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Face–Heel Turn

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"Yo, the superheroes have turned evil! Most uncool."
Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate, Futurama

A good guy turns bad, the opposite of the Heel–Face Turn. The ways in which this happens are many:

This is the Evil Counterpart to the more common Heel–Face Turn and is generally found in a story with Black-and-White Morality. The many reasons and the probability for a turn are listed in the Sorting Algorithm of Face-Heel Turning.


In a world full of Brainwashed victims, they may be the one who appears to be but really is Not Brainwashed.

The term "Face Heel Turn" comes from Professional Wrestling, in which a "good" wrestler (a face) is occasionally tempted by The Dark Side, or just gets fed up, and becomes a heel. Magazines and other promotional material from the various wrestling "leagues" frequently comment on various wrestlers' changes in "alignment" (in wrestling's fictional plotline known as kayfabe) nearly as frequently as they actually cover events in the ring themselves. (They even use phrases like "Face Heel Turn", though the shorter "Heel Turn" is more common.)

A wrestler's heel turn is often a sign that he or she is about to see his or her popularity skyrocket. Indeed, it is very common, once they have turned, to remain heels for their entire careers. Heels that become really popular may end up "naturally" becoming faces again, but it is just as likely for heels to be beloved because they are heels. In fact, as paradoxical as it might seem, a heel turn can help an otherwise despised wrestler become likable: fans may well resent a face character, and may be better able to relate to a character who is profoundly flawed in one way or another. (After all, that's what satire is all about.)

Note that a Face–Heel Turn is harder to pull off than a Heel–Face Turn - at least convincingly. If a character is introduced as likable and heroic, it takes some good writing to properly take them through the Character Development required to become the villain. Simply Foreshadowing that a character could turn evil is not enough. The work has to be put in to get the character to that destination; there are plenty of wrestling examples where this hasn't been done, or the reasons for the turn are so badly thought out that the fans reject it, and the wrestler turns back face shortly after.


  • The Mole: The Mole was always working for the Big Bad from the beginning, whereas a character making a Face Heel Turn was a genuine good guy until their change of heart.
  • Forced into Evil, whereas the character was still a genuinely good guy, but had his own reasons to be on the bad guys' side while still maintaining a good heart, whereas a character who did a Face Heel Turn is a character who not only goes to the bad guys' side, but also become a genuine bad guy at heart. A character Forced Into Evil can be said about halfway doing a full Heel Turn, but not a full turn yet like the ones in this page (given time, they may make a full turn in the future).
  • Face–Monster Turn, which has many subtropes. The character really has no choice about becoming evil, because they are Brainwashed, literally turned into monsters, are possessed, or some other reason.
  • Fake Defector, where someone on the side of good infiltrates the villains' side by pretending to do such a turn.
  • Evil All Along, in which the character was, well, evil all along, but not necessarily working for the villain, like The Mole.

Compare Protagonist Journey to Villain, a plot which utilizes this trope as the entire character and story arc. Big Bad Slippage, where the Big Bad does this over the course of the story, is a Sub-Trope.

See also Heel–Face Revolving Door, Neutral No Longer, Deal with the Devil, We Used to Be Friends, Start of Darkness and Et Tu, Brute?. If the turn takes place extremely abruptly, it may include Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.

Not to be confused with Evil All Along, in which a character that was thought to be good was evil all along. This trope describes a legitimate hero going to the darkside, not a Double Agent.

Due to the nature of this trope, MAJOR UNMARKED SPOILERS ahead!

In Real Life, the nature of Heel–Face Turn and Face-Heel Turn is subjective (one person's "seeing the light" is another person's "heartless betrayal" depending on what group the individual is going to or leaving). Therefore, No Real Life Examples, Please!

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Mighty Little Defenders, General Wolf/Chapper used to be a friendly wolf who supported peace between goats and wolves with the help of his goat friend Gogoa. After he got shot with a laser gun, he thought Gogoa was the one who shot him (Gogoa was actually framed for it). A month later, Chapper woke up to find out that the wolf tribe had lost and the leader had died. Chapper found out that Gogoa had left Goats' Village and Chapper was not welcome in the village. These events turned General Wolf against Gogoa and the other goats and he became determined to get revenge.

  • SMG4's Mario Bloopers: Enzo. He used to be a friendly guy and was being nice to other people until in "Birthday Freakout", after Mario ruins his birthday party. From then on he becomes a villain and is determined to kill Mario and the rest of the main cast. He is also actually revealed to be the shady black figure in "The Visitor" (2014).

  • Elphaba from Wicked fits this trope, after having everything she tries spectacularly backfire on her, and having everyone she loves die all around her, she snaps during the song 'No Good Deed' dedicating herself to a lifetime of evil. Almost immediately subverted when she is shown to be just very, very pissed off, but not actually evil a mere song later.
    • Nessarose, her sister, goes from a bratty but well-meaning child to the Wicked Witch of the East who, unlike is closer to the the film's portrayal of her than Elphaba. She is named governor of Munchkinland and uses the position to strip away their power in order to keep her husband Boq from leaving her, and when he tries, she removes his heart, turns him into the Tin Man, and blames it on Elphaba. Likewise, Boq goes from a shy boy with a crush on Galinda to a far more murderous version of the Tin Man, who declares "for once I'm glad I'm heartless - I'll be heartless killing her!".
  • In the back story of Euripides' Hecuba, Achilles, hero of The Iliad, defected to Troy after falling in love with Trojan princess Polyxena. And then his would-be brother-in-law Paris shot him in his Achilles' Heel at the wedding, and everything went pear-shaped for the Trojans.
  • This is essentially the entire plot of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street as the protagonist begins a sympathetic Anti-Hero, progresses into Anti-Villain territory over the length of the first act, and finally crosses the Moral Event Horizon with gusto by intermission, largely due to Sanity Slippage.
  • Invoked by Pulitzer in Newsies, by threatening to have the Newsies arrested if Jack doesn't agree to end the strike. In exchange, Jack tries to argue against his own cause at the rally he organized, despite protests from Spot and Davey. Luckily, Katherine talks him down, and he relents.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: What is seen of Theon Greyjoy's story in the play can be summed up as this. When first seen, Theon is fighting alongside Robb and trying to petition his father Balon, an old enemy of Robb's family, to fight alongside Robb. Balon unfortunately decides he'd rather have a second round against Robb's family instead. Last Theon is heard of, he's reported to have captured Robb's hometown for Balon.

    Web Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Heel Turn, Turn To The Dark Side, Good Turns Evil, Good Guy Turns Bad


Transhumanist Accelerate!

When meeting Accelerationism, Transhumanist immediately sides with him for the promise of full techological accelerationism.

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