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"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
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Not all Villains are born. Some are made, and none are more tragic than the Fallen Hero. As the name implies, the Fallen Hero used to be a hero before doing a Face–Heel Turn. They may even have been an Ideal Hero or another equally optimistic archetype, up until the moment when they suffered something bad enough for them to lose all faith in good and idealism, be it the loss of a loved one, too many good deeds coming back to bite them hard, betrayal by someone they trusted the most, too much distrust from those who should have been allies, or some other faith-shattering event. It might even be a drawn out process of seduction to The Dark Side or fall from grace.

What they choose to do about it determines what they become:

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They'll use their not-inconsiderable powers and abilities to do it, too. Often, they'll twist healing powers to evil ends, or allow pain to fester by simply denying the use of their powers for good. Where once the Barrier Maiden wanted to heal the world, she'll now spread misery to speed its destruction. The Messianic Archetype who wanted to save the world now wants its damnation. The Gunslinger, once wanting to bring justice to the frontier, now wants nothing but vengeance and blood. Many of these made the protagonist's journey to villainy.

Usually revealed in a Not So Different moment. Almost always gets a Start of Darkness, and often implies Became Their Own Antithesis. Christopher Booker's sixth basic plot, Tragedy, uses this character arc, with the Fallen Hero as the main character. Compare Face–Heel Turn, The Dark Side Will Make You Forget. See also Fallen Angel, Tragic Villain, and Tragic Monster. Super-Trope to The Paragon Always Rebels, in which the character has such influence over other good guys that they fall with him or her. When the Fallen Hero used to be a main character in a previous work, they're a Rogue Protagonist.


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Other Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In The DCU series Justice League Task Force, the hero, Triumph, was lost for decades in a time warp, and returned to join the Task Force as its leader. His difficulties in adapting to the new times added to the desertion of Martian Manhunter and Aquaman from the TF's ranks (which caused the government to close it down due to the real Justice League returning), ended with him broke and being harassed by common thugs. The inadvertent loss of his soul left him Not Himself and he came under the influence of an evil 5th-dimensional imp named Lkz, he wreaked havoc and mentally dominated his former allies into fighting the JLA. When he failed, he was frozen screaming.
  • About a million alternate future stories depict either Batman or Superman as this, frequently with the other one trying to pull them out of it (to provide one of the most recent examples, the Injustice: Gods Among Us game series and off-shoot comics).
    • Dark Nights: Metal takes this up to eleven; featuring DC Universe besieged by five alternate universe versions of Batman with various shades of this. And their goal is to unleash entire multiverse of fallen heroes upon the world.
  • Godzilla: Rulers of Earth: King Caesar and Mecha-King Ghidorah.
  • The Long Halloween, the series that inspired Nolan when he was writing the script for The Dark Knight, has a Harvey Dent that worked alongside Batman and Commissioner Gordon. We later find out that Harvey may not have even been responsible for some of the Holiday murders, it may have been his wife trying to get Harvey to come back and end the mob's harassment of her family. A closer inspection reveals plot holes with this revelation, and it's vague whether she did it or was just crazy. This is only one version of Two-Face's origin, but all the ones worth mentioning show him as working with Batman before turning into Two-Face.
  • Both Sinestro and later his Arch-Enemy Hal Jordan are Green Lantern Corps members who turned evil. Sinestro wanted to enforce order, so he became a Knight Templar dictator of his home planet, Korugar. Years later, after seeing his home city nuked, among other things, Hal Freaked Out and destroyed the Green Lantern Corps and tried to remake the universe. Hal was later retconned into being possessed by the Anthropomorphic Personification of fear itself, and Sinestro was influenced by a demon telling him a prophecy that Korugar would destroy itself if order wasn't enforced.
  • At the beginning of Kevin Smith's Daredevil run, Karen Page was stuffed into a fridge. Then, Brian Michael Bendis took over and his identity was exposed to the public, and eventually, he was incarcerated for obstruction of justice. After beating the rap, his new wife, Milla, suffered a psychotic breakdown and the marriage dissolved (Matt cheating on her with Dakota North happened in between). By the time Lady Bullseye started to kill his closest allies to resurrect them as zombie ninja slaves, Matt finally said "screw this" and abandoned his life as Matt Murdock to become the leader of the Hand. Though still a Technical Pacifist, the crossover Shadowland changed this with Marvel promoting Daredevil as the new "greatest super-villain of the Marvel Universe".
  • The Punisher qualifies. Before becoming the Knight Templar vigilante he's notorious for being, Frank was a veteran in the United States Marines Special Forces; for heroism in the line of duty, he was decorated with numerous medals, including the Purple Heart. The brutal attack that killed his family caused him to desert just hours before he would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Astro City has El Hombre, an Expy of Batman from Los Angeles. Though he became prominent in the super-hero circle, he became upset at his lack of respect from the populace and his love interest's marriage to someone else. He then hired a super-villain to build a robot to attack the city so he could stop it in a high-profile fight. He was betrayed by the villain, and when it was later revealed that El Hombre commissioned the attack, he became a wanted fugitive and disappeared into his civilian identity.
    • Decades later, he tries a similar ruse, killing low-level supervillains to unite their ilk against him, eventually gathering them all in one place, and wiping them out in his new heroic identity as El Guerrero. His former sidekick, Bravo, while being ashamed of El Hombre's actions, still holds a great deal of respect for the great man and the hero he once was.
  • Shakara: The Big Bad responsible for most of the destruction was revealed to be Cinnibar Brenneka, the heroic warrior who built the Shakara empire in the first place.
  • Richard Dragon, most famous for being the best martial artist in the DCU, was one of these for a while, closing himself off from his emotions and blankly fighting people to death every night in an underground fighting ring until Bronze Tiger dragged him out of it.
  • Ant-Man: Hank Pym becomes one of these (usually of the retired variety, but occasionally the Anti-Villain version) every couple of years when something bad happens to Jan and/or Ultron does something horrible that he blames himself for.
  • Magneto jumps around between this, Anti-Villain, Anti-Hero, and Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • From Marvel's Golden Age, there was Thomas Halloway, the original Angel. In those times, he was a hero who fought the Nazis alongside the Sub-Mariner and the original Human Torch. But in modern times as an elderly man, he started to take morally questionable means of fighting criminals, financing and running the murderous vigilante group Scourges of the Underworld, which has assassinated a large number of lesser supervillains. (The worst part is, while he ran the group, the the Scourges ultimately reported to the Red Skull, someone all the heroes of the Angel's time opposed.) The USAgent confronts him eventually in his mini-series; the former hero is wounded and arrested, as are many Scourges, but the Angel himself was released for lack of any concrete evidence. It was assumed he resumed a quiet life. Still, the heroic Angel lives on in the form of his grandson Jason, who was given his costume during The Marvels Project limited series.
  • Black Panther was one of these (of the retired/bitter variety) at the end of Christopher Priest's run, but this development and the fatal brain aneurysm that caused it were both ignored by subsequent writers.
  • Superboy-Prime. He begins his career battling the Anti Monitor, the DC Universe's greatest threat, and is immediately forced into Limbo with his home universe destroyed. After years in Limbo, he returns, convinced that Earth's heroes are screwing it all up and ultimately decides that this universe needs to be replaced by a better one.
  • Supergirl, specifically the Linda Danvers incarnation, may or may not qualify. At the end of Many Happy Returns she was forced to send the original Supergirl back to her own reality, where she was Doomed by Canon. This left Linda broken and she promptly gave up the costume. A later series has her end up in Hell off-panel.
  • Irredeemable centers around The Plutonian, a Superman-like superhero who snaps violently after a long and thankless career and proceeds to become the irredeemable Big Bad set to obliterate the world that he once protected. Inversely, there's the spin-off Incorruptible, which focuses on former Supervillain Max Damage who, in the wake of The Plutonian's rampage of destruction, decides to become a hero.
    • Irredeemable is written by Mark Waid, who co-created Triumph (mentioned above), and has confirmed that a lot of the original ideas behind Triumph (who Waid wrote very little of) ended up in Irredeemable.
  • Sin City has Jack Rafferty, who was once a hero cop but eventually degraded to the level of an alcoholic Bastard Boyfriend. Word of God states that his story will eventually be told.
  • In All Fall Down, Pronto gradually becomes this for the climax.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW): Rarity, who succumbs to the Nightmare Force's More Than Mind Control to become their new queen. She returned to the good guys' side at the end of the Nightmare Force arc though.
  • In W.I.T.C.H. Nerissa used to be the leader of the previous generation of Guardians and the Keeper of the Heart before letting herself be corrupted and murdering Cassidy, who had replaced her as the Keeper because the Oracle had seen she was letting herself being corrupted and hoped to prevent this. Also Will, the leader and Keeper of the current generation, fears to become this since she faced Nerissa, but managed to stay on the side of good.
  • While still a "hero", Rorschach from Watchmen became a murderous vigilante after failing to save a girl killed by her kidnapper.
  • Birthright:
  • Halfway through Star Wars Legacy, Darth Krayt is revealed to be A’Sharad Hett, a Clone Wars-era Jedi Master who survived Order 66 and later fell to the dark side.
  • In Tales of the Jedi, Ulic Qel-Droma famously falls to the dark side. Though Sith poison helped him, he was already well on the way thanks to his ill-advised plan to infiltrate the enemy by pretending to be evil, and then compounding that with a thirst for vengeance when his master dies in battle. As a result, he turns against the Republic, joins the Big Bad, and helps to turn or kill many Jedi. He only turns back after he kills his brother and realizes how far he's fallen, then gets cut off from the Force by his former lover, Nomi Sunrider.
  • Among one of the Incredible Hulk's most dangerous foes is a future version of himself, the Maestro, an insane, hedonistic, sadistic tyrant.
  • Jason Todd, as the Red Hood, is treated as this by Batman and the rest of the Bat-Family: having been revived from the dead after being brutally murdered by The Joker only to find that Batman hadn't put down the Clown once and for all, Jason snapped. Denouncing the Bats' Thou Shalt Not Kill code, he became a "lethal justice" style vigilante using his training and skill with firearms to suppress criminals through murder and intimidation. The story "Battle for the Cowl" establishes that Jason's fall into bloodlust weighs so heavily on Batman that his last will and testament has only this to say to Jason: "You're broken, and I couldn't fix you. Maybe someone else can." His reaction to this message was to turn full blown supervillain and try to murder his little brothers.
  • The Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye portrays Megatron this way. Once, he was a voice of hope that the corrupt Senate and Functionist Council would be cast down. However, the attempt by the establishment to silence him and the apparent death of his mentor caused him to go steadily off the rails, until the Decepticons ended up, at best, no better than the corrupt establishment they fought. When he realises how far he'd fallen and gets a second chance in the Functionist universe, he ends up as that dimension's equivalent to Optimus Prime.
  • The Ultimates
    • After his family is killed, Hawkeye goes out for blood and lots of it.
    • When they were young, Loki was one-third of a Sibling Team with his brothers.

    Fan Works 
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic alternate continuity The Equestria Chronicles:
    • This role is filled by Princess Celestia, who slowly goes mad from the anxiety of having to constantly watch out for threats to her reign, and the psychological trauma of her internal struggle with the dark magic she accepted in order to live forever and create the cutie mark spell.
    • Princess Luna also falls victim to this, as she becomes the Knight Templar Nightmare Moon, hoping to put an end to the excesses and abuses of freedom that her sister has caused. In the end, Celestia decides to eliminate her sister rather than accept her help with ruling the kingdom.
  • In the Pokémon fanfic Pedestal, Nick becomes one of these after learning that his brother was killed.
  • In Jackie Chan Adventures stories that are part of Project Dark Jade, Jade either becomes an example of this trope or is in the danger of becoming one.
    • In Queen of All Oni, Jade becomes this after a spell reawakens her Queen of the Shadowkhan persona. And then in the second half of the story, Jade kidnaps Viper and performs a ritual that transforms her into Hebi, the new General of the Samurai Khan, and conditions her to be utterly loyal to Jade.
    • The same thing happens in Webwork, which is then compounded by Jade spending several years (courtesy of Narnia Time that makes it only a few hours on Earth) in the Emptiness with only Tarakudo and the Old Queen as company, while being further transformed into a Shadowkhan/Jorogumo hybrid. By the time she returns to Earth, her morality has been completely twisted.
    • In Ages of Shadow, this has already happened by the time the story starts. As flashbacks show, the J-Team and Section 13 were overwhelmed by a villain called the Magus King, leaving Jade with no other option but to put on Tarakudo's mask in order to use the Shadowkhan in order to win. This worked, and Jade even defeated Tarakudo and his Generals in a mental battle, but in the process was consumed by the shadow magic, permanently becoming a Shadowkhan and being twisted into wanting to Take Over the World. This ultimately led to Tohru having no choice but to seal her away.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, General Thunderhide qualifies for this as a well-loved war hero who joins Nightmare Moon's Civil War after believing no true change can come while Celestia remains in power. He knows what he's doing is wrong, but sees it as the only option available to him.
  • The Pony POV Series has a number of them. The first we see is in "Epilogue", a Bad Future where Discord won. The Mane Six have been turned into his immortal Co-Dragons and now do his bidding, at best having no idea they were once heroes like Twilight Tragedy and Rarigreed and at worst knowing they were but having no way to escape their fate. Though Liarjack still remains somewhat heroic, as she does her best to save lives, she still has done horrible things like helping kill Queen Cadance. Thankfully, the Dark World Series finally sees them rise again.
    • Then there's the second Big Bad, Nightmare Whisper, Fluttershy's Superpowered Evil Side born when she couldn't bare the cruelty in the world and tried to fix it, turning into a Well-Intentioned Extremist and trying to conquer the world and force it to be nice. In the end, she's purified with the Elements and becomes The Atoner.
    • Nightmare Mirror, Applejack's Alternate Self who became a Nightmare after her Applebloom didn't escape the events of Story of the Blanks, turning into a truth obsessed Multiversal Conqueror intending to rid the multiverse of deceit. Thankfully, Applejack manages to team up with five other alternate versions of her (including Liarjack, now back to Applejack) to purify her with the Elements of Harmony, then Applejack and Orangejack convince her to turn good again. The same journey also shows Nightmares of Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie called Nightmare Manacle and Nightmare Granfalloon respectively.
    • One alternate universe shows the Harmony Queens, a version of the mane six who went Knight Templar, overthrew and imprisoned Celestia and Luna, and took over the world eradicating anything they viewed as Disharmonic and brainwashing ponies in mass with the Elements. According to Word of God, they're based off the Justice Lords from the Justice League.
    • Finally there's Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, the true Big Bad of the Dark World Series. She's a potential future version of Twilight who went Nightmare to take revenge on Discord for what he did. She then becomes She Who Fights Monsters and trapped Discord in a "Groundhog Day" Loop, erasing billions from existence each loop to feed her grudge and not even caring anymore so long as he suffers.
  • Of course, there's Cupcakes, a notoriously Dark Fic that features Pinkie Pie, the same pony representing the Element of Laughter who helped to defeat Nightmare Moon and Discord, now a homicidal maniac with cannibalistic intentions.
  • Gentaro in Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, having been placed into a More Than Mind Control situation from Ophiuchus. Ryusei also becomes this, due to Tachibana brainwashing him and converting him into a cyborg in an 'attempt' to fix all the mistakes he did.
  • Fallout: Equestria:
    • Two-thirds of the Mane Six descends into villainy in the backstory, set during the war between Equestria and the zebra nation. Twilight Sparkle becomes an amoral Mad Scientist and Evilutionary Biologist obsessed with finding a way to turn normal ponies into alicorns, Rarity experiments with dark magic and creates propaganda that encourages hatred against zebrasnote , Pinkie Pie becomes a drug-addled psychopathic torturer who runs the Equestrian equivalent of the Ministry of Love, Rainbow Dash becomes a Blood Knight General Ripper obsessed with her own martial prowess and kill count, and Fluttershy passes military secrets to the zebras out of a misguided sense of kindness, directly leading to Equestria's destruction. Only Applejack retains her moral compass, and it gets her horribly disfigured in an assassination attempt.
    • Also Red Eye. Everything we see of his backstory points to him being an expy of the Lone Wanderer, but by the time he appears in the story, he's fully into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory and willing to do absolutely anything to save the wastes.
  • In The Shadow Wars Story Verse, this is true of Grey Hoof (originally from Story of the Blanks). He was a heroic leader and loving father, whose Start of Darkness came when plagues ravaged Sunney Towne and he could do nothing to protect his Ponies from them. He became increasingly frantic in his desire to prevent these plagues from returning. Eventually, he kills his most beloved daughter Ruby Gift in the delusion that she had the Mark Pox and would die horribly anyway — setting in motion the events leading to the Curse.
  • The Fierce Deity is stated to be this in Blood and Spirit. It is revealed that he was once the chosen hero of Termina's guardian goddess, Terminus, just as Link is to Zelda/Hylia. He fought Majora and won, only to end up being corrupted into what he is now. Terminus has Din, Nayru, and Farore send Link and Zelda to Termina to help and after Link has weakened the Fierce Deity, she and Zelda use the Song of Healing in an attempt to restore him to his former self; unfortunately, by that point, he has been far too corrupted by Majora to be saved, and is instead converted into the Fierce Deity's Mask. Though heartbroken over the loss, Terminus is nonetheless comforted by the knowledge that at least her hero is finally free from Majora's control.
  • Mirror's Image: Amazingly, Chrysalis is one. She used to be Princess Celestia's student and a bearer of the Element of Magic. Then she found out she was a Changeling and was banished. A thousand years of anger and resentment later, and there's little to nothing left of the pony she used to be. And she's not very broken up about it.
  • Vengeance of the Star, which is an alternate take on The Assassinationof Twilight Sparkle, has Twilight, who survives an assassination attempt. However, Spike is instead killed by the assassins. The resulting grief makes her more ruthless and she turns into Midnight Sparkle, an evil version of herself.
  • War And Peace In Mind has the Red Knight a.k.a. Baron Battle before the story even starts. Once a great hero, his exploits made him eventually grew so frustrated with the incompetency of society that he decided that the only way to fix the problem would be to rule the world.
  • One of the Canon Welding elements of Digimon Trinity has Takeru "TK" Takaishi from Digimon Adventure/02 grow up to take over the role of Mitsuo Yamaki from Digimon Tamers.
  • Harry Potter in Harry's Madness who razes Hogwarts to the ground, and turns the DA into an army for world domination, all because he didn't get enough support in fifth year.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, it's eventually revealed that the Tracker was originally Didier, one of the great heroes of Meridian's ancient past. How exactly this came to pass is currently unknown, however.
  • Lamarckian has the Pro Hero Native, who is the father of the Self-Insert Kanna in this universe. With the Cannibalistic Serial Killer Wendigo after him, Native starts expending more and more resources to catch him, and spending less time with his family. It eventually culminates in Native using his wife and daughter as bait for Wendigo, which causes them to leave him in the aftermath, and he spends most of the rest of the fic trying to make amends.
  • In Karma In Retrograde, Touya Todoroki was an aspiring hero student at U.A. with the potential to surpass his father, the current number one hero. He was a gentle and caring older brother to his siblings and wanted nothing more than to rescue them from his father's influence. But somewhere down the line, he underwent a Face–Heel Turn, vanishing off the face of the Earth before reemerging as the villainous Dabi who gleefully participates in murder and arson to tear down hero society. When reverted back to his sixteen-year-old self by a deaging Quirk, he's horrified by his actions and doesn't understand why he turned out the way he did.
  • General Zod in The Last Son was once Krypton's most renowned military commander, and a close friend of Superman's father Jor-El, who even named him the godfather of his son. Unfortunately, the death of his lover Ursa during the Krypton-Shi'ar war drove Zod mad to the point he fired upon Shi'ar ships that had already surrendered. He was found guilty of war crimes and banished to the Phantom Zone until he was accidentally freed on Earth by Cadmus tampering with his cell. Zod took advantage of the fact that his trial wasn't on the records of Superman's Fortress of Solitude prior to Krypton's destruction to earn his trust and secretly plotted to take over Earth.
  • In Neither a Bird nor a Plane, it's Deku!, the Nana Shimura of Earth 2014.50 was once a staunch adherent of the ideology that would shape All Might's and generations of Heroes to come. But after the deaths of her husband and her protege, she decided that people needed a powerful figure to look up to in order to create the World of Smiles she dreamed of, taking over the world and ruling it with an iron fist while culling anyone who opposes or even annoys her. She even admits that All Might would have never approved of what she's done, but she feels those ideals are outdated and can only cause further suffering.
  • Equestria Divided: The Mane Six went from being True Companions and the most important defenders of Equestria to Axe-Crazy, racist warlords (or a crazy undead and/or Eldritch Abomination, in Pinkie's case) warring with each other for total dominance of the country they used to defend.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight definitely counts, after he becomes Two-Face. Formerly idealistic, he grows steadily more cynical in the face of the Joker's crimes and, after the Joker's Breaking Speech, turns into a Straw Nihilist who believes that Chance is the only fair law.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Sentinel Prime, by virtue of Face–Heel Turn. He made a deal with the Decepticons that would restore their home planet of Cybertron. Additional material establishes Megatron as this. Before the Great War, he was the Lord High Protector of Cybertron, ruling equally with Optimus. It's implied he was corrupted by the Fallen in a moment of weakness.
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker, who got three whole movies of Start of Darkness.
    • Skywalker may have been the most infamous Jedi to turn evil, but he was hardly the only one. Count Dooku, the villain in Attack of the Clones, was once a member of the order too, and Expanded Universe books often feature "Dark Jedi" as villains, many of whom were formerly real Jedi, who are too numerous to list.
    • Anakin's own grandson Jacen Solo would follow his path in the Expanded Universe, becoming the villainous Darth Caedus.
    • His son, Luke, ended up taking the Heroic Neutral path in The Last Jedi, hiding away, waiting to die. He ends up mentoring Rey in the ways of the force, and even does a Heroic Sacrifice against Kylo Ren at the end of the movie.
    • ...And, of course, Kylo Ren was once Ben Solo, although how much of a "hero" he was in the first place is up to debate, since it's implied he was resentful towards his parents from the start. Like Jacen Solo, Kylo Ren is also Anakin's grandson and ironically succeeds in many of the same goals Anakin failed in, such as usurping his generation's Supreme Leader and taking over the galaxy. Anakin is even somewhat of a role model for Ben, although to be fair Kylo probably doesn't know all the details.
    • Downplayed with Han Solo, who became estranged from Leia, fell back to his old ways of smuggling and crime. Rey and Finn find him trying to pull double crosses on several criminal gangs and smuggling dangerous wild animals. He does pull it together to try and help the new heroes stop Kylo Ren only to be skewered on his son's lightsaber after a few moments of hesitation.
  • Madmartigan, the master swordsman in Willow, qualifies for the "lost himself in dissipation" version of the trope.

    Literature 
  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • The Silmarillion: Fëanor. He was the mightiest, most skilled, most puissant of all the Elven race... and the source of their greatest woes. Also a major case of You Could Have Used Your Powers for Good.
    • Morgoth is a fallen Vala and this universe's equivalent of Satan, which as noted above is one of the oldest examples there is, so he counts. Sauron too, he used to be a Maia which were like angels.
    • Then there is Saruman the White, greatest of the Istari (Wizards), in The Lord of the Rings.
  • Ineluki, the Storm King of Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, started out as a hero of the Sitha, but he took his people's racist tendencies to the extreme and when Asu'a was sacked, he turned from defending his people to killing everyone else. Also an example of Motive Decay.
  • In the The Belgariad, Zedar, The Dragon, used to be Belzedar, one of Belgarath's sworn brothers and a servant of the god Aldur. When Torak, the Big Bad of the series, struck Aldur and stole the Orb, Zedar headed out to confront him...and found himself overwhelmed by Torak's power. Faced with The Dark Side, he gave in to his barely-suppressed lust for power and swore fealty to Torak.
  • Gerald Tarrant/The Hunter in the Coldfire trilogy. Sorcerer, philosopher, and Prophet of the One God, until the religion he had created excommunicated him, at which point, he killed his wife and children as a part of a bargain with Dark Powers.
  • In the Dilvish, the Damned stories by Roger Zelazny, it's stated that the Big Bad Jelerak used to be good many hundreds of years ago. But he crossed the Moral Event Horizon long ago.
  • Marth in the Heirs of Ash books, complete with also being Tristam's For Want of a Nail Evil Counterpart.
  • The Dresden Files
    • Agent Denton, who is also He Who Fights Monsters. When Harry soulgazes him, he sees that he used to be a genuinely good man, but his methods (most notably, his use of the Hexenwulf belts) made him just as bad, if not worse, than the people he's trying to take down.
    • The Corpsetaker was once a member of the White Council.
  • Crudgeon in Artemis Fowl was LEPrecon's golden boy and best friend of the Da Chief. In book 1 Ambition Is Evil put him in a Trauma Conga Line and he became one half of the Big Bad of book 2.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle has Lanre, who was once a great hero but went mad with grief when he was unable to use his power to resurrect his beloved.
  • Hollyleaf from Warrior Cats eventually becomes this, when her love of the warrior code makes her turn murderous. But then she has a Heel Realization.
  • Satan in Paradise Lost was once a glorious angel, but he falls from grace and becomes evil. In the story, he's ironically given the trappings of an epic hero, which he clearly believes he is.
  • Kalthused of Within Ruin. He starts out as a heroic leader fighting for the independence of his country but when his wife Ankaa dies he falls into a spiral of despair. He forsakes all his old morals and plunges the country into futile wars for centuries in order to bring Ankaa back to life.
  • By the end of Animorphs Jake has become one of these. It's stated in the epilogue that the only reason he's not being tried as a war criminal is that he fought for the side the won the war.
  • Trapped on Draconica: Pre-series Kazebar was Draconica's number 1 humanitarian. To reward his good work Dronor granted his son the power to travel between worlds, believing that if any human deserved this honor it would be Kazebar's family line. Whether he was tempted by this power or if he was Evil All Along is not made clear.
  • David Gemmell loves subverting this trope. Waylander is a war hero. Then his family is slaughtered, and he makes sure none of the assailants "takes less than an hour to die", and finances his vengeance by becoming a professional killer. Then he seeks redemption, gets it somehow, his family gets killed again, vengeance ensues, redemption again, and then he dies a stupid death by the hand of the son of the man whose death was the reason for his first face heel turn toward good. Gemmell does not like black and white.
  • Luke Castellan from Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
  • Brittney Donegal from the GONE series.
  • Donald from Sukhinov's Emerald City series.
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: The Good Queen Mallow became the Marquess due to her anger at being returned to the mundane world. She still considers herself the hero.
  • Many of the Forsaken from The Wheel of Time were this. Demandred, Sammael, and Be'lal were all great generals on the side of Light (and all three of them turned to the Shadow out of rivalry with the Light's other great general, Lews Therin Telamon); Graendal was a famed ascetic who went bad after deciding that no one could possibly measure up to her extreme moral standards; Ishamael was considered the greatest philosopher and theologian of his age, but learned one too many Things Man Was Not Meant to Know and went mad from the revelation, becoming in essence The Antichrist. Subverted with Semirhage, who though a renowned healer was always a sociopath and sadist deep down and turned to the Shadow early on upon realizing that the Dark One would let her use her talents in ways that society would never accept.
  • Implied to be the fate of Captain Housework in the Superheroes anthology when he realizes that lacking any more supervillains to fight, his life is going to be an endless parade of socialites calling him to clean their houses before parties and not even being grateful enough to keep said houses clean. His Start of Darkness is reducing one such socialite's party to a house full of perfectly polished skeletons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Stannis Baratheon was once the honorable commander who held Storm's End for days without food. However, repeated snubs and disrespect forces him to rely on the blood magic of Melisandre, which has slowly caused him to compromise all of his ideals.
    • Daenerys Targaryen starts out waging war against slavers in Essos, freeing slaves and upon coming to Westeros helps fight the White Walkers and Army Of The Dead, playing an important role in saving the world. After a number of close, personal losses, she ends up losing her mind and burning many thousands of innocent civilians in King's Landing.
  • Buredoran/Brajira from Tensou Sentai Goseiger. It's revealed that he used to be a Gosei angel who turned on the rest of his team and stole their powers killing them. He uses an experimental power to travel 10,000 years into the future to enact his grand plan to remake the world and become its messiah and savior.
  • Jon Mitchell from Being Human. He tries hard to fight his vampire urges and tries to be an example of reform, but he falls off the wagon in season 2 and slaughters a train of 20 people. He never really gets back to normal after that and commits suicide.
  • Willow Rosenberg of Buffy the Vampire Slayer became the Card-Carrying Villain version of this trope after witnessing the death of her girlfriend. Magic high also leads to her becoming this. Luckily, the transition was temporary in the TV series. There was also an Alternate Universe book trilogy ("Wicked Willow") that explored what would have happened if she had stayed that way.
    • The canonical Season 8 comic books state she is still this; specifically the "Time of Your Life" arc, which crosses over with Fray, a Bad Future where Willow becomes an Evil Sorceror and the Big Bad (though she tries to prevent it by avoiding Black Magic).
    • In the Season Nine comics we learn that while she is holding it together around Buffy, Willow is hell bent on bringing magic back, believing the world is going to end and she has to save it. Faith also took the Card-Carrying Villain route after accidentally killing a human, also temporary-ish (though it's acknowledged in-universe that her actions, while she was a villain, went too far to just be forgiven and forgotten).
  • Angel plays it straight with Daniel Holtz, season three's Big Bad. He was once a force for good, but Angelus and Darla destroyed his life, slaughtered his family, and reduced him to a revenge-driven monster. At his best, he is a Noble Demon, at his worst he's a petty old man willing to sacrifice the lives, happiness, and even sanity of people who love him in order to have his revenge.
  • Numerous times on Law & Order and its various spin-offs as a revered sports star or actor will be revealed as a killer, pedophile, rapist or worse.
    • When she and a rookie cop bust a boxing champ as a pedophile, Rollins tells the rookie "Stay on this job long enough, you watch all your heroes die."
  • Heroes
    • Linderman. His low-key, evil approach is made all the more monstrous when viewers realize that, having the ability to heal most injuries, he chooses to have people killed, kidnapped, and crippled instead.
    • Adam Monroe. He is introduced as Takezo Kensei, the literal hero of legend. Despite trouncing all the fantastic tales attributed to him in one fell swoop, Kensei proves himself a true hero many times over during his time with Hiro — only to do a Face–Heel Turn when Hiro steals away the woman he loves right out from under his nose. Four hundred years later, his heartbreak has driven him to seek a 'second chance' by wiping out 93% of the world's population.
  • In the French fantasy dramedy Kameloth, the Knight Lancelot start out as the noble and charismatic hero we expect him to be, but he has always been ideologically opposed to the libertarian policy of Arthur (who he considers a proof of weakness) and considers himself more worthy of the holy mission given to his king. After the spoofed-legend-opposed-got-away-with-Guinevere-part, he openly rebels against Kameloth's order and became the tool of a dark sorcerer named Melangeant, who presents himself as The Chessmastering answer of the gods to Arthur's failure in his mission
  • Kamen Rider Double: Katsumi Daido and NEVER as a whole. They were originally at least AntiHeroes, but the events of Kamen Rider Double Returns: Eternal caused their fall into madness and villainy.
  • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Taiga Hanaya/Kamen Rider Snipe used to be a gentle soul working for Seito University Hospital before being chosen as the first user of Gamer driver. Everything went downhill from there, making Taiga the self-centered jerk other Doctor riders would come to know. He is aware of how far he had fallen and it pains him but is still determined to continue on his way. Well, with minor adjustments.
  • Eli David in NCIS seems to be this. In a way, he's reminiscent of Denethor.
  • Some of the best episodes of Scrubs deal with this happening to Dr. Cox. While the fall is temporary, the sight of the normally caustic and extremely confident physician in tears is very heartrending, to say the least.
  • Lex Luthor from Smallville is a great example. He started off as nothing more than a good Samaritan friend to Clark Kent. As time went on, he became nastier and more cynical at the world, and possibly became Clark's worst enemy. However, how long would the show actually last if Luthor was kept a good guy throughout the entire show?
  • In Chinese Paladin, Jiang Ming was The Paragon of Mt. Shu, on track to become the Big Good before it's revealed he's having an affair. He snaps when ordered to kill his lover, massacres the entire population of the mountain, and becomes a vengeful ghost who, a hundred years later, is so powerful none of the monks dare enter the Demon Pagoda.
  • Jack Bauer in 24. First seven seasons? Someone who pushed himself ten times beyond the brink both physically and mentally to repeatedly ensure the safety of the country and world. Final season? After his latest mission winds up going horribly wrong and ends on a tragic note, he winds up embarking on a personal crusade of revenge that ultimately causes an international crisis and nearly instigates a war that would lead to the deaths of millions of innocent people, just barely stopped himself after realizing how bad those repercussions would be. Rivaling him would be Tony Almeida who went from protecting people to threatening them all to avenge the murder of his wife... and unlike Jack he never had a Heel Realization.
    • President Allison Taylor in Season 8, coinciding with and being the final straw for Jack's above turn, gets hit hard with the Sunk Cost Fallacy after seeing what was supposed to the grand achievement of her presidency utterly fall apart after losing her entire family in the process. Combined with the ill-advised move of turning to Charles Logan for advice, she insists on pushing forward with the sham of a peace treaty at all costs. It's only an eleventh-hour Heel Realization from her that prevents the masterminds of the season from achieving a full Karma Houdini victory.
  • Doctor Who has had the Doctor come to or near this point twice, but also reconstructed the trope in both cases.
    • When the Eighth Doctor, barely saved from death, is convinced to fight in the Last Great Time War rather than just try and help those caught up in it, he decides to give up his principles and title to do so and regenerates into what comes to be known as the War Doctor. He does the opposite of a healer's work as a warrior and finally decides to destroy both the Dalek forces massing around Gallifrey and Gallifrey and his people (including billions of innocent children) to end the war. His later lives deliberately try to forget this incarnation for committing such a wicked act. However, in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor", Ten and Eleven come to an understanding of his side of the story and how he did what he had to do... and then in the climax, at companion Clara's behest, they and all of the other incarnations of the Doctor figure out a way to SAVE Gallifrey yet end the Time War at the same time, thus reconstructing the trope spectacularly!
    • The Twelfth Doctor undergoes a Trauma Conga Line in the climactic stretch of Series 9. In "Face the Raven", he is lured into a trap and betrayed by Ashildr/Me, but even worse, because his beloved companion Clara takes a daring risk to save someone, she accidentally condemns herself to death. In "Heaven Sent" he is trapped by, as it turns out, the Time Lords (his people!) in a giant torture chamber. By the time he escapes it, he has been Driven to Madness by rage, anguish, grief, and torture, and become The Unfettered. In the finale "Hell Bent" he uses his legendary cleverness to pull Clara out of time at the moment of her death, an act that threatens to destroy the entire universe, all because he can't take the pain anymore. In the end, Clara herself triggers a Heel Realization and he realizes he must give up his Tragic Dream and "be a Doctor" once again.
    • As for Rassilon, the founder of the Time Lords, he was always revered despite being a bit of a genocidal maniac, but the War pushed him off the crumbling remains of his pedestal.
  • In The 100 Season 1, Finn was probably the most moral and idealistic of the teen characters; he was the one actually trying to make peace with the Grounders rather than assuming violence was inevitable. By Season 2, though, the traumatic experiences he's been through and a belief that his Love Interest is in danger drive him to increasingly violent ends to get her back, ultimately slaughtering a Grounder village, killing 18 innocent, unarmed people; he's executed for his crimes shortly afterward.
  • Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard used to be a man of justice. Until his pension was vetoed, leaving him to either retire without a penny to his name or join in Boss Hogg's scheming.
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys features Gilgamesh in Season 5's "Faith" and reveals him to be this during the climax. Like Hercules, he couldn't depend on the gods to protect his family and lost them in a senseless act of violence. However, whereas Hercules treated his tragedy as a motivation to never stop fighting for others, Gilgamesh became The Dragon to the Big Bad.
    Gilgamesh: When I lost my family, I did lose my faith. And in my deepest despair, I heard the voice of Dahak—a voice so pure, so true, I knew I had found salvation.
  • Ultra Series: Ultraman Belial qualifies this trope, for being corroded by the power of the Plasma Spark, which would subsequently cause his exile, in Planet Golgotha, he becomes even more corrupted after merging with the blood of a murderous alien race, the Reiblood by this point, Belial can't go any deeper down the rabbit hole, right? Well, you'd be WRONG! because by the second movie, Belial decides to absorb the energy of a powerful crystal, transforming himself into Arc Belial, by this point he barely even resembles an Ultraman anymore, and he has turned into what he swore to destroy: a Kaiju himself
  • In Westworld, William first arrived at the park as a milquetoast and moral guest looking for meaning in his life. He seems to find meaning in Dolores, a Host who he falls in love with. Unfortunately, over the course of the first season, William is pushed toward brutality by his business partner and brother-in-law Logan, destroying his moral code piece by piece. William snapped after a Breaking Speech from Logan, and he began to mercilessly slaughter Hosts who stood in his way. His turn to evil is cemented once he finds out that Dolores had her memory wiped. 30 years later, William becomes the Man in Black, a violent, raping sociopath who's obsessed with finding the true meaning of the park.

    Music 
  • Gloryhammer: Sir Proletius, Grand Master of the Knights of Crail. In the first two albums, he was a long-standing ally of house McFife and one of the just warriors called up to fight against Zargothrax. In the third album's Dark World, Proletius has been corrupted by Zargothrax's Knife of Evil, and turned the Knights to the service of Evil.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • Revelations shows Satan as a fallen angel. This is Older Than Feudalism, as the popular depiction has roots in the 2000+-year-old source material.
    • King Saul; initially portrayed as a humble, God-fearing man, he makes some bad choices, undergoes (demonic-induced) madness, and ends his reign as the arch-enemy of the man God chose to succeed him.
    • King David: farmer, harp player, and faithful to God until he becomes king. Then he spies on a naked woman and puts her husband in the front lines of battle, twice, just so he'll die, and David will be free to marry his widow.
      • Surprisingly and hilariously, VeggieTales parodied this story.
    • King Solomon: the man who built the Temple fell to idolatry as the price of maintaining political alliances with foreign kingdoms. His rule would eventually split Israel in two.
    • King Jeroboam; God's new Chosen One who should have corrected Solomon's mistakes again fell to idolatry when he built idols to prevent pilgrims from going to Jerusalem (now enemy territory).
    • King Jehu: Again God's Chosen One to displace the Omrid Dynasty. But he went overboard in his massacre of those affiliated with Ahab. Then he ended and persecuted Baal worship only to continue in Jeroboam's false worship.
    • King Joash: the Lone Survivor of The Purge that almost wiped out David's dynasty became arrogant and corrupt. He had the son of his mentor killed for speaking out against him.
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Bellerophon. The first great Hero of the Heoric Age even before Herakles and Perseus, he killed the Chimera. But then he thought he was worthy of godhood and attempted to invade Olympus with Pegasus.
  • Norse Mythology:
    • Loki Laufeyson (you know, the bad guy in Thor and The Avengers), the blood brother of Odin and best friend and Guile Hero sidekick of Thor, started off as a light hearted comic relief of sorts, with something of a running gag in the stories of him being threatened with death by the other Gods (sometimes in retaliation for a prank, sometimes because they're just jerks like that), then his attempts to fix everything resulting in him suffering some form of mutilation or humiliation (from having his mouth stitched closed to being raped and impregnated by a giant horse), but he remained loyal to Asgard, but eventually, his humiliations and repeated sufferings, combined with the fact that the Gods didn't particularly care for him that much, made him bitter and resentful, until coming to a head when they imprisoned him on a boulder (chained up by his own son's entrails) with a giant serpent dripping venom into his eyes. Once free of this Fate Worse than Death, Loki leads the enemies of Asgard against the Aesir, dying in battle against Heimdall, but in doing so, brought about the End of the World as We Know It, Ragnarok.
    • What makes this even more tragic is that this aspect is often left out in adaptations, where Loki ends up becoming the Norse equivalent of a standard bad guy. Since Loki's Face–Heel Turn happened right before he died, many later versions of the Norse tales have him instead being a real asshole who constantly screws over the others. In fact, the original reason Loki was chained to the boulder was retconned, so instead of being because he insulted them all at a party they didn't invite him to (he wasn't invited so they could talk about him behind his back) was instead because he arranged the death of Baldur (something he merely claimed to do in order to wind them all up), with no party or comments involved.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Hulk Hogan, in WCW, eventually realized he was "old news", and the fans he'd lived his life to please didn't care about him anymore. So he called up his buddies from up north and turned heel at Bash at the Beach, so they could destroy everything WCW fans enjoyed about the company.
  • Similarly, Chris Jericho's recent WWE Face–Heel Turn was fueled by the fans' continued cheering for Shawn Michaels — who was not only a lying, cheating hypocrite but was unrepentant for having retired the great Ric Flair. In Jericho's mind, it's not him that turned; it's the fans.
  • Speaking of HBK, he's been this several times (all versions at different points), including presently.
    • Specifically, he was the outright villainous version during his initial turn after turning on Jannetty, the anti-hero version for parts of the initial DX run, the anti-villain in his crusade against Hulk Hogan, and the retired/disinterested version during his various retirements and sabbaticals.
  • Subverted with Bret Hart in 1997, who only turned against the American wrestling fans, but was still considered a hero in the other territories.
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's character was defined by his drive to become the WWF Champion "at all costs". Usually, this just meant that Austin would theoretically work harder than everyone else to get it. His Face–Heel Turn came out of taking that to the logical extreme, where he allied with his perpetual nemesis, Vince McMahon (and his rival, Triple H, the next night...who tried to kill him in the past), at the now-famous Wrestlemania X-7, to guarantee he would leave the event as WWF Champion.
  • When The Rock fought heel Hollywood Hogan at Wrestlemania X8, he unexpectedly got a lot of boos and "Rocky sucks!" chants (he was also booed at the last Wrestlemania, but that was against Stone Cold in Texas, so it's understandable). Given how popular The Rock is supposed to be, it came as a shock that people would boo him over the heel, Hogan. The Rock later used this as partial reasoning for turning heel the next year where he defeated both Hogan AND Austin in back-to-back PPV's.
  • Mick Foley was probably the most famous "hardcore" wrestler during his stint as Cactus Jack, due to his runs on WCW and his Death Matches in IWA Japan with Terry Funk. However, when he made his Face–Heel Turn in ECW, he cited the fans' expectations of the wrestlers (and their desire to see wrestlers put themselves in increasingly dangerous situations) as the reason he turned on Tommy Dreamer, the heart and soul of ECW. He then began his "anti-hardcore" gimmick where he became a WCW-shilling, non-hardcore butt boy for Eric Bischoff, everything ECW fans hated in wrestling.
  • Chris Benoit was at one time considered arguably one of the greatest wrestlers of all time but his claim as one of the greats has all but been erased due to the events of the last days of his life.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Blackguard class from Dungeons & Dragons is specifically designed for fallen heroes, allowing the player to "trade in" Paladin levels for Blackguard levels after completing a Face–Heel Turn. However, while the character may not have been planning on the transition, the player almost always is; the Blackguard class has pre-requisites that don't make sense for most Paladin builds. The idea is that a character won't go straight from Paladin to Blackguard, but will instead "fall" as a Paladin (losing all their Paladin-specific abilities but retaining their raw stats) and then choose to pursue the path of the Blackguard instead of redemption, summoning an evil outsider to teach them how to do so. The most awkward pre-requisite for a fallen Paladin is still the five ranks in Hide, however.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Gigobyte / Gagagigo / Giga Gagagigo / Gogiga Gagagigo cards, which describe a young troublemaker who has a Heel–Face Turn upon having his life saved, and in trying to gain enough power to help repay his debt, he acquires cybernetic upgrades which eventually eat his soul and drive him mad. It's a surprisingly detailed story told not only in the flavor text of his own cards but in illustrations for other cards that otherwise have nothing to do with him. It's only natural that his story gets played out in one of the video games. Said video game had him realising the error of his ways. This almost certainly qualifies him for Heel–Face Revolving Door. And now He’s Back, recovering his heroic soul and getting new armor that lets him keep the power he was searching for.
    • Dragon Horn Hunter succumbed to despair after her village was destroyed and her soul became stained by the hatred of all the dragons she killed, becoming Dragon Core Hexer. She has become a remorseless killing machine and has forgotten her past and original purpose.
  • While there are many in Magic: The Gathering, the one that stands out the most is Crovax. When the love of his life (an angel) died, he ended up going over to Yawgmoth's side to get her back. Gerrard Capashen followed for a similar motive, but realised that it was a con and ended up giving his life to take down Yawgmoth.
    • Glissa Sunseeker fought against Memnarch to save Mirrodin. Awesome, yeah? Too bad that it directly resulted in her becoming a Phyrexian.
    • Nahiri was one of the three planeswalkers who helped trap the Eldrazi in her own home plane (however reluctant she was at that), and she's generally more friendly than her other two companions, Sorin and Ugin. At one point after she foiled another escape attempt by the Eldrazi, she seeks Sorin to help reinforce the prison, but due to mistiming of the meeting happening when Sorin was busy and tired from another business, he dismissed her, culminating in a fight that got her locked up. After she is freed (not by his hands), she discovers her home plane in ruins due to the Eldrazi escaping, blames him for it (not knowing he's not responsible for that) and decides to bring the Eldrazi into his home plane as an act of revenge.
  • Warhammer 40,000. Exactly half of the Primarchs turned against their father the Emperor of Mankind in the great betrayal of the 31st millennium. Each of the ten traitors had a personal reason for turning their back on their father. None are more tragic than The Paragon Horus the Warmaster (i.e. the Emperor's second-in-command, since he was the Emperor's favorite son).
    • The Chaos Gods showed Horus a vision of a terrible future where the Primarchs are gone, the ideals of the Great Crusade are forgotten, and the Emperor is worshiped as a god in a brutal fascist dictatorship. Horus dealt with the Chaos Gods and turned on the Emperor (the man who saved humanity and rebuilt civilisation after a horrific dark age that lasted thousands of years) to save humanity from this dark fate. The Horus Heresy results in the Imperium becoming increasingly authoritarian due to its paranoia over Chaotic rebellions like Horus's, and the final battle leaves Horus dead and the Emperor in a coma, unable to steer the Imperium onto a more enlightened path. Fast forward ten thousand years and Horus's actions have caused the Imperium to become a brutal fascist dictatorship where the Emperor is worshipped as a god and the Imperial Truth (the atheistic rationalism which the Emperor personally believed) is thought of as heresy, since it offends the immortal God-Emperor. Justdamn.
    • Then there's Fulgrim, the Primarch who turned his dying homeworld into a thriving paradise and strove to make his Legion the perfect embodiment of Imperial glory and culture. His corruption came from the Laer, xenos exterminated by his Legion that worshipped Slaanesh and heavily modified their bodies for various purposes, from whom Fulgrim obtained a Daemon-possessed sword. Corrupted by the Daemon-sword, the Laer’s practices, and his fallen brother Horus, Fulgrim chemically and genetically altered his legion towards a more and more twisted ideal of “perfection”, while taking up Slaanesh worship, straying from the Emperor’s path. In the end, after killing his brother Ferrus Manus, Fulgrim came to his senses and fell into despair, which allowed the Daemon-sword to fully possess him, completing the former hero’s fall to Chaos.
    • A Fallen Hero or a Misunderstood one? Alpharius and Omegon, the twin Primarchs of the Alpha Legion seemingly sided with Horus against the Emperor. However, they did this after being informed by a universal alien organisation that when the Emperor would defeat Horus, the universe would continue in constant warfare against the Chaos Gods, ultimately devouring the universe in the process. They were told that when Horus would defeat the Emperor, the Empire would fall into chaos for 2 or 3 generations after which the Fallen Primarchs and Horus, ridden with guilt of their actions, would seek war upon themselves and destroy mankind and the Chaos Gods in the process (which is what the Emperor was trying to do). Upon reflecting this information the Alpha Legion decided to side with Horus against the Emperor to actually follow the path he had directed for the destruction of the Chaos Gods. Thus they became Fallen Heroes to take the action a Right Hero should do.
    • Magnus the Red was a Primarch who strongly supported the use of Psychic Powers and the importance of written knowledge. When he used sorcery to tell the Emperor of Horus's betrayal, despite the Emperor having forbidden sorcery, the Emperor refused to believe that Horus could be a traitor and thought that it had to be Magnus instead. Therefore he sent the Space Wolves (who had always distrusted Magnus) to Magnus's homeworld Prospero thus forcing Magnus to appeal to a Chaos God so that his people would survive.
    • In general, the theme of Chaos is that many think they can control it or they will not fall to its addiction. Many are horribly wrong. Freedom fighters pray to them to grant their boon, not knowing that they invite mutation and possession into their bodies. Psykers are tempted with control and normality but instead are commandeered by daemons. Even entire chapters of Space Marines (most notably the traitor legions and, more recently, the Astral Claws) thought they were doing what was right in defying the Imperium and protecting innocents, only to be branded as heretics and hunted down, ironically forcing them to turn to Chaos to survive. Few are the number who can use the powers of Chaos without losing themselves, and fewer still are the ones who don't eventually succumb to the temptation.
  • More than a few villains in Warhammer Fantasy started off on the path of good.
    • Archaon was originally a devote Templar of Sigmar, however, he suffered a Trauma Conga Line after discovering a prophecy revealing he father was a chaos champion, himself a Child by Rape, and fated to become the Everchosen champion of the chaos gods. He begged his god Sigmar for a sign of how to avoid this, but when nothing came he decided lost all hope and went to become a chaos warrior.
    • Malekith the King of the Dark Elves was the son of the first Phoenix King Aenarion, and a mighty warrior and leader. When he was refused the crown however he grew bitter and eventually tried to take it by force. He killed the king and the ruling council but was burned by the sacred flames and he and his followers cast out. Settling in the New World, he started a conflict that would go on for millennia. Come the End Times it's revealed that he actually was the rightful King all along.
  • In Exalted, this is how new Abyssals are made: a Solar is captured, strapped into a Monstrance of Celestial Portion, and tortured until they die, become catatonic, or become an Abyssal. There's nothing that prevents them from breaking loose, trying to rise again and setting off on a quest for redemption back into a Solar...
  • Mage: The Ascension puts this spin on its primary "antagonist" faction, the Technocratic Union. Back in the olden days, they were bonafide heroes, fighting the old-tyme Sorcerous Overlords of the world as the Order of Reason, in the name of God, the common good, and the Muggles of the world. Nowadays, while they haven't quite turned into complete villains yet, they've certainly fallen very far from their idealistic past, and quite a lot of Technocrats are more concerned with control and stability than making a positive difference in the world. And the fact that they're much better at making people not believe in magic than they are at making them enthusiastic about science is one of many factors slowly killing the world by inches. Unlike many Old World of Darkness antagonists, Technocratic characters are completely playable, and their sourcebooks often stress the possibility for player characters to be Science Heroes rather than stodgy, soulless bureaucrats and to act as idealistic Internal Reformists working to make the Union a better place.

    Theatre 

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE
    • The Brotherhood of Makuta were a group of militaristic biologists who created all animals in the Matoran Universe to preserve natural balance, and were later assigned to govern over various regions of the Universe along with the local leaders. Due to their secretive nature and Elemental Powers of shadow, the society began worshiping Mata Nui and the Toa heroes over them, even after their armies had just saved the Universe. Thus, they grew envious, and a glitch in their A.I. caused them to turn evil, with Teridax overthrowing the old Makuta leader and becoming the story's Big Bad.
    • Nidhiki of the Dark Hunters was once a Toa whose sworn duty was to protect the Matoran of the universe from evil. While he had his flaws, particularly his ambition and selfishness, he still did his duty and enjoyed being a hero. Together with his leader and friend Lhikan, their team protected the city of Metru Nui from monsters and evil organizations for a thousand years. However, during the great Toa-Dark Hunter War, in a moment of weakness, the Dark Hunters preyed on his flaws and convinced him to sell out the city in exchange for the right to rule it. Lhikan found out, foiled the betrayal, and banished Nidhiki from the city with the Dark Hunters. Now among his former enemies, Nidhiki found himself regarded with suspicion by those who knew of his treachery, and ultimately he schemed to escape them and become a Toa elsewhere. He was then betrayed and mutated into a monstrous insectoid form, the very kind of creature he feared, and with no other choice was forced to remain a Dark Hunter for the rest of his life, hating Lhikan and the Hunters for his current circumstances.

    Visual Novels 
  • Archer in Fate/stay night. Contrary to the page quote, he died a hero and still saw himself become the villain. Technically, he still believes that his ideal is correct, he just realizes that it's way bloodier than he thought it would be and would rather not exist than be forced to continue with it. He pulls off a pretty impressive Batman Gambit to do so.

    Web Comics 
  • Smilling Man from The Crossoverlord. Once the greatest hero of his universe, after the death of his beloved wife, he turned into a Multiversal Conqueror.
  • Both Miko and Redcloak in The Order of the Stick. While neither of them were ever truly heroes, both were, at the bare minimum, decent people, before their Moral Event Horizon. The former actually fell, losing her paladin powers. Overall she was a milder example than Redcloak, as she at least tried to keep doing good, but never quite managed it due to her pride.
  • The Boogeyman from Night Terror is one. Long before the events of the series, he was actually Tybalt's brother, Bo. He always lived in his brother's shadow, and eventually committed suicide out of hopelessness, rising again as Big Bad of the series.
  • TAGII from Schlock Mercenary. Oh, TAGII. She starts out as a highly intelligent AI for the good guys, then loses sensory input for all of 5 minutes, rewrites her base code, and proceeds to go on a rampage, starting here, releasing a Pa'anuri, destroying the Morokweng- killing thousands and making the Toughs public enemies to the UNS- and then starts killing the Toughs themselves, starting with Thurl and Para, who fortunately has the AI kill switch on her.Of course, unbeknownst to her, TAGII survived...
  • Subverted by Guardian in Sidekicks, who was believed to have betrayed the Committee, but played completely straight by Dunkelheit who was the real betrayer and soon became the villain Metheos.
  • n Tower of God, Zahard and his Ten Warriors apparently used to be good or neutral adventurers exploring the Tower, but now that they are its rulers, almost all of them seem to have become Evil Overlords or just sociopaths. Even the stored memory of one of their younger selves wondered just what the heck happened to them in between. With Zahard, at least, it's been hinted that it has to do with how he was seeking power to rule others even as he was climbing the Tower.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, Kagetsu I was originally a revered hero until his dream of a better world drove him to attempt to destroy the world and create it anew as a utopia. Cain and Refan end up falling as well, the former because he was near death and ended up in the care of a corrupter, and the latter because he wanted to join the demons (who actually ended up being savvy enough and used his own lingering darkness and doubts to corrupt him instead) to gather intel behind their backs and to avenge his adoptive little sister's death.
  • Mister America, from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, fought the Nazis, helped defeat them, and came back to a hero's welcome. He took off the costume, revealed his real name, and went to Hollywood to become an actor. And then he threw it all away by testifying before the McCarthy hearings as a friendly witness. He's since tried to make multiple comebacks, but every time he does, someone reminds him of the day he left his friends swinging in the wind before a hostile Congress.
  • In Worm:
    • Armsmaster is admittedly not the nicest hero in the parahumans setting. However, in the Extermination arc, he finally goes all the way overboard, endangering the truce that gives a slim chance against Endbringer attacks simply for his own career — a move which has him quietly placed under house arrest (although he is allowed to escape in order to become the superhero Defiant).
    • Panacea was considered one of the most selflessly heroic people in the entire Brockton Bay until the successive psychological stresses she suffered because of Tattletale, Marquis, Bonesaw, and Jack Slash made her crack and accidentally inflict total Body Horror on her sister.
  • In Monster Girl Encyclopedia, the monster army has a whole unit made up purely from this trope. These people were heroes who failed their mission to slay the Overlord. Men are charmed and women become succubi. The old comrades then reform their party under command of the Demon Lord. It's played for laughs, although they're probably the most powerful fighting force in the Overlord's army, but the former heroes are mostly too busy screwing their heroines and are only seen in actual combat when there's a serious threat.
  • The Nostalgia Critic was once an ethical person who tore apart movies that were only in it for the money and defended how children shouldn't be exposed to bad products. Later, he only does reviews because he admits that he's only in it for the money and casually kills kids a few times.
  • Linkara was well on his way to becoming a very tragic (for him and the rest of the world) one of these before Margaret stepped in, prompting a journey where he had it thrown in his face just what he was becoming.
  • Captain Planet becomes one in the "Funny Or Die" series wherein he eventually turns every human on earth into a tree. He's taken down by woodpeckers.
    Captain Planet: THE POWER IS MINE, BITCHES!
  • Gavin Free suffered this briefly after a Let's Play in Let's Play Grand Theft Auto IV episode "Cops n' Crooks IV" when he purposely sabotages Team Lads' attempts to catch Team Gents when he's behind the wheel because it wasn't fun winning all the time. Michael Jones is so angry over this, he kicks him off the team. He comes back full time a few months later after successfully aiding Team Gents in Let's Play Minecraft episode "Lava Wall".

    Western Animation 
  • A dark version in Avatar: The Last Airbender is Hama, a seemingly nice old woman from the South Water Tribe living in the Fire Nation. In her youth, she was one of the best waterbenders of the tribe and fought unceasingly to protect it from the Fire Nation invaders. After repeated skirmishes to capture the waterbenders, she was the only one of them left in the tribe and ultimately got captured and thrown into prison with the rest, kept away from any water source and left to rot for the rest of her life. While imprisoned she discovered a simple but revolutionary truth: living things are made of water and during full moons she can use the empowered bending to control them, and improved her bending in secret until she was ready to escape and terrorize the people of the nation that made her life hell.
  • Justice League:
    • The Justice Lords, following the death of their Flash, became Knight Templars and transformed their earth into a metahuman-ruled dystopia where dissidents and supervillains were lobotomized. The Superman quote from the episode "A Better World" is given just before he crosses the line and kills Luthor, who was responsible for Flash's death, with his heat-vision.
    • Shayera Hol, AkA Hawkgirl was considered this after it was discovered she was The Mole during the Thanagarian Invasion, which caused her to leave the League, though Alfred begged to differ. However, upon rejoining the Justice League, she became a hero again, but discarded the name "Hawkgirl", due to the lies, disgrace, and treachery that the name carried. Therefore as of Unlimited, Shayera considers her alter ego to be a fallen hero.
  • Two-Face again, this time in Batman: The Animated Series. Before his transformation, Harvey Dent was a regular character on the show — an ally of Gordon, and Bruce Wayne's closest friend. In the series' final episode, Dent becomes an Anti-Villain known as The Judge, and actually tries to kill The Penguin, Killer Croc, and various other hardened criminals... including himself (of which his two previous personalities are unaware). Thus does he (somewhat) gain his redemption.
  • Ethan Bennett was a similar character on The Batman. He was an honest cop and a close friend of Bruce until after already under stress due to an argument with Chief Rojas, he became the victim of Mind Rape by The Joker, and was then exposed to the villain's Joker Putty, turning him into a clay-like monster. The whole experience drove him mad and turned him into this continuity's version of Clayface, who was more than capable of murder.
  • In a Bad Future episode of Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn winds up traveling to the future when trying to stop Quackerjack and Megavolt from doing so. Upon arrival, they find out that it was the Justice Lords taken Up to Eleven, as Darkwing became "Darkwarrior Duck", complete with red eyes, out of grief over Gosalyn having "run away". He became nigh-catatonic until he saw a girl resembling Gosalyn getting her doll stolen, losing his moral compass in the process, to the point that he threatened people for eating unhealthily and dismissing Launchpad when the latter suggested arresting criminals prior to executing them.
  • Transformers:
    • Transformers Animated:
      • Blackarachnia. Getting abandoned on a hostile planet and suffering nasty Body Horror involving a Giant Spider or twenty would make anyone a little bitter.
      • Wasp, who, after being falsely accused of being a traitor, spends over 50 years in prison and goes insane. Poor guy. He's a Darker and Edgier take on the Beast Wars comic relief character, talking normally in flashbacks but more like his past counterpart in the present as Sanity Slippage has fully taken hold. When he is altered to fully become Waspinator, he's a massive, powerful, unkillable engine of revenge. However, that's not to say that he was a decent guy before. As Bulkhead put it, "You may not have been a traitor, but you were never a good bot."
    • Wheeljack from Transformers Armada. After believing that Hot Shot abandoned him and left him for dead, he does a Face–Heel Turn and joins the Decepticons. He comes back for revenge.
    • An earlier one: Rhinox from Beast Wars becoming Tankor of Beast Machines.
    • Depthcharge was apparently a model Maximal before Rampage wiped out Colony Omicron, turning him into a grim and obsessed hunter.
    • And Megatronus Prime, the thirteenth original Transformer. You should know him as the Fallen, with his original name being taken by Megatron, who in most continuities idolized him enough to take his name.
    • Megatron himself generally follows this in most continuities this side of the IDW comics expanding his backstory. What usually happens is, at first, the Autobot regime is corrupt and dictatorial, and Megatron rebels against that, being a genuinely heroic revolutionary fighting for social change (often for the sake of a highly oppressed working class). Then right around the time he actually manages to get rid of the 'bots responsible to the point where the Autobots have enacted the change he wanted and become a genuinely morally upstanding society, the stress and thrill start driving him to become even eviler and power-hungry than the ones he was fighting, and so the civil war he started continues with the "good" and "evil" labels having switched somewhere along the way.
  • Danny Phantom finds this as his future. He did some pretty disturbing things in that future, including murdering his human self along with probably hundreds of others and doing millions in property damages...at least. Quite shocking, given the otherwise childish, campy tone of the series. Danny, upon seeing this, is extremely horrified by his actions.
  • Shego in Kim Possible, according to her backstory.
  • In Challenge Of The Go Bots, Cy-Kill was once one of the High Protectors of Gobotron. (And Leader-1's best friend.)
  • Teen Titans had Terra, who started off as a good-natured girl with unstable powers, but was eventually drawn to becoming Slade's apprentice in exchange for him teaching her to control her powers, leading to her betrayal and becoming a villain.
  • Chase Young of Xiaolin Showdown used to be a heroic monk under Grand Master Dashi, until Hannibal Roy Bean convinced him to trade his soul for an immortality potion. Since then, he's been one of the world's greatest evils.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Princess Luna, the very first villain of the series, is a physical goddess who, alongside her older sister Celestia, once co-ruled Equestria, managed the day-night cycle and fought to defeat the Mad God Discord and the tyrannical King Sombra. A combination of perceived ingratitude on the part of her subjects and a vaguely-defined dark force corrupted her into the vengeful "Nightmare Moon", and Celestia was forced to seal her away in the moon to prevent her from bringing about global extinction through The Night That Never Ends, but when she escapes, she's ultimately redeemed rather than killed. (The second season's Halloween Episode focuses on her attempts to atone — it's difficult to be accepted as good when you represent The Sacred Darkness in a society which you yourself helped to convince that Dark Is Evil.)
  • The Delightful Children From Down The Lane in Codename: Kids Next Door. Formerly the members of Sector Z, they were delightfulized by Father, into what they are today.
    • There's also Cree Lincoln, Numbuh Five's sister and once the best operative the KND had, who later became one of their worst enemies. Also counts as a Broken Pedestal and a case of Cain and Abel in Numbuh Five's case.
    • In fact, the KND seems to have a problem with traitors a lot. That may be the whole reason they inflict Laser-Guided Amnesia on operatives when they retire. On a positive note, both Chad and Maurice were Fake Defectors, subversions of this trope, although, in Chad's case, the revelation didn't make Numbuh One like him much.
  • In Season 2 of Young Justice, after a Time Skip, we have Aqualad, now Black Manta II. The worst part is that he was The Leader in Season 1. The cause of this was blaming the team for his love interest dying and finding out his real father was the supervillain Black Manta. Viewers can only hope for a Heel–Face Turn.
    • Later revealed that he didn't really go to the dark side. He's a Reverse Mole and Dick, Wally, and Artemis are in on The Plan.
      • However Aquagirl really did die, and he really was genuinely devastated by the reveal of his true parentage, to the point where Wally isn't totally confident Aqualad won't end up becoming this for real in the end after all, especially since he's growing a genuine bond with his father, while becoming more and more detached from the team.
      • "Before the Dawn" reveals that Blue Beetle II, Jaime Reyes, becomes this in Bart Allen's future and apparently plays a key role in initiating the apocalypse—Jaime is the main reason Bart traveled to the past in the first place.
  • Simon Petrikov/The Ice King on Adventure Time. As a human, he was a scholar, a loving fiance, and a Parental Substitute to a little girl who had been abandoned during the middle of World War 3. But the Ice Crown mentally warped him until he was unable to remember himself at all, leaving the insane husk that Finn and Jake know presently.
    • Subverted with Finn who is turning into this in later seasons after losing both Princess Bubblegum and Flame Princess and finding out that his Disappeared Dad has become a bumbling old fool. But aside from all that, he's staying on the path of good.
    • Billy is a fallen hero by the time Finn and Jake find him, hiding passively in his cave.
    Billy: All my life I've beaten on evil creatures, but new evil keep popping up! Kicking their butts was a hopeless effort!
  • Alpha from Men In Black: The Animated Series was the first head of the organization and mentored K, but then power got into his head and he went rogue.
  • The Legend of Korra has Kuvira, the Big Bad of the final season. Originally Suyin's protege who helped save Korra's father, she leaves to attempt to help stabilize and unite the weakened Earth Kingdom following the events of Zaheer's anarchist uprising. Over the next three years, she rose from her position as a city's guard captain to a highly respected and feared public figure. Desiring to keep the Earth Kingdom safe and united, and seeing the monarchy as obsolete, she usurped the Prince and reestablished the Earth Kingdom as the Earth Empire, which she ruled with an iron fist. Once Korra saved her life, she was able to make Kuvira see just how far she'd fallen from her previously noble intentions, convincing her to surrender willingly.
  • Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! has Mandarin. Once, he was the leader of the team but was consumed with a desire to rule those weaker than him, eventually driving him to become The Dragon to the Skeleton King.
  • South Park
    • Heidi Turner, who was one of the leading heroic characters in Season 20, becomes Eric Cartman's Distaff Counterpart by the next season, with all her kindness turning into complete jerkassery.
    • Mr. Hankey manage fall even further going from the boys' occasional savior to a self-destructive asshole by Season 22. At least Heidi was able to realize how far she fell before reverting back to her old self. Mr. Hankey on the other hand outright refuses to acknowledge fault for his own actions blaming his obnoxious behavior on Ambient leading to the townsfolk to force him out of South Park.
  • Storm Hawks
    • The Dark Ace of the Cyclonian Empire was once a member of the original Storm Hawks, the greatest team of Sky Knights in all of Atmos, and the co-pilot of the leader, Lightning Strike. They fought to free Atmos of the terror of Cyclonia and united the free people of Atmos against them in what was to be their greatest triumph. However, tempted by the offer of power and glory from the previous Master Cyclonis, the Dark Ace betrayed his fellows and personally struck down Lightning Strike, allowing Cyclonia to win and him to reap the rewards of his betrayal. By the present day, the Dark Ace is now the most dangerous member of the Cyclonian army and The Dragon to the current Master Cyclonis in her bid to conquer all of Atmos, a station he holds with pride.
    • Carver was once the leader of the Red Eagles, considered the greatest Sky Knight squadron since the original Storm Hawks, and a national hero with legions of fans. He was so respected that his team had the honor of being the guardians of Terra Atmosia, the bureaucratic center of the free terras and home base of the Sky Knight Council and the powerful Aurora Stone. However, like the Dark Ace before him, Carver became tempted by the power of the Cyclonian Empire and betrayed his fellows to steal the Aurora Stone to give it to Master Cyclonis, only to be barely stopped by Aerrow and imprisoned. In "Second Chances", he gets a chance to redeem himself when evidence becomes uncovered that he was actually under mind-control and joins the Storm Hawks to help them become better heroes and celebrities only for it to turn out that not only was he Not Brainwashed, he's been trying to kill Aerrow out of revenge for his previous defeat, squandering the faith the people had in him and being thrown back in jail.
  • OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes: Professor Venomous is revealed to be one in the episode "Big Reveal". Back when he was the hero Laserblast, he was a vital member of his team and had a loving and supporting girlfriend, but suffered from crippling self-esteem issues in regards to his powers, which he felt were unimpressive compared to those of his teammates. He took to experimenting in secret in order to improve them, but his lab was discovered by Greyman, and the rest of the team — believing it belonged to an unknown villain — decided to have it destroyed. In what would eventually become known as the Sandwich Incident, he went into the lab first to try and save his works and destroy any links to him, but accidentally caused an explosion that gave him a permanent De-Power and made it look like he was dead. To top it off, he heard his girlfriend say something that made it sound like all her support for him had been false, which ultimately caused him to flee the scene in shame, not wanting to face her or his teammates. Over the years, he tried to get his powers back with no success; however, he did end up finding great success in marketing to villains, turning him into the Card-Carrying Villain he is in the present.

Alternative Title(s): Fallen Heroine

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