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The Executioner

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Don't get a-head of yourself.

"When I was young, every great king had an executioner. Not just to execute people, but also to execute their vision. ... But mainly to execute people."
Hela, Thor: Ragnarok

An executioner is someone tasked with killing prisoners or criminals sentenced to death by an official authority. In some cases this person could also execute other corporal sentences such as whipping or chopping off limbs.

In the beginning, justice was meted out privately, i.e. feuds and vendettas: as such the victim or his relatives had to execute their sentence themselves. Oftentimes it was the community who executed the sentence, and some sentences, such as stoning, were based around this concept.

Growing centralization made justice an exclusive prerogative of the state, and the execution of sentences became a public monopoly. First functioning by hiring hourlies, this position became later a permanent one.


  1. Alienated: Given their rapport with death, especially with death violently and voluntarily given, and even though they were nominally agents of justice, the executioners were often shunned by the public. For this reason, they often appear masked.
  2. Dynastic: The above factor oftentimes led to dynasties of executioners, since no one would give them relatives to marry and their children were often banned from doing other work, or training.
  3. Tormented: They might be depicted as suffering anxiety due to them causing the death of other human beings or because of a particular convict they befriended, fell in love with or were convinced of their innocence.
  4. Psychopath: Contrarily to the above factor, some might be depicted as blood thirsty who enjoy the opportunity to kill people legally.
  5. Professional: In a more moderate version of the above factor, others might be proud of their work, which they see as essential for a society.
  6. Apathetic: We would have these who became stone-hearted because of their work.
  7. Incompetent: Finally, we would have these who are really bad at their jobs by being clueless, clumsy, and would likely botch the job even when successful.

Of course, several subtypes could fit for each example.

If the executioner also carries out the task of judging the culprit personally, this is Judge, Jury, and Executioner. If he acts without legal sanction then he's a Vigilante Man doing Vigilante Executions. Executioners will also overlap with Torture Technician and Exalted Torturer, as in medieval Europe, executioners also dealt with torture. Although historical executioners rarely wore hoods, depictions may show them as Malevolent Masked Men. Sometimes depicted shirtless, which can display his muscular, portly, Acrofatic, or Stout Strength figure. Will most likely wield a sword and/or an axe.

Also see Public Execution for more tropes about what executioners do. Compare and contrast with Professional Killer, another kind of career which revolves around taking people's lives, albeit without serving any judicial purpose.

Not to be confused with Mack Bolan, the vigilante known as The Executioner.


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  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi introduces the First Order Executioner stormtrooper variant after the slicer Finn and Rose hire to get them on the First Order dreadnaught sells them out to Captain Phasma. The Executioner is stated in supplementary material to be a rotational role that all stormtroopers are required to fill at some point, with specialized armor that doesn’t display the trooper’s ID number to keep them anonymous to their peers.

  • Discworld: Samuel Vimes' ancestor Suffer-Not-Injustice "Stoneface" Vimes was the only man to step up and execute the last king of Ankh-Morpork Lorenzo the Kind (who is heavily implied to have tortured and raped children to death). Ankh-Morpork being what it is, the citizens soon turned against him, to the point of needing several graves, and is responsible for the Vimes family falling on such hard times until Samuel became Commander of the City Watch and Duke of Ankh-Morpork. One of Vetinari's rewards for Vimes was rehabilitating his ancestor's memory and commissioning a statue of him; it's the only one not graffitied in the city because no one wants to see Vimes' reaction on finding out it was vandalized.

    Video Games 
  • Kingdom Come: Deliverance has Hermann, the executioner of Rattay. Due to his profession, he lives outside the town, but is modestly well-off. Henry can get a sidequest from Hermann such as helping the widow of the man he had executed, and helping to sabotage an execution from a rival executioner.
  • Skull & Crossbones have a masked executioner wielding a massive axe as the first boss.

    Real Life 
  • The representation of executioners wearing hoods supposedly comes from the execution of Charles I of Britain, as no one wanted to be identified as the regicide.
  • Thomas Derrick was an English executioner who got the job after being pardoned by the Earl of Essex for rape, to which he beheaded after Essex's failed coup against Queen Elizabeth I. Derrick devised a type of gallows that included a topping lift and pulleys, which he used at Tyburn, and a type of crane designed from those gallows was named after him.
  • In Jidaigeki, executioners were grouped in the eta and the hinin along other professions which were deemed dirty and impure by Japanese society.
  • In the Ottoman Empire, executioners, who were usually of Romani origin, were buried in unmarked graves inside separate graveyards.


    Anime and Manga 
  • Innocent is about the life and career of Charles-Henri Sanson, the chief executioner of Paris and member of a long line of executioners before and during the French Revolution. Was given a Historical Beauty Upgrade in this manga. The story centers on how he gradually accepted his profession.

    Real Life 
  • Due to the infamy attached to the profession, some families of executioners were essentially forced into interbreeding and sometimes even inbreeding (such as in France).
    • The Sanson family gave executioners from 1688 to 1847, with Charles-Henri Sanson, who took part in many of the executions of The French Revolution, being the most well known of them.
    • For 102 years, the five last executioners of France were all part of the same family : Anatole Deibler (1899-1939, 299 executions) succeeded his father Louis (1879-1898, 151 executions) when the elder quitted. When Deibler Jr. died on his way to his 300th execution, his nephew-in-law Jules Desfourneaux (1939-1951, 190 executions) was appointed ; five weeks after his death, his cousin (another Anatole's nephew-in-law) André Obrecht (1951-1976, 64 executions) was named chief executioner. Suffering from Parkinson's disease, he resigned when he was 77 and his own nephew-in-law Marcel Chevalier (1976-1981) became the very last executioner. In five years, he only decapitated two criminals before death penalty was abolished. Of course, becoming chief meant all of them started as executioner helpers, usually part of a team of five, then four men, all of them being relative, friends or neighbours of the chief.


  • The 2005 Austrian film The Headsman (The Shadow of the Sword for international viewing). Former army captain Martin, played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, is given the role of the executioner (after marrying the daughter of the previous executioner) to dispatch religious dissidents in Tyrol at the height of The Protestant Reformation. When his childhood friend Georg, who became a monk, is suspected to be one, Martin is given a conflict to either dispatch him or to save his friendship.

  • Severian from Book of the New Sun is an apprentice of the Torturer's Guild who has been exiled to another city for showing mercy to a charge. He receives an executioner's sword named Terminus Est before leaving.
  • The Green Mile centers on three prison guards at Cold Mountain Penitentiary who watch the death row cells, "the green mile," and perform the executions using the electric chair, "Old Sparky." They're honest, decent corrections officers presented with a Magical Negro convict; a devious, haywire convict; and a fourth guard that's the Sadist. Adapted into Film.The Green Mile in 1999.
  • In the Bony novel Mr Jelly's Business, the title character is a respectable widower with two daughters, who has a strange obsession with the subject of what drives murderers to kill and a tendency, several times a year at unpredictable intervals, to leave town for a few days then return home with unexplained money and lock himself in his room to get drunk. It's revealed at the end of the novel that he is a professional executioner, and his absences are the occasions on which he has been summoned to perform his duty. He considers it good and necessary work, and carries it out professionally, but he doesn't enjoy it and by the end of the novel has decided to retire from the role due to the strain it puts on him and his family.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the identity of a given executioner is often used for contrast compared to the example from Ned Stark, who believes that the one who passes the sentence should have to swing the axe himself. See "Professional".
    • Theon Greyjoy executes Farlen as a scapegoat for the murder of three of his men, who were actually killed by Reek for being privy to Theon's faked murders of Bran and Rickon Stark. In the TV series, he executes Rodrik Cassel instead in order to "pay the iron price" for Winterfell as he helped lead Greyjoy forces in taking it, and he didn't want to execute Rodrik, but was pressured into it by his own men. This being said, he honors his time as Ned Stark's ward (read, Political Hostage, as he was kept by Ned to make sure his father Balon Greyjoy stayed in line after his attempted rebellion) by choosing to execute Farlen/Rodrik himself, though to symbolize his conflicted feelings, he botches the execution quite badly.
    • Ned's son Robb Stark is forced to execute Rickard Karstark after he allows some of his men to butcher innocent Lannister prisoners. Rickard Karstark, even as he curses Robb, does express some gratitude that Robb held true to those beliefs (which extend to all descendants of the First Men) and executed him with his own hand rather than someone else's.
    • When serving as Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Ned's bastard son Jon Snow orders Janos Slynt executed for insubordination, and first seems to want him hanged. He changes his mind as Janos begs for his life, however, leading to a bit of a Hope Spot for Ser Janos, before asking his aides to fetch him a block instead, showing that he, too, believes that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.
  • Universal Monsters: Subverted in book 4 — Joe decides to pull a prank on Nina and Stacy by showing up behind them in an executioner's costume with a fake ax. All it gets him is a black eye, courtesy of Levi Tovar. He later explains that he'll be dressed as one for the period he'll be working in at the exhibit they're taking part in. Another executioner later shows up and genuinely attacks Joe and Captain Bob while they're sneaking around the Egyptian exhibit... except Detective Turner later tells them it was just a robot intended for the exhibit, and they must have turned it on by accident.

    Live Action Television 
  • On Murdoch Mysteries a convicted murderer is hanged but then turns out to be still alive and escapes. Murdoch questions the hangman and his apprentice. The hangman is a Consummate Professional and the apprentice is a bumbling incompetent so initial suspicion falls on the apprentice for messing up the execution. However, the hangman then confesses to sabotaging the execution. He believes that a man he previously executed was innocent and the man he helped escape was similarly framed for murder. Murdoch has to determine whether there really is a conspiracy to subvert justice in Toronto or the hangman has had a nervous breakdown due to the stress of his unpopular job and let a dangerous murderer run free. At the end of the episode the city cannot find a replacement hangman and resorts to giving the job to the apprentice. He bungles his first execution in a grotesque way.

  • Ko-Ko in The Mikado is named Lord High Executioner precisely because he's next in line to be executed (for flirting) and thus isn't allowed to execute anyone until he's executed himself. When an order comes down from the rather execution-happy title character to behead someone or else, he's extremely distressed at the possibility (even after getting a substitute lined up through a complicated series of events) on the grounds that he's "never even killed a bluebottle." It's Gilbert and Sullivan, so of course it's all Played for Laughs.

  • Widdershins the Knott family has been executioners for generations, but the latest scion, Vincent, is a sweet, nervous, lovable law nerd who really, really would rather be a defense lawyer. He only didn't refuse the job in the first place because he's so anxious about disappointing his dad (a lovely chap after hours). Indeed, Vincent's working knowledge of the British law has been enough to get all his previous "clients" out of the death row, so he hasn't actually executed anyone yet. Will Sharpe, however, proves to be a tough case. But he's actually being framed by someone using Mind Control (to convince Will himself he did it, while he didn't). And after exposing that plot, Vincent finally works up the courage to tell his dad he's going to study law officially. Dad's still proud of him.

    Western Animation 
  • In Disenchantment, Bean temporarily serves as an apprentice to the official executioner (who is himself a fairly comical, punch-clock version, of the Professional) and realizes she is a "natural" at killing and torturing people even when she doesn't real mean to. Nevertheless, she seriously struggled with the job due to the sheer lack of actual investigation to determine if the woman in question was guilty, to the point she couldn't bring herself to execute her.

    Real Life 
  • James Berry, an executioner in Victorian England, eventually came to believe that he was damned due to all the people he killed, and came to speak out against the death penalty and became a born-again Christian.
  • Some sources attest Charles-Henri Sanson eventually became insane due to fear and remorse.


    Anime and Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!: Zanku the Beheader started as an Imperial executioner, and became a Serial Killer after going crazy from the guilt of killing so many people.

  • Tower of London(1939): Mord is the clubfooted executioner and torturer of King Richard III. As well as his official executions (of which Mord and Richard hold regularly bets over how many swings of the axe it will take to remove the targets head), Mord also acts as Richard's willing assassin and happy accomplice in the murdering of Richard's family members to pave his path to power, including his brother George and his child nephews.

  • Goosebumps: The Lord High Executioner from "A Night In Terror Tower" and "Return to Terror Tower" is the chief enforcer of King Robert tasked by him to execute his nephew and niece (Robert having overthrown their father). A dedicated sociopath, once tasked to kill, nothing will stand in his way of carrying out the sentence. His dedication is so great that he flows Sue and Eddie through time itself (when a friendly wizard sends them hundreds of years into the future), outright mocking them for thinking that would be enough to stop him.
  • Macnair of Harry Potter, a former Death Eater, executes dangerous beasts for the Ministry, and Voldemort welcomes him back by saying he would have other victims to execute, this time human beings.

    Live-Action Television 
  • The New Statesman: A minor recurring character is Sidney Bliss, a former hangman who was made redundant when Britain outlawed the death penalty and thus presently works as a publican in Alan B'Stard's constituency. Whilst polite and constantly professional, its made clear that he enjoys hanging people to an unhealthy degree, Bliss supports Alan solely out of his promise to bring back hanging. He finally gets his wish after Alan fakes an assassination attempt on himself to trick parliament into reinstating he death penalty, and in a twist of fate his first victim turns out to be Alan himself.

    Video Games 
  • Alice: Madness Returns: The Executioner is the Queen of Hearts executioner. A huge figure, made out of several card guards stitched together, immune to all damage and caries a long scythe. He is dispatched by the Queen to kill Alice, perusing her multiple times throughout the Queensland. He is finally destroyed when Alice uses a cake to grow gigantic and crushes beneath her foot.
  • Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood: Il Carenfice is a particularly vicious executioner in the service of the Borgia's. Openly expressing his enthusiasm for the brutality of his work. Il Carenfice never actually reads the warrants for execution he receives (having never learned to read) and instead abuses his authority to executes whoever he wants.
  • In the first Singularity of Fate/Grand Order, Charles Henri-Sanson appears as an Assassin-class Servant for his reputation as an infamous executioner. He initially appears under the effects of Mad Enhancement, turning him into an Ax-Crazy madman who wishes to execute others so perfectly that they feel nothing but ecstasy when his blade cleaves through their neck. As a proper Servant, he's far more affable, if uptight, and prefers to use his knowledge for medical purposes and to slay his foes painlessly. He also has a certain amount of affection for Marie Antoinette, whom he executed in life (in actual history, Marie's execution was carried out by Charles-Henri's son, Henri).
  • Mace: The Dark Age: One of the characters is actually called The Executioner, complete with black hood and huge axe. He serves as a freelance torturer and killer for the Seven, and has his own island prison with a Torture Cellar.
  • In Resident Evil 5 one of the Majini is called the Executioner. His biography states that he executes anyone who rejects being implanted with the Las Plagas parasite.
  • The Suffering: Warden Hermes Haight claims to have been a professional who lived for his job, but was so obsessed with executions and death that he ultimately killed himself in his own Gas Chamber and became a ghost made of Deadly Gas.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: Monokuma is an example of a Psychopath Executioner. He is responsible for executing the students who have been found guilty of killing another student or that have broken his rules. He outright loves having the chance of executing someone.
    • In Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc he even tries to trick the students with a made-up murder scene (by reusing the corpse of the mysterious 16th student) in order to frame Kyoko Kirigiri and have her executed because she was a threat to the Mastermind's plans. When that goes south because Makoto doesn't convict her of a murder she didn't commit, Monokuma attempts to have him executed instead (But that also backfires).
    • In Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony he even executes Kaede Akamatsu for the murder of Rantaro Amami, despite knowing very well that she was innocent all along. Granted it was all a trap set by the Mastermind, who killed Rantaro herself and fooled everyone, including Kaede, into thinking that she was the true killer.

     Real Life 
  • Many sources attest the existence of Ance, executioner of Rochefort and Brest, (his real name was probably "Hans" but it was frenchified to "Ance") was known as an arrogant Pretty Boy and a complete sadistic nutcase with little to no redeeming qualities. This man was a Social Climber, and supremely arrogant (to the point of refering to himself in third person). He "punished" a convict for being too stoic by, instead of using the guillotine to kill him in one shot, dropped it several times, stopping before it cut the spinal cords. He did so four times before being satisfied. He placed chopped heads in perfect lines just to terrify the condemned. Oh, and he helped to publically disgrace (what he did precisely is not said explicitly, but it probably was something along the lines of necrophile acts or an oddly sexualized dissection) the decapitated corpse of a virgin girl (in an amphitheater, mind you) along with the judge who ordered the sentencing.


    Anime and Manga 
  • Samurai Executioner: The main character Asaemon Yamada is the local executioner. He takes his duty very seriously, and has immense compassion for those he kills, doing his best to make them repent for their crimes or trying to understand what drove them to commit the crime that got them executed. Because he's also the shogun's sword-tester (which involves cutting straw mats and dead bodies), he is repeatedly thought to be worthless against enemies who aren't tied up. The kind of people who think this are very quickly and fatally proven wrong.

  • The Beheaded 1000 is a Hong Kong fantasy film set in ancient times, whose protagonist (played by Jimmy Wang Yu) is a Ming Dynasty executioner who decapitates people for a living. The title refers to his desires to retire for good after killing his 1000th convict, but his past catches up with him.
  • The Night of the Hunter: The state executioner has a minor role, introduced hanging a convicted convict. He expresses distain for the brutal nature of his job, but accepts it as necessary. He is seen again at the end of the film, and informs Harry Powell that he's actually happy for once to be riding the world of such an evil man.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets: The Hangman for Louis Mazzini, whilst a clear professional, struggles to hide his enthusiasm at getting to preside over the execution of a Duke, clearly seeing such a moment as both a great honour and the height of his career, expressing his plans to retire immediately afterwards to the prison Governor, as "After hanging with the silken rope, I'll never be content with hemp". On the morning before the event, he even reads a final declarative poem for the occasion he had written. This backfires on him as it delays the hanging long enough for the message to come in that new evidence proving Louis innocent has emerged, with him later acknowledging he would have been dead already if he had not stopped to read it.
  • In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela was Odin's executioner before he had a change of heart and imprisoned her. When she escapes her prison and takes over Asgard, she takes on Skurge as her executioner, but he baulks at actually cutting someone's head off, leading to his Redemption Equals Death.
    Hela: When I was young every great king had an executioner. Not just to execute people but also to execute their vision. But mainly to execute people. Still, it was a great honor. I was Odin's executioner. And you shall be my executioner.

  • The Three Musketeers: The executioner of Bethune makes an appearance toward the end of the novel. He's a quiet, retired man, but his profession leads him to be shunned by the rest of the town (a beggar refuses to show Athos the way to his house even for money). He also has a personal connection to the plot: the executioner's brother was the priest that a young Milady de Winter had seduced, and so it falls to him to execute her for her crimes. This gets him killed in the sequel when her son Mordaunt comes looking for revenge.
  • In 20 Years After, the musketeers kidnap the London executioner in order to delay the execution long enough to abduct king Charles I to safety. Unfortunately, the plan goes awry when Mordaunt volunteers to be the executioner (while wearing a hood, as in Real Life).
  • Discworld: In the modern timeline, there's Daniel Trooper, the Ankh-Morpok hangman. He's quite cheerful given his profession, and is skilled enough to hang a man without actually killing him, a skill that comes in handy when Vetinari wants a crook with useful skills seen to be dead.
  • The French Historical Detective Fiction series Nicolas Le Floch features the historical executioner of Paris at the time, Charles-Henri Sanson, as a personal friend of the protgonist who serves as the equivalent to a coroner thanks to his having studied medicine and his experience with corpses.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the identity of a given executioner is often used for contrast compared to the example from Ned Stark.
    • Eddard "Ned" Stark himself is introduced executing an Oathbreaker (a member of the Night's Watch who deserted their post), a firm believer in the adage "The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." He also finds no pleasure in doing so, seeing it only for the grim business that it is.
    • Ser Ilyn Payne serves as the Queen's Justice (read, headsman). He had his tongue cut out by the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen for suggesting that Tywin Lannister was the true power behind Westeros, and this made him a grim man in personality, who seems to deeply enjoy his work, beheading criminals for the King. At the end of the first book, it is he who swings the sword at Ned Stark's head using his own Valyrian Steel blade Ice, despite Joffrey giving the order.
  • In his St. Petersburg Dialogues, Joseph de Maistre, a French-Savoyard reactionary and counter-revolutionary thinkers proclaimed the executioner to be the cornerstone of the society.
    Is he a man? Yes. God receives him in his shrines, and allows him to pray. He is not a criminal. Nevertheless no tongue dares declare that he is virtuous, that he is an honest man, that he is estimable. No moral praise seems appropriate to him, for everyone else is assumed to have relations with human beings: he has none. And yet all greatness, all power, all subordination rest on the executioner. He is the terror and the bond of human association. Remove this mysterious agent from the world, and in an instant order yields to chaos: thrones fall, society disappears. God, who has created sovereignty, has also made punishment; he has fixed the earth upon these two poles: for Jehovah is master of the twin poles and upon them he maketh turn the world
  • The Accursed Kings: In the final book, one sequence shows what happens when the executioner isn't a professional: an underfed prisoner assigned to perform the execution (having committed four murders) utterly botches the job, needing to hack away at one victim's neck half a dozen times before finally managing to separate the head from the body. The narrator notes that the executioner might be more pitiable than the prisoners.

    Live Action Television 
  • Blackadder: The Cavalier Years: After King Charles I is captured, Blackadder thinks he's safe from execution because no one will have the guts to do so. When he learn the king is going to be beheaded, he wonders what repulsive person could have accepted the duty before realizing Baldrick came into a lot of money recently, and takes the role of executioner for himself (even extracting a tip from the king) due to Baldrick's plan involving doodling a mustache on a big pumpkin and presenting it as the king's head. Blackadder goes with this plan in the end, and it goes about as well as expected.
    Blackadder: This is the head of a traitor!
    Blackadder: Ah yes, let me try again!
  • Blackadder:
    • As Lord Blackadder discovers in "Head" his manservant Baldrick has a secondary job as the local executioner. As it turns out he's just as incompetent at it as he is with everything else, with the ending revealed he executed the wrong person.
    • The firing squad from "Corporal Punishment", overall are presented as a cheerful and professional bunch, even at one point comparing themselves to the taxman. Their efforts to reassure Captain Blackadder do nothing but annoy him, but they all take this in good spirits.

  • The Last Podcast on the Left: The episode "Hangmen & Headsmen" is about executioners throughout history, offering such details as the job paid terribly and among the reasons the executioners' identities were kept secret was because people with the job were ostracized and it allowed for a second job. This is demonstrated in the story they tell if an executioners whose identity wasn't secret, who horribly botched a beheading, and went on to be mocked and insulted to the point stuff was thrown at his funeral procession after he died himself.
  • Welcome to Night Vale: Dale Salazar is Nightvale's official executioner, so dedicated to his duty that even his death hasn't prevented him from fulfilling it. Thus when the town needs to pass an execution, he will rise form his grave and refuse to return until its complete. In "Flight" he is raised to execute the five headed dragon Hiram McDaniels, after Hiram escapes he ignores Mayor Dana's orders to let him go, and instead shoots after him unfortunately only succeeding in killing his violet head, the only one that was actually innocent.

    Tabletop Games 
  • State Executioners in Cyberpunk have to guard the Death Rows and execute their inmates.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: Wulfrik the Wanderer is also known as the High Executioner of Chaos, because his divine mission in life is to find the biggest, toughest, ugliest monsters/champions/enemies around and challenge them to a fight, dedicating bits of their corpse to the Chaos Gods. Thanks to his Gift of Tongues, he's able to goad his target into fighting no matter how disastrous this would be for their side.
  • Warhammer 40,000: The Primarch of the Space Wolves, Leman Russ, gained the moniker 'The Emperor's Executioner', for his tendency and brutal efficiency in hunting down and punishing rogue Space Marines at the Emperor's behest. It's heavily implied, if not outright stated, that he and his Space Wolves were the ones who UnPersoned the two forgotten legions.

    Video Games 
  • Legend (1994) have a hooded executioner as the boss of the dungeon level (how appropriate). He seems to be really good at his job too, expertly swinging his ax around and causing massive damage to your health every time he scores a hit.
  • The Executioner of Mace: The Dark Age is known to be the best one in the profession. He's a freelance torturer seeking ultimate power for himself while wielding his gnarly instruments of torture, and his axe, to inflict pain with. He may overlap with Tormented if one reads his backstory.
  • Stronghold 2 has a Torturer's Guild, where they can carry punishments to criminals, from beheadings to floggings to the rack.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Double Homework, while sleeping in the sauna of a ski lodge, has a nightmare in which Dr. Mosely/Zeta appears working for Dennis in this capacity.
  • Pax from Reigning Passions. When execution is called upon, he carries it out with a BFS. It's nothing personal — he's just doing his job.


    Western Animation 
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut: Mr. Garrison serves as the executioner for Terrence and Phillip's public execution. While he is supposed to be "anonymous" (to the point of wearing a face-concealing hood), the fact that Mr. Hat is with him as always (and wearing a smaller hood) makes his identity obvious (as does Sheila calling him by name later).
  • Disenchantment: Stan is Dreamland's official executioner and torturer who when he's not working (and even when he is working) is one of the nicest and friendliest people in the entire kingdom.

    Real Life 
  • Marcel Chevalier was the last French executioner until the abolition of the death penalty.
  • Franz Schmidt was the executioner of Nuremberg from the late 16th century to the early 17th century. He kept a diary that detailed 300+ executions with specified methods of each crime. He sidelined with medical consultancy to which it became his job after he retired as an executioner.
  • John C. Woods was tasked with executing Nazi war criminals, including the one sentenced to death during the Nuremberg trials. Although he claimed to have experience before as assistant hangman, he really didn't. As such, the hangings he performed were often rather sloppily carried out, frequently resulting not in quick death by a broken neck as indented, but a slow one of strangulation over several minutes.
  • Vasily Blokhin was the head NKVD executioner from 1926 to 1953, after Stalin's death. Some of his notorious executions include the Katyn massacre. He is believed to have been the individual to have directly killed more people than any other human in history.
  • Albert Pierrepoint was a famous hangman in 20th century England (of the "dynastic" as well as the "professional" sub-types, as he followed in the footsteps of his father and uncle before him). He carried out at least 400 executions over a career that lasted a quarter of a century, from murderers to war criminals and traitors. He was by all accounts very good at his job—reportedly it was only a matter of seconds between Pierrepoint entering the condemned person's cell and their death with a broken neck.


    Comic Strips 
  • The Wizard of Id has a nameless hooded executioner dispose of convicts either by hanging or decapitation. Because Id's king is The Napoleon, those who utter "The King is a fink" get sent to the chopping block routinely. Once, when this executioner was asked how he could stomach his grim job, his reply was a nonchalant, "It's a living."


    Live-Action Television 
  • Blackadder: Lord Blackadder is appointed Queen Elizabeth's Lord High Executioner in "Head", following the previous one accidentally signing his name on the wrong line of the execution order whilst drunk. Whilst officially overseeing the execution of the Queen's enemies, Edmund leaves the actual running of the job to Lord Percy and Gaoler Ploppy, not bothering to actually show up on the day and even casually moving up the execution of Lord Farrow simply to give him the rest of the week off, which backfires when the Queen later pardons him.

    Video Games 


     Real Life 
  • William Calcraft Is famous for being in a seventh category for executioners. Incompetent. He used the Short Drop method which was controversial at the time for how easy it was to blotch, something he did with alarming frequency. At one point he was dealt a death threat and was in such a hurry to get off the platform than he completely mismeasured the rope and the condemned was able to cling to the scaffolding three times despite the warden's best efforts to knock him lose and the guards had to drag him back to get him to kill the man properly. Yet somehow, he managed to serve 45 years despite that.
    • One of the worst examples was this hanging of the Manchester Martyrs. He was well known for making a big show of his executions to a crowd of over 30,000 people, dangling off the condemned legs in an attempt to break their necks. The first of the Martyrs, William Philip Allen, was lucky and his neck was broken. The other two, Michael Larkin, and Michael O'Brien, were nowhere near so lucky, causing Calcraft to have to yank on Larkin's legs to snap his neck. The Priest who was accompanying the martyrs to the gallows was so horrified that he said it was a killing not an execution, and refused to let Calcraft even touch O'Brien to finish him off.
  • Jack Ketch was infamous for how he handled the executions of Lord Russel and the Duke of Monmouth, which took several blows from the axe before Ketch just used a knife. Such executions would have been horrifying to the witnesses that even his name was a name to run away really fast.


  • Marvel's Robert E. Howard's Dark Agnes, set in 16th century France, starts with Agnes's sidekick Etienne awaiting his Public Execution for a long list of crimes. His executioner is a silent Malevolent Masked Man, hooded, gloved and robed, with a huge two-handed axe. The executioner's features are completely concealed, with not even his eyes visible. This is partly because 'he' is actually a disguised Agnes, who goes on to stage a last-second rescue.
  • A story in set in the Warhammer Fantasy universe tells of a Professional executioner for a local Lord who is ordered to execute the Lord's wife for infidelity after he tires of her(as well as a local playwright framed for the job, despite being someone who, as the narrator puts it "fires for the other gunnery school"). She pleads for not only her life, but that of her unborn child. But as a pofessional, he does the deed anyway. Plagued by guilt and nightmares, he eventually kills his master for making him do the deed. The tale reveals that the narrator is the executioner himself, definitely and literally Tormented, forever haunted by the ghosts of the innocents he killed on his Lord's whims.
  • Superman: The Phantom Zone : Prisoners are beamed into the Phantom Zone (sometimes for eternity) by Cha-Kor, a big man with a black hood. The flashbacks in the epilogue flesh him out more. His sister was one of the people Jax-Ur killed, he feels little sympathy for any of the (generally irredeemable) Phantom Zone prisoners besides his former commanding officer Zod (although not enough to approve of Zod's coup) and wouldn’t mind just killing them, and he sometimes wonders if Jor-El (who he respects) is right about the approaching doom of their civilization.
  • In Nathan Hales Hazardous Tales, one of the main characters and narrators of the books is The Hangman, a hood-wearing executioner who is meant to hang Nathan Hale. Interestingly, he nearly subverts almost every subtype that's associated with this trope. While he does wear a mask, he's by no means shunned by anyone, and he's very comfortable talking about his life and giving his full name. He doesn't appear to be tormented by his job, but he's also not completely blood thirsty nor is he apathetic in any way. He actually doesn't like it when people die or are horribly injured in the stories, something that the other character lampshade a lot. He also expresses empathy when meeting Nathan Hale, regretting that he doesn't have an extra life to give him. Ultimately, the Hangman is a pretty friendly guy, albeit goofy and dim-witted. Really, the only subtype that applies to him is Dynastic, as he shows off a picture of a relative of his, who was also an executioner. This is mainly Played for Laughs.

  • Alice in Wonderland (2010) has the Red Queen's executioner appearing to be a mix of Professional and Apathetic. When about to execute the Mad Hatter (actually the Cheshire Cat disguised as him), he moves to take off the hat only for the Hatter to request it stay on.
    Executioner: Suit yourself. (Brushes aside the fabric hanging off to expose the neck) So long as I can get at your neck.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The MACUSA executioners magically mesmerise their victims with their own happy memories to keep them docile while they're lowered into a dissolving potion. Between their methods, their stark white-on-white uniforms, and their cheerful Dissonant Serenity while they try to kill a terrified colleague, they're very much Played for Horror.
  • The 1963 film The Executioner (original Spanish title El Verdugo) by Luis Garcia Berlanga features the experienced (and close to retirement) Amadeo, who is a combination of professional, alienated, and dynastic, and his son-in-law Jose Luis, who got roped into applying for the job in order to get an apartment and is deeply tormented by the idea of having to execute someone.

  • The narrator of the Stanley Ellin short story "The Question" explains to his horrified son that his secret side job as state "electrocutioner" is simply a necessary function of society, that Someone Has to Do It, and he takes care to do it well. At the end, though, he reflects on everyone he's watched gruesomely die in the electric chair, and concludes, "My God, how could anyone not enjoy it?"
  • Clark Ashton Smith's fantasy short story "The Testament of Athammaus". The title character is both the Dynastic and Professional executioner, coming from a long line of executioners to the kings of Hyperborea in the capital city of Commoriom. He takes a grim pride in his work and his ability to quickly and painlessly decapitate the condemned, and it's very clear that he suffers no particular stigma around his profession, and enjoys the respect of the people. In the story, Athammaus encounters a particularly heinous criminal who refuses to stay dead, eventually leading to the entire city being abandoned and the crown relocated.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Executioner: Set in medieval Europe, the main character is the son of the Royal Executioner, who gets the job after executing his father for treason. The gameplay includes interrogating criminals, several methods of torturing them, and executing their prescribed judgment upon them while also managing their sanity in check.

    Video Games 
  • Darksiders: The Keeper of Oblivion is the Charred Council's executioner. Since anyone who dies gets a shot at reincarnation through the Dead Kingdom's Well of Souls, his job is to throw anyone the Council deems too great a threat to the cosmic Balance of Power into Oblivion, completely destroying their soul and rendering them Deader than Dead. He's a mixture of the 'Alienated' and 'Professional' archetypes, being both an isolated, dreaded figure to the rest of Creation and a Consummate Professional who refuses to question the Council's orders, with a slight dash of 'Tormented' note .
  • Kingdom Rush Frontiers: The Giant Mook for the first area of the game is the Executioner, a hulking brute of a man wearing an executioner's hood and wielding a giant axe. True to form, his attack is a One-Hit Kill on any of your troops it hits, except Hero Units.
  • Mega Man Zero: One of the Eight Gentle Judges, Deathtanz Mantisk, worked as an executioner for the judges. He's a pacifistic fellow who, despite being a menacing-looking Slaying Mantis robot, valued life highly and always wished for his executions to be the result of a right and fair judgment, intentionally keeping his arm blades dulled until necessary for his duty. And then he was turned Brainwashed and Crazy by Dr. Weil, becoming a very eager executioner.
  • Dwarf Fortress has the noble known as the Hammerer take this role in big enough fortresses; his role is to administer a given number of hammerstrikes to those convicted and found guilty of bad enough crimes, and if they survive this (a big if unless you're dealing with a supernatural creature like a vampire) they can walk away. Their classification depends on what the player intends and wants; today players that don't even want their "help" even make them an ineffective variant by giving them a hammer too light to do anything.
  • In the Delicious Last Course campaign of Cuphead, the Rook from the King of Games' gauntlet is depicted as an executioner who attacks the player with rolling heads and sparks from the grinding of his axe. The player doesn't learn enough about what the Rook is like to categorise it under any specific variants of this trope, though, when the fight initially starts, he's seen lovingly daydreaming of an anthropomorphic, Betty Boop-esque guillotine, suggesting at least that he has interests outside of his work.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Cyanide and Happiness short "The Execution", the executioner is a sanguine type of person appreciates his job and likes to crack jokes make it "less of a dull moment". Said bad pun got him executed by the guard, who in turn was executed by the convict for making an accidental bad pun.
  • The Rug Burn series "The Executioner", starring Brian Posehn, is about a medieval executioner has been transported to present day Southern California, and has to make a living by setting up his trade of dealing executions and assassinations by his trusty axe.

    Real Life 
  • André Guillaume was a dynastic executioner, who died in 1690. He was quite an...interesting person (bordeline sociopathic or at the very least a hardened marginal mixted in with Consummate Professional). He was a rather immoral and arrogant man. He took his niece as a wife after the death of his first wife, with some suspecting he killed his first wife. (Talk about a Creepy Uncle). It must be noted that incestuous marriage was the norm amongs dynastic executioners, do to being so ostracized they needed to resort to consanguinity in order to have a blood line. Also, during the execution of the Chevalier de Rohan, when it came time to hang the accomplices, he said to his assistants: "Pendez cela, c'est besogne pour vous." (Translation by me: "Hang that. It's work for you.") Make of that what you will. In short, quite a nice guy. That makes him fit both the "dynastic" and "aliennated" description, with being apathetic at best and sociopathic at worse.
  • Giovanni Battista "Maestro Titta" Bugatti was the longest recorded serving executioner from 1768 to 1864. As a Professional, he served in the Papal States in what is now Italy, where he carried more than 500 executions by axe, and later by guillotine. Being Alienated, he cannot go out of his neighborhood if it's not an official business, and the townspeople had to be alerted if he ever goes in town.
  • Johann Reichhart, who operated in Bayern from 1924 to 1946, working for Weimar, Nazi Germany and the the US Military Government. He came from a familiy of executioners, tracing back to the 18th century. He was definitely a professional about his job, killing over 3000 people for three different governments. Still, he seemed to be conflicted about his job, proposing a more painless method for hanging (that the Nazis didn't want to implement), and stopping executions for the Americans after learning he had killed two innocents. When there was a discussion in Germany about the reintroduction of the death penality after some gruesome murders in the sixties, he spoke against it.