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Heel Realization

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Typhan-knee finally sees herself for what she's become.

"Have you noticed that our caps have actually got little pictures of skulls on them? Hans... are we the baddies?"

Few things are more crushing than realizing that you're one of the bad guys. You might exclaim My God, What Have I Done? and perhaps shed Tears of Remorse. Or in some cases, you realize you're even worse than you thought you were. Either way, it's the moment you know you're in the wrong.

It may lead to becoming The Atoner, a Redemption Quest, or Redemption Equals Death, or, if the author is feeling particularly vindictive, to a Heel–Face Door-Slam. Conversely, may turn a Well-Intentioned Extremist Necessarily Evil, or force them to admit that there is No Place for Me There. There's also the possibility to ignore the realization and go for Redemption Rejection. Sometimes these people were just working for someone who turned out to be doing horrible things. A common form is to Kick the Morality Pet and/or realize that Being Evil Sucks.


Common when The Dark Side Will Make You Forget or when Big Brother Is Employing You.

Compare Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, He Who Fights Monsters, Then Let Me Be Evil, Jerkass Realization, Regretful Traitor, and Unwitting Pawn. Contrast with Knight Templar (who never realizes he's a villain) and Card-Carrying Villain (who never thinks he's a good guy in the first place). Also see Tomato in the Mirror, when one of the good guys realizes he was a sleeper agent all the time.

Compare and contrast Evil Me Scares Me.

For the direct opposite, see Face Realization. Or for the other direct opposite, see Obliviously Evil. See also You Are Better Than You Think You Are for where the character fails to see they are nobler than they give themselves credit for.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Sadakiyo from 20th Century Boys realizes that he's been manipulated by Friend into doing evil when he bashes a former schoolmate's head in after the latter had come to him for information.
    • Also hilariously averted by Yanbo and Mabo: they never realized they were bullies to start with, and yet they manage to realize a Heel–Face Turn without noticing.
  • The final climax of the 2003 version of Astro Boy. For the entire series, Dr. Tenma had been trying to guide Astro so that he would eventually become the most powerful robot in the world, able to rule over all humanity. However, all this time, Astro had been fighting for peaceful man-machine coexistence. So in their final conflict, Tenma and Astro meet in the abandoned Laboratory 7, where most of Tenma's angst originated, first with his real son then with Astro's original incarnation. What finally ended the battle wasn't strength of arms at all, but Astro forgiving Tenma for everything he did. He suddenly realizes that the robot he built himself had shown himself to be more human than him, and he finally surrenders.
  • In Assassination Classroom, Koro-sensei, back when he was the God of Death, but just before the tentacles completely turned him into a superbeing, had his when Aguri Yukimura died getting impaled by a tentacle meant for him in order to calm him down from what would be a self-destructive rampage. His inability to save her made him realize that for all that he knew for the sake of taking lives, he never used his knowledge to help people.
  • Quite a few villains from Attack on Titan experience this, but tend to follow it up with an Ignored Epiphany since they still believe their actions are necessary or justified.
    • Djel Sanes, a Dirty Cop responsible for murdering Pastor Nick and several other innocents in order to protect the Government Conspiracy's secrets. He breaks down and admits that he is a monster for all he's done, but insists it was for the greater good.
    • Reiner Braun breaks down and admits to having lost their moral compass, later ranting about being a murderer and a monster. He's coped with his guilt via episodes of Trauma-Induced Amnesia, and is deeply shaken once he realizes it. Still, they resolve that there isn't any choice left but to take responsibility and see things through to their end.
    • Bertolt Hoover similarly breaks down, accepting that their actions can never be forgiven and that it isn't possible to apologize. However, they reject a Last-Second Chance by stating that they can't stop.
    • While not necessarily an antagonist, Grisha Yeager realizes that his plans to defeat his enemies by essentially raising his son to become a pawn of his resistance movement and infiltrate the Marleyan government, which ended up resulting in Zeke betraying his parents, thus causing Dina to be turned into a Titan who later kills and eats Grisha's second wife, were the wrong course of action.
    "I was a bad father... a bad husband... and a bad man."
  • In Berserk, Griffith is made to realize at the Eclipse that rather than being the beloved leader that everyone thinks he is (including himself at times), he is an ambitious man who will do anything to realize his dream and uses people to that end, even into death on the battlefield. It's his spite for Guts' being the one person he couldn't control that sends him over the mother of all Moral Event Horizons.
  • Black Lagoon. Rock grows to realize the path he has chosen after he fails to save Yukio and the Washimine clan from destruction. He experiences this again after Fabiola calls him out on his plan that, while saving Roberta from herself, also nearly got Garcia killed.
  • In Bleach, Uryu is initially obsessed with proving the Quincies superior to the Soul Reapers, and he tells Ichigo about how his master and grandfather argued in favor of Quincies working together with Soul Reapers, only for the Soul Reapers to reject his plans and let him die against five Huge Hollows while Uryu watched. Ichigo then tells Uryu that while he wasn't paying attention to all of the story, he understood the part about his master wanting cooperation between Quincies and Soul Reaper, and proposes joining forces with him in spite of being angry about him using hollow bait and endangering innocents. At the end of the fight, while Uryu saves Ichigo's life, he realizes in an internal monologue the real reason he did all this in the first place — he was angry with himself for failing to save his master's life.
    Uryu: Maybe I was trying to forget my weakness. My weakness in not risking my life to help you. By blaming the Soul Reapers, I tried to forget my own shame. Master... today I will help a Soul Reaper. Can you forgive me? I am a weak disciple. A weak disciple who wouldn't die for you. Can you ever forgive me? Master...
  • Captain Tsubasa: Stefan Levin, in his bid to fulfill his promise to his deceased fiancée Karen of becoming the world's best player, became ruthless to the point of using his shots to injure his rivals in order to win. It takes his teammates telling him that what he's doing won't bring Karen back from the dead, as well as the courage shown by the Japanese defender Tomeya Akai in taking his shots at point-blank to protect his goal (and his goalkeeper as well), and Tsubasa Ohzora refusing to pay him with the same coin by stating "The ball is my friend, not a weapon to hurt others" to realize that he's been spitting on the memory of his love.
  • Code Geass:
    • Suzaku had one in R2, right as he was about to use Refrain on Kallen to get her to admit who Zero was. In his mind, this makes him just like Lelouch, who (as far as he knows) wormed his way into the hearts of many, including Suzaku and his love interest, only to exploit them.
    • Suzaku has a second one after using the FLEIJA upon the Tokyo Settlement. After a moment of going Laughing Mad, he eschews his morals and his distaste of results through contemptible means, going as far as to demand a prince of Britannia promote him to the highest post of the military and, since only the Emperor had that authority, requesting to assassinate the Emperor.
    • C.C. has one as well upon Lelouch stopping the Ragnarok Connection of his parents, she stands down and flat out stays that it was a terrible thing for them to even attempt.
  • The comedy series Daily Lives of High School Boys, surprisingly, has a few examples.
  • In the finale of the Death Note anime, Light lies bleeding and slowly dying on some stairs, abandoned by everyone whom he considered an ally, betrayed by the one person (Matsuda) who seemed the most to understand his philosophy and not only sees his long-dead rival, but also a vision of himself from older times, before he got possession of the Death Note and became Kira. It ultimately doesn't help because Light dies, having lost every shred of dignity he originally possessed.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, during his final moments before death, Gyutaro realizes that during their terrible childhood living in the Red Light District, in the poorest area, under a prostitute mother who abused he and his sister to no end, that once their mother died Gyutaro and his sister Ume/Daki should have struggled more to just run away from all of that life; what Gyutaro did instead was basically become a pimp to his own sister and teach her that she shouldn’t take crap from nobody, which indirectly pushed her to stab in the eye a samurai who wanted to have his way with her when she didn’t want to, causing Daki to be burnt alive as retaliation, which made Gyutaro desperate to save her, accepting the offer to become demons, who even after that worked their ways into the Red Light District in the shadows for a century; Gyutaro wished he taught his sister better life lessons instead, groom her to become a nice lady out of being a prostitute, who maybe would have married a good man and made a nice family together.
  • Digimon:
    • Ken of Digimon Adventure 02 realizes that the Digital World is not a video game with good cruelty potential, that the Digimon are alive and sentient, and that sadistically torturing them as an Evil Overlord is in fact bad. He undergoes a Heel–Face Turn soon after... if you can say he was a Heel to begin with. He honestly didn't know what he was doing until later in the arc, at which point he went into Dark Spore aided denial.
    • Yamaki in Digimon Tamers has a particularly nasty one when he realizes that not only has he been killing sentient beings in the name of destroying "digital anomalies", but that it may have been his efforts to control what he saw as an invasion that made the real invasion possible.
    • Beelzemon, also from Digimon Tamers, has one when the ramifications of his lust for power finally hit him: he sold out and tried to kill his friends, drove one of them over the Despair Event Horizon by killing her partner right in front of her, and was at least indirectly responsible for the D-Reaper gaining the ability to invade Earth. This horrifies him so much that he actually has to be persuaded into Heel Face Turning, as he doesn't believe he deserves it.
    • Before them, three out of the four human antagonists of V-Tamer 01 quit after this realization. The one that doesn't is told You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and thus quits before it.
  • Doraemon: Occurs in "Soap Bubbles". Doraemon and Noby use the Soap Bubble Straw to make their friends realize they made bad choices like smoking or walking without looking. From the way their friends act after getting hit with the bubbles, you'd think they were guilty of horrible crimes.
  • In Dragon Ball, Vegeta has one of these toward the end of the Cell Games arc; it unfortunately takes his son getting killed right in front of him to trigger it, but the proud Prince Of All Saiyans has a moment of clarity where he realizes he's been a terrible father and allowed his son to die. He decides to make amends. Saiyan style.
  • Elfen Lied. At the very end of the manga, the DNA Voice that arguably drove Lucy to her murderous ways, is prepared to use its remaining power to destroy the world once Nyu and Lucy's spirits leave their melted body. Kouta has promised to kill Lucy, but cannot do it out of love. The Voice is shocked and impressed. In hideous pain itself, it now begs Kouta to end its existence, and he does.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist. Most of these moments are in flashbacks, as soldiers in Ishval realize they're acting as Punch Clock Villains and become The Atoners we know and love. In the timeframe of the story itself, Scar gets a slower-acting one than usual, apparently beginning when he notices that he's standing menacingly over Ed and Winry in exactly the same way he remembers Kimblee standing over him and his brother.
  • In Ga-Rei -Zero-, Yomi realizes what kind of monstrosity she is after she crippled Kiri physically and mentally. Actually she realizes this multiple times, but the Sesshouseki robs her of clarity of mind and fills her with rage and despair. Happens again in the final chapters of Ga-Rei manga.
  • Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet: Ledo does not take it well when he learns that the Hideauze are Transhuman Aliens, and not true extraterrestrials. The Hideauze whose children he just absentmindedly killed out of Forever War instinct. And then Chamber makes it worse when he follows his programmed directive and crushes a curious Hideauze child.
  • Gundam:
    • In Mobile Fighter G Gundam, both Master Asia and Dr. Mikamura get them. For Master Asia, it was the fact that humanity was a part of the Earth as nature was and wiping them all out wouldn't solve a thing. For Dr. Mikamura, it was the realization that his own jealousy towards Dr. Kasshu led them to the point where his own daughter was now the core of the Devil Gundam. Both of them suffer Tear Jerker-worthy Redemption Equals Death moments to atone.
    • In ∀ Gundam, Queen of the Moon Dianna Soreil learns that her policies, past antics, and army have actually caused quite a bit of suffering both on Earth and on the Moon for years and allowed maniacs like Gym Ghingham to seize ludicrous amounts of power. This turns her into The Atoner and causes her to undertake massive changes in policy upon regaining power.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED sees Flay Allster slowly have one over the tail end of the series. While the groundwork was laid when she began to genuinely love Kira even as she seduced and manipulated him, it finally sticks for good when she spends time as a ZAFT captive and observes Coordinators, seeing them as people with hopes and dreams. Any remaining doubts are expunged when she witnesses Muruta Azrael's cruelty and psychopathy firsthand.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya in Sigh, when she finally gets called out by Kyon on her treatment of Mikuru. Directly after this is one of her biggest Pet the Dog moments, and she becomes much nicer after this. Made more obvious in the anime rendition, where she looks away from Kyon as he calls her out and it's clear that she's at the verge of tears.
    • In the 11th book, Kyouko Tachibana has one of these.
  • Happened in several arcs in Higurashi: When They Cry, with varying results.
    • Tsumihoroboshi-hen: When Keiichi recalls the events of Onikakushi-hen, and he realizes that he was the insane one, not them.
    • Meakashi-hen: When Shion realizes what she's done after killing Satoko.
  • Inuyasha: Mayu Ikeda, the ghost of a little girl who died in a fire, makes efforts to kill her little brother, believing their mother played favorites with the two to the extent that she deliberately left her to die in the fire; in reality, her mother didn't even know Mayu was still in the apartment. Her actions lead to her nearly being Dragged Off to Hell by the Soul Piper, but Kagome intervenes and helps her realize that her mother always loved her and would never have left her to die. Thinking back to all of the happy times she had with her mother, Mayu suffers one of these and tearfully begs for a chance to atone; seeing this, the Soul Piper changes its judgment and spares her.
  • In K: Return of Kings, Nagare, the Green King has one in the end when Shiro and Neko tell him that they're willing to sacrifice the Slates because they don't need power, just warm food and friends to share it with around a small table. Which is what his Clan had as well, only they were too focused on their revolution plot to appreciate it before it was too late (or at least Nagare was). This is emphasized when Shiro and Neko run past the Green Clan's room on their way to this showdown, and Shiro gives it a sad look.
  • In Kamisama Kiss while carrying out a Honey Trap ploy Jirou's actions (which Tomoe refers to as looking at a reflection of himself) causes Tomoe to admit what an asshole he's been to Nanami.
  • Hiyori Moritani reaches one in the third episode of Kotoura-san. She had four members of her family's dojo go after her crush, Yoshihisa Manabe, after he made it clear that he loves the title character, Haruka Kotoura, instead of her. She only wanted him roughed up a bit; things went too far and he got hospitalized. She's utterly wracked with guilt over what happened, and since Kotoura has Telepathy, Hiyori knows that Haruka could easily reveal the truth and ruin her. But when Haruka only uses her powers to find out what hospital Yoshihisa is at, Hiyori realizes that all of the good things Yoshihisa said about Haruka were true, and that Hiyori was the one in the wrong the whole time. It sets up a proper Heel–Face Turn in the following episode.
  • In Linebarrels of Iron, after Kouichi Hayase's selfish use of Linebarrel gets one of his friends killed, he realizes he's been a Designated Hero and resolves to be a proper good guy.
  • Magical Project S, Misao Amano is shocked to find out she is Pixy Misa (the evil magical girl that has tortured practically every main character, including her parents and her best friend). While it was initially thought her evil side was due to brainwashing, it was, in fact, her repressed self, despite having no memory of her actions.
  • Naruto:
    • Neji admits this in Shippuden episode 192 in a flashback before the Time Skip where his defeat by Naruto really gets him this.
      Neji: He helped me to understand just how selfish and narrow-minded I was being.
    • A subtle one happens in the anime. When he fights Kidomaru, an opponent who outclasses him and has Neji struggling to survive for most of the fight, Neji has flashbacks to his dismissive attitude toward Lee, Hinata, and Naruto, and seems to realize what it means to be the underdog for once.
    • During the Fourth Shinobi World War, Gaara's father, the Fourth Kazekage (revived via the Edo Tensei), came to this realization when he saw that the son he made into a weapon and denounced as a failure ended up becoming a better Kazekage than he ever was. He admits his faults and his lies and makes peace with his son before being sealed away.
    • At the end of the Fourth Shinobi World War, Madara of all people gets this realization despite his ego. After he seemingly succeeds in his goal of using Infinite Tsukuyomi to brainwash everyone into peace and happiness, Black Zetsu betrays him and reveals that all he accomplished was becoming a vessel for the less well-intentioned Kaguya Otsutsuki. Once Madara is released from her control and is about to die again, he admits that his distrust towards later generations is his Fatal Flaw that caused him to start his extreme plans.
  • Gendo Ikari has one in (all together now) Neon Genesis Evangelion at the very end. This being Evangelion, Gendo realizes this too late to do any good to anybody, and ends up dying an agonizing and surreal death midway through said realization. His last words are especially tragic. "I'm sorry, Shinji."
  • In the final episode of Planetes, Hakim experiences this after a simple conversation with Nono. Because Nono was born on the Moon and lived there for her entire life, she has absolutely no concept of what a country is. Hakim, who has resorted to terrorism to bring attention to the plight of the third world, realizes that development in space would eventually eliminate the borders between countries and loses his will to fight.
    • When a scrappy entrepreneur from The Old Country shows up, Claire (who was raised and educated in the USA since the age of eight and become a Workaholic ladder-climber) finds him annoying at first, until he reveals that his life's history is very similar to hers, at least before he went back to El Tanika to aid them with his education. Ultimately, this guilt bomb only serves to send her into a bit of a death spiral.
  • Mewtwo at the end of Pokémon: The First Movie, when he realizes not all Humans Are Bastards.
    Mewtwo: The human sacrificed himself to save the Pokémon. I pitted them against each other. But not until they set aside their differences did I see the true power they all shared deep inside. I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant. It is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are.
  • Charizard gets hit with this hard in the Pokémon anime. After evolving from a previously-abandoned Charmander into a feisty and short-tempered Charmeleon, then into the vicious Charziard, he had grown too powerful and refused to respect Ash or even obey his commands unless he was fighting a more powerful opponent. Such an attitude cost Ash the Indigo League when he used the big lug as part of a last-ditch effort, and he would continue to disobey for many more episodes. However, this arrogant attitude almost got him killed when he went berserk during a battle with a Poliwrath (a species he has a type disadvantage against, mind you), and got frozen to the point of death. It was Ash's efforts to stay up all night and thaw out his companion that Charizard started to remember all that Ash had ever done for him. By the next morning, he's not only healed, but regained his loyalty to his trainer.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: The eponymous Himura Kenshin was a cold-blooded "Knight Templar" assassin for the Ishin Shishi who was willing to bury his humanity and kill on command if it meant bringing forth a peaceful era to Japan. It isn't until he accidentally kills his wife Tomoe that he realizes the hypocrisy of his ideals and vows to never kill again once the war has ended.
  • The anime-exclusive Maikaiju Aliens in The '90s Sailor Moon, who gather energy to heal the dying tree that created them. However, not knowing what love is due to their horrific childhood, they wind up feeding the tree the wrong energy, causing it to go berserk. It actually kills Annote , who takes the bullet for Ail ("Alan" in the English dub), before explaining to Sailor Moon its backstory. An is restored once the tree is healed, and the aliens depart Earth so they can nurture the tree back.
  • Makoto has one (sort of) near the end of the School Days anime. When Sekai tells him that she's pregnant, he freaks out in class and loudly blames her for ruining his life, causing his harem to dump him. Later, while angrily wandering the streets, he runs into Kotonoha, and, horrified by how mentally broken she has become as a result of his constant cheating and then rejection of her, gets back together with her. He then muses apologetically about how he became addicted to sex, and that he should have stayed loyal to Kotonoha. However, one wonders how bad he really feels about everything when, after Sekai comes to his apartment to demand he take responsibility for their child, he reaffirms his decision to be with Kotonoha by making out with her in front of Sekai, and ignoring her as she tearfully shrieks for them to stop. In retrospect, not all that surprising that Sekai stabbed him to death.
  • Ellen in Suite Pretty Cure ♪ gets one that leads to cementing her Heel–Face Turn as she's forced to watch a father and son drown in sorrow by the power of a Negatone, making her realize everything she's done was just hurting people. Hummy and the Fairy Tones who power her up as Cure Beat help find her resolve and allow her to finally become a Cure full time.
  • In Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee, Sara has this realization after seeing the memories from the Shindan Lag used to finish off the Gaichuu. They had pretended to be part of the anti-government faction Reverse (with Hunt presented as the "Man Who Could Not Become Spirit" to prevent people from mistreating him because of the monster arms sewn onto him), and while keeping up that act, decided to prevent letters from coming to Honey Waters. A man took it upon himself to deliver the letters, but was attacked by the Gaichuu, lost his heart and died. After realizing that their lie caused his death, Sara turns over all the money they received to the villagers and sets out with Hunt to start anew.
  • Some of the later episodes of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, particularly 23: Rossiu's been the personification of "Shoot the Dog" for the entire arc, saving only the 18% or so of the human population that he can...until it turns out that he was leading them into an ambush, and Simon's actions were able to save nearly all of them. Rossiu tried to do the right thing, but he just acted as an obstruction to the guy who was really doing the right thing, and the realization drove Rossiu to suicide. Or it would've, but Simon managed to invent teleportation just to stop him.
    • A strong case of Wrong Genre Savvy — had he been in a Gundam series, he'd have been the "right" one. At the same time, Gurren Lagann was made by Gainax...
  • Thorfinn in Vinland Saga eventually realizes that during his You Killed My Father quest in the prologue he killed many people's fathers, sons or brothers, and aided Askeladd's band in killing, raping and enslaving many more. Sickened by his previous actions he vows never to fight again, which he later (after realizing that there are other, less-nice people in the world who still fight and kill) amends to never kill again but fight for the sake of others.
  • Happens rather often in Yu-Gi-Oh!. To start, Marik (the real one, not his Super-Powered Evil Side) had this moment after his dark side took over, so much that, during the Final Battle, he pleaded with the Pharaoh not to hold back and to strike his evil side down, despite the fact that it would cost him his own life. (Fortunately, Yami found a way to do it without killing him.)
    • This happened to Noah too. The Heel Realization for him came after Mokuba, despite everything that Noah had done, seemed willing to help Noah, even going so far as to call him his brother (even though that was only a technicality in the loosest terms, if that) and Noah double-crossed him anyway, stealing Mokuba's body in order to flee the Virtual World before Gozaburo put his plan into motion. He at first called Mokuba an idiot for trusting him... And then the full ramifications of what he had just done hit him. After changing his mind and going back to help the other heroes, he went so far as to say that he "deserved it" when Jonouchi apologized for wanting to slug him, and in the end, made a Heroic Sacrifice to defeat Gozaburo.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: Saiou was an odd case. Due to his psychic tarot reading powers, he realized that evil would overpower him years before it actually happened, and warned his friend Edo Phoenix about it. Even when it did happen, his good side struggled with his evil side constantly, and at one time when his good side was briefly dominant, he gave the two keys to his Doomsday Device to Judai and Edo, pleading with them never to give them back.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's: Jack was the biggest example. His road to a complete Heel–Face Turn started when Yusei defeated him the first time, and it took longer than most. While he remained The Rival for the most part, he was closer to Yusei than other examples in the franchise.
      • This happened to Carly, Misty, and Greiger (Bomber) of the Dark Signers, mostly because they had been Forced into Evil. Goodwin (Godwin) also did this upon realizing that the path he was following wasn't what his brother, who like him became a Dark Signer intentionally, would have wanted. But Kalin (Kiryu) was the biggest example: he became a Dark Signer intentionally because he believed that his best friend had sold him out to the police for going too far in their vigilante activities. Like the other Dark Signers, he died upon defeat and was reborn as human. But unlike Carly and the others, he kept his memories of being a Dark Signer, and with the truth of the matter known to him (his best friend had tried and failed to sacrifice himself for him), he went into a self-imposed exile to punish himself.
    • A lot of villains in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL, at least the first season. All three of Tron's sons, Tron himself, and even Dr. Faker at the end realized that what they had done was inexcusable.

    Audio Plays 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: "The Fourth Wall" has a fictional character being brought into reality, and realising that in the world of his TV show (Laser, starring Jerkass hero Jack Laser), he's the villain:
    Krarn: It’s called... Laser.
    Scullop: The show, yes.
    Krarn: Why?
    Scullop: Because he’s the lead, he’s the hero.
    Krarn: I see.
    Scullop: Is something the matter?
    Krarn: [with horror] I’m the bad guy.
    Scullop: Yes.
    Krarn: He destroys my happiness, kills my wife. And yet I am the bad guy.

    Comic Books 
  • The DCU
    • The Superman nemesis Manchester Black thought of himself as a "realist", operating as an anti-hero (i.e. killing without remorse). He perceived Superman's boy-scout morality to be a facade bordering on stupidity. In an attempt to give Superman one bad day, he created a telepathic illusion of Lois Lane being murdered to provoke a homicidal response out of Superman. When it failed, and he saw the depth of Superman's dedication, Black realized that he had been a villain who had been lying to himself all along, and there was such a thing as a Good Guy. He then promptly killed himself. Sort of. Poor little Vera.
    • The Eradicator gets two of these during the "Reign of the Supermen" portion of The Death of Superman. The first time, it was when Guy Gardner started endorsing him as a genuine Superman, shaking up his thoughts over if that was what Superman stands for. He gets a second when Lois Lane chews out both him and Steel for fighting across Metropolis, causing a ton of destruction.
    • In Krypton No More Superman is so frightened of losing another home-world and getting so obsessed with protecting Earth from anything -including people- that he decides to destroy super-tankers so they can't pollute the oceans further. However Supergirl stops him and reminds him that they have no right to make decisions for humanity or interfere with human evolution. After arguing with his cousin, Superman agrees that he has been acting pretty crazy of late.
    • In War World Superman realizes that his behavior has been less than ideal when The Spectre forces him to confront his dark side:
      Superman: I've been thinking with my heart instead of my head! Forgive me, Spectre — I've been acting like a fool!
    • Of all people, Superboy-Prime seems uh, primed, for one of these in Blackest Night. Then again, he has been looking at his monstrous actions from a different perspective aka ours over and over again for months on end.
    • In Supergirl: Identity Kara Zor-El had been acting like a jerkass for a while (partially because of Kryptonite poisoning and because of a villain named Dark Angel who was attempting to break her). After getting rid of Dark Angel, Kara reflected on her past behavior and realized she needed to change for the better.
    • Paradoxically inverted in The Flash, after one of Flash's friends accuses Flash of not using the full extent of his abilities to help people. The friend then realizes the best way to make the Flash a better hero is to become a villain who'd push him to be one.
    • In The Killing Joke, The Joker's expression changes during his speech about human morality in tragedy, when he comes to the realization that he's not just taunting Batman, he's only describing himself.
    • Ironically, The Riddler had one after he had intentionally decided to become a "normal" criminal. Up until this point, he more or less did what he did either because he could or to prove he was better than the world's greatest detective. Finally, one day, he has enough, decides to drop the super-villainy and the gimmicks, and pulls a couple of last jobs like a "normal" crook to get the funding to get back on his feet. Batman stops him... Because he was subconsciously leaving clues behind. Riddler then realizes he wasn't the brilliant mastermind he thought he was, he had an actual compulsion he could not control; "I might ACTUALLY be crazy". He surrenders and asks Batman to take him to Arkham Asylum, and after being treated and eventually released, was one of the few rogues to pull a semi-successful Heel–Face Turn by becoming a private detective specializing in bizarre and unexplainable crimes.
      • Strictly speaking, this is a rehash of a Silver Age story where he has a nervous breakdown when he breaks into a jeweler's without leaving any clues and can't grab the loot because he can't bring himself to do it, and he tries to hypnotize himself into getting rid of his compulsion, which is when the subconscious clues ensue...
    • As put by Grant Morrison in one article regarding Mastermen #1, Overman spent years working for Adolf Hitler, then one day he realized "Oh crap it's Hitler!"
    • In Crisis on Infinite Earths, the female Dr. Light suffers this when she watches Supergirl selflessly tackle the Anti-Monitor despite the fact that he could kill her easily. She realizes how wrong her arrogant and haughty attitude was, but it takes just a little bit more time as she suddenly pulls an Achilles in His Tent moment after she thinks she got Supergirl killed.
    • Wonder Woman: Diana's lasso and general truthfulness helps her lead her opponents who feel justified in their actions into realizing their cruelty and better ways to try and achive any of their less horrific goals:
      • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana is able to talk down a junkie who nearly killed a police officer with high tech weapons he's been given. While the boy was at first unrepentant and just looking for a fix he becomes horrified when he realizes what his addiction has turned him into and later sacrifices himself to save that same policewoman when he goes to apologise and she's attacked while he's there.
      • Wonder Woman: Odyssey: After Diana briefly lassos Jason during a fight he starts to realize that the goddesses he's serving are evil, and that there's no way he's going to complete his current assignment which includes killing a young child and his mother. The next time he encounters Diana he hangs himself after giving her information about who he is working for.
    • Several examples in Gotham City Garage:
      • Harley Quinn helped Lex Luthor perfect his mind-controlling devices. When she realized they were turning people into drones unable to love someone other than Lex, she got horrified and defected.
      • Barbara Gordon used to be one of the Luthor's enforcers. Then she was told her boss framed her sister for their father's murder shortly before seeing other enforcers dealing with a riot by setting fire to the rioters and understood she was not on the side of the angels.
  • Marvel Universe
    • Happens twice in the Iron Man "Armour Wars" saga, once at the beginning when he realizes his technology may have been responsible for some of the worst criminals in the Marvel Universe, and again at the end when he questions the extreme measures he has used in trying to solve the problem.
    • Magneto has one of these in Uncanny X-Men #150, after he almost kills Kitty Pryde with an electric shock. He's so disturbed by it that he actually reforms (and stays reformed for a hundred and twenty-five issues), and eventually becomes the headmaster of Xavier's school.
    • This is what ended the Civil War. After the final battle causes lots of destruction and calls in rescue workers and Captain America sees civilians begging to him not to kill Iron Man, Cap realizes that he's putting innocent people in danger by his actions — as he puts it, while his team is winning the fight, they're losing the argument. He promptly orders his side to stand down.
    • In The Siege story arc, Loki looks on in shock when he realizes that his actions were what led to the destruction of Asgard. He only wanted to restore Asgard's ancient glory, and never intended for these events to happen.
      • The Sentry's case throughout Dark Reign (and before) might also count, as he was constantly in doubt of his actions - 'course, the Void may be to blame for the most part, but Bob Reynolds himself is an extremely neurotic and superpowered individual. As he said in the first mission of the Dark Avengers, after ripping off Morgan's head: "What did I do? Was it good or bad?"
    • Doctor Octopus has one during the finale of Superior Spider-Man. Otto, utterly confused by how easily the Goblin King brought down everything he built is left wondering what would Peter do in this situation, especially since the Goblin King kidnapped his Love Interest Anna Maria. When confronted with the child he helped save (and used to convince Peter's spirit that he was the superior one when Peter was willing to leave her to die to save his skin), he's forced to act by Peter's spirit to save her, being told that the thing to do is to do what's right, not to plan. Through that, Otto realizes the one true Superior Spider-Man was Peter, mostly because Otto realized he was an arrogant man who overcompensated for everything while Peter was a man who knew he had everything but kept sabotaging himself because he felt he didn't deserve it. He then erases his memories and personality from Peter's mind, restoring the hero once more.
    • Doctor Doom, of all people, had one during the AXIS event, albeit artificially induced by the "Inversion" that reversed the moral compasses of everyone within a specific radius of the magic-bomb triggered by Doom and the Scarlet Witch, turning heroes evil and villains good. He's freely admitted to Valeria Richards that many of the tragedies that he blamed on her father Reed were, in fact, his own fault, and has set about attempting to undo his villainous legacy, including making plans to establish a democratic government in Latveria and even resurrect Cassie Lang, aka Stature, whose death was the result of Doom's actions during the "Childrens' Crusade" arc. Hilariously while this WAS undone at the end of the event, Doom would end up having another one in Secret Wars when after realizing that Reed could have done a better job healing the multiverse, Reed heals his face even after everything Doom did.
    • The Hood has a heart-to-heart talk with Titania where he mentions having one. Initially, his motivation was that he didn't want his kid to live a crappy life as he himself did. But when he was offered a way out of crime, he didn't take it. The Hood realized that he liked being a bad guy, and resolved to be the very best bad guy he could be.
  • Played for laughs in Adventure Time as Finn and Jake rescue Desert Princess from the Ice King:
    Finn: The Ice King is about to apologize to you, Princess!
    Ice King: I am?
    Finn: Yeah man! It's what you're supposed to do after being a big patoot!
    Ice King: But I am NEVER a big patoot!! ... Oh, wait! I guess sometimes I am. I'm sorry I kidnapped you, Princess.
  • Anya's Ghost: Anya slowly comes to realize she's been a Jerkass to Emily when, after knowing Emily for two days and having her help with school and her crush, she doesn't even know her name yet. Much later, after Sean, and then Emily, shows their true colors, Anya realizes what a jerk she's been to everyone else too because of her poor attitude. This finishes out in the climax, where she at first denies being anything like Emily before admitting that, while she's not murderous, she's at least enough like Emily to understand her.
  • In ElfQuest, Knight Templar Rayek suffers a massive and acute Heel Realization just as he's about to kill all of the Wolfriders (for the greater good, he thinks). It's triggered when he meets his daughter Venka for the first time, who was trained her whole life to stop him. She refuses to, telling him that it has to be his own choice.
  • Enemy Ace, a series about an honorable German pilot flying in World War One, had a more recent series where the same pilot, now a gray-haired veteran, flew in World War Two. He was much unhappier about this war. At some point he got shot down and parachuted to safety near Dachau, saw one of the death camps, and underwent a textbook Heel Realization, even telling those under his command that they were fighting for the devil himself. He told them that he would no longer protect the Third Reich and that he planned to fly to the nearest Allied airbase and surrender, giving them his undamaged fighter, then help them in any way he could.
  • In Kick-Ass: Volume Three, Chris Genovese aka Red Mist realizes that his mother, whom he genuinely loved, tried to kill him in his hospital bed because his horrible spree ruined her life. He felt so guilty for causing her so much anguish that he has a Heel–Face Turn, does his best to help his former enemies Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass and dies for his efforts.
  • This is played with in an issue of Nemesis the Warlock. The villain calls himself Torquemada, and in many ways models himself on the Spanish inquisitor of the same name. They meet through time travel, and the villain explains to the inquisitor what his philosophy has led to. It's the inquisitor who's horrified.
  • In Scott Pilgrim, the point of Negascott is not to be defeated as Scott initially thinks, but to get Scott to recognize his own faults as a person and to understand that he's played a part in the failures of his past relationships rather than just blaming others. When he accepts this, he absorbs Nega-Scott into himself and remembers all of his mistakes, which readies him to take down the last obstacle in his personal quest... Gideon.
    Scott: I don't deserve to get her back.
    Kim Pine: So earn her back.
  • Star Wars: Kanan: After speaking with Caleb, Grey realizes how seriously wrong all the clones obeying Order 66 without a second thought was and that something had messed with their brains. He subsequently becomes the only known clone to fight off the impusle of the order without having his control chip removed.
  • The titular character in issue 1 of the Transformers comic book mini-series Megatron: Origin. However, he concluded that it was the only path he had to walk, turning him into the universe-conquering Decepticon we know and love.
    • Four million years later, he had a second one when he realized how utterly ineffective his campaign of violence had been, causing him to quit the Decepticons and become The Atoner, working with Rodimus and Ultra Magnus to try to undo some of the damage he'd inflicted.
  • In The Transformers: Dark Cybertron, Megatron has one in issue 10 while he is being repaired and taking time to reflect on how little he accomplished with millions of years of warfare. The moment he decided to use force to achieve his goals was the moment he lost the war for Cybertron.
  • Nite Owl II in Watchmen finally begins to understand the potentially harmful social effects of superheroes during the Keene Riot.
    • According to at least some interpretations, the Comedian went through this when he discovered Veidt's master plan. The Comedian was a nihilist who justified his callous amorality on the grounds that with nuclear war being inevitable, the whole concept of right and wrong was irrelevant; why not kill people? They're all going to die soon anyway. Hence his title; he was making a joke at the expense of the people who thought the world wasn't doomed - or at least he saw himself that way. In these interpretations, if Veidt's plan worked, nuclear war would no longer be a problem, so actions had consequences, and the things he'd done could only be seen as monstrous. Of course, there are other interpretations where he's still okay with individual deaths, just not so many, so quickly, on a grand scale, or how HIS actions were directly responsible for simultaneously convincing Veidt to save the world AND turning it into a hellhole for centuries to come.
  • Jason Stryker in the comic adaptation of X2: X-Men United, where Xavier helps him to realize his manipulation is the wrong way to gain his father's love.
  • In Y: The Last Man, one of the characters mentioned that she had been working for a long time to try and make the post-Gendercide world a little easier to deal with. It turned out she had been flooding the entire Pacific community with heroin but figured that it really was not a bad thing since the entire world is circling the drain, and this is just letting people have a bit of happiness before humanity goes extinct. However, the fact of Yorick's existence, which means that extinction is not a guarantee, changed her perception of her role - she's not The Hero, he is, and she's just one of the baddies. Things do not go so well for her after that.
  • Ghostbusters: Past, Present and Future, Peter Venkman has one of these near the end, after forcing Janine and Winston to work on Christmas Eve and the latter quitting after finding out he was being paid 10,000 dollars for a 4-million job. As their client goads Venkman into trapping the Ghost of Christmas Future and winning the 4 million for himself at the cost of his friends, Peter makes his decision...
    Fraser: The ghosts - all three of the ghosts - wish to find and test those with the greatest... ambition.
    Venkman: That's another way of saying "the biggest jerk", right?
    Fraser: The biggest winner of your group, Dr. Venkman.
    (Snow begins falling)
    Venkman: Hey... it's Christmas. (fires proton stream at Fraser himself) I nearly forgot.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Dredd always believed that the Judges and the totalitarian Police State they ran were necessary to maintain order. After he's ordered to crush a peaceful democratic protest, he starts to have doubts about the "Big Lie", namely that the Judges know what's best for the people. He eventually turns in his badge and journeys out into the Cursed Earth, which leads to further tragedy when undead enemies return in his absence.
    • The founder of the Judges, Chief Justice Fargo, ultimately realized that the system he created was wrong. He feared that his attempt to restore a measure of order had instead destroyed the American Dream forever. He spends his dying moments begging Dredd to undo the system and restore democracy.
  • In the first Serenity mini-series, Shepherd Book decides to leave the crew of Serenity after he punches out Mal. Mal had it coming, but Book takes Technical Pacifism very seriously.
    Mal: Look, Shepherd, I'll make this plain... It don't matter to me that you hit me.
    Book: Which is exactly why I need to be away from you. Because sooner or later, it won't matter to me, either.
  • Ultimate X-Men: By the end of Millar's run, Wolverine realizes that he's a terrible person and is surprised when Cyclops apologizes to him.

    Fan Works 
  • A Changed World: Eleya realizes she's about to order a shipload of Klingons killed simply for being Klingons, rather than because they represent a threat.
    "No. No. I refuse. I won't be that person."
  • Zig-Zagged in A Charmed Life: Light comes to realize he'd been acting like an asshole when it comes to the way he was treating Ryuk.
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In the third story, Diplomacy Through Schooling, Garble enrolls in Twilight's new school after realizing that he does want to be good, but has no idea how to do so.
  • A Marriage Of Convenience: Elsa suffers a nervous breakdown and tells Hans she was fully aware of what he tried to do when he was last in Arendelle, attempting to kill her with his sword, admitting she was not against the idea at the time it almost happened. It finally hits hard what a horrible person he's been to her and finally expressing guilt for it.
  • From A Taste of the Good Life, a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic story, Ebony Glimmer is the mother of Scootaloo. She had also been an emotionally abusive alcoholic, which eventually prompted Scootaloo to run away from home. Two years later Ebby, having cleaned up her act, encounters Scootaloo by chance and tries to reconnect, but Scootaloo wants nothing to do with her. Ebby goes so far as to use Foal Protection Services to take Scootaloo by force, only for her to flee again. Tracking down Scootaloo again in the forest, the ensuing chase results in Ebony hanging for her life off a cliff. Scootaloo, the only pony around who can help and who is desperate to have Ebony out of her life forever, leaves her to her fate. Though she is rescued soon after, this moment, more than even Scootaloo's repeated declarations that she didn't want Ebby around, make the Heel Realization hit home, pushing her past the Despair Event Horizon and very nearly driving her to drink again.
  • In A Teacher's Glory Hiashi Hyuga reflects morbidly that the Invasion has been a day of disappointing realizations about himself. Disappointment that indulging his brother's son has created a spoiled brat of a genius, disappointment that his pride led to his own injury and has placed his younger daughter in danger, and disappointment in himself that his elder daughter has so thoroughly failed to live down to his expectations after all these years, and instead almost single-handedly saved dozens of lives while he barely saved himself and her sister.
  • A Triangle in the Stars: Bill Cipher, while he's had others too, has a rather harrowing and permanent one in Chapter Thirty-Two, realizing he had become worse than his parents. He gets better.
  • In Address Unknown, Rainbow Dash has one after she figures out that Fluttershy (her life-long friend) and Derpy (who she holds a grudge against for the town hall incident, amongst other screwups), are Not So Different.
    All her life, the yellow pony had faced mockery from all sides but one, and it was the only difference between how Fluttershy and Derpy had grown. Rainbow Dash was the difference. Everypony made fun of Fluttershy everypony except for her. She had stayed by Fluttershys side through it all, defending her from the teasing at her constant fear and virtually non-existent flying skills.
    Fluttershy was still timid, still fearful, still a poor flyer, and just like Derpy, still hurt easily from the scars of foalhood. The only variation between her long-time friend and Derpy was that Rainbow Dash threw insults at Derpy instead of repelling them. It was time for that to change.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica/Supernatural crossover "From Daybreak Into Darkness", the angel that once posed as Number Six has this following a conversation with Castiel and the Winchesters trapping Lucifer back in the Cage; she has spent millennia reasoning that her and Baltar's actions were just following God’s Plan, but finds herself questioning that perspective when the Winchesters were able to defy fate.
  • Louise truly realizes she's evil and in the wrong in An Acolyte of Zero after she resurrects Henrietta as a Lich and the latter shows no recognition of her or anything that denotes her as being Louise's childhood friend.
  • In the Hannah Montana fic Astray (part of a trilogy where Miley's wish that she could be Hannah all the time left her trapped in that other world), it is revealed that Miley tried to become friends with the alt-Lilly, but this ended with Lilly blackmailing her out of ten million dollars. In Astray, alt-Lilly is sent to the 'original' world after Lilly makes a wish to join Miley, but while alt-Lilly initially plans to pull the same blackmail scam, she comes to realize just why Miley was trying to be her friend and becomes horrified and disgusted with herself for threatening to destroy someone who just genuinely wanted to be her friend rather than carrying out some weird plan.
  • In The Babylon Effect, the Babylon 5/Mass Effect Crossover Fic, Matriarch Benezia decides to stop at Beta Durani to have a little talk with a captured Minbari Shai Alyt on the way to a Peace Mission to Minbar. After pointing out that the Minbari had killed an Asari Matriarch during an earlier battle during the war and that, by the Minbari's logic, the Asari had every right to exterminate them, among other things. The Shai Alyt has a combination of this and an Oh, Crap! moment realizing that there are only two ways their war with the Terran Systems Alliance will end; either they make peace with them, or the war will kill a great many people, Minbari included.
  • In Blood Man Luffy when fighting the Don Krieg and his men, the Straw Hats are appalled that Gin is holding them hostage after they saved his life. Pearl brushes it off as the Krieg way, and Gin agrees but starts thinking to himself what the Krieg way means: Killing civilians, breaking promises, betraying allies, and leaving no survivors. At that moment Gin attacks Pearl.
  • Code Geass: Redo of the Rebellion: Viletta Nu is forced to oversee the distribution of medical supplies to refugee Elevens and has to fight from being physically sick at how many wounded there are, especially at the realization several of them are from the Shinjuku Massacre.
  • In the Angel fic "Splinter", after spending months regarding Angel as the bad guy for abandoning them to pursue his vendetta against Darla, witnessing an alternate version of events where Angel lost them during Vocah’s attack force Wesley, Cordelia and Gunn to acknowledge that they should have pushed harder to remain in Angel’s life, as even at his worst in this new reality Angel is still basically trying to do the right thing but has just lost any ability to connect to the people he’s protecting.
  • The Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic “Unconquerable Souls” (set in a version of the Wishverse that didn’t end when Giles smashed Anyanka’s amulet) has Jenny Calender experience this when she uses a spell to assess the condition of Angel’s curse; seeing that the soul is the one actually suffering while the demon is just restrained leads her to realise that the concept of the curse as punishment is flawed, even if she resolves to ensure the curse isn’t broken for the sake of those who will die if Angelus escapes.
  • The Dark Side of the Mirror Verse:
    • Mirror Fluttershy has one of these when Captain Goodguy/Mirror Discord makes her realize Rainbow Crash's current issues are partially her fault thanks to her Bystander Syndrome meaning she never helped her when she was being bullied severely by Mirror Spitfire as a filly, and pointing out had Gilda had the same attitude, things may have been much worse. It really sinks in when Mirror Twilight's Mad Scientist activities (which Fluttershy had noticed but ignored) result in Twilight becoming a Nightmare and nearly destroying Canterlot, resulting in Fluttershy finally acting and coming to help stop her.
    • Mirror Twilight has one of her own when she's defeated in her Nightmare form and restored to sanity by the Elements of Harmony, realizing she was just living out a power fantasy she never wanted to come true and nearly destroyed Canterlot as a result.
  • In What You Already Know - Resolutions, Ishta has a minor but significant moment when Daniel Jackson uses his psychic abilities to let Moloc's host talk before he is executed, with the host horrified to remember everything Moloc did to innocent children using his body and explicitly asking for death. When Ishta talks with Daniel later, she admits that she is ashamed that she spent so many years hating Moloc's face without acknowledging that the face she hated was of a man who suffered more from Moloc's actions than any of the Goa'uld's victims.
  • In The Darkest Light, Tenten practiced for months with her team so they could kill Naruto/Naruichi in revenge for how (they think) he wronged them. As Tenten leads Naruichi to the ambush site, their conversation causes her to realize that what they plan on doing is wrong and Naruichi is an innocent masseur. Of course, it helps that except for Lee (who lost his parents to the Kyuubi), everything bad that happened to them from interacting with Naruichi was their own fault.
    • It sinks in even further when Gai asks why Tenten attempted to murder Naruichi and upon hearing her answer, that she was jealous of Naruichi's skill and hated him for it, asks her, "Hated enough to kill?"
  • Trian Aeducan has one in Dragon Age The Crownof Thorns and it's bad enough that he becomes unable to sleep properly, falls into a depression he can only distract himself from by abusing his body through incessant workout, and this is when he's not having a Heroic BSoD. Gorim, surprisingly enough, tries to get him out of it, but he doesn't have much luck because of how both of them are half-convinced the dwarven noble protagonist is dead, so he has his own grief to work out. Trian only really manages to emotionally recover, somewhat, when he discovers his talent for sculpting, something that happens weeks after the realization. Things aren't made much better by what happens with the king and the city-state itself afterward. Let's just say those weren't the best few months of his life.
    • King Endrin Aeducan is a sort of aversion because he knows what he's doing is wrong from the get-go. Still, his deathbed scene finally has him putting it into words, but it's far, far too late by then, or so he thinks. It actually wasn't, since everything had gone according to one of the DN's plans, but Endrin actually chooses to die because he didn't want to face his second son when he came back. It's just a very small point in his favor that part of the reason for his decision to give up on life before the second eldest prince has a chance to return is the fact that he doesn't want to put Raonar through the experience of having a second parent die in front of him. Needless to say, the second son in question quite rightfully calls him a stupid old man when he finds out.
  • In Echo Chamber, Izuku and Bakugou fight each other during the Sports Festival without using their Quirks, each for their own reasons. Without the flashiness of Quirks to distract them, the spectators quickly realize they've been cheering on Blood Sport between children for their own entertainment. Nezu in particular comes to the conclusion that he's become just like the scientists who experimented on him.
  • In Equestria: A History Revealed, only following her forces' defeat at the Battle of Canterlot, does Princess Luna realize the magnitude of everything she did in starting the Equestrian Civil War, and then suffers from a Villainous BSoD.
  • In Twilight Storm, when Bella starts arguing with another prisoner in a Dalek labour camp about how the other woman sold the Doctor out to try and save someone else, Bella realises that she's basically done everything she was angry at the other woman for, as they're both willing to hurt others if it means being with the person they love. This marks the start of a chain of events that will conclude with Bella abandoning her old feelings for Edward even after she returns to her own time.
  • In For me Harry asking if his leaving Hogwarts would make things easier leads Snape to the realization that he's become a bully and a coward.
  • In Forward, a Firefly fanfic, there are two instances of this:
    • Colonel Dannett, a combat instructor for the Academy, realized what a monster he was becoming and had to decide between retirement and suicide. He chose to retire but is still haunted enough by what he did that when River comes after him, he is willing to let her kill him for revenge. Fortunately, River spares and forgives him.
    • The second instance comes later on, with Inducer One-One-Nine, who is an eight-year-old psychic that can control emotions and thoughts, and went on a massive murder spree. She only comes to realize the horror of what she's done when Zoe shoots her in the stomach and she lays dying.
  • An important plot point in Harry Potter: Junior Inquisitor is the Order of the Phoenix learning that not only is the entire Order being coerced and/or blackmailed by Dumbledore, but that the crimes they've committed on his orders are far worse than anything most of them were being blackmailed for. Particularly noteworthy is when Bill, who got his job after Dumbledore lied about his NEWT scores, reacts to Fawkes liberating most of the Order from the ministry by throwing himself away from the bird.
    • It's driven home further when Dumbledore doesn't stop Snape from using the Cruciatus on Harry but hexes someone for stopping Snape.
  • In the dark!Harry AU Heir after Voldemort tasks Harry and Tom with running distraction duty at Hogwarts by setting the Basilisk loose on the student body they had originally picked the Muggle-born Hermione Granger to be one of their first victims, but after a week of stalking Hermione, Harry and Tom realize how brilliant she is and decide to choose a different target. When Harry and Tom give their report at the next Death Eater meeting and explain why they switched targets this even gets Voldemort thinking that maybe he was wrong about Muggle-borns.
  • Her Inner Demons: The Shadowbolts suffered a brutal one when Sci-Twilight explains her transformation into Midnight Sparkle was partly a result of their pressure and ridicule. The shame Lemon Zest and Sunny Flare was so bad, it caused them to Stress Vomit. Twilight herself is ashamed for letting her anger turn her into a monster, even though the Shadowbolts claim she had every right to be angry.
  • In Hermione Granger and the Marriage Law Revolution Minister of Magic Hermione Granger and Chief Warlock Harry Potter realize they have a serious problem when they learn that Neville may run for Minister of Magic and one of the first things they think of is to kill him to make sure he won't restore the old regime. They thus make sure someone sane and wise takes their place and get some much-needed therapy.
  • In How I Learned to Love the Wild Horse after Ranma (who fled to Beverly Hills to escape Nerima) apparently cheats on her, Clover considers telling his father where he is. But then she overhears Mandy agree not to do something that might lead to Ranma's father finding him because of how horrible the man is. Clover's horrified she was going to do something even Mandy wouldn't stoop to.
  • In The Infinite Loops, Pinkie Pie realizes that her constant hounding of Candy Cane (aka Ciphias Cain) to get him to party with her only hurts him and makes him fear her, which is something she'd never want with anyone. She tries to make it up to him with a Get-Out-Of-Party-Free card.
  • In Inner Demons, a recently Face Heel Turned Sweetie Belle almost has one when she sees how bad Twilight Sparkle has become. Unfortunately, an ill-worded speech from Rarity hits an emotional trigger Twilight planted earlier, causing her to backslide and join up with Twilight fully.
  • Night in Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami:
    "Look Mr. L dude" dark said darkly. "I just want to blow up the world is that so evil?"
    "Yes because then where will the kiddies live?"
    Night looked shocked and stopped signing.
  • Kimberly Ts Gargoyles series features several of these;
    • The series basically opens with Xanatos having had one as he realises that he wants to set a better example for his son, driving him to try and help the gargoyles be accepted by the modern world and atone for his past mistakes, with Xanatos getting directly confronted with the consequences of his past mistakes in Unsolved Mysteries when he meets Anne Marsden, who lost her husband and her job due to the Lost Nights and the Big Sleep.
    • The Times, They Are a-Changin' gives one to Demona of all people, as her first meeting with the People for Interspecies Tolerance when they approach 'Dominique Destine' for corporate funding forces Demona to acknowledge that there are humans who want to befriend gargoyles just because it's the right thing to do, particularly when she overhears one of the P.I.T. members (who didn't know about her history) say that she's spent so long hating that she can't stop hating because it would force her to face that her life has been pointless.
    • Mating Games 7: Moments of Silence, the entire Manhattan Clan have a relatively minor one of these when they all only realize how poorly they've treated the Labyrinth Clan after Brentwood (Lexington's clone) is killed by the Quarrymen, prompting Lexington to regret never taking time to get to know his clone beyond being a weird 'not-him' and the other gargoyles vowing to spend more time with their own clones when they return.
  • In Mastermind: Strategist For Hire, Izuku has a moment when he realizes someone killed Mt. Lady with the plan he provided. Rather than horrified, Izuku mostly feels satisfaction that his plan succeeded and admits it makes him a bad person.
  • In The Maretian Dragonfly undergoes this as a major part of her character development. As she is listening to the last chapters of The Hobbit along with the rest of the castaways, she realizes that if the changelings had won during their attack on Canterlot years ago, they would hardly act any better than Saruman's thugs raiding Shire. This realization sticks, and by the end she is considering moving out from the hive, lest she adopts the old mode of thinking again.
  • In Origin Story, the slow realization that the government is now hounding an innocent teenage girl solely because she is as powerful as she is (she's a Kryptonian, after all) and not because she violated any law despite what he has been told, causes Tony Stark to have one of these. It especially hits home after he's shown conclusively that the Registration Act effectively ignores the 13th Amendment. That's the one that outlaws slavery.
  • In Perfection is Overrated, Nao goes through a gradual one over time, as she realizes how much her mother's being put into a coma has affected her life by causing her to become a selfish and vengeful loner, starting when she is forced to ensure that it happens lest history be altered enough to cause a temporal paradox. After a chance encounter with Mai in the hospital, Nao realizes that Mai has, in the years since her parents' deaths, dedicated herself to something constructive in caring for Takumi, while Nao realizes how little robbing perverts ease her own pain. Eventually, she undergoes positive Character Development and becomes a better person, particularly after realizing her similarity with Natsuki.
  • The Pony POV Series Recursive Fanfiction Discord: Not One Of A Kind (declared an official Alternate Universe) has this happen to Discord (well, an alternate one implied to be the canon version). Bored with being Sealed Evil in a Can but unable to do much of anything about it other than send a piece of his spirit out to observe Equestria (which at present mostly consists of celebration of his defeat), he sends it to the Truth to take a look, and sees the Dark World where he won. Upon witnessing how bad Dark World!Discord is, he realizes he's no different and is nearly completely broken by guilt. Thankfully, Twilight Tragedy finding the stars to still be beautiful, even in the horrible alternate future snaps him out of it and redeems him.
  • Naruto in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, makes a would-be assassin realize how evil his group is by forcing him to psychically feel the suffering of some of the people his group's actions hurt.
  • At the climax of the Rainbooms and Royalty sequel May the Best Friends Win, Rainbow Dash calls out Trixie on her behavior, which forces her to face just how vile she's truly acted, leading to her becoming a better pony.
  • In the pro wrestling story, The Return-Remixed, Maria Kanellis has one in the last act after DEAR took out Eve Torres with three powerbombs on an unpadded, concrete floor, putting her in the hospital. She mainly suffers in silence, feeling guilty over what they've done.
  • In Reconciliator of Empire City, Cole MacGrath has convinced Kitty Pryde that she is the real bad guy during the Astonishing X-Men issues, not Emma Frost, whom she distrusts of.
    Kitty: You're right. You're right all this time. I'm the bad guy here, not Emma.
  • Ring-Maker: Taylor/Sauron, after fully regaining the memories of her past life. Note that this applies both for actions taken in-story as a Knight Templar, and for things done as Middle-Earth's Big Bad.
    Taylor: I was wrong. I was always wrong.
  • In Robb Returns, Robert has a few of this as he gets back on his feet (metaphorically speaking), realizing how badly he has been messing things since the Rebellion. He pointedly tells his brothers that he has been a horrible brother, particularly to Stannis, who has done so much for him without receiving a just reward.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act III: Akua and Kahlua help Kiria in his plan to use the Chrono Displacement spell to rewrite history with the intent to make their father Issa one of the top dark lords of the world in the new timeline. In the final chapter, they get hit with this big time when they discover that Kiria actually planned to alter history so he would be the most powerful monster in existence, and part of said plan would have had him infect the two with Blackheart and sent back in time to destroy Issa's empire from within. The two spend the next three acts trying to atone for their mistake.
  • In The Sealed Kunai, Konan starts to realize Akatsuki is evil when she and Pain fight Naruto and Jiraiya inside Amegakure. Unlike their other battles that were out in the wilderness or villages they didn't care about, this one left half the village in ruins and thousands dead, causing her to realize what kind of suffering Akatsuki has been (and will be) responsible for.
  • In Second Time's the Charm, Zero forces an epiphany on Jeremiah Gottwald in order to lay the groundwork for him becoming Orange again. Notably, before the attack on Saitama, Jeremiah hears Cornelia's declaration of war being a "struggle between life and pride" and thinks to himself that slaughtering an entire neighborhood on the chance that Zero will show up is "nothing to take pride in."
  • The Star Trek fics "Big Doors" and its sequel "To the Journey" each feature two unexpected characters having these;
    • In "Big Doors", Lwaxana Troi has spent years thinking that Tasha is a bad influence on her daughter due to her rougher attitude, but when circumstances result in Lwaxana learning that Tasha had a baby when she was a teenager, only for the premature baby to die just a few days later, she re-evaluates her opinion of Tasha as a woman who has spent years struggling with a pain that Lwaxana compares to having a piece of your soul ripped out.
    • In "To the Journey", Q of all people has one when he looks back on an incident where he offered to bring Tasha Yar's baby back to life if she'll be the mother of his own child. Although Q simply erased Tasha's memory of the experience after she broke down sobbing when he briefly restored the baby and then took it away, after Q becomes a father himself, he recognises that Tasha was right to accuse him of being no better than Tasha's old rapists, and in order to atone, he gives Tasha a chance to save a friend, transporting her to Deep Space 9 in time to save Jadzia Dax from Dukat.
  • In Seventh Horcrux, Hermione, who Harry has been accusing of being evil since her plan to knock out Crabbe and Goyle, replace them using Polyjuice, and interrogate Draco Malfoy back in second year, comes to a heel realization when Harry and Ron confront her over obliviating her parents and sending them to Australia. When she expresses worry that she might be turning into the next Dark Lord, Harry points out that Voldemort probably won't like that, so they'll have to kill him anyways.
  • In Some Semblance of Meaning, a The Hunger Games fanfic, Obsidian has one after realizing how ruthless his fellow Careers are and recognizing that he feels guilty about the kills he has made.
  • In the backstory of Star Wars Episode I: The Familiar of Zero, Guiche is part of a prank on Louise (as revenge for the damage her explosions cause) that starts with him asking her on a date. Throughout their dinner, he realizes what a wonderful (if magically inept) person Louise is and when she's knocked out by her drugged meal and several students write crude things all over her, Guiche breaks down crying over how he strung her along. Her sheer joy that a guy like him noticed her just makes it worse for him. Guiche later admits to another student that afterward, he didn't beg forgiveness because he couldn't stand the idea of Louise feeling anything for him besides hatred and revulsion. It's why he doesn't begrudge Louise's familiar for leaving him in constant agony from her Force Lightning, as it's no less than he deserved.
  • In Strange Scales, despite the Quillettes having an associate who has been hunting mermaids for years confirming that they are 'monsters', the tribe realise that they were wrong after Riana, one of the colony, has a chance to talk with them 'directly' (albeit with Edward acting as translator as none of the mermaids can speak English on land).
  • In This Bites!, Cross's words on tolerance and "perpetuating hate for hate's sake" make Hancock, Marigold, and Sandersonia realize they've become far too similar to the World Nobles they despise.
  • The main character in This is the Life: A Tale of a Human in Equestria has one after hiding from Pinkie Pie so he won't have to attend her party, only to come to the realization she's trying so hard to invite him (read: literally hunting around town for him) because she thinks he doesn't have many friends and wants him to have a fun time and meet some people.
  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, Heather reached out to Lindsay after the latter lost her baby, but Lindsay did not acknowledge the gesture. Lindsay did respond to condolences from Courtney, among others, so Heather assumed that old resentments still lingered. The incident left Heather questioning, for the first time, the wisdom of her game strategy.
  • Fai has a gradual one in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE- fanfic Shatterheart after he confronts Syaoran on his drinking: he wants Syaoran to ask him for help but realizes due to his previous coldness he is the last person Syaoran would turn to. Kurogane points out that Fai treats Syaoran as if he's a ghost instead his own person, a problem not helped by the fact that Fai hasn't actually spoken much to Syaoran since Tokyo, which was several months ago in-story.
  • In the ATLA fanfic Undone, Jeong Jeong has one after realizing that the Fire Nation has murdered children in the Earth Kingdom, and that while they may not be Fire Nation, the Earth Kingdom's people are still people. Iroh has one at the end as well after Lu Ten dies.
  • Why, which is another My Little Pony example; it expands on Discord's from "Keep Calm and Flutter On" (taking place between his Heel Realization and the final scene). When the Mane Six confront him over his change of heart, he explains his Heel Realization in more detail;
    Discord: I lost the last time because I didn't understand your friendship as well as I thought I did, and once I finally did understand it... I realize how it must've felt when I broke yours apart.
  • In this The Hobbit fanfic, Dís (who has unsuccessfully tried to duel Tauriel to the death at this point) realizes what she has done when Tauriel gets misogynist hate mail from other dwarves, and Bilbo points out those dwarves must have assumed Dís would approve of their actions, due to her treatment of Tauriel.
  • Walking in Circles:
    • Solas has one when he understands that Evelyn, and by extension the people in the current age, despite their weak connections to the Fade are all true people with their own lives, emotions, desires and dreams that are no different from the people of the old world.
    • Evelyn also has one when she realizes that despite understanding what is a Tranquil, she, like everyone else, has taken them for granted, forget or ignore just how horrible it actually is.
  • In Yet More Fragments Harry explains to the Order of the Phoenix that given Snape's treatment of any non-Slytherin in his class, almost every job that requires a NEWT in potions (politics, aurors, healers, etc) is staffed near exclusively with Slytherins who buy into Voldemort's ideals. While checking the Order's reactions, Harry's surprised to note that Snape is one of those looking shocked.
  • In Faded Blue, Greg and Steven are both horrified when they learn that Blue Pearl is essentially a slave, and they didn't realize for over a decade.
  • Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron: Shirley has a moment during Tears of the Balmerra, when she stays with Shay's family. Not only is she deeply saddened by how they live their entire lives in tunnels, forced to mine crystals from a living creature in a manner that is implied to be extremely painful for it, but she also realized that something similar happens on Earth with all of the numbers that are forced to serve Britannia.
  • Fractured Fates: The first killer, Azami Kurobe, realizes she truly did make a terrible mistake by committing murder, and tearfully acknowledges this before crying out how sorry she is for the crime.
  • All the Roofs of Uncertainty: Jason understands he's not a hero by the time the story starts, but the realization that he's an actual villain who's been murdering people "to get [his] dad's attention" slams into him pretty hard part way through when the reactions of others to his actions gets thrown in his face enough.
  • A couple of My Hero Academia fanfics has Bakugou Katsuki finally realize the kind of bully that he was to Midoriya Izuku, by letting him bond with someone over time, then have a terror from that person's past reappear, causing them to freeze in fear, and having Bakugou recognize that same reaction as the one Midoriya always gets when he looks at Bakugou himself.
    • In Lamarckian, Bakugou ends up getting a girlfriend in the main character, Kanna, and the terror from her past is her family's Arch-Nemesis, the Wendigo.
    • In Toward A Bright Future, Bakugou comes to respect and care for Class 1-A's new teaching assistant Y/N like the rest of his class, and the terror from her past is her old guardian, Mumei.
  • In Ranma ½' fanfic Girl Days, Akane gets one when an emotionally unstable Ranma calls her out on her attitude.
    "But... you always call me uncute..."
    "That doesn't have anything to do with your looks."
    "Hitting me for anything I say, never listening, always taking things the wrong way, always blaming me for everything that goes wrong— what's cute about that? Humph. Don't know why I bother."
    And Ranma turned her back with a sniff.
    Akane stared. Even taking into account the possibility that Ranma was temporarily... odd... because of her biological ordeal, that had a frightening ring of sincerity. And accuracy.
    Girl days was supposed to educate Ranma. But as little as she wanted to admit it, they were teaching her something also. Things she didn't like. About herself.
  • In The Last Prayer, Sakura finally realizes how unhealthy her feelings for Sasuke are when he threatens to kill her parents so "she can understand him like she wants" and Sakura realizes she actually considered it for a moment. Sakura breaks down sobbing in Ino's arms at the idea she'd seriously consider letting her parents get murdered just for the chance it might get her closer to Sasuke.
  • Sombra's Then Let Me Be Evil moment from Ask King Sombra is ruined when he sees that Luna (who he had a thing for before he became evil) genuinely believed that he had been reformed and was heartbroken when she was proven wrong.
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv), Mello's mafia henchmen wonder if maybe, just maybe, they're the bad guys. Also Light makes a Heel Realization before he dies and tries to stop his past self from using the notebook.
  • Like most things, this is Played for Laughs in Hellsing Ultimate Abridged.
    Rip van Winkle: Tell me, captain, how does it feel to betray your friends, family, and country all for the selfish wish of immortality?
    Captain: Well when you put it like that, I feel like kind of a cunt.
  • In Harry's Christmas Wish Arcturus Black realizes that his prejudices have gone too far when Harry evicts him from Potter Manor after he has Alastor Moody try to Imperius Harry into never having any contact with Hermione again.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In “The Blood Brother,” Bolt finally realizes that he has been treating Mittens unfairly. He tearfully apologizes to the cat, who forgives him.
  • Sasha and the Frogs: This happens in chapter 3 to Sasha after suffering constant nightmares.
  • Down And Out: In Chapter 6, speaking to Hazel makes Simon realize that he's responsible for his own actions, and said actions have only served to repel most of the people in his life, with Grace being the only person to stick by him despite being one of his biggest victims (albeit in her own twisted way at that point).
  • In The Linked Mirrors Snape realizes how much he's contributed to Harry's self-loathing after a viewing spell shows Harry cutting himself.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the film version of All-Star Superman, Lex Luthor has one of his only heel realizations in any continuity after he finally gets it. What is "it"? Everything.
    Lex Luthor: I could have made everyone see! If it wasn't for you, I could have saved the world!
    Superman: If it had mattered to you, Luthor, you could have saved the world years ago.
    Luthor: ... you're right.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: In the Christmas Special, it's revealed that Carface was thrown out of his home as a puppy because his owner blamed him for everything. Because of this, he's very sympathetic for the crippled young puppy Timmy, and is happy to see that he has a more caring family. He's thus horrified when he's shown the future and sees that his scam led to harming Timmy and his family. This causes Carface to reform and help stop Belladonna's plans to hypnotize every dog in San Francisco.
  • In The Boxtrolls, it eventually dawns on Trout and Pickles that they're not the good guys, and all it takes to get them to rebel against Snatcher is an Armor-Piercing Question from Winnie.
  • Amos Slade, the Big Bad of The Fox and the Hound, has one at the end when Copper prevents him from shooting Tod, who saved both their lives only two minutes earlier.
  • Home:
    • Oh has a major revelation that his own people themselves are entirely the cause of all their persecution problems.
    • After Oh saves the Boov using a Gorg Superchip, Kyle realizes that he should have accepted Oh as his friend and sides with him against Smek.
  • Claude Frollo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame seems to have one that lasts for about a second or two during his Villain Song, when he sings "God have mercy on her/God have mercy on me" and then follows up with "But she will be mine, or she will burn!"
  • Diego in Ice Age. He's confronted about the selfishness and brutality in his plans that set up Manny when the mammoth saves him from the lava, and after Roshan chooses to walk to him first. This culminates in his change of heart and the decision to do whatever it takes to make sure his new "herd" makes it to safety - even if it might mean his own death.
  • In The LEGO Movie, it's no secret that Lord Business is a Control Freak, but it's not him who has the realization. It's "The Man Upstairs", a serious LEGO enthusiast who builds only to the specified instructions and sticks his creations into place with Krazy Glue, and never lets his son Finn, a simple young boy who only wants to build creative experiments, play with them. TMU finally has the realization after he finds out that Finn based an imaginary supervillain on him. Of course, TMU isn't really evil per se, but he is, as noted, an Allegorical Character for TMU's own control freak tendencies.
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, after falling for Kiara and hearing Simba's side of Scar's death, Kovu finishes Becoming the Mask and gets a My God What Did I Almost Do moment, deciding not to go through with the assassination plot he had been sent to do. Around the same time, this happens to Simba when he realizes that what he's doing to Kovu isn't what Mufasa would have wanted.
  • In The Emperor's New Groove Pacha tells Kuzco, "Someday, you're going to find yourself all alone, and you'll have no one to blame but yourself.". Later in the movie, Kuzco is all alone in the jungle, and he realizes what a jerk he's been to everybody... and that he's entirely to blame for everything that's happened to him (even Yzma wanting to kill him). His narration again tells the audience that he's the victim, but...
    Kuzco: (to narration) Hey, give it a rest up there, will ya?
    Kuzco's Narration: What? I'm just telling them what happened.
    Kuzco: Who are you kidding, pal? They saw the whole thing. They know what happened.
    Kuzco's Narration: Well, yeah, but... but...
    Kuzco: Just leave me alone...
  • In Meet the Robinsons, after Bowler Hat Guy checked off everything on his villain agenda except the last entry, which he marked with a "?," he faced a "Now What?" moment and realized that whereas the Robinson family had vastly improved the quality of life in the world in the span of a couple of decades, Bowler Hat Guy's actions had been nothing but destructive for petty reasons. Without a direction for himself anymore, Bowler Hat Guy starts thinking about reforming. The bowler hat, Doris, figures this out (It Makes Sense in Context) and takes matters into her own robotic claws, and it takes the combined efforts of the Robinsons, Lewis, and Bowler Hat Guy to stop her.
  • In Monsters, Inc., Sulley gives a scare demonstration to some candidates, badly scaring Boo, which makes him realize how horrible it actually is to scare little children.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Sunset Shimmer a pretty dramatic one. Whatever she was expecting the Element of Magic to do, she wasn't expecting it to turn her into a demon. Before her transformation, she hadn't been willing to threaten a puppy; after it, she tried to outright kill Twilight. After the Humane Six stopped her, she understood that she had been the bad guy even before this, and promptly repented. Rainbow Rocks shows us details; she's harder on her past self than the Humane Five are (Rarity, who Sunset wronged more than the others, is particularly forgiving), and directs a great deal of scorn and sarcasm at herself.
    • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, the other members of Crystal Prep's Shadowbolts team are horrified that their determination to win led to the actual human Twilight Sparkle being transformed into the monstrous Midnight Sparkle. So much so that, when Midnight goes on a reality-breaking spree, the girls quickly aid the others in saving those dangling in the holes from falling in. Once everything is set back to normal, the girls are a lot more apologetic and friendlier and no longer care about winning (much to their she-devil principal Cinch's fiery disgrace).
  • Jack's realization in The Nightmare Before Christmas crystallises in the song "Poor Jack".
  • RJ in Over the Hedge spends the first half of the film tricking the forest animals into stealing food so he can take it all and give it to Vincent, a bear whose food he caused to be run over. As he spends time with them, he starts to like being part of their family, so much so that he begins regretting his plan. When he finally goes through with and lets them take the fall, Vincent commends RJ for how he deceived them. RJ realizes he's made a horrible mistake and goes off to save them.
  • In life, the zombies of Paranorman were Knight Templar puritans who believed that they were doing the right thing by killing Agatha, who they suspected of witchcraft. In death, however, they feel ashamed of what they did and accept that it was utterly unforgivable.
  • The Rugrats Movie:
    • Tommy suffers this big time. Having been abandoned by his friends and left to fend for himself and his baby brother, Dil, Tommy finally snaps at Dil's greediness and attitude and plans to give Dil to the monkeys. However, as he's ready to dump banana baby food on Dil, the younger Pickles' demeanor changes to one of outright fear and Tommy sees himself in a puddle's reflection. This and Dil quickly clambering up to hug Tommy is enough to realize what he was doing was wrong. Even the monkeys are close to tears as they sadly look on as Tommy brings Dil back to shelter.
    • Dil as well gets this during this scene, realizing how much of a brat he was.
  • In Zootopia, Judy gets one as she realizes the extent of her patronizing attitude and Innocently Insensitive comments towards predators has worsened the Night Howler situation.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In 12 Angry Men, when Juror #3, in the middle of explaining his 'Guilty' vote, sees the picture of his son in his wallet and tears it up ... and figures out why he really was voting the way he was.
  • In American Beauty, the protagonist spends the majority of the movie fantasizing about his daughter's sexually experienced teenage friend and starts working out to impress her. In the end, he realizes all her talk was just that. She was a virgin, and not personally ready for that kind of relationship.
  • Jesse James has several moments where he realizes this in between his bouts of being Axe-Crazy in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Most notably, at one point in a fit of paranoia that someone from his gang is informing on him, Jesse begins purging those who participated in his last heist. When he goes to the house of one gang member and finds the man not home, he begins beating on the man's young son, who is maybe 13 or 14 years old. In the middle of the No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, James abruptly stops, gets a hold of himself, and seems horrified by his actions. He later vocalizes this as well.
    "No. I haven't been acting correctly. I can't hardly recognize myself sometimes when I'm greased. I go on journeys out of my body and look at my red hands and my mean face and I wonder about that man who's gone so wrong."
  • In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne has let his fear of Superman's power, anger over the death and destruction during Superman's fight with Zod, and the cynicism that he's developed over twenty years of fighting crime in Gotham turn him cruel and vicious, to the point where he plans to kill the Man of Steel, justifying it to himself that it's Necessarily Evil for the survival of the human race. When he's actually got Superman down and prepares for the killing blow, he discovers that Clark is fighting because Lex Luthor is holding Clark's mother, Martha Kent, hostage and he's actually in Gotham against his will, to save his mother's life. Bruce suddenly realizes just how much they have in common (he, too, being driven by love of his parents), throws away the spear and agrees to team up with Clark to stop Lex.
  • Bjarnfredarson is all about this finally happening to the titular character, who failed to realize this over three whole series of comedy.
  • Blind Horizon: "Frank" (actually Ryan) realizes near the end that he's one of three hitmen who had been hired to kill the President. This unnerves him so much he considers suicide before pulling a Heel–Face Turn, killing the string-puller and his fellow shooter to save the President before getting out of town.
  • A meta example: during production of the 1976 version of Carrie, Nancy Allen and John Travolta didn't realize just how villainous Chris and Billy really were until they actually saw the film. They thought they were the comic relief while filming.
  • The Craft: Legacy: Near the end, Frankie, Lourdes and Tabby realize how their spell brainwashing Timmy wasn't that much different from what they bound Lily for.
  • Crimson Tide: The expression on Captain Ramsey's face when the EAM is read looks like this.
  • Cruel and Unusual: Edgar realizes after living through Maylon and her son's memories that he really was an abusive asshole to them. It spurs him to make up for this.
  • In Cube Zero, Wynn slowly begins to realize that the Cube masters are putting innocent people in the Cube who fall afoul of the state instead of death row inmates. After being forced to carry out his orders to kill one of his former colleagues he turns on them and tries to help the Cube prisoners.
  • In The Devil's Carnival, when John cries out "he shouldn't have been born!" he suddenly comes to realize how toxic his grief actually is.
  • In Dogma, Loki has a moment like this when he hears Bartleby claim that God unfairly favors humans over angels and that therefore they are entitled to kill a bunch of them if that means they get to return to Heaven.
    "My God. I've heard a rant like this before... You sound like the Morning Star... You sound like Lucifer, man! You've fucking lost it! You are not talking about going home, Bartleby, you are talking fucking war on God! Well, fuck that! I've seen what happens to the proud when they try to take on the throne... I'm going back to Wisconsin."
    • Bartleby gets one too, though it's late enough that it's a case of Redemption Equals Death. He comes face to face with God for the first time in a thousand years and breaks down in tears, apologizing repeatedly. He then thanks God when He/She kills him.
  • In The Elephant Man, Dr. Treves is shaken by the Head Nurse's observation that the arrangement he set up for John Merrick, which include receiving respectable callers, means he is still being treated as a freak on display, albeit in a high-class cushy style.
    "Why did I do it? Am I a good man or a bad man?"
  • Falling Down combines this with a Take That! aimed at the audience. William "D-Fens" Foster starts out seeming like a put-upon Everyman whose rage-induced stunts provide some satisfying wish-fulfillment for the audience. Then things get more morally ambiguous as we learn more about who this guy really is, and as his stunts get more reckless and terroristic. When he's finally confronted by Detective Martin Prendergast he realizes, with genuine bewilderment, that he has somehow become "the bad guy," and the viewer is invited to question their own identification with him up to that point. Some viewers decide that they see nothing problematic about their identification with D-Fens and/or see the reveal of his mental instability as a Debate and Switch.
    Foster: I'm the bad guy?
    Prendergast: Yeah.
    Foster: How'd that happen? I did everything they told me to.
  • First Girl I Loved: Cliff later realizes he'd forced Anne to have sex with him, and relates the story (without actually saying he did this) to the school counselor. Following this, he starts trying to stand up for Anne somewhat after he'd sabotaged her relationship with Sasha out of homophobia and jealousy.
  • Subverted in the Bill Paxton film Frailty: Fenton's father locks him in a cellar with minimal food and water until the boy comes to the realization that the family is destined to be God's warriors on earth, killing demons. Fenton later does have an epiphany... that he is one of the demons. He summarily kills his father with his own ax and instructs his brother Adam to bury him in the same rose garden all of the other demons were buried in when the time comes for him to be killed.
  • Cass has one of these at the end of The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. Given that the Gamers and Dead Gentlemen, in general, are known for broad farce, pulling off such a vulnerable moment without Mood Whiplash is actually a small triumph.
  • In Good Burger, Dexter takes advantage of Ed's naivety to cheat him out of most of his bonus money in order to pay back a debt faster. After he begins to become good friends with Ed and his Satellite Love Interest chews him out for his scam, he gives the money back.
  • Hostel Part II plays it both ways. Two brothers are in town to enjoy the "products" of the Murder, Inc.. One of them is looking forward to the main event, but gets cold feet after accidentally mutilating his victim instead of just scaring her. The other straps his victim back in after initially releasing her.
  • The Hunger Games: Cato realizes before his death that he spent his entire life being bred to be a pawn in the Capitol's scheme and even if he wins he is just a source of entertainment. Unfortunately, he then decides that he can still get one last kill in, which sort of negates the sympathy the first part was trying to invoke.
  • In Iron Man, Tony Stark realizes this after being kidnapped and forced to see the damage his weapons have caused and how indiscriminately they are handled by the people he had uncaringly sold them to all his life (causing hundreds of deaths in collateral damage and easily falling into the hands of terrorists to be used against innocent civilians and soldiers). He is so horrified that the first thing he does after escaping is to shut down the weapons division of his company and call out the military-industrial complex, and the second is to build Iron Man and become a superhero. It's highly possible that he first realized this when, while trying to survive the firefight, a missile lands by him and he sees what's written on it: Stark Enterprises.
  • The titular Judge Dredd has one regarding his Lawful Stupid Black and White Insanity outlook on life when he gets framed for murder and, en-route to prison, happens to sit beside Fergie. Fergie calls him out for wrongfully arresting him and giving him five years in prison for hiding inside a droid during a riot, and Dredd attempts to justify it only to have it thrown back in his face. The look on Dredd's face says it all.
    Fergie: Five years?! Just for saving my own ass?!
    Dredd: The law doesn't make mistakes.
    Fergie: Really? Then how do you explain what happened to you? You can't, can you? Great, Mr. "I am the law" can't!
  • In Jurassic Park, after Grant, Ellie and Hammond's grandchildren are "rescued" by Rexy, they race up to the jeep where Hammond is driving. After the death and destruction caused by everything and the harm he put his grandchildren through when Grant tells him that he's not endorsing his park, Hammond bitterly replies " am I."
  • Nicholas, in The Last King of Scotland, realizes only too late who he has been assisting for years, and in what.
  • Jim Carrey has an excellent one in Liar Liar. Since he is magically compelled to tell the truth, what he thinks is a rant on his child-raising techniques opens with him saying "I'm a bad father!" His expression indicates that this is perhaps the first time he has admitted that to himself.
  • A pretty funny example from Machete. One of the Mooks has an epiphany, telling his coworkers that "I've been watching the boss, and the boss is a real scumbag." That same Mook, when confronted by Machete shortly thereafter, promptly quits his job and gives Machete his gun.
  • In Mean Girls, Cady's response when Janis points out that she's become just as bad as the Plastics is to cry.
  • Undercover news reporter Babe Bennett has one in Mr. Deeds when she finds herself falling in love with Deeds after lying to him in order to gather information to slander him with.
  • Julianne in My Best Friend's Wedding realizes after her attempts to sabotage her best friend Michael's engagement to another woman named Kimberly cause Kimberly to run off crying and many other people to chew her out for her selfish actions that she's not the quirky female romance lead who proves that the male lead should be with her instead of her romantic rival, but the villain who tries to get in between the happy couple. She apologizes to Kimberly and admits, "I'm the bad guy," then lets her tie the knot with Michael.
  • A mild case with Jason in Mystery Team after Kelly chews him out for trash mouthing Charlie and Duncan.
  • In Odd Squad: The Movie, Weird Tom is forced to realize that he's doing everything wrong when his methods cause a self-multiplying monster to run loose, which nearly causes a global-scale disaster.
  • Robert Ryan has one of these surprisingly early on as the violent detective Jim Wilson, in Nicholas Ray's 1951 thriller On Dangerous Ground; the rest of the film is about his increasingly desperate attempt to pull off a genuine Heel–Face Turn. Amazingly, he succeeds.
    Jim Wilson: [just before he beats the hell out of a suspect] Why do you make me do it? You know you're gonna talk! I'm gonna make you talk! I always make you punks talk! Why do you do it? Why?
  • James Norrington of the Pirates of the Caribbean series realized only too late in the third film what side he was on in allying himself with Beckett, and promptly sought to make amends.
  • In Pixels, Toru Iwatani, the creator of Pac-Man, tries to invoke this on his creation. It doesn't work.
  • Bruno in Plan B, after spending most of the film trying to sabotage his ex Laura's new relationship with Pablo by getting Pablo to fall for him under false pretenses, realizes after Pablo becomes heartbroken and ends his friendship with him after learning the truth that his plan only ended up hurting and driving away someone he had grown to genuinely love. He candidly tells Laura that he can't be with her or anyone, period, and that "if I were [Pablo], I'd kick my ass".
  • The final part of Pulp Fiction involves Jules explaining to a would-be diner robber that he has come to realize this, and he explains that before he had his epiphany, he would have gunned down the robbers without a moment's hesitation, but now he understands how bad a man he's been right before he lets the robbers go.
  • The Operative in Serenity has one of these once he realizes just what the supposed "utopia" that he has been committing horrible acts to create would actually look like.
  • In Shortcut to Happiness, Mike visits Stone to tell him something important, but never quite manages to get it out because they keep being interrupted by Stone's entourage. Thinking his friend needs money, Stone offers him cash. Mike get angry and storms out. It is only then that Stone puts the clues together and realizes that Mike was trying to tell him he was dying, and that he has just blown off his dying best friend in favour a photoshoot for Architectural Digest. It's further hammered home when Kee tells him "the light's gone" (referring to the photoshoot). Stone realizes that the light is gone from his life and he has become a horrible person. He starts trying to put things right before his 10 years are up and the Devil comes to collect on her deal.
  • Silent Hill prominently features death by Heel Realization. The cultists who burned the film's main antagonist as a child can hole up in their church only until they realize, at least subconsciously, that what they did was wrong. They don't attempt to redeem themselves afterward, although it seems unlikely that they would have been given a chance to, seeing as how their victim is so far gone that she is literally incapable of anything but hate.
  • Boxer in Southland Tales realizes in his last scene that he's a facet of the Antichrist. He doesn't really seem to take it all that badly, even though he knows it means he's about to be blown up by the true Messianic Archetype.
  • Spider-Man 2: "I will not die a monster!", exclaimed Doc Ock after his realization. And he did not.
  • Sybok from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is devastated when he finds out that "God" is actually a malevolent alien entity, making his hijacking of Captain Kirk's ship worthless and potentially fatal.
  • Star Wars: The audience has one of these in Attack of the Clones; there is a scene at the end where troop ships are taking off from Coruscant to fight in the Clone Wars — the music playing in the background is The Imperial March. The audience realizes that for the past hour or so, they've been Rooting for the Empire.
  • It turns out Zangief from Street Fighter was loyal to Bison because he thought the guy was the hero!
    Zangief: Bison...?! He's a... bad guy?!
  • Tamara: Tamara finally realizes she's become evil by reading Chloe's mind to find that Chloe's completely innocent, something she'd never even considered before.
  • Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day attempts to prevent Judgment Day by assassinating the lead designer that will eventually create the terminators and Skynet. She nearly manages it, before she sees the man's wife and child shielding him with their bodies and realizes she was acting like a terminator herself and breaks down.
  • In Tommy, Nora Walker gets extravagantly wasted and sings "Champagne", boasting about all the things she can afford now that Tommy is making millions on the pinball circuit... but then she actually watches Tommy, and is reminded that all her money comes from exploiting a son who is, as far as she knows, completely oblivious to the world around him because of her.
  • Elijah Price at the end of the film Unbreakable. Unlike most examples, he is happy with the revelation since he finally had a purpose in life, and triumphant music plays in the background during this scene.
    "In a comic, do you know who the arch-villain is going to be? He is the exact opposite of the hero. And most times they are friends like you and me. I should have known way back when. You know why David? Because of the kids! They called me Mr. Glass."
  • Temir and Leo in When Darkness Falls, after murdering their sister Nina together with their whole family. After that, their other sister Leyla reports the crime to the police and the two brothers save Leyla before the family can kill her too.
  • A minor one, but in X-Men: First Class, Erik Lehnsherr (Magneto), deflects a bullet... straight into his best friend's back, paralyzing him. His expression suddenly changes from rage and defiance to shock and horror as he realizes that maybe he's not doing the right thing. Like brutally killing a man that his aforementioned best friend was psychically linked to, therefore forcing him to feel the pain of his death, almost slaughtering thousands of (mostly) innocent humans, and setting off on a crusade to end humanity. However, moments later he pushes the blame onto Moira for firing the bullet, and by the sequel he's back to his crusade.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse has Storm realizing that joining Apocalypse was wrong when he sees him strangle and nearly kill her heroine, Mystique. When the X-Men decide to strike Apocalypse with their powers, Storm is keen to go along.

  • A Christmas Carol is essentially one long heel realization by Scrooge.
  • Adventure Hunters: Ryvas wanted to use golems to end the loss of human life in wars. When he discovers that the golems are just as alive and sentient as himself, he surrenders and peacefully goes to jail.
  • At the end of The Amy Virus, Cyan's mother admits she was too scared to stand up to her emotionally and financially abusive husband. She gets a divorce, takes full custody of their daughter, and promises to make amends to the people she's hurt.
  • Rachel of Animorphs has one after she threatens to kill David's parents.
  • Lale fights this with all her might for awhile in The Assassins of Tamurin, until the crimes she realizes "Mother" has committed get personal.
  • In Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, James Taggart is helping to torture John Galt, and admits the latter's refusal to cry out is making him upset. When he realizes the significance of this — that he wants a man to die screaming in pain, even knowing that the man in question is the only one that can keep Taggart alive when civilization finally collapses — it dawns on him that he himself is evil; not just irresponsibly selfish, mind, which is a trait that is treated with grudging sympathy by the novel's morality, but actively bite-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face self-destructively malicious. At this point, he goes insane.
  • Atonement gives one to Briony, the narrator, upon the realization that her actions sent an innocent man to prison.
  • A mild version occurs in A Brother's Price when Ren explains to Jerin that he is allowed to say 'no' to women. She mentions that she probably sounds "quite the hypocrite", as she was quite insistent in her efforts to seduce Jerin.
  • Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • In Witches Abroad, Lily Weatherwax ruled with an iron fist in order to make fairy stories come true (up to and including imprisoning a toymaker who serially failed to whistle as he worked) and didn't realize that this made her the bad one until her final confrontation with her sister. She goes to her not quite death still insisting she's the good one, but Granny's insistence otherwise has rattled her. Granny, though, has on multiple occasions made a point of saying that only people who don't know better can be bad; if you know the difference between right and wrong, you can't choose wrong. A position that is, incidentally, cribbed wholesale from Socrates.
    • Subverted in Wyrd Sisters when Granny Weatherwax forces the monstrous queen of Lancre to see her True Self. Instead of repenting, the queen declares that given the chance to start over she would've done everything the same, only harder. She then suffers a Karmic Death...sort of. Which would make the above point "if know the difference... and are sane..."
    • This is also a theme in Going Postal, which focuses on the redemption of the main character, Moist von Lipwig, a professional conman. In the process, the novel subverts the trope Loveable Rogue by constantly pointing out to Moist that his past crimes were just that: crimes, with far-reaching negative consequences for many people, up to and including his love interest, who lost her job at a bank as a result of one of his cons.
      That had been a good day, Moist thought. At least, up until now it had been a good day.
  • The eponymous Harry Dresden of The Dresden Files has this a few times:
    • Has one of these that he confesses to the avatar of his consciousness when a photocopy of the Fallen Angel Lasciel takes residence in his head. His consciousness points out that Harry really doesn't have a choice, and that taking the high road means everyone dies. He then pointed out that Harry has the capacity to do good with the evil he agreed to working with. Later, Harry and Michael discuss this somewhat.
    • Then, Lasciel's copy has one of these. To emphasize, Harry is so stubborn that he got the shadow of a Fallen Angel to turn back to good.
    • Later, when Harry is dead in Ghost Story, he realizes what his decisions in the previous book did to his friends, especially Molly. It turns out that accepting a devil's bargain in front of your partially-reformed warlock wizardling apprentice is a bad idea, and that she learns from your example.
  • Enemy Coast Ahead by Guy Gibson, leader of the bombing raid made famous by The Dam Busters, contains a downplayed example. Gibson didn't consider himself to be a villain, but he certainly had his doubts about being entirely in the right:
    The fact that people … might drown had not occurred to us. But we hoped that the dam wardens would warn those living down below in time, even if they were Germans. No one likes mass slaughter and we did not like being the authors of it. Besides, it brought us in line with Himmler and his boys.
  • Mrs. Granger in Frindle, after overreacting to a student's creative attempt to invent a new word, realizes that her actions have placed her in the role of the villain and uses this status to help the new word along.
  • "The Garden Party" by Katherine Mansfield is about the main character, Laura, having one of these and realizing just how privileged her life is.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Transcedence, Gannis realizes that while he is technically not guilty of any crimes, his behavior has been petty, underhanded, deceitful, and disloyal, and he will be — quite justly — shunned for it.
  • Scarlett O'Hara has many moments like this in Gone with the Wind — after her second husband is killed and she realizes what an awful wife she was, after her daughter is killed and she realizes that she's alienated all her old friends and has no one to turn to, and after Melanie dies and she realizes she's been an awful friend to her (aside from being thoroughly oblivious and/or ungrateful to all that Melanie has done for her, every nice thing she did for Melanie was to curry favor with Melanie's husband Ashley), and when she finally realizes that Rhett loves her and what an awful wife she's been to him as well. Unfortunately, it's always too late for her to make amends to anyone — Frank and Melanie are dead, and Rhett finally gives up on trying to win her affections.
  • In Good Omens, Adam Young realizes he's done something terrible when he uses his powers on his friends to make them obey him. Thankfully, this helps him to ultimately become an Anti Anti Christ.
  • The Guns of the South has Nate Cauldell pull a heel realization when after teaching a black man and realizing that the man is both extremely smart and wants to better himself he realizes that his landlady, who's both illiterate and dumb as a post could buy the man in a heartbeat. As Nate himself says "Damned if there's any justice in that." The south as a whole has one when they find books showing how the civil war really went and learn that not only were blacks just as capable as whites but that they'd be seen as the villains in the future.
  • Harry Potter
    • This happened to Dumbledore after the death of his sister.
    • Ditto on Dudley, who realizes exactly what he has become when attacked by Dementors in book 5.
    • Also happened to Snape after his actions resulted in Lily Potter's death. Snape's realization came a year earlier, when he realized that Voldemort's reaction to the prophecy Snape had brought him would include killing Lily,
  • Honor Harrington:
    • Jack McBride in Torch of Freedom comes to the conclusion halfway through the book that promoting slavery and plotting to take over the known galaxy is bad, and reacts by setting up a defection by a major researcher and then blowing up the Gamma center.
    • In other examples from the Harrington-verse, Alfredo Yu realizes what kind of sociopaths the Masadans he's been ordered to assist really are and wants nothing more to do with it (nor evidently do a good portion of his fellow Havenite crew). This eventually becomes a recurring theme with other Havenite characters until their second revolution and the overthrow of the Pierre dictatorship.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!; after seeing the Whos still happy after he stole all their presents and decorations, the Grinch "puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore" until the True Meaning of Christmas finally hits him.
  • This is the source of the title of I Am Legend. The protagonist is indiscriminately killing the vampires who have reformed and learned to control their urges and realizes at the end he has become a monster to them.
  • The In Death series: There is this one lawyer in Ceremony in Death who defends one of the Satanic cult leaders that Eve is trying to take down. This lawyer happens to be a cult member himself. When Eve shows crime scene photos of a murdered cult member, the cult leader acts all "Meh", and the lawyer can only sit there and stare at the photos. Eve tips him off that she knows about his involvement and that he should think long and hard about what to do next. Later, when the lawyer is by himself, he ends up experiencing a Heel Realization, where he realizes that ever since he joined the cult he's been having blackouts...and in one of those blackouts, the cult member in the photos was murdered in a sacrifice! Who knows what else happened in those blackouts? He ends realizing that he is in big trouble, and decides to pull a Heel–Face Turn... only to get murdered shortly afterward.
  • In the novelization of the Magic: The Gathering story Urza's Saga, we have the Knight Templar archangel Radiant, whose last words are the startled "I'm the mad one!"
  • Les Misérables :
    • Jean Valjean had his Heel Realization after unthinkingly robbing a small child, right after Bishop Myriel had given him everything he'd owned, which got him to start taking his oath to the bishop seriously, and, ... you know the rest.
    • Much, much later, Javert has his own Heel Realization when Valjean rescues him from certain death at the barricade. Javert subsequently witnesses this criminal attempt to save Marius' life and offer himself willingly as Javert's prisoner. He realizes that the world isn't as black-and-white as he had believed. He doesn't take it so well.
  • In Lolita, Humbert finally realizes just how terrible his treatment of Dolores was when he meets her again as a pregnant, married teenager and realizes that he robbed her of the chance to have a normal, happy childhood. In what appears to be a rare moment of genuine guilt on his behalf, he just gives her the money she asks him for without demanding anything in return.
  • A halfway one from The Secret River: Thornhill says that he is "not a bad man", but is doing "something only the worst of men could do".
  • Seven Years Awesome Luck: Kester does some serious soul-searching after getting a taste of his own medicine from his son Landon, and reflects on his life with growing dissatisfaction. He ends up freeing the people he's turned into animals and then giving up using magic entirely.
  • Sir Apropos of Nothing has a variation: he's not the villain, but instead he's the weird side character to someone else's journey. He eventually kills the hero and takes over his duties, to disastrous results. Then in The Woad to Wuin, when he wakes up from a coma, he realizes what "he's" done while he was "sleeping" and is scared out of his wits. When he realizes the same force that controlled him then makes him indestructible... well, he falls into the evil well face-first.
    • Though he'd been dangling just over the abyss to begin with, really. Kind of a self-serving-but-not-completely-evil-bastard/heel turn.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: Roland Sullivan in Lethal Justice apparently experienced this after Alexis Thorne was sent to prison. The good news is that it left him pretty wrecked up. The bad news is that it was an Ignored Epiphany for him.
  • Star Wars Legends in general is full of Punch-Clock Villain Imperials who are conscripts or professional soldiers, who become appalled at various Imperial atrocities and decide that they didn't sign up to murder civilians. The destruction of Alderaan was a major driver for this.
    • In Allegiance, a stormtrooper refuses to fire on unarmed civilians, deliberately shooting to miss. Later he thinks back on how much he looked up to the Empire as a kid, when it came down on the Space Pirates who used to raid his homeworld, and how he joined the stormtrooper corps and served for ten years because it meant making that same kind of difference. But the Empire itself seemed to sour—there was that time he and the other stormtroopers forced a town to stand out in the pouring rain while their identities were checked and rechecked, there was that fanatical obsession with finding and killing Rebels which let other problems go unchecked, there was the promotion of murderers like Tarkin, there were things like the Imperial Security Bureau, and there was Alderaan. After sort of accidentally killing an ISB officer, he and his True Companions steal a ship and go on the run, and end up helping people and finding that Good Feels Good as they try to figure out what to do. But they don't stop being stormtroopers, and they don't join the Rebellion.
    • In the novel Choices of One, these stormtroopers are kidnapped by Thrawn and end up in his offshoot, the Empire of the Hand. The Empire of the Hand, judging by Survivor's Quest and the short story "Fool's Bargain," is apparently exactly what the stormtroopers used to think that the Empire was. Given that both of those feature stormtroopers who think for themselves and can make moral decisions, it's not surprising. They end up forming a sort-of vigilante group that hunts down pirates and ends up helping Mara Jade expose corruption within the Empire. They called themselves the Hand of Judgment until Mara Jade saved them from getting killed for treason, then told them that there was only one Hand in the Empire, and it was her, the Emperor's Hand. They lost the name, but haven't quit hunting lawbreakers yet.
    • Death Star has most of its viewpoint characters, all of them on the Death Star, realize this either slowly or after Alderaan. One of whom is the head gunner. His arc is a powerfully moving tragedy.
    • The novelization of Revenge of the Sith features Anakin post-scarring confronting what he's done since turning to the dark side, having previously convinced himself it wasn't really his fault. It causes him to fully go over the Despair Event Horizon and internalize himself as Darth Vader.
      You remember the dragon that you brought Vader forth from your heart to slay. You remember the cold venom in Vader's blood. You remember the furnace of Vader's fury, and the black hatred of seizing her throat to silence her lying mouth—-and there is one blazing moment in which you finally understand that there was no dragon. That there was no Vader. That there was only you. Only Anakin Skywalker.
      That it was all you. Is you. Only you.
      You did it. You killed her.
      You killed her because, finally, when you could have saved her, when you could have gone away with her, when you could have been thinking about her, you were only thinking about yourself... it is in this blazing moment that you finally understand the trap of the dark side, the final cruelty of the Sith-—because now your
      self is all you will ever have.
    • In Darth Plagueis, Sith records speak of a Dark Lord of the Sith sometime between the Battle of Ruusannote  and the prequel period named Darth Gravid, who became disillusioned with the Dark Side of the Force and planned to forsake the Sith for the light side. To that end he started destroying the Sith Order's records and got pretty far before his apprentice Darth Gean killed him. Darth Plagueis estimates that Gravid's actions set the Sith back by centuries.
    • In Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina, stormtrooper Davin Felth is appalled at the murders of the Jawa tribe and the Lars family (and then the flippant killing of a Jawa who attacks them in the street with a nonfunctional blaster by a squadmate). During the hangar firefight, Felth shoots his own CO in the back when the latter draws a bead on Han Solo, and starts making plans to defect to the Rebellion.
  • In The Stormlight Archive:
    • Szeth-son-son-Vallano is made Truthless for the crime of claiming that the Voidbringers have returned. As Truthless, he is granted a magical weapon of astonishing power but forced to obey the orders of whoever holds his Oathstone. Before long, he has been forced to kill thousands in the service of his master and has started wars that will kill millions more. Then, at the climax of the second book, he learns the awful truth: he was right. The Voidbringers are returning. Szeth is not Truthless. And all those numberless deaths are absolutely his fault.
    • In Edgedancer, upon seeing the Everstorm create the Voidbringers, Nale realizes that the Desolation has already come and in his attempt to prevent it, he's been trying to destroy what might be humanity's last hope of survival. He doesn't take it well, to put it mildly.
  • In The Sword of Good, this forms the climax of the story. Hirou is confronted with the fact that his allies have committed murder and torture, that the status quo is blatantly unequal, and that he has no good reason to rule the realm other than that a wizard told him his parents were royalty. The so-called "Lord of Dark", on the other hand, is actively trying to make things better, not just for the so-called "Bad Races" (actually victims of Fantastic Racism), but for everyone.
  • Till We Have Faces spends its second half working towards this, with Queen Orual gaining revelation after revelation that complicates her perceptions of herself. It culminates in her long-awaited chance to read her accusation against the gods ... but it comes out the way her inner self meant it, not the way she wrote it.
  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Wide-Eyed Idealist The Professor Aronnax is truly happy to travel in the Nautilus making submarine research, but after he witnesses Captain Nemo crossing the Moral Event Horizon, Aronnax realizes the true price of his travels with Captain Nemo:
    "He had made me, if not an accomplice, at least an eyewitness to his vengeance! Even this was intolerable."
  • Ian Hunter of The Unicorn Chronicles spends the first book, plus a great deal of flashback, being on the side of his great-great-and so on- grandmother, who is trying to destroy luster and the unicorns, all to 'rescue' his daughter. Upon finding her, she yells at him for hurting her friends, and after he gets dumped in the middle of nowhere, he realizes that Beloved is a monster and he's been on the wrong side for the past ten or so years.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Traitor General, Sturm, his memory partially recovered, regards himself as deeply injured by his treatment at the hands of the Imperial forces. However, as he recovers, he realizes that he had forgotten his acts that inspired it and that he deserves to die. (Which is more than he realized, with all his memories, at the end of Necropolis.)
    • In Ben Counter's Horus Heresy novel Galaxy In Flames, after Abaddon and Aximand set out to lure Loken and Torgaddon to their deaths, Torgaddon points out to Aximand that he has doubt in his eyes — which doesn't keep him from killing him, but he sobs afterwards and speaks of how they had been their brothers. Abaddon thinks he needs to be watched.
    • In Graham McNeill's Fulgrim, Fulgrim realizes how great his betrayal is when he is fighting Ferrus Manus; his sword gets him to kill Ferrus Manus anyway, saying he will kill him otherwise, and then, when Fulgrim says "What Have I Done", it lets him realize the depths of his crime, and that his view of Ferrus Manus had been formed by spiteful misinterpretation of his deeds.
    • While we're on this, Sarpedon of the Soul Drinkers (another Ben Counter work) comes to the terrifying realization at the end of Soul Drinker, upon finding out that his Chapter have essentially become Chaos Marines (although, had it not been for Chaos mind-befuddling, the mutations would have provided a pretty damn big clue). Having realized this, Sarpedon hauls himself and his Chapter back from the brink of Chaos just in time and kills the Daemon responsible.
    • In James Swallow's Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, Sachiel comes into Inquisitor Stele's rooms when forbidden, and realizes the man is working for Chaos, and so Sachiel and everyone else has been Chaos-tainted. (Nothing Laser-Guided Amnesia can't fix, though.) During the single combat between Rafen and Arkio, he realizes it again, and this time Inquisitor Stele murders him.
    • In one of the Iron Warriors short stories, the renegade Space Marine Ardaric Vaanes realizes that yes, he's become a Traitor Marine. At first, he doesn't care.
  • In Warrior Cats, Ivypool realizes what the Dark Forest — which she's been training with and working for — is all about after seeing Tigerstar talking about destroying the forest.
  • Pyotr Fursenko from the Dale Brown novel Warrior Class serves as the lead aerospace engineer for the Big Bad Pavel Kazakov. Detached from the atrocities by his distance from the fighting, the evil of his boss finally sinks in when he acts as Guy in Back on a bombing run on the German embassy in Albania, complete with civilian protesters surrounding it.
  • This is the central point in The Wave, where a teacher wants to show his class how Nazi Germany came to be... and it all goes horribly right as they really begin to resemble Nazis. Various people have their Heel Realizations throughout the book, including the whole class at the end.
  • In the book Wicked, Elphaba eventually picks up on her Wicked Witch role.
  • In Harry Turtledove's Alternate History Worldwar series, this happens to Panzer Commander of the Wehrmacht Heinrich Jäger when an old Jewish man shows him the bullet hole in his neck and tells him the story of how he got it. Heinrich had heard the rumors before then, but he hadn't believed in them. The third book sums it up nicely:
    What Skorzeny didn't get and wouldn't get if he lived to be a hundred - not likely, considering how the SS man lived - was that what we were supposed to do and what our superiors ordered us to do weren't necessarily the same thing.
    Soldiers didn't commonly had to make that distinction. Jäger hadn't worried about it, not until he had found out how the Germans dealt with Jews in the east. Since then, he hadn't been able to look away. He knew what sort of disaster awaited the world if the Lizards won the war. Like Skorzeny, he was willing to do anything to keep that from happening. Unlike the SS man, he wasn't willing to believe that everything he did was fine and virtuous.
    That made for another subtle distinction, but he clung to it.
    • Another Turtledove book late in his Timeline-191 series features a character who has become a guard at what is Auschwitz in the extermination of American Southern blacks and considers himself doing vital work for the safety of his country. When he eventually realizes, through the simple decency of one of the prisoners, that blacks are people, he is overcome at the evil he has been helping enact and kills himself.
      • This is especially poignant, as earlier in the series the character somewhat identified with blacks (though in a way that only made him dislike them more). He himself was of Mexican descent and commented more than once that in the eyes of most Confederates, he was at most only one step away from blacks.
  • In That Printer Of Udell's, most of the people of Boyd City ignore its homelessness problem until, in the dead of winter, a man dies of hypothermia on the steps of a closed church. This spurs them to create a welfare house.
  • In Miracle Creek, Elizabeth realizes how much the overcrowded schedule must be stressing Henry out. She cancels all his therapy appointments and decides that the next HBOT treatment will be the last. Since she continues to emotionally abuse him on the way to the session, it seems unlikely that the realization would have stuck even if he hadn't died there.

  • HammerFall has "Last Man Standing", about a man who gave up everything and refused to budge in his beliefs, only to now see that he's just about out of time to make things right.
    Seeing clearer what I've done, I refused to let things go
    I could never once admit I'm wrong, and what do I have to show?
    Seeing clearer what's at stake, and the things I have to change
    I just hope I can, it's not too late to get a chance to end this pain!
  • Happens in "Cats in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin. Add a major tearjerker in that Chapin never lived to see his children grow up; he died in an automobile accident in 1981.
    And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
    He'd grown up just like me
    My boy was just like me
  • Happens twice in Razia's Shadow by Forgive Durden. First, when Ahrima goes into the darkness and Barayas (the Spider) convinces him that the only way to make people respect him is to make them fear him. He destroys the lamps and is banished. In Toba the Tura, he laments "Oh, what have I done?". Second, Pallis. After accidentally stabbing his brother, Adakias, he begs and pleads for him to fight and stay alive. Though he was aware of his evil intentions, he didn't mean to take things so far.
  • The second half of David Bowie's "Cygnet Committee", wherein the second narrator first gleefully describes the violence he and his allies have turned to but slowly sees it be antithetical to his ideals.
  • "Overburdened" by Disturbed features one for a Knight Templar waiting in line in hell:
    I was fighting for a reason
    Holy blessed homicide
    Seems I have committed treason
    All I've sacrificed
  • "The Truth beneath the Rose" by Within Temptation is sung from the Knight Templar's point of view as they realise how wrong their actions were, and wish to become The Atoner.
    I believed it would justify the means
    It had a hold over me
    Blinded to see
    The cruelty of the beast
    Here is the darkest side of me
    (Forgive me my sins)
    The veil of my dreams
    Deceived all I have seen
    Forgive me for what I have been.
  • Bob has a small one in "Re: Your Brains" by Jonathan Coulton, which doesn't seem to affect him much.
    I'm not a monster, Tom
    Well, technically I am
    I guess I am.
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song "The Curse of Milhaven"
    Since I was no bigger than a weavil
    they've been saying I was evil
    that if bad was a boot then I'd fit it
    that I'm a wicked young lady,
    but I've been trying hard lately
    Oh, fuck it! I'm a monster! I admit it!
  • "I Was Wrong" by Social Distortion.
    When I was young, I was so full of fear
    I hid behind anger, held back the tears
    It was me against the world, I was sure that I'd win
    But the world fought back, punished me for my sins
    I felt so alone, so insecure
    I blamed you instead, made sure I was heard
    And they tried to warn me of my evil ways
    But I couldn't hear what they had to say
    I was wrong, self-destruction's got me again
    I was wrong, I realize now that I was wrong
  • Happens in the middle of "Crusade" by Voltaire, after the narrator has slain one of the reportedly evil dragons he was crusading against.
    The dragon fell upon the ground
    'Twas then I heard a whimpering sound
    A dragonling to his father clung
    Who only fought to protect his young.
  • "Take This Bottle" by Faith No More is about an abusive alcoholic who wants his wife and child to leave him to stew in his own guilt.
  • "Stop!" on the Pink Floyd album The Wall is Pink having an epiphany about how far down the road of evil he is, which leads into the trial in the center of his mind.
    I wanna go home
    Take off this uniform and leave the show
    But I'm waiting in this cell because I have to know
    Have I been guilty all this time?
  • "Sorry" by Buckcherry
  • "Two Worlds Collide" by Inspiral Carpets
  • One interpretation of the Imagine Dragons song "The River" explains that the singer has realized his own selfishness, and decided to perform a spiritual cleansing.
  • "Criminal" by Fiona Apple is a girl realizing she's been a monster to the guy she loves and desperately searching for a way to fix it.
    I've gotta make a play
    To make my lover stay
    So what would an angel say?
    The Devil wants to know
  • Similar to the Fiona Apple example above, "Runaway" by Kanye West depicts the narrator realizing that he is an unrepentant Bastard Boyfriend with with no real way to redeem himself.
  •'s cohesive plot revolves around a man named Black, working for a government agency using increasing Orwellian methods. He realizes he's working for the bad guys when his boss, White, attempts to erase his identity.
    Everything that I did wrong was never my intention — At that time, I thought it was the right thing to do.
  • The Who's 'Behind Blue Eyes', while largely a straight up Villain Song, has some moments of this.
    But my dreams
    They aren't as empty
    As my conscience seems to be
  • Sweet Escape by Gwen Stefani. As she says "I know I've been a real bad girl, I didn't mean for you to get hurt.
  • The Megas: Proto Man starts out murderously angry that he was created to be The Hero and then taken apart so that Mega Man could fill the role instead. After a Kirk Summation shows him the error of his ways, he concludes that he wouldn't have been a good fit for the job anyway:
    If I'd been standing where you are, I think I would've done what Father wants...but now I know what I'd become.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Older Than Feudalism in The Bible:
    • According to Christianity, acknowledging one's own "fallenness" is the first step to receiving salvation.
      • And in the Orthodox faith, the right way of true living by Christ's commandments is to come to the state of this. And if not, that won't work.
      • A specific example would be Saul of Tarsus, better known as Saint Paul the Apostle. He began as a notorious persecutor of the earliest Christians, who was knocked to the ground and struck blind by a vision of God on the way to Damascus ("Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"). He converted within the week to Christianity and found his sight restored, and "the road to Damascus" would become a popular metaphor for the Heel Realization.
    • The Gospel of Matthew, 27:54, and the Gospel of Mark, 15:39: a Roman soldier present at the Crucifixion, upon seeing all the things that happen when Jesus finally does die, remarks, "Truly, this man was the son of God."
    • In the New Testament, when Judas Iscariot realizes that he's betrayed Jesus, he gives back the thirty pieces of silver and hangs himself. (The other account for his death averts this trope.)
    • David, though beloved of the Lord, was rebuked by the prophet Nathan when he had Uriah the Hittite put on the front lines so he would be killed, and David could take his wife Bathsheba for himself. Nathan tells him that the child Bathsheba was currently pregnant with would not live. Indeed, despite David fasting and clothing himself in sackcloth, the baby died after seven days. (And during this time, David allegedly wrote the powerfully penitent Psalm 51).
  • According to legend, Joan of Arc's executioner showed up at his church for confession as a babbling wreck shortly after due to realizing he had "killed a holy woman."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Since pretty much any wrestler who is booed is a heel, outside of some bizarre circumstances like X-Pac Heat, most are well aware of what they are and don't see themselves as being "wrong", "evil" or such. A wrestler who does realize they have been doing wrong and deciding to cut it out may still remain a heel anyway (Mickie James). A straight example, by this page's description, would be at ROH Fifth Year Festival Finale when Colt Cabana tried to remove Delirious's mask. When the fans booed him for it, he stopped and apologized for it.
  • Matt Hardy, whom after losing an "I Quit" to his Jeff, realized he was being consumed by jealousy and envy and stopped being such an ass to his brother.
  • The Shield formed together because they really didn't like the popularity contest that is the reality of professional wrestling (or the fact that the in their eyes inferior Ryback arrived on the main roster before them, but that's another topic entirely) and decided to everything they could to ensure fan favorite wrestlers were unsuccessful as possible, which they viewed as "justice". This led them to work for The Authority in keeping down the always over Daniel Bryan but found the Authority often getting in their way(such as against The Wyatt Family) and when the Authority decided to go after commentator Jerry Lawler, The Shield came to the conclusion the Authority was, in fact, the greatest injustice in WWE and decided to fight them instead.
  • After seeing TNA's locker room empty to ensure that she would not escape from Bully Ray and his table, Dixie Carter came to realize she was the bad guy and scolded her nephew from trying to take action against Bully Ray, the company and her own personal circle for the incident, instead putting Bully Ray in charge of wrestling operations as an apology for her tyranny.

  • Survival of the Fittest:
    • Bobby Jacks, who realizes he's one of the bad guys very early on but then decides that now that he's killed somebody there's no going back. Lenny Priestly also arguably fits this, although he is less somber about it.
    • In v4, Reiko Ishida has one of these after strangling resident Wide-Eyed Idealist and Instant Fan Club member Carol Burke to death in a fit of rage.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The first edition of the Discworld Roleplaying Game draws on Wyrd Sisters (see above) to define a spell that triggers such realizations. If the target refuses to be frightened, this can rebound on the caster...
  • In Ravenloft, having a Heel Realization is the only way a darklord can escape his/her Ironic Hell realm. The sourcebook does note that people actually capable of having a Heel Realization and actually admitting that they reaped what they sowed when they committed the Act of Ultimate Darkness that made them darklords would never have become darklords in the first place.
  • In Sentinels of the Multiverse, the villainous AI Omnitron — after a century of defeats at the hands of the heroes — surmises that their success comes from their emotions, and creates a new, tenth iteration with an empathy chip. Omnitron-X then realizes the depth of suffering he's caused and goes back in time to destroy his previous versions as atonement.

  • At the end of Anastasia, Gleb realizes he is no better than his father if he goes through with assassinating Anya/Anastasia.
  • Reverend Hale in The Crucible has one of these and spends the rest of the play trying to make amends — by encouraging victims of the witch-hunt to confess and live rather than dying for continuing to deny witchcraft.
  • Valjean and Javert in Les Misérables — see Literature, above, although the episodes with Petit Gervais and Marius are sometimes omitted, the realizations following directly from the Bishop's undeserved gift to Valjean and Valjean's decision to spare Javert. Here, with Javert having been upgraded from "recurring nuisance" to "deuteragonist", an explicit parallel is drawn, Javert having a solo that's a Dark Reprise of Valjean's.
  • The stage version of Little Shop of Horrors climaxes when Seymour Krelborn realizes what he's aided and abetted for a little fame and a shot at the woman of his dreams. Confronting Audrey 2 he damns them both, "You're a monster, and so am I!" He is then promptly eaten.
  • Both characters Macbeth experience this in the play — for him, it's an Ignored Epiphany, but Lady Macbeth loses her mind.
  • In George Bernard Shaw's play Saint Joan, after Joan of Arc is captured, the English chaplain John de Stogumber pushes relentlessly for burning her at the stake; when he actually sees it done, he goes insane with remorse.
  • Emma, the protagonist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song & Dance, desperate and discouraged by several failed relationships, finally has an affair with a married man. But when the man knocks on her door one night and tells her he's left his wife for her, she's forced to admit she wasn't serious about the relationship and was only using him. Realizing what she has become, Emma vows that she will change and become the good person she once was again.
  • In You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Lucy van Pelt has a massive one after conducting a series of surveys to determine how crabby everyone thinks she is. Very crabby, it turns out.
  • In Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol, while watching his past and the Cratchits' happy present, Marley realizes how short, cruel, and meaningless his own life was.

    Visual Novels 
  • Part of Kotomine's Backstory in Fate/stay night is his realization that nice people do not enjoy watching others being tortured or that sort of thing. That's fundamentally why he can't actually become a Card-Carrying Villain; he actually has a sense of morality. The end result can be considered an Ignored Epiphany but he did try. For years.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, in Act 4 of Shizune's route, she realizes that she has been taking those closest to her for granted and pushing people close to her away. She thus resolves to, with Hisao's help, repair her friendship with Misha, and also says she will be less competitive in the future.
  • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Miles Edgeworth starts to have "doubts" after you demonstrate two defendants to be innocent, but it's not until he's the defendant in two murder trials in a row in which he's innocent that he really decides that striving to get every single defendant found guilty to maintain a "perfect record" might be a bad thing. Furthermore, he finds out that although he became a prosecutor because of the fatal shooting of his father, it turns out that the real killer is the senior prosecutor who mentored him, and instilled those beliefs in him to begin with!
    • Also, in the fifth case, Edgeworth finds that he's already guilty of using forged evidence, and the forged evidence was used to give a death sentence to a serial killer. He wasn't aware of it at the time (he himself didn't forge it, and he was convinced that it was the real deal), but it really came to bite him in the ass when people found it out and started to call him out on it. Even when they find out who forged the evidence and why, sort of clearing his name a bit, he couldn't forgive himself for it... and it's implied that it's one of the many things that pushes him to leave the prosecutors' office for a year, leaving what appears to be a suicide note.
    • Acro has one in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Justice for All. When the Judge asks if he's a victim, he says he's nothing but a murderer.
  • Major spoilers for Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair. Hajime Hinata learns this during the final trial. He was an Ordinary High-School Student at Hope's Peak Academy, having to pay a fortune just to get in. He submitted himself to an experiment by the school board to become the Ultimate Hope, becoming Izuru Kamukura. He then murders the School Council, then urged by the Ultimate Despair, Junko Enoshima, who broadcasts it to the world. This makes all of the Reserve Students commit suicide, bringing about the Tragedy. When Hajime remembers his old life and that he's the one responsible for bringing AI Junko to the island, which caused the killing game to start and half of his friends to die, he undergoes a hardcore Heroic BSoD.
  • In Tsukihime, Akiha route, you can, at one point, kill Ciel (thus, failing her test of Shiki's humanity), prompting Shiki to assume he IS a natural-born killer, after all, and give in to The Dark Side. Needless to say, it's a bad ending game over.
    • Part of Kohaku's route has her realize much quicker than in Hisui's route that maybe she should have picked a different hobby than plotting the utter annihilation of the Tohno family, even if Makihasa wasn't the world's nicest guy after his Inversion Impulse began.
  • In the Psychological Horror masquerading as a Dating Sim Doki Doki Literature Club!, in the final scene with Monika, you learn that she's self aware and can edit the game's code, and has deleted every other part of the game, other characters included. The player's response is to delete her character file, and for a moment it looks like she's going to go full screaming Yandere before it slowly sinks in that this is exactly what she did to the others and that, even if they were replaceable data and scripts, they were still her friends. She laments how monstrous she had become and restores the characters and the game world before accepting her fate.

    Web Animation 
  • Puffin Forest: In "We Became The Villains In Our Own Campaign", Ben and his party discover that they are the villains of their campaign. Deep into the campaign, they discover that they've been unintentionally causing a lot of harm in the world note . The GM confirms this by telling the party that they are pure evil and beyond redemption.
  • In Death Battle, Wiz and Boomstick's being constantly annoyed by Deadpool leads them to arrange a match against The Mask in hopes of getting rid of him once and for all. When the Mask does the dirty deed and kills Deadpool, both Wiz and Boomstick can't stand the fact that they did this and feel horrible over breaking their own rules and setting up a match against someone who was clearly superior to him just so they can get rid of him.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The end of season 10 gives us a rather dark one. The Director of Project Freelancer has tortured a sentient AI to the point where it shed aspects of its own personality in order to save itself, took those fragments and began implanting them into the heads of a team of special operations soldiers, and sent them to attack what ultimately ended up being the actual military for more resources. Eventually, as one of his former agents goes on a power hungry Roaring Rampage Of Destruction to collect the other agent's fragments, the Director's crimes come to light and its implied he's arrested. A few years later shows this was not the case and reveals the true purpose behind the project: to somehow bring back his dead wife. By this point, his own daughter is trying to kill him and when she finally finds him, he only asks for her to leave her pistol which he would use to commit suicide as the final recording of his wife plays on a loop.
    • Agents York and North Dakota have one of these in Season 9 after having law enforcement shooting at them during the mission to capture the Sarcophagus.
    York: We're the good guys, right?

  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Example:
      Sarda: Well. Um. No. You're all selfish monsters who need to die for the good of everyone else.
    • Ironically, Sarda doesn't seem to realize or care that he is the one that enabled them to do so much damage in the first place. And that, with the exception of Black Mage, he's a worse monster than any of them. Stable time loops are delicious like that.
  • X from A Magical Roommate has one after being hired to build a doomsday device that involves nuclear power but can be controlled magically. She's initially fascinated by it and works hard until she realizes that she's building something that's going to kill people, at which point she sabotages the entire project and walks out.
  • In Agents of the Realm, after Norah explains to her that Ruby is firmly in bad-guy camp, Jordan realizes that trusting the first person to know about their powers is a bad idea and jumps to Norah's camp.
  • Parodied in Ansem Retort.
    Axel: We've faced worse than this. Remember when Disneyworld was destroyed?
    Marluxia: Larxene did that.
    Axel: Well, what about that plane that got hijacked?
    Marluxia: You hijacked that plane.
    Axel: Okay, but there was that corrupt government.
    Marluxia: That was, and still is Zexion.
    Axel: Wow, we're assholes.
  • Bobwhite, during a summer story arc, Cleo realizes, "I'm such a terrible employee that I made a child cry."
  • In Darths & Droids, the PCs have always been skirting the border between merely Off the Rails and Obliviously Evil, casually trashing the GM's carefully scripted story and messing things up far worse than they were initially. The GM loves to point this out to them, but it isn't until #454 that Pete finally gets it. His reaction subverts the trope: "So we're the bad guys now? Cool!"
    • Played a little more seriously in #571, where Anakin slaughters the younglings. Jim can no longer sympathize with Anakin. In this continuity, he's probably right.
  • In Dominic Deegan, after spending most of an arc in denial ("I am a good man!"), Bulgak finally realizes that he is ""a selfish, damned fool."
  • In El Goonish Shive, Abraham realizes the error of his ways after Nanase persuades him that in trying to fulfill the letter of his oath by killing Ellen he was actually violating the spirit of it. This leads him to become The Atoner.
  • In Endstone, when about to Mind Rape her Parental Substitute, Cole wonders why she is doing these terrible things -- for a panel.
  • Erfworld: Parson arrives at this fairly quickly after arriving (what with his side having all the classic evil minions like dwagons, gobwins, twolls, and giant spidews), but gets chewed out by his new boss and told that the whole "Good Guys/ Bad Guys" concept is just stupid. Comes up again after the climax of the Battle of Gobwin Knob, when the full impact of his plans and actions (tens of thousands of Erfworlders are dead) hits Parson and he has to wonder how much he was influenced by the spell that summoned him and how much by his own free will and genuine desire to command a battle.
    • King Slately, too.
    "I am facing facts," he repeated, softly. "My friend. Hard, hard facts." The two rulers looked at one another for a long moment. "My son is more of a man than I am. All my sons have been. And you always knew it. Did you not?"
    Don said nothing.
    "You never would listen to me about Royal ideals," Slately said, frowning. "Honor, sacrifice, dignity, decorum, station...loyalty, bravery... You were too polite to me, Don. You couldn't simply say I was no Royal ideal myself."
  • In Exiern, While Typhan-Knee has some good reasons to hate Theresa(Like Theresa's prejudice against Typhan-knee's people), she also hates Theresa for several bad reasons: They are both under a Gender Bender spell (and Theresa sees it as a positive because she was Transexual before the change), the guy Typhan-Knee tries to tell herself she's not in love with seem interested in Theresa, and they (Typhan-knee & Theresa) are equally bigoted against each other's culture. After Denver give her the appropriate "What the Hell, Hero?", Typhan-knee finally realizes she's just as bad as she claimed Theresa was.
  • Girl Genius:
    • Parodied:
      Agatha: And I'm the evil mad girl with the death ray and the freakish ancestors — and the town full of minions — and the horde of Jägers — and the homicidal castle full of sycophantic evil geniuses and fun-sized hunter-killer monster clanks and goodness knows what else—
      Agatha: —And you know what? I can work with that!
    • In fact, multiply parodied: Baron Wulfenbach gets a few lovely moments too — mostly in the vein of knowing he's the "bad guy" and being all right with that. He's not really the bad guy — but his "heel" turn happened because he was drugged and dragged out of his continent, only to find upon his return years later (and with a new son in tow) that the Heterodynes have vanished, their base was annihilated, zombie-like people are running rampant, and the few nobles alive who still have power are engaged in petty squabbling instead of banding together to fix the utter chaos. The Baron quickly gathers all the allies he can, makes all the death rays he can, and just starts killing everything that is killing something else, until everyone finally bows to his rule. He's one of the only two reasons that the continent has general peace, and the other reason was a woman who made a Heroic Sacrifice to stop the zombie threat from being worse than it had. It hasn't stopped the world from considering him an evil tyrant, but at this point, he's stopped caring what anyone else thinks.
    • At one point, Gil Wulfenbach goes into a huge rant about how he always tries to be a Nice Guy but all that does is make people think that he is weak and that they can take advantage of him, and so the only way he can ever make people listen to reason is by beating the crap out of them first. And then he realizes, to his horror: "This must be how my father feels all the time!"
    • Tarvek has one while arguing with Gil, about using slaver wasps. "Of course they shouldn't be used on Agatha! They shouldn't be used on any... oh."
  • In Homestuck, Vriska Serket, who up until this point had been manipulating events in the B1 session, has one after killing Tavros.
  • It's Walky!: Sal's fall from grace has led her to retrieve an Amplifier Artifact which she is poised to use to destroy about 2/3rds of the world with. Walky brings her back from the brink by presenting her with her ex-boyfriend Danny, who is the only person she will still let herself care about. Her tough-girl persona collides with her desire for Danny to think well of her and she collapses into a crying heap in Danny's arms. Afterward, she becomes The Atoner for the next few story arcs, resolving to willingly serve out her prison sentence despite her superpowers meaning she can escape whenever she wants. Her Heel Realization is illustrated by having Sal's hair, which had fallen over her left eye and covered it during her entire Dark Action Girl phase to illustrate how she wasn't letting herself see everything going on around her, falling away from her face as she sees and recognizes Danny's presence.
  • Though not a villain, The Japanese Beetle had a moment where he realized he's a creep, and set about trying to become a decent person and a real hero.
  • Subversion: Cale'anon of Looking for Group believes he has turned evil after killing a little boy and tries to act accordingly, but really, he isn't made of the right (or wrong) stuff.
  • In MonsterLands, The Destructor realizes that going out of his way to start random fights with strangers is a bad idea, as seen here
  • Poppy O'Possum: Between the Fantastic Racism against opossums and her desire to keep peace in Eggton, Petunia Quibble starts the series determined to run Poppy out of town. She changes her mind after confronting Poppy over her past sins when she discovers, via an emotional outburst from Poppy, that the latest one before coming to Eggton was the result of Poppy's daughter being injured. When asked about it later, Petunia admits she had been against Poppy from the start, but that outburst helped her realize that Poppy was a person, one who'd had it rough, and she was on the verge of becoming the next villain in her life.
  • Happens in Shades of Grey: the Well-Intentioned Extremist angel dude after he meets two nice - but traumatized - demons and freaks out.
  • In Sinfest,
  • In The Specialists, Hartmann, trying to convince the Specialists they can trust him, tries to convince them of this: he tells them that he, the erstwhile Nazi, hates the Nazis -- and himself.
  • In Strong Female Protagonist, Alison has a long conversation with her ethics and aesthetics professor in which she attempts to come to terms with her decision to assault and kidnap someone she didn't like, then force him to use his powers to help save a great many lives. Except that over the course of the conversation she finds herself increasingly unable to escape the truth: she didn't do it to save those lives, she did it to save her friend. And that her attempts to portray him as the most selfish and horrible person she's ever known are projecting her own guilt onto him, given that she's lost friends because of her selfish behavior in her earlier years (not to mention her acquaintances with mass murderers and villains bent on world conquest).
  • xkcd: "Listen to Yourself" uses a "Troll Realization" variation on the theme.

    Web Original 
  • offers a helpful list of 5 Signs That You're the Villain in an Action Movie, including details like acknowledging one's own Red Right Hand and the possibility of being an Evil Brit.
  • Rudyard Kipling in Malê Rising went through this after he witnessed the atrocities committed by the British during the Indian War of Independence. As a result, he defects to the Indian side, reports the war from their perspective, and writes a retort to his famous poem, stating that Britain has become unfit to carry the White Man's Burden.
  • Phase of the Whateley Universe is a fourteen-year-old who was kicked out of the richest family on the planet, the Goodkinds, when he turned into a mutant: the Goodkinds are notoriously anti-mutant, supporting the Knights of Purity and the semi-governmental Mutant Commission Office (MCO). Goodkinds, including the person he used to be, supported the MCO with billions of dollars over the years. Phase has defended the MCO to his new (mutant) friends at Whateley Academy, even though there are rumors that the MCO has kidnapped hundreds of young mutants who were never seen again. In "Ayla and the Grinch", Phase has to face the fact that the MCO really has been kidnapping, and "disappearing", young mutants, and he is partly responsible since he helped fund the MCO.
  • In Worm, Bonesaw realizes just how screwed up she is thanks to some well placed words from Contessa and two years away from Jack.

    Web Videos 
  • Throughout Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, the titular Villain Protagonist has been a villain in name only, mouthing Well-Intentioned Extremist slogans but too meek to actually do anything really bad. Then comes the challenge from the Evil League of Evil to which he aspires: commit a heinous crime or die. It's not until the very end, when his inability to pull the trigger on his Arch-Enemy Captain Hammer has led directly to the death of his love interest, Penny, that he realizes that the murder will be attributed to him, and thus he is now a villain for real. His final song, "Everything You Ever", is a triumphant dirge simultaneously celebrating his ascension to true Evil and mourning the loss of his soul.
    "Now the nightmare's real; now Dr. Horrible is here...."
  • The Escapist series Doraleous and Associates had an episode where the titular heroes-for-hire realized they were working for the bad guys. They immediately switched sides.
  • Steve in KateModern, when he realizes his religion is actually a murderous cult, which he has been serving blindly.
  • Exaggerated in To Boldly Flee. The Nostalgia Critic blames himself for putting the lives of his Channel Awesome co-workers in danger to follow more of his crazy schemes, which he's right to do. He then starts blaming himself for things like SOPA, the internet censorship bill, which he had nothing to do with.
  • In this short video made for Christmas 2009, Jack Bauer begins to interrogate and torture Santa Claus. (Santa's flying over the US without a passport delivering mysterious packages, after all). With only a few sentences Santa makes Jack (who has just threatened to cut out Santa's eyes) realize that what he's doing is wrong. The video ends with an emotionally distraught Jack leaving the room and nearly having a breakdown in his car.
  • In one of Soviet Womble's Arma videos, their clan takes on the role of a freedom fighter insurgency freeing an island nation from Russian occupation. As the video goes on and the resistance group's number of war crimes committed grows at an explosive rate, Womble comments that their group has more or less become the bad guys in this scenario.
    Moogle Eh look. If someone tells us to go fuck ourselves, what's the appropriate response?
    Womble: Oh! Oh! Gee! Maybe one of them isn't break the fucking Geneva Convention. We're the fucking baddies.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: Darwin has one of these in "The Safety" when he becomes a dictator to keep Elmore safe after watching an unsettling safety PSA at school. He has the whole town under surveillance, has altered everything in the town to be safe, and is even messing with the show itself (censoring Gumball's already censored swears, altering the editing to prevent violence from being shown, etc.). Gumball finally gets through to him by pointing out that good guys don't wear capes and jackboots while carrying riding crops (which Darwin is doing), and convinces him to stop his safety measures.
  • Not an easy process for Zuko of Avatar: The Last Airbender but he eventually gets there: "I'm good now. I mean, I thought I was good before, but now I realize I was bad..."
    • Jeong Jeong and Iroh both had one before the series, leading to them working with the Order of the White Lotus to stop the Fire Nation.
    • Fire Lord Sozin who began the war, left his best friend Avatar Roku to die and wiped out the Air Nation realized this at the end of his life, but it was far too late to turn back, and his descendants turned out to be largely worse than he was.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: The Living Laser realizes he was trying to hurt the one man who was trying to help him just because he wanted to be special, and pulls a Redemption Equals Death to save Iron Man's life.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok goes through one of these after Amon takes his bending away, realizing that he's become the horrible man that his father wanted him to be. To atone, he commits Murder-Suicide, killing both himself and Amon and ending Yakone's evil legacy. It's also possible that Amon went through one at the end but, like most things about his character, it's left ambiguous.
    • Kuvira gets one after her defeat, acknowledging that she went waaaay too far and saying that she'd accept the punishment she deserved.
    • After spending years in prison after the Equalists' defeat, Hiroshi Sato finally realizes that he let his obsession with revenge for his wife ruin everything he still had left in life, knowing that Asami will not forgive him but asks for it anyway. After some consideration, Asami decided to give him a chance, finally getting to forgive him before his Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Following the events of the film, Callaghan's time in prison has caused him to reflect on his actions and look at them with regret, including causing Tadashi's death. Despite knowing it's not enough, he tells Hiro he's sorry. Hiro tells him that Tadashi would want him to forgive Callaghan, but that's something he's definitely not ready to do yet.
  • In the 2006 finale of Biker Mice from Mars, in the final episode "Turf Wars", Vinnie's old flame Harley goes through this. Having been disfigured and believing that the Biker Mice abandoned her, she sides with the Nomad Rats and attempts to use the Regenerator to make Olympus Mons erupt in order to kill the other Martian mice. She eventually sees the error of her ways and realizes that this course of action is not the way to save Mars.
  • Classic Disney Shorts: The cartoon "The Sleepwalker" involves Pluto delivering his beloved bone to a female dog in his sleep. When he wakes up he is convinced the dog stole it and tears apart her kennel in a rage. From the wreckage come her litter of puppies, now cold and homeless. A tearful Pluto turns into a literal heel, and offers his bone and his own doghouse.
  • Vlad from Danny Phantom goes through this twice, albeit the first happened in a Bad Future where being without his powers for ten years made him realize his mistakes. The second occurred in the Grand Finale when his ultimate plan backfires and he loses everything, even Jack's respect. This trope is made clear when he shows a look of guilt before sadly flying away from earth in exile.
  • Esteban from Elena of Avalor finally goes through one in the Grand Finale; His first betrayal from the 4 decades prior happened because he wanted to be seen and heard. Once that was discovered, his whole family disownes him and Esteban joins the bad guys, leading him to fall back to his deepest desire to be king of Avalor, believing that he will finally be seen and heard. In the finale, the result of Esteban's decision to betray his family a second time was his grandparents and other people he's known to get turned to murals. After this, his parts in the song "Never Too Late" beautifully illustrate his realization, his regret for hurting people, and how he believes it is too late to redeem himself.
  • Family Guy:
    • In an episode where Stewie has learned he is actually a masochist as he tries to goad Lois to hit him he says, "Dear Lord, I really do have problems don't I?" And in the same episode, the reason Lois can't be goaded into hitting Stewie again is that she's appalled at herself for losing her temper the first time and making him cry.
    • In another episode, Peter and friends are in jail and being targeted by a vengeful prisoner. He turns up at their cell with a knife only to find that they have already been released, giving him some time to think:
    I wonder what this feels like. [pokes himself in the chest with his knife] OW! That hurts! ...My God, is that what I've been doing to people? I belong here.
    • Subverted with "Brian The Closer." Brian seems to have realized that he was in the wrong for selling Quagmire the rundown condo and that he's a bad person in general, but he was only stalling for the condo's refund deadline.
  • In The Flintstones, Fred gets replaced in a company baseball game by a kid who is a natural player, while a couple of big-league scouts are at the game. They mistake the kid for Fred because of the uniform and make him a pay-or-play offer. When everyone else is telling him to come clean, he scoffs that he deserves the break. It's only when Pebbles says 'Dada bad! Dada bad!' that he realizes how wrong he was. Most heart-breaking scene in the series!
    • Two-way case as Wilma and Barney admit to feeling bad for admonishing Fred after seeing him slink away ashamed to confess the truth, convinced they broke him due to not witnessing the previous incident.
    • More comedic cases occur throughout the series, a Running Gag involves a character morphing into a literal heel whenever they are guilt-tripped.
    • Which is unusual when you consider no-one in the show wears shoes!
  • Bloo went through one in the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends episode, "Cuckoo for Coco Cards". Coco had been making trading cards featuring each of the friends in the house but refused to make any for Bloo unless he apologized for being rude to her earlier in the episode. He ended up gaining them by other means, but it wasn't until the very end when he read the stats on his own card; "Big, insensitive jerkface" that he realized what a JerkAss he had been and apologized to Coco.
  • In Gargoyles, Demona comes tantalizingly close to hitting this multiple times, but always turns it into an Ignored Epiphany at the last second. John Canmore winds up doing the same.
    Demona (and later John): What have I... what have they done?!
  • Gravity Falls:
    • In "Fight Fighters" Dipper is forced to admit he took his rivalry with Robbie too far by lying to living video game character Rumble McSkirmish in order to get him to act as Dipper's bodyguard.
    Dipper: Robbie... Robbie didn't kill my father.
    Rumble: Huh?! Then who did?!
    Dipper: What? No one. I—I lied to you.
    Rumble: Hwuuhh?! Well, then you're actually a...BAD GUY?!
    Dipper: I guess I kinda am...
    • In the the third part of Weirdmagedon, Dipper runs into him again due to Bill's power bringing near all supernatural entites that were hidden out into the forefront. However his time with the Gravity Falls survivors shown him how overzealous he was being previously to the point he redubs himself "Humble McSkirmish" and helps them fight against Bill and his cronies.
    • In the episode "Sock Opera", Mabel realizes she's been too self-absorbed when Bill Cipher mocks her about how much Dipper has had to sacrifice for her. After defeating him, she apologizes to Dipper for her behavior.
    • In "Northwest Mansion Mystery", a large part of the plot revolves around Pacifica realizing that her family are jerks, and even seeing she herself has been one too, and deciding that she doesn't want to follow in their footsteps.
    • In "Weirdmageddon", Dipper makes Gideon realize that Mabel will never love him as long as continues his behavior, trying to force her to be with him and acting like a bully and a tyrant. Gideon ends up turning against Bill Cipher and helping Dipper, Wendy, and Soos free Mabel from her Lotus-Eater Machine.
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series: In "Steam Lantern", Nigel Thortonberry wants credit for saving his world from the Anti-Monitor, which everyone credits the titular Steam Lantern for. Even after the truth is revealed, they still see Steam Lantern as the hero and Hal Jordan has to spell it out for Thortonberry. Thortonberry insists he's not the villain as he built his robot army to provide news. He takes one look at his robot, holding Steam Lantern's girlfriend hostage, and the monitors, where his robots are causing panic in the streets, and realizes his obsession with proving he's not a villain made him a villain.
  • In Justice League Wonder Woman has a minor one in the episode Fury when Hawkgirl points out that for all of the Amazon's beliefs that they're not as hateful or violent as "Man's World" their society is every bit as hate-filled, just against men instead of each other. Wonder Woman, who would normally leap down someone's throat over such an accusation, angrily has absolutely nothing to say.
    Wonder Woman: Even when she (a rogue Amazon) was a child, I sensed a bitterness in her. She was never really one of us.
    Wonder Woman: How can you say that?!
    Hawkgirl: Aresia's just taking your precious Amazon code to its logical extension.
    Wonder Woman: We don't teach hatred.
    Hawkgirl: Except when it comes to men.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts:
    • After Tad Mulholland encounter with Kipo's group, he decides to re-evaluate the way he obtains his nutrients.
    • Implied. While the Timbercats take him away, Scarlemagne looks so shocked and sad after realizing that Kipo, instead of running away and save herself, was willing to give up her own humanity for the Mute’s sake, included himself, the one who endangered her loved ones and her people.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • Most famously in "What's Opera, Doc?," where Elmer Fudd as Siegfried realizes that he killed his longtime nemesis, Bugs Bunny, crying "What have I done? I killed the wabbit! Poor little bunny ... ." (Or did he?)
    • Repeatedly when Bugs plays possum, Fudd goes through one of these and begins crying, only to go right back to shooting at Bugs when it's revealed to be a trick. They don't call these guys the "Sane Tunes" for a reason, after all.
    • In "Dog Collared" Porky Pig calls off an over-affectionate dog and yells at him to get lost. When the dog starts howling sadly, he literally turns into a "First Class Heel" and slinks back to make amends. History repeats.
    • A similar gag like the one listed above occurs in "Mutt in a Rut", where Elmer Fudd's dog, Rover, watches a tv program about shadier dog owners who take their dog's "hunting" (two go out, but only one comes back), and starts becoming paranoid of Elmer. Elmer, not realizing what's wrong, decides to take him hunting. Fearing the worst, Rover tries to do Elmer in before he can get him, but each attempt backfires, and makes it look like Rover saved Elmer from some terrible fate while getting injured in the process. In the end, Elmer praises Rover for being such a brave dog.
  • In Megas XLR, Coop tries to protect the Earth, though it's usually his fault, and he does far more damage than anyone else. The S-Force and their evil nemesis, Ender, spend an episode pointing this out to him (aptly titled The Bad Guy), and nearly everyone else does at some point. In the series finale, an AU version of him actually was the bad guy. It was intended to be revealed at some point that he created the Glorft on accident, too.
  • In Metalocalypse Rock Opera special "Metalocalypse: The Doomstar Requiem", Magnus Hammersmith, The Pete Best of the band Dethklok, sees firsthand the unnecessary and evil actions of his partner, as well as the righteous vengeance of his old band, and realizes that the revenge he was seeking wasn't justified. Though he spends the whole special assuring Toki, who replaced him, he was really attempting to assure himself he was good. When that facade is broken, he states "I am not the hero, I am the villain, and I too must go down..."
    • The band themselves go through this in the special, trying hard to claim that Toki is not their "brother", just a bandmate and nothing more and refusing to heed the call of their destiny to resuce him when Toki's captors specifically request that only they alone are allowed to come rescue him. When their hand is eventually forced and they set out on their journey, do they realize how selfish and uncaring they've been to the people they never even gave credit for their sucess. And, after the head of the Black Klock sacrfices himself to save them, do the group realize the strenght of their bonds and finally refer to themselves as "brothers".
  • Happens quite often on Moral Orel:
    • Roger Papermouth has one of these after he shoots up his daughter's teddy bear (which was a gift from his ex-wife).
    • Arthur has a Jerkass Realization after he realizes how he manipulated his son Clay which caused him to become what he is.
  • My Little Pony:
    • My Little Pony 'n Friends:
      • In "The Glass Princess", Porcina has been turning Ponyland and the ponies there into glass at the encouragement of her Raptorian minions. But when confronted by some of the ponies face-to-face, she can't do it. She had only been able to do it to the others because they didn't seem real through her scrying glass and ends up seeing the error of her ways.
      • In "Baby, It's Cold Outside", an evil penguin king tries to freeze the entire world so that only "worthy" creatures like himself will survive in such "perfection". In the finale, when our heroes try to stop him, he tries to freeze our heroes... but accidentally freezes his own son instead. In an interesting take on his trope, he actively tries to resist the realization at first, telling himself that it was his own son's fault for getting in his way (even his own guards don't swallow this). Megan and the ponies sing a song to him about how he could be so cold, which finally causes the heel realization because the song made him remember all the happy times he used to have playing with his son, and he cries over his son's frozen form...which thaws him out.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
      • "Secret of My Excess": Spike's draconic hoarding instinct is triggered on his birthday, and he starts going through dragon puberty which means growing to prodigious size and snatching everything he likes the look of. This culminates in an adult-sized Spike rampaging through Ponyville and kidnapping Rarity. When she snaps at him when he tries to steal the wrong necklace (one made with a stone he gave her earlier) and he realizes that not only does his beloved Rarity literally not recognize him anymore, but actively hates what he's become, the Heel Realization is so powerful it reverses the draconic growth and he immediately shrinks back down to his familiar size.
      • Fluttershy in "Putting Your Hoof Down". After becoming more and more violent and then proceeding to brutally tell off her own friends until they're driven to tears, she becomes horrified at the monster she's turned into after looking into a puddle and seeing her own rage face. She's subsequently so remorseful that she endeavors to tie herself up inside her own barricaded house so that she can't hurt anyone else.
      • "One Bad Apple" has Apple Bloom's cousin Babs Seed go from Shrinking Violet to bully. The Cutie Mark Crusaders plan a payback prank for all the turmoil Babs has caused. Both sides get the realization: the Cutie Mark Crusaders upon learning Babs's Freudian Excuse, and Babs when the Crusaders immediately abort their plans and save her from their prank.
      • Amazingly, Discord gets one in "Keep Calm and Flutter On" when he realizes that what he does could cause him to lose his friendship with Fluttershy. It is also during this moment that he first realizes Fluttershy's friendship actually means something to him. He gets a bigger one in "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 2" after his Face–Heel Turn to ally with Lord Tirek only lead to Tirek draining him of his magic and getting him captured as well. He was already having second thoughts, but its this backstab that really drives it home. He had friendship... and he threw it away for nothing. Afterwards, he finally grows up and while still a bit of a troll is far more compassionate.
      • The Wonderbolts have a few of these thanks to Rainbow Dash — when their star cadet puts her friends in danger in "Wonderbolts Academy", and when they choose her over their teammate Soarin' in "Rainbow Falls".
      • Starlight Glimmer starts hers in "The Cutie Re-Mark, Part 2" when she discovers her Revenge against Twilight and her friends could potentially destroy Equestria. Twilight then learns of Starlight's Start of Darkness: She lost her sole childhood friend Sunburst because of his cutie mark, leaving her afraid to make another friend for fear of the same thing happening again, and believing cutie marks only caused conflict between ponies. Twilight is then able to convince Starlight to finally let go of her past and move on, completing the realization.
      • Many villains across the franchise have experienced similar story arcs at this point: Sunset Shimmer from Equestria Girls realized that the power she sought was not the solution to her problems, Diamond Tiara, long-time nemesis to the Cutie Mark Crusaders, realized that being a bully wasn't going to make her happy, and Tempest, from My Little Pony: The Movie, discovers that friendship can be magic after the Storm King admits he wasn't actually going to fix her horn.
  • The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh has an instance of this in "Groundpiglet Day". After unfairly harping on Piglet for lying about the weather forecast, Rabbit learns from a calendar that Groundhog Day wasn't for another three months and starts to really feel guilty about his actions. Upon realizing his mistake, Rabbit goes to Piglet's to apologize to him, only to find a note that says Piglet had set off to look for a real groundhog.
  • In Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars, Candace, Buford, and Baljeet (stormtroopers here) realize that their view of the situation was mistaken after Phineas saves Candace's life. Plus...
    Candace: Didn't we just blow up a planet?!
    Baljeet: Yes, that is sort of hard to justify, morally.
  • Rick and Morty:
    • Snuffles/Snowball, the Smith family dog, has this dawn on him in "Lawnmower Dog" in a dream where his pet human Morty has fallen gravely ill after he and his fellow hyperintelligent canines conquered the world. A distraught Snuffles/Snowball is willing to expend every resource he has to save Morty and his accountant questions whether the humans would ever go to such lengths to save the life of a dog:
      Snuffles/Snowball: "We are not THEM! We are not... them."
    • Rick himself also has one in "Auto Erotic Assimilation" after Unity breaks up with him due to his toxic influence on everyone close to him. This actually leads him to attempt to disintegrate himself with one of his machines, though he ultimately fails to do so successfully.
    • Beth in "The ABC's of Beth", in which she realizes that, contrary to her view of her father as a great guy that she wants to emulate, he's really not a great person, and she's just like him. Rick offers her the chance to leave and go on her own adventures across the universe while he is replaced by a clone, though it's left ambiguous if she took him up on the offer or not; either way, Beth/her clone becomes much kinder to her family, and ultimately gets back together with Jerry in the following episode.
  • Ashi in Samurai Jack is an assassin associated with the Cult of Aku who has been raised from birth to believe that Jack is the bad guy, and in fact, was trained specifically to kill him. Her Heel Realization starts when she sees him letting a ladybug fly away whereas her mother would've squashed it, and she then witnesses firsthand the legacy of his good deeds from the past four seasons while she travels the world searching for him. By the time she's found him and helped him regain both his will to live and his honor, she's both thoroughly committed to his cause and is in love with him.
  • In the South Park episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association", Cartman talks Kyle into joining his business of getting crack babies to play basketball which, after some karaoke and bacon pancakes from Denny's, he accepts. He then tells Stan about it and Stan doesn't reply, making Kyle give a monologue how he and satire target NCAA do good by using players like slaves. Then towards the end of the episode, Stan says he's starting to sound like Cartman and Kyle replies "No I'm not goddammit!" then cups his mouth in shock.
    • In The Movie, most of the Mothers Against Canada drop what they're doing when they realize that the war is putting their children in danger. Sheila's doesn't come until it's almost too late.
    • Happens with Heidi in the episode "Splatty Tomato" after Kyle declares he can never love her current self in season 21's finale. Heidi then begins to look back on how she went from a Nice Girl to a female Cartman, realizing that her relationship with Cartman has slowly destroyed her mentally and physically. Heidi has enough and breaks up with Cartman for good, no longer wishing to be awful.
  • In "Make Room For Lisa" in The Simpsons, Lisa enters a sensory deprivation tank, imagines herself as being Homer being chastized by her, and comes to the realization that for all of Homer's faults and for all of his callous dismissal of her interests he at least takes part in it just so he can be with her, unlike herself who callously dismisses his interests, can't be bothered to even feign interest in them, and insults him when he doesn't show any enthusiasm in her events. In the end she realizes she should lighten up, thanks him for taking her to a new age store and ends their day together by agreeing to go to a demolition derby for Homer's sake.
    Lisa as Homer: Geez, why is Lisa so mad at me? I only came to this dump so I could be with her.
    Lisa: Boy, I can really be a pain in the butt. Gee, I should cut Dad some slack. After all, he did take me to the ballet and the Smithsonian exhibit. In fact, he takes me lots of places he hates.
  • In Star vs. the Forces of Evil, there's a beautiful scene in "Mewnipendence Day" where Princess Star Butterfly has a look of shock and hesitation as she refrains from shooting a fleeing monster, Buff-Frog because he looks back and they briefly lock eyes. She had been increasingly uncomfortable with the way her friends got hurt during the "Monster Massacre" reenactment, as well as the harsh implied brutality her ancestors inflicted on the monsters. She mistook Buff-Frog for one of her friends in a costume, and accidentally feels sympathy for a monster for the first time in her life. When he runs, she no longer can just view him as an evil being to be blasted with her wand.
  • Star Wars Rebels: In "The Honourable Ones", Agent Kallus winds up stranded on an icy moon with Zeb. Zeb than proceeds to treat Kallus kindly, including splinting his broken leg, instead of just killing him out of hand. Kallus, in turn, winds up saving Zeb's life. At the end of the episode, he's seen sitting in his quarters on board the ISD Relentless in a decidedly contemplative mood, the seed of doubt in the Empire's cause apparently having been planted. This ultimately leads to a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Steven Universe episode "Change Your Mind" has Yellow and Blue Diamond undergo these. When Steven asks Blue Diamond how many times she locked Pink Diamond in the prison tower and made her cry, the fact that she doesn't know the answer to that question horrifies her and makes her realize why Pink abandoned her. Later, Yellow Diamond realizes that enforcing the Gem Empire's tyrannical regime for the sake of creating a "perfect" society drove away everyone she loved and even drove her attack her last loved one who's still by her side. Both these realizations prompt both characters to undergo Heel Face Turns.
  • Megatron in the finale movie of Transformers: Prime, Predacon Rising. After spending the whole movie as Unicron's unwilling slave, he realizes the oppressive evil he has inflicted on Cybertron, and disbands the Decepticons.
  • In The Venture Bros., Dr. Killinger, a villain adviser who previously made massive changes/improvements to both The Monarch's villain career and personal life, shows up to advise Dr. Venture. Killinger saves Venture Industries and helps Venture face his numerous childhood issues, especially about his father, but at the end produces two papers, one of which would officially make Venture a supervillain, the other would dismiss Killinger and the "Venchemen" that Killinger had assembled to be Venture's army of mooks. The semi-sociopathic Venture eventually chooses not to become a villain but is left deeply shaken by the whole encounter.
    Dr. Venture: What? My brother?
    Dr. Killinger: Bingo! Isn't it perfect? It's a classic Cain und Abel story.
    Dr. Venture: But... But... But he can't arch me, he's not even a super- (Beat) oh my god...

    Brock: Are you okay, doc?
    Dr. Venture: I... I don't know. He thinks I'm a... Brock, am I a... bad person?
    Brock: The hell just happened?
    Dr. Venture: Am I, Brock!?
    Brock: (pauses, then rocks his hand in a "kind of" gesture) Ehhhh.....
  • Played with for Germaine of Xiaolin Showdown. In his season 2 reappearance, he's studying under Chase Young, in hopes of becoming a warrior like the monks. Though it takes the entire episode to convince him, he eventually bows out, realizing that studying under Chase technically makes him a part of the Heylin.
  • Though Dracula firmly commits to Then Let Me Be Evil when he decides to Kill All Humans in revenge for his wife being burned at the stake, he nonetheless has one in the climax of season 2. He's completely willing to kill his son until their fight takes them to Alucard's childhood bedroom - and he's confronted with the reality that he's about to destroy the only living link to his wife with his own two hands. It shakes him so badly that he barely resists when Alucard drives a stake through his heart.
    Dracula: Lisa...I-I'm killing our boy... your greatest gift to me, and I'm killing him... I must already be dead.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Heel Realisation, Villain Realization


I'll Think on That

When she realizes that Luz's kindness is sincere and that all the times she humiliated her in the past were accidental, Amity concedes that she wasn't helping matters with her mean attitude and says that she will try to improve on that.

How well does it match the trope?

4.71 (14 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeelRealization

Media sources:

Main / HeelRealization