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Heroes' Frontier Step

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"It's not who you are underneath, it's what you do that defines you."
Rachel Dawes to the future protector of Gotham City, Batman Begins

Making a Heroes' Frontier Step is the polar opposite of crossing the Moral Event Horizon. It means committing an act completely unexpected and so noble, that it shows true heroism.

A character who makes a Heroes' Frontier Step is not automatically labeled pure, but it shows that they have a good heart, and that they try to make people, or even the world around them better. Even Anti-Heroes sometimes make this Step. In other words, this is the path taken by the Reformed, but Not Tamed character.


A Heroes' Frontier Step can shock both characters and viewers. Examples would be saving an enemy, making a Heroic Sacrifice, or actually saving the world. The action has to be so selfless, so heroic, that it makes you believe that there is some good in the world.

In some cases, this may purposely act as an Author's Saving Throw, if a work's character is supposed to be the hero from the start, but has not been doing a particularly good job at their role, the writer may try to inflict this to make unambiguously clear they are the good guy.

Compare Face Realization, where a character surprises even themselves by proving how good they are deep down.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dr. Stone: Gen Asagiri. He's a lazy, self-absorbed, playboy who states it himself that he's a superficial person that will choose the winning side in a heartbeat if it secures his own comfort. Even after choosing to side with Senku and lying to Tsukasa about his survival under the promise of soda and (nearly) sabotaging Hyoga's attempt at attacking the village, you can't help but still be suspicious of his true motives. But then he figures out Senku's birthday with little information to go on, and goes so far as to have all of Ishigami Village help him in making a telescope for him, with no strings attached. You really can't doubt him after that.
  • Being an idealistic series where Defeat Means Friendship and the Heel–Face Turn are core themes, Dragon Ball has quite a few examples:
    • While Goku has always been a heroic person, most of his exploits as a kid were done for more personal reasons than for the greater good, like destroying the Red Ribbon Army because they indirectly murdered his friend Bora and killing King Piccolo and all of his children save Piccolo Jr. because they murdered Krillin and Master Roshi. The first truly selfless act Goku performs is when he gives his life to stop Raditz. Although his primary reason for stopping Raditz is to save his son, he also never considers taking his brother's offer to kill one-hundred humans to get his son back and puts aside his pride to fight Raditz dirty: grabbing his tail and working with Piccolo in a two-on-one fight. Later, he gives his life, again, to keep Cell from blowing up the Earth, spiritually guides Gohan from the grave to restore his hope, and chooses to stay dead for everyone's protection since all the bad things that happened to Earth recently were directly or indirectly connected to him.
    • Vegeta starts the series as a villain, becomes a Kratos-like antihero on Namek, reluctantly helps Gohan finish Cell to avenge his son, and then decides to turn evil again during the Buu saga due to his belief that Love Is a Weakness. However, he chooses to pay for his mistakes and fight the monster he indirectly brought back, even if he had to sacrifice himself, to protect his family. From this moment on, Vegeta isn't a villain anymore, and because he later helps Goku defeat Majin Buu once and for all, he is resurrected along with everyone on Earth sans the truly evil people, despite never even foreseeing that he would be.
    • Way before that, Piccolo, the demon son/reincarnation of a pure-evil entity, dies to protect Gohan from Nappa despite knowing that his death will spell the end of the Dragon Balls.
    • Mr. Satan/Hercule is a buffoon who never has any clue about what’s going on, is excessively weak, and a complete glory hound. But this is one of the reasons that he is also one of the most heroic characters of the series. He became the best friend of a rampaging monster, whom he convinced to stop killing innocent people without even fighting. He also convinced the earthlings to send their power to Goku's Spirit Bomb, and got Vegeta to safety in time for Goku to finish off Kid Buu. Fake Ultimate Hero and Lovable Coward he may be, Mr. Satan certainly has the heart of a hero, if nothing else.
    • In Dragon Ball Super's "Universe Survival Saga", former killer cyborg Android 17 first sacrifices himself so his teammates can survive, then when winning the tournament, uses his wish to bring back all the Universes that were erased.
  • One Piece:
    • Monkey D. Luffy saved many towns from tyranny, but wasn't called a hero before he saved the Fishmen. And he changed the life of each member of his crew, whom he helps to fulfill their own dream.
    • The whole crew made a frontier step when they declared war on the World Government to show how much they care about Robin.
  • Pokémon: In the pilot, you don't think much of this clumsy, bumbling kid, with a disobedient Pikachu. Until you see how far he'll go to protect a creature that scorned him: diving into a river, stealing a girl's bike, and finally putting himself between this creature, and a bunch of hostile birds that could kill him. Pikachu then redeems himself also when he dives in front of Ash to take out the entire flock in spite of his heavy injuries.
  • One of these kicks off the plot of YuYu Hakusho. Everyone thinks Yusuke Urameshi is just a selfish, hot-headed delinquent from a broken home, until he sacrifices his life to save a young boy from being hit by a car. Even the powers that be didn't see it coming, and Yusuke is given a second chance at life for his heroic (if ultimately pointless) deed.
  • In My Hero Academia, protagonist Izuku Midoriya has been kicked around his entire life for wanting to become a superhero without a Quirk. Even his idol, All Might, tells him he needs to face reality and give up. But when Katsuki Bakugo is in danger, Izuku is compelled to rush in to help despite being Quirkless when all of the heroes nearby refused to intervene for various reasons. This is what makes All Might realize that he wasn't taking his own advice, inspiring him to push his limits to save both boys and name Izuku his successor.
  • In the first episode of Sailor Moon, Usagi Tsukino is introduced as a clumsy slacker who is running Late for School. However, she proves herself to be a kind-hearted individual by rescuing Luna the Cat from a bunch of little brats. Her removing the band-aid from Luna's head helps prove to Luna that Usagi is the perfect candidate for becoming Sailor Moon. While initially reluctant to becoming Sailor Moon, she immediately responds to the call that her best friend Naru is in danger.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman went through so many horrors, so much loss and torture that a lesser person would put the costume in the closet. But he keeps going, keeps fighting villains who hurt him in more and more personal ways, to protect a corrupted city, without anything in return. And he never kills anyone. Never. For these reasons, the mere fact that he keeps coming back to protect Gotham is a Heroes' Frontier Step. For a specific moment, his confrontation with Darkseid in Final Crisis where Batman Grabs a Gun, trumping his personal code for a "once-in-a-lifetime exception" to save the universe. Batman may be a man of principle, but he's willing to put it aside if it means saving everyone.
  • Sin City:
    • John Hartigan not only devoted his life and his honor to protecting an innocent girl, he even commits suicide so Roark wouldn't hurt her to get revenge on him.
      John Hartigan: An old man dies... a young woman lives. Fair trade. I love you, Nancy.
    • Marv is a murdering juggernaut who has serious mental issues. But he killed only the criminals who made Sin City deserve its name. Yet, his Heroes' Frontier Step is when he accepts the blame (and execution) for murders he didn't commit, that is the prostitutes and the woman he loved. Because if he didn't, his mother would have been killed. Oh, and like Hartigan, he saved a little girl (who was sold for sex) and brought her back to her mother.

     Fan Works 
  • Getting Back on Your Hooves, a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic: Throughout most of the fic, we've seen Trixie try to be a better pony, despite all of her failures and mishaps. Then she helps save the Cutie Mark Crusaders from certain a dangerous bat-like creature, proving she wishes to be better.
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves, a RWBY fanfic: In-Universe, Jaune goes from being public enemy number #1 to beloved activist when he raids and exposes a corrupt sweatshop.
  • An In-Universe variant of this trope occurs in A Waterbending Quirk. Katara's introduction to the world of My Hero Academia has her causing a lot of trouble, ending up in a fight against Endeavor. Despite this, during her fight, Ingenium notices her not hesitating to save a young boy, and this is what spurs him to decide to help her become a hero.
  • What is a Person Worth?: Rita in chapter 18 when she comforts Lincoln about his guilt over his part in the situation and assures Lincoln that he did the right thing by threatening to call the police. She admits she does not know how she can keep this situation from happening again, but has Lincoln promise to call the police if it ever does. Even Lincoln is shocked that she's gone from doing anything to avoid going to prison to now accepting whatever consequences she would face should she ever draw such a response from her son. This goes to the others earning Lincoln's forgiveness; case in point is Lynn standing up for Lincoln.

    Films — Animation 
  • Aladdin is a poor street rat, who steals to survive. And what does he do after risking his life for a loaf of bread? He gives it to two little orphans. This one of the many selfless things he does along the series. One of the best is sacrificing his wish to become prince again to free his Genie.
  • In All Dogs Go to Heaven, after being a Jerkass for a majority of the movie, Charlie goes to save Anne Marie from drowning. But his watch (which represents his life) also falls in the water. Since he can't save both, Charlie takes Anne Marie to safety first, fully knowing that when his watch stops, he will be sent to Hell. This act of pure heroism is enough to bring him back to Heaven.
  • In The Bad Guys, gang leader Mr. Wolf is struggling to truly reform as he lives in a world where wolves like him are always seen as villains. After a moving pep talk from Governor Diane Foxington, he commits to trying again and manages to save a cat stuck up a tree, his first intentional act of kindness, helping him realize he can be more than the monster people see him as.
  • In the original Bambi film, the title character rescuing Faline from Ronno and a pack of hunting dogs was to establish his evolution from a sweet but cowardly and oblivious kid to a selfless and bold young adult and future Prince of the Forest. The midquel, however, sets it even earlier into childhood, when, despite being broken over being sent to live away from his father, he chooses to rescue his adoptive mother by distracting a hunter's dogs onto himself.
  • In Frozen (2013), rather than getting a True Love's Kiss from Kristoff to save her life, Anna chooses to give her own life to save her estranged sister Elsa from being killed by the Big Bad, turning frozen solid just before his sword connects. Since this counts as an Act of True Love, she thaws out moments later.
  • Hercules becomes a God the same way he became a hero: by saving the love of his life at the risk of his own.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
    • Quasimodo didn't make a step when he saved Esmeralda. No. His HFS is when he holds Frollo by the cape and doesn't let him go. He wouldn't let the man who mistreated him for years, killed many gypsies, including his mother, fall to his death. This short moment definitely solves the riddle: "who is the monster and who is the man?"
    • Phoebus spends the first half of the film as a soldier of Frollo's, but proves himself to be a true Knight in Shining Armor when he puts out a torch intended to burn a house down; when Frollo himself lights the house on fire, Phoebus rushes inside to rescue the family trapped inside.
  • The Lion King (1994): Being inspired by Hamlet, Simba lost his father to his evil uncle. But unlike Hamlet, Simba doesn't have a dilemma. He makes his choice right away, despite the anger he feels.
    Scar: What are you going to do? You wouldn't kill your own uncle...?
    Simba: No, Scar. I'm not like you.
  • Sunset Shimmer from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls manages to do this twice.
    • Sunset is the Big Bad of the first movie and pulls a Heel–Face Turn at the end, but there are plenty of people who have doubts she is being genuine. In the sequel, Rainbow Rocks, Sunset still isn't trusted by the students, all while trying to be The Atoner and even being mocked by the Dazzlings for her failures at being a villain. But in their Darkest Hour, Sunset finally gets the courage to come between the Rainbooms' arguing and tell them why their magic hasn't been working. At the end of the movie, she steps on the field with her friends when they're on the verge of defeat despite having visible doubts she has any right to help them, giving them their Heroic Second Wind. This in turn cements Sunset's Heel–Face Turn as genuine, and her place as The Hero of the spinoff series as a whole.
    • She gets another one in Forgotten Friendship due to her friends having their memories of her Heel–Face Turn removed via Laser-Guided Amnesia. When the Big Bad is cornered and attempts to remove all of the Equestria Girls' memories of high school, Sunset jumps in the way of the spell, losing all of her memories not just of high school, but of being human. This is enough to convince the other Equestria Girls that even if they don't remember Sunset being a good person, she's earned the right to be their friend.
  • Toy Story: Woody starts off as selfish and rude in the first movie being jealous of Buzz, but he eventually befriends him and starts becoming a better person. But he truly made his step to being a true hero in Toy Story 3; Woody not only saves Lotso from the incinerator, but he gives up his dream of going to college with Andy so the other toys don't have to be left in the attic.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Back to the Future, Marty saved his father and made him a lot more self-confident, brought Doc Brown back to life, saved his timeline (well... he is the one who gave Biff the idea to change it), and attempted to save Clara, who he didn't know at all.
  • Come and See centers around Flyora, a Belarusian teenager who decides to take up arms against the Nazis who have invaded his village. But rather than becoming a heroic soldier, Flyora spends much of the story becoming a horribly disheveled wretch who endures one tragedy after another. The next-to-last shot of the film shows him balking at killing baby Hitler, showing that while Flyora lost his innocence, he still retained his humanity.
  • Forrest Gump saved many soldiers, gave his nihilistic lieutenant the will to live, and gave poor Jenny perhaps the only moments of happiness of her life.
  • In Pulp Fiction, Butch chooses not to escape and comes back with a katana to save a man from rapists. The same guy who he had a deadly fight with just minutes earlier, and who wanted him dead for double-crossing him after agreeing to throw a fight.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Eddie Valiant is a washed-up drunk of a detective mourning the loss of his brother who was killed by a Toon, explaining his bias against them. However, this does not stop him from going to save all of Toontown from a psychotic maniac who eventually turns out to be the same toon who killed his brother in the first place), finding closure, and moving on from his bias.
  • Various heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have had their moments that signify that they are indeed true heroes.
    • Iron Man: After escaping from the clutches of the Ten Rings, Tony Stark travels back to Afghanistan to confront the terrorist group when they start using his company's weapons against an innocent village.
    • The Incredible Hulk (2008): The Hulk is considered by many to be nothing more than a mindless monster. He is shown to be more than that when he saves Betty from dying in the crossfire between him and the military.
    • Thor: Thor is stripped of his powers and banished due to his arrogance and hot-headedness. While on Earth, Thor begins to learn the importance of kindness and humility. So when Loki sends the Destroyer to kill him, Thor offers to sacrifice himself in order to spare the innocent civilians. This is the act of selflessness that makes him worthy to wield Mjölnir again.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: Steve Rogers wanted to serve his country not for the glory of war, but because of his instinctive need to stick up for the little guy. After receiving an experimental super-soldier serum, Steve is turned into little more than a public attraction. In spite of this, Steve heads into enemy territory and singlehandedly frees hundreds of prisoners from a POW camp. Once he returns to the camp with the prisoners marching behind him, the military realizes how great of a hero he truly is, turning him into an actual captain and allowing him to fight in the war with his own team of commandos.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy (2014): Peter Quill is an intergalactic thief who seems to be purely motivated by money and his own self-preservation. When Gamora is left floating in the vacuum of space, however, Quill is willing to sacrifice himself when he gives her his helmet in order to survive. The rest of the Guardians later prove their worth when they are willing to fight Ronan and his forces despite being at a huge disadvantage.
    • Spider-Man: No Way Home: Peter Parker has spent most of the movie struggling with the absolute breakdown of his life from Mysterio spitefully revealing his secret identity at the end of the preceding film, to the point he goes to Dr Strange and asks him to cast a spell to make the world at large forget Peter Parker is Spider Man. Unfortunately, the spell goes wrong and starts bringing in anybody who knows Peter is Spiderman into the MCU, threatening a multi-dimensional collapse from other realities. At the film's climax, with the impending breakdown of reality, Peter realises one way to fix the damage: make everyone forget Peter Parker exists, sacrificing the normal life he so desperately wanted to keep throughout his previous films and turning himself into a ghost in his own world. Aware that nobody will even remember the sacrifice he's making, Peter still goes through with it to save everybody, and afterwards, despite having lost everything about his old life, he keeps being Spiderman to save others, despite the world still remembering Spiderman as a 'killer' thanks to Mysterio's manipulations.
  • Tommy Boy: For much of the movie, Tommy's ineptitude has prevented him from being able to sell brake pads. But then he convinces a surly waitress to give him special treatment, and Richard realizes that Tommy does have the ability to read people and tell them what they want to hear. After that, Tommy becomes a selling machine.
  • In The Killer, the moment that convinces Inspector Li that Jeff is not your ordinary assassin is when he saves a little girl who gets caught in the crossfire at the beach after he gets double-crossed by his boss on his last job meant to help pay for Jenny's eye surgery. He not only shields the kid from more gunfire, but he also drives her to the hospital — with the cops in hot pursuit — and has the doctors operate on her in order to save her life while in the middle of a standoff with Li.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Man of Steel: The film establishes Clark as using his powers to help people but doing so in secret.
    • Wonder Woman: Veld's No Man Land was the moment Wonder Woman entered the war and performed her first heroic act by liberating the village's innocent people.
  • Star Wars:
    • The biggest moment of this that everyone remembers from Star Wars: A New Hope has to be Han Solo, who was previously Only in It for the Money and Not in This for Your Revolution and having previously left in order to pay off Jabba The Hutt, deciding to turn around and come back to Yavin in order to bail out Luke and give him the opportunity to destroy the Death Star, saving the Rebellion and destroying one of the Empire's most dreaded weapons.
    • Return of the Jedi: Darth Vader killing Palpatine, thus saving Luke and allowing the Resistance to win. While he dies shortly after, we see his ghost in the afterlife alongside Obi-Wan and Yoda, implying that he's completely redeemed.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, his grandson, Ben Solo, after abandoning his Kylo Ren persona, saving Rey from committing to Palpatine's wishes and later giving up his own life to save her from certain death, thus ensuring that his Skywalker bloodline did not die in vain, ensuring the birth of a new generation of Jedi, and finally finishing what his grandfather started. We see his body disappear into the Force, like Luke, Yoda, and Obi-Wan before him, proving that he is fully redeemed. It was because of this sacrifice that Rey ended up taking up the surname Skywalker as a way to honour him and his family.
  • In Billy Madison, the titular character spends the movie acting like an immature jerk, due to coasting through life. But then he proves that he has heart when he sacrifices his reputation to save a younger classmate from embarrassment.
  • Little Nicky: In-Universe, committing a Heroic Sacrifice is considered this, as Nicky gets hit by a subway car while trying to save someone, and, despite being the son of Satan himself, goes to Heaven. When he asks how this is possible, the angels say that self-sacrifice automatically makes a person go there.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2020), the titular character is established early on as kind (via saving a turtle from being run over by a truck and even attempting to cheer it up) and admiring a similar kindness in other people (his fondness for friendly town sheriff and veterinarian couple Tom and Maddie Wachowski), but Sonic's actual crossing of the Heroes' Frontier Step is when he briefly puts his own life on the line to keep Robotnik from taking Tom's, despite already knowing the danger that the doctor poses to him. If that wasn't convincing enough an example, he bounces back from the brink of death and faces Robotnik head-on, vowing to stop hiding and use his powers to protect his friends and home from the mad genius' malice. Tom and Maddie themselves also cross the Heroes' Frontier Step by helping Sonic out, regardless of how life-threatening the circumstances are for them.
  • In The Professional, Leon proves he is not your typical hitman by letting a 12 year old pre-teen girl live at his apartment after her family was murdered by corrupt DEA agents and cops.

  • Harry Potter has many of this, to contrast with the numerous Moral Event Horizons of the saga.
    • Neville Longbottom, whose parents became insane, and got bullied for years by other students when his grandmother wasn’t ashamed of him, grew from an insecure and powerless kid to a handsome and fierce fighter for the Resistance in his school. He was brave enough to insult Voldemort and kill his snake with the Sword of Gryffindor (that you can only get your hands on if you have the bravery of a hero).
    • Dobby is the only house-elf to fight for his freedom, which makes him not only a slave, but also an outcast among elves. Yet, even if he has to punish himself afterward, he never stopped protecting Harry Potter, his first true friend. He even saved his life and many others at the Malfoy manor, even if it lead him to face his fearsome masters, and get killed by them. Rest in peace, wonderful elf.
    • While James Potter (who still is heroic) has feet of clay, Lily Potter is an angel. She sacrificed herself for her baby, and gave him a powerful protection. This made Severus Snape feel so much remorse that he decided to reject the Death Eaters and join Dumbledore to protect her, and when she was killed, to protect her son.
    • Snape himself never stopped saving Harry's life, even though he hates him as much as he hated his father. Also, Snape was despised by everyone but Dumbledore until his death because no one knew that he was a double agent. Suffering so much hate and losing the love of his life, but still protecting people without letting them know, made Snape the bravest man Harry ever knew.
    • Albus Dumbledore is revealed at the very end to have been friends with a dark mage and share some of his views. He also had a weakness with power, and neglected his family. But the remorse pushed him to seek redemption, and to become not only the wisest, but also the most humanitarian of the Harry Potter universe. Dumbledore loves his school and treats his staff and students as family. He also tries to give chances to the villains, even to Voldemort.
    • And, of course, Harry Potter himself. Granted, he gets easily angry and often acts before he thinks. Can you blame him? He was bullied by his foster family for years. He had to face monsters, injustice, torture, loss of loved ones, and he wasn’t even an adult! Actually, he has much more Freudian Excuses than Voldemort to become a murdering psychopath. What does he do? He saves his bullying cousin's soul. He saves his rival’s life (twice). He treats every species, including elves and goblins, as an equal. He spares his enemies. He feels pity for the man who ruined his life. And he saves every… single… person… in danger. And to top it off, he willingly walks into his (temporary, as it turns out) death. He made lots of HFS before defeating the most dangerous wizard of all time!
  • Throughout Storm Front, the first Dresden Files novel, the Warden Morgan is presented as a ruthless enforcer bent on finding Harry doing something, anything wrong as an excuse to lop off his head. However, at the end of the book, Morgan charges into a burning building to save Harry's life; since Harry hadn't crossed the line into warlock-hood, Morgan was still duty-bound to protect his fellow White Council member. This was the first indication of Morgan's stance as a guardian of the order who felt that it was his duty to carry out the law exactly as written, but who nonetheless had a brave, even noble heart.
  • Commissar Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!) generally tries to downplay his heroism and claim that it's all Pragmatic Villainy, but once a book or so he has a moment that even he can't fully explain away. Perhaps the most straightforward is in Duty Calls, when he and Amberley are investigating an outpost that suddenly comes under attack by Tyranids. When it looks like Amberley isn't going to make it to their shuttle in time, Cain charges back into the face of the horde to give her covering fire. He is also atypically devoted to the soldiers under his charge, looking the other way at their minor infractions and always looking after the wounded, though he ascribes this to a desire to avoid Unfriendly Fire.
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court: Hank and King Arthur are going around Britain incognito, with the king demonstrating a worrying tendency towards Sheltered Aristocrat and Upper-Class Twit that gets the two of them in quite some trouble (The Dung Ages is a Running Gag throughout the book). Finally they end up in the hut of some peasants dying of smallpox. Hank tries to ask the woman what happened and learns she and her daughter upstairs are the only survivors, though not for long. And then...
    There was a slight noise from the direction of the dim corner where the ladder was. It was the king descending. I could see that he was bearing something in one arm, and assisting himself with the other. He came forward into the light; upon his breast lay a slender girl of fifteen. She was but half conscious; she was dying of smallpox. Here was heroism at its last and loftiest possibility, its utmost summit; this was challenging death in the open field unarmed, with all the odds against the challenger, no reward set upon the contest, and no admiring world in silks and cloth of gold to gaze and applaud; and yet the king’s bearing was as serenely brave as it had always been in those cheaper contests where knight meets knight in equal fight and clothed in protecting steel. He was great now; sublimely great. The rude statues of his ancestors in his palace should have an addition—I would see to that; and it would not be a mailed king killing a giant or a dragon, like the rest, it would be a king in commoner’s garb bearing death in his arms that a peasant mother might look her last upon her child and be comforted.
  • The Scholomance: When someone tries to murder El, she refuses to use Black Magic even though it's the only way she could save her own life and would have been a near-trivial act of will for her even with a knife in her gut. Not only does this win Orion's trust on the spot, it leads her to realize she's a better person than she credited herself for and inspires her to greater actions later.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019): When the Monitor teleports the heroes away due to not being able to delay the antimatter destroying Earth-38, Oliver Queen doesn't let him teleport him since not everyone has been evacuated to Earth-1. Oliver shoots the Monitor so he does not teleport him and decides to fight the Shadow demons until his last breath to secure the evacuation of billions of Earth-38 inhabitants.
  • Doctor Who: The Doctor is an immortal alien, last of his species, who can go anywhere in space and anywhen in time. Does he try to conquer? To get more power? To get revenge for his destroyed planet? Nah, that’s the Master’s work. The Doctor didn’t choose his name for nothing: he wants to make people better. Anywhere he goes, he meets a threat, and stops it. For people he hardly knows. And he never stops to make a family, to settle, to have peace. He just keeps going, following his TARDIS’s will, and always saves as many lives as possible. But it goes beyond. The Doctor treats his enemies with respect. He gives them chances to stop, and doesn’t kill them if can be avoided (though sometimes, when pushed to the limit, he does punish them in a WORSE way). One of the best examples of the Doctor’s pure heart is in the "Last of the Time Lords", where after witnessing the world destroyed, the humans terrorized, and being humiliated and tortured by the Master, the Doctor defeats his worst enemy, who seems horrified. He goes to him… hugs him… and whispers three words that such a monster cannot bear: "I forgive you. " Being a Time Lord, he doesn’t have one, but two hearts. Two golden hearts.
    • Rose Tyler is perhaps one of the purest humans the Doctor ever met. Not only because she pities her enemies, or saved the world several times with him. She made a Dalek, YES, A DALEK feel emotions.
  • In Chernobyl, Deputy Chairman Boris Shcherbina is initially presented as yet another propaganda-believing party man, concerned only about his career and frequently butting heads with nuclear physicist Valery Legaslov whom he thinks is overstating the severity of the disaster. But he proves himself a Badass Bureaucrat over the course of the series, and it starts with him — having finally gotten irrefutable confirmation of the severity of the situation — storming off; he's not pulling a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! He's setting wheels in motion on a scale that no other character can thanks to his party connections.
    Legaslov: Where are you going?!
    Scherbina: I'm going to get you five thousand tons of sand and boron [to smother the burning reactor core]!
  • In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier John Walker is chosen as the successor to Captain America but struggles with the role due to his PTSD and anger issues. Eventually culminating in him murdering a surrendering opponent. However, in the final episode, John is forced to choose between getting his revenge or saving a truckload of hostages. He chooses to save the hostages. Proving that even though he struggles with being one he is a good man at heart.
  • In Power Rangers in Space, Astronema is the season's Big Bad, she seems a lot like the Rita and Zedd type of villain, but then out of nowhere she saves a family from one of her own quantrons. Everyone is surprised, but it was the start of her Heel–Face Turn (temporarily interrupted by becoming Brainwashed and Crazy by Dark Spector). Eventually she became the second Pink Ranger in Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. What made this a true heroic frontier step is that there was nothing in it for her to do that, nobody asked her to do it, nobody expected it, she just saved the lives of a family she didn't know out of the goodness of her own heart.

    Myths & Religion 
  • While the heroes of Greek Mythology seem less heroic today, they have their moments.
    • Perseus saved his future bride from a rampaging monster, and his mom from an asshole king.
    • Orpheus went down into the Underworld itself to save his wife.
    • Oedipus saved a town from a Sphinx.
    • Hercules' Twelve Labors saved a whole bunch of people.
    • Odysseus went through a journey of misery to get back his kingdom and his family.

    Video Games 
  • Many Final Fantasy heroes have their moments of this.
    • Galuf from Final Fantasy V. He and all his friends are at the mercy of Exdeath, being pinned down by energy beams from crystals. Through sheer will power he breaks the beam and faces Exdeath, the final boss of the game, one on one. Exdeath throws everything at Galuf, from high-tier spells to Meteor, and the man takes it. Exdeath tears his lifepoints to zero and Galuf keeps fighting anyways. Exdeath suffers a near Villainous Breakdown because he can't comprehend how Galuf could possibly draw that much power from his hatred, and Galuf calmly remarks it's not hate that keeps him going, but the love he has for his friends and granddaughter. Then he delivers the finishing blow, wins the fight, and immediately collapses and passes away.
    • Terra, from FF6 deserves a special mention: after Kefka destroyed the world, she stopped at a village of orphans and took care of them as a mother. She even went back to fight for them.
  • In Oddworld, Abe saves his whole race from slavery and worse.
  • In Fallout, you can make a post-apocalyptic world better through various Heroes Frontier Steps.
    • One of the best is in Fallout 3, where you can sacrifice yourself to purify the water of the waste lands and give them a better future. After stopping the Enclave, of course.
  • Sora from Kingdom Hearts is a kid with a big heart, and willingly helps save every world he goes in from the Heartless and the villains controlling them. But he truly crosses the Heroes' Frontier Step at the climax of the first game when he willingly becomes a Heartless himself to save his friend Kairi. He gets restored to normal soon after through her light, but he definitely didn't think that would happen—and the last thing he does before saving Kairi is to give a warm smile to Donald and Goofy, too.
    • Donald and Goofy's mission throughout the first game, given to them by King Mickey, is to follow the wielder of the Keyblade at all costs. While they do (albeit reluctantly) leave Sora behind when the Keyblade is taken by Riku, they cross the Heroes' Frontier Step not too long after when they defect from him to protect Sora. Even if this would mean betraying the orders of their king, they aren't just going to stand idly when Riku abuses his power to hurt one of their best buds. And it's this very resolve that gets Sora the Keyblade back, too!
    • At the end of the first game, King Mickey willingly stays behind in the Realm of Darkness in order to restore the worlds destroyed by the Heartless, with Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep - A Fragmentary Passage revealing that Mickey didn't even know if there was a way out.
  • Two solid examples in Starcraft II Heart Of The Swarm from previously ambiguous characters:
    • Kerrigan is presented as a Noble Demon on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge who is, on the one hand, a far cry from her Brainwashed and Crazy time as the "Queen Bitch of the Universe", but still willing to turn her back on her humanity in order to have her vengeance. Her defining moment is on Char, where her forces overrun and demolish the fortress of General Warfield. With his last breath, Warfield demands that she let his wounded and noncombatants go, pointing out that Raynor (in whose name she is notionally rampaging) would disapprove. She complies, showing restraint for perhaps the first time ever.
      • This is especially formidable if she's already visited Zerus and been reborn as the Primal Queen of Blades — showing that sacrificing her physical humanity doesn't have to mean giving up her morality.
    • The second belongs to Crown Prince Valerian Mengsk, son of the Big Bad and a decidedly on-the-fence character who, on the one hand, wants to remove his father's government, but on the other hand is no stranger to lying and manipulating. When he ends up allied with Kerrigan to assault Mengsk's capital, he has a straightforward demand — that she give him time to evacuate civilians. In his case, it demonstrates not only that he has the moral fiber necessary, but the backbone to stand up to one of the strongest individuals in the galaxy and not request, but order her to do the right thing.
  • In Undertale, the main character becomes one in the Golden Ending of the Pacifist Run. No matter how many monsters fight them, they will not harm them back and win every single confrontation by either befriending, appeasing, or negotiating with them. Even Flowey, the Eldritch Abomination that Came Back Wrong and has spent the entire game manipulating and plotting to kill them, is spared in the end. The character single-handedly shows every single monster, most of whom believed Humans Are the Real Monsters and were more than willing to wipe humanity out, that not only are humans and monsters the same but that they can coexist peacefully. They don't stop there, either: they help break the barrier that keeps the monsters trapped underground and frees them to the world above so the two groups can coexist.
  • Two examples from the Ratchet & Clank series, both of whom were encouraged to be better people thanks to Clank's words of idealism:
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Bentley spends most of the game worried about his missing girlfriend Penelope, and when he finds out the truth about her, he's crushed. However, when she goes after Sly and Murray out of sheer hatred, Bentley builds himself a mecha to counter hers, goes to confront and dump her, and fights her to defend his brothers, Carmelita, and all Coopers in history in an Act of True Love, reaffirming both his loyalty to the Cooper Gang, and his morality in general. This also coincides with Penelope's Moral Event Horizon, which makes her Bentley's Evil Counterpart.

    Web Animation 

  • If you need a good refresher on what being a hero truly is beyond all the good looks and flashy action, look no further than the triumphant examples of One-Punch Man:
    • Saitama's origin story shows him as a lowly salaryman using nothing but his necktie to save a kid from a bloodthirsty monster. He's then inspired to become a hero on the regular, but the following three years of training molds him into a Comically Invincible Hero to the max— everything he fights goes down in, well, one punch, and being a hero's gotten pretty boring for him as a result. But this hasn't made him any less of one, as the ending to the Sea Monsters Arc affirms: when the populace sees him single-handedly defeating the Deep Sea King, one spectator claims the other heroes who battled the King before Saitama arrived aren't really heroes after all. Saitama then pretends to be a Glory Hound who only landed the finishing blow after the others did all the hard work, sacrificing his own reputation in the process but ensuring that the other heroes get credit and support.
    • Mumen Rider is a "C-Class Hero" with little in the way of noteworthy superpowers or special gear to speak of, being hopelessly outclassed by plenty of other heroes and the threats they fight, and only having a bike and a costume to his name… that is, if you somehow don't count his true heroism and courage. From helping little kids get their balloons back to stopping street crime even when he's outnumbered, Mumen Rider is a noble paragon of virtue that always, always shows up to do the right thing. But his true mark of being a hero also happens in the Sea Monsters Arc: he knows all too well he doesn't stand a chance of winning against the Deep Sea King who's already took down many of the strongest heroes already, but he goes to fight the monster anyways, as there's nobody else left to protect the innocent lives at stake. It's just like Saitama said: "If The Heroes Run And Hide, Who Will Stand And Fight?"

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin has a better one in Aladdin: The Series. When Mirage turns Jasmine into a monstrous snake, instead of rejecting her, Aladdin chooses to become like her, because of true love. Because of this, Mirage is forced to face her defeat and turn them back to normal.
  • Bojack Horseman: For 3 FREAKIN' SEASONS, BoJack has tried time and time again to become a better horseman, only to be hindered by his flaws, his egocentrism, and his inability to open up. After having destroyed most of his relationships and failing to get recognition for his work in Secretariat in "That Went Well", he leaves Hollywoo in an attempt to find himself. Upon his return, he meets Hollyhock, his possible illegitimate daughter. Developing a bond with her, this healthy relationship comes to an end after Hollyhock is (accidentally) poisoned by his senile mother Beatrice, making her adoptive parents forbid him from contacting her. Despite the unfairness of the situation, BoJack decides to stop sulking and help Hollyhock find out about the one reason she came for his help: finding out who was her family and even offering to remain anonymous to her parents as long as she gets the information. Being the most selfless action he makes in the series, Hollyhock calls him and accepts him into her life... as her brother (Hollyhock is actually Bojack's half-sister, concieved when their father Butterscotch Horseman, had an affair with the maid.) His reaction says it all.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: After Zuko's first attempt at a Heel–Face Turn in the second season finale went pear-shaped because Azula convinced him that taking her side would buy his honor back, and after questioning his choices in life both before and after that point, the thing that finally cements his actual turn to goodness in "The Day Of Black Sun: Part 2" is his calling out his jackass father on everything he put him and the Fire Nation through up to this point... and furthermore, does not send Ozai's lightning back at him when the latter attempts Offing the Offspring, instead letting it dissipate harmlessly. This not only marks the point where he makes a turn towards the idealistic end of the sliding scale, but also demonstrates that unlike his father, who has no remorse for harming his own family if they prevent him from getting his way, Zuko himself will avoid taking a human life if he can help it. Thus, he chooses to leave and side with his uncle and the Avatar rather than striking Ozai down then and there - having learned more about what it means to be a good person from them, even if he didn't realize it, than from his own father.
    Zuko: Growing up, we were taught that the Fire Nation was the greatest civilization in history, and somehow, the war was our way of sharing our greatness with the rest of the world. What an amazing lie that was. The people of the world are terrified by the Fire Nation. They don't see our greatness. They hate us! And we deserve it. We've created an era of fear in the world. And if we don't want the world to destroy itself, we need to replace it with an era of peace and kindness.
    Ozai: (laughs) Your uncle has gotten to you, hasn't he?
    Zuko: …Yes. (smiles) He has.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: After most of Garble's appearance in the series being at best a brute and a bully, and at worst a murderous, sadistic sociopath, the episode "Sweet and Smoky" not only has him reform, but actually perform an amazing act of heroism. This episode reveals that he's Smolder's older brother and that he genuinely cares for her. It's also revealed that most of his bullying and jerk behavior was to hide his insecurities, keeping his beatnik poetry a secret from his friends and continuing to bully Spike throughout the episode. When Smolder and Fluttershy call Garble out on his actions, pointing out that Garble has been kicking around Spike to appear tough and masculine in front of his crew, while covering up his own sensitive interests for fear of mockery, where Spike is brave enough to be himself, he admits their point. But the thing that truly redeems him is when he learns that the dragon eggs need heat to hatch, and Spike gives him the idea to read his poetry to the dragons. Most of the dragons start to laugh, causing their fire breath to get hotter, and soon the eggs start to hatch. He's willing to subject himself to the humiliation and mockery he's dreaded would come with his passion in order to ensure the survival of the baby dragons. Garble finally admits his sensitive side to Spike and apologizes for his past behavior.
    • Discord began the series as an evil Reality Warper before softening up to become a neutral trickster. In "To Where and Back Again", he commits his first heroic act by joining the mission to rescue the Mane Six and Royal Family from the Changelings. In "The Ending of the End Part 2" Discord despite being responsible for the villains conquest, he vows to make up for his actions, and commits an act so heroic that he manages to be forgiven by the ponies, by starting the heroes counterattack risking his life to get Starlight free so she could free the other prisoners and joins the battle against three villains without any powers to give the Mane 5 and Spike time to escape so they can save Equestria.