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Sympathy for the Devil

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"Hard not to feel sorry for the guy. He was a victim."
Spider-Man on Electro, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

This occurs when the hero realizes that a villain they are fighting is either not so bad, after all, has relatable (if still wrong) reasons for doing what they have done, or at least they just sees a vulnerable side in them which makes them empathise to an extent. This sentiment generally is easier to justify in stories with morally ambiguous characters like White-and-Grey Morality, Grey-and-Gray Morality, and even Black-and-Gray Morality. Used well, it can make for greater emotional value and added depth to the villain. If neither of those are the case, it can still show the kindness of the hero who feels bad for their foes, because they know that the villain will always be unhappy and unsatisfied in their cruel lives. When used badly, however, it will make the sympathy feel unwarranted and add needless Wangst. Often the story will have a worse villain to contrast with the sympathetic one and act as a Hate Sink for the audience.

Commonly enough, the two characters involved treat each other as Worthy Opponents and they may be the target of Foe Romance Subtext. Sometimes, the villain in whom the hero found a glimmer of humanity will die or suffer a Fate Worse than Death to provide angst for the hero or just because the Word of God must "confirm" that they don't support crime and that Redemption Equals Death. If they get killed by another villain, it's almost always a Kick the Dog moment for that villain. If they do survive, they are a prime candidate for a Heel–Face Turn.

When it's the audience who feel sympathy for the villain regardless of whether or not the heroes or even the creator do, it's Cry for the Devil or Draco in Leather Pants. Compare with Antagonist in Mourning, Last-Second Chance, Rival Turned Evil, Can't Kill You, Still Need You. Contrast Sympathy for the Hero where it's the villain having a similar realization about the hero.

The name comes from a 1968 song by The Rolling Stones which, incidentally, is not an example of this trope at all; in the song, Satan is sarcastically confessing that he's responsible for all the evil throughout history, when it's really mankind denying their own sins.

A common trait of an All-Loving Hero. May overlap with Go-Karting with Bowser, Alas, Poor Villain, Enemy Mine, and Mirror Character moments. May induce Cradling Your Kill.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • All-Loving Hero Astro has this for several villains in the 2003 Astro Boy series, most notably Guff, Atlas, and Pluto. Astro's kindness is a big factor in several characters having a Heel Realization.
  • Attack on Titan is filled with sympathetic villains, and the heroes are often conflicted over realizing they really aren't that different.
    • Eren and Armin express sympathy towards Annie Leonhart, wondering what would drive a person to do such terrible things.
    • Jean and Connie both express sympathy towards Bertolt, and his Tears of Remorse are enough to shake Mikasa out of her murderous Unstoppable Rage. Ymir later expresses her sympathy towards Reiner and Bertolt, stating she's the only person that understand their situation.
    • Hange ends up feeling sympathy towards Pastor Nick, and later Djel Sanes after realizing both genuinely thought of their actions are Necessarily Evil.
    • Eren brings up this trope when he talks to Reiner for the first time in four years. Having spent time in enemy territory, Eren has realised that people inside the walls and across the ocean are all the same. He says that he understands what Reiner went through when he and his friends attacked the walls, and has essentially forgiven Reiner as an individual, but still resents his enemies, namely the nation of Marley, who he'd come to destroy.
  • Similarly, Black Lagoon is full of sympathetic devils. The only exceptions that come to mind are the Neo-Nazis (who are misguided and comical) and Chaka.
  • Bleach:
    • During Ulquiorra's intense, emotional death scene, his (now former) captive Orihime reassures him that she's not afraid of him and tries to hold his hand as he disintegrates. This is reinforced a few chapters later when Ichigo notes that she's been rather upset about the Espada's death, especially when compared to fellow Espada Yammy (whose reaction can be summed up as "oh, he's dead?").
    • When Aizen is finally defeated, Ichigo is only able to feel pity for him after sensing the soul-crushing loneliness that ultimately drove Aizen's delusions of godhood.
  • Blood+'s Saya Otonashi shows pity/sympathy for Diva for her tragic Freudian Excuse several times in the series, although it doesn't stop her from carrying out her duty when Diva threatens her family and the world. When she finally succeeds at killing Diva, Saya holds her and cries for her as she dies.
  • This appears to be the ultimate Aesop for the anime version of Blue Exorcist; have sympathy for demons, and try to understand them before you try to destroy them. Rin and Yukio's mother, Yuri, literally had sympathy for Satan himself.
  • In Death Note, after shooting and almost killing Light, Matsuda is shown to feel a degree of pity for him, as does Aizawa in the anime (ironically, he tells Matsuda he shouldn't feel pity for Light in the manga). In the spin-off manga chapter starring Near, Matsuda does freely admit though that Light was "an evil person".
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Tanjiro Kamado doesn't hesitate to cut down any demons who threaten the lives of humans, but also feels pity for them, since they used to be humans and some of them come to regret their actions in the end. This is averted for some of the crueler demons, especially Muzan Kibutsuji, who created the rest of demonkind, turned Tanjiro's sister Nezuko into a demon and killed the rest of the Kamado family.
  • This causes Emi a great deal of grief in The Devil is a Part-Timer!. She's spent most of her life training to slay the demon lord, only to find out that he's genuinely a nice guy and has become a productive member of society upon ending up in Japan. Over the course of the light novels, she comes to view him as a friend and eventually falls in love with him.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
  • The Electric Tale of Pikachu: After the Black Fog chooses to self-destruct rather than let Ash capture it, Sabrina sheds tears for it, remarking that even though she's hated the Black Fog for years for killing all of her Pokemon, she just can't help but feel sorry for it.
  • Elfen Lied: Even though Lucy killed his father and little sister in a jealous rage, Kouta, despite openly admitting that he can't forgive her actions, can't actually bring himself to hate Lucy herself no matter what and would rather get her to stop killing than seek revenge.
  • Fairy Tail: The conversation in Chapter 340 between Mavis Vermillion and Zeref implies that at one point, the two were close enough to know rather uncommon knowledge about one another; for example, Mavis knowing that Zeref is a Death Seeker, and Zeref referring to humans as if Mavis isn't one of them. She also apparently willingly let him stay on Sirius Island with her, indicating that despite Zeref's very well earned reputation, she seemed to genuinely feel bad for the guy... up until his rather unnerving threat about wiping out humanity, anyway.
    • Fairy Tail ZERŘ and Chapters 449-450 elaborate a bit more on their relationship. Mavis was the only one to ever show Zeref kindness and recognize him for what he was: a kind but troubled man under a truly horrific curse. When Mavis became similarly cursed, she realized she was the only one who could ever truly relate to him, and as a result they fell in love. But the curse would never allow Zeref to be happy, and killed her in spite of her immortality, causing Zeref's true Start of Darkness. Mavis did not just sympathize with the devil — she loved the man who became the devil, and at the same time recognizes it was her death that made him the devil in the first place.
  • Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star is famous for this trope. Even a deranged emperor that used children slaves to create a giant pyramid gets a little bit of the love.
  • Flame of Recca: Upon learning Kurei's tragic backstory from Neon, Recca slightly sympathizes Kurei until Tokiya reminds him about Kurei ever attempted to harm Yanagi. This is also followed by Recca saving Neon from her attempt to kill everyone around as a way to show her Undying Loyalty to Kurei.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
  • With a few exceptions, this trope is all over the Gundam franchise.
  • Higurashi: When They Cry alternates between question and answer arcs, showing each villain from a Sympathetic P.O.V.. Even the Big Bad is not an exception, having a Dark and Troubled Past and succumbing to the Hate Plague in the end.
  • Yuu from Holyland comes to realise that some of the gangsters he comes into conflict with just want a place they can call their own, just like him. The main difference is that he's content to defend what he can get, while they are aggressive and expansionist in doing so.
  • Completely subverted in Hunter × Hunter when Gon and Killua are captured by members of the Phantom Troupe. When he realizes that one of them is grieving for the recent death of his friend, he become enraged at them, because by his own bizarre morality, their horrific actions throughout the arc would've at least been understandable if they were your standard self-centered villains with a complete Lack of Empathy, but the fact that they would grieve for the loss of one of their own right after coldly killing dozens of people made them less sympathetic in his eyes.
  • Inuyasha: After Kanna dies as part of her final mission from Naraku, Kagome cries for her, having realized that Kanna truly had emotions and didn't want to die.
  • Jonathan Joestar in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Phantom Blood has every reason to hate Dio Brando. Despite everything, he still sheds tears when he apparently defeats Dio. Even after Dio mortally wounds him, Jonathan's last act is to embrace Dio's head, acknowledging that he still considers Dio his brother.
  • Nearly does in Robin Mask when he faces Kinnikuman Mariposa in Kinnikuman's Scramble for the Throne arc. Mariposa tells Robin about his past, in which he was forced into thievery due to poverty and Robin, who had never faced a foe with a Tragic Past before, couldn't bring himself to pile more defeat onto Mariposa. It took a reminder that Kinnikuman himself was a bigger Butt-Monkey than Mariposa ever was and overcame it without falling to evil before Robin could get back into the fight guilt-free.
  • Mazinger Z: Played with in the Gosaku Ota manga version. The main characters go over Dr. Kabuto's notes to try to ascertain what the Mykene Warrior Monsters are and where they come from. After learning they were a civilization forced to live underground for millennia, Misato feels genuinely sorry for them. Kouji will hear nothing of it, though, and he remarks that their suffering doesn't give them the right to kill innocent people.
  • By the end of Monster, Nina finally brings herself to forgive her twin brother and the titular "monster" of the series, Johan Liebert, for all of the things he had done to her and others, while Dr. Kenzo Tenma is persuaded by Nina and Inspector Lunge to save Johan's life for a second time (after attempting to correct the "mistake" of saving Johan's life for much of the series by trying to kill him), and later visits him while he is (supposedly) unconscious in the hospital, reassuring him that his long-lost mother loves him very much.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: Thanks to their Odd Friendship and Friendly Rivalry, Sherlock Holmes wants to stop Professor William James Moriarty from murdering people to save William from the weight of his own sins.
  • Naruto:
    • Naruto despises Obito for his Straw Nihilist views, but as he works to finally separate him from the tailed beasts, all of his emotions and memories come flooding in with them. Naruto experiences visions of the man's past, his dreams of becoming Hokage, his mourning Rin's death, and is genuinely moved to tears over Obito's loss.
    • Hashirama Senju, the First Hokage, actually sympathizes with his Evil Former Friend Madara Uchiha, believing that everything Madara has done is simply his way of lashing out over his brother's death. As a result, Hashirama is one of the few people in the entire series who doesn't find Madara too much of a bastard to tolerate.
  • Rave Master: Haru Glory has been sympathetic towards several of his foes upon learning the events that brought them where they are. However, his first experience with this through King taught Haru that despite his sympathy "We have to fight anyone who inflicts pain upon the innocent. That's the path we've chosen."
  • Rosario + Vampire: This turns out to be why Kahlua had Undying Loyalty to a monstrous bitch like Gyokuro; Kahlua knew that if it weren't for her, Gyokuro would be all alone in the world, without the love and attention of her husband or children.
  • In the anime version of Sailor Moon (its last season, Stars, to be exact) All the Sailor Senshi (yes, even Uranus and Neptune) shed tears after learning about Nehellenia's Start of Darkness. It was hard for them to imagine living with the sadness and loneliness she endured. This prompted Sailor Moon to return Nehellenia to her childhood, giving her a second chance at life.
  • In The Seven Deadly Sins, King sympathizes with Helbram despite the latter doing all sorts of atrocious things. This is because Helbram is actually King's old friend who had gone mad with hatred for humans due to King being too late to save him.
  • Johan Faust VIII from Shaman King is first presented as a ruthless, cruel, and slightly insane antagonist. He gets a fair bit of sympathy when it's revealed that his fairy tale romance with his wife Eliza was cut short like an ironic Greek tragedy, leaving him a broken man. Anna actually recruits him as the team medic in exchange for Anna summoning Eliza's spirit. Having his beloved wife back mellows him out to the point that he's a valued teammate, if still crazy.
  • Simon and Viral in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, particularly in the final arcs. Not to mention both pre-timeskip Lord Genome and the Anti-Spiral, who, despite being mortal enemies, are both using the same basic strategy of tyranny to protect what they love (humanity from the Anti-Spiral for Lord Genome, the universe from humanity for the Anti-Spiral).
  • In the last episodes of Tokyo Mew Mew, the Mew Mews begin to sympathize with the alien villains who are desperately trying to take Earth from humans and save their own species from suffering in a wasteland of a planet. Retasu and Bu-Ling in particular would like to solve the conflict peacefully as they discover the aliens aren't really evil at heart.
  • Unico: The titular unicorn is an All-Loving Hero who strongly prefers being non-violent and encouraging kindness, love, and happiness with others. This even extends to antagonists and villains where the protagonist would openly pity them (especially after learning their backstory or their purpose) and tries being friends with them. Even apologizing after reluctantly forced to use violence as a last resort usually when Unico's close to death. As seen in the 2000 short Saving our Fragile Earth: Unico Special Chapter, he expresses sympathy for a demon monster made out of humanity's carelessness with the environment and successfully befriends him. When he's almost crushed to death, he's forced to burn the demon's hand to free himself to have a peaceful conversation with him. Fortunately, Unico manages to convince the demon "That not all humans are careless with the enviroment" and gives humanity a second chance, but wishes him that they shall never meet again.
    Unico: Poor thing. (starts burning his arm)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V:
    • Yuya is pretty empathetic of other people, given his role as an entertainer. Many of the villains are Child Soldiers, or victims that live their lives by the whims of the villains, so Yuya tries to bring them joy and entertainment. This is most notable during the Battle Beast arc, where he encourages the titular Beast to turn against his oppressors and live a peaceful life, without suffering.
    • And invoked by Yuri: he tells Asuka about his Friendless Background, and how he became the way he is through the Professor's guidance. Asuka, realizing how much pain he is in, spends a portion of their duel offering an olive branch to him. It's subverted when Yuri reveals that he's genuinely an unrepentant monster, and laughs at Asuka for falling for his trick. He specifically tried to make her feel sympathy for him, just so he can break her down and show how bad he is.
  • YuYu Hakusho: Koenma expresses sympathy for Younger Toguro after the latter chooses a hellish afterlife followed by Cessation of Existence due to lingering Survivor Guilt. He wonders if beneath the Blood Knight exterior, Younger Toguro was just a sad man with a broken dream.

    Asian Animation 
  • In BoBoiBoy, a tragic event in Season 2 episode 12 affecting Adu Du, namely the death of his robot buddy Probe, has even BoBoiBoy and his allies crying, even though Adu Du is a threat to BoBoiBoy and his gang.

    Comic Books 
  • Anya's Ghost: Comes at the climax. Unpopular high-school girl Anya has discovered that the teen ghost girl Emily she met in the bottom of a well, who claims that she was chased into the well by her family's murderer and fell to her death, actually was chased into the forest by an angry mob after locking the man who rejected her and his lover in their cabin and setting it ablaze, and fell to her death in the well. Emily claims that the two of them are the same in that they both are selfish when it comes to getting what they want, whether it be love or good grades or popularity, but Anya pulls her back down into the well by dropping one of Emily's bones into the hole. When Emily takes over her own skeleton and drags herself out, Anya pauses, stops running away, and admits to Emily that they actually are similar, but only because they assume the people they're envious of have perfect lives, despite not being able to know what's actually going on inside someone else's mind. She tenderly tells Emily that what she wants, the chance to live again vicariously through Anya, doesn't even exist. Emily sheds silent tears and dissipates herself into the night sky.
  • Blaze of Glory: Caleb Hammer spent a long time chasing after Kid Colt because he murdered a sheriff. During the series, Colt also murders some of Hammer's comrades in anger, and they are not on good terms come Issue #4. But even so, that doesn't mean Caleb wanted him to go the way he did. This borders on inversion, since Caleb is an Inspector Javert Hero Antagonist, while Colt is just a man who lets his anger get him in trouble with the law and actually might be the least rough-around-the-edges out of the seven protagonists aside from Two-Gun.
  • In the Buffy comic series Tales of the Vampires, a group of young Watchers-in-training are brought before a captured vampire who tells them all about vampires both as monsters and people. At the end, after foiling an attempt by this vampire's sire to free him, (and killing the sire) the main character acknowledges that she did learn from the vampire and apologizes for his loss as he weeps disconsolately.
  • Daredevil: A one-shot story has the titular hero and Black Widow go up against a serial killer named Rose who has murdered at least 40 telepaths. When Rose captures Natasha, it is revealed that Rose is a telepath herself and that as a child she was sexually abused by her father while her mother refused to believe her. Eventually, Rose's mother was killed by her father which caused Rose to snap and use her powers to make him commit suicide. When she discovered other telepaths existed she began a killing spree because she "wanted to be special". Despite the depravity of Rose's crimes, the fact that one of her victims was an old friend of Natasha's and that Natasha herself kills Rose, the Russian spy cannot help but shed tears over how a little girl was twisted and broken into becoming such a monster. That Rose was sharing her memories with Natasha telepathically might have contributed to Natasha's reaction.
  • The Mighty Thor:
    • Loki often tries to make people feel sorry for him to get away with a lot.
    • Thor cries for his Arch-Enemy and adopted little brother when Loki sacrifices himself at the end of Siege to save Asgard from his own backfiring scheme.
    • This goes even further when Loki gets a Heel–Face Turn that involves dying, resurrecting as a child, stealing said child's body, and more. During this chapter, Loki's antagonised by an older version of themselves who, they find out, is Loki in the future after having given up on their Heel–Face Turn due to a perceived Reformed, but Rejected status. Despite the fact they literally torture Loki, publicly humiliates them and outs their worst crime, inducing the aforementioned rejection early, and generally ruins Loki's life, Loki ends the series comforting their older self, who will now no longer exist because Loki has avoided turning into them. They decide that all Old "King" Loki wanted was to be loved, and Loki spares them from non-existence by merging part of them into themselves.
  • In Scott Pilgrim, this is materialized as the Power of Understanding.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics):
    • Sonic is shown to feel visible guilt when a series of defeats reduces Dr. Eggman to an insane babbling wreck. Granted this comes to an end when he regains his stability, and all his ruthlessness and more, shortly afterwards.
    • Likewise, when Fiona starts crying and denying that she trusts and depends on Scourge, Sonic just walks away with a pitying look on his face, muttering, "Keep telling yourself that."
  • Superman:
    • An ambiguous case appears in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel. After the events of the series, Lex Luthor confronts Superman, who looks as if he's barely restraining himself from attacking Luthor, and delivers "The Reason You Suck" Speech about how everyone in Metropolis wanted to see Toyman be killed for his (suspected) actions, and how the fact that Superman in fact rescued him will be enough to turn people against him. He doesn't say anything, but for just one panel Superman's angry expression disappears and he looks at Luthor with sadness.
    • In The Condemned Legionnaires, Satan Girl infects the Legion of Super-Heroes' female members with a mysterious plague, and she gleefully attempts to murder them and Supergirl several times. At the end, though, Satan Girl fails, and she reveals her true nature as she is dying: she was a Supergirl's duplicate created when Kara got exposed to Red Kryptonite. Since she was doomed to disappear when the Red-K effect vanished after forty-eight hours, she tried to keep herself alive by transfering the Kryptonite radiation to the Legion girls. As Satan Girl's fades forever, Supergirl feels sorry for her evil doppelganger, stating she was only fighting hard to survive.
    • The Life Story of Superman: Subverted. When Lex Luthor's ego inevitably foils his latest scheme, Superman states he could almost pity his nemesis...but Luthor is too dangerous and mad to waste compassion on him.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Alan Jonah attempts to invoke and exploit this trope by telling Vivienne Graham about the tragic murder of his daughter Lindy which set him on the Misanthrope Supreme path he's on today. Vivienne doesn't fall for it, noting that as tragic as his daughter's death was, it doesn't justify him forcing the same fate on millions of other innocents with families.
  • All This Sh*t is Twice as Weird: Victoria pities Calpernia during their one and only meeting when she realizes that the other woman is actually quite well-meaning and thoroughly devastated by the betrayal that Victoria reveals to her. They part company, each leaving the other unharmed.
  • Belated Battleships: New Jersey has no love for communists whatsoever, but even she admits to admiring the way the People's Liberation Army Navy suffered massive losses holding the line while the Chinese evacuated inland.
  • Danny Phantom: Stranded: Despite Richard being disgusted with his wife's actions during "Visited" and seeing how much Beatrice acted like an Abusive Parent to both their daughter and granddaughter. This includes Beatrice trying to forcefully set their granddaughter Star with Donovan Loadman, a Jerkass who was willing to hit her and take Donovan's side over they are granddaughters' side Star. As well as Beatrice mistreats Danny, Star's ACTUAL boyfriend, due to him being middle class, going so far as to take Donovan's side when he hits Star and Danny tries to defend Star. And how Beatrice also previously abused their former son-in-law, Johnathan, and refuses to believe that she did anything wrong, Richard still refuses to divorce his wife.
    • Richard admits that he feels some responsibility for Beatrice because he believes that his being a Henpecked Husband is what led her to run wild as she did. He refuses to divorce her because he believes he holds partial responsibility for her actions and has old-fashioned views on marriage. However, he does admit that he pities his wife, noting that for all her talk and obsession over wealth, class, and status, Beatrice never seemed to be truly happy or satisfied with what she had. Even with the many luxuries she had and his giving her anything she asked for, she was rarely happy, and even to this day, she is still not content or happy.
  • In Fallout: Equestria - Project Horizons, Blackjack, saint of the Wasteland, often spares people against her better judgement based on their sob stories. She gets it thrown in her face a lot, especially by her friends, who note that she gets backstabbed a lot more than the average pony. When it finally comes to an absolute, unredeemable bastard, she finally snaps and melts him.
  • Invoked in the Descendants fic The Heart of Auradon, looking at the death of Carlos de Vil; once the initial grief has passed, Ben immediately asks to make arrangements for Cruella to be allowed off the island at least long enough to attend his funeral, and his mother agrees that it would be too cruel to deny a mother the chance to say goodbye to her son no matter what she's done in the past.
  • In the Pokémon fanfic Heptagonal Ring, during a battle the protagonists attempt to empathize with Keira, a Gardevoir who is incapable of feeling empathy. Due to her inability to feel it, she openly reprimands them for even trying and convinces them attacking her is the only way for them to get what they want.
    Keira: Shed no tears for the devil, for she shall shed no tears for you. You want your happy ending? Then show me you deserve it.
  • Hope for the Heartless is about Avalina's growing compassion towards the the Horned King as much as it's about the chance for redemption the resurrected Big Bad of The Black Cauldron has been given unexpectedly.
  • Downplayed in Infinity. Lindy hates Precia for all the horrible things she did to Fate, but she gives her a single glance of sympathy when she learns that Enlil is possessing the corpse of Precia's daughter Alicia (essentially holding her hostage).
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Dawn: Despite everything she's done, Spyro and Cynder remain sympathetic to Deadlock, stating that the circumstances that drove her insane could have easily broken anyone.
  • Loved and Lost: Despite all the cruelties he puts everyone through, the heroes, especially the three alicorn princesses, are saddened in the epilogue that they were unable to redeem Princess Cadance's all along rotten cousin Prince Jewelius before he received his well-earned end in the teeth of the vengeful Changelings.
  • Luminosity's Chelsea is unquestionably evil. Her power is to Mind Control people into loving people of her choosing or feeling nothing for people they once loved, and she uses it regularly. Then the story goes on. "Everyone must love me."
  • The Many Dates of Danny Fenton: Tucker and Jazz have some degree of sympathy for Katie Kaboom, even though they feel Danny was correct to call them out.
  • In My Mother, regardless of what she learns about Anakin's actions as Darth Vader, Padme refuses to stop loving the good man her husband was before his fall to the Dark Side.
  • In The New Man: An Adam Smasher SI, the tile character's music career manages to make Kerry Eurodyne somewhat sympathetic towards him despite having killed his old friend Johnny Silverhand out of a misguided belief that the full-borg is a soulful individual whose sudden music career is his way of expressing decades of emotional pain. The same goes for Red Menace of the Us Cracks, who happens to think that his new look is pretty hot.
  • Only Human: In this Frozen fanfic, while Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff acknowledge that Hans has done horrible things to them, the fact that his family would casually condemn him to slave merchants is downright sickening, and they begin to question if sending him back to such an abusive household was really a good idea. As a result, they feel pity for him.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, Jane Davenport, an N7 Shadow, finds two ex-Cerberus camped out aboard Omega. She quickly learns the engineer turret she took out as per the usual was actually there to defend against the Flood, not as a trap for unwitting Alliance. After receiving a tongue lashing for destroying "our only defense", Davenport finds that these Cerberus troops were just trying to defend humanity when it seemed no one else would. Thus, the lone Alliance soldier joins up with her former foes.
  • After Aizen's defeat in A Protector's Pride, Ichigo discuses the villain's motivations with Urahara. He even admits that as two immortal beings incapable of touching anyone but each other, they might have become friends eventually, which he suggests is why Aizen tried not to cross the Moral Event Horizon with him. Ichigo also ponders the depths of Aizen's despair given that his final form had three Hollow holes.note 
  • A Rabbit Among Wolves: Blake mourns Adam's death at the hands of Jaune, believing he still could've changed his ways, and curses the latter for doing the deed.
  • In Shadows over Meridian, Jade shows sympathy for both Miranda and Cedric due to a shared history of having faced persecution, and plans to give them a new start after their mission is over.
  • The Horde-aligned protagonist of Travels Through Azeroth and Outland has this attitude towards the Alliance.
  • The Twilight Child: Even after all she's done to them, the Cutie Mark Crusaders try to reach out to Diamond Tiara after she's been on the receiving end of a "The Reason You Suck" Speech. Diamond Tiara's response is to scream and swear at them until they go away.
  • The Ultimate Evil: Valerie Payne cannot help but feel sad for Shendu who's trapped as a lifeless spirit in the Netherworld at the end, for she acknowledges that while he has done horrible things, he loves her and committed some of his acts for her.
  • Us and Them: Jessie from Final Fantasy VII starts to get this after spending time with Rufus, finding out they share some of the same interests, and getting hints about the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father.
  • Weight Off Your Shoulder: Future!Alix has become a Time-Traveling Jerkass who has been twisting the timeline to her own self-serving ends, not caring about the horrors Hawk Moth and other villains inflict so long as she gets what she wants. Yet in their final confrontation, Marinette admits that she feels sorry for her, acknowledging that both of them were forced to shoulder massive responsibilities long before they were ready simply due to the respective Miraculouses they received. Future!Alix went mad from being forced to give up life as a normal teenager and hide out in the Burrow, and lost her empathy for others as she rationalized everyone's suffering away as "just what has to happen."
  • In the MLP: FIM fanfic What Have You Done and the sequel Even As..., Twilight sees Discord as just like her, another abandoned creature after she crosses the Despair Event Horizon when she is alienated from her friends and family due to the Canterlot Wedding. She decides that Discord does not deserve being sealed in stone, and uses a reversal spell to set him free.
  • In the Fire Emblem: Three Houses fic Who We Are, And What We Are Meant To Be, when the time comes to besiege Shambhala, Claude can't help but feel pity for the Agarthans who spent over a millennium being raised on nothing but hatred and vengeance. He hopes to try to reintegrate them into Fódlan society after the war.
  • In Your Alicorn Is in Another Castle, a Super Mario Bros. and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Crossover Fic by Estee, when Bowser begins to explain how his "Princess Kidnapping Business" works to Twilight Sparkle, he starts by showing her his "Cutie Mark": a crown wrapped in chains and ready to be dragged away. The implications utterly horrify Twilight.
    She wanted to cry. She wanted to find whatever had been responsible for inflicting that kind of future upon him and kick it into the lava, with her tears adding steam to the plumes of ash. "...I'm sorry... I'm so sorry..."

    Films — Animation 
  • Invoked in The Bad Guys (2022). When the gang is arrested for attempting to steal the Good Samaritan Award, Mr. Wolf claims nobody had ever given him and his friends a chance to be anything other than criminals. Professor Marmalade, the award's recipient, takes pity on them and comes up with the idea to have the gang rehabilitated at his compound instead of going to jail. Mr. Wolf is playing him, hoping to use the pretense to get another chance at stealing the trophy.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, Master Shifu faces Tai Lung when the latter makes his way to the Jade Palace. During their battle, Tai Lung angrily calls out Shifu for pushing him to train so hard his bones cracked, filling his head with dreams of becoming the Dragon Warrior, and turning his back on him when Oogway denied him the Dragon Scroll. Exhausted and beaten physically and emotionally, Shifu acknowledges the part he played in Tai Lung's descent and apologizes for failing him. Unfortunately, Tai Lung just wants the Scroll.
  • In Kung Fu Panda 2, Po pities Shen and tries to help him see redemption. This is pretty damn impressive considering that this act of mercy happens after Po learned that Shen slaughtered almost his entire race, including his mother.
  • In The Mousehole Cat, Mowzer comes to pity the Great Storm Cat after realising how lonely he must be.
  • It's brief; but in Rise of the Guardians, the Guardians all wore an expression of pity when Jamie runs right through Pitch, indicating that the Boogey Man is no longer feared. Jamie prefaces this by straight-up telling Pitch that "I do believe in you. I'm just not afraid of you."
  • Taken literally in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Kenny McCormick comforts Satan after he has an argument with his boyfriend, Saddam Hussein.
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: The Peter Parker of Miles' universe is audibly sympathetic when telling the Kingpin that his plan to use the Super Collider won't work out the way he wants it to and that his wife and son are gone, likely knowing full well what happened to the Kingpin's family that has set him in this objective.
  • In Unico in the Island of Magic (based on Osamu Tezuka's Unico manga) by Sanrio Animation, after Unico learns about Lord Kuruku's past life by being abused by his puppet owners causing him to hate humanity. He tries his hardest not to fight him, but is forced to stab him in the chest during the climax of the film. Despite stabbing Kuruku, Unico actually apologizes to him for severely hurting him and ends up defeating him by expressing how strongly he pitied Kuruku and genuinely wants to be his Only Friend. Sadly, Kuruku tells Unico that his hatred is the only thing keeping him alive. As he's dying and yelling in agony, Unico is visibly concerned for him and can only sadly watch on.
    Unico: I'm sorry that you're full of... so much hate.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: The story does a good job establishing this for Ralph at the start. (The backstory of the game is that Ralph's home tree was cut down to build the building that is the setting for Fix-It Felix Jr. The stump is at the dump Ralph lives in.)

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cpt. Benjamin L. Willard and Col. Walter E. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now.
  • Blue Beetle (2023): Early in the film, Jaime has to stop Khaji-Da from killing the villainous Carapax. In the climax it learns of Carapax' tragic past as a child soldier in Guatemala, as well as Victoria's ruthless exploitation of him, and then has to stop Jaime from killing him out of sympathy.
  • In Brick, the Pin, a club-footed drug dealer barely out of high school, briefly opens up to the hard-boiled hero on the beach. Talking about his love for Tolkien, he reveals himself as something of a sad, lonely geek.
  • Sister Helen Prejean to Matthew Poncelet from Dead Man Walking.
  • Happens in Devil when Detective Bowden realizes that Tony Janekowski was the one who killed his wife and kids, but it was technically an accident because he was drunk.
  • Giant monster movies frequently use this trope to create more investment in the monsters as more than just disasters. The original Film/King Kong frequently framed the titual monster in a sympathethic light, as a creature lost and confused driven to protect someone who feels nothing for him (taken to an occasionally more hilarious extreme in later remakes where the realationship between Kong and the female lead was usually emphasised). Toho movies often pull this,. with both Mothra and Rodan adding tragedy to the monsters, particularly the Rodan seemingly dying after its mate. The Godzilla franchise generally frames Godzilla in a more sympathetic light if he's not being framed as a pure villain or hero. The original film portrayed his death as a tragic, painful moment. In Godzilla vs. Destoroyah he has absorbed too much radiation from an explosion in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, and his body is now melting down. After going through a Trauma Conga Line with his son dying, his body being frozen, and a couple rounds with the monster Destoroyah, he finally reaches the breaking point and melts down. Despite all of the destruction Godzilla has caused over the years, the human protagonists can't help but feel remorse for his passing. In Shin Godzilla, his theme song is all about how Godzilla is living in constant agony and is in a world they do not belong in.
    Ishiro Honda: "Monsters are tragic beings. They are born too tall, too strong, too heavy. They are not evil by choice. That is their tragedy.".
  • Inspector "Tequila" Yuen and Alan in Hard Boiled.
  • Lt. Vincent Hanna to Neil McCauley in Heat.
  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas!: Cindy Lou pities the Grinch throughout the film, especially after discovering that he became the cruel, selfish, Christmas-hating person he became after being bullied and ridiculed relentlessly by his peers.
  • The Hunger Games: When Katniss Everdeen ultimately kills Cato in the 74th Games, it's not out of anger towards him or a desire to win, but as an act of compassion and pity for his condition.
  • Another John Woo example: Ah Jong and Inspector Li Ying from The Killer (1989), who end up teaming up against Jong's boss in order to get the money needed for Jenny's eye operation.
  • Examined in Manhunter.
    Jack Crawford: You feel sorry for him.
    Will Graham: This started from an abused kid, a battered infant... My heart bleeds for him, as a child. Someone took a kid and manufactured a monster. At the same time, as an adult, he's irredeemable. He butchers whole families to pursue trivial fantasies. As an adult, someone should blow the sick fuck out of his socks. Does that sound like a contradiction to you, Jack? Does this kind of thinking make you uncomfortable?
  • Johnny Utah and Bodhi in Point Break (1991).
  • Jason attempts this with Robert in Mystery Team. It doesn't work.
  • When The Bully Kenny dies in Mr. Harrigan's Phone, Craig and his friends drive by the kid's place and see his parents broken up with grief over the death of their son. Craig has an epiphany over this, feeling sad for Kenny and his folks, noting how "even assholes have families and loved ones."
  • Raoul Silva in Skyfall. During his confrontation with M where he reveals his Tragic Villain backstory, when he says "You betrayed me," Bond looks away from Silva and gazes intently at M. After Silva has a mini-meltdown where he reveals his cyanide-induced deformity (for which he also blames M), M leaves and Bond turns to follow, but slowly and hesitantly, suggesting he doesn't entirely want to leave Silva alone. After he rejoins M, he stares silently at her until she explains why she "betrayed" Silva. According to Daniel Craig on the DVD special features, under better circumstances Bond would have rather let Silva live and get therapy.
    • M, for her part, is visibly shaken after Silva's big reveal and her explanation is tinged with melancholy. Later in the film, as they are lying in wait for Silva's final attack, she says, "I fucked this up, didn't I?" While Bond assures her she was just doing her job, he doesn't go so far as to tell her she did the right thing.
  • Star Wars:
    • Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, which is made stronger because of his relationship to him.
    • Rey develops a bond through the Force with Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi... until Kylo reveals his true intentions to her.

  • Cassie in Animorphs for Aftran. Initially, Cassie viewed Yeerks as complete monsters, but Aftran forced her to see how the natural Yeerk state was like a prison.
  • At the Mountains of Madness cranks this up a few notches, with the protagonist identifying similarities in the actions of an alien race to how humans would react under the same circumstances.
  • In The Belgariad, the evil god Torak is a warmongering, human-sacrificing, narcissistic menace to the world — and a literal cosmic mistake who knows that he was never meant to exist and that he will be replaced by the god he was supposed to be. In their duel, Garion throws him off guard for the fatal blow by reminding him that nobody in the universe has ever loved him, and feels badly for Torak even years later.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg may not like his siblings very much, but he does feel sorry for them when they get the short end of the stick. He thinks Rodrick is grumpy because he's The Un-Favourite in the family and he feels bad for Manny for being too afraid of other kids to make friends.
  • The Dresden Files: Part of the job description for Knights of the Cross. The knights' main enemy are humans who have partnered with sealed demons, and bargained for power. The knights make every effort they can to convince these humans to give up the power and the coin it's sealed in. The sympathy is far from unjustified, either, as one of the knights used to be one of those enemies.
    • Also includes Marcone, the crime lord of Chicago, once Harry learns what drove him to create his criminal empire. Harry may not like the man, what he does, or how he does it, but he does appear to respect him and understand 'why' he does it.
  • Aziraphale and Crowley in Good Omens, quite cordial for an angel and a demon (specifically, the angel with the flaming sword who guarded the gate of Eden and the demon who took the form of a snake and tempted Eve).
    • Possibly best summed up in this exchange:
      Aziraphale: I'd just like to say, if we don't get out of this, that ... I'll have known, deep down inside, that there was a spark of goodness in you.
      Crowley: That's right, make my day.
      Aziraphale: Nice knowing you.
      Crowley: Here's to next time. And ... Aziraphale?
      Aziraphale: Yes.
      Crowley: Just remember I'll have known that, deep down inside, you were just enough of a bastard to be worth liking.
  • A quite literal sympathy in the case of Hand of Mercy — the Fallen are are depicted as a small band of martyrs just trying to end their people's slavery.
  • Harry Potter:
    • While learning about Voldemort's Back Story, Harry is so merciful that he expresses a twinge of sympathy when Dumbledore reveals that his mother chose to die in childbirth, rather than save her life with magic and raise him alone. Dumbledore doesn't share the same feeling and shows the belief that Voldemort didn't suffer at all emotionally and it was just his own inhumane nature that made him what he is. Seeing as Harry is himself an orphan who was bullied worse than anything we see happen to Voldemort as a child (nothing much really considering that he was the one shown to bully and intimidate everyone around him and enjoying it), Harry should by that logic have just as easily become as bad rendering by his mere existence, on the other end of the spectrum, the whole point moot.
    • Harry's hatred for Draco is replaced with pity after the events of Book 6 and seeing how badly he has been caught up in his father's schemes and became a pawn of his father's master. He even saves Draco's life in the last book and Narcissa repays the favor.
    • The unnamed Muggle Prime Minister views his magical equivalent, Cornelius Fudge, to be a patronizing blowhard but he admits sympathy for Fudge when he finds out he’s been kicked out of office, is facing a war and an inquiry into a death on Ministry property.
    • In Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry expresses pity towards Voldemort, knowing he awaits a Fate Worse than Death should he lose the fight. He warns Voldemort about this and that there is no way Voldemort could win the fight. Harry even goes as far as to offer Voldemort a chance to repent.
  • The Hunger Games: When Katniss ultimately kills Cato in the 74th Games, it's not out of anger towards him or a desire to win, but as an act of compassion and pity for his condition.
  • I, Lucifer literally has Lucifer attempting to create sympathy, or rather simply telling his side of events. He largely succeeds in both regards. He also mentions the trope naming track, "Sympathy For The Devil" by the Rolling Stones.
  • The Incarnations of Immortality novel For Love of Evil tells the events of the previous six books, all from Satan's point of view. It definitely plays this trope well, showing both how Parry became Satan through evil he performed, how effectively he evokes evil (it is his job) yet how, secretly, is actually a very good man.
  • In It, this is one of the reasons why Mike can't quite bring himself to kill Henry Bowers even in self-defense. Mike pities him for having grown up under someone like Butch Bowers, who naturally heavily influenced Henry's way of thinking and was partially responsible for his son's racism and jerkassery.
  • Erast Fandorin and Momos in The Jack of Spades (Special Assignments) by Boris Akunin.
  • Several characters for Gollum. In The Hobbit, Bilbo takes pity on him and doesn't kill him when he has a chance, despite Gollum trying to kill and eat Bilbo. Frodo and Sam, who initially feel no pity, both develop compassion for Gollum after they've experienced the burden of bearing the Ring and are able to imagine what five hundred years of that would do to a person. Especially poignant with Sam, who's spent most of the book (understandably) regarding Gollum as a vile, treacherous little creature who deserves no sympathy.
  • Just after the climax of Geoph Essex's Lovely Assistant, Jenny points out that the monster bent on world destruction isn't the real bad guy — the creature was provoked by Carrie Raymond, who essentially lured, captured, and cosmically raped it when all it wanted was to be left alone. Jenny's able to apologize on behalf of humanity and convince the thing to leave. In the final chapter, it seems Jenny even manages to muster up a less than hostile attitude toward Carrie and Vincent Raymond themselves, though calling that "sympathy" might be stretching it.
  • Woland who actually is the Devil in The Master and Margarita.
    • He's also the inspiration for Rolling Stones song mentioned in the Trope description
  • In Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, the Storm King used to be the Sitha prince Ineluki, dedicating his entire life to protecting his people. His flame burned so brightly that he might have led them out of their exile, but instead the humans came and waged an unstoppable war. Rejecting his father's fatalism, he delved deeply into Things Man Was Not Meant to Know, destroying his own sanity in the process. His final attempt to destroy the invaders cast him into the realm beyond death, where his hate burned in darkness for five centuries. This tragic backstory proves key to defeating his plan to return to (and destroy) the mortal world, by showing him Forgiveness at a crucial moment.
    That was the truth behind this terrible, burning thing. No creature in all the cosmos deserved what had happened to the Storm King.
  • In The Mental State, Officer Reed is subjected to a great deal of humiliation by the resident sociopath. He is deprived of any chance of promotion and forced into a life of drug addiction while stuck in prison. However, once Zack explains to him that he wants to stop the prison drug trade too, and even devises a plan to do so, he starts to realise that they are not so different after all. Once cured of his drug addiction, he actually starts to bond with the sociopath, who opens up to him about his own problems.
  • In The Mote in God's Eye, Horace Bury develops a pathological aversion to the Moties after nearly smuggling breeding stock of Watchmakers off the doomed Mac'Arthur, realizing just in time that they breed in ridiculous numbers and would pose an unbeatable threat to humanity if they ever escaped from their home system. Yet he acknowledges in the sequel, The Moat around Murcheson's Eye (US Title: The Gripping Hand), that he pities them nonetheless as they are cruelly trapped by their own biology: "They die in agony if they can't become pregnant".
  • In Stephen King's short story "Umney's Last Case" from Nightmares & Dreamscapes, private detective Clyde Umney finds all the constants in his life changing and discovers he's a character in a series of Chandler-esque novels when the author Landry visits him and tells him he's going to take over his life. Umney vehemently objects and quickly comes to hate Landry over the course of their conversation, but he can't help but feel sorry for Landry for the loss of his wife and son. He's particularly disturbed by Landry's description of AIDS, which killed Landry's son via a blood transfusion and which doesn't exist in Umney's world.
  • In The Phantom of the Opera, Christine cries with Erik/The Phantom after learning that, because of his deformity, even his own mother couldn't bear to touch him without a mask on. Likewise Gaston Leroux, through his in story reporter character ends the story defending Erik, stating that while the man may have been a "monster" it wasn't all of his own volition, but due to how society had treated him for his ugliness, and he very well could have been a good person had someone shown him compassion earlier in his life. He also states his belief that had the world accepted him, Erik could easily have been one of the great celebrated minds of the century.
  • A version of this occurs in Raymond E. Feist's The Riftwar Cycle. The dark elves of the setting, also known as moredhel or the Brotherhood of the Dark Path, are generally portrayed as evil and sadistic, with no morals and a love of torturing their victims before killing them. A huge invasion by the moredhel and their allies is the main plot of one book, A Darkness At Sethanon. In spite of that, the Big Bad of that book, the charismatic moredhel leader Murmandamus, is revealed to be a Pantathian (snake-person) priest in disguise who doesn't care about the moredhel and only wants the Lifestone below the city of Sethanon, an artifact that supposedly has the power to revive the Pantathians' Valheru mistress and revered goddess. On top of it all, the power to use said Lifestone comes from the life forces of all the people who died near the priest, the bulk of which is moredhel soldiers who died in a careless siege against a very well-defended fortress, thus making the moredhel the ones who were most cruelly used and manipulated, resulting in literal Sympathy For The Devil, or for the Dark Elf at least.
    • On top of that, two other books — Krondor: The Betrayal, which deals with events ten years after the invasion, and Honored Enemy, which is set before the invasion — feature moredhel protagonists and switches to moredhel perspective for a change, also making them a bit more complex and multi-faceted rather than the standard 'evil and sadistic' image. Additionally, in Feist's universe dark elves are really the same as light elves, just with a different culture, as opposed to being a different race, as in many other settings.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Rogue Forces, Patrick McLanahan sympathises with the antagonistic Turks, recognising that they have a nation-level Dude, Where's My Respect? that drove them to act. A marked difference from The Usual Adversaries Russia and China that get no such sympathy.
    • In A Time for Patriots, Patrick and Jeremiah Paulson eventually manage to agree that they have common ground, including being wrongfully hounded by the FBI.
  • In The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System, Shen Yuan believes at first that Shen Qingqiu, the fictional character he got transmigrated into the body of, was nothing more than a one-dimensional Starter Villain who abused and betrayed his young disciple Luo Binghe for no real reason. Then he learns much later on that Shen Qingqiu had an absolutely terrible childhood of being sold into slavery, seemingly abandoned by the one person he trusted to save him, and mercilessly abused by his household master until he finally snapped one day and killed everyone in his town (but spared the women and children), that caused him to become a cold, bitter, and untrusting man who took out his issues on Luo Binghe because he bitterly envied Luo Binghe having a loving mother and being better at cultivation than him due to Shen Qingqiu's abusive masters having permanently stunted his ability to reach his full cultivation potential. Shen Yuan can't help but feel pity for him after learning all this and he regrets that Shen Qingqiu never learned that his childhood friend hadn't truly abandoned him like he believed.
  • After Daylen kills Blackheart in Shadow of the Conqueror, most people respond with some variation of "Take that, you bastard!" except for Daylen himself, who regrets killing him once he finds out that Blackheart was one of his bastard sons, wishing that he could have helped Blackheart begin his own Redemption Quest.
  • Both in-story and out-of-story with Mayella Ewell, "the loneliest person in the world," in To Kill a Mockingbird. This is particularly true if you happen to catch one easy-to-miss remark, spoilered here because it has the most impact in context: "She said she never kissed a man before, and she might as well kiss a nigger. She said what her pa do to her don't count." Also, she pretty much has to raise her family by herself, and she has no idea what a friend is. She raises a few plants which are pretty much the only thing she can truly call hers. It's really pretty sad.
  • In Undead on Arrival, Novak spends the entire book hating and hunting down his killer, only to discover it's a poor kid who regrets what he did.
  • In Anne Rice's Memnoch the Devil, the titular character, who claims to be The Devil, tells and shows his life's story to Lestat as an Alternative Character Interpretation meant to invoke this trope. At the end, though, it's left unclear if this was all true, or if Memnoch was just messing with Lestat.
  • (Former) Reverend Travis Jordan is not exactly malicious toward Brandon Nichols in The Visitation, though he is fairly sarcastic with him, and doesn't appreciate Nichols bringing up the more painful parts of Travis' past as a "Not So Different" Remark. Then Travis finds out exactly what made Nichols who he is.
    But I had never been in such a place as Nechville — and I know I'd never been in such a place as [Brandon's] backyard. I only thought I had, and I was acting like it ... Now I was sorry. Desperately sorry.
  • In Warrior Cats, when the villain Tigerstar is killed, Firestar reflects on the fact that normally he'd be relieved or happy that this dangerous cat is gone, but all he feels staring down at Tigerstar's body is grief. Tigerstar had been gifted with strength, intelligence, and charisma, and he could have become a legend as one of the greatest warriors in history had he not chosen to follow a dark path.
  • In The Witchlands, Leopold is very sympathetic to Aeduen's circumstances even as the latter is trying to kill him, and even tries to help him. Aeduen declines, though.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles, there's a moment where Kaala notices how DavRian looks sad and lonely when seeing TaLi and BreLan happy together, and she sympathizes with him since she knows what it's like to be totally alone. With the look that crosses his face next, however, she reminds herself that he's alone because he's a hateful person, not the other way around.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: In Season 7, Jack and Renee corner Tony Almeida just as he is about to kill Alan Wilson one of the major figures responsible for killing David Palmer, Michelle Dessler, and her and Tony's unborn son. They are both forced to shoot him to save Wilson. However, both of them clearly heard Tony crying about his unborn son beforehand. As the FBI agents take Tony away, he yells at Jack in anger and berates him for letting the bad guys get to this point. While Jack's reaction to the whole thing is hard to tell (at least partially because he is severely suffering from the pathogen weapon infection and is close to death at this time), Renee is clearly saddened and utterly horrified. She further demonstrates these feelings when she bitterly tells Wilson that she blames him for Larry Moss' death, even though Tony was the one who actually killed Larry as part of his cover to gain Wilson's trust.
  • Starting around Season 3 of Babylon 5, Alfred Bester begins to head this way, bordering on Anti-Villain, due to us learning about more of his motivation and goals and discovering that his lover was taken by The Shadows and turned into a control unit for their ships. The only thing keeping him from going straight into Anti-Villain territory is the fact that he very obviously enjoys torquing with the good guys, Lyta Alexander in particular, along with his casual disregard for the Mundanes.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In Season 4, Willow ends up feeling this way for Spike after he's chipped by the Initiative, rendering him unable to harm humans or hunt for blood, to the extent that in "Doomed", she refuses to let him stake himself. A stark contrast to Buffy and Xander, who have absolutely No Sympathy for Spike and actively enjoy taunting him; Buffy even asks Willow why Spike staking himself would be a bad thing.
  • The Woobie of the Week in one episode of Burn Notice is a decent, law-abiding man whose daughter was murdered. He becomes the Villain of the Week in the next episode as his Roaring Rampage of Revenge starts to spiral out of control.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Runaway Bride": Donna feels bad for the Racnoss Empress, who would have destroyed humanity without a second thought, when she screams for her children after the Doctor kills them to save the Earth.
    • "The Next Doctor": The Doctor to Miss Hartigan after she realizes what she's become upon being freed of her Cyber-programming.
  • Scorpius of Farscape fits this trope very well. He pursues Crichton throughout the second season for his knowledge of how to use wormholes. By the end of the third season however, Crichton genuinely considers giving it to him when he comes to understand Scorpius' motivations, though in the end he chooses not to.
  • In the second series of Horatio Hornblower, Horatio has to contend with the paranoid and insane Captain Sawyer, who fosters indiscipline, has a midshipman repeatedly beaten unconscious, and puts Horatio into a position where he's certain to fall asleep on watch (a hanging offense). Although Horatio helps remove him from command, he also expresses sympathy because Sawyer's long years of genuine courage through grueling warfare have caught up with him in a terrible way.
    Horatio: I believe he has paid the price for that bravery... and is paying for it right now.
  • While House is the main character and gets the Sympathetic P.O.V., he's an asshole to nearly every doctor in the hospital. In "Holding On", when he explodes at Taub (who has been trying to get him to let Wilson die with dignity like he wants) that he wakes up in pain every day and has wanted to die, other staff in the hallway still look at him with pity.
  • Jessica Jones (2015):
    • Invoked and exploited by Kilgrave in Season 1 when he reveals to Jessica that he got his powers through unethical experimentation, but subverted by the end of the season, when it turns out his powers were actually an unexpected side effect of a life-saving experimental treatment.
    • Played straight in Season 2 with Alisa, who also got her powers (and impulsivity) through life-saving experiments.
  • In the Millennium (1996) episode "Somehow, Satan Got Behind Me", a group of demons discuss how they go about their business to spread evil and their run-ins with Frank Black, who can see their true forms. When one of the demons begins a relationship with a human woman but finds himself compelled to drive her to suicide anyway, Frank sees the demon crying and remarks "You must be so lonely."
  • The Pretender: Mr. Raines pursues Jared, the titular Pretender, to regain use of his incredible intellect and problem solving capabilities. He will use any means to capture or coerce Jared into returning to the Center. Despite this, Jared does show sympathy and kindness to Raines in the season 3 episode, "Once in a Blue Moon" when Jared confronts a serial killer he profiled as a boy while working at the Center and aided the police in capturing the killer but the man's last victim's body was never recovered. At the end of the episode, Jared finds the girl's remains and her necklace. He then returns it by mail to Mr. Raines, and the episode ends with him clutching his daughter's necklace and softly crying. Even Sydney, a man who a few years prior tried to kill Mr. Raines when he had the chance, tells Ms. Parker to not make light of Mr. Raines' crying.
    Sydney: Sometimes, even the Devil deserves a little privacy.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In the episode "Skin of Evil", both Picard and Troi express their sympathy for Armus for spending untold eons on a dead planet in pain and rage after his creators abandoned him, while nevertheless acknowledging that he is a malevolent liquid of pure evil.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Sisko feels sympathy for Dukat after he loses his grip on reality when his daughter Ziyal is killed.
  • In Season 5 of Supernatural, Lucifer tries this multiple times: with Sam at the beginning of the season after appearing as Jess, Sam's dead girlfriend, with Dean when Zachariah sends him into the future, and with Castiel in "Abandon All Hope..." while he has Cas trapped in a ring of holy fire. Subverted in that none of these attempts work. Dean even name-drops the trope when calling Lucifer out on his "sympathy for the Devil crap". He does succeed when he pulls this on Nick to get him to say yes, since he couldn't get Sam — the episode itself is aptly titled "Sympathy for the Devil".
  • After Mrs. Etuk's death in Tinsel, Amaka Okoh finally realizes that a lot of the old woman's anger against her was justified.
  • A glorious example being shown at the final episode of Ultraman Geed, as featured in the photo of the main article. Confronting his Archnemesis Dad, Riku discovers that for all of Belial's heinous acts, deep down, his grudges, eternal cycle of resurrection, and sorrow over having been banished from the Land of Light had consumed him. He gives a Cooldown Hug to his father and tells him to just let go of his grudges. Unfortunately, Belial just can't accept being comforted by his son and chose to be killed, seemingly once and for all, in a Beam-O-War. The last words Riku speaks to his father are heartbreaking:
    Riku: Goodbye, father.
  • Van Helsing (2016): Despite fully (and justifiably) hating Sam, Vanessa still sheds a tear for him in Season 4 when the Oracle tricks him into sacrificing himself to free Dracula.
  • Warehouse 13: in "Fracture", Myka explains to Pete how Alice Liddell became a psychopath and expresses sympathy for her.
  • In The Wire, when McNulty learns about the death of D'Angelo and quickly sees that it was a murder made to look like a suicide, he expresses a lot of sympathy for D'Angelo.
    "I kinda liked your son, you know. All things considered, he was a pretty decent kid. And it grinds me that no one ever spoke up for him. Seems to me that now nobody ever will."

  • Black Sabbath provide examples, as might be expected: in NIB, the virtues of the Devil are described at length, the implication being that he has a warped stalker-type love for humanity, and is only doing the job God assigned him to do.
    Follow me now, and you will not regret
    Leaving the life you did before we met
    you're not the first to have this love of mine —
    Forever with me till the end of time!
  • Sabbath's Master of Reality album riffs a lot on this theme of Satan being misappreciated.
  • The Rolling Stones' Sympathy For The Devil, the Trope Namer, is told from the Devil's first person about the atrocities he's witnessed since the days of Christ, sums it up with these lines:
    Just as every cop is a criminal
    And all the sinners saints
    As heads is tails just call me Lucifer
    Cause I'm in need of some restraint

    So if you meet me have some courtesy
    Have some sympathy, and some taste
    Use all your well-learned politesse
    Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
    • On the other hand, he also makes it clear that he either participated in or even was partially responsible for many of those atrocitiesnote , and enjoyed doing sonote . In the end, the request for courtesy and sympathy is meant to be ironic, as he also notes that he isn't the only person responsiblenote .
  • "I'm So Sorry" by Nico Collins, where the singer is in an physically abusive relationship, but empathizes and feels pity for his abuser, because he can only imagine the kind of pain they're in that they feel the need to take it out on him.
    You must live a fucking nightmare
    Awake and in your dreams
    Looking for someone to hold your misery
    I'm so sorry for how you feel inside
    I'll pray for you tonight
  • the Mountain Goats recorded a Concept Album The Sunset Tree, which is about John Darnielle's abusive stepfather and does not skimp on the details about the physical and emotional abuse he suffered. "Pale Green Leaves" closes the album with the somber note of John hearing of his passing, and the mixed emotions that comes with it, the most prevalent being pity.

  • The girls from Sequinox are left feeling bad for Pollux after killing Castor. The star is left utterly broken, openly weeping, refusing to fight and telling Winter to stop monologuing and just killer her.
  • In episode 31 of Malevolent it's revealed that Arthur feels deep guilt over having to kill Kellin, to the point of wondering if he was actually a bad person, or if he was a good person who fell on hard times.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • April 14th 2006, CMLL Super Viernes, Dark Angel became the first luchadora to win a mask in Arena Mexico when she defeated her resentful ex partner La Amapola. However, Stock knew what it felt like to have to permanently unmask and that it must be even worse being the first woman to lose her mask in the storied arena and cried for her. Amapola didn't care to hear this though and stormed off.

  • Opinions about Marquis de Sade aside, Weiss paints a rather sympathetic idea of the man in the play Marat/Sade.
  • Heathers: Veronica, despite everything J.D. did, laments his horrible past, and put aside his anger toward the world. He doesn't listen.
    Veronica': "I wish your mom had been a little stronger. I wish she'd stayed around a little longer. I wish your dad were good! I wish grownups understood! I wish we'd met before they convinced you life is war! I wish you'd come with me..."

    Video Games 
  • Axel, of all people, in Alien: Isolation feels this way toward the other survivors of Sevastapol. Despite their willingness to kill him, their repeated attempts on his life, and of course his willingness to kill them, he makes it clear to Ripley that he doesn't blame them for it. He understands that they're just scared victims driven to feral, violent desperation to survive at any cost.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man 2: After defeating Electro, Spidey explicitly remarks that it's hard not to feel sorry for him.
  • Most of Altair's targets get this treatment. So do a surprisingly large number of Ezio's.
  • In Assassin's Creed III, the Templars are given several sympathetic motivations for their plans and have justification unlike the previous games were they simple said they had the moral high ground, but simply used the order to gain more power. In almost all of their death scenes they come across more as Anti Villains than anything else. Considering the ending and what we know happen in the history books it may give you the feeling that it would've been better for them to succeed. It's even sadder when you find out that the Templars, just like the Assassins, were more or less Unwitting Pawns of Juno, the true villain of the series, manipulated into fighting a meaningless war.
  • In Blaster Master Zero 2, as soon as Jason pieces together what happened to Leibniz, he has a moment of introspection and realizes that if the same thing happened to him, he could easily have ended up the same way. This makes Jason and Eve cut him a lot of slack, and in Blaster Master Zero 3, Jason continues to put himself in Leibniz' shoes and quietly puts up with his attitude instead of getting confrontational. At the very end of the trilogy, Jason and Eve ask Leibniz to care for their children, trusting in a Hidden Heart of Gold. Deeply affected by this show of faith, Leibniz graduates to Jerk with a Heart of Gold and justifies their hopes.
  • Dead Rising has Cliff Hudson, a Shell-Shocked Veteran of the Vietnam War who snapped after watching his granddaughter get murdered by zombies and was lashing out at survivors under the delusion they were Vietcong guerrillas. Unlike every other psychopath in the game, Frank takes pity on Cliff after being given his family photo and hearing his Tear Jerker Last Words:
    "My granddaughter... She was done in by those damn zombies. When I heard her scream... I just lost it. Everything went white suddenly. The war... It wasn't over... Not for me... It... it never... ended..."
  • When talking to the Big Bad in the final route of Duel Savior Destiny before he unveils himself, Taiga finds himself sympathizing strongly with the man. He realizes that he himself could have easily become quite twisted if he had undergone the same situation.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, Arkham manages to use his status as Lady's father to manipulate her into moving into the place he needs her. He tries it again before the final battle when he's kicked out of the demon world by not being able to handle Sparda's power. He's near death at this point, so he loses and lets it slip that he saw absolutely nothing wrong with killing his wife to become part-demon. Lady finally has enough. At the same time as the latter scene, Dante obviously feels similar about Vergil since the two are brothers. He doesn't feel good about having to fight him, but has to due to Vergil's ambitions being dangerous towards humanity. He even cries for a moment thinking about Vergil's fate when he meets back up with Lady in the epilogue.
  • Played for Laughs in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness; When Angel Trainee Flonne learns that Demon Prince Laharl's father died two years prior, she starts shedding tears of sympathy. This weirds Laharl out, because Flonne was originally sent to assassinate the King.
  • EXTRAPOWER: Attack of Darkforce: After tormenting the universe in all of this game and its prequel, finally defeating Dark Force projects a shared memory to everyone in the room, presenting Dark Force's backstory as an honourable defender of his home planet, who knew the dangers of dark energy but eventually becoming its host after a major defeat. It is this dark energy that used him to wreck cosmic destruction, now expelled after his boss fight. After, with his fleet crumbling around him, the player characters treat him like an injured old man to remove from the battlefield, rather than as a vanquished enemy.
  • In Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water, Yuuri's sympathy towards Ouse Kurosawa and the suffering she had to endure is ultimately enough to lift the curse off of Mt Hikami.
  • The original elemental generals in Final Fantasy Dimensions barely display any sympathetic quality before or after their defeat (aside from Vata). But when the world is disastrously recombined, the Emperor resurrects Asmodai, Baugavuen, and Styx as undead monstrosities, which the party finds abhorrent. Dusk in particular is horrified, and the boss battles play as a Mercy Kill.
  • Final Fantasy
    • Some of the heroes of Final Fantasy VI sympathize with Kefka for his Straw Nihilist attitude and how he doesn't seem to really care about anything. That said, by the time the heroes talk about this, Kefka is so far gone that the heroes decide he's not worth convincing, and that Kefka has to be stopped.
    • Queen Brahne in Final Fantasy IX was once a kind ruler of Alexandria until the Big Bad corrupted her into becoming a greedy tyrant. After she is killed, the people of Alexandria mourned for her knowing that while she did become an evil queen, they still remembered her for what she used to be.
    • Final Fantasy X sees Tidus feeling sympathy towards his abusive father Jecht for the And I Must Scream scenario that Jecht went through where Jecht became the Eldritch Abomination Sin, and cause untold destruction and pain to all of Spira for years, through no fault of his own. Even as Tidus reiterates "I hate you, Dad" when Jecht is finally broken loose, Tidus is crying Broken Tears, showing that he has too much sympathy for Jecht to mean it.
    • Final Fantasy XIV:
      • Stormblood: After Zenos is defeated at the end of the expansion, Lyse states that he was once an innocent baby and it was the upbringing by his father and the society he grew up in that shaped him into the sociopath and killer that he became.
      • Shadowbringers: Big Bad Emet-Selch gets some measure of sympathy from Alphinaud (and potentially the Warrior of Light) for his Well-Intentioned Extremist desire to restore his people back to the glory of their old civilization. It's just that Emet is going so far that he'll kill everyone else on the First to do it, and that he doesn't really consider this to be murder because he believes that Ascians are a Superior Species.
    • In Dissidia Final Fantasy
      • Upon defeating Kefka for the final time, Terra feels that his urge to destroy was because he was incapable of finding anything to live for save for destruction and that he was trying to find something to fill his "broken heart".
      • Many of the chosen of Cosmos appear to feel this way towards their designated foes. The Warrior of Light openly admitted feeling pity towards Garland. Zidane never stopped reaching out to Kuja. And despite his claims of hating his fathers guts, Tidus once gave Jecht a potion so they could fight on equal terms. In fact, it might be easier to list off the number of heroes who don't feel some form of sympathy for the villains.
  • Elvis in God Hand. He's implied to eat people, yet what we see is an overall nice guy who punishes his men for disrespecting the dead and has a lot of similarities to Gene. Gene even says they could have been friends if he were human. When Shannon insults him later after his death, Gene makes her pay.
  • In Icewind Dale 2, the spirit of Mother Egenia and Iselore are the only characters who express sympathy for the Big Bads Isair and Madae. Egenia was the one who raised the twin cambions after their birth mother was Driven to Suicide. Her spirit mourns her children's turn to darkness but recognizes that they have to be stopped. Iselore was the one who named the twins when they were born. He recalls with shame his warning to Egenia that "they are forged in evil and nothing but evil can come from them!" and wonders if this was a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • Surprisingly averted in Kingdom Hearts II with Sora. Despite being a notorious Friendship Freak diagnosed with Chronic Hero Syndrome, Sora frequently called out Organization XIII whenever they'd pretend they had emotions or that they were completely justified for their actions. It's this very reason why Sora had Ron the Death Eater status for a while with the more hardcore Organization XIII fans.
    • Well, he tries to do this with Xemnas when he seems to die the first time but then Xemnas comes back to screw him and Riku over again. In this light, his previous attitude was probably more justified.
    • Master Xehanort, the Big Bad from Birth By Sleep, is quite skilled at exploiting this trope, even if he doesn't deserve it. He tricks Terra into listening to him not by pretending to be a good person, but by admitting to doing horrific things to Ven and then feigning guilt to earn Terra's pity. Unfortunately for Terra, it works all too well — it's all too clear that he really does feel sympathy for Xehanort, and trusts him more than he should because of it.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Rean Schwarzer starts to sympathize with the Imperial Liberation Front terrorist group that terrorized The Empire in the previous game because of the chancellor of Erebonia pushing for drastic reforms that a: thoroughly displace their homes, b: gaining riches through underhanded means, or in c in one guy's case: revenge for having his unit wiped out while he was trying to rough the chancellor up because he and his unit were hired to do so by the nobles.
  • Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, definitely, in keeping with the "wind" theme of the game:
    Ganondorf: My country lay within a vast desert. When the sun rose into the sky, a burning wind punished my lands, searing the world. And when the moon climbed into the dark of night, a frigid gale pierced our homes. No matter when it came, the wind carried the same thing... Death. But the winds that blew across the green fields of Hyrule brought something other than suffering and ruin. I... coveted that wind, I suppose.
    • Link and Zelda show pity for the alternate timeline version of Ganondorf, in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, after his death; this is somewhat strange, given how this Ganondorf is portrayed. While we know from Wind Waker that both final versions of Ganondorf were originally out to save his people, this version never regains his sanity and remains a Big Bad, despite similar circumstances of imprisonment. Needless to say, he's not intended to be sympathetic.
    • After Link apparently kills Ganondorf in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Zelda says he was a pitiful man who could not control the power of the gods and met an ignoble end as a result.
  • Appears as a conversation option in Mass Effect. Shepard, after discovering that Saren has become a victim of Sovereign's Indoctrination, can remark to Liara that s/he feels sorry for Saren.
    • For similar reasons, The Illusive Man can prove to be a deeply tragic character in Mass Effect 3, further bolstered by the temporary alliance Shepard and he had in Mass Effect 2, trying to do what he believes to be the best things for what happen to be all of the worst reasons.
  • Max Payne and Vladimir Lem in Max Payne. Max kills Vladimir in the sequel.
    • "Max, dearest of my friends... I was supposed to be the hero..."
  • It's a staple for Solid Snake to relate to his opponent during his or her post-Boss Battle dying speech.
    • However, this is averted in the final game, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, where Old Snake is too tired to give a crap. Drebin instead fills him in on the Beauty and the Beast Unit's backstories if he defeats them non-lethally, relating the emotionally-scarring situations that made them the way they were. Snake actually tells Drebin once that he doesn't care about such ridiculous sob stories, but Drebin keeps talking anyway.
      • Played straight with Rose, however, who finds said backstories absolutely heartbreaking; she even states that Liquid is truly a heartless monster for forcing such broken people to fight, remarking that they'll eventually break down and be completely useless. Snake agrees with her on all points, but also points out that, since they're nuts and thus not fighting at their full effectiveness, he has an advantage.
  • At the end of Mother 3, where Dr. Andonuts traps Porky inside the Absolutely Safe Chamber, he notes that for all the horrible things he's done Porky was deep down an insecure and lonely little boy driven by the fact that everybody hated him.
    • That last one wasn't helped by him being a Jerkass since early childhood. While it explains the reason behind his actions, it hardly justifies them to any extent.
  • In Nier, Popola and Devola reveal themselves to be soulless artificial humans and the closest thing the game has to a Big Bad and fight you. Things take a tragic turn when Devola is slain. Popola is distraught because she can't bear to be alone. Nier pauses and begs her to stop fighting. Popola snaps, claiming there's no way she can stop after her own sister was cut down in front of her. The boss fight then continues, the action-packed boss theme of the first round of the fight replaced with a tragic reprise.
  • Octopath Traveler:
    • Ophilia pities the Arc Villain of her storyline after said Arc Villain disintegrates.
      Ophilia: What a sad man you were...
    • Cyrus likewise offers such a statement towards the Arc Villain in his own storyline right before said Arc Villain disintegrates.
      Cyrus: If nothing else, your devotion to the pursuit of knowledge is admirable. Unfortunately for you, you will not live to pass that on.
  • Priestess Meden and General Gong Hawkeye of Patapon. Gong's your enemy, yes, but — all things considered — he's also a likeable fellow who certainly strikes a chord with Meden. He tries reasoning with you before he goes to battle, he mourns his fallen comrades, he tries to prevent Queen Karma from selling her soul to the demons and in the end he faces your army alone in a heroic last stand. It's very cruel that you have to kill him to progress in the game.
    • In Patapon 2, Gong becomes your ally.
  • In Resident Evil (Remake), when playing as Jill, you can find Barry in the Researcher's Private Room, greatly troubled, reading the Researcher's Will. Despite learning this guy was implicit in creating the damned virus that caused so much death, Barry's never-the-less greatly saddened by the man's depressed farewell letter to his wife. Later subverted, as you learn on subsequent playthroughs the real reason Barry is sad is he's ripped half the letter off to hide Wesker's involvement with Umbrella, and he's guilt-ridden from being blackmailed into betraying his friends.
  • Even after all the shit Irving pulls in Resident Evil 5, from infecting an entire village of innocent tribesmen with Las Plagas to repeatedly trying to kill the two main characters, and even after mocking them as he lay dying, Chris still can't help but feel a bit bad for him after watching what's left of his slowly dying Clipped-Wing Angel dissolve and perish as he writhes in agony.
    Chris: Poor bastard...
  • Similarily, even though Jack Norman of Resident Evil: Revelations lacked any real redeeming qualities, being a thoroughly insane fanatically devout Terrorist Without A Cause, Jill after hearing his rather depressing Last Words comments that she hopes he's finally found peace.
  • In Resident Evil 6, Carla was subjected to Simmons's experiments that physically mutated her into looking like Ada Wong just so that he could have a woman that resembled her. Upon learning the truth, she doesn't take it well and vows to destroy the world in revenge, but she gets shot and killed by one of Simmons's men. Ada learns about what happened and upon finding Carla's body, she sympathizes with them and says she would have helped them get revenge on Simmons if she had gone to her first. The C-Virus revives Carla and she immediately rejects Ada's sympathy while she mutates into a monster and attacks her.
  • Played with in Resident Evil 7: Biohazard as Jack Baker expresses sympathy for Eveline, essentially a living bio-weapon with the appearance of a little girl and later an elderly woman, despite Eveline having infected his entire family and used mind-control to force them to torture and kill. He tells Ethan that's all she wants is a family. Ethan, on the other hand, has little sympathy for her and places all blame on her, instead expressing his sympathy for Jack and his ill-fated family.
    Ethan: Mia and I weren't the only victims here. So were the Bakers. It was that...thing, Eveline, who made them that way.
  • In the original Shadow Hearts, as Yuri and the party find out more about Roger Bacon's impostor, Albert Simon, they start to feel this way towards him. The final battle with him is as rivals deciding the course the world should take, rather than a showdown between Good and Evil... and when he loses, he uses the last of his power before dying to help Yuri and his friends to destroy the Meta God, keeping his word that, win or lose, both sides would accept the consequences and there would be no hard feelings.
    • Shadow Hearts: Covenant takes it even further, with most of the antagonists being at least somewhat sympathetic. The Final Boss, in fact, could probably have finished his plans without interference if he hadn't told Yuri and company when and where to meet him.
  • In Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Sly expresses some pity for Jean Bison in the opening narration for He Who Tames The Iron Horse, pointing out that by 1850's standards Jean's a normal guy, but after being frozen for a hundred years and change those same standards make him a villain:
    Sly: A product of his time, he dreams of taming the "Wild North," damming every river and chopping down all the trees with progress delivered at the sharp end of an ax. Shipping spice for the Klaww Gang proved a lucrative way to bankroll his one-man war against nature. And yet, I have to feel a little sorry for him. He's just a normal guy from the 1850s. Back in his day, he'd be a hero, but today, he's a villain
  • In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, Spider-Man 2099 is sympathetic to Scorpion, who, unlike every other villain who gets a hold of the tablet, just wants to change back into his human form. When Madame Web congratulates him on defeating Scorpion and reclaiming his tablet fragment, Spidey 2099 mutters, "Then how come I feel so bad about it?"
  • Played for Laughs in the ending of Super Mario Odyssey. After already having beaten Bowser and rescuing Peach, Mario pulls out a bouquet of flowers and seemingly proposes to her. Bowser suddenly shoves Mario aside and proposes to Peach himself. The two start shoving each other while getting right in Peach's face, who then soundly rejects both of them as she walks away. Bowser then sits down and cries while Mario, who is also crying, shows his sympathy by patting his nemesis' back to comfort him. Status Quo Is God since Peach gets over it and calls for Mario to come aboard the ship so they can go home.
  • Josh from Until Dawn is tormenting everyone who came to the cabin because their cruel prank caused his sisters to run out of the cabin in shame, leading to their deaths. You sympathize with him because of how unlikable some of the characters are for that... but also because Josh has gone mad, both because of his sisters' deaths and also because he's been struggling long-term as it is with severe mental illness, implied to be depression and/or possibly schizophrenia, only exacerbated by the grief and stress of their disappearances, to the point that by the time the game begins, he's sort of "given up" on trying to take care of and not isolate himself. Also, no one was actually in danger from his scheme, but he didn't even know of the Wendigoes...
  • This comes up occasionally in The Walking Dead (Telltale), which is understandable, considering that most "villains" are just people trying to survive.
    • The man who kidnaps Clementine in the fourth episode of the The Walking Dead: Season One, only referred to as The Stranger, is revealed to be soft-spoken and calm, and his only reason for taking Clementine away from Lee is because she would tell him over her walkie talkie about the morally questionable things that her group has done, and he, a recent widower and grieving father, thought he could take care of her better. Not to mention that the station wagon your group steals from earlier in the season was his, and when his wife, who already blamed him for the accidental death of their son, found out that all their food was gone, she took their daughter and left, only for The Stranger to find them dead in the road a day later. When he lists off the more unsavory things that Lee has done to others over the course of the season, he may have some valid concerns about the things you're exposing the young Clementine to.
    • Marlon from The Walking Dead: Season Four counts as this at least somewhat. After he admits everything he's done and is subsequently shot by AJ, everyone at Ericson unanimously condemns his having given away Sophie and Minnie to The Delta, impulsively killing Brodie, and trying to frame Clementine for it after locking her away with Brodie's walker. But then you actually get to the Delta and see what they're like, you would be forgiven for empathizing with Marlon, a young man tasked making all the major decisions, by himself, for a group of kids abandoned and left alone by their caretakers, being faced with an armed militia of adults demanding that he give two up two of his friends to save all of the other kids. He owns up to what he did, admits that what he did was wrong, and tries to give up peacefully before he's killed. When confronted with how evil the Delta is, AJ, who shot Marlon in the head without a second thought, admits that he wasn't at all a monster.
    • James invokes this in regards to the Walkers in general. A former Whisperer living in the woods near the school, he insists that the Walkers are more than just mindless monsters and considers them innocent in a way, since they don't fight amongst themselves like humans. Before agreeing to help Clementine rescue her friends from the raiders, he has her enter a walker-infested barn while wearing his mask and ring a wind chime. The scene takes on an almost religous feeling when Clem rings the chime and the walkers all stop and stare at it together. Even Clementine seems touched by the moment and may agree that James could be right about their still being something human inside them.
  • After completing the story in Warriors Orochi 3 Ultimate, some extra stages open by speaking to soldiers in the camp, the one who unlocks Kyūbi’s stages expresses such feelings regarding her fate of being sealed away in the Mirror Realm.
    Major: The Nine-tailed Fox was sealed away… I wonder what she did while she was inside the Divine Mirror? Was she truly inside the mirror that entire time? If so, I must say that I feel a little sorry for her.
  • Comes up in The Witcher games all the time, par for the course of the setting's Grey-and-Gray Morality. Sentient monsters usually aren't depicted as Always Chaotic Evil but more as non-malicious and occasionally conflicted individuals driven by the same needs and instincts as people. Some human characters also fit this: a very well-done example is the Bloody Baron from the The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an alcoholic brute who oppresses the peasants under him (and used to beat his pregnant wife, which caused her to miscarry), but is also a human wreck too terrified to face the world sober and consciously tries to Pet the Dog with little acts of kindness whenever he can... because deep down, he knows he's a bad man and wants to be better, and would be if he wasn't also a very weak man as well.
  • Viola in Zone of the Enders. Even Dingo seems to have a lot of respect for her in the sequel although he's fighting a CPU copy of her. She died at Leo's hands.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ace Attorney Investigations, Kay feels some pity for Shih-na/Calisto Yew, who killed her father, because she believes that she was able to look into her heart while speaking to her, and she wonders what it would be like to do all the terrible things she did without feeling anything.
  • After meeting Dennis’s father, the protagonist of Double Homework starts to feel pity for Dennis himself. He surmises that Dennis’s most egregious behaviors seemed to be modeled on his father’s, and that Dennis’s father considered his son weak and disappointing.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Played for Horror when Monokuma kills Monophanie and Monotaro during Gonta's execution in a very disturbing fashion. Keebo was horrified as to why Monokuma would be willing to kill his remaining children out of child-blood.
    • Later, Keebo and Shuichi express this a bit in Chapter 6 when Monokuma implants all five of his revived Monokubs with bombs to blow them up in case they don't give valuable arguments. Monokuma does kill them all later on.
  • By the end of Fate/stay night's Heaven's Feel route, Shirou realizes that he no longer hates Kotomine. He actually kind of likes him. In fact, he's more similar to Kotomine than to his own hero figure, Kiritsugu. In the end, there's only a fight to the death because Kotomine is following his 'ideal' way of living to the end, and Shirou just wants to save his girlfriend Sakura. Saving the world is a perk. Kind of sucks that he was born so broken.
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, several routes have the characters feel this way about Tragic Villain Kennyo. Shingen feels this because he used to be best friends with Kennyo; Masamune and Mitsunari because they (along with the main character) recognize that there's still some humanity left in Kennyo; and Kenshin because his own traumatic past and internal struggle between his nobler and darker sides make him not that different from Kennyo.
  • Near the end of Melody, Steve explains to the title character that his father is dying of cancer. Since Melody already lost her mother to cancer, she sympathizes with Steve, and observes that his acting out actually mirrored her own in many ways.
  • Minotaur Hotel: Even though he tried to trick you into getting Asterion into the valley, ultimately you just can't hate him for the fact that any wrongings he could have done pale in comparison to Clement and the other masters that abused Asterion. You're given the option to hug him when he tears up.
  • Many of the spirits from Spirit Hunter: Death Mark and Spirit Hunter: NG are vengeful and murderous because they were horrifically abused in life; when the protagonists learn of the circumstances behind the ghosts, they take pity on them.

    Web Animation 
  • In Season 10 of Red vs. Blue, the Reds and Blues spend the entire season trying to take down the Director and even fight an army of Tex robots to get to him. When Carolina and Church finally reach him, however, Carolina finds him so broken and miserable that she can't bring herself to kill him. This may have more to do with him being a terrible father and her allowing herself to let go of her own demons than actually granting him mercy, but it is certainly an example of this when he asks her to leave him her pistol and she does so with barely a word.
  • RWBY: In "The Lost Fable", Ruby's face and posture is visibly empathetic after she watches the Brother Gods curse Salem to never reunite with her beloved Ozma in the afterlife, purely because Salem tried to dupe them into resurrecting him in her raw grief.

  • DICE: The Cube That Changes Everything: Dongtae figures out that X's real motive is loneliness, giving him a clue how to stop him without a fight and makes a "Not So Different" Remark regarding how he felt at the start. In the end X is considered to be just a child who doesn't know how to make friends.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: Happens repeatedly with Allison whenever she encounters a Demiurge.
    • Mottom is a world-conquering empress who strips worlds to the bone to satisfy her decadent court... And is, in her own words, Motivated by Fear because she's never been able to outgrow being the abused young girl who was forcibly wed to Hastet Om. Even as Allison condems her and all her actions, she's able to empatise with her and frames destroying Hastet Om's body as a way of 'helping' Mottom.
    • Mammon is a mighty dragon who controls more wealth than anyone else in the Multiverse... And is a broken old man suffering from dementia and blindness. He spends all his time counting the money in his vault, trying to remember why he cared about it and wallowing in guilt over destroying his family to get it, to the point that he willingly offers his throat to Allison. All of his followers are adventurers who came to his vault to slay or rob him, only to find him so sad and pathetic that they couldn’t go through with it, to Mammon’s confusion.
    Alt Text: It was then that Allison realized a normal girl from Los Angeles really, REALLY couldn't slay a dragon.
    • Solomon David is the archetypical Knight Templar God-Emperor who conquers and subdues countless words to 'enlighten' them into his Empire, and is also the embodiment of Pride... But that pride also makes him incapable of seeing anyone as his equal or to allow anyone to close to him, meaning he piles all the responsibility and duties of his empire onto his own shoulders rather than open up and share his burdens with his people. Allison comments at one point that Solomon must be incredibly Lonely at the Top.
    • Jadis is a ranting Straw Nihilist and a Mad Oracle whose attempts at winning Allison over are incredibly misguided at best and outright condescending at worst, but because she is The Omniscient in a predestined universe, she can't not do what she is supposed to do at any time. Allison also points out that being The Omniscient means Jadis can't undergo Character Development: She can't move on from her past traumas because she always recollects them, perfectly, and she can't learn new information or be given novel input that changes her perspective because she already knows it all.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Despite all that Nale has put his twin through over the course of the series, Elan is still sad when Tarquin kills Nale, wondering whether the circumstances of their childhoods led to such different outcomes for the two brothers.
    • Haley also feels sorry for Crystal by the end of their battle in Tinkertown, given how Bozzok has controlled her. That doesn't stop her from dropping Crystal into a volcano.
    • After Redcloak reveals that he's killed Tsukiko, the Monster In The Darkness remarks that what Tsukiko wanted, to be loved, wasn't so bad, but what's really sad for him is that the rest of Team Evil doesn't seem to care.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, Emil gets strangely attached to an infected dog, even after it has tried to kill him, due to realizing that it is Fighting from the Inside. The whole things ends with the dog getting just enough of a grip on itself to let Emil give it a Mercy Kill.
  • In Weak Hero, Phillip Kim is a Boisterous Weakling who relies on posturing and manipulation to keep his position as top dog at Eunjang High. After Gray kicks his ass and reveals that he's all bark and no bite, Phillip is dethroned and spends the rest of his days utterly despondent, moping around in class with his fringe (previously spiked up) drooping over his face. Rowan, one of the nicer characters, feels genuinely bad for how far he's fallen. He then gets called out by his friend Teddy, who advises him against showing sympathy towards people who don't deserve it.

    Web Original 
  • AJCO:
    • At the end of the Silo mini-arc, Egg had plenty of chances to kill A_J — who had given her plenty of reasons to want to kill her. When A_J first gave her the bullet for the pistol, making the implications very clear, Egg could have shot her and saved herself from having to be expelled into the irradiated terrain above, but she didn't. And then when A_J ran out after her following a My God, What Have I Done? moment she still didn't shoot her, instead guarding her while she slept.
    • It should be noted that Egg feels sympathy for pretty much everyone, and has acknowledged in her diary that this will probably wind up getting her killed one day.
  • In Dino Attack RPG, after the Darkitect's Divine Intervention granted Dr. Rex a Fate Worse than Death, many Dino Attack agents felt pity towards Dr. Rex. Even Rex, who moments prior proclaimed that Dr. Rex deserved to die a slow and painful death, realized that no one, not even Dr. Rex, deserved the terrible fate he met.
    Brikman Mc Studz: "As I was reading that post, I felt just a very small shred of sympathy for Dr. Rex. Sympathy best described using a quote from a review by Roger Ebert for the movie Der Untergang (Downfall) to describe sympathy toward Hitler in the film: "Sympathy I felt in the sense that I would feel it for a rabid dog, while accepting that it must be destroyed."
  • Downplayed at the end of The Nostalgia Critic's review of The Princess Diaries 2, as he does feel sorry for Hyper having a meltdown; but when she blasts herself off, is still glad to be free of her stalking and kidnapping him.
  • PlayStation Access: "Bosses That Didn't Deserve To Die Like That" is about the cast talking about how they felt in those situations.
  • Wayne in Void Domain mentions this trope almost by name after deciding to spare a vampire that had just attacked him because she told him her life story.

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time in the Christmas Episode, the main characters Finn and Jake create their own Christmas (they live in a Post Apocalyptic world) after they feel sorry for the Ice King who was just revealed to be a victim of Sanity Slippage via his ice crown.
  • Archer: In "Crossing Over", Archer and Nikolai Jakov are shown bonding over shots in the ISIS safe house. Archer is clearly deeply distraught when Jakov dies at the end of the episode
    Archer: The man who... might have been my father... just died.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Zuko and Katara's silent but all too visible reaction to Azula's Villainous Breakdown in the last episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender invokes this trope.
    • In The Legend of Korra, after hearing Tarrlok and Amon / Noatak's backstory Korra says that it's one of the saddest stories she has ever heard. In Season 2, Korra is the only one who feels bad about not being able to stop Unalaq without killing him. Unalaq was such a terrible person that even his own children don't regret his death.
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Batman is certainly capable of empathizing with adversaries with more tragic backstories, though he doesn't let it stop him from preventing their schemes if they are endangering the lives of others. This is most notable when he sees a recording of what happened to Victor Fries and his wife.
    • It's telling that, especially compared to his more campy or Darker and Edgier incarnations, this Batman actually does seem to want to reform his Rogues Gallery rather than simply beat them down over and over, displaying a heavy amount of this trope. That's why Joker tweaks him so bad; rather than having a tragic backstory (Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy) or being legitimately, untreatably insane (Firefly, Riddler and his obsessiveness), the Joker seems to be in complete control of his faculties and just sees the world as a big playground and every other person is simply a cheap toy to be played with and discarded. For him, the only one who is really a devil who didn't deserve any sympathy, and yet he still gives it whenever possible.
    • In Trial, it was outright stated that Batman and most of his Rogues Gallery were most likely not that different: Deeply troubled individuals who reacted to great hardship by putting on a mask and lashing out. The big difference being that Batman put on his mask and lashed out against crime, while the villains put on a mask and lashed out at society.
  • Rampage from Beast Wars, gets this in the episode "Transmutate". The episode features a titular mutated "transformer" who Rampage, a Psycho Prototype Nigh-Invulnerable Gone Horribly Right killing machine of an experiment, sees as a kindred spirit and sympathizes with. The episode ends with Transmutate destroyed, Rampage cradling her "dead" body, and Silverbolt urging his fellow Maximals to leave them in peace.
    Silverbolt: No. Let him be. For the moment, we are brothers.
  • Ben 10: Ultimate Alien: In the episode "The Enemy of My Frenemy," Charmcaster sacrifices 600,000 people, including Ben, Gwen, and Kevin, to bring her Disappeared Dad back to life. However, her father can't bear to be the cause of so many deaths and thus dies to bring all those Charmcaster sacrificed back to life. Charmcaster is so heartbroken over this that Ben and co. agree not to arrest her for her actions out of pity, felt particularly by Charmcaster's chief nemesis Gwen, who keeps this attitude up in the following series, Omniverse, hoping to help her redeem herself through The Power of Friendship someday.
  • Mostly subverted by the main heroes in The Dreamstone, there is very little to sympathise about Zordrak, and his minions the Urpneys, though far more sympathetic, are dealt with indiscriminately. Spildit however, naively converses and even attempts to help Sgt Blob's team at times. At one point they even sympathise with each other after Urpgor once again chews the squad out and steals Spildit's leaf.
    Spildit: It was very mean of him to take my leaf!
    Nug: He's like that sometimes.
  • DuckTales (2017): Throughout the series, Magica De Spell was a vile evil sorceress and a abusive parent, then in the episode "The Life and Crimes of Scrooge McDuck!"when Scrooge was put on trial by the mystic court, it is revealed at her first meeting with Scrooge McDuck he accidentally turns her twin brother Poe De Spell into a non-sapient crow and doing nothing to help him as Poe flays away. The flashback was surprisingly heartbreaking, with Magica begging for Scrooge's help offering anything to save her brother and Scrooge ignoring her to get some gold. The judge was sympathetic to her, and notably, the Magica case was the only case presented where Scrooge showed remorse for his actions, with his face showing guilt and shame.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy:
  • In The Fairly OddParents!, the episode "Dream Goat!" double subverts this. Initially, Timmy thinks it's cool that Vicky got the blame for something he did; any second thoughts get drowned out by all the perks and popularity he gets for his "heroism." However, his subconscious is wracked with guilt over the whole thing, which leads to the dream wishing, so on some level, he does feel bad for her. Played straight with Wanda, who is the only one to point out how unfair the situation is to Vicky.
  • Kaeloo: The show's main antagonist, Mr. Cat, spends his time bullying Quack Quack, an innocent friend of his who has never done anything to wrong him. Being aware that Mr. Cat's behavior stems from Mr. Cat having had a very difficult life, Quack Quack continues to be his friend and be nice to him because he believes that deep down, Mr. Cat is just confused and hurting because of his trauma.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • In the episode "Twilight's Kingdom -- Part 2", the Mane Five are clearly horrified when Tirek betrays Discord and violently sucks his magic dry. Note that this is after Discord betrayed them; there's not even an ounce of biting sarcasm in Applejack's voice when she returns an Ironic Echo over his backstab.
    • A similar (though not quite as drastic) situation occurs in "Crusaders of the Lost Mark". After Diamond Tiara loses the election for class president, she seems genuinely upset, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders decide to make sure she's OK even though Diamond's never given them anything but nastiness and trouble. The feeling becomes even stronger when they discover that Diamond Tiara's mother Spoiled Rich is a cruel, nasty social climber who only cares about her position in Ponyville's elite circles. The CMC are shocked and admit that they feel bad for Diamond Tiara.
    • Even after all the evil (and unforgivable if you ask some of the fanbase) stunts she pulled, Twilight Sparkle still pitied Starlight Glimmer after learning her entire motivation was being left a Broken Bird after her close childhood friend moved away. Twilight's forgiveness and offer to help her rediscover the meaning and value of friendship is what triggers Starlight's Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Owl House:
    • In "Wing It Like Witches", Eda wins her grudgby bet with Lilith, then when the latter responds to her victory with terror at the thought of the consequences of returning to the Emperor empty-handed yet again, Eda feels bad enough to give Lilith her ring. Willow also shows signs of this when Boscha's team ask Willow if she wants to join them due to her skill, and Willow glances and notices Boscha's expression of terror before politely turning down the offer.
    • In "Eclipse Lake", Eda briefly expresses pity when observing Kikimora's Sanity Slippage of paranoia. Amity empathizes with Hunter when she realizes how similar their situations with Abusive Parents are, and even King feels bad for Hunter when watching him dig his own grave in manic despair.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998) are sometimes shown to take pity on some of their villains. Semi justified at times since they are naive little girls, and many of said villains are rather pitiful at times. This is especially prominent with the Amoeba Boys, who are so hopeless at being evil they actually try to teach them how to commit crimes.
  • The Simpsons: In the episode "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish," Homer is visibly concerned for Mr. Burns when he sees the old man pitifully crying in his car. He even stops to ask him if he's alright.
  • South Park: It's mentioned in one episode that Kenny is only friends with Cartman out of pity.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
    • Despite Hordak being responsible by the "deaths" of Glimmer's parents (Angella's was accidental and Micah has survived, though Glimmer doesn't know) and having tried to kill her personally, she is horrifed when she sees Horde Prime pick him by his neck and erase his memories.
      • In spite of their story of mutual abuse and toxic partnership, Catra feels sympathy for Hordak when she sees him brainwashed and reduced to an average clone. When he panicks for having remembered her name, Catra promises she won't tell anybody, forgetting that Horde Prime can see and hear everything through the clones' minds. She watches horrified as Hordak is tortured with electric shocks in a ceremony of reconditioning, aware this is the SECOND time he is going through this, and for her fault!
      • Catra herself was hated by the Rebellion, and with good reasons. Glimmer and Bow, personally, had a long story with her, from all those moments when she kidnapped/tried to kill them for being friends with Adora. Not to mention that it was Catra whom opened the portal, causing reality to be destroyed and forcing Angella to commit a Heroic Sacrifice. Yet, after Adora saves Catra from Horde Prime and has to bring her back from the dead, both Glimmer and Bow cry. Even Entrapta, whom had her life ruined by Catra (she manipulated her to enter the Horde, used her knowledge in techs, then sent her to die in Beast Island and after being rescued Entrapta was ocstracized by the princesses) agrees into "forgiving" Catra with a friendly pat on the latter's head, though they're not friends anymore.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Despite suffering more at Maul's hands than anyone else, Obi-Wan is still able to feel compassion and sympathy for him, knowing they've both lost everything and they're not that different. In the end, he kills Maul only for the pain he could cause if allowed near Luke, not the pain he has already caused, and even performs Cradling Your Kill.
  • Steven Universe. In the episode "Earthlings", long-time villain Jasper becomes corrupted and slowly loses her sanity. During this, she reveals how lonely and insecure she actually is, as she states that "Nobody I fuse with ever wants to stay" (referring to Lapis and the Corrupted Gem she fused with earlier). Steven tries to heal her, but she furiously refuses his help, eventually fully corrupting and being poofed by Peridot. The part where this trope applies is where Amethyst walks forward with a sorrowful look and falls to her knees next to Jasper's gem, before delivering one of the most tear-jerky lines in the show so far.
    Amethyst: [sighs and picks up Jasper's gem] C'mere, sis.
  • Teen Titans (2003): In "Sisters", Starfire looks saddened when the Centuari police arrest her sister Blackfire, even if it's no less than the latter deserves after her actions.
  • In ThunderCats (2011), the Lizards are actually given an understandable motive for siding with Mumm-Ra. Under the reign of the Cats' kingdom Thundera, most of the arable and prosperous lands are controlled by the Cats while the other species are left to starve and are often captured and enslaved if they try to steal food for their people. This is explicitly stated by a Lizard who was captured and tormented by the Cats to Lion-O, which caused him to later defend the Lizards from an angry lynch mob.
  • In Wakfu, Yugo cannot bring himself to finish off Nox after he sees Nox shedding tears after his plan to Set Right What Once Went Wrong ends in utter failure and allows the defeated villain to leave peacefully. Averted in Season 2; Yugo feels no sympathy for Qilby the Traitor after hearing his twisted reasons for destroying worlds to fuel his own selfish desires and imprisons him in an empty void. Played straight again in the manga, when Yugo admits that he feels guilty that he left Qilby to that horrible (though justified) fate but is told because of him feeling Sympathy for the Devil is what makes him a good king.


Video Example(s):


Empty Handed

After beating her, Eda gives Lilith her ring so she won't have to return to the Emperor empty-handed again.

How well does it match the trope?

4.38 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / SympathyForTheDevil

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