Sometimes, the Forces of Light and Goodness get a little bit too hardcore. In a deadly combination of Well-Intentioned Extremist, The Fundamentalist, Moral Guardians, and sometimes He Who Fights Monsters, they get blinded by themselves and their ideals, and this extreme becomes tyrannical sociopathy. It's not the Forces of Darkness' fault, but they are laughing their asses off and feel so satisfied knowing that they were right.
Usually, the Knight Templar's primary step (or objective) to their perceived "utopia" is to get rid of that pesky "free will" thing that is the cause of crime and evil. Many Knight Templars are utterly merciless in dealing with those whom they consider evil, and are prone to consider all crimes to be equal. The lightest offenses, maybe even jaywalking are met with punishments such as full imprisonment, death, brainwashing, or eternal torture. If you're in a story like this, don't jaywalk, or even THINK about jaywalking. And may heaven help you if you happen to show any mercy or pity for a "wrongdoer." Sometimes even simply being an annoying jerk can earn someone a Knight Templar's wrath, whether they had a hidden heart or not.
It's important to note that despite being villainous within the context of the story, Knight Templars fully believe that they are on the side of righteousness and draw strength from it and that their opponents are not. Trying to reason with one isn't much good either, because many Knight Templar types believe that if you're not with them, you're against them. Invoking actual goodness and decency will have no effect, besides making Knight Templars hate you and demonize your cause as the work of the Devil. After all, they are certain that only their cause is noble, and anyone who stands in the way is at best a deluded fool who needs to be "cleansed", or at worst an evildoer who needs to die. And doing so is not even Dirty Business (except sometimes, for how much it makes them suffer, having to hand out all this justice). Indeed, it may take them a while to realize that a person with sense and good will really opposes them; the righteousness of their cause — and their own selves — is self-evident to them. One of the few ways to actually change a Knight Templar's mind is to kick their ass down to the ground. This is because most are convinced that Might Makes Right, and that since they are good they only kill the evil, so if you beat them but don't kill them, you are good too. They won't necessarily join you, but with a little luck their mild concussion will stop them fighting for long enough to listen to your side of the story, unless of course, they conclude they're still inherently superior and that you only beat them because you called upon the powers of darkness to cheat.
The Knight Templar is often the ultimate incarnation of Light Is Not Good, and in series where Dark Is Not Evil, you can count on this guy being the villain who believes that the "dark" characters are evil and must be destroyed (though a villain with powers of darkness can still be this if they believe themselves to be heroic). If a Knight Templar is not the antagonist of the story, expect to see What the Hell, Hero? and/or Not So Different come into play at least once. If not, then they are a Designated Hero. If they are still nominally good, expect them to be a Hero Antagonist.
Note that not all Knights Templar are explicitly evil from the beginning. Many an Anti-Hero will start by Paying Evil Unto Evil, and when they're not busting ass, are perfectly decent people. They may even overlook small fallacies and be classed on the good guy roster. These guys are often concerned that they run the risk of falling into He Who Fights Monsters and become this trope.
Many Knight Templars can be found in the ranks of the Corrupt Church, the Church Militant, or the Path of Inspiration: expect them to be screaming that they are Holier Than Thou and we should all "Burn The Heretic!" Even a Saintly Church can have one of these as a foil for the Good Shepherds. If the deity behind one of these churches is one of these, on the other hand, you've got problems — count on an Easy Road to Hell due to them being so impossibly strict that few (if any) of the mortals under them can live up to their standards of morality.
A Knight Templar in a fantasy setting is usually a Principles Zealot, religious or otherwise. In a modern or Sci-Fi setting, the Knight Templar is just as likely to be a Totalitarian Utilitarian instead. In either case, they're likely to be a bigot who hardly qualifies as noble, but might be troubled by their own Black and White Insanity. Sometimes, the Knight Templar is an artificially intelligent computer that took its instructions to "protect humanity" a bit too far. Prone to the Breaking Speech and/or Motive Rant about how the heroes going up against them are evil and they themselves the good guys.
Another thing to keep in mind is that while Knight Templars will insist that they're good guys, even the ones that are practically villains, they often aren't completely ignorant of the pain they cause; they simply consider it to be acceptable collateral damage, or regret the means they "must" use to achieve their ends. If the Knight Templar fails to see any wrong in their actions, then you're dealing with a variant known as the Tautological Templar, who is so convinced that they're doing the right thing that they can't even fathom the idea that anything they do might be questionable or hurting others. It can get to the point where their rebuttal to anyone that tries to call them out will basically amount to "My actions are good because I know I am good and can't possibly be bad, and furthermore, you oppose me because you're bad!"
Very prone to It's All About Me, thus, expect their pride on being the only righteous ones to bring them down. Many Templars are Lawful Neutral or Lawful Evil, but the most egomaniacal and self-centered ones are Neutral Evil (though they'll never admit it), and the Animal Wrongs Group version is Chaotic Evil.
See also Knight Templar Parent, Knight Templar Big Brother, and Lawful Evil. Those who will really do anything for their beliefs count among The Unfettered. A mild, comedic version is the Lord Error-Prone. Blind devotion to All Crimes Are Equal without the religious zealotry falls under Lawful Stupid.
Contrast with Card-Carrying Villain — a villain who is fully aware of their evil nature and proudly embraces it. A Knight Templar can become this if they have a Heel Realization and decide to keep being a villain anyway. Alternatively, they might turn Necessarily Evil. Compare and contrast with the Knight In Sour Armor, who is what happens when a Lawful Good character chooses to err on the side of Good instead of erring towards Law. Also contrast with Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist, who knows they are in the wrong but keep up the facade to manipulate others.
Compare/contrast Knight Errant. Contrast Good Is Not Nice for when a character is genuinely on the side of good but may rub other characters or the audience the wrong way. Not related to Blood Knight.
Not to be confused with Trope Namer The Knights Templar, who varied between fitting and defying this trope and were founded with the intention of protecting pilgrims. Due to the controversial nature of this trope, No Real Life Examples, Please!.
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- The leader of revolutionaries in Genesis' "The Knife", the overall message being that any revolution led by a Knight Templar will end in a dictatorship.
- The title character of "Exciter" by Judas Priest, where he employs a purge by fire version of the trope.
"I'm made of metal, my circuits gleamI am perpetual, I keep the country clean!"
- The mechanical camera from "Electric Eye", who takes a righteous enjoyment out of imposing morality on the populace via a Big Brother-like watch.
- Within Temptation's "The Truth Beneath the Rose" describes the point of view of a former Christian extremist seeing the error in his/her ways.
- Hammerfall are the incarnation of this trope. If a song isn't about literal Templars, it's about Lawful Good heroes deeply believing in Honour Before Reason.
- The song "Joan" by Heather Dale portrays Joan of Arc like this.
- In Jethro Tull's Thick As A Brick, a Knight Templar-esque character is one of the many Establishment figures critiqued and mocked.
"Your bread and water's going cold, your hair's too short and neat.I'll judge you all and make damn sure that no-one judges me!"
- The Order of Mata Nui from BIONICLE is a secret organization, and as such, they do not need to show morals (as nobody would judge their actions) and have no problems doing unethical things, like imprisoning many without giving them a chance at parole and experimenting on and modifying a species to use as soldiers against the Brotherhood of Makuta (although the race as a whole doesn't have a problem with the changes and continues to aid their mysterious benefactors). To be fair to them, they're Mata Nui's immune system and were specifically created with the intention of doing the deeds the Toa could not without being regarded with fear and suspicion by the rest of the universe.
"That's your problem, Lhikan, always following the rules. Always worrying about others. Did you ever think we could do more good if we stopped worrying so much about who might get hurt in the process?"
- Amongst Toa, Tuyet ended up becoming one of these over time. She eventually got to thinking that Toa could do much more good if they were willing to make "acceptable" sacrifices at times... which led to her murdering several Matoran to keep a special Amulet of Concentrated Awesome of hers a secret. This led to both Lhikan and Nidhiki (back when he still had morals) teaming up to defeat her and led to her imprisonment by the aforementioned Order.
- The main villains of Broken Saints, Lear and Gabriel, fall pretty firmly into this territory.