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 pull a Paranoia Gambit as a bonus. Contrast Restrained Revenge, where the wronged party only takes a lesser, symbolic, revenge.
For the 2009 novel by Joe Abercrombie, see Best Served Cold.
- An advertisement for Rolo candy played on the popular belief that "elephants never forget". In a Monochrome Past, a brat kid pretends to offer his last Rolo to a baby elephant, then swallows it himself. As an adult he's watching a zoo parade when a fully grown elephant taps him on the shoulder with its trunk, then smacks him across the face.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
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!
- The villain even lampshades this trope.
- Transformers Armada's Wheeljack ends up accidentally abandoned while trapped in the middle of a fire. He survives, and 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.
- 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.
- 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 said country and leaving them for dead.
- Get Backers drops a few hints towards 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. Time will tell if he will actually be successful.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In Firing Range, the inventor dedicated himself to the tank, in order to get revenge on the generals who got his son killed.
- 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.
- In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Zira's attitude towards revenge for Scar's death against Simba.
- 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."
- Perhaps the poster boy would be Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, a man who spent twenty years doing nothing but practice fencing to avenge his father, armed with nothing more than the sword that his father made and the knowledge of the killer having six fingers on one hand.
- Star Trek:
- The phrase was made famous again by Khan, in Star Trek II, though he wasn't especially wandering around hunting for Kirk. Although how he, a Human Popsicle from the 21st century, would be able to ascribe the quote to the alien Klingons defies Fridge Logic.
- In Star Trek: Into Darkness Spock assumes that Harrison's ultimate plan is to finish what he had started: Kill anyone he considers "inferior." Harrison doesn't deny this. (This is appropriate, of course; Harrison is actually Khan Noonien Singh, the Trope Namer.)
- 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 and thus killing him.
- 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 kill her mother. The Bride tells her she'll be expecting her.
- 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 round 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. Maybe.
- The western The Quick and the Dead has the heroine tracking down the man, and his gang, that made her kill her sheriff father.
- Conan the Barbarian (1982) had Conan searching for Thulsa Doom, who killed his family and put him in slavery (and turned innocent young Conan into Arnold Schwarzenegger).
- In Sleepy Hollow 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.
- 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.
- In Gladiator, in this life or the next.
- In Throne of Blood, Lady Kaede has been planning the eventual destruction of Washizu's entire family tree for decades, since he killed her own family when she was a child.
- And to show that Akira Kurosawa probably likes the concept a lot, Ran has another Lady Kaede manipulate two of the ambitious sons of Lord Hidetora Ichimonji (the man responsible for the destruction of her own clan and Arranged Marriage to his son Taro) to run their clan aground.
- 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."
- 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. 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.
- 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 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. No one explained to him that, outside of movies, Americans generally don't do that. At least not on a personal level.
- In Law Abiding Citizen, Clyde watched helplessly as his wife and daughter are killed. Years later, he executed both perpetrators in the most ruthless manner possible. And it didn't stop there...
- 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.
- The 47 Ronin: Said 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.
- 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.
- The Stone Killer (1973). A Sicilian mobster plans a mass hit using mercenaries to avenge a similar purge committed 42 years ago.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan: The Executioner, and all his homage characters such as The Punisher.
- Judge Dee's lieutenant Chiao Tai turned outlaw when the Imperial court refused him justice against the general who betrayed Chiao Tai and his whole command to the Tartars.
- 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 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 year's worth of atrocities and crimes.
- 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 by slow increments to pay the world back by eventually slitting its throat...
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 led 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.
- 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.
- 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 awhile.
- "Dolan's Cadillac" by Stephen King, found in Nightmares & Dreamscapes. Equal parts this trope and The Perfect Crime. With a dash of awesomeness.
- In the 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.
- 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 a ruin and engineer the murder of Fax via F'lar
- 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.
- 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 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 portions of said royal family. 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.
- 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 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 "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 Karl Edward Wagner's Kane story "Sing the Last Song of Valdese" Chaos Gods cultist 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 get 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.
- Gus in Breaking Bad build up his own sizable drug empire over 20 years, with taking revenge for the death of his best friend as one of is his prime motivations. By that time the man who fired the shot is almost entirely paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair, and unable to speak. As Gus arranges for his nephews and the leaders of his old cartel to be killed off one by one, he visits the old man in his nursing home, telling him the news of the latest deaths himself.
- 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.
- 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.
- He does even further than that, by pretending to end his feud with Angel, then having his loyal follower Justine kill him and make it look like a vampire bite, so that Connor will blame Angel for 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.
- 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 Jerk Ass in the audience started jeering her, and got everyone else going (a regular occurance, as his other "victims" stated). She was utterly humiliated, her fiance left her and things actually got worse from there. Obssessed, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rare villainous example: 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- From Macbeth
There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fledHath 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.
- In other words
- 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.
- In Final Fantasy XII, Montblanc had formed Clan Centurio to seek revenge on Yiazmat, who killed his master. Later the hero (Vaan) will 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.
- 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 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 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.
- King Boo's entire motive in Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon is revenge against Luigi for what happened in the original Luigi's Mansion, and he's become far more powerful since then.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Ace Attorney: While Manfred von Karma's revenge on Gregory Edgeworth was served hot, he attempted revenge on Gregory's son Miles just as the statute of limitations on Gregory's murder was running out. He prosecuted Miles for the murder of the defense lawyer on Gregory's case, and then for the murder of his own father. What makes this more painful is von Karma was the one to adopt Miles and teach him how to be an effective prosecutor. Luckily for Miles, his defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, was a Spanner in the Works.
- A recurring theme in G-Senjou no Maou. 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.
- 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.
- 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 interested in other activities like helping others or amassing wealth in favor of her singular goal of revenge.
- Anak Zahard from Tower of God lost her parents due to the rules of the Zahard 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 Zahard family. That includes an Amazon Brigade of princesses and the immortal Physical God and King of the Tower, Zahard himselfnote .
- 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 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.
- 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."
- 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"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 competant invader who deserved to get assigned a planet, while Zim was sent there just to get him out of the Almighty Tallests antennae.
- Parodied in The Venture Bros.;
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."
- This is said on Dan Vs. Naturally, given the main character, only it's subverted.
Dan: Revenge is a dish best served immediately.
- Phineas and Ferb: Many of Doofenshmirtz's Evil Plans revolves around sabotaging someone from his Freudian Excuse.
- Steven Universe: At first it seem 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 fallen Crystal Gems, starting a millennia-spanning operation to create a giant gem mutant to destroy the earth when it wakes up.
- Eliahu Itzkovitz, while a prisoner in a concentration camp 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 batallion 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 everyone of the said neighbor's family to death after waiting for 22 years.