We all know that it's good to put others first, at least if you're a story's hero. Heroes are expected to save the innocent and risk their life for other people, regardless of their personal feelings — that's what makes them heroes in the first place. This is easy if the person is someone the hero likes, or even if they're a complete stranger. But what about antagonists — that is, people who make the hero's life worse? Well, if the hero chooses to save them, their selflessness will shine even brighter, as they're choosing to put themselves in danger for someone who they may not even like. That's what this trope is about.
The jerk can range from a school bully to an Abusive Parent; a crazy ex or a Mean Boss; that annoying kid who broke your window, or a bitter rival. Whoever they are, they're not necessarily an outright villain. Sometimes they're just an Anti-Hero who gets on the hero's nerves, or they're a neutral party who just has a bad attitude. Somehow, someway, they'll find themselves in a situation that only the hero can save them from, and the result can go one of two ways. They'll either start to redeem themselves, maybe even leading to a better relationship between them... or they'll be an Ungrateful Bastard who continues to make the hero's life hell regardless. The second version is especially likely if the hero is a superhero — they may thank the hero's alter ego while continuing to give them noogies in the hallways at school. However they react, though, the hero is proven to be a good person willing to go the extra mile even for someone who probably wouldn't do the same for them, and if the jerk isn't grateful, it only reflects worse on them.
That said, the hero may not always be eager to jump up and save their enemy. Many a Refuse to Rescue the Disliked argument can happen, where the hero has to be convinced to do it. Once their good nature is appealed to, they'll agree to help, but they won't be happy about doing it. Also note that this only applies to characters who are aware the other party is a jerk. If someone is Oblivious to Hatred, for example, rescuing the jerk doesn't have the same impact since they wouldn't have the same moral dilemma. There needs to be at least some acknowledgement by the hero that the character is someone they dislike or find unpleasant. See also Entitled Bastard, for when the Jerkass forces the heroes to do this. Expect the hero to be a Knight in Sour Armor to put aside their personal feelings to save the unlikable douche while gritting their teeth.
- Dragon Ball Z: This happens whenever one of the good guys, usually Goku, has to rescue Vegeta, who has gotten himself in over his head thanks to his pride. Vegeta never thanks Goku and remains his usual jerk self. In fact, he often interprets being rescued by Goku as an insult, since that clearly means that he failed at something and needed rescuing in the first place.
Vegeta: [spitting in anger] He's even saved my life! Like I was some kind of helpless child!
- In My Hero Academia, Bakugo and Midoriya's relationship has always been defined by these moments, in which Bakugo gets himself into danger and Midoriya rushes to help him. Bakugo, meanwhile, is a jerkass to him throughout the series and remains an arrogant hothead even after he mellows out some. This trope is actually deconstructed here, as Midoriya's insistence on saving him not only puts himself (or his friends) in unnecessary danger, but it also offends Bakugo, as he perceives the help not as a selfless act but as a show of superiority. In fact, he started bullying Midoriya in part because Midoriya tried to help him once.
- Pokémon: The Original Series: In "Charizard Chills", Charizard is hit with a Poliwrath's Ice Beam and ends up almost freezing to death. Despite how defiant and rude Charizard has become, Ash still does his best to nurse him back to health. This causes Charizard to realize how much of a jerk he was to Ash and strives to become more obedient.
- Fairy Tail: Lucy starts out hating the guts of her distant and icy father, enough to disown herself from him when his efforts to retrieve her for an Arranged Marriage threatens the lives of her "real" family at the guild. Even after he loses his fortune, Lucy wants nothing to do with him when it looks like he hasn't changed as much as he claims to have. With that in mind, when his new workplace gets held up by a dark guild, Lucy instinctively fears the worst and rushes there as quickly as possible, taking out an entire legion of evil wizards on her own. It turns out he was never in any danger because he was late for work, but since he shows up just in time to see what his daughter has done, it inspires him to start reconnecting with her.
- BoBoiBoy: Adu Du served as the series' Starter Villain, but after two changes in alignments resulted in him ranging from neutral to unpredictable, he's a more minor antagonist. BoBoiBoy Movie 2 starts with him sabotaging BoBoiBoy's field mission, but he failed and got beat up by an angry Mama Bear alien. Although he just defeated him earlier, BoBoiBoy "[couldn't] just leave Adu Du and Probe like [that]", and went to save them. It's implied by the hero's friends that he's done this several times before, much to their chagrin.
- Spider-Man: Spider-Man has often found himself coming to J. Jonah Jameson's rescue due to the latter being a target of supervillains, some of which were created by Jameson himself. Despite this, Jameson rarely, if ever thanks the Wall-Crawler and is more likely to continue his crusade against the hero than admit he is wrong about Spider-Man.
- Similarly, early on in her career, Carol Danvers rescues Jonah from the Scorpion out for revenge on him yet again. Jonah shows the same amount of gratitude as he does with Spidey, even demanding his employees run an attack piece on Ms. Marvel the next day.
- Speaking of Ms. Marvel, later on in Ms. Marvel (1977), she has to save her father from a supervillain. Her father is a sexist asshole who refuses to be saved by "a frail" even though he was moments from death. Carol gets so annoyed she punches him out.
- In Days of Future Past, the X-Men have to save Senator Robert Kelly from an assassination attempt by the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, prompted by his attempts to make the Mutant Registration Act into law, mainly because if they don't, the mother of all Bad Futures follows. They do save him, but he still spends the next two decades signing off on getting the MRA passed anyhow.
- In an early Cable issue, he's forced to rescue Henry Gyrich, government jerkwad par excellence. Gyrich is spectacularly ungrateful to the '90s Anti-Hero who could well make his head explode if he wished. Cable settles for merely punching him out.
- Downplayed in Miracle in Toyland. Jesse's father was a neglectful one throughout the film, despite Jesse's attempts to have a relationship with him. Despite his own tendency to be a Jerkass, Jesse's Character Development turns him into a much more selfless character by the end, and he manages to win his father over by risking his life to save him from dying on a snowy mountain.
- Avengers: Infinity War: Iron Man rockets off into space to help save Dr. Strange, later interrupting when Ebony Maw is torturing him. Since they spent their scenes together (both before and after) bickering, Tony makes clear he's not doing it because they're friends, and also Strange is holding one of the film's plot devices.
Iron Man: I gotta tell ya, he's not my friend. Saving his life is more of a professional courtesy.
- Dr. Dolittle: Downplayed. Two rude rats have been heckling John when one of them appears to go into cardiac arrest. John gives him CPR (though as it turns out, he just had gas and was in no real danger). By the next day, neither one of them is the least bit grateful for it.
- Lord of the Rings: During the Scouring of the Shire, Frodo realizes that Lotho Sackville-Baggins has lost control of the ruffians that he originally brought into the Shire to enforce his new regime. It turns out that Lotho had already been murdered before Frodo came back, but otherwise Frodo was fully prepared to rescue him from the ruffians, despite all the trouble he caused and despite a history of bad blood between Lotho's family and Frodo's own.
- Warrior Cats: At the beginning of the series, Sandpaw bullied Fireheart and his friends relentlessly alongside her friend Dustpaw, in part because of Fireheart's kittypet heritage. In the middle of one battle, Fireheart noticed that Sandpaw was about to fall into a gorge, which she didn't notice due to being in the midst of a fight. When he sprung forward to save her, she snapped at him for daring to help her... but changed her tune when she realized how close she was to dying. This incident warmed her up to him, and by the end of the series, she became his friend, and then his mate.
- In Words of Radiance, second book of The Stormlight Archive, Kaladin saves King Elkohar from assassins, even though Elkohar is a classist, ineffectual ruler who's caused him a lot of misery. The honorable act restores Kaladin's Oathbound Power as a Knight Radiant and enables him to swear its Third Ideal:
"I will protect even those I hate, so long as it is right."
- Big Time Rush: Played for Laughs and downplayed in "Big Time Christmas". The "jerk" in this scenario is just a security guard attempting to keep the band out of Miranda's show, where they aren't allowed access to, but his constant kicking them out makes them start to hate him. However, at one point when yelling at them, he starts to choke on his sub. Everyone declares it a "Christmas Miracle" and rushes into the show... only to realize that they're horrible people. In going back to save the guard's life, he changes his mind about the band and lets them into the show.
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Many episodes in the first season have the Rangers having to save Bulk & Skull, who at that time are a pair of obnoxious jerks who spend their free time harassing and bullying the teens.
- Red Dwarf:
- In the episode "Psi-Moon", Rimmer is taken captive on a moon which gives physical embodiment to all his self-loathing (and since this is Rimmer, that's a lot of self-loathing). Despite thinking he's a smeghead, Lister immediately decides to go in and rescue him.
- A few episodes later in "Quarantine", Rimmer contracts a hologrammatic virus that sends him completely insane but will kill him in short order. Rather than just wait out the craziness, the others whip up an anti-virus to save him, even though they've just spent the last five days at each other's throats because Rimmer dumped them in quarantine out of petty spite. Though the last scene suggests they intend to make his recovery period as maddening as possible.
- The Good Place: The cosmic beings wanted to see if humans are capable of becoming better people. They devised an experiment that involved tricking them into thinking they were in heaven. Towards the end, the humans start suspecting that they're being manipulated and decide to run away. As the final test, Brent (ultimate stereotypical embodiment of white male privilege) was swallowed into a hole in the ground. Two of the humans decide to save themselves and run away. Chidi decided to try to help Brent.
- Jarod, or The Pretender frequently saves or helps Miss Parker, the hound sent by the Centre and its leadership to capture him back.
- Hollow Knight: You have the opportunity to save the arrogant and bumbling Zote not once, but twice. If you do so, he'll complain and insist that he could have handled the situation.
- Mass Effect 3: At the end of the first act, Shepard has to save the Citadel Council, who spent the last two games ignoring and dismissing them, before flat-out denying Shepard's warning and painting them as crazy. Fortunately, this time they finally show some gratitude.
- From El Goonish Shive: Tony is a homophobic Jerk Jock and general bully. Elliot is a heroic type with a bit of a Bully Hunter streak who has feuded with Tony in the past. When Tony is attacked by a monster (admittedly one that Elliot had been fighting previously), Elliot immediately jumps in and saves him.
- Chowder: In "The Apprentice Games," despite Gorgonzola insulting and fighting with Chowder for most of the episode, Chowder still saves Gorgonzola from drowning, even when the latter refuses to let Chowder touch him. This sets them on the path to being better teammates (even if they're still not at all talented).
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: In many episodes, Courage saves Eustace from the supernatural goings-on (not that Eustace ever shows him gratitude for it). As shown in "Queen of the Black Puddle", Courage mostly saves Eustace so that Muriel won't fall into a depression, as she loves her husband despite his actions.
- Family Guy: In "You Can't Do That on Television, Peter", Peter is attacked by a puma and becomes badly injured. Having done well in biology class, Meg gives a bleeding Peter first aid (despite how emotionally abusive he is to her). Upon waking up, Peter barely even acknowledges Meg and just tells her to hand him a glass of water.
- In Miraculous Ladybug, Chloé Bourgeois is an Alpha Bitch and a Spoiled Brat whose Kick the Dog behavior has caused so much grief that half the time she is responsible for or is the target of vitriol of an Akumatized Villain. Her favorite target is Marinette Dupain-Cheng, unaware that she is the superhero Ladybug. While Chloé tests her patience, not once does Ladybug ever consider ignoring Chloé when she is in danger.
- Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: Pac has saved Skeebo the bully from ghosts in various episodes. Skeebo never treats him any differently, though.
- Regular Show: Mordecai and Rigby usually try to rescue their Mean Boss Benson from any threat they encounter. Of course, Benson would just threaten to fire them if they don't clean up the mess.
- South Park: Despite Cartman constantly antagonizing Kyle, Kyle has saved Cartman's life on several occasions. In "Jewpacabra," after Cartman spent the entire episode spreading rumors of an evil Jewish cryptid, Kyle still goes back and gets Cartman home to bed when Cartman gets left for dead in the park. In "It's a Jersey Thing," Kyle transforms into his angry Jersey persona so he can save Cartman from a rabid Snooki, even after Cartman spent the episode ragging on him for being from Jersey.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "The Bully", SpongeBob gives Flatts (who had been hellbent on beating him up) CPR for three hours. Despite this, though, Flatts still wants to kick his butt.
- Transformers: Prime: In the pilot, Bulkhead initially refuses to save Agent Fowler from being tortured by Decepticons simply because he thinks Fowler's "a jerk". He has to be browbeaten into going along.
- VeggieTales in the House: In "For the Honor of LarryBoy", Motato captures Ichabeezer. Larry initially can't be bothered to save him, especially since Ichabeezer had been ungrateful about LarryBoy helping him get unstuck from his roof before. Larry later learns that you should help others because it's right and you shouldn't expect to be thanked, and he does save Ichabeezer. And for once, Ichabeezer thanks him.