take revenge on the Briarwoods, the couple who killed his family.
  • In The League of S.T.E.A.M.'s webisode, "Tall Tails", Thaddeus has his revenge... and literally serves it afterward.
  • The Onion: "How To Channel Your Road Rage Into Cold, Calculating Road Revenge"
  • South Dakota in Red vs. Blue was quite bitter and resentful of Washington and her brother North Dakota for long-standing grievances — Washington for having a meltdown that led to the Project's shutdown and North for having an A.I. before her and siding with Texas over her. She waited years to get back at them in the most homicidal manner, perfectly willing to leave them at the hands of the Meta for her selfish benefit.

    Western Animation 
  • Batman: The Animated Series had a particularly awesome example, as it was Mr. Freeze that said it, in the episode where he debuted.
  • Macbeth in Gargoyles puts a twist on this one: "Revenge is a dish best eaten cold. And I have waited nine hundred years for this meal." However, Goliath points out to him and his nemesis Demona that every time either of them has attempted to get revenge, it only made their lives worse. As such, it goes beyond a subversion into an outright denunciation of the very idea of revenge. "What profit vengeance?" has been described by producer Greg Weisman as one of his favorite themes.
  • This is said on Dan Vs. Naturally, given the main character, only it's subverted.
    Dan: Revenge is a dish best served immediately.
  • On Invader Zim, Tak wants to conquer Earth before Zim since Zim was the one who made her fail her military exam and sent her to work as a janitor (on Planet Dirt) for fifty years. She actually doesn't view it as revenge so much as setting things right, though — as she (correctly) points out, she's a highly competent invader who deserved to get assigned a planet, while Zim was sent there just to get him out of the Almighty Tallests antennae.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Many of Doofenshmirtz's Evil Plans revolves around sabotaging someone from his Freudian Excuse.
  • Samurai Jack: The titular hero set out to save his empire from the wicked demon Aku, but just before he could vanquish him once and for all, Aku casts a time travel spell that sends Jack into a Bad Future where Aku reigns unopposed. He then spends much of the entire series trying to find his way back so that he can finally get his long-awaited revenge on Aku for putting him through a lot of hell and destroying everything he loved - but thanks to Aku's villainous schemes and other unforeseen circumstances, it would take several decades before Jack is able to get back into his own time to settle the score and save his world.
  • Steven Universe: At first it seems like Homeworld Gems returned to Earth to continue their plan to harvest the Earth to create more Gems. Then it's revealed before leaving Earth, they started torturous experiments on shattered Gems, starting a millennia-spanning operation to create a giant Gem mutant to destroy the Earth when it wakes up.
  • Parodied in The Venture Brothers;
    Phantom Limb: "Revenge, like gazpacho soup, is best served cold, precise, and merciless."
    The Monarch: "Yeah, yeah, you can never have enough precision in your soup."

    Real Life 
  • Eliahu Itzkovitz, while a prisoner in a concentration camp in Romania during World War II, witnessed the murder of his family by a guard named Stănescu and swore revenge. After emigrating to Israel and serving in the IDF, he heard a rumor that Stănescu had escaped Germany to France and enlisted in the French Foreign Legion. Itzkovitz immediately deserted the IDF and joined the Foreign Legion, undergoing their rigorous training regimen all for a rumor, which eventually turned out to be true. He was then shipped off to French Indochina where he was able to be part of the same battalion Stănescu was in. Fortunately for him, Stănescu didn't recognize him and Itzkovitz pretended to bond with him to lull him into a false sense of security. His chance for vengeance finally came during an ambush of enemy troops, when the two were separated from the rest of the squad. Itzkovitz then revealed the true purpose of meeting Stănescu to him before gunning him down and pinning his death on the enemy.
  • A Chinese man, whose mother was beaten to death by his neighbor at the age of 13, took his revenge by stabbing every one of the neighbor's family to death after waiting for 22 years.
  • A Chinese man, who was abused by his secondary school teacher due to being poor at the age of 13, sought after the teacher and slapped him after waiting for 20 years.
  • Carl V. Ericsson waited over 50 years to shoot classmate Norman Johnson who humiliated him when they were both in high school; an article about it can be found here.
  • The Chinese expression for this is "君子報仇,十年不晚"—"Ten years isn't too long to wait for a gentleman's revenge."
  • In 1990, a 66-year old Italian immigrant called Giuseppe Bonfanti, who had been living in Brazil since World War II, returned to his hometown and used a pickaxe to kill Giuseppe Oppici, a 68-year old former fascist who during the war had helped burn down Bonfanti's farm and slaughter his livestock in retaliation for his partisan activites.

Revenge Is Sweet,
And revenge is a dish best served cold,
Therefore, revenge is ice cream.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Delayed Revenge


Dan Is Still Mad at Tusk

After a deal goes wrong and Tusk let Dan take the fall and go to jail in the past, Dan used his time in prison to think of ways to get revenge on Tusk. When Dan got an invite from Tusk to his bachelor party, Dan accepts it so he can enact his revenge.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BestServedCold

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