Follow TV Tropes


Serial-Killer Killer

Go To

Harry Morgan: Son, there are people out there who do really bad things. Terrible people. And the police can't catch them all. Do you understand what I'm saying?
Dexter Morgan: You're saying...they deserve it.

A violent, psychotic killer with a Freudian Excuse gets sick pleasure out of the suffering of their victims. It sounds like they're your basic Serial Killer, right?

They would be, but instead of terrorizing the innocent, the Serial-Killer Killer terrorizes the guilty. They spend their life tracking down serial killers so that they can give them justice. In short, they are a vigilante, who thinks themselves divine justice incarnate. For this reason, they kill serial killers in the same way that said serial killers would kill their own victims.

Distinct from He Who Fights Monsters, because He Who Fights Monsters is more about good characters turning evil in the process of hunting evil, whereas this is more about someone who is evil, or crazy, or both from the outset. Arguably, they can be Chaotic Good and be an Anti-Hero, although they walk a VERY thin line between that and Knight Templar.

Sub-Trope of Villain Killer. See also Smiting Evil Feels Good, Vigilante Execution, Vigilante Man, Knight Templar, Pay Evil unto Evil, Hunter of His Own Kind, The Killer Becomes the Killed, '90s Anti-Hero, Bully Hunter, Defends Against Their Own Kind, and Asshole Victim. Compare with the similarly named Wife-Basher Basher, which they often are too. Also compare Sympathetic Murderer. Contrasts Bounty Hunter and Professional Killer, while they may also hunt serial killers, they are Only in It for the Money.

As this is a Death Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • .hack: Haseo, nicknamed "Terror of Death" due to his insistence on killing PKers (which makes him a PKer-Ker).
  • Ana Satsujin: Rio mainly kills criminals, though she hates police and makes an exception for them. She will technically kill anyone she feels like, which includes her boyfriend.
  • Baccano!: Vino is an incredibly violent assassin, and generally prefers to kill by smashing his targets' faces into the ground from a moving train. However, he takes pride in only killing other criminals, and refuses to do jobs on people who are not guilty. In its main plot aboard the Flying Pussyfoot, Vino actually can be considered the most heroic of those involved, as his brutal murder spree only involves the cultists and gangsters who were trying to harm the passengers. He even saves the comic relief from certain death.
  • Brutal: Satsujin Keisatsukan no Kokuhaku: The protagonist, Dan Hiroki, is a detective who takes it upon himself to enact sadistic, lethal, and often ironic punishments on people he believes to either have a good chance of dodging the law or are doing reprehensible things that aren't illegal.
  • Code:Breaker. Some of the Code Breakers recognize that they are evil themselves, though.
  • Danganronpa: Both Takumi Hijirihara/Killer Killer and Sparkling Justice (who are hinted, but not confirmed to be the same person) exclusively kill criminals. Killer Killer also has Fujigawa, Hijirihara's Childhood Friend who also became this but for the opposite reason, as Takumi enjoyed killing people who deserved it while Fujigawa was a Reluctant Warrior and Well-Intentioned Extremist who wanted to rid the world of violence.
  • Dead Mount Death Play: Misaki is an assassin well-known in the underground for the fact that she only kills mobsters and other killers. This is not because she has any actual compunction against killing "Good People", it's just she'd never taken a contract one until Polka.
  • Death Note: Almost all incarnations of Kira fall under this trope, with the exception of the one profit-driven Corrupt Corporate Executive. Most notably, the main character Light Yagami is a mix of Knight Templar and A God Am I, believing that he will become the "god of the new world" by completely eradicating the world's criminals. True to the series' penchant of showing what happens to He Who Fights Monsters, a good number of the Kiras Jump Off the Slippery Slope into Knight Templar (such as Light himself) or just plain Ax-Crazy (such as Mikami) territory.
  • Eden of the East: Diana, Selacao number 11 hunts rapists and dispatches them by castration via cigar cutter.
  • The Garden of Sinners: Both Shiki and Fujino . This is part of the reason why the part of the story where they fight is the only one where both antagonists get out okay, more or less. (Well, that and the one where the antagonist has Mind Control to stop Shiki from attacking him…)
  • ID: Invaded: Akihito Narihisago is in Kura Prison because he shot the Challenger, who was a serial killer. He has also talked other serial killers into suicide while at the prison as well.
  • William of Moriarty the Patriot targets abusers who are largely immune from the formal legal system, but most often his victims are serial killers.
  • Murciélago: Kuroko has murdered 725 people, and the only reason she hasn't been given the death sentence is so she can kill other mass murderers.

    Card Games 

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • Batman: Frank Miller's Batman. Regular Batman spends his life fearing that he may become this if he ever loses control.
      • In the Batman Vampire trilogy, Crimson Mist — the third volume in the trilogy — basically turns Batman into this after he succumbs to his thirst for blood, only just able to control his new urges by focusing only on killing his homicidal enemies who are themselves killers. He explicitly muses at one point that the inmates of Blackgate Prison are mostly only in for theft or less and don't deserve his kind of death.
    • Lady Shiva is a vicious Blood Knight who revels in death and chaos, but most of her victims are other assassins. This isn’t so much because of any moral judgement, as Shiva doesn't really care about such things, but simply because they provide the most challenge to kill.
  • Hack/Slash: Cassie Hack is a former Final Girl who becomes a slasher-hunter. In one of the later comics, she's even referred to by a talk radio host as the "SKK". Samhain doesn't see the difference between her and any other slasher, a sentiment Cassie really doesn't appreciate.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • For a time, Morbius would only drink the blood of criminals.
    • Night Raven, from Marvel UK (though his stories take place mostly in the US), has targeted serial murderers, including an unauthorized successor to his mantle, Howard Bates, who had admired Night Raven as a child.
    • The Punisher hunts and kills as many criminals as he can. Currently he's killed over 48,000.
    • The Scourge of the Underworld is an entire organization of these — though only a scant handful of its victims are actual killers.
    • Venom, the Lethal Protector, from Spider-Man.
  • Predator: Andrew Vachss wrote a story where a Predator targeted serial murderers.
  • Spawn: In an early story, Spawn tracks down a child predator who lures kids to their deaths with an ice cream truck. He then proceeds to kill him by stabbing him to death with ice cream bars.
  • Twister features someone who slays serial murderers by twisting their heads around.

    Fan Works 
  • A.A. Pessimal: A new generation of Assassins think like this. They are not evil or psychopathic and in many respects are well-adjusted rational people — well, ladies. But this group of Assassins have decided on what they call Ethical Assassination. They still want the money and the contract fees and they respect the rules. Especially the Guild maxim of nil mortifi sine lucre. But they exploit the latitude offered by being able to pick and choose their contacts and only choose clients whose passing will make the Disc a little bit cleaner. One informal "firm" is dubbed The Marriage Guidance Counsellors, for instance: whatever the reason might officially be, these Lady Assassins choose only men with a reputation for things like wife-beating, rape, or child abuse. Then deal with it decisively. A younger Cenotian Assassin takes pleasure in targeting people who get anti-Cenotic. This adds retribution and job satisfaction to her contract fee.
  • Gemini: Captain June Harper is a dishonorably discharged former Time Agent now on the run from charges of Police Brutality and vigilante murder. She despises the concept of innocent people suffering, but the Hero Protagonists who travel with her are consistently horrified by the ways in which she kills the people who threaten said innocents. The Lancer Damien claims that the only reason why he and the other heroes support her — even as they are hunted by the universe's law enforcement agencies for aiding and abetting a Super Villain — is because she Hates Being Alone and would just make new friends if she didn't have the heroes. They don't see themselves as supporting June Harper as a serial killer so much as they see themselves as distracting her from starting an army of Serial-Killer Killers.
  • Deconstructed in The Killer Rarityverse. Fraught with murderous urges, Rarity tries to reconcile her heroic position with them by only hunting and killing villains. However, feeding the fire only makes her desires worse, and before long she's finding excuses to kill even the slightest of jerks. The kill that finally gets her caught and tried is Iron Will, who she murdered for making her friend cry with overzealous but well intentioned words.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captivity: The Final Girl becomes one of these in an alternate ending.
  • The Crow (1994): The title character, though not just any serial killer will do. It's personal.
  • Final Girl: Veronica is specifically raised to ruthlessly hunt down serial killers.
  • Hard Candy: Hayley turns out to be a variant who targets child molesters rather than serial killers.
  • Holidays: Jean of New Year's Eve unknowingly becomes one, as her date Reggie is a Serial Killer, whom she kills (as a serial killer herself).
  • The eponymous John Doe: Vigilante, who spends his nights killing child molesters/abusers, rapists, and abusive husbands/boyfriends, culminating in the man who killed his wife and daughter (the very thing that spurred his killing spree).
  • Julia X: Julia and Jessica hunt and kill sexual predators. However, Jessica turns out to have a dangerously loose definition of 'sexual predator'.
  • Seven Psychopaths: Zachariah Rigby and his girlfriend Maggie. They even caught the Zodiac killer!
  • Suspect Zero: Ben O'Ryan, who kills serial killers across the US. He knows about them due to having Psychic Powers. His goal is to find Suspect Zero, an undetected serial killer who's murdered all over the country. In the alternate ending, Mackelway becomes this too.

  • The hidden killer in And Then There Were None lures other people who had killed and escaped justice from the legal system to an island and kills them one by one, as a result of his Moral Sociopathy manifesting as an urge to kill living things combined with a strong sense of justice preventing him from going after innocents.
  • Bad Monkeys: The main character claims to be a member of a secret organization devoted to killing people who are just plain evil and unredeemable. Of course, she could be lying. Or not.
  • Dexter: The novels go a bit further than the show — not only do we have Dexter, the two children who he is raising are damaged in much the same way he is. He is trying to teach them to be like him, so as to prevent them from becoming even worse.
  • A Dowry of Blood: Constanta, upon becoming a vampire, decides to dedicate herself to killing and feeding off the most odious or evil of society. Her victims range from rapists, killers and war profiteers to just general Asshole Victims like people who would spit on a beggar or harass and grab a woman.
  • The Fifth Woman: The murderer turns out to be a rare female example of this trope.
  • The Girl from the Well: The titular ghost Okiku hunts and kills serial killers who murder children.
  • Hannibal Lecter: Hannibal Lecter, a cannibalistic serial killer with a sizable body count of his own, at times goes after other killers when he is not locked up, including Nazi war criminal Vladis Grutas in Hannibal Rising and disfigured paedophile Mason Verger in Hannibal.
  • I Am Not a Serial Killer: John Cleaver is this, with the added twist that the killers he hunts are not human.
  • The Laundry Files: In The Rhesus Chart, Bob has a low opinion of vampire hunters for this reason. He notes that vampires are serial killers by necessity (they can't go more than six months between victims lest the extra-dimensional parasites that empower them start feeding on their brains), but "A Vampire Hunter is a serial killer who hunts serial killers." He even compares them to Dexter Morgan.
  • Lost And Gone Forever: In an ironic twist, Jack the Ripper turns out to be this in one of the epilogues. Not because he has any moral qualms about the murderer, but because their activities threaten Jack's peaceful retirement.
  • Reginas Song: All of the victims had criminal records to some degree, but the one the killer was explicitly looking for while she thinned out Seattle's rapist population was a serial killer. At her trial, one of the witnesses remarks that there was a perverse charm in one serial killer dying at the hands of another.
  • The Serial Killers Club: Jeff Povey's point of view character manages to be invited into the titular organization after he takes down a serial killer... and begins to kill off the membership, one by one. He says he's not a serial killer himself... but he kills again and again...
  • The Twilight Saga: Edward Cullen spent a few years killing serial killers, during his "rebellious" phase against Carlisle's vegetarian vampirism philosophy.
  • The Vampire Chronicles: Some vampires tend to be this. Post-Akasha Lestat mostly kills and drinks mobsters, muggers, and the like… but sometimes cannot control himself and kills someone he deems particularly impressive. Another vampire, Pandora, when we meet her, is hunting a drug dealer.
  • Worm: Glaistig Uaine spent much of her pre-teen life hunting down and killing some of the most powerful supervillains on the planet, including Gray Boy.

    Live-Action TV 
  • And Then There Were None (2015): Wargrave is a literal one in the backstory, as Edward Seton undergoes Adaptational Villainy to become a genuine serial killer.
  • Angel: After Angel gets his soul back, Darla accuses him of being this when he tries to win her back. She says that while he has been killing, it's only been "murderers and rapists." Then she tried to make him kill a baby to prove himself.
  • Ash vs. Evil Dead: Ashley Williams has gained quite the reputation as a Serial Killer who leaves bodies dismembered and blasted beyond recognition, all of which is true… except for the fact the people he kills are possessed people or corpses that gleefully slaughter anyone who gets in their way For the Evulz. Ash himself lacks any traits of a Serial Killer, however, and is more of an insane Dirty Old Man. Lampshaded in the aptly-named "Killer of Killers".
    Ash: (having just killed a Deadite in front of the cop convinced he was a murderer) I told you: I kill killers.
  • Bones: Jacob Broadsky, who first kills the serial killer Heather "The Gravedigger" Taffet, then several other criminals. He’s the dark Booth, holding to his own sense of justice as opposed to Booth's belief in the system.
    • Broadsky's claims and beliefs are undermined by the fact that he often kills innocent people because they were in some sense impeding his own efforts, ranging from killing a woman to get her apartment because it provided a good view to killing 'squintern' Vincent Nigel-Murray because he mistook the young man for Booth through an infra-red camera.
  • Dexter: Dexter Morgan realizes that he's evil, but has been programmed to live within a set of standards that are supposed to place him above common murderers. He sometimes allows himself to fantasize that he is a dark avenger of the innocent. Occasionally, when his target reveals that their victim had it coming too (such as a gay boy who killed his gay-bashers before they killed him), Dexter forces his need to go unsated that night.
  • Doctor Who: In "A Good Man Goes to War", Madame Vastra, a Silurian living in Victorian London, eats Jack the Ripper, apparently with Inspector Abberline's blessing. Her species naturally preys on primates, so this trope gives her an at least quasi-legal source of food.
  • Hannibal:
    • Hannibal Lecter is an unrepentant serial killer, but he also murders other serial killers such as Tobias, Georgia, and the "muralist" in the course of the show. He subverts this trope, however, since he kills the above serial killers to, respectively, defend himself, to destroy evidence of his own crimes, or to express his artistic side and respect for the killer's work.
    • Will Graham has a touch of this trope played straight. Every person he's tried to kill (with or without success) was a serial killer. It's in his job to catch them, but Will enjoys killing in a way that both terrifies and thrills him. It's ambiguous about how much this comes from He Who Fights Monsters and how much is naturally there inside Will.
  • The I-Land: Hayden was imprisoned because she went around murdering sex offenders as a vigilante killer. This leads to her own death after she kills Brody for assaulting Chase and K.C.
  • The Inside: "Prefiler"'s titular character, played by a pre-Lost Michael Emerson, profiles potential serial killers, tracks them down before they get a chance to kill, and kills them using their own intended methods.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: One episode has a woman who can't handle that she killed a torturous murderer.
  • Murder One: Clifford Banks is a subversion: although most of his victims were unconvicted serial killers, his first-ever victim was his brother, whose murder he forgot and mentally pinned on a burglar. Ironically, this is what led him on the killer-killing path.
  • The Outer Limits (1995): "A Stitch in Time" has an unbalanced female scientist use her time machine to go back and execute famous serial killers before they hurt anybody. Her resulting Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory does not improve her mental state...
  • Tales from the Crypt: In the very first episode, "The Man Who Was Death", Niles Talbot is an executioner who was recently fired after the death penalty was abolished in his town. As a result, he goes on a killing spree, killing those who murdered people and escaped justice by various means of electrocution. However, eventually karma bites him in the ass when the tables are turned on him and he is executed using his preferred method just as it was reinstated.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Anathema, your job is to murder people in order to control the global population. Players can choose to act as this. Additionally, if you fail to meet your daily kill quotas enough times, other shrouds will hunt you down and destroy you.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Forgotten Realms have this as the encouraged behavior of the priests of the little-known deity Hoar, the Lawful Neutral god of retribution. Specialty priests of Hoar are called Doombringers, and are highly encouraged to kill or otherwise punish (as appropriate for the crime) criminals in a manner befitting the criminal's own misdeeds, especially if they can inflict an ironic punishment.
  • Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Sin-Eaters mainly focus on dealing with ghosts and helping them move to the afterlife, which in the case of ghosts born from a violent death often means avenging them by finding the one responsible for their murder. Hunter: The Vigil supplement Mortal Remains mentions that Slashers usually are terrified by Sin-Eaters because of this.
    • Likewise, Hunter: The Vigil zigzags this trope with regards to the complicated relationship between hunters and Slashers. Hunters are all too aware that they are one bad He Who Fights Monsters jag away from potentially becoming a slasher; on the other hand, slashers make suitable targets, and nobody's really going to mind if overkill happens. However, VASCU, the faction that primarily deals with Slashers, is a notable aversion of this. They may focus on supernaturally-empowered serial killers... but they're a branch of the FBI, which means Slashers need to be arrested and prosecuted legally if possible. Of course, some of these Slashers are supernaturally charming or unstoppable engines of destruction, which means conventional justice is difficult if not impossible, which makes this trope apply, which is what VASCU is constantly on watch for because of the aforementioned He Who Fights Monsters problem...
  • Old World of Darkness:
    • Mage: The Ascension has the Tradition of Euthanatos. The Euthanatos view existence as a continual cycle of death and rebirth — "the Wheel" — and those who unbalance the Wheel through atrocities must be dealt with so that things can be set right. A specific version within the Tradition of the Cult of Ecstasy is The Children's Crusade, who specifically target child abusers. It's noted at several points that even their erstwhile foes in the Technocracy typically turn a blind eye to The Children's Crusade when they act against one.
    • Werewolf: The Apocalypse:
      • The tribal laws of the Black Furies forbid them from turning a blind eye to violence against women. Domestic abusers, sexual predators, and serial killers who murder women are all legitimate targets for them.
      • Among the Get of Fenris, the Hand of Tyr camp hunts down those who torment the innocent, including murderers.
      • One of the most depraved antagonists in the game is the Seventh Generation, a Wyrm cult that kidnaps children and uses them as human sacrifices. The Seventh Generation's killings and depraved rites have earned it enemies who hunt its members without mercy. For example, the Order of the Rose, an underground organization described in Rage Across New York, hunts down Seventh Generation devotees. Also, one of King Albrecht's first projects after ascending the throne was orchestrating a Garou attack on the Seventh Generation. The result was a slaughter of almost all Seventh Generation members.
      • Garou see killing wolves as a grave offense, and some Garou target hunters who slaughter wolves. Several characters in the Warriors of the Apocalypse character book, such as Volcheka Ibarruri and Gere Hunts-The-Hunters, torture and kill wolf hunters.
    • In Vampire: The Masquerade, anyone following the Road of Heaven, as opposed to the Road of Humanity, for their Path of Enlightenment only had a strict ban on all murder at the highest rank of the Path. On top of that, failing to punish major sin is a failing for anyone at least rank 3 on the Path. As such, while adherents to the Path are pretty rare past the Renaissance, it was a pretty popular choice for a Path of Enlightenment for anyone interested in the "Superheroes with Fangs" style of play (plus, since it used the same base virtues as the Road of Humanity, it was the easiest alternative Path to switch to).
  • Exaggerated by the Night Haunter from Warhammer 40,000. Konrad Curze was the Night Lords Primarch who had the misfortune of winding up on Nostramo, a hellish planet of perpetual night where cruelty and violence reigned. Curze wanted to do the right thing, but how can you do that when practically everyone is an evil bastard who only understands fear and force? Why, you become the most brutal serial killer on the planet and murder every other criminal, of course! And it worked: the Night Haunter was so terrifying to the people of Nostramo that he practically became a king ruling from the shadows, and crime rates dropped to near-zero within a year. Then the Emperor turned up and recruited Curze for the Great Crusade, and in his absence, Nostramo fell back into lawlessness and depravity because he never bothered to build the foundations for a lawful society and the Nostramoans didn't have to fear him anymore. Curze learned of this and he didn't take it well.

    Video Games 
  • .hack: Haseo, the Player Killer Killer from .hack//Roots and .hack//G.U. Player Killing and Player Killer Killing (ad infinitum) is Serious Business in the World.
  • In The Cat Lady, Susan Ashworth's primary goal is to kill five serial killers, called "Parasites".
  • City of Heroes: The Vigilante alignment is basically a Hero who kills instead of arrests. They're willing to forego saving innocent lives in order to get at the bad guys, and they are willing to get very brutal about going after said bad guys. Because Vigilante is the transitional alignment between Hero and Villain, a Vigilante who goes too far risks becoming a Villain.
  • Condemned: Criminal Origins: Serial Killer X. Spying on FBI Agent Ethan Thomas, SKX figured out the identities of ten other Serial Killers and murdered them in the way they did their victims, which caused them to be confused for their own victims by the authorities and the investigation to go cold, thus keeping X's involvement unknown. In the sequel, his goals have shifted to dissecting people in an effort to give himself superpowers, though it should be noted that while he claimed to have righteous reasons for his killings, he also just really liked getting a thrill out of hunting them down and killing them, and he certainly didn't have any hesitation in killing innocent people, including several of Thomas' fellow officers.
  • Dark Souls has the Blades of Darkmoon covenant, which allows you to hunt down and invade players who have been indicted for PvP by doing it too much, cheating at it, or for killing Dark Sun Gwyndolyn, the covenant's leader.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Matheiu Bellamont. On one hand, he's a murderous lunatic with an incredibly disturbing Torture Cellar and Room Full of Crazy. On the other hand, he only kills members of the Dark Brotherhood. To make it even more sketchy, he's not even the one who kills a lot of them!
  • Fallout 4: Pickman is a Mad Artist who kills people, paints creepy pictures with their blood, and arranges their bodies into grotesque displays. But he only targets Raiders, so it's cool. Not like anyone's going to miss them (unless their aim is off). Despite being a very minor character who only appears during a single small sidequest, his handsome and polished appearance, in addition to a strangely charming personality, has earned him a significant fan following.
  • MadWorld: Jack fits this well in both MadWorld and Anarchy Reigns, and he is very good at it.
  • Manhunt: James Cash becomes this, technically; he is hunting down and brutally murdering people for Starkweather's Snuff Film, even using slasher-type methods of hunting and butchering, and the people he kills are Starkweather's "workers", which means they're all guilty of multiple murder as well.
  • Mass Effect: Garrus Vakarian becomes this between the first and second games. He became a vigilante in the in-universe Wretched Hive, hunting down all sorts of criminals, often administering poetic justice against the more particularly heinous ones. He brutalized a slaver, killed a drug dealer using the same addictive and deadly drug the dealer sold, killed a specialist in biological warfare with a virus, and killed a dangerous saboteur by causing a space suit malfunction.
  • No More Heroes is in part all about this sort of thing. While the player character Travis Touchdown is part of a union of assassins, and as such does get the occasional mission to, y'know, assassinate someone, for the most part, his only concern is becoming the highest-ranked assassin in the union by killing off all the higher-ranked ones.
    • The first game has Alex Mercer as this, in a way. He kills thousands of comparatively blameless soldiers to get to their leaders, the ones responsible for the outbreak of the disease ravaging Manhattan, and kill them. His reasoning, insofar as 'reason' factors into anything Alex does, seems to be that however many people he kills, his targets are responsible for both far more deaths and much uglier crimes. Of course, his conscience is still developing throughout the game, so at the beginning, he was just a plain-old mass murderer... of guys who were trying to kill him for reasons he didn't understand at that point. (Unless he also killed civilians.)
    • In [PROTOTYPE 2], if you don't kill civilians and try to reign in any Marine deaths, then this trope is played straight. Everyone in Blackwatch is evil. Every. Single. Soldier.
  • Thrill Kill: Tormentor is a judge executed in the electric chair after it was found out he acquitted criminals just so he could later torture and kill them instead.
  • Yandere Simulator: Mission Mode takes place in an alternate timeline where Ayano is a Professional Killer instead of a Yandere. It's possible for her to be stalked by a student known only as Nemesis, whose only goal is to find Ayano and kill her. The comic Retribution reveals she's Hanako Yamada, out to get revenge on Ayano for killing her brother, Taro, who was Ayano's first victim.

    Web Original 

If they kill multiple serial killers, wouldn't they be a Serial Serial-Killer Killer?