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"The most terrible thing in the world is that everyone has their reasons."

In some stories, the good guys are squeaky embodiments of shiny goodness that fight goateed stage magicians who cackle a lot. Then again, sometimes you have stories where your caped crusaders largely go up against the misguided and distraught. Other stories might have the pragmatic freedom fighters against a government who alternately sing orphans to sleep or murder their kittens. Still other stories have the world's mightiest, most murderous, most-pants-wettingest "heroes" you've ever seen against a guy who made entire worlds into slave-states for profit and kicks.

Then you have stories that don't fit into any category like this.

Rather than discrete groups or distinct moral systems, you have a sliding scale, and all groups and characters fall somewhere between "Hero" or "Good" at the furthest extreme and "Villain" or "Evil" at the other extreme. In most cases, the people closest toward the "Hero" end of the scale will be the main characters, but they're usually not perfect (and they can become even less perfect as time goes on). Their opponents fall further toward the "Villain" end of the scale, more often than not, with some that are so close to the Villain end that they don't really have any heroic qualities.

In short, none of the groups fit cleanly into the White-Gray-Black categorization, as all of them do things both good and evil with varying degrees of frequency. This generally makes for more dynamic stories, as you're never sure if the heroes will stay on the straight and narrow or villains will keep wreaking havoc.

See also Shades of Conflict. When you've got a specific group to which this trope applies, you've got a Four-Philosophy Ensemble. Compare The Good, the Bad, and the Evil along with Grey-and-Gray Morality. Contrast Evil Versus Evil, where nothing is good or even morally ambiguous about the characters. Also contrast Good Versus Good where nobody is truly evil.

Truth in Television: ANY large group of people will invariably have members of all moral and ethical stances.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Attack on Titan becomes this as the story develops, contrasting strongly with Eren Yeager's original view of the world as Black and White. The story fully explores the themes of He Who Fights Monsters, with heroes ranging from the idealistic to the pragmatic and villains that are complex individuals driven by understandable motivations.
  • The manga version of Chrono Crusade. Azmaria, Mary Magdalene and most of the members of the Magdalene Order are clearly heroes. Rosette's very heroic, but has a number of vices and character flaws that get the best of her; Chrono is kind and gentle but has a dark past (including formerly being one of the villains); and Satella is mostly concerned with her own goals but still shows empathy towards others. The Sinners, although being the main villains, are mostly in the gray, from Joshua (who is devoted to Aion because the demon horns on his head are making him lose his mind, but who has understandable and occasionally noble motives) to Shader (who hates violence and expresses remorse for her actions but goes along with Aion because she believes in his ideals) to Aion himself, who is a Well-Intentioned Extremist. The closest to the actual "villain" scale are the other demons, who are either beasts who take pleasure in attacking humans or soldiers sent to kill the Sinners and whoever gets in their way—but some of these are somewhat sympathetic, since many of them are simply aliens stranded on a strange planet who are struggling to survive and believe in a lie perpetuated for generations. The morality structure is explained by the mangaka as being inspired by the idea that people aren't born evil, but become evil through their selfishness.
  • Code Geass: There is one genuinely, unquestionably good person, Euphemia, (Shirley is debatable, because while she is certainly kind-hearted and sweet, she is only concerned about her own feelings and school life while all hell is breaking loose outside, so she can come across as somewhat self-centred). At the same time, there is one genuinely, unquestionably evil person, Luciano Bradley. Every other character falls somewhere in between, with most of the "good guys" being flawed and somewhat hypocritical, and most of the "bad guys" being either fiercely nationalistic or a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
    • Taken to extremes with the main character, who can be convincingly argued to fall under any moral alignment depending on the situation.
  • D.Gray-Man: Initially, the morality seemed very clear cut, with the Black Order and their Exorcists being "good", and the Millenium Earl and Noah being "evil". As the series continues though, it becomes hard to tell who outside of the main Exorcists are "good" and "evil".
    • The Black Order are shown to be morally bankrupt and will do anything if it means killing the Millenium Earl, including human experimentation, and end up branding Allen a heretic needed to be executed just because he possesses the Ghost Memory of the 14th Noah.
    • The thing everyone thinks is the Millenium Earl is a semi-sapient Fat Suit following its programming to destroy everything, while the actual Millenium Earl is a pair of twin brothers, Mana and Nea, the former being a mentally ill man trapped inside and being tortured by the suit who doesn't want to be the Millenium Earl, and the latter stuck inside Allen's head trying to take over his body and wants to be the Millenium Earl so he can destroy everything.
    • The Noah don't actually work for the Earl, rather they're using him to destroy the world as revenge for the old world/their world being destroyed, and even then it's clear not all of them want to do it but their Ghost Memory is making them do so, Road in particular working alongside Cross Marian to try and help Mana not become the Millenium Earl again, and Road and Tyki both coming to protect Allen despite him housing the 14th, who should be their mortal enemy for interfering with their plans.
    • Then there's the "third side of the war" Apocryphos, a living Innocence trying to absorb Allen due to him being the chosen wielder of the Heart of Innocence, and has been trying to ruin his life for years to make that happen, even being the one responsible for Mana getting trapped as the Millenium Earl in a bid to get Allen.
    • As a result, a fourth side of the war would be born, the most unambiguously good side of them all, desiring to uncover the "truth" behind the war itself: Allen's side. Consisting of Allen himself, Kanda, Johnny, Link, and Tiedoll, unofficially being assisted by Lenalee, Marie, Tyki, and Road, they all share the goal of helping Allen, unlocking the mysteries surrounding his past, and finding the "truth" hidden within the war.
  • Date A Live: Characters range from idealistic heroes (Shido and his allies), the cynical but well-intentioned (Origami and the AST), Anti-Villains (Kurumi) and the supremely evil (Westcott).
  • Death Note has a pretty wide variety of character morality-wise, and who is truly good and truly evil is often discussed by the characters and a major plot point. Some of the characters do mostly good things for selfish motivations while others do terrible things with noble purposes in mind. Pretty much any character that declares themselves completely good is portrayed as misguided or near psychotic and good luck trying to establish with any certainty who are the anti-heroes and who the anti-villains, towards the end of the story the triumphant character even makes a reflection about the subjective nature of good and evil.
  • Dragon Ball where many of the protagonists are former villains who change sides after meeting Goku.
    • Dragon Ball Z takes this further. Many characters (such as Piccolo, Vegeta, and Android 18) start out as evil and never truly become good (at least compared to the villains that they and the other protagonists fight), but they are still accepted as allies of the characters who are actually good. Characters like Goku seem to have no problem associating with them, so long as their actions don't threaten anyone. And then of course there are the irredeemable villains like Frieza and Cell.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Elric brothers and Winry are the most purely heroic characters; the heroes from the State Military are more gray, being former war criminals who want to atone for their sins; Greed and Scar are fairly sympathetic antagonists until they become Anti Heroes; there's Barry the Chopper who is the Token Evil Teammate for the State Military heroes- he's clearly Evil; finally, the other villain characters are definitely very far down toward the evil extreme of the scale (Shou Tucker and "Dr Goldtooth"). And even one of the worst villains is spared. Then of course we get Kimblee.
  • Gantz has this, as the hunters are very different in terms of morality, ranging from an Ideal Hero like Katou to a Sociopathic Hero like Nishi. The same applies to the aliens, as they are pacific (until attacked) in the early missions, but more hostile kinds of aliens appeared later on.
  • In I'm the Evil Lord of an Intergalactic Empire!, the protagonist Liam is surrounded by objectively good people, but he thinks himself a "villain" because his actions would be scandalous by the standards of the Japan he grew up with but are actually incredibly virtuous by the standards of the universe he reincarnated in. His underlings are varying degrees of vindictive and bloodthirsty, though justified in their rage by their past experiences, with the occasional spattering of level-headed people. The antagonists range from simple jerks, to omnicidal madmen, and the Big Bad is biologically compelled to drive people to despair for his amusement as good and wholesome emotions, like genuine gratitude, hurt and might even kill him!
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans has a very complicated morality situation. While there are some unambiguously good characters in the series (like Kudelia and Atra) most of the other characters are all over the place, given how our protagonists are essentially amoral mercenaries, their allies include shady but down-to-Earth gangsters like Naze Turbine, while our antagonists range from Punch Clock Villains and Anti Villains like Gaelio and Ein to power hungry schemers like Nobliss Gordon, Rustal Elion and Jasley Donomikols. And in the very middle we have McGillis Fareed, who may be an Anti-Hero or Anti-Villain depending on your view.
  • One Piece is a huge example of this. The protagonists are morally ambiguous pirates that are motivated by self-interest and personal goals rather than any abstract moral considerations, but tend to do good anyway by defeating more evil pirates (or marines) that happened to do something to offend them. Other pirates can be anything from Chaotic Good adventurers to selfish Jerkasses. Likewise Marines can be anything from legitimate heroes to guys who just want a check to well-meaning radicals to literal state-sponsored terrorists. One Piece characters have all kinds of varying motivations and alignments - it very much depends on the individual person rather than what group they belong to.
  • PandoraHearts is all over the place. This trope becomes most distinct after it's revealed that Jack isn't the squeaky-clean hero everyone believed him to be but rather a Tragic Villain driven to insanity by his love for Lacie. Furthermore, Oswald/Glen isn't the Manipulative Bastard Big Bad he's been portrayed as but an endearingly socially awkward Well-Intentioned Extremist who hasn't handled being betrayed one too many times by those close to him so well. And that's only two of the characters.
  • Despite being the protagonists of the show (as well as priestesses), the Sybillae of Simoun have moralities that are all over the range. On one end, you have the innocent Limone and the truly and actively good Rodoreamon, Yun, and Morinas. Then there are the more ambiguous Paraietta, Mamiina, and Dominura, and the self-absorbed and venal Floe. The romantic leads Aaeru and Neviril and the nations of Argentum and Plumbum are a little hard to place, while the Defense Minister of Simulacrum is decidedly at the bottom of the proverbial drain.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V eventually divulges into this when the Myth Arc interdimensional war was revealed. Sort by factions and individual characters, we have: White (the You Show Duel School, Yuya, Yuzu and Gongenzaka) vs. Lighter Grey (Yuto plus Selena) vs. Darker Gray (the Big Good LDS, Kurosaki and Yuya's Berserker mode for kicking only Asshole Victims) vs. Black (the heartless Academia). Yugo at first was a big question mark, but turns out to be White, and the Synchro Dimension is mostly Dark Grey with a few lighter exceptions. Sora seems to go from Dark Gray to Black with a few Pet the Dog moments, before beginning a Heel–Face Turn due to a Heel Realization. Unusual for a YGO franchise because it focuses on a lot more characters at the same time than its predecessors, allowing for more shades of conflict during one arc. More amazingly, the anime has a change in genre and in morality within only about 30 episodes, impressive for a Shonen series.
    • There's also some work put into showing how characters who do evil things think and why they do what they do. Sora and Dennis both have a lot of humanizing traits. Serena shows the mentality that leads people to becoming Black, since she wanted to be a soldier until she stopped to consider that her victims might be innocent. Sora suffers from a bad case of Fantastic Racism, but is shown to have grown up with no friends, trained not to ask questions and obey orders unquestioningly, and starts thinking for himself and avoiding commands once he makes real friends for the first time in his life, and begins to have a Heel Realization. In fact, all the characters from Academia are either Trapped in Villainy which leads them to despair and Then Let Me Be Evil, or see themselves as Proud Warrior Race Guys with Undying Loyalty to their leader, even the nastier characters like Yuri. Speaking of Yuri, it becomes clear that his twisted personality is a result of being raised as a monster by a man who, due to preconceived notions, saw him as a "demon" and rewarded him for doing evil, which was the only time someone paid personal attention to him. Kurosaki is a genocide survivor and a Shell-Shocked Veteran trying to rescue his friends and family, who has become paranoid and ruthless due to all he's lost. Reiji's invasion of privacy and ruthlessness has saved the lives of the three LID students and enabled him to ensure that his dimension isn't caught by surprise and destroyed the same way the Xyz dimension was. Duel Chaser 227 became a Dirty Cop in order to avoid poverty. Most of the Tops actually believe the lie that they are equals and friends with the Commons, when they're actually the oppressive ruling class in a Crapsack World. The Commons are starving and manipulated by their oppressors Bread and Circuses, but while the crowd can be nasty every individual member that we meet is genuinely nice or has a Hidden Heart of Gold somewhere. Shinji truly believes the only way to change the system is through a violent revolution and his rebellion gets swallowed by Black-and-White Insanity, but ultimately pulls a mass Heel–Face Turn. Jean-Michel Roget is just a greedy bastard, although he tries to justify his actions to himself by claiming Might Makes Right. Kaito is in the same boat as Kurosaki, except every member of his family was killed, whereas Kurosaki still had his sister, and Kaito thus pushed everyone away to avoid being hurt- causing him to become He Who Fights Monsters even more than Kurosaki. Edo feels Trapped in Villainy, and once he finally breaks out of it he manages to abuse the aforementioned Undying Loyalty of the Academia soldiers to convince his subordinates to get the soldiers in Heartland to pull a mass Heel–Face Turn. Leo Akaba doesn't think that anything in the four dimensions really "counts" and just wants to get his daughter back, but he goes far beyond Well-Intentioned Extremist, fucks up royally in the process, and refuses to listen to any perspective but his own. Even Zarc was pushed to the edge by his need to fulfill the sick desires of his fans, as well as the implications that he had ability to understand the pain of duel spirits when everyone was forcing them into battle.

  • Neil Gaiman's The Sandman (1989) was notable for dealing in multiple stories with highly gray, conflicted and deeply disturbed characters who are across the morality spectrum. Gaiman was also quite wary about invoking Karmic Death and Laser-Guided Karma and as such a number of individuals who do bad, evil, and horrible things end up surviving and going unpunished. The protagonist, Dream of the Endless, is a primordial concept who has Blue-and-Orange Morality and a Code of Honour but he's also prone to jealous acts of cruelty, Disproportionate Retribution and much of his story-arc is about learning some humility. Most of his family are of a similar nature. The most likable, sane and "normal" of his family are Death and Destruction.
  • Watchmen demonstrates this trope. Each of the major characters is based around a different system of morality, and the conflict between these different moral outlooks drives much of the story.
  • Within the X-Men, Xavier, Cyclops, Wolverine and Cable all have different ideas about when its right to cross certain lines. To say nothing of when people like the White Queen or Magneto himself join the group. There are the outright villains like Apocalypse and Mister Sinister or the Sentinels, but much of the drama of the stories' most famous arcs deals with internal divisions and inner conflict, most painfully during the The Dark Phoenix Saga where the X-Men, the Shi'ar Imperium, and Jean Grey have differing and believable reasons and arguments, and the only resolution is tragedy.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge, a crossover between My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and Godzilla has characters from all over the spectrum. From the shiny white Mane 6 and Princesses, to the pitch black Omnicidal Maniacs who revel in destruction. Among the heroes' allies are the incredibly destructive but noble Kaiju. Among the villains' forces are the Dark Hunters, who are also capable of heroism and decency when not working for the bad guy.
  • The Butcher Bird: Inheriting the One Piece world's kitchen sink, with the Villain Protagonist main crew often facing far worse people while still being contrasted with both the Knight Templar Marines and the legitimately good ones in said organization, as well as the Straw Hats themselves.
  • Code Prime: In order from Whitest to Blackest.
    • White: The Autobots are White, being a race of freedom fighters who are The Fettered and devoted to protecting all other beings in the universe.
    • Near-White: The Black Knights and Lelouch are slightly greyer than the Autobots (being willing to use people like Diethard, but still have genuinely good motives and fairly high standards).
    • Light Grey: Suzaku occupies a lighter shade of gray in the conflict, having genuinely good motivations and goals but performing quite a few semi-villainous actions to achieve them.
    • Neutral Grey: Occupying the grey area would be the various innocent civilians on both sides, who want nothing to do with the conflict but are apathetic to the causes of the fighting.
    • Dark Grey: Charles, Marianne, and V.V. are slightly worse than Suzaku, having understandable motivations but having both goals and actions that are far from ideal.
    • Near-Black: The Britannian Military is made up of Imperialistic Conquerors but they still have families, loved ones, and respectable ideals and morals.
    • Black: The Decepticons are unambiguous villains, with only the occasional Noble Demon.
    • Blue and Orange: Mao.
  • Stormwolf Adventures has multiple factions, who are from morally white to morally black:
    • White: Stormwolf, defenders of free will and the main protagonists. They only get violent with really bad criminals. Half of them are abuse survivors who want nobody to suffer the same fate.
    • Light Gray: Resistance, who are also freedom fighters and sometimes ally with Stormwolf. They are more violent though.
    • Gray: Scavenger Army, then Rey by herself. She is driven by revenge and wants to atone for what the Dark One made her do through an imprint, can be brutal to enemies, but she has a very good reason to want revenge and doesn't attack innocents.
    • Fanatical: Starfleet is the army of a Police State. Some of them are true heroes, but others believe all enemies are evil and must be destroyed, and their leader saves worlds from existing threats so he can rule over them himself.
    • Dark Gray: The Children of Oda Nobunaga want to see Japan unified and bring Oda back to life... and will do anything to do so. Similarly, the Revisionists want to change history to prevent tragedies from happening and don't care about the consequences.
    • Dark: Emperor Palpatine is a tyrant who wants to manipulate, corrupt and conquer everything. He is petty, a toxic influence to the protagonists and his followers are true villains themselves. However, he sees himself as Necessarily Evil to stop...
    • Black: The Black Legion are the true villains of the story. They are also tyrants like Palpatine who use worlds like factory farms, a lot of members eat people, all of them are misanthropes and they all worship their leader, the Dark One, as if he is a god. Said leader isn't just a tyrant who corrupts people, but he is behind some of the imprints which force innocent people to be obsessed with abusers with no means of escape.

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

  • Pony POV Series: You've got flawed heroes who, while good, are not perfect (not even Celestia), the Draconequi who have a form of Blue-and-Orange Morality, and range from Chaotic Good to Chaotic Neutral, the Alicorns, who are Lawful Good but some members are willing to sacrifice the needs of the few for the needs of the many (for the most part), and Discord's pitch black morality.
  • Spectrum, being an Anti-TCB deconstructionist story, falls squarely in the camp of "Conversion is bad and wrong" in its portrayal of the central conflict, factions and characters may range from one end of the spectrum to the other.
    • True to the source material, Equestria's Royal Family and the Element Bearers are presented as the most unambiguously "good" characters. Some form of realistic consequences, though, in how obviously out of their depth the Element Bearers and Lyra are in the face of a global conflict. As such, expecting the show's heroes to solve the crisis on their own is never even suggested – instead, Princess Celestia chooses to call on international support. Not all of the Equestrians are inclined to side with humanity, as shown with Catseye and Icewind. And while Princess Luna and Prince Blueblood are on the side of good, both are still shown to carry around a lot of emotional baggage. The closest thing to a straight up Messianic Archetype is Princess Cadance.
    • The people of Equus who gather at the Concordia are morally all over the place, but more guided as a rule by personal interest than by altruism, with the noteworthy exception of the Reindeer and Minotaurs. Both the griffons and Kirin have mercenary tendencies – literally for the former, whose representative is a throne claimant in search of legitimacy, while the Kirin are an aloof Proud Merchant Race. As represented by Princess Ember, the dragons are capable of diplomacy, yet even the "nice" Ember treats raiding as just a way of life. Finally there are the Changelings, who are led by the despotic Queen Chrysalis, but include good and honorable drones in their ranks.
    • While humanity is unjustly beset by the threat of annihilation and fighting for its right to live, individual people respond to the dire situation in a variety of ways, prone to the same failings as before the Conversion War. As an alliance of human nations, UNAC is the main force for good on Earth, yet it's hinted the old power divides subsist, even after half the West has been consumed by the Barrier. Operating outside governmental oversight are various militias who identify as HLF, who are largely benign yet often substitute being government stooges for corporate stooges, and whose image is tainted by a highly-visible minority of xenophobic fanatics.
    • The PHL were founded by Ambassador Heartstrings as a humanitarian organization and to promote harmonious co-operation between Earth and Equus. Over time, however, especially following the Ambassador's death, its paramilitary branch has grown in size and influence, to the point the PHL's detractors claim it has gained too much traction as a minor N.G.O. Superpower and is neglecting the search for a potential counter-agent to Conversion. Incidents such as the towns of Nipville and Defiance paint the PHL in an overly gung-ho light which it tries to keep hushed up. Nevertheless, the PHL retains a strong core of true, if jaded believers in the cause of harmony with humanity.
    • Furthermore, the Solar Empire is an expansionist super-power guilty of xenocide... Yet the story never lets the readers forget that, at the end of the day, these are still the Equestrians from the show, only twisted fifteen years later by external circumstances that include the toll of war and Mind Control. The Co-Harmony Sphere is essentially an alternate incarnation of where Equestria's enterprise of world-wide harmony could lead if taken over by an equine-supremacist ideology. Many individual characters on the side of Imperial Equestria are depicted sympathetically, giving back their loyalty to what they perceive as a nation that has been loyal to them.
    • And lastly there is the Storm King. Although of no great concern to humans, since his influence is not felt on Earth, everyone on Equus speaks of him as a threat to be either opposed or appeased. Equusites aligned with the Solar Empire and Co-Harmony Sphere cite their desire for protection against him. Considering the good standard of living within Imperial Equestria and the affable nature of many Imperial-aligned Equusites, if it weren't for the Conversion of humankind, the argument could easily be made for the Solar Empire representing the lesser evil when placed next to the Storm King.


  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines has a lot of the moral spectrum represented, notably between Ash Ketchum and many other characters who are implied to be his half-siblings.

A Song of Ice and Fire

  • My Father's Son: Every person has their own ways of acting, and every lord and soldier has their own codes of conduct to achieve their ends. While people like Rhaegar and Rhaella are more toward the White side, their own impotence in the face of more forceful personalities sometimes drags them down from being true paragons. Others like Tywin and Doran are in the dark grey: ruthless and cynical, but understand how politics work pretty well, and still care for their own. Even the god of death is spiteful, but also is carrying out his grandfather's wishes as a Freudian Excuse. Of course, there's also the truly repugnant like those Euron leads around.

Sonic the Hedgehog

  • Prison Island Break takes place in a prison, and almost all the characters are morally dubious criminals, including those Sonic allies himself with. The most obvious exception is Big Bad Mephiles.

Star Wars

  • Star Wars: The One Canon: Luke and Leia are idealists, dreaming of a better tomorrow. Wedge Antilles is a good man, but is also ruthless with his enemies in times of war. Thrawn and Pellaeon fight for a tyrannical regime, but have redeeming characteristics. Emperor Palpatine is power hungry and amoral.
  • Tarkin's Fist features a wide cast of characters with varying approaches to morality. From the white-leaning Jason and Ashla, who want simply for the fighting to stop, to the light gray SF-4738 and Corporal Justin Mallory, who want to keep their comrades alive at any cost while being absolutely lethal to the enemy on the battlefield, to the pitch black of Major Eritech, who wants simply to annihilate the new Empire for its treason against Palpatine, and cares not if Earth is destroyed in the process. The new Empire starts off as an amoral dictatorship before undergoing democratic reform while the Earth slides toward out and out fascism.

Total Drama

Warhammer 40,000

  • In The Roboutian Heresy Primarchs can be divided into several sections based upon their morality.
    • White: Angron.
    • Near-white: Sanguinius, Magnus, Konrad Curze.
    • Light gray: Perturabo, Horus, Jagathai Khan.
    • Neutral gray: Lorgar, Roboute Guilliman, Fulgrim.
    • Dark gray: Mortarion, Alpharius Omegon, Lion El'Johnson, Leman Russ.
    • Near-black: Rogal Dorn, Ferrus Manus.
    • Black: Corvus Corax, Vulkan.

    Film — Animated 
  • Amazingly, a few Disney movies have this morality scale:
    • Frozen makes use of this as part of a Genre Deconstruction of the typical Disney fairytale. The only true heroic characters are Princess Anna of Arendelle (who, as a Deconstruction of the typical Disney heroine, suffers a few Wrong Genre Savvy moments), Kristoff (who's gruff and standoffish, but turns out to be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold) and Olaf (as a living symbol of the bond between the two sisters). Queen Elsa, a Deconstruction for the Evil Queen archetype, is a Dark Magical Girl of Mass Destruction who can create sentient life and declares herself Above Good and Evil. But she soon suffers a severe case of Power Incontinence that plunges her country in an Endless Winter that she eventually learns how to lift and has one Trauma Conga Line after the next. Anna and Elsa's parents, serving as a deconstruction for the typical Missing Parent, are just regular people who are Unwitting Instigators Of Doom by isolating Elsa (and Anna) from the rest of the world for so many years. The trolls, despite their best intentions, are rather vague on their instructions and caused the above misunderstanding on the part of the Arendelle royal family. The Duke of Weselton is a Not-So-Harmless Villain who is very egocentric but he is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to save Arendelle from the winter Elsa cast (if only for selfish reasons). And then there's the Deconstruction of Prince Charming, Prince Hans who is a manipulative would-be usurper but has a Freudian Excuse.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame, despite (or perharps because of) its Disneyfication from the source material, which ran on Black-and-Gray Morality. Quasimodo and the Archdeacon are the purest characters in the movie (and even the former has several Let's Get Dangerous! moments). Esmeralda is decent but in a Knight in Sour Armor way. Clopin comes across Unscrupulous Heroes and the circumstances do explain his harsh approach towards outsiders. Phoebus is a Pragmatic Hero in sour armor who questions his orders and choices. Even Judge Frollo, for all his nastiness, sociopathy and monstrosity, is given a very humane and relatable moment in his Villain Song "Hellfire."
    • Zootopia, as a film exploring prejudice, shows varying degrees of prejudice among characters: Judy tries to be anti-prejudice but has some implicit prejudices of her own she needs to overcome. Nick lives up to the "sly fox" stereotype and is cynical about animals' abilities to overcome them because he tried and failed to in his backstory, but eventually does, thanks to Judy. Bogo is unwilling to budge on his preconceived notions until he sees results, at which point he does so unapologetically. Clawhauser is not malicious in any way but still stereotypes Judy out of innocent ignorance and then immediately apologizes for it. Judy's parents are kind, well-meaning people, who are openly prejudiced against predators, especially foxes but get better thanks to Judy. Gideon Gray is shown as a kid attempting to reinforce predator superiority but has grown out of it as a young adult. Lionheart leads a type of affirmative action program to get animals into non-traditional jobs but treats his own small animal assistant mayor like dirt and was willing to kidnap several animals to protect himself from being a victim of prejudice. Bellwether is sweet and friendly, attempting to raise Judy up while trying behind the scenes to systematically tear all predators down, and willing to turn against Judy when she refuses to do the same. And Gazelle has reached a level of enlightenment few can.

    Film — Live-Action 

  • 1632: The heroes range from almost pure heroism to rather questionable, the antagonists range from evil to people who could be heroic under slightly different circumstances and/or are just victims of Values Dissonance.
  • Artemis Fowl is pretty much this for the first few books then leaning towards Black-and-Gray Morality towards the End. The Kitchen Sinkers are mostly Artemis (even towards the end) and the Fairy Counsel. The villains are pretty much black morality after book one. That is if you don't count Artemis.
  • The Asterisk War: Only the protagonists and Sylvia are in the White area of morality. Several characters like Claudia are willing to use underhanded means to achieve noble goals. Others like Irene and Orphelia used to be good people until they were forced into villainy by circumstances beyond their control. The integrated enterprise foundations are six power-hungry Mega Corps that keep entire countries in poverty simply because it's profitable to them.
  • The Beginning After the End: The main conflict of the novel focuses on the Divine Conflict between the asuras of Epheotus and the exiled Vritra Clan, with both sides pitting the continents of Dicathen and Alacrya against each other in a Proxy War to the main conflict. However, as the novel goes on, the morality of much of the involved parties becomes a lot more complicated.
    • The Dicathians, given how the continent is the homeland of the main protagonist and his family, are presented as the good guys which they mostly are. However, they exhibit their fair share of corrupt individuals, mostly among the noble houses. In the leadup to the Alacryan invasion, it is revealed that the dwarven kingdom of Darv, one of the three kingdoms of Dicathen, has been heavily compromised by the Alacryan spy network and most of its leadership (barring Buhnd and House Earthborn) are willing Les Collaborateurs. Following the Alacryan conquest of Dicathen, a sizeable amount of Dicathian noble houses immediately become Les Collaborateurs to their new overlords with Arthur being forced to deal with them during the retaking of Xyrus.
      Arthur: This war won't be over when the last Alacryan leaves these shores. We have too many enemies who were born here and call themselves Dicathians.
      Jasmine: Even continents have to exorcise their demons, I suppose.
    • The Alacryans on the other hand, are the Servant Race to the Vritra and thus come off as Always Chaotic Evil like their masters (with the apparent exception of the defector Cynthia Goodsky). Then comes the Wham Episode that is Volume 8, in which Arthur ends up living among the Alacryans following the end of the war and comes to realize that they have been as much victims of the Divine Conflict as the Dicathians which further alters his perspective on the war. Once Arthur returns from Alacrya to retake Dicathen, he begins showing mercy to the occupying Alacryans which inspires some to defect. In addition, a rebellion against the Vritra on Alacryan soil is instigated by Seris, who had been supporting Arthur the whole time, and she and her supporters later flee to Dicathen and link up with the enclave of Alacryan defectors there. In contrast to their Alacryan servants, the Vritra are unambiguously evil.
    • The asuras of Epheotus come off as Aloof Allies at first given their relatively hands-off approach in supporting the Dicathians. Come the aforementioned Volume 8, and it is revealed that God and Satan Are Both Jerks with the Indrath Clan, the rulers of the asuras, turning out to be a faction of genocidal Knight Templars who have no regard for the lives of the lessers. On top of that, they caused the Vritra's Start of Darkness when they exiled them for threatening to expose their crimes. From that point onward, the asuras become a mix of mostly Black-and-Grey Morality, with some having a borderline Humans Are Insects attitude towards the lessers and others being somewhat decent individuals who are misguidedly following the Indrath. However, there are a few among the asuras who are truly benevolent, such as Arthur's deceased Parental Substitute Sylvia and her daughter and Arthur's bond Sylvie (which is rather ironic considering both are from the aforementioned Indrath with Sylvie also being part-Vritra as her father is the Big Bad).
    • From Volume 10 onward, the morality of the war shifts between Arthur and his allies (the Dicathians, Seris's faction of Alacryan rebels, and even a few asuras, being the grey), the Vritra Clan and their servants (the Alacryans and a few Dicathian Les Collaborateurs, being unambiguously evil), and the Indrath Clan and the rest of the asuras (a mix between black and grey with the Indrath being unambiguously evil albeit A Lighter Shade of Black when compared to the Vritra). Complicating matters is that Arthur reluctantly pulls an Enemy Mine with the Indrath against the Vritra with both sides knowing that once the Vritra are dealt with they will turn against each another.
    • Really, there are only a few individuals who can be considered unambiguously good. These include Arthur and his family, Sylvia and Sylvie, and a good majority of the Dicathians. While Arthur is meant to be the Big Good, he is a case of Good Is Not Nice and Not Soft, as he can be ruthless should the situation call for it. Howver, he is still a rather decent individual who wishes to amend his mistakes from both his past life and in his current one, and his enemies tend to be far more vile and reprehensible individuals.
  • The Chathrand Voyages: There are so many plots and counter-plots going on that this is bound to happen. The three heroes need to constantly reassess who they can trust depending on which evil plot they're fighting at the moment.
  • Chillin' in Another World with Level 2 Super Cheat Powers: Broadly, the opposing factions are the human races and the demonic races, defined by whether they produce malicium or not. Both sides have people of all sorts where there are bad rulers and tyrants like King Klyrode for the humans and Yuigarde for the demons, far better rulers like the First Princess for the humans and Gholl for the demons, their subordinates who are good, evil, and everywhere in-between, ranging from only fighting each other out of duty to wanting to continue the fight out of sheer hatred for the opposing side.
  • In Chung Kuo, there are some very upstanding characters on both sides, who rub shoulders with pure villains.
  • The Cosmere:
    • Elantris. Furthest toward the Hero end, you have Sarene, who's upstanding but can be a little deceptive. A little further away from the Hero end, you've got Raoden, who resorts to some practical tactics. On a good deal toward the Villain side, you have Hrathen, but he shifts further toward Hero before the story is done with. All the way down at the Villain end, you have Dilaf.
    • Also the case in his Mistborn trilogy, with Elend, Vin, Sazed, Ham, etc. on one end, characters such as Kelsier, Dockson, Breeze, Cett, Rashek, and Yomen falling somewhere in the middle, and Ruin as an almost irredeemable force for evil.
    • The Stormlight Archive is practically a case study of this trope. On one end of the scale, there are the Radiants, who are all trying very hard to do the right thing at every turn, but who often disagree on just what the right thing is - they are all on board with protecting the innocent, but each order of Radiants has its own ideas of just who needs the most protecting and how to go about it - and who are also very capable of making mistakes, especially since each one is in some way "broken." On the other we have Odium, the embodiment of God's passion and rage without any of God's gentler virtues to temper it, and thus horrendously evil by most definitions - but nonetheless someone who can honestly claim that without him and what he represents, humans would be incapable of being human. In between the two, we have an entire Crapsack World full of people who aren't evil, per se, and who might if pressed on the subject admit that they'd like to be good, but who nevertheless feel like they have to look after themselves by whatever underhanded means are available because everyone else is doing it and trying to have morals just turns you into a Doomed Moral Victor. And then there's the listeners / parshendi, who looks an awful lot like someone's Legion of Doom but who are in fact the original inhabitants of Roshar who were invaded and ultimately enslaved by the humans, meaning that they are pretty much in a position to wage a Guilt-Free Extermination War on the humans, something that many of the heroes openly acknowledge while still having no intention of letting their people get exterminated. Add to that at least two factions who both think that Utopia Justifies the Means, and one who thinks that the human conscience is inherently flawed and that following a pre-existing code of conduct with psychotic strictness is the only morally permissible option. Yeah, if Sanderson hasn't represented every imaginable shade of morality in this series, it certainly isn't for lack of trying!
  • Daniel Suarez' Daemon and its sequel FreedomTM. Apart from Roy Merritt, who earns immortalisation as a genuine embodiment of justice, the reader's perceptions of who the good guys and bad guys are is constantly changing.
  • The Dresden Files: At the furthest extreme of the Hero end we have Michael Carpenter, the Fist of God, who only fights monsters, has a grand total of one recorded instance of swearing in the series proper (which was in a side story), and is all around about as wholesome as a person can be. Slightly away from the good extreme would be the majority of the series other heroes e.g. Harry Dresden, he's a generally upstanding guy with a massive case of Chronic Hero Syndrome, but isn't above a bit of pragmatism if it's necessary. More towards the middle of the scale is The White Council which is made up of plenty of Knight Templar Jerkasses, but has methods which are shown to oftentimes be necessary. The main representative of dark grey is John Marcone, who is a ruthless crime boss, but ends up joining forces with Dresden more often than opposing him and will not tolerate any violence against children. And when it comes to his usual criminal activities, he believes, as characters of his type often do, that crime's going to exist no matter what, and it's better than it be controlled by someone like him than descend into every-gang-for-itself warfare. As for the monsters of the setting, we have any one the supernatural villains, e.g. the Skinwalker, a terrifying and sadistic monster whose true form's mere sight is enough to send Harry into a Heroic BSoD. To top it off, we even have Blue-and-Orange Morality in the form of the fae, whose Winter Court guards the universe against monsters from Outside, who don't enter reality so much as parasitize it, and whose Summer Court protects the universe from the Winter Court. On top of that, we find that Winter has the ability to be logical and stay its hand when it's best to in the long term, while Summer is more prone to going off half-cocked (and when a fae as powerful as the leaders of the courts does that, we can be talking armageddon.)
  • Harry Potter is somewhere between this and Black-and-Gray Morality. The Death Eaters are pretty consistently on the black side, but the protagonists can vary from saints to assholes.
  • In David Weber and Linda Evans' Hell's Gate series both Sharonans and Aracans are a hodgepodge of good, bad and in between, although Arcana in general has many factions with different goals (some gravitating towards the morality scale extremes), while Sharona is more unified and thus more uniformly (a lighter shade of) grey.
  • Horus Heresy has their characters all over the map. On one side, there's Sanguinus, the Messianic Archetype of the piece, with Vulkan and Loken not too far behind, as both have blind spots in their consciences. Closer to gray, there's most of the "good"-aligned characters and some villains, like Noble Demon Magnus, who all have good intentions but a healthy dose of pragmatism. Some loyalists, such as shockingly brutal, but undyingly loyal Azaellon are in the deeper grays along with most of the traitors, including Horus himself, while series' resident Hate Sink Erebus occupies the deepest black. And then there's the Emperor, with whose morality your guess is as good as ours, and Chaos Gods, who run on Blue and Orange.
  • Present in Madeleine L'Engle's A House Like a Lotus, with the addition that even one person is never completely good or evil. It basically boils down to "people are complicated."
  • Les Misérables is also a book with tons of characters that are, morally, all over the map. The character who does believe in Black-and-White Morality, Inspector Javert, is no worse than Lawful Neutral but believes with all his might that Law = Good and anyone who breaks the law is evil forever. In this light, he continually tries to arrest Jean Valjean, a petty crook who skipped parole but did a Heel–Face Turn and made good. When Valjean's selfless virtue finally proves Javert's mindset wrong, the resulting cognitive dissonance makes him throw himself off a bridge.
  • J.R.R Tolkien's Middle-Earth, especially in The Silmarillion. On the heroic side of things you have most of the more noble characters like Frodo, Eärendil and Beren (though, even they aren't immune from making mistakes and moral lapses) and most of the Valar who always mean well but often make misguided choices. All the free peoples vary greatly, with morally ambigous characters like Thingol, Malgor, Túrin, Mîm, Fëanor, Gollum, and Thorin hovering in the middle and with Morgoth and his directly corrupted minons at the evil extreme. However, the moral compass of the series varies between each story, with The Lord of the Rings mostly (though not completely) revolving around Black-and-White Morality while Black And Gray dominates The Children of Húrin and The Hobbit (with shades of Grey-and-Gray Morality in both).
  • Överenskommelser by Simona Ahrnstedt covers the entire scale of morality. White morality is represented by Beatrice (a good but still flawed Ditzy Genius) and Sofia and Johan (who are close to being flawless). Grey morality is represented by Seth (a Jerk with a Heart of Gold), Jacques (Seth's equally morally ambiguous friend) and Vivienne (a Good Bad Girl). Black morality is represented by the three (!) abusive misogynistic villains.
    • Betvingade has a similar set-up. White morality is represented by Illiana and a few minor characters. Grey morality is represented by Markus and his friend Stellan. Black morality is represented by most of Illiana's family members, and by Roland Birgersson (a sociopathic murderer).
  • Justified in the Realm of the Elderlings series. The Six Duchies folk, the Bingtowners, and the Outislanders all have very different standards of morality, depending on their previous histories, and even those groups are not morally homogenous, with each individual character bringing their own reasons and morals to the story.
  • The Riddle Master Trilogy: Morality ranges from Actual Pacifist Morgon though even he spends most of the second book hunting someone down with express intent to kill them, pragmatic but still very good-aligned Raederle, very grey Deth, whose actions verge on Necessarily Evil sometimes but whose intentions are good, pretty damn awful Ghistelwhchlohm, who is the type to Mind Rape someone for a year to get a piece of information, and the shape-changers, who verge on Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • Salvos has pretty much every flavor of morality possible, with the protagonist being a Noble Demon so noble, she's an Ideal Hero since her idea of "virtue" is close enough to humanity's and the reader's idea of virtue that she can easily just fake it and she's a legit champion of the downtrodden and oppressed, even her first act of fame was bringing down a greater demon on an omnicidal rampage with the backing of just two people, despite every single one of them being less than half its level, saving countless thousands of innocents. Humanity is a mixed bag from the most righteous like the Sanctum of the Elements and The Valiant Dreamers adventurer's company, to the utterly despicable Harried Vindicators assassins who will not stop until they've completed their contract, and will do any vile thing they have to in order to carry it out, even threatening helpless children. And other races aren't exempt either. We've got noble kobolds who want to reconcile with Humanity after thousands of years of senseless bloodshed to stop The End of the World as We Know It, while another faction of kobolds are fanatical fundamentalists that genuinely believe that exterminating every last man, woman, and child, heretic, heathen, and pagan is absolutely necessary to call back the Old Gods to fix the world for them, and will do anything to carry out the goal, even going around exterminating entire villages to try and provoke total war.
  • Given that A Song of Ice and Fire has a huge cast and no clear heroes or villains, it's no surprise that the morality spectrum comes in about a thousand shades of gray. You've got extremely honorable, well-meaning people like Ned Stark and Brienne of Tarth, bastards like Gregor Clegane and Ramsay Bolton, and more Anti-Heroes and Anti-Villains than can be listed. Among the "anti-"s, fans can't even agree which ones of them are anti-heroes and which are anti-villains. It's largely a matter of perspective.
  • The Whateley Universe does this in spades. Start with the heroes of Team Kimba. They range from the 'I don't even want to hit people' attitude of Phase to the 'I had to slaughter a hundred bad guys to rescue people' switch of Tennyo to Bladedancer, who killed an ordinary family man in cold blood to prevent a possible Bad Future. The villains are all over the place too. Supervillain Dr. Diabolik is apparently a great father, and his children have said he only does the things he does to advance mankind.
  • Worm is full of this. Each faction has their own ups and downs; the superheroes range from genuine Nice Guys and literal and metaphorical Knights In Shining Armor to having sociopaths and glory-seekers among their ranks, while the villains range from For the Evulz sadists and Take Over the World types to several examples of Justified Criminal and Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, and in one case an unrepentant Neo-Nazi who presided over race crimes gives his life for the sake of his city.

    Live Action TV 
  • The 100 makes sure that black, grey and white are represented among all of the three main groups (sky people, grounders and mountain men). Clearly good characters, such as Clarke and Lincoln, can do or turn a blind eye to terrible things, and act selfishly. Monsters such as Pike and Cage are still shown to care about their people. And most characters are just grey (Lexa, Jaha), conflicted (Finn,Dante Wallace), or bounce all over the range (Murphy, Bellamy).
  • The Boys (2019) takes the full-on Black-and-Gray Morality of the original comic and brightened it a bit through Adaptational Heroism and Adaptational Nice Guy. There are downright evil people (Vought, Stillwell and Homelander), "good" guys who go a bit too far (the title characters), "Supes" who are both flawed and do bad things (A-Train, Popclaw, Translucent, and The Deep), and two good-intentioned women who either are starting to get jaded (Starlight) or downright became apathetic (Queen Maeve).
  • Deadwood uses this to some extent; much of the early part of Season one casts the character of Al Swearengen as the most morally corrupt character in town. That is, of course, until Cy Toliver shows up, who quickly quickly steals the spotlight as villain most evil. Al is made to look almost a hero as the result. This is possibly subverted however, as the show in general uses the morality kitchen sink, and both Cy and Al do indulge in purely "good" acts on occasion. And then George Hearst shows up in season three, a wealthy sociopath who cannot abide things not going his own way and sets about turning Deadwood into a Company Town.
  • The Five (2016): Mark is a decent person, who just wants to find Jesse. Pru is an alcoholic, but also a decent person at heart. Slade is decent and devoted to helping homeless young people, but willing to kill. Frank is also sympathetic in spite of his crimes, along with Payne. But then you have people all the way down the scale, like Jakob Marosi.
  • Game of Thrones: While there are many characters on the sliding scale of morality, most characters would fall into the darker end of the Grey-and-Gray Morality zone and even darker, even playing around in Black-and-Gray Morality. The story was more than happy to throw the gamut of powerful bad guys, from Gregor Clegane, Cersei Lannister, Ramsay Bolton and Joffrey Baratheon, while morally good characters were hard to come across; many were simply too weak and ineffectual, or were killed off from the start.
  • Kamen Rider:
  • The main cast of Legends of Tomorrow runs the gamut from do-gooder "boy scout" heroes like Ray, to Pragmatic Heroes like Sara, to well-intentioned but often selfish characters like Rip, to seemingly villainous characters with a hidden good side like Snart, all the way to Mick Rory, an unrepentent thief, murderer, and arsonist who only joins the team's ostensibly heroic mission because he likes the company and because it gives him lots of opportunities to indulge his violent tendencies. Then you have the purely villainous Vandal Savage.
  • Lost. Most of the characters are Anti-Heroes or Anti-Villains. The show's Big Good is still a Manipulative Bastard who is the embodiment of Good Is Not Nice, and the Big Bad is ultimately given a rather sympathetic motivation (although by the time of the show's main events he is still unmistakably at best an Anti-Villain). There are only a few characters who could be considered unambiguously good or unambiguously bad (Martin Keamy, Locke's father) characters, but the distinction between good and evil is still there, even if the viewer's perception of which characters are which is constantly changing.
  • From the directors of the above mentioned Lost is Once Upon a Time. On one end of the spectrum you have people like Prince Charming as the heroic, noble and sacrificial if not sometimes pragmatic hero. And on the other, you have people like Peter Pan and the Black Fairy, manipulative evil bastards (or bitches) who only care about themselves. However, in between you have everyone else, including several villains like Regina and Gold who are on a road to redemption, villains like Cora who slowly became worse despite sympathetic beginnings, and The Messiah who's also an Anti-Hero.
  • Orange Is the New Black doesn't have even one character who is simply good. Even the nicest, most moral characters, like Poussey or Fisher, have distinct moral flaws. And this isn't limited to the prison walls - some of the most selfish and mean people in the series have never set foot inside a prison. Things are the most grey when it comes to the main characters, who constantly slide on the scale between Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain - most notably Piper.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons and spin-off Pathfinder in most of its settings has this. There may be a necromancer who is repeating Mengele's work on his victims, a paladin who spends all his days feeding the poor and treating the sick when not rushing off to battle nasties like the necromancer, amoral thieves who just look to make a quick coin clipping purses in the market, well-meaning but ruthless knights who seek to put down the aforementioned thieves without realizing their oppressive lords have beggared the people, and a cult to a god of chaos and magic whose followers Blue-and-Orange Morality pushes them to do things no one understands. Really, the limitation is the player's and GM's imagination and their willingness (or not) to have certain things in their game. They may even be in the same Adventure Town. Newer, more "mature" games often aim at the more limiting Gray and Gray or Black and Gray morality.
    • Planescape may most exemplify this. You could be a divine servant from a fantasy version of Dante's Purgatorio, a Snark Knight anti-hero out of fantasy Charles Dickens, or a monster from a Milton-like hell. The various groups in the game are all over the map on their ethical stance.
  • While most of the Old World of Darkness has Black-and-Gray Morality, Changeling: The Dreaming and Mage: The Ascension follow this trope.
    • Most Changelings are Seelie dominant and generally good, but not necessarily supremely virtuous. Most Unseelie fae are still decent folks. Some Seelie and a few Unseelie are so old-school knightly they might as well be D&D paladins. Seelie and Unseelie villains alike range from operatic Harmless Villain to ruthless Pragmatic Villainy to cannibalistic Blood Knights to Eldritch Abomination-worshipers.
    • Mages as individuals are usually trying to achieve good ends. The main conflict is Romanticism Versus Enlightenment, with the Romantic Traditions embracing old school mysticism and trying to awaken humanity and the Enlightened Technocratic Union trying to empower humanity For Science!. Then there are the Eldritch Abomination-serving Nephandi and the insane-as-all-Hell Reality Warper Marauders. The conflict started with the Traditions clearly being morally superior to the Technocrats, but the Technocracy got a little Character Development later on and it became very hard to say either side was right. Individual mages in each group were all over the map, while the Marauders are very much Blue-and-Orange Morality and the Nephandi are a faction serving evil masters.

  • Wicked adds a dimension of moral gray to The Wizard of Oz. Elphaba (the Wicked Witch) is a Well-Intentioned Extremist and Tragic Hero who is trying to destroy the Wizard's apartheid regime; the Wizard himself is a sad and lonely old man and Windmill Political who desperately wants to be loved and uses Oz's talking animal population as an "other" to unite the Ozians against an enemy and in adoration of him; while Glinda is a Stepford Smiler and Attention Whore who becomes the Wizard's propaganda tool, which she rationalises as giving people hope and someone to look up to. All of them are fairly sympathetic and none of them are evil, but they all make bad choices and all have their regrets.

    Video Games 
  • Hoo boy does BlazBlue have this going on in later games. It was initially seen as a Black-and-Gray Morality conflict at first, but then the plot and characters got fleshed out significantly so now its pretty hard to pin down who's a clear cut hero or villain. Most cast members are mostly motivated by their own personal interests rather than concepts of "Good" or "Evil", and they tend to fight when these interests clash with one another. The cast ranges from the idealistic, to cynical but well meaning, to the sadistic sociopaths.
  • Chronicles of Elyria, will have characters on a spectrum of good and evil, helped by the fact that much of the conflict will be between political entities with no obviously evil faction. Of course, some players are likely to become the more sophisticated version of griefers, even if they will have to evade the authorities.
  • City of Heroes has Praetoria, which was assumed at first to be a standard Mirror Universe. Then we find out in Going Rogue that Praetoria is actually very much this. The members of the Resistance and Loyalists alike are scattered all across the morality spectrum.
  • Dislyte: There are three major factions Espers are affiliated with: The Esper Union, the Shadow Decree, and the Graywater Bounty Hunter Guild. The Esper Union is generally considered the "good guy" group and the Shadow Decree are the "bad guys". Despite this, there are some honorable members of the Shadow Decree. Shadow Decree members range from Lynn, Djoser, Kara, Freddy, Sander and his pet kitten and much more. On the flipside, many of the more sadistic Shadow Decree members are former Union members, and many otherwise neutral people had the Union's perceived negligence as their Start of Darkness. In terms of unaffiliated Espers, their morality can vary from Nice Girl Chloe and Mad Doctor Layla.
  • Dragon Age: Origins has shades of this. The only wholly villainous faction are the Darkspawn and even they become more sympathetic in Awakening. Dragon Age II takes it even further to the point that there is no Big Bad responsible for everything going wrong. Every major faction in the game is sympathetic to some degree and all of them are partially responsible for the Downer Ending. The games do have a few truly heroic and truly monstrous people, but they have surprisingly little impact on the setting as a whole.
  • The Elder Scrolls series as a whole fits. In each game, individual quests, quest lines, and characters can have moralities all over the various scales. Naturally, the choices of the player determine where on the scale the Player Character falls. This can range from the purest Knight in Shining Armor to a thieving, murdering psychopath. The main quests of each game (and major expansions) are typically such that, even if you are playing as an "evil" character, you won't be able to continue that lifestyle unless the Big Bad (who more often than not is seeking to bring about The End of the World as We Know It) is defeated, giving a player character of any morality a good reason to defeat said villain.
  • Fallout: In addition to the Karma Meter, several games in the series have used various forms of Alliance Meter to add complexity and allow the player to have a more complex reputation in the game. Starting with Fallout 2, the generic reputation stat was split up and tracked on a town-by-town basis, with additional epithets that had a more universal effect on the player's reputation. Following Fallout 3 and it's return to a conventional Karma Meter, Fallout: New Vegas returned to the complex Alliance Meter, in addition to (and separate from) the Karma Meter it retained.
    • The main factions in Fallout: New Vegas are also this, with the Legion being a very dark grey and the NCR and Mr. House competing to be the lighter shade of grey faction in comparison. Meanwhile, the Yes Man ending where the Courier takes power can range from darker than a Legion ending to also much lighter, depending on the Courier's actions and Karma.
    • The NCR is particularly a Morality Kitchen Sink itself. It's leadership rangers from Reasonable Authority Figures such as Colonel Hsu and Chief Hanlon to warmongers such as Colonel Moore and General Oliver.
  • Far Cry 4 initially appears to be a straightforward La Résistance vs a dictator story, but things get complicated fast. The Big Bad Pagan Min is indeed a brutal despot, but he is also genuinely Affably Evil, and later on you learn that his hatred for the rebels is a Papa Wolf Roaring Rampage of Revenge writ large against the scum who murdered his infant daughter. Several other villains have Even Evil Has Loved Ones and Morality Pets on their side. On the other side, the rebels are The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized types, and whichever of the two rebel leaders one survives to the end succumbs to He Who Fights Monsters and becomes little better. And Ajay yourself? That's anyone's guess.
  • The Geneforge series. There are anywhere from two to five factions the player can join in each game. With the possible exception of 2's Barzites, they pretty much all have arguments in their favor. While the world itself is more about Grey-and-Gray Morality, the individual sides play out this trope. The Well-Intentioned Extremist tends to be the most common type in each, but they all have their share of saints and monsters, and everything in between.
  • Hitman: The protagonists are a ruthless hitman and his equally cold handler, the targets different shades of worse.
  • Kingdom Hearts, particularly in its later installments, is surprisingly dependent on this trope for a Disney property. Sora's pretty close to the hero extreme (though he's more personally-motivated than he seems), while the Disney villains actually come from 'verses with Black-and-White Morality. The grey areas range from Roxas (whose lack of memories sometimes leads to a sense of Ambiguous Innocence) and Riku and Axel (who are so devoted to their friends that they'll shoot whatever dogs are necessary to save them) to DiZ (who works for the same end as the good guys out of a need for revenge) and Organization XIII (which, in itself, has everything from the apathetic Demyx to the Evil Overlord Xemnas).
  • Because it's a game by Obsidian (formerly Black Isle), it should come as no surprise that Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords features this trope pretty significantly. If the player should choose to be Light Side, then s/he and his/her group are fairly close to the Hero extreme. A little further away from the good end, but hard to say by how much, would be the Jedi Council, who are shown to have good intentions but be seriously flawed in their execution of them. Further toward the Villain side, you would have Darth Traya. Then, practically sitting on the Villain extreme, you have Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus, with the second one the most non-Heroic, most Villainous person in the game.
  • League of Legends was more black-and-white early on with its underlying Demacia (good) vs Noxus (evil) backstory, but it has become far more complex over the years, with Demacia being rewritten as a Lawful Neutral kingdom with occasional Knight Templar tendencies and Noxus developing into a Social Darwinist culture that values honor as well as strength. Individual characters can fall anywhere on the scale regardless of origin, and include various shades of Martial Pacifist, Anti-Hero, Well-Intentioned Extremist, and Card-Carrying Villain. Add a few Eldritch Abominations into the mix alongside Blue-and-Orange Morality spirits to round out the cast and you have a rather complex scale with characters falling all over the place.
  • The Sinners of the titular Limbus Company tend to range from "casual and friendly to talk to in spite of having a cockroach arm" and "Stupid Good enough to violate the laws of the District if they see an injustice being committed" to "will follow any commands, even if the command is to slaughter hundreds" to "will casually off you if you push their buttons too hard".
  • While the first Mass Effect had this to an extent, the second game features it a lot.
  • The Nexus War lore is largely about deconstructing Black-and-White Morality. The series presents itself as Black vs White vs Grey, but the seemingly all-important Karma Meter is a charade set up by the most belligerent angelic and demonic deities to force people to take sides and reward their followers solely for keeping the conflict going. Even the angels are divided into zealots who fall easily into Knight Templar territory and more conciliatory angels whose kindly ways make them vulnerable to a Pacifism Backfire. Much of the roleplaying in this setting revolves around trying to find a definition of good and evil that doesn't just play into the pantheon's warmongering hands.
  • In The New Order Last Days Of Europe, Russia is made up of warlord states that run the whole spectrum of morality. There are genuine idealists like Tomsk, Sablin's Buryatia and Father Men, who try to follow their moral values even in a Crapsack World that is the Russian Anarchy. Then, there are otherwise heroic countries that are undermined by serious flaws like democratic Komi, or nations that are Good Is Not Soft types that are willing to Shoot the Dog when necessary, like Zhukov's WRRF and Batov's Sverdlovsk. There are neutral countries whose morality depends upon the player's actions such as Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk. There are villainous countries who nevertheless have redeeming qualities and are able to change for the better like Fascist Magadan, Samara, Irkutsk and Tyumen, and others with sympathetic backgrounds such as Omsk or Tukhachevsky's WRRF. At the very bottom are the warlords with little to no redeeming qualities whose ascension will spell suffering for Russia, such as Amur, Taboritsky's Holy Russian Empire, or the Aryan Brotherhood.
  • On the surface, the main conflict of Overwatch appears to be a straightforward case of heroes versus villains, and that's true to an extent since Overwatch are clearly presented as the good guys and Talon as the bad guys, but even within and outside that conflict, the cast provides enough variation to run through the entire moral spectrum.
    • Right at one end, we have a collection of thoroughly, unambiguously good and heroic characters like Tracer, Mercy, Mei, Winston, Lúcio and Reinhardt who are wholeheartedly committed to making the world a better place, compassionate toward all people, and unwaveringly devoted to their ideals in spite of their hardships.
    • Then, we have a grayer niche of heroism occupied by characters like Soldier: 76, Torbjörn and Zarya: definitely on the side of good and working to improve things, but soured by their experiences enough to engage in harsher tactics, and some carry a chip on their shoulder that hinders them from being wholly heroic to everyone all the time.
    • Solidly neutral parties like Bastion and Hanzo skirt the edge of the main conflict and prefer to deal with their own problems without getting involved in anything greater or infringing upon anyone else.
    • Symmetra is an Anti-Villain with good intentions who occupies a nebulous area toward the middle and can slide further up or down the scale depending on the situation. She genuinely does want the best for humanity, but her warped definition of "best" and her general disdain for those who don't share her views prevent her from being genuinely heroic.
    • Junkrat and Roadhog are a pair of selfish, marauding bandits; solidly immoral, but ultimately more interested in crime, saving their own skins, and having a good time at others' expense than in pursuing any kind of sinister agenda.
    • And finally, we have unambiguously evil and malicious villains represented by Talon and its agents, who are actively pursuing a campaign of death and destruction for their own nefarious ends. They have their reasons for being who they are, so even at this point you can still find some measure of humanity, but at the end of the day, they're still hurting and killing innocent people without remorse in order to stimulate a conflict more or less for its own sake.
  • Peacemaker Series: The Cerulean Land is portrayed as an incredibly corrupt and bigoted nation, and the king's only redeeming quality is that he loves his son. Even after the Cerulean Land is conquered, the clergy of the Light Spirit are still at large and seek the genocide of the Dark Realm. However, the Dark Realm is also ruled by a corrupt and racist Dark Lord, who is eventually replaced with the more benevolent but still ruthless Spiderweb. While the Silver Kingdom and Scarlet Empire aren't as outright genocidal as the Cerulean Land, they still think nothing of taking the lives of the Dark Ones when plundering the Dark Realm, though Bambooblade from the former nation can choose a pacifistic approach towards the Dark Ones. The Silver Kingdom in particular is also better than the Cerulean Land in terms of gender equality and addressing poverty. And looming above all of them is Nya, the pitch-black hearted God of Reincarnation for whom the realms are nothing more than another toybox to amuse themselves with.
  • This is usually how the Shin Megami Tensei games start: humanity has been plunged into a terrifying environment where The End of the World as We Know It is either looming on the horizon or is a very recent memory, all manner of mythical beings are running rampant, and a bunch of humans of varying personalities, backgrounds, and degrees of morality and idealism are just trying to stay alive, with finding a solution to the mess an ever-present (but often secondary) concern. Then Law and Chaos-aligned beings start pressuring the heroes to take a stance. By the third act, almost everyone will have taken a side and demand you do the same. Should you choose neither, you end up as one of the few sane people in an Evil Versus Evil scenario.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic is shaping up to be an example of this. From what we know so far, it's just as possible to play a Light sided Sith as it is to play a dark sided Jedi, and a number of characters on both sides are morally grey.
    • However, let it be known that "Light Side" and "Dark Side" are very different concepts for Imperial characters and Republic characters. At worst, a dark sided Republic character will be a Token Evil Teammate, generally they'll be Anti-Heroes. On the other side, Light sided Imperials are generally Anti-Villains of various degrees, with the best being Type IVs, devoid of villainous actions, but still on the "bad side."
      • The smuggler (Republic) Dark Side story ends with you seizing control of a massive interstellar pirate fleet through murder and betrayal, then using the "distraction" of the climactic good-versus-evil battle of the other storylines to loot and then raze most of the starports in the galaxy in an orgy of murder, rape, and pillage. Additionally, the only person to make any kind of attempt at non-murder conflict resolution in the Jedi Knight storyline is a Sith officer, who ends up nobly sacrificing himself for morality while the actual player, Light Side or Dark, takes the easy and bloody way out. I'd say they've got the Grey-and-Gray Morality covered pretty well.
      • And the goal of one of the Sith lords on Korriban is the fantasy equivalent of curing cancer.
  • The Medieval II: Total War mod, Thera is a standalone mod set in a Low Fantasy After the End scenario with a bunch of Fantasy Counterpart Culture factions duking it out. They all morally run the gamut between white, black and every shade of grey, with the majority falling into grey.
  • Touhou Project runs mostly on White-and-Grey Morality, but there's quite a bit of variation within. On the "good" side (the incident resolvers), you have figures who are gruff but committed to their duties (Reimu), self-interested and only end up resolving incidents by chance (Marisa), or because they've been ordered to (Sakuya). The "bad" side (the incident causers) have motives ranging from things like simple convenience (Remilia), to lack of consideration for the consequences of their actions (Yuyuko, the Moriya goddesses), to being mischievous rather than evil (the Three Fairies of Light). None are really evil and all of them mellow out and have tea with the protagonists by the end of the game. Then there's figures whose morality is hard to pin down, like Yukari Yakumo (who manipulates both sides of the youkai-human conflict to ensure Gensokyo remains in balance). The few truly malicious figures would be the Saigyou Ayakashi, a quasi-sapient man-eating cherry tree, and Junko and Hecatia, who outright plotted a genocide (albeit against a race of isolationist and xenophobic Space Elves).
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines has multiple plot shakers vying for the possession of the Ankaran Sarcophagus: the Camarilla formally led by the ruthless but intelligent slimebag LaCroix (but a much Older and Wiser Tremere traditionalist Maximilian Strauss pulls the Camarilla strings behind the scenes), the moral pragmatist Nines Rodriguez leading the rebellious Anarchs, the mysterious newcomers Kuei-Jin, and the Sabbat, who are so evil, you can't side with them under any circumstances. And then there is Jack, who seems a friendly enough Anarch at first, but turns out to have been behind the whole Ankaran Sarcophagus scheme the entire time and gets away scot-free in the end.
  • World of Warcraft: There two main kinds of conflict, roughly corresponding to player-vs.-player and player-vs.-environment play: The Horde vs. Alliance (PVP) is Grey-and-Gray Morality, a conflict maintained mainly by jerks and ordinary people failing to see things from the other faction's point of view, and the occasional truly bad apple spoiling everything further for everyone else. For example, some of the humans of the Alliance are appalled at the city of Lordaeron having been transformed into an undead hive with rivers of slime, whereas the Forsaken undead living there could point out that as survivors and rebels against the Lich King's plague of undeath and often former inhabitants of the kingdom, they certainly have a claim to their rebuilt city. (But they're also obsessed with trying to poison everyone else.) The other type of conflict is of both factions against destructive, wholly evil forces like the Lich King's Scourge or the Omnicidal Maniac Legions of Hell of the Burning Legion. (Mind you, the Lich King had a bit of a personality conflict himself, and the Burning Legion's founder was driven by an extreme case of Utopia Justifies the Means.) Some organisations opposing such threats, such as the Argent Dawn/Crusade, are clearly good, whereas the otherwise similar-ish Scarlet Crusade is a pretty much unambiguously evil Knight Templar organisation.
  • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 starts out looking very much like Black-and-White Morality, but it quickly becomes apparent this is due to viewpoint character Rex being painfully naive. As he and the player learn more about the world, all the one-dimensional characters are fleshed out and given motivations, and by the end even the Omnicidal Maniac has their reasons for acting the way they do.

    Visual Novels 
  • Zero Escape Trilogy has recurring themes including Hidden Depths and What You Are in the Dark, and most characters tend to be morally complex individuals. While there are few clearly good people (Seven, Luna, Diana) and few clearly bad people (Hongou, Dio), almost everyone is a different shade of grey with motivations ranging from "save everyone" to "save people I care about" to "save myself" with a few people with higher goals thrown in for good measure, as well as varying degrees of ruthlessness and moral standards in pursuing those goals. Even the same character can be morally different depending on the situation and player's choices.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: The series began as a group of kids training to be hunters who specialize in killing Grim, an Always Chaotic Evil race who prey on humans and Faunus. However as the series goes on you are shown other organizations with their own motive and reason to fight, and even among the heroes each one has different motives to solve the same problem and tend to have trouble trusting each other.

  • Homestuck has this in spades. The kids are more or less good, and the underlings are more or less antagonistic, but once you hit Hivebent things start getting complicated. Trolls are various shades of gray, ranging from sweet little Nepeta to Kanaya's Good Is Not Soft attitude to Base-Breaking Character Vriska and her Heel–Face Revolving Door tendencies to Eridan's straight-up Face–Heel Turn in a last-ditch attempt at survival, carapacians are really more of a Grey-and-Gray Morality than it seems at first, the Horrorterrors just want to be left alone, Doc Scratch is Affably Evil and really just Lord English's pawn anyway, cherubs are just plain weird, and one could even argue that even Lord English can't really help what he's doing, since he's evil by nature, and the only other choice he ever had was for Yaldaboath to kill him. Just try and keep track of all that.
  • Comes with the the territory of being based on the Dungeons & Dragons alignment system in The Order of the Stick. You have good characters doing good things because it's the right thing to do (Roy mostly), bad people doing bad things for a greater good (Redcloak kind of), bad people doing bad things for amusement (Belkar, more or less, though he becomes...somewhat better), characters operating on something more resembling Blue-and-Orange Morality than anything else, and some fiends doing bad for the greater good... of bad (Xykon). And then of course there's Vaarsuvius and Familicide.
  • In Roommates, well, technically there are forces of good and evil but those are generally A) too busy stalling eachother. B) Not allowed to (directly)interfere with the free will of people. So the main characters include a chaotic jerkass trickster with Blue-and-Orange Morality and It Amused Me attitudes and an extremely disillusioned Lawful Neutral ex-cop, and this is just the beginning.
  • Sinfest. Satan is definitely evil, if affably so. God isn't evil but definitely a jerk, his son however is definitely good, the Dragon neutral and Buddha somewhre technically neutral but nice. The mortals are all over the place.
  • Unsounded: Everyone, even minor characters, have motivations and excuses for what they're doing and most people see themselves as the good guys but even the more decent characters tend to be nationalistic bigots or too cowardly and self absorbed to actually do anything to stop the more horrific characters. There are characters out to end the world, expand their totalitarian country through force, defend their country from invaders through horrific war crimes or just trying to survive but pretty much everyone is at odds at some point and they all have their reasons.
  • Voldemort's Children contains almost every stripe and shade of hero, anti-hero, bystander, anti-villain, and villain imaginable, from the (usually) morally upstanding Hermione Granger and zir assistant and close friend Tonks to the murderous yet ethically-deliberate Harry Potter to the seemingly incomprehensible Luna Lovegood and the cruel yet possibly broken Voldemort. The work excels at providing characters of a veritable rainbow of moralities.

    Web Original 
  • Any online roleplay is prone to this, due to the number of creators. Destine Enormity has a wide variety of good guys and bad guys on both sides. The sides are more divided by the Order Versus Chaos axis than anything else, but even that's an informal OOC distinction.

    Web Video 
  • Dream SMP: The nature of the server gradually shapes into this as time goes on, eventually producing characters of many, many moralities. This ranges from characters with lighter-grey morality like Tommy, Tubbo, and Ranboo, outright morally dark characters like Schlatt and Dream, and everything in between. Several characters even toe the line between 'hero' and 'villain/antagonist' on a semi-regular basis, especially those who have undergone a corruption arc to turn from morally light-grey to a much darker shade of grey.
  • There Will Be Brawl uses this a lot. Farthest towards the "Hero" side would be Luigi and Red, who genuinely want the best for the Mushroom Kingdom and its inhabitants, and work to solve the mysteries in the show without resorting to more extreme methods like Mario or Link. Characters closer to the "Villain" side are people like Wario, who's only out for his own self-interests, then Zelda who forcibly attempts to usurp the Kingdom's power, and finally Kirby at the most extreme, who just likes killing people and sowing fear among the populace.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar franchise:
  • Bojack Horseman: The show has people all over the spectrum. From the optimistic and hopeful Mr. Peanutbutter and Hollyhock to the pitch-black people like Hank Hippopopalous. The titular protagonist is very much in the grey: a Hollywood washout who has hurt others with his self-centered behavior, but we learn he has a lot of baggage in his life, and an earnest desire to be better, so we end up rooting for him.
  • Chaotic: All four of the tribes contain both heroes and villains, and no one can really be said to have the moral highground in the Forever War between them. This is a major theme in the episode "Shifting Sands" when Tom is convinced, somewhat understandably given events in previous episodes, that Mipedians are Always Chaotic Evil. He gets disabused of this notion when the Mipedian Tiaane performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save him from Slurkh. Slurkh being an Overworlder, whom Tom had thought of as Always Lawful Good, really drove the point home.
  • The Dragon Prince:
    • The overarching conflict between the humans and elves is Grey-and-Gray Morality verging on Evil Versus Evil: both sides have historically been extremely ruthless and seem to be motivated primarily by power combined with fear and hatred of the other side.
    • The conflict between the main characters and Lord Viren is Black-and-White Morality once Viren jumps off the slippery slope. The protagonists are largely goodhearted and self-sacrificing idealists who are trying to bring the human-elven war to an end with minimal bloodshed while Viren is willing to have them killed, not simply to protect the kingdom, but with the intention of taking the war to Xadia and reclaiming the lands for humanity.
  • Goof Troop's cast contains an optimistic Nice Guy who only causes problems by accident, a cynical Nice Guy who is harmless except for a few Beware the Nice Ones moments, a Mama Bear who wants the best for everyone but is ruthless in enforcing it, an High-School Hustler who spends half his time going out of his way to help his friends and family and the other half taking them for granted, a Bratty Half-Pint who also shows sympathy when it's needed, and a Jerkass who can also be a Papa Wolf when the situation calls for it. Morality of minor characters are not quite this nuanced, but still cover a range from "completely good" to "outright evil" with many places in between.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic features characters from all over the moral spectrum, where the absolute majority fall within the grey middle-zone. In the case of the heroes or "good guys" in general, this is usually facilitated by Mr. Vice Guy, and most of the villains are Not Evil, Just Misunderstood.

Alternative Title(s): Full Spectrum Morality, Black And White And Grey Morality, Black And White And Gray Morality