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"[H]e who kills the tyrant in order to free his country is praised and rewarded."
St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary to the Sentences

A ruler tyrannizes his realm, whether by committing genocide, robbing his subjects or kicking puppies; one day, La Résistance murders him in order to free their country. The act, along with the one committing it, was sometimes seen as praiseworthy, except in contexts where the given head of state held his power from divine right.

Can be the fate of a President Evil, President for Life (with emphasis on the Life part), the Feudal Overlord, The Evil Prince, The Caligula, The Generalissimo, the Evil Queen and the Evil Overlord.

The ruler's death getting a favorable reaction from the people is also more likely when said ruler has a 0% Approval Rating.

It's nothing to do with a Tyrannosaurus rex, unless the dinosaur's a Tyrannical Rex, too.

Related to The Kingslayer, Asshole Victim and Bully Hunter. If done by a foreign power, then it's Regime Change. Compare Meet the New Boss and Full-Circle Revolution, and contrast Tyrant Takes the Helm


Limit real life examples to the Trope Namers.

As a Death Trope, spoilers will be unmarked on this page.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch Deconstructs this trope—and in a metaphorical sense, you could even say he Exaggerates it. One of his most consistent goals throughout the series is to assassinate the tyrannical Emperor of Britannia. When he eventually succeeds, he takes up the throne and deliberately fashions himself into an even worse tyrant, specifically to give all of humanity a single shared enemy to unite them, leading to a better world after his arranged assassination. In other words, he metaphorically destroys the role of Emperor itself.

    Comic Books 
  • Issue #247 of Marvel Comics' Fantastic Four has Doctor Doom bring the Fantastic Four to his homeland to show them how Prince Zorba has reduced Latveria to a Crapsack World where its people live in misery and fear. While the Four battle war-class Doombots, Doom seeks out Zorba and confronts him about his tyranny.
    Prince Zorba: So long as I live, you have no claim to the throne!
    Doctor Doom: Precisely.
  • Double subverted in Judge Dredd. In the backstory the Judges rise up against President Evil Bob Booth for starting a nuclear war by invoking the U.S. constitution's pre-ambles against tyranny. After they capture him they can't bring themselves to execute the last President however, so they sentence him to 100 years suspended animation instead. Dredd sentences him again to hard labor after the President wakes up, then finally passes sentence of death on Booth a few decades later after he tries to overthrow the Justice Department one last time.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Occurs preventively in Die Hard 2, in which cronies of deposed dictator General Esperanza take all of Dulles Airport hostage. They demand, and receive, Esperanza; he and his corrupt CIA cohorts are about to depart for a coup of his Banana Republic when The Hero takes them all out.
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Darth Vader returns to the light and kills the Emperor by throwing him down the Death Star reactor shaft. His death signals the beginning of the end of the Empire's tyranny, sparking uprisings and celebrations on a number of planets. The Expanded Universe goes into more detail about it, showing that the Empire fractured without Palpatine or Vader's leadership, making it all the more easy for the Rebels, now known as the New Republic, to liberate Imperial-held space.
  • Once the Wicked Witch has been liquidated in The Wizard of Oz, the captain of the witch's guards cheers Dorothy and company, and gladly presents them with the witch's broom in gratitude. Presumably, the flying monkeys also bear the protagonists no ill will, since the monkeys nevermore impede Dorothy's progress.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: The Ancient Egyptians who are fed up with En Sabah Nur's blood-thirsty reign attempt to assassinate him, but his Four Horsemen sacrifice themselves to save his life.

  • In the Deryni novel Camber of Culdi, the coup d'etat against King Imre Festil by Cinhil Haldane, aided by Camber MacRorie Earl of Culdi and his family, involves this. Imre is depicted mistreating ordinary humans (taking Disproportionate Retribution for the murder of a Deryni lord by taking fifty human hostages and executing them when the killers don't come forward), and he's killed in an arcane duel by Cinhil. Camber and his family are motivated to find Cinhil and persuade the reluctant priest to take the throne because of Imre's tyranny.
  • Discworld
    • Suffer-not-Injustice "Old Stoneface" Vimes, ancestor of the current Vimes, chopped off the King's head for his horrific crimes. He was the only one with the balls to do it - no court wanted to try the king. He was later executed, his body getting the Osiris treatment. His bad reputation was so powerful, his descendants many generations later are still being bugged about it.
    • Night Watch: The revolution ends with the murder of Homicidal Lord Winder by a young Havelock Vetinari and Lord Snapcase being made the new Patrician, but Snapcase immediately turns out to be just as tyrannical, if not worse. Interesting Times implies that Snapcase ended up facing mob justice for his own crimes.
  • In Dragon Blood, high king Jakoven is an overall bad ruler, who also kills innocent men and rapes children. La Résistance has been planning his carefully timed demise for some time, and is only waiting for him to dig himself a bit deeper so that even more people will oppose him. After the revolutionaries get the Hidden Backup Prince out of prison, there is nothing that stands between the tyrant and a sharp blade anymore ... at least nothing that would hinder the heroes in any meaningful way.
  • Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle: In the end, it is Eragon who kills Galbatorix, the Big Bad and current ruler of Alagaesia.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Jaime Lannister, who killed an evil, mad king, Aerys II through Back Stab to stop them burning down King's Landing with wildfire. He did a lot of good to the realm and had the most genuinely noble intentions. No-one will let him forget it, though, as he was sworn to protect the King.
    • Joffrey is later murdered by his grandmother-in-law Olenna Tyrell and Littlefinger, although this was not so much for the sake of the realm as it is for advancing their own personal agendas.
    • At the end of the Dance of the Dragons Aegon II was poisoned as Cregan Stark's army approached King's Landing, though it is unknown who was responsible. However Cregan arrested many people for the crime, giving most of them the choice between death or exile, as he felt a king's murder should be punished. Aegon's rival, his half-sister Rhaenyra, was killed by him when he fed her to his dragon, and had proved tyrannical in her half-year rule over King's Landing, starving the people and executing many.
    • Aegon the Conqueror fought the cruel Black Harren Hoare, who had spent his sixty-year reign forcing the Riverlands to build his gigantic castle of Harrenhal, meaning when Aegon attacked many of the Riverlords joined him. When Harren took refuge in his castle, Aegon used his dragon to burn the castle, eliminating House Hoare.
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay:
    • Katniss kills President Coin after realising she and Snow weren't so different.
    • Snow is later lynched by the mob.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Barrier: The series is set in Police State dictatorship that has been in place for twenty-five years and the protagonists are people who are suffering under the regime and/or opposing it to various levels. Take a wild guess as to whether the President leading that dictatorship is still alive by the end of the last episode of the series or not. Messing with the granddaughter of a former La Résistance member who is in possession of a gun is a bad idea.
  • Londo Mollari's plan to murder the omnicidally-insane Caligula Emperor Cartagia in Babylon 5, which succeeds except for a previously naive and innocent party having to deliver the killing blow, which Londo regrets.
  • Napoléon: Narrowly avoided when Napoleon attempts to address the Directorate to give him and two of his political allies emergency powers, and one of the deputies attempts to stab him in the chaos. Napoleon is protected from assassination by his soldiers, and he uses the opportunity to have the Directorate dissolved and himself named First Consul.
  • Game of Thrones: Deconstructed. Euron openly admits to kinslaying his own brother, Balon, and justifies himself on the grounds that Balon's rule brought nothing but grief to the Ironborn as he led them into two wars that they couldn't win and made them the laughing stock of Westeros and says that his only regret was that Balon was not killed before he did these terrible things. The other Ironborn agree with Euron. While it may be true that Balon was a terrible king, it doesn't change the fact that Euron is all kinds of worse than Balon could ever be, with one tyrant replaced with a more malicious one.
  • House: in the episode "The Tyrant" (S6E4), Dibala, a repressive and genocidal ruler, is being cared for by the hospital. An "orderly" named Ruwe asks Chase to let Dibala die, because of his human rights violations. After hearing Dibala, when asked about genocide, replying he would do what he thinks necessary fo his country, Chase bungles the diagnostic, thereby causing the death of Dibala.
  • Merlin (2008): Morgana kills Uther by using her own magic to cause the amulet Merlin-in-disguise gives Arthur to save Uther to backfire and kill him, seeing him as a tyrant for his brutal repression of magic users.
  • Rome depicts the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar by Brutus and his allies at the end of the first season. When they later discuss the aftermath with Caesar's surviving ally Mark Antony, the latter points out that justifying Caesar's murder as tyrannicide has created a conundrum for everyone, as all of Caesar's motions, including the appointment of Brutus' and Antony's offices, are legally null and void. The factions agree to forego a new election by declaring a general amnesty for both factions. Antony then rouses the common people (for whom Caesar was a hero) against the assassins, forcing them to flee Rome.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Happens every so often in BattleTech:
    • The most historically important example is the overthrow of the mad despot Stefan Amaris. Unique in that the group that overthrew him was the army of the realm he had overthrown, and that killing him didn't involve an assassination as much as a decades-long campaign to destroy his home nation and depose Amaris himself, followed by summary execution by firing squad.
    • A lesser example is Hohiro Kurita I, regarded as a domineering and austere megalomaniac. He is eventually killed by a member of his own Otomo bodyguard unit, though it does not ease the suffering of the people by much—his successor Takashi Kurita proved to be just as brutal in his own ways.

  • In Stephen Sondheim's musical Assassins, John Wilkes Booth believes he is doing this when he kills Abraham Lincoln, comparing the situation to Julius Caesar.
    "Hunt me down, smear my name. Say I did it for the fame, what I did was kill the man who killed my country! Now the Southland can end! Now this bloody war can end! Because someone slew the tyrant, just as Brutus slew the tyrant!"
  • Julius Caesar is about Marcus Brutus and Caius Cassius assassinating Julius Caesar because they think he has become a tyrant of Rome. The play is Based on a True Story.
  • In Pippin, the title character tries to liberate the people by killing his father Charles and becoming king in his place. It doesn't work out well, but the play's No Fourth Wall nature gives him the opportunity to undo it.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Beyond: Two Souls. The CIA sends Jodie on a mission to eliminate a tyrannical warlord in a war-torn African country. After she completes the mission, she learns that the man she killed was actually a democratically elected president who was seen as the last hope for his country to ever achieve peace and stability. She doesn't take the news well.
  • In the background of BioShock, Bill McDonagh, angry at Andrew Ryan mismanaging the civil war with Atlas by refusind to negociate, attempted to kill him but failed and ended up pinned against the wall of his office.
    • In the novel adaptation, Bill simply beat his head with his gun but don't dare shooting his old friend. Afterward, given Ryan's bodyguards were Bill's family friends, they shot him instead of pinning him alive.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day. After taking down the Fabled Panther King, Conker is made the new King and everyone seems happy now that they're free, everyone except Conker himself, who doesn't really want to be king, mainly because he is depressed over his girlfriend being killed.
  • In Democracy, according to the extremists' point of view.
  • The player is able to slay rulers in Dwarf Fortress Adventure mode; some of these ruler can be demons or other dark creatures.
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance has the main protagonist, Ike, defeat the tyrannical Ashnard to free Crimea.
  • In the Halo series, two of the High Prophets of the Covenant, dogmatic leaders that were responsible for the war with humanity and the betrayal of the Elites, are assassinated. Master Chief assassinates the Prophet of Regret in Halo 2 as part of a UNSC mission, while Truth is summarily executed by the Arbiter towards the climax of Halo 3 in order to cement the Covenant's defeat.
  • In Jagged Alliance 2, Queen Deidranna of Banana Republic Arulco has transformed the formerly peaceful nation into a militaristic dictatorship. former husband and king Enrico Chilvaldori, after escaping execution on her orders, hires a band of mercenaries to remove Deidranna from power, by whatever means neccessary.
  • Mega Man Zero 4:
    • In the climax, Craft rebels against the current ruler of Neo Arcadia, Dr. Weil, and hijacks the control system of Ragnarok in order to kill him. In a subversion, not only does Neo Arcadia get utterly destroyed in the process, Weil survived the attack thanks to his regenerative armor. In the end, Weil does get killed by Zero, but by then the country is already no more.
    • Downplayed with the previous ruler of Neo Arcadia, Copy X. He does try to make the empire close to an utopia... but he's so oppresive to Reploids in that he considers retiring minor, innocent Reploids is a good solution for the energy crisis. Then Zero slays him in the first game. In the second game, his second in command Harpuia assumes the role in secret, where the empire becomes less oppressive under him. In the third game this is fully played straight - Copy X is revived by Dr. Weil and becomes worse; he now considers human society a fair game, as seen when he demolished an entire city block with a missile just to get the Dark Elf. Zero slays him again, only for Weil to take his place.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: The Jedi Knight's story ends with them confronting and killing the Sith Emperor himself. Come The Shadow of Revan, though, it turns out he's Not Quite Dead, and now his spirit has escaped into the galaxy to get up to who knows what sort of mischief.
  • This is what the guerilleros want to happen to El Presidente of Tropico.

  • Kaiten Mutenmaru: The rebels in Sick's backstory not only planned to kill the Solitude family and burn their house but also killed their young peer in a blind rage. This, along with their triumphant return, implies that they succeeded in killing Pain and Yamai for their tyranny over the town of Throne, leaving Sick an orphan and the only survivor of the family.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-2578 is an alien aircraft drone manned by the ☽☽☽ Initiative that executes (via an energy weapon) any rulers who it judges to be tyrannical. Interestingly, it always warns its targets 72 hours in advance, and will cancel the assassination if the target resigns or repents of their crimes. The Foundation hasn't found any way to contain SCP-2578 yet, so they focus instead on disguising these executions as completely mundane assassination plots.

    Western Animation 
  • In the backstory of Steven Universe, Rose Quartz killed Pink Diamond six thousand years ago to end the Great Offscreen War and free the Earth from her rule. Unfortunately, she was only leading a small part of a interstellar empire, and the other rulers decided to Salt the Earth in retribution. Then things get more complicated when it's revealed that both Rose and Pink Diamond were one and the same...

    Real Life 
  • Harmodius and Aristogeiton killed the tyrant Hipparchus.
  • In the latter days of The Roman Republic Brutus and Cassius famously assassinated Gaius Julius Caesar in the Roman Senate chambers on the grounds that he was a tyrant. They were forced to retract this charge when it became clear that the Caesarian faction had overwhelming military support, drafting a reconciliation that ratified Caesar's decrees (whereas a tyrant's decrees would be thrown out as obviously illegitimate) and granted the conspirators amnesty for the murder as well as appointments to governorships. Brutus and Cassius were killed themselves several years later by the Caesarions when they outlived their usefulness.
  • During The Hundred Years War, Louis, duc d'Orléans was assassinated in Paris by agents of Jean sans Peur ("the Fearless"), duc de Bourgogne. This assassination was welcomed by students in Paris and by several merchants who were friendly with the Duc de Bourgogne. A theologian, Jean Petit, presented a case before a Church Committee that the death of the duc d'Orléans was a justifiable act of tyrannicide citing his unpopularity among Parisiens and submitting him to a Historical Villain Upgrade. Jean sans Peur on his arrival in Paris, was granted a reward and since he was backed by soldiers, his argument actually won the day. It did trigger, however, a Civil War between the Burgundians and the Armagnac faction (who regrouped with the Orleans family) and years later, Jean sans Peur would himself be assassinated on his way to discuss peace.
  • The executions of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette during The French Revolution are very often misinterpreted as this. The truth is WAY more complex.
  • John Wilkes Booth apparently believed he was doing this when he shot President Abraham Lincoln at the end of the American Civil War, as he shouted "Sic semper tyrannus" after he did the deed.