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The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized
aka: The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised

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"Citizens, do you want a revolution without a revolution?"

The anti-trope to The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified, this is a considerably Darker and Edgier version of La Résistance. This is different from the The Remnant, in that the remnant are the leftover of the Empire after it has fallen. However, it is important to mention that these rebels tend more often than not to be portrayed heroically (at least at first). The rebels are all anti-heroes at best, as brutal or more so than their enemies. At worst, for every idealist, there are five extremists who genuinely believe that they have the right to be as cruel and brutal to the opposition as possible, thugs who signed up for the looting, and/or psychos who just want an excuse to rape and kill people (if the Rebel Leader is one of these, then it might be an indication that the rebellion is villainous in this case, or, at the very least, is one hell of a Fallen Hero if they weren't always like that). No matter whose side you're on, it's sacrifice, honor, duty, and "shut up and follow orders!" They will usually be led by a rebel version of General Ripper, or possibly a subversion of that archetype. The more desperate the circumstances, the more brutal the rebels get; expect lots of Rape, Pillage, and Burn on any village that they even suspect isn't sympathetic to their cause, Cold-Blooded Torture and other forms of extreme cruelty towards POWs, and lots of Make an Example of Them to frighten those who are on the fence into supporting them, often in the form of horrifically brutal public executions. Depending on the nature of the conflict, genocide may or may not wind up entering the picture; if the ruling power is largely comprised of one specific ethnic or religious group, it's probably a safe bet that all members of that group will be targeted, and if the revolution is successful under these circumstances, a Final Solution of some sort is all but guaranteed.

If you fall, another might rise to take your place, but don't expect your comrades-in-arms to mourn. You were dead already the moment you put on the rebel uniform. Remember that Failure Is the Only Option, and whatever you do, Do Not Go Gentle. If you are caught, you are on your own. You never existed. This is war, and people do things during war that can never, and should never be forgiven. Do you know whose side you are on now? This can lead to a violent ideological backlash against supporters of the old regime, as seen in history. But more importantly — more important because of the irony involved — it can lead to He Who Fights Monsters (i.e. the revolutionaries' brutality is no better than the Empire's) and also to violence against some of the revolutionaries themselves, often valiant leaders and close friends of near past, as in the most famous case of Georges Danton and Camille Desmoulins guillotined by orders of Robespierre and his Jacobins during the actual Reign of Terror. Robespierre tasted his own concoction later as of the Thermidorian Reaction.

The reasons and debate on whether revolutions have to be, or inevitably will be un-civilized are quite complex and a subject of study by many historians. Most revolutions do not happen in a vacuum of ideological freedom. Luck, chance, and Realpolitik play a major role, and even the most severe revolutionaries like Che Guevara, Leon Trotsky, or even Robespierre did not start out as politically radical to begin with, rather they radicalized as a result of circumstances and existing pressures. And of course, even if a Revolution is successful, The Remnant of the earlier regime might decide to foment allies from neighbouring nations who also feel that the Balance of Power is becoming upset, and the existing revolution is creating a bad example for their own people. The end result can be that a revolution on behalf of the people ends up becoming a power-play between governments of two nations, neither of them really has the best interests of the people on the ground.

See also Right-Wing Militia Fanatic and Bomb Throwing Anarchist. Generally falls under Black-and-Gray Morality. Contrast The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified and Velvet Revolution.

Likely to overlap with Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters. If the revolution is against The Empire or other terrible government, examples of this trope may also be Well Intentioned Extremists, though they tend to become Knight Templars with time and, when their actions become consistently less excusable as they grow more dogmatic and radical, Tautological Templars. If the revolution is against The Good King or if The Empire looks better by comparison, then maybe Hobbes Was Right (in which case La Résistance had better hope no members of the royal family escaped).

This is also a frequent case of Evil Versus Evil, with the civilians being caught in a Scylla-and-Charybdis scenario - if The Empire doesn't leave your entire family dead in a trench after the death squads roll through, torture you for information they suspect you of having, conscript you to fight for them, or throw you into a labor camp, La Résistance will murder or enslave you, gang-rape your wife and daughter and sell them into sexual slavery, and take the rest of your kids to use as child soldiers, then burn your entire village to the ground and seize its assets.

Succeeding could well turn into People's Republic of Tyranny. Some characters in such a setting may be Necessarily Evil and the more self-aware of those will realize that there's no place for them in the world they're creating. The victory may be not the end of it, since there always can be a "postscriptum" — The Purge. Motive Decay occurs in revolutions that have been dragged on for long enough; as you continue having to drag in new recruits, they will have less of an understanding of why they are fighting beyond the current regime being bad news and the revolutionary forces being good news, which leads to even further dehumanization of the opposition and makes them think far less about doing truly awful things in the name of their cause.

If the rebels act like this trope but are still treated like heroes, then the result might be the audience Rooting for the Empire.

See also Full-Circle Revolution and Revolving Door Revolution, where revolutionaries become their antithesis.

The title of this article is a pun on The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron.

No Real Life Examples, Please! This trope covers a very black-and-white view on a subject that tends to be significantly more complicated in reality.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Survey Corps, from Attack on Titan. They try to avert this trope as long as they can, but then the government sends in the 3DM death squads (think about how awesome 3D-Maneuver gear has been used against Titans. Now think about what would happen if you traded the blades for guns installed in the grapple controls.) and sends in serial killer Kenny Ackerman to exterminate the Survey Corps because they know too much, so they have to step up their game. Armin murders a hesitating Secret Servicewoman to save Jean, and it gets worse from there.
  • In Black Lagoon Rock encounters an ex-Japanese Red Army member in "Lock And Load Revolution". The old man was an idealist working for a world revolution, and verged into terrorism. After the movement fell, he joined forces with other terrorists, in present, an Islamic group led by a Lebanese Jihadist. Also, the super-Meido Roberta was a Cuban-trained assassin and a FARC guerrilla who became disillusioned when she realized she was just a guard dog for The Cartel.
  • Genma Wars: The Ninjas are a group of force-powered humans and renegade Genma that oppose the brutal and tyrannical Genma regime... By pillaging their innocent human serfs and robbing whatever tribute they pay to the Genma overlords. Despite calling themselves freedom fighters, in reality, their leader Dan has no interest in overthrowing their enemies and is interested only in leeching off the humans and making their lives even harder than it already is.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic: In the Balbadd story arc, the anti-government Fog Troop were quite nasty before Alibaba took charge of them. So much so, in fact, that when Alibaba and Sinbad change the organization from thieves and vigilantes to a legitimate rebellion several members leave on the spot. Even worse, after the Fog Troop finally succeeds in overthrowing the corrupt king, all the former members of the Fog Troop show up... and use magic to work the citizens of the nation into a frenzy, turning the bloodless revolution into a massacre purely out of spite.
  • Metropolis (2001): The Zone 1 rebels are shown to lash out against the defenseless robots, and launch a violent assault against the Marduks working for the Red Duke. Ultimately, they fail because their uprising was engineered by their opposition, and the rebel leader falls into a trap alongside his troops.
  • In Naruto, perennial anti-hero Sasuke Uchiha announces he intends to become Hokage and change the world so that no one will have to suffer as he did. He later clarifies that he intends to do so by sealing away the Tailed Beasts and killing the Five Kage while they're still trapped in the Infinite Tsukuyomi, as well as anyone else who tries to stop him, starting with Naruto.
  • One Piece:
    • The success of the Revolutionary Army's ideals being spread around the world? Mostly owed to good old-fashioned warfare. Then again, against the corrupt World Government, not exactly a hard choice. It's a choice made by necessity, as well: Their leader, Monkey D. Dragon, was a former Marine who defected because he found no justice there and was initially opposing the Government by non-violent means; but after the genocide of Ohara, in which his friend Clover was among the victims, Dragon realized the Government would never see reason, and so he, Kuma and Ivankov formed the Revolutionaries.
    • The Sun Pirates, a pirate crew of former Fish-men slaves under the command of the Fish-man Fisher Tiger, fight the World Government's oppression with violence, assaulting ships to free the slaves. However, on his deathbed, Fisher Tiger admits that his actions would just lead to more violence since humans and fishmen would never get along this way.
  • Rebuild World: In the Cyberpunk setting, where a collection of MegaCorp form the government in the region the characters live in, the local rebels are known as the Nationalists. They are supported by a collection of independent nations to the west of the Corporate Government, with the stated goal of restoring national sovereignty. Most of their troops seem to be a Full-Conversion Cyborg. They are always seen doing criminal acts, and one of their goals is to prepare a Final Solution for the Differently Powered Individuals known as Old World Connectors. Notably, a lot of their supposed activities are actually a False Flag Operation launched by different factions within the government. Their most prominent representative is the Warrior Poet Kain/Nergo.
  • The Reverse Organization from Tegami Bachi: Letter Bee have typically been displayed as not terribly nice people, but the government they've been rebelling against has shown hints of being equally not nice, particularly if half the things Reverse has said about them are true. However, they may have exceeded this trope and gone on to just straight 'evil' following recent chapters, wherein they used an innocent young nun as a human sacrifice, essentially destroying her soul and condemning her to a slow death in order to lure in a gigantic armor bug to attack the capital.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: In the Alternate Timeline Marie Route, the Opportunistic Bastard Earl Garrett, an officer within the Principality of Fanoss, launches a Military Coup with the other War Hawk faction members to depose Princess Hertrauda, using her as The Scapegoat for their failed war against The Holfort Kingdom. Leon, who swears a Declaration of Protection to Hertrauda at her dying sister's Last Request, crushes them in a Mook Horror Show and arrests Garrett.

    Comic Books 
  • Beast Wars: Uprising: This is a major issue; the Resistance has noble motives for rebelling against the Builders, but Lio Convoy’s “no matter the cost” attitude quickly leads to them becoming a bunch of ultra-ruthless psychos that are hardly any better than the Builders and drive out all the sane members for the hideous crime of not playing jump rope with the Moral Event Horizon. By the end, Lio comes to deeply regret everything about the Resistance and the happy ending only comes about, in part, because most of the radicals die or learn their lessons in the Vehicon Apocalypse.
  • Judge Dredd: The comic, much as it is a satire of zero-tolerance policing, also satirizes freedom fighters. Mega City One is a totalitarian Police State, the terrorists are democratics. The regime is incredibly brutal, but rebel movements like Total War have no problem with killing millions of people in their own city by detonating nuclear bombs.
  • Skrull Kill Krew: That the Krew members are essentially suffering from Mad Skrull-Cow Disease doesn't help.
  • Micronauts: The comic featured the royal family of Homeworld as good guys, displaced from their home by violent revolutionaries under the leadership of the Obviously Evil Baron Karza. Karza's rhetoric seems to involve a lot of class warfare elements, with him promising immortality to the commoners.
  • Robin: Tim manages to stumble into the middle of a revolution in the small dictatorship of Transbelvia where, while their opponents are still worse, the revolutionaries do such things as blow up places full of civilians to try and kill members of the regime who happen to be visiting.
  • Star Wars: Quite a few Expanded Universe comics have attempted to extend this to the Rebel Alliance, trying to soften the line between good guys and bad guys, as well as explain how the cash-strapped outfit got its money. Sometimes it's just down to the occasional jerkass pilot, such as Jal Te Gniev (who later makes a Heroic Sacrifice after watching a teenager he'd abused take the blaster bolt for him—and shooting with a gun that he'd bought to kill Gniev). However, it did sometimes come down to situations where in order to keep working, the Alliance and later New Republic would have to kill innocents themselves.
    • In fact, after the Rebels won at Endor, destroying the Death Star, one of the first acts of the New Republic they established was to execute Grand Admiral Osvald Teshik for war crimes after he was captured in this battle. With Palpatine and Vader dead, he was pretty much one of the highest-ranking Imperials captured. Tragic fact that Teshik was one of the few decent Imperials.
  • V for Vendetta: V makes no bones about the fact that he is a terrorist. But he also recognizes that such a person (or monster) has no place building or living in the new world that will rise from the ashes of the old (the one he plans to burn down). He is an agent of death and destruction, a weapon to be cast away when it has served its purpose.
  • X-Men: The Brotherhood of Mutants are an example of a revolutionary group of this type that never seems to get very far with their revolution. The few times they have seized a measure of control, such as when Magneto took over the nation of San Marco in the 60s or when he (later retconned into an impostor of him) briefly seized control of New York during the "Planet X" story, out came the M-armband wearing stormtroopers and guillotines and, in the latter story, even crematoriums.
  • The Free Kingdom group seen in "No Country", a comic strip in "The Phoenix", are portrayed as ruthless and dangerous to civilians, though the Prime Minister is now a dictator.

    Fan Works 
  • Between 1980 and 1983, the Star Wars fandom was inundated with stories speculating on how — or if — Han Solo might be thawed out of the carbonite in which he'd ended The Empire Strikes Back. One particularly memorable story, "The Revenant", had him being unfrozen thirty years later. Leia is dead, Chewbacca is dead, Lando is dead ... and Luke, who arranged Leia's death to bring a group of unaligned planets to the Rebellion's side, is First Citizen of a New Republic as oppressive as the Empire ever was.
  • Travels Through Azeroth and Outland presents the Defias Brotherhood as completely nihilistic and destructive.
  • Technomad's two Tomorrow Series fics, Taking Care of Business and Ellie's Heroes, show Ellie Linton and her friends as considerably Darker and Edgier than they were in canon.
  • The secession of Westerguard in What About Witch Queen? zig-zags this and the opposite. On one hand, a large majority of the population is with the secessionists and Hans makes sure to arrest rather than kill the opposing forces. On the other, ship sequester turns into bloody mess, and friendly fire issues are visited.
  • By the Hands of the People is a two-shot where a rebel army kidnaps Queen Elsa and her sister. They later execute a Ruling Family Massacre on the two. The entire time, Elsa refuses to fight her own countrymen, so neither sister put up a resistance.
  • Prior to Queens, the Evil Queen turned against the Storyteller and lead a Rebellion with various other Rebels who didn't like their destinies. She poisoned the world of Wonderland and corrupted countless fairy tales.
  • Out of the Shadows: Defied. Once the riots and revolts started in reaction to the behavior of the royals, the Institute passed enough reforms to pacify the population to a degree, but Ballister notes that more change is still on the horizon.
  • All For Luz: As he plans on raising a rebellion to overthrow Emperor Belos before the Day of Unity, intent on having Toshiko Shigaraki help him kill the tyrant, Perry Porter remarks to himself that no revolution in history was ever truly peaceful, and they all started and ended in violence but believes it will be Worth It.

  • Across the Universe (2007): The anti-war group Lucy is in turns violent after the Columbia University occupation gets shut down. She walks in on them building pipe bombs and says sorrowfully that she thought it was the government who used them. Later they accidentally blow themselves up.
  • The main antagonists of Army of Frankensteins are the Confederate States of America, who are portrayed as a bunch of brutes fighting to keep their slaves.
  • One of the most important tropes in the French film Army of Shadows. The film follows a cell of the French resistance battling the Nazi regime. While the Nazis are portrayed as terrible monsters, it's repeatedly highlighted that the French have to get their hands dirty as well. Much of their work consists of executing traitors, including their beloved female comrade. While the movie isn't a pro-Nazi film, it clearly suggests that war is disgusting and hellish even if you're one of the good guys.
  • In The Baader Meinhof Complex, the Red Army Faction morphs into this trope over time. They start as a motley collection of political activists, juvenile delinquents, left-wing youths, and journalists who mainly participate in protests and rallies and undertake some occasional arson and vandalism with a political message. Eventually, they become brutal terrorists, robbing banks and bombing American military installations. Later "generations" of the group get progressively more radical and violent, taking and executing hostages, hijacking aircraft, bombing a newspaper, and kidnapping and assassinating public figures.
  • The Battle of Algiers, where we see bombings and shootings directed at civilians...on both sides.
  • Black Book catalogs Jews who were sold out to the Nazis by members of the Dutch Resistance. After the liberation, the Resistance harasses people who collaborated with the Nazis, even if it was done out of fear or as a part of their cover as double agents. People accused of being collaborators and harshly treated until an officer puts a stop to it.
  • Blood Diamond doesn't pull any punches in showing how bad things can get when the revolution isn't civilized. From the start characters are describing the RUF's attempt to overthrow the government of Sierra Leone as a case of "government bad, rebels worse" and there is plenty of evidence that they are right. The populations of entire villages are killed, mutilated, or taken as slave labor to support the violent revolutionaries. Meanwhile the children of those villages are kidnapped and indoctrinated into being Child Soldiers. The kids are then hooked on drugs (so they can murder without conscience or feeling), given AKs, and set loose to destroy and loot villages that are just like their former homes. Civilians who were partying in a seemingly safe city one day are fleeing for their lives or being murdered indiscriminately the next when the rebels take it by surprise. The fate of those captured cities is nightmarish, complete with desecrated corpses being left in the street or further mutilated for fun while women are raped in nearby buildings. Some of this is left in deleted scenes, but there's more than enough in the final cut to show the trope is in effect.
  • The rebels in Brazil come off as being just as violent and stupid as the government they’re rebelling against; their “strategy” amounts to blowing up seemingly random locations (killing lots of innocent bystanders) and does absolutely nothing to disrupt the system in any meaningful way. It’s heavily implied towards the end that they don’t even actually exist; all those explosions were probably just the result of malfunctions, with Central Services making up or exaggerating stories about terrorists to hide their criminal incompetence.
  • In Che, Che Guevara makes no bones about the fact that violence is a necessary part of revolution. He openly admits in his speech at the UN to having overseen the executions of both former members of the Batista regime and people convicted of conspiring against the Castro government. He also rejects the head of the Bolivian Communist Party's call to hold off an armed revolution and try for a political solution, insisting that imperialism cannot be defeated peacefully and that an armed struggle is the only path to freedom.
  • The anti-government resistance group, the Fishes, quickly turn into this in Children of Men when the more radical Luke hijacks the organization, after assassinating his predecessor.
  • Caesar in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes nearly falls into this due to the humans treating apes as slaves. He gets better, however, with his wife Lisa's help.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane presents himself as a revolutionary trying to free Gotham from the control of its corrupt elite. His methods? Gather an army mostly made up of mercenaries and escaped convicts, trap most of Gotham's police underground, put all members of high society and other dissidents through a Kangaroo Court, and threaten to detonate a nuke if anyone tries to interfere. And through all of this, Bane is not remotely interested in helping Gotham. The entire point of the "revolution" is to spread chaos and distract the populace from his true plan of destroying Gotham. Given that Bane is an extremist member of the already extreme League of Shadows though, whose agenda was more draconian and anti-crime, Bane's revolutionary rhetoric might not have been all that honest to begin with.
  • In December Heat the communist revolutionaries kill a lot of unarmed soldiers and 'bourgeois'. Some conversations point out that most of the revolutionaries are doing it to secure themselves better positions under the new regime.
  • The Bolsheviks in Doctor Zhivago.
  • The Danish film Flame & Citron (2008). The title characters are assassins for the Danish resistance, but find their superior is using them to kill people to cover up his own crimes.
  • In the teen comedy film The Hairy Bird, students mount a school takeover in an effort to prevent their all-girls institution from merging with an all-boys school. The young women of Miss Godard’s Preparatory School barricade themselves inside the school dormitories, unfurl banners from the windows, and get the press to cover the event.
  • In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, once the rebels take the fight to the Capital, you can see their tactics become more brutal and morally ambiguous. For example, when President Snow offers to open his mansion as a refugee camp, the rebels disguise themselves as refugees to get close enough to open fire, completely disregarding the fact that actual refugees and civilians are in their line of fire. It's also left ambiguous whether it was the Capitol or the rebels who bombed a group of medics, including Prim. It doesn't help that President Coin wanted to restart the Hunger Games using Capital children, and it's implied she will replace Snow as dictator. Thankfully, Katniss and Plutarch manage to save the revolution from collapsing in on itself.
  • The Alternate History film It Happened Here, set in a Nazi-occupied Britain, deliberately subverts the gallant resistance trope. The protagonist witnesses the death of her friends in a shootout between local partisans and German soldiers, and the movie ends with prisoners from a British SS unit being massacred by their captors.
  • Land of the Blind Like many Real Life examples, they are no heroes themselves upon taking power. Even before taking power it is specifically mentioned that they bomb soft targets and impose "order" by force in lawless areas, collecting "taxes" by kneecapping people who refuse it, possibly referencing tactics of the IRA in Northern Ireland. After they're in power, of course, things go even more wrong.
  • Discussed in Lord of War:
    Yuri: "I guess they [African militants] can't own up to what they usually are: a federation of worse oppressors than the last bunch of oppressors. Often, the most barbaric atrocities occur when both combatants proclaim themselves freedom-fighters."
  • The workers in Fritz Lang's Metropolis are somewhere between this and an Angry Mob.
  • The coup in No Escape (2015) is violent, bloody, and not only involves civilians but actively targets them.
  • No God, No Master: Luigi Galleani calls for massive bloodshed to bring down the system, which his followers carry out through bombings. Other anarchists such as Emma Goldman denounce this, however.
  • The rebels in Proof of Life most certainly count. After they stopped receiving monetary aid from the USSR for the revolution, the guerrillas turned to farming coca and kidnapping important foreigners to get ransoms. They also have little qualms about shooting civilians or police officers. Of course, they were Dirty Communists to begin with, but by the time of the film have basically turned into normal criminals.
  • Franco's troops (who were formerly the rebels) in Pan's Labyrinth.
  • Raza and his revolutionaries in The Professionals. Although the heroes have some sympathy for Raza's cause, we are still shown Raza's forces massacring the troops on the government train they capture.
  • Red Dawn (1984) has the protagonists (American teenagers fighting a guerrilla campaign against a brutal Soviet occupation) shooting prisoners and enemy wounded.
  • Reds: Discussed with regards to Red October. Emma Goldman feels the Bolsheviks have become so murderous that they are no longer worth supporting. John Reed responds by accusing Goldman of having an unrealistically idealized view of revolution, that revolution requires terror and blood.note 
  • In contrast to the rebels of the later films, the Separatists in the Star Wars prequels are almost entirely shown as being evil. Their rebellion against the republic is little more than a big business-backed attempt to rule the galaxy in the name of profit, with all of the big names fully aware of this. Being controlled by a Sith lord and a homicidal cyborg certainly didn't help their cause's reputation either. It's only the planets that revolt against the Republic in hope of receiving Confederacy assistance that actually believe in the moral cause beyond lip service.
    • The Rebel Alliance itself is actually aware of this trope according to supplemental materials; it specifically does not permit this kind of behavior from its cells, lest the Imperial propaganda painting Rebels as iconoclasts and destructive terrorists start to actually ring true with the general public. Extremists who refuse to obey this are kicked out.
    • In Rogue One the Alliance cut ties with Saw Gerrera and his resistance group because they became too brutal and caused too much collateral damage. On Jedha, Gerrera's men attack an Imperial convoy in the middle of a crowded neighborhood and cause a lot of civilian deaths. Gerrera is also willing to use Mind Rape on prisoners to extract information. We also see that the main Alliance leadership is not above fighting a dirty war when necessary. Cassian kills a fellow rebel rather than allow the guy to be captured by Imperials and interrogated. Rogue One is formed from a group of Alliance commandos, spies, saboteurs, and assassins who have grown tired of doing the Rebellion's dirty work. Ultimately all of the more radical elements of the Rebellion meet their end at the Battle of Jehda and Scarif as they sacrifice their lives to bring the Death Star plans to the rebels.
  • Near the end of Oliver Stone's Salvador, Boyle is horrified when he sees anti-government rebels execute captured government soldiers, telling them it makes them no different from the government whose brutality towards its political opponents has been the subject of much of the film up to that point.
  • Solo (1996): The rebels are a brutal, nasty bunch who pressed many civilians into service as forced laborers building their runway. After they're driven out by Solo, their forces return and try to slaughter the villagers, who beat them with his help.
  • In TRON: Legacy, Clu's revolution against Flynn's leadership kicks off with the genocide of the Isos, followed by establishing a police state that routinely "rectifies" delinquent programs into soldiers in Clu's army, or pits them in gladiatorial games to the death deresolution.
  • In To Kill a Dragon, after the Dragon is slain, the city descends into anarchy, so rape, robbery, and senseless violence ensue.
  • In Utu both the Maori rebels and their British oppressors become increasingly brutal as the war drags on.
  • A problem for Pancho Villa in Viva Villa!. Madero coaxes Pancho into supporting him by saying that the revolution needs to be civilized and that Pancho needs to fight as an organized army and not murder the enemy soldiers he captures. Pancho is reluctant, but agrees, and does become civilized for a time. But after Madero is killed Pancho fights back in his old prisoner-killing bandit style, which costs him the support of idealists like Don Felipe. And when he takes over as President of Mexico, Pancho is an incompetent administrator, which he eventually admits.
    Pancho (to Madero): You can't win a revolution with love. You've got to have hate. You are the good side; I am the bad side.
  • Wolf Warrior 2: The country is in a civil war between the government and revolutionaries. The revolutionaries are depicted much less sympathetically, with their modus operandi being "kill anybody who is not on our side", be it either native or foreign civilians.
  • Invoked by one of the guerillas Corinne joins up with near the end of Jean-Luc Godard's Weekend (1967):
    To overcome the horror of the bourgeoisie, you need still more horror.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley, starring Cillian Murphy, won the Palme d'Or award for its application of this trope to the Irish Revolution (and then the Civil War), so it must have done something right.note 

  • The Brotherhood in George Orwell's 1984, while having motives much more ethical than the Party's, are not much better in their methods. Winston and Julia swear to use any means (including murder or terrorism) in its cause. Made even more complicated by the fact that the Brotherhood may not even exist and everything O'Brien told Winston about it might have been a lie.
    • There are a few hints that the Party itself is a result of this trope, as it is (nominally) socialist, and Winston's childhood memories indicate it came to power violently.
  • In After the Revolution the Republic of Texas in the 2070s is practically indistinguishable from modern-day Syria, with the Heavenly Kingdom effectively acting as a Christian version of ISIS complete with mass executions, suicide bombings, and catfishing. Other parts of the former United States aren't doing too well either, if the references to the king of Albuquerque boiling people are any indication.
  • The Black Company, although POV is on The Empire side and the revolution ultimately fails in the first book. Played more or less straight in the third book.
  • The rebellion against the tyrannical Governor in the Copper-Colored Cupids short story The Resurrection of the Wellsians turns out to be planning to use the (insanely dangerous) resurrected aliens to aid their cause, just like the Governor's side which they criticize for doing so.
  • In Darkness at Noon, Rubashov ironically recalls having advocated civil war and other extreme measures as the only way to win the Revolution, and that as a Full-Circle Revolution its only consistency with past ideology is its denial of decency. Rubashov sees his nemesis Gletkin, who received none of his education in pre-revolutionary times, not as a betrayer of the Revolution but as its logical product, and calls him a "Neanderthal".
  • In the Darksword trilogy, pretty much all of the revolutionaries are Black Magic users who are just as evil as The Magocracy they're rebelling against.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky used this trope in all his novels:
    • His Notes from Underground was a rebuke to Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What is to be Done?, a utopian novel about Russian progress and reform. Dostoevsky responded to it with his novella about a man who will never be part of the New Order, and that humanity is fundamentally self-destructive and flawed. He developed this further with Crime and Punishment where fantasies of change only hurt the innocent and finally in The Brothers Karamazov that ideas and wounds are collective and that a desire for change, even in the form of new ideas, leads to an act of patricide.
    • Demons argues that violence is a tool of binding revolutionaries together in a single unit since everyone is equally dehumanized and guilty, and molded on the path to discipline. The revolutionaries in the book are so obsessed with this form of discipline that they never think of actual political ideology. So they become corrupt and abusive, led by Pyotr Verkhovensky, their ideologist who preaches about the necessity of wiping out millions of people for the victory of the revolution and finally kills one of his own cell members on the suspicion that he could be The Mole. Likewise, the original ideologist of the group, Nikolai Stavrogin, who they all believe to be a Byronic Hero, is in fact a self-destructive nihilist reeling from guilt at the time he raped a little girl. What is even worse, the leader of this group has a prototype from real life — Sergey Nechaev, one of the most infamous Russian terrorists of that time.
  • In the third book of Dread Empire's Fall, guerrilla leader Sula leads a brutal resistance against the aliens, complete with car bombings, assassinations, and purposefully goading the government into executing innocent hostages. While she doesn't purposefully murder schoolchildren, she considers it their own fault if they wandered too close to her bombs. "Human warmth is not my specialization."
  • Ken MacLeod's Fall Revolution books jump back and forth in time quite a bit, but often imply that the various quasi-utopias in the far future were arrived at by, say, slaughtering a large percentage of the world's population.
  • Honor Harrington features the Committee of Public Safety led by Rob S. Pierre. Rather similar to their primary Doylist inspiration, the original Committee of Public Safety under Robespierre, it begins its reign with a massive purge of the fighting arm of the fleet and political figures with actual or potential ties to the previous regime. This serves in cementing their power base by undercutting the primary lines of opposition, but at a tremendous cost in blood. They then went one step further beyond that and established not only a separate branch of political commissars to ensure the loyalty of the People's Navy, but also a policy of shooting any commanders who lose.
  • This is a major theme in Mockingjay, the last book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. By the end, the rebellion only avoids simply becoming a direct copy of the Evil Empire they were trying to replace by a narrow margin.
  • A major story arc in the Malazan Book of the Fallen is The Whirlwind, continent-wide rebellion in the culturally diverse Seven Cities. It is an affair of extreme brutality that is soon revealed to be an organizational clusterfuck.
  • In Myst: the Book of D'ni, after Terahnee falls, the charismatic slave Ymur feels that only when the Ronay are slaughtered to the last child will there be any lasting freedom. He suffers Motive Decay quickly.
  • In Poster Girl rebels and the following Triumvirate are A Lighter Shade of Grey to the old Delegation, but during the uprising that overthrew the regime they indiscriminately killed people connected to the Delegation, including teenagers and children. Several more were executed afterwards and the survivors locked into a ghetto to rot.
  • The Powder Mage Trilogy opens with the hero leading a coup against a corrupt king. The first act of said revolution is killing almost every mage in the Royal Cabal in their sleep. It escalates into mass public beheadings of the nobility (including the king), riots, and a war with a neighboring country.
  • Those La Résistance factions that actively oppose the government in the Strugatsky Brothers novel Prisoners of Power act like this. Or worse.
  • In the vein of the Militant Godless, Camus' The Rebel. Complete with atheist suicide bombers.
  • In Red Mars Trilogy the First Martian Revolution is an absolute bloodbath due to the behaviour of both sides. Domes are popped by both sides, rebel domes are hacked to fill with oxygen and ignite, the Martian space elevator is decoupled by rebels and wraps around the planet twice, and Phobos is deorbited because it was being used as a weapons platform. The horror of all of this leads to the more successful Second Martian Revolution because the rebel forces actively worked out a plan so there wouldn't be a repeat, although it almost started prematurely and nearly spiralled out of control anyway.
  • The theme of The Resistance Trilogy by Clive Egleton, set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. Innocent bystanders get killed and those at the sharp end find themselves manipulated, or even targeted for killing, by their superiors. In the final novel, the Soviets are pulling out of Britain due to war with China. This should be a time of victory, but instead the 'moderate' wing of La Résistance forms an alliance with The Quisling government to destroy their hardline members (including the protagonist). The novels end with a former Resistance member, now Minister of the Interior, announcing new anti-terrorist measures to counter 'subversion'.
  • The Shattered Kingdoms: In Blood's Pride, Faroth and his revolutionaries don't pay much attention to nuance, and just want to kill all the Norlanders without regard to the fact that some of them are sympathetic (and also without regard to the fact that some innocent Shadari die too). Faroth also treats the revolution as if it were his personal property, and won't let anyone else have a leadership role. One character explicitly describes Faroth's group as more like a gang rather than the band of good people she'd hoped for.
  • Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm: In The January Dancer, Jumdar characterizes the Loyalists as this, neglecting to note they were the legitimate government fighting a coup.
    • In On the Razor's Edge, Gidula tells Donovan that as Padaborn, his rebellion had killed many innocents who had just gone to their jobs early.
  • The nasty-as-can-be French revolutionaries in Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities written under the aegis of counter-revolutionary doctrines like Edmund Burke's Reflections and Thomas Carlyle's history of the Revolution, still it's definitely true to the events.
  • Tortall Universe: The rebellion in Trickster's Duet. While the native Raka people have clearly suffered for centuries under terrible oppression, and the current monarchy is clearly corrupt, the rebellion has to do some very morally grey things to usurp them (including the murder of innocent children). The main character spends much of her time ensuring that it won't be more of a blood bath than it needs to.
  • A recurring element in the Takeshi Kovacs trilogy, where the ruling Protectorate is repressive and fascist but there's a lack of good alternatives. Kovacs is reluctant to join the neo-Quellist revolution in Woken Furies because, in his experience, revolutionaries rarely turn out to be better than the people they're overthrowing. He had personal experience with this in Broken Angels with Joshua Kemp, a charismatic revolutionary who used Quellist rhetoric to justify using nuclear weapons on innocent civilians.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Alien Nation: Udara in the telemovie of the same name, a group of Tenctonese terrorists who resorted to brainwashing their own children into assassins and suicide bombers to fight the Overseers on the Slave Ship. Even after the slave's emancipation, Tenctonese sentiment was divided on whether the Udara were freedom fighters or extremists who did more harm than good.
  • Babylon Berlin features a band of Trotskyists who plan to put a stop to Josef Stalin's bloody reign in Russia from abroad. Literally the first thing they're shown doing is commandeer a train bound for Germany and execute all the engine-drivers.
  • Babylon 5 has plenty of violent uprisings. Free Mars. Other Mars Resistance cells. The Narn Rebellion against the Centauri. The Telepath Resistance, however, straddle the line between this and The Revolution Will Not Be Villified.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): Gaeta's Mutiny and especially the New Caprican Resistance.
  • The Blackadder the Third episode "Nob and Nobility" presents the French Revolution as this (Played for Laughs, of course). The French Ambassador brags about having murdered his loyalist predecessor and turned him into pâté, and is positively elated at the thought of torturing and executing aristocrats (and Englishmen). That said, given that a French aristocrat (who admittedly turns out not to be who he appears to be) in the same episode describes his preferred state of the world as having other people earn money and then give it to him, l'ancien régime doesn't come off as much better.
  • Black Sails, especially the last 2 seasons. Captain Flint's reasoning is basically: if you're trying to fight a David vs. Goliath One Man War against a slavery-supporting, sexist, and viciously homophobic Empire, you better be prepared to kill some innocent people so that your enemy will be scared enough of you to think twice about hanging your supporters. Some of the freed slaves also get very brutal in revenging themselves on their former masters - including their wives and children.
  • Blake's 7: While La Résistance are clearly better than the Federation, the main cast are all anti-heroes at best and Blake is often called on his devotion to the Rebellion over taking care of his people. And then he was replaced with Avon, who didn't even pretend to take care.
  • Brave New World: The Epsilons' uprising involves them attacking and stabbing everyone from a higher caste they can find to death.
  • Carnival Row:
    • The Faun cultists slaughter a human bigot in a ritualistic manner, and then kill one of their kind who's a servant to impersonate him in an attempt to murder the Chancellor. All this only leads to harsh measures against all the Fae in retaliation, likely fomenting further unrest.
    • The New Dawn are communist insurgents who have taken over territory in the Pact. After they capture a ship whose sailors have been indentured to work there, the officers are shot by firing squad, while Agreus (the ship owner) is tormented with a mock execution as he's led to believe he'll die this way too. It's implied strongly they "dispose" of a woman who's troublesome as well, and then pretend like she'd never existed. There's also no leaving once you're there, while all residents are also obliged to work or they don't eat. Most aristocrats or others deemed exploiters are indicated to be shot unless deemed capable of being reeducated.
  • Colony: The Resistance is shown to use quite brutal tactics in their fight against the collaborationist CTA government, and one member, Quayle, openly argues against being merciful. Later Red Hand is shown to use even more ruthless ones, attacking civilians who collaborate with the occupation and making use of suicide bombings.
  • Dark Winds: The Buffalo Society are a radical Navajo group who want to end all exploitation against their people by white businesses and the US government. However, they will rob and murder to achieve this.
  • Das Boot: The French Resistance cell in La Rochelle is pretty ruthless, bombing the docks where German sailors are welcomed back (killing many civilians in doing so) and later kidnapping the top German officer, with their leader Carla indifferent to the people who will be killed for it since she's certain that this will only increase opposition to the occupation.
  • Doctor Who: This crops up from time to time.
    • The Reign of Terror, natch.
    • "The Ark" has the Monoids, who were slaves for the humans until they rebelled.
    • In Warrior's Gate, the Tharils once ran a slaver empire, until the slaves revolted and enslaved them.
    • The rebels in "Day of the Daleks" are fighting the Daleks and are portrayed as quite brutal people, killing UNIT soldiers ruthlessly. A suicide bombing by them is responsible for a Stable Time Loop that caused the wars they were trying to prevent.
  • A French Village: After the Liberation, the French Resistance start making reprisals against collaborators, usually without bothering to hold trials. These range from extrajudicial executions to shaving women's heads for sleeping with Germans and publicly shaming them.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: At least one of the resistance groups uses a suicide bomber against the Commanders (which results in more nearby Handmaids killed than them in the blast).
  • Legend of the Seeker: In "Deception", a rebel group proves itself quite ruthless, killing an unarmed D'Haran prisoner of war who's been Confessed by Kahlan already simply to vent their rage when one of their own is killed, and then attempt to use the same magical weapons of mass destruction the D'Harans had used on their people against D'Haran loyalists.
  • The Man in the High Castle: The Resistance members on both sides of the occupied America are shown being quite willing to use brutal measures in their fight against the German or Japanese occupiers. George Dixon is about to expose Thomas Smith's illness as a weapon against John Smith, his father when Joanna kills him, even knowing it would result in Thomas's death by involuntary "euthanasia" for instance.
  • Revolution: Played with. Episode 3, episode 5, episode 9, and episode 13 show that some members of the resistance are very unmerciful to any Monroe militia member (former or otherwise), are willing to torture as part of interrogation, are willing to sacrifice civilians to kill off militia officers, and show signs of becoming similar to the militia. However, episode 14 and episode 16 show that some resistance members are careful to ensure that no faction uses an atomic bomb and anthrax as weapons in the war effort.
  • Noughts & Crosses: The Liberation Militia seek to overthrow a racist government... and do that by bombing a hospital where minister Kamal was visiting, killing two doctors and a janitor.
  • Soviet Storm: World War II in the East has the Soviet partisan movement in the German-occupied territories. Their methods include causing as much wanton destruction to German infrastructure and material as possible. On the side, they also execute collaborators and Nazi sympathizers, often brutally.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Bajoran Resistance. They were anti-heroes at the very best, had a running mantra of I Did What I Had to Do, and were sometimes even explicitly referred to as "terrorists", and not just by Cardassians (though usually). Ditto the Maquis.
    Kira Nerys: None of you belonged on Bajor. It wasn't your world! For fifty years you raped our planet, and you killed our people. You lived on our land and you took the food out of our mouths, and I don't care whether you held a phaser in your hand or you ironed shirts for a living. You were all guilty and you were all legitimate targets!
  • In the Supernatural episode "Devil May Care" (S09, Ep02), Abaddon makes clear that her attempt to overthrow Crowley as the King of Hell is going to be vicious.
  • Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter: In this German drama, between the Germans, Soviets, and Polish Resistance, the latter are usually the best of a bad lot, but are not above a bit of pillage or antisemitism. This is exemplified when they ambush a train bound for Auschwitz and loot it for weapons, but are prepared to leave the prisoners in the cattle cars to their fate. These depictions caused protest by Poles.note 
  • V: The Miniseries: The Resistance used biological warfare against the enemy. Given that most Visitors lived in sealed starships and thus had the option of simply leaving unharmed, it's not quite as nasty as it sounds.

  • The Revolution Will Not Be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron is the Trope Namer. In this musically accompanied poem, Scott-Heron predicts that the revolution will not be broadcast on TV for you to enjoy from your lazy seat, but it will indeed be a real society-changing revolt that is not to be taken lightly.
  • In Fireaxe's The Servant of Pain, it initially looks like the revolutionaries are just well intentioned extremists. Then they break into the Citadel, and we find out what becomes of the royal family...
  • Ludwig Von 88 made an album, and a titular song named La révolution n'est pas un dîner de gala, which is a quote from Mao Zedong specifically about this. The titular song mocks sterotypical communist propaganda about happy Chinese workers.

  • It Could Happen Here: The various militia groups in the narration are by no means angels, especially the Christian Dominionists. Evans states that an actual 2nd American Civil War would have multiple factions at play, nothing like the first civil war.

  • That Mitchell and Webb Sound played with this by having a pair of vapid TV talking heads discussing, in a very civilized manner, the boiling alive of Queen Elizabeth II after a clearly violent and horrible revolution.

  • Bertolt Brecht being a Marxist explored the concept of revolutionary violence in many of his plays.
    • His most controversial was his Lehrstücke ("Teaching Plays"), one of which is The Measures Taken, the plot consists of a Revolutionary cell executing one of their own when the latter becomes a liability. The victim himself realizes that his death is necessary for the greater good and accepts it with stoicism. This was so controversial that at his HUAC hearing, Brecht was interrogated specifically about it.
    • His play The Good Person of Szechwan has a protagonist Shen Te invent a violent alter ego Shui Ta to protect herself from exploitation and harm. Shen Te is normally pacifist and meek, Shui Ta is not. Shui Ta finally says, in typically pithy Brecht-style:
      "You can only help one of your luckless brothers/By trampling down a dozen others."
  • In 1776, as the Congress members keep making changes to the Declaration of Independence, some of them keep making changes trying not to offend any of the countries, leading John Adams to exclaim:
    John Adams: It's a revolution, dammit! We are going to have to offend someone!
  • This was the foundation behind the The Scarlet Pimpernel franchise, with the underlying story being about a brave and heroic British aristocrat seeking to rescue French aristocrats from the revolution and its guillotines. The revolutionaries are portrayed as bloodthirsty, malicious, and ignorant, whilst the audience's sympathy is expected to lie with the aristocrats who are being butchered in droves.
  • In Urinetown, the rebels take the Corrupt Corporate Executive's daughter hostage and threaten to hang her to get their revenge and make themselves "feel powerful for a moment."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Hunter: The Vigil – Dark and Light features the People's Guard, a Hunter Conspiracy whose roots date back from the French Revolution, and whose focus is on hunting and overthrowing supernatural beings they feel are ruling and oppressing mortals. While this sounds good on paper, their favourite targets are the overall benevolent Nobles, and they are infamous for being very violent in their methods, resorting to public executions by beheading.
  • Pathfinder has the land of Galt, a pastiche of Revolutionary France, which has devolved into blood-soaked anarchy where different factions within the former revolution ascend and fall by whipping up the mobs against each other, resulting in an endless cycle of bloody revolution punctuated with gratuitous guillotining. They're so bad that everyone regards Galt as a pocket of blood-crazed madmen, with even the country of Andoran (a post-War of Independence America pastiche, who were inspired by the first Galtan revolution) and the goddess Milani (goddess of revolution and the opposition of slavery and tyrants), looking down on Galt and wanting nothing to do with it.
  • Rocket Age: The Ebb Revolutions on Mars were brutal socialist uprisings sponsored by the Soviets which usually involved a city's entire Silthuri, Kastari, and Pilthuri castes being executed, along with anyone else deemed counter-revolutionary.

    Video Games 
  • Armored Core is filled with a bunch of extremely violent rebel movements that are either a) fake or b) plans to start their rebellion by causing as much destruction.
  • Assassin's Creed
    • Assassin's Creed III makes it clear that the Revolution is essentially led by a group of wealthy white slaveowners who will attack native villages and displace them from their land.
    • Assassin's Creed: Unity is set during the French Revolution, which as it turns out was actually instigated by the Templars in order to destroy the corrupt monarchy in order to re-establish their own authority.
  • Invoked by characters pulling the strings in Aviary Attorney. The Rebel Leader is angry but inclined towards justice, fairness, and nonviolence, and the revolutionaries tend to listen to her. But certain members of her inner circle believe that a civilized transfer of power won't lead to them getting power and go to very gory lengths to rile up her and the police and turn the revolution bloody.
  • In BioShock Infinite, the floating city of Columbia is controlled by Zachary Comstock and the Founders, xenophobic white supremacists who brutally oppress all black, Irish, Chinese, and Indian citizens within the city. Opposing them is the Vox Populi, made up largely of the people mistreated by the Founders and led by Daisy Fitzroy. The Vox Populi's grievances are understandable, but they have degenerated into vicious marauders who mercilessly bully and butcher the citizens of the city. When the revolt gets underway, Booker and Elizabeth come across the aftermath of many a firing squad, and towards the end, Fitzroy even tries to kill Booker and Elizabeth.
    Vox Populi member: Your homes are ours! Your lives are ours! Your wives are ours! It all belongs to the Vox!
    Booker DeWitt: When you get down to it, the only difference between Comstock and Fitzroy is how you spell their name.
    • This was however highly controversial on release, and Ken Levine in response to criticism provided a Retcon in the DLC Burial at Sea where Daisy Fitzroy was against her extreme violence and that it was an act imposed by the Luteces to serve as Stealth Mentor for Elizabeth. The rest of the Vox Populi, however, still firmly qualify for this trope.
  • Brigador has two factions rising up against the brutal dictatorship that lorded over the third-world planet of the game — the "Solo Nobre Concern", a collection of Mega Corps that fight against the Loyalist government so they can establish their hypercapitalist regime, and pay their mercenaries to destroy property and kill civilians, and the Corvids, a far-left collection of radical collectivists, anarchists, and other far-left philosophies that use suicide bombers disguised as civilians and civilian centers as human shields. Both sides rampage through populated cities with glee
  • The "Settlement Defense Front" (SDF) from Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare organize themselves as a revolutionary group that is fighting against an oppressive and overreaching terrestrial government (the United Nations Space Alliance). However, they are violent and inhumane, slaughtering both military and civilian targets across the Solar System. Their real goal seems to be controlling the supply of Earth's fuel by disrupting the various outposts across the Solar System and seizing them.
  • The Praetorian Resistance in the "Going Rogue" expansion of City of Heroes has two distinct factions. One of them, the Wardens, want to handle things with minimal loss of innocent life. But the Crusaders, the other major faction, are of a "whatever it takes" mindset, and as such are not averse to such tactics as taking hostages, blowing up hospitals, or even setting off a neutron bomb in Nova Praetoria.
  • Played straight in Command & Conquer: Generals with the Global Liberation Army. Your first mission involves "liberating" a local village by flooding the valley it is in, wiping out half of the village in the process. Your second mission involves stealing aid supplies from more poor villagers, and you are explicitly ordered to shoot the villagers if they are taking supplies and level their homes. The third mission involves a massive riot and leveling and looting half a city, and by the final mission, you've gassed a major Chinese city. Any doubt that the GLA are not utter bastards is wiped away very, very quickly.
  • In the Crusader games, the Resistance is very, very much willing to use hardball tactics. The best example of this is the protagonist, the unleashing of whom on a target is not unlike using a tactical nuke, but in the manual, it also notes that while General Maxis seems sincere in his ideals, the WEC has tried to get him to surrender himself, dismantle the Resistance, or do less drastically stupid things by threatening civilians. Maxis has never given in, nor tried a third option.
  • In Detroit: Become Human, Markus can choose to lead a violent revolution. North supports this mentality and will like him more if he chooses this path, but Josh will resent him, and ends up dying if the final stand is a violent rebellion instead of a peaceful protest.
  • The NSF note  from Deus Ex. The game starts with JC going after them to retrieve a couple crates of plague cure they stole to give to the poor. Whether they should be considered terrorists or Well Intentioned Extremists is rather up for debate. All part and parcel of the game's Grey-and-Grey Morality.
    • The higher-ups in the organization seem to be Well Intentioned Extremists at best. However, for the lower-ranking members, dialogue that can be had with a bum being hassled by NSF mercs indicate that the NSF happily takes anyone in and arms them, and some people just use that as a chance to get free guns and ammo to do whatever they want.
    • Enough investigation of NSF terminals reveals the higher-ups do not approve of the worst behavior you see NSF grunts involved in, such as hostage-taking and robbery, and are deeply concerned about the effects of this behavior on public perception of their cause. Yet they also recognize such behavior is hardly surprising, given that by necessity their organization is largely made up of poorly trained would-be revolutionaries of all descriptions fighting against a ruthless enemy that outguns them badly, causing bad decisions to be made in the heat of the moment.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The mage revolt in Dragon Age II is very brutal, and when Thrask goes down the hotheads take control and run away with it.
    • The Freemen of the Dales from Dragon Age: Inquisition are deserters from the armies of both Empress Celene and Gaspard de Chalons who became weary of fighting a civil war and are attempting to claim the Dales. They are incredibly violent and will attack both the Inquisition and refugees fleeing the civil war on sight. As well, they are the unwitting pawns of the Elder One, as they were coaxed on by his servants and are used to transport red lyrium through the Dales to be used by the Red Templars.
  • The Elder Scrolls
    • Skyrim takes place during the Skyrim Civil War, which pits the crumbling Cyrodiilic Empire against the Nordic Stormcloak rebels, led by Ulfric Stormcloak. The war itself is a sterling example of Grey-and-Gray Morality and Both Sides Have a Point in action, neither side is "right", and both sides have negative aspects. That said, the actions of the Stormcloaks do cause them to fit the bill as violent revolutionaries in line with this trope. Most Stormcloaks display a noticeable degree of Fantastic Racism against non-Nord races (with plenty of "Skyrim is for the Nords" rhetoric), especially toward the refugee Dunmer, and their rebellion is perceived by Empire-supporters as ill-timed and short-sighted, especially in the face of the true threat of the Aldmeri Dominion (the Stormcloaks in turn think that the Empire is capitulating to the Dominion when they could've won if they kept fighting). Further, Ulfric has taken some rather "uncivilized" (at least from the perspective of his opponents) actions leading up to the war. When the Reachmen (see below) captured the Nord city of Markarth, Ulfric led the Nord militia which aggressively and violently drove the Reachmen from the city. Further, Ulfric instigated the civil war itself by killing High King Torygg in a duel to the death for the throne (citing an archaic but legitimate practice among the Nords as a pretext for this). Stormcloak wins by using the Thu'um to kill Torygg. Victorious, Stormcloak and his followers feel that he should be named the new High King of Skyrim. The Jarls of Skyrim, who vote for the new High King, are torn due to Stormcloak's use of the Thu'um being seen as cheating. Eastern Skyrim secedes under Stormcloak's leadership, while western Skyrim (backed by the Empire) supports Torygg's widow, Elisif, for the throne.
    • The Reachmen, also known as "Witchmen", are the native Bretons (racially, not culturally) of "the Reach," a region along the border between High Rock and Skyrim. They are a tribal people, primitive in dress and technology, led by shamans, who practice elements of nature and Daedra worship, primarily Hircine. From the time of the Alessian Empire (in the mid-1st Era) through the 4th era, they've maintained an insurgency, warring against any outside conquerors attempting to claim the Reach for themselves. In the 4th Era, with the crumbling Empire distracted by the Great War, the modern Reachmen lashed out and even briefly captured a Nord city. Though they were defeated and chased off by a Nord militia, the survivors regrouped in the hilly countryside of the Reach and became the Forsworn, terrorists in all but name. While the Forsworn definitely have good reasons to feel angry, the wholesale slaughter of civilians combined with the practice of human sacrifice and alliances with thoroughly nasty monstrosities kind of ruins the 'noble rebel' effect. The Forsworn's leader, Madanach the "King in Rags," acknowledges this, saying "there are no innocents in war, only the guilty and the dead."
    • "The Beautiful" are a terrorist organization comprised of young Altmer in the Summerset Isles, which uses public assassinations and general mayhem as a means to promote modernity and to oppose the other branch of Altmeri extremism represented by the Thalmor.
    • The 2nd Era Stros M'Kai uprising saw a group of Redguards capture the strategically important island of Stros M'Kai from Imperial forces while slaying the (admittedly corrupt) Imperial Governor. The Septim Rising Empire was forced to make several concessions to Hammerfell in order to regain the island and restore order. The series' spin-off game Redguard takes place during this uprising (with the protagonist Cyrus accidentally becoming the leader).
  • The Pitt DLC for Fallout 3 has an overarching theme of Gray-and-Grey Morality, exemplified in the struggle between Ashur's brutal slave regime trying to engineer a cure for the mutations plaguing the place, and Wernher's rebellion who want to just as brutally take the cure by force. Also, the cure is a baby.
  • Far Cry
    • Both the UFLL and APR in Far Cry 2. Sure, they both claim to be fighting for their people's best interests, but really they're both as corrupt and vicious as each other. The game's ending has the player rejecting both factions and siding with The Jackal, and killing every named leader in either faction.
    • Far Cry 4 has the Golden Path, a large group of rebels opposing Pagan Min, the current king of Kyrat. Just like in Far Cry 2, the rebels claim to have the country's best interest at heart, but you eventually see that they're really no different than the people they're fighting against. Hell, they're even worse. At least the Royal Army never killed babies or forced children to work/fight for them by threatening to kill their families.
  • AVALANCHE in the Final Fantasy VII games are the protagonists, but certainly not civilized: Final Fantasy VII itself starts with these rampaging eco-terrorists bomb a reactor, killing a lot of innocent people, and then the next day, they do it all over again! Not to mention the fact that some of the members (read: Barret) act thuggishly when not on the job too. And that's the revived AVALANCHE: the original incarnation of AVALANCHE seen in Before Crisis: Final Fantasy VII was even more ruthless. Though Final Fantasy VII Remake elaborates on the bombing by showing it's only meant to disable the reactor, with Shinra then blowing up the reactor themselves to frame AVALANCHE for it.
  • In Freelancer, there are many factions trying to overthrow the Colony government. Every Colony has at least one. In storyline, Lane Hackers, Blood Dragons, and Bundshchuh are even played as good guys. And even other factions like Mollys actually have at least not ultimately evil intentions. But how are all these factions making their point? By attacking innocent trade convoys, not unlike other utterly criminal pirate factions without any morale.
  • Rebels are always bad guys in the FreeSpace series, most notably the Neo-Terran Front, a violent anti-Vasudan rebel organization that believes it can forge an alliance with Omnicidal Maniac Starfish Aliens, and the Hammer of Light, a band of Scary Dogmatic Aliens who believe that the aforementioned Starfish Aliens are the prophesied "Great Destroyers" who must cleanse the universe to prepare it for the enlightened (i.e., the Hammer of Light themselves).
  • The Rebels in FTL: Faster Than Light are the bad guys, and heavily implied to be human supremacists.
  • The Takers in Geneforge 2 (and to a lesser extent in Geneforge 1 as well). Then a fair chunk of the rebellion (especially the drakons) in Geneforge 3-5.
  • A large part of Golden Sun: Dark Dawn's plot involves the beastpeople of Morgal's recent, successful, and terribly bloody revolution against the kingdom of Sana. Among other things, a little girl is captured and condemned to Cruel and Unusual Death in Belinsk, just for being Sanan nobility. The Grave Eclipse is caused by the king of Morgal forcing you to activate what he believes is a superweapon, which he intends to use on Sana and on Morgal's other neighboring country, Bilibin.
  • In Halo, there are secessionists, known as Insurrectionists, who want to break off from the UNSC (they mostly appear in Expanded Universe material, outside of a few brief appearances in Halo Wars multiplayer and a few in-game mentions from Halo: Reach onward ). At the beginning of their campaign, they were viewed sympathetically, as all they wanted was their independence. This view largely ended when they began killing people (most infamously when one group deliberately nuked the Haven arcology, killing two million civilians and injuring 8.3 million), and now they're squarely in this trope.
  • Homefront: The protagonists join the Resistance who are willing to use white phosphorous mortars on GKR mooks, who are portrayed as monstrous. But the Resistance is quite tame compared to the survivalists who are jerks to everyone who isn't on their side and are very racist against Asians.
  • Just Cause 2 has The Reapers led by Bolo Santosi and the Ular Boys led by Sri Iriwan. The path to "revolution" for both is to get Rico Rodriguez to, in Bolo's own words, turn Panau into a "smoldering ruin".
  • In Modern Warfare, Khaled al-Asad's revolution in his unnamed Middle-Eastern nation is explicitly shown to be brutal and violent, as the player experiences it from the perspective of the deposed President of the country as he's driven through the street. At first there's beatings and arrests in the streets, followed by civilians being shot as they run away and execution squads shooting people in the street. It ends with the President being marched into a square and executed on international television.
  • The Chots from Messiah were originally rebels against the dictatorial rulers of Earth, but with time have degenerated into a society of sewer-dwelling, savage cannibals. They don't even remember their origins anymore and don't fight for any cause (save for that of having enough people to eat.)
  • The main recurring villain of the Metal Slug series is the Rebel Army and its leader, General Morden, though there's not much room for story in the Metal Slug franchise so you never really get to see the Rebel Army do anything particularly evil beyond gaining power and shooting at the protagonists. Supplementary materials depict Morden as a madman driven to insanity by the death of his wife and daughter - caused by an intelligence failure on the part of the Regular Army, who wants to Take Over the World, and his appearance is modeled after real-world dictators like Saddam Hussein.
  • An Octave Higher has Libertad, an extremist group that resents the upper classes of Overture for their wealth and easy access to Mana Potions and wants to improve the miserable lot of the proletariat. Their motives may be commendable, but their members are not above attacking people on the street to steal their Mana. After the Time Skip, they only get worse.
  • It looks like Satellite Reign will fall into this. The organization you and your Agents belong to are nominally fighting against the oppressive Mega Corps, but since this is a Spiritual Successor to Syndicate, assassination, embezzlement, brainwashing civilians into involuntary meatshields and all other manner of morally suspect behaviour is definitely on the cards. Then in the ending, your benefactor ends up being worse than the Big Bad, by using the hijacked satellite (which you helped doing in the final fight) to initiate the apocalypse.
  • The StarCraft series features quite a few examples.
    • The first game has Sons of Korhal, a revolutionary group established after Terran Confederacy, dominant human faction in sector at the time, nuked their planet to kingdom come. They've been waging a guerrilla war against the oppressive government ever since. Eventually, they succeed in overthrowing it by luring a horde of the Zerg to their capital world of Tarsonis, leading to a global slaughter and deaths of billions of people — not just Confederate government officials, but countless innocent civilians. Soon, they establish a new government called Terran Dominion, a totalitarian dictatorship which turns out to be just as oppressive as its predecessor.
    • Averted in the sequel, where Raynor's Raiders — an anti-Dominion rebel group founded by former members of the Sons of Korhal — retain their heroic status throughout the entire series, help establish a new, more benevolent Terran Dominion government and get incorporated into its armed forces as an elite fighting unit, all while never forgoing their rules and morals.
    • Played straight again in StarCraft II: Nova Covert Ops DLC campaign with Defenders of Man, far less heroic anti-Dominion organization which seeks to depose its new emperor Valerian Mengsk, claiming that his leniency towards alien races puts humanity in danger. To make a point, they secretly stage a few invasions themselves, luring feral Zerg to Dominion worlds via psi emitters and launching unprovoked attacks on Tal'darim outposts, prompting them to retaliate. This of course leads to many senseless massacres and millions of civilian fatalities, just to further their cause.
  • In Syndicate (2012), the Syndicates are unquestionably evil by 20th/21st century Western standards. However, the Subverters opposing them are Bomb-Throwing Anarchists who are unable to offer any alternatives other than "kill as many bourgeois as possible", with leader of the New York branch Kris Delaney gleefully anticipating the civilian collateral damage. It's hinted that a less militant wing of the Resistance is working on a more scientific solution, but you don't see them in the game.
  • The Renegades from Tales of Symphonia are a group dedicated to fighting the organization that "guides the world," Cruxis. How do they do this, you may ask? It's implied that most of the time, when a Chosen fails in the Journey of Regeneration, it's because the Renegades kill them, thus prolonging the cycles of Regeneration. Hell, even after forming an alliance, Yuan still resorts to his plan to hold Lloyd hostage and force Kratos to undo the seal. Even Kratos seems to acknowledge that Yuan is serious with his threats.
  • Played for Black Comedy in Tooth and Tail. The entire plot hinges on a sort of reenactment of the Spanish Civil War WITH CUTE ANIMALS, where a civilisation of animals refuse to eat grains and plants even though they're not in shortage and instead promote the "civilised virtue" of a carnivorous diet. The four factions, the Longcoats (republican capitalists), Commonfolk (communists), Civilised (the priesthood and noble class), and the KSR (State Sec) are actually pretty similar and only guided by a single principle: they want meat and don't want to share. When the pigs (who are docile and kept as livestock) start to die out due to over-consumption, the warring factions start eating each other's fallen. And then in the end, it turns out the pigs had actually been secretly feigning their death, and once the factions have exhausted themselves in fighting each other, the pigs rise up and kill them all.
  • The revolution in Valkyria Chronicles II is essentially a racial purge led by racist nobles opposing the Archduchess for revealing her Darcsen (Fantasy Counterpart Culture equivalent of Jews) roots. Later on, it's revealed that it's really just a coup for Count Gassenarl to usurp the throne.
  • The Scoi'a'tel in The Witcher. The game does go to great lengths to explain the understandable grievances that led to their formation and continued existence (being conquered, treated as second-class citizens, and subjected to violence and pogroms by the humans, including their former allies), but also makes it very clear that they are ruthless murderers who attack civilians regardless of innocence, sometimes in particularly gruesome ways, rather than the oppressing government's armed forces. Quite a few Dwarven and Elven NPCs express their profound dislike for them.note 
  • The Defias Brotherhood in World of Warcraft may count as an example of this. The Defias began as a group of disgruntled stonemasons who were cheated by their government. Unfortunately, they became too heavily involved with criminal elements and ended up robbing and killing the peasants.

  • Kaiten Mutenmaru: The poor mob burned and looted the house of their aristocratic oppressors, Pain and Yamai Solitude, but that's not the most horrible part about their rebellion — they also targeted Sick as a child solely for being the son of the Solitudes and killed a commoner girl his age in a blind rage for trying to stop them.
  • The various Jidahist factions in Shooting War, though Abu Addalah takes the cake.
  • In Tower of God, the ruler of the Tower, King Jahad, is a very cruel man, responsible for turning the tower into the Crapsack World it is today out of spite and greed. The strongest people he wronged formed a terrorist organization called FUG, and are themselves willing to sink to unspeakably vile depths to get their Revenge.
  • Unsounded:
    • The Aldish rebels in Avelpit target and blow up a medical cart, then later sacrifice their child soldier mages, without said children understanding that what they were doing would lead to Cruel and Unusual Death when the khert reacted, in order to set the khert on fire long enough for their cursed leader to talk to an ally without their curse killing them. Their leader was also going to give war prisoners to Shaensigin dooming them to a slow death and use as food provisions, though he grabbed the child with them out of the group to be sacrificed to the salt lizard.
    • The Inak Rebellion in Cresce takes place in response to decades of slavery and discrimination, which has culminated in the Inak being scapegoated for the murder of the queen's sister and sent to labour camps. However, what we see of the rebellion shows us that it consists in large part of brutally murdering Crescian civilians who happen to be in their way as they march towards the nobles responsible for their oppression. Their leader is also Delicieu/Prakhuta/Cutter, an utter psychopath who rants about drinking the blood and bile of Crescians and plans to unleash the horrific First Silver, which he created by experimenting on and killing children, against Cresce. Ultimately the entire rebellion turns out to be a front for Prakhuta to use the despair produced by the war to power the First Silver enough to annihilate the entire world.

    Web Original 
  • The French Revolution in Look to the West starts out being as violent as our history's...and never really calms down. In the long term, this has the effect of forcing nearly all reformist movements to be more nonviolent by default, just to avoid the comparison.
  • Both this trope and its inverse characterize the Red May Revolution in Reds!: A Revolutionary Timeline While the communist revolution in America doesn't lead to a Soviet-style nightmare, it is far from a tea party. The revolutionaries may have the moral high ground in the face of the dictatorial reaction by the old regime, but they still have their own Red Terror and Kangaroo Court system. Anti-authoritarian currents in American society appear to have won out by the present day, as the Red Terror seems to be pretty universally regarded as a mistake.
  • In the short story The Revolution, the protagonist witnesses his wife, oldest son, and scores of others die at the hands of his own government. Once given the chance to fight back, he racks up 134 kills in just a few months and vows to not stop until the rest of the tyrannical government is dead or about to hang.
  • RWBY: Under Ghira Belladonna's leadership, the White Fang was originally a peaceful protest group seeking to end the second-class-citizen status of Faunus and achieve equality with humans. Impatient with the slow rate of progress, Sienna Khan led a coup of the old order to establish a more militant organisation that is willing to use violence when necessary to achieve equality at a faster rate. Ghira Belladonna left the White Fang, disapproving of Sienna's methods even if they agree on the end goal. However, Adam Taurus leads the Vale branch of the White Fang and is seeking a much more extreme form of terrorism. He has no interest in equality with humanity; he believes in Faunus superiority and wants humanity subjugated and enslaved to them. He uses violence as a standard tactic instead of a last resort and he has no problem in letting entire units of Faunus be killed if it will help him achieve his goal. He also has no tolerance for defection; defectors get hunted down and killed if they try and escape the organisation. His willingness to destroy symbols of human authority, such as Beacon Academy, puts him at odds with Sienna Khan, who sees him as a threat to the White Fang's existence and ability to eventually achieve peace with humanity. He responds by killing her and taking her place as High Leader of the full organisation. When he learns that his defected ex-girlfriend and daughter of the original leader, Blake Belladonna, is attempting to recruit a Faunus army in Menagerie to protect Haven Academy from suffering Beacon's fate, he decides to honour a promise he once made to her — to destroy everything she loves just for turning her back on him and his cause. He sends assassins to murder Blake's parents and capture her to send a message to Menagerie that Faunus are either with him or against him. It backfires on him when the Faunus, who had been reluctant to put their lives on the line for humans, are so angry with Adam turning on his own kind that they unite together, save Haven Academy from being destroyed, and alert the Mistral Police Force to what Adam's doing. Adam is forced to go on the run leaving behind a re-energised Ghira Belladonna, who decides to create a brand new equal rights Faunus organisation.
  • Tech Infantry has various rebel factions, from the Christian Federation and their penchant for suicide-ramming freighters into enemy vessels to the Liberation and their campaign of terror bombings. Even the Resistance has as their main gripe the fact that supernaturally-powered humans are forced to serve in the Tech Infantry Space Marine forces. These forces are fighting against alien Bugs that want to eat everyone, other aliens that want to kill all humans and take their planets as living space, and still other aliens who want to enslave humans and work them all to death. This makes their occasionally violent tactics seem a bit extreme. Although the Earth Federation and the Middle Kingdom that replaces it are both quite nasty, the aliens — especially the Bugs — are usually worse, and the endless rebellions, mutinies, and civil wars make it darn hard to fight the Bugs as a united front.
  • A World of Laughter, a World of Tears sees the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement collapse thanks to a drastic misreading of the political climate by President Disney. Martin Luther King, Jr. gets publicly egged, destroying his credibility, and the movement falls under control of the Nation of Islam. One word: jihad.
  • The Second American Revolution in The Fire Never Dies touches on this. The American Red Army generally avoids major atrocities, but they are willing to resort to brutal tactics to win the war, including the use of chemical weapons and mass artillery barrages against urban areas. They do avoid more egregious acts.

    Western Animation 
  • The Supertrooper riot in Galaxy Rangers. They were created from birth to be living weapons. A Corrupt Bureaucrat circulates Psycho Serum in the barracks, and the Troopers go berserk, believing that their creators are out to kill them. With the sole exception of the youngest (who was at the shooting range at the time), they all go Phlebotinum Rebel, kill one of their handlers on-screen (possibly more off-screen), and escape.
  • Avatar franchise:
    • A couple examples from Avatar: The Last Airbender:
      • Jet's Freedom Fighters are not a particularly nice bunch. Despite being a charming group of kids who initially help out Team Avatar, they're actually willing to do pretty terrible things to wipe out the Fire Nation. At one point, they attempt to flood a town filled with innocent civilians, simply because the Fire Nation was occupying it. To their credit, the group realizes their mistake and makes a Heel–Face Turn shortly after the flooding fiasco. Despite efforts to do the same, Jet himself ends up stuck in the Heel–Face Revolving Door, though he eventually ends up on the right side, yet his whole movement eventually fell apart.
      • The Omashu Resistance also does some unscrupulous things in their efforts to drive out the Fire Nation occupying their city. The first thing we see them do is attempting an assassination of the governor's family, including his infant son. Again, they perform a Heel–Face Turn shortly afterwards.
    • The Legend of Korra:
      • The main antagonists of the first season are the Equalists, a revolutionary group dedicated to seizing more power for non-benders and attempting to bring down bending altogether. After a terrorist attack in a public event, they end up bombing the city — and while the show can't explicitly say civilians died, anyone looking at the wreckage knows they did.
      • The Red Lotus in Season 3 desire to bring down the very concept of government so that humanity as a whole will be free and live as they should, with no nations of any kind and in total anarchy. Suffice to say, they're quite ruthless and violent, and ultimately their efforts end in vain as most of them end up dead or see the arrival of a true tyrant in Kuvira after their actions destroyed the Earth Kingdom.
  • Liberty's Kids takes a surprisingly sophisticated look at The American Revolution for its intended audience. For instance, while it treats the overall goals of the American Independence as a good thing, the negative elements like mob violence, slavery, and the privations Native Americans suffered in the conflict are not overlooked while the British/Loyalist side are allowed to express their point of view.
  • Steven Universe: While Rose Quartz’s rebellion is portrayed sympathetically, the show makes no bones about the fact that they killed many of their fellow gems and caused a fair amount of destruction, both directly and indirectly. They could’ve been far worse though; Bismuth wanted to go the extra mile by massacring the Diamonds and anybody who stood with them. Rose Quartz (who was, in secret, a Diamond herself) bubbled her and covered up her fate expressly to prevent the rebellion from going down this path.
  • The Decepticons from Transformers are occasionally this, depending on the incarnation. In particular, Transformers: Animated and the Aligned continuity depict the Decepticons as having legitimate grievances with a morally grey Autobot government, but they're just too extreme in their methods. Beast Wars suggests that the Predacons might be in the same boat, but we don't learn enough about the situation to properly judge.
    • In Transformers: Prime, for instance, the Decepticons were originally a movement to abolish the Caste System that had large portions of the planet functionally enslaved. They then grew so brutal that their home planet was turned into a lifeless husk, and the Decepticons slowly came to care more about winning, or at least making their opponents lose more, than actually trying to make a better future.


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Alternative Title(s): The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised


Goldman vs. Reed

Emma Goldman and Jack Reed disagree over whether the Bolsheviks are still worth supporting.

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Main / TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized

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