While there are times when taking Revenge will make one feeling empty in the end, sometimes one walks away with no regrets, satisfied by their vengeance. While revenge is usually a more cynical theme, satisfaction from revenge can go either way on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, with works siding with the idea that the The Villain Must Be Punished being more idealistic about this trope while and works going with the idea that Revenge Is Not Justice presenting this trope as cynical.
In more positive takes of this trope, it can come off as an example where an act of revenge can also be an act of justice! A hero being satisfied with revenge can mean they can finally move on from the grievance that made them desire revenge in the first place, with the ones who wronged them being rightfully punished for their actions. It can also be seen in a better light if a hero's revenge is non-lethal due to the idea of killing being unheroic. And even one linked to a villain can look good while doing so if they are responding to all the past abuse, showing they are now taking control of their own life.
In more negative takes on this trope, this feeling essentially turns into Evil Feels Good due to being linked to darker desires like bloodlust. A heroic character feeling good about revenge sealing their status as an Anti-Hero at best, and at worst leading to a He Who Fights Monsters situation, where the avenger becomes as bad, if not worse, than the villain they were hunting down. And when a villain feels this way, it usually is to highlight their depravity, particularly if they are paying back a grievance with Disproportionate Retribution or taking revenge on someone who "wronged" them by mistake or in self-defense.
This trope is only partially Truth in Television, with studies showing that revenge tends to be bittersweet. While it does give the avenger the joy of punishing a grievance, it may also remind them of the very grievance they're avenging in the first place, making it not completely joyful. And even if the avenger feels pure joy about it in the moment, it could still become bittersweet in the long-term due to discovering new facts about the grievance, such as what the position of the perpetrator was like, giving the feeling that revenge was less justified. And this is all before considering the possible legal repercussions that could arise from taking revenge or that somebody would want revenge back as a response.
Naturally, this trope is the opposite of Vengeance Feels Empty, where one feels anything but satisfied from taking revenge. Contrast Restrained Revenge, where the character forgives the target of their ire, but still indulges in a little retribution (as a treat). Compare with In-Universe Catharsis, a feeling a character will have when revenge is sweet. Related to Asshole Victim, especially when the target in question is the one responsible for the revenge-seeker's misery. Can include "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop when revenge is portrayed as a good thing.
In-Universe Examples Only, please! Examples where the audience feels this way fall under Catharsis Factor.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: After being brought back since his death at Father's hands, Greed works for him loyally until he recalls how his friends were slaughtered while he was dragged back from his life free of Father's plans, at which point he turns on his creator once again. During the final battle, Greed is reclaimed by Father for his Ultimate Shield; but Greed reverses his powers so that Father becomes as fragile as possible, allowing Ed to kill him after Greed perishes. However, unlike Mustang or Scar, who come to find revenge hollow and not worth the pain, Greed relishes the opportunity and is happy to help strike Father down for his friends.
- Played with in GUN×SWORD. The protagonist Van is obsessed with taking revenge on the Claw to the detriment of personal connections, but when he finally does take revenge, the revenge feels great. However, he walks off while everyone else is celebrating, displaying some uncertainty about what's next. Having solved his quest does seem to leave him directionless, and we never see him express joy over the deed after it is done. Seems that vengeance is great and all, but like anything, if you fixate on it to the exclusion of all else, you won't have a purpose once you achieve it.
- JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders: Polnareff is filled with glee when he finally catches up to J. Geil, the man who raped and murdered his sister, stabbing him repeatedly though the body with his before throwing him in the air to be impaled on a spiky gate. While Polnareff does regret being too hasty in his desire for revenge caused the seeming death of Avdol, he has no regrets ending J. Geil's life.
- Played With in Penguins of Madagascar where the Big Bad Dave is on the verge of a Near-Villain Victory, having turned all the penguins that stole his limelight into ugly abominations certain to be exterminated. As he celebrates, he notes a rather empty feeling inside, which he deduces can only be filled with.... more revenge, and to enact the same on all cute lifeforms, shifting him right back to gleeful celebrating again.
- Deadpool 2: Years of physical, mental, and (possibly) sexual abuse from his Orphanage Headmaster has made Russell Collins eager to kill them, which is not good as the Bad Future Cable comes from shows that when Russell does kill the headmaster, he enjoys the feeling of killing, becoming a notorious terrorist and supervillain who eventually kills Cable's wife and daughter. As such, Deadpool rushes to prevent Russell from becoming a killer, while Cable tries to kill the boy before his moral descent.
- Pacific Rim: Mako Mori seeks to avenge her family, who were killed in a Kaiju attack, by becoming a Jaeger pilot and killing Kaiju in return. Her first attempt at piloting a Jaeger outside of a simulation causes her to be overwhelmed by trauma, which makes the leader of the Jaeger pilots Stacker afraid that a real mission would be too dangerous for her. However, when he's reluctantly forced to deploy her in a desperate moment, Mako more than excels at killing Kaiju with her own inventions, and brings catharsis to her own trauma as well that of her own co-pilot, who had also relapsed from losing family to Kaiju.
- In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the title villain engages in such feelings, ultimately stranding Captain Kirk in the Genesis Cave in retaliation for leaving him and his followers on Ceti Alpha Six after a failed attempt to take over Kirk's ship, which while hospitable when Kirk left, not too long afterwards was turned into a Death World by a catastrophic ecological disaster. These feelings disappear after Khan finds out that Kirk has found a way onboard the starship Enterprise, making him bent on taking down Kirk for good despite his underling Joachim pointing out Khan has much more to gain from ignoring Kirk and taking his new starship and planet-killing Genesis device to carve out a new empire.
- Revenge of the Sith: Invoked and Subverted. Chancellor Palpatine encourages Anakin to execute the now (literally) disarmed Count Dooku, who had led the CIS in 3 years of war and had cut Anakin's own arm off at the very start. Anakin himself feels rather empty and guilty immediately after doing the deed, though, while Palpatine mentions this trope in all but name, encouraging him that his actions weren't in the wrong. Of course, this is all part of Palpatine's Evil Plan to get the Jedi to become his new apprentice, so he probably took advantage of this trope.
- The Sting: After The Con the film revolves around has left Doyle Lonnegan out of a really big sum of money and with a lot of egg on his face (including thinking that he may be wanted by the police for a dual murder he did not do), Johnny Hooker is asked by Henry Gondorff how he feels. Johnny (who started the con because he wanted to get revenge on Lonnegan for killing his friend Luther but knowing he wasn't any good at trying to kill the guy) says that it feels great and laughs with Gondorff for a while.
- The Three Musketeers (1973) and D'Artagnan have cornered The Dragon Milady deWinter, and have sent her off by boat with an executioner. At the boat launch, all four swordsmen declare "I forgive you," which at that point is purely perfunctory. Milady glowers at them as she's being rowed away to her doom.
- The Count of Monte Cristo: This 1844 story by Alexandre Dumas follows the rise, fall and revenge of Edmond Dantes. Dantes starts as an able seaman promoted to captain. Two of his jealous crewmates frame him as a subversive, with help from a corrupt prosecutor. Dantes escapes The Alcatraz, collects a pirate booty, and returns to France as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. There, he engineers the downfall of the three antagonists, gloating in triumph as they realize their cruel fate. The sweetness lessens when a machination of his indirectly kills a 9-year-old child, to the point he chooses a lesser revenge on his final target.
- The Hero Laughs While Walking the Path of Vengeance a Second Time: The entire story revolves around this. "The Evil Adventuring Party" were originally good people who had suffered horribly at the hands of society because of discrimination, enslavement, and betrayal from people they thought they could trust. Becoming sadistic vigilantes who seek revenge on the ones who wronged them, the Sword of Vengeance compels them to take revenge on their targets lest they feel the pain of death. The party's righteous vengeance is considered equally cathartic on both sides of the fourth wall, and while it's unknown what will happen if they run out of Asshole Victims, it's implied they will never run out of Asshole Victims.
- In the Lensman novels, the Overlords of Delgon had been enslaving and torturing Velantians to death for millennia. With the help of the Galactic Patrol, the Velantians became able to go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, and whenever they successfully wiped out a den of Overlords it felt wonderful. One particular episode in Second Stage Lensmen had Worsel of Velantia return from a raid on a den of Overlords radiating "self-satisfaction, bliss, and contentment." This despite being banged up, stitched up, and bandaged due to injuries received in the fight.
- The Princess Bride: Inigo Montoya tracks down and kills Count Rugen, the six-fingered man who murdered his father. While the book does not shy away from the negative side effects of fixating on a decades-long revenge quest, Inigo still finds the revenge itself quite satisfying. Finally achieving his lifelong goal does leave Inigo wondering what to do now, but Westley solves that problem by suggesting Inigo could fill the recently vacated role of the Dread Pirate Roberts.
- In one episode of Batman (1966), Alfred gets a chance to be a Battle Butler by dueling the Joker with fireplace pokers, with the Clown Prince of Crime trash talking him ("You Anglo fink, I'll smash you to smidgens!") during the fight. When Alfred proves victorious and the Joker ends up trapped on an "Emergency Batpole Elevator," the butler takes special delight in being a Troll by sending the elevator up and down repeatedly:
Alfred: I really shouldn't take pleasure in another creature's misfortunes... but, occasionally, one may be forgiven for a slight twinge of satisfaction!
- Played for Horror in the Criminal Minds episode "Retaliation": the Monster of the Week is a criminal who escaped custody and is out to get revenge on the people who put him in, and after he gets some of them and feels satisfied, he decides to devolve into a Spree Killer just to keep the adrenaline high going.
- Game of Thrones:
- In Battle of the Bastards, when Ramsay Bolton is defeated in the Battle of the Bastards, Jon Snow pummels him into a bloody smear until he stops when his half-sister Sansa steps in, letting her be the one to enact revenge for all the horrible things that he did to her and to the North. Once Ramsay is locked up, Sansa gives him "The Reason You Suck" Speech and lets his hungry hounds devour him. As she walks away while listening to Ramsey being torn apart by his dogs, Sansa smiles triumphantly.
- In The Winds of Winter, Arya Stark finally gets revenge against Walder Frey for being one of the instigators of the Red Wedding, the event where her mother, oldest brother, sister-in-law, and her family's bannermen were betrayed and murdered by them. One satisfying thing that she did is that she killed his sons, made them into pies, and had Lord Walder eat them unknowingly. When Lord Walder realizes what he had ate, Arya removes her disguise and smiles at him before she slits his throat the same way how her mother died.
- The Klingons of Star Trek believe that "Revenge is a dish Best Served Cold" and consider it both a right and a duty. Worf, for example, has no regrets after killing Duras to avenge K'Ehleyr.
- In Act II of Diablo II, Atma gives you a quest to kill Radament, a monster which killed her family. After you kill it, she tells you that although she's been told revenge is bittersweet, it's rather to her liking.
- Diablo III:
- The Demon Hunter's backstory is that their sister was killed by demons, and the Hunter has dedicated their life and their talent to slaying as many demons as possible. Their Super Mode is called "Vengeance", two of their battle cries are "Sweet revenge!" and "Vengeance!" towards demons, and they thrive off of the chance to kill the Prime Evils for what happened to their sister throughout the course of the story. The Demon Hunter also doesn't have a higher calling like the Monk, the Crusader, or the Witch Doctor; the Hunter just wants revenge, and revels in causing misery to the demons.
- In Act V, the Nephalem finds out that one of their allies that pulled a Face–Heel Turn, the witch Adria to be specific, who sacrificed her own daughter Leah to be the vessel of Diablo's rebirth as the Prime Evil, has resurfaced, and is searching for where Malthael is hiding. Most of the Nephalem (the Demon Hunter especially!) see this as their chance to hunt this traitor down and take vengeance for Leah's death, with Lorath Nahr having to remind them repeatedly about how their mission is to find out where Malthael is before killing Adria. When it is finally finished, none of the Nephalem have any regrets whatsoever about putting the evil witch down.
- Divinity: Original Sin II: If Sebille completes her personal quest to kill the man who magically enslaved her and turned her into an assassin, she says "It feels... magnificent." Her revenge is compounded by the knowledge that he can never control her again.
- Fallout: New Vegas: When Rose of Sharon Cassidy discovers that two companies were responsible for attacking Cassidy Caravans, her first instinct is to go after them violently. While the player can choose the less violent route of gathering evidence and leaving the NCR justice system to handle matters, killing Alice McLafferty and Gloria Van Graff (the leaders of the New Vegas branches of the companies that destroyed Cassidy Caravans) will still make Cass happy (although the ending slides state that NCR suffered from the two companies withdrawing their support). It also grants her the "Hand of Vengeance" perk, which increases her damage with guns.
Cass: Payback's a bitch, ladies, and between Gloria and Alice, that settles accounts, as far as I'm concerned. Hope they're in hell right now, blinking, trying to figure out where they fucked up.
- Despite being the Trope Namer of Vengeance Feels Empty, this trope is actually present in Grand Theft Auto IV. When choosing the choice of either taking revenge on Dimitri Rascalov for being a backstabber who's tried to kill him throughout the game or forgiving him for the sake of a deal, Niko is noticeably happier if he takes revenge rather than the deal, with the latter option leaving Niko feeling angry at himself.
- Star Wars Legends
- In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, the Jedi Exile may choose to assemble the Council on Dantooine and then kill them all as retribution for cutting her off from the Force although they actually did it to themselves. If they do, Kreia will angrily approach the Exile and demand to know if it brought them even the tiniest bit of satisfaction. The exile may choose to respond that yes, it was worth it. Kreia, however, will then lecture the Exile before taking her leave from the party to assume her role as Darth Traya.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Sith Inquisitor companion Andronikos Revel argues for this in several conversations: he acknowledges revenge doesn't actually solve problems by itself, but it "gets the anger out". He's introduced hunting his mutinous former crew members and first mate to kill them for their betrayal. Ultimately what puts him off revenge late in the companion questline is when the man he's hunting, a Republic intelligence officer who betrayed his old Special Forces unit, turns out to have died of other causes before he got there, leaving him without the satisfaction.
- Tales of Symphonia: Lloyd eventually encounters Kvar, the person responsible for his mother's death, one of many half-elves who believes in Fantastic Racism towards humans as "inferior beings". After a boss battle, Lloyd and Kratos jump in to deliver the finishing blow on Kvar, with Kratos saying "Feel the pain of those inferior beings as you burn in Hell!" to Kvar. The whole time, this vengeance on Lloyd's behalf is treated as cathartic, righteous, and justified. And then it's revealed that Lloyd's mother was the wife of Kratos. Kratos is Lloyd's father, meaning that Kratos also took his own revenge. This makes Kvar's death even more righteous in the game's narrative.
- Deconstructed in 6 Gun Mage. While Zeits was satisfied taking revenge, he could never find that level of satisfaction again. As much as he tried to hunt down target after target for twenty years in an attempt to catch that same feeling but could never obtain that same feeling. In the end, while Vengeance did not feel empty, it sure made Zeits' life empty.
- Gargoyles: The franchise keeps telling again and again that revenge is, to quote David Xanatos, "a sucker's game" (which is why he never obsesses with getting even with anybody who hinders him), and other characters keep on showing it by destroying their lives with their obsession (when they are able to get their revenge at all). However, one minor character named Vinnie (who had his life constantly inconvenienced by Goliath as a Running Gag) gets to pay back Goliath in the episode Vendettas and walks away as the only character in the entire franchise who got to enjoy his vengeance. His revenge? Annoy Goliath by bathing him with banana cream. And Goliath, if anything, is more puzzled than annoyed about that.
- In the Gravity Falls episode "Irrational Treasure", while in the quest to find evidence that Pacifica's ancestor is a fraud after Mabel was mocked for her silliness by Pacifica, Mabel eventually decided she was satisfied with herself and did not need to take revenge but her brother Dipper did not feel the same way, presenting the evidence that Pacifica's ancestor is a fraud right to her face, happy enough doing so to say the page quote.
- In The Simpsons episode "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Three Times" the trope is discussed with Bart's story to contrast to Marge and Lisa's stories on how revenge only brings more pain and misery (Marge's story) and how revenge makes a person as bad as their target (Lisa's story).