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Vengeance Feels Empty

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Roman: There you go, you got your revenge. How does it feel?
Niko: I don't know how it feels. I'm trying to take it all in.
Roman: This is the moment you've been waiting for for so long, Niko. What do you mean you "don't know" how you feel?
Niko: I mean I don't know... I feel empty, okay? I feel empty.

A powerful plot element, pursuit of revenge may be a driving motivation for a character. It may even be central to the plot, because The Villain Must Be Punished. Upon finally exacting his revenge, rather than the sense of satisfaction he may have expected, an avenger may get... nothing. Maybe it wasn't really worth it, or maybe he just doesn't know what to do with himself now and had nothing else to live for. If these characters were avenging the death of a friend or loved one, they may belatedly realize that the deceased would not have approved or that it will not bring back that person and instead of blind rage, they now have to deal with actual grieving, since rage may have helped them avoid it by putting the blame on their enemy. This is one of the bad results of ignoring Forgiveness.

Confucius said that "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves." This is because people who choose the path of revenge have condemned a part of their spirit to be stuck in the past and eventually destroyed which ends up making them worse off than before when the object of their revenge is destroyed by their hands and they feel little to no satisfaction after doing so. And that's not even mentioning how in the process they may well ruin the rest of their lives through the consequences of everything they've done in the pursuit of vengeance.


Related to Wanting Is Better Than Having, Now What?, and Revenge Before Reason. Compare Victory Is Boring.

The other major downside to seeking vengeance is the Cycle of Revenge — somebody may come along bent on Avenging the Villain in turn. For another consequence, see He Who Fights Monsters in which seeking vengeance causes the character become morally corrupted.

Naturally, this trope is the opposite of Revenge Is Sweet, where revenge feels fulfilling rather than empty. Contrast Roaring Rampage of Revenge, which is when some usually enjoy their revenge. However, even those who are enjoying their revenge often feel empty when it's over. Some of them solve the quandary with a Murder-Suicide, which may cross over with Miles to Go Before I Sleep. Can be closely related to Being Evil Sucks in which this trope is more along the lines of "Being Vengeful Sucks".



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    Anime And Manga 
  • The whole character arc of Mikagami Tokiya in Flame of Recca. He starts out as a cold, distant jerk dedicated for only one thing: vengeance for his dead big sister. It's not until he found his not-so Evil Counterpart, Kai, who is bent on vengeance against how he's always considered second-fiddle by Tokiya's master, that his vision on vengeance-driven life starts to shake and eventually be destroyed: Kai dedicated himself so much in his vengeance with Mikagami that even after he actually won against Tokiya (since Tokiya is a Glass Cannon), he felt so empty that the only path he saw is to be Driven to Suicide. However, he gave a stern warning for Tokiya to not follow his path, and to go with it, one more Awful Truth, putting Tokiya's shattered resolve in trial: The murderer of his sister is his master. It's not until the final arc that he confronted his master to find out that it's his grandpa, and he just took credit of the murder because he felt guilty of unable to protect said sister from being murdered protecting Tokiya and wanted to atone by having Tokiya kill him. As a result of 'melding' with the Hokage, infected with their optimism and discarding the majority of his cruel ways (even at cost of becoming a Distressed Dude several times), Tokiya took the lessons at heart and refused to take vengeance, and once the story is over, he's changed into a warmer man.
  • Naruto explores this with Sasuke Uchiha. His entire clan killed in a single night by his beloved big brother, Itachi, he devoted his life since eight to killing Itachi to avenge his clan (something which Itachi enabled due to reasons much later discovered). However, various characters, including his and the titular character's master Kakashi, warn him that even if he gets his vengeance, it will be ultimately this. Unfortunately, Itachi's return and second brutal victory over Sasuke (up to making him relive the massacre again through a horrific illusion) undoes the recovery from the trauma and leaves Sasuke and desperate and unhinged.
    • In fact, post Time Skip when Sasuke finally kills Itachi, he is left utterly empty. However, Tobi then reveals the Awful Truth: Itachi killed the clan on orders of the Council to prevent the Uchihas from enacting a coup that would lead to a civil war and very likely another shinobi war. The revelations of his brother's true character causes Sasuke to utterly snap and gives him a new target to exact vengeance on. He only seems to get over this when Itachi is resurrected and the two talk. Granted, he remains semi-antagonistic due to his new goals of becoming the Shadow Dictator of the shinobi world with his newfound power, at least until Naruto finally beats sense into him.
  • Played with in Tiger & Bunny. Finding his parents murderer is Barnaby's driving motivation, and though he ends up holding back from actually killing Jake Martinez, he's satisfied and ready to move on with his life when Jake accidentally ends up killing himself. Played straight when he discovers that Jake wasn't the one who murdered his parents.
  • This is tragically presented in Blood-C: The Last Dark. Saya's main objective in the movie to find Fumito and kill him for putting her into a lot of hell in the TV series. She finally did it but she found out that Fumito's actions are for her survival and that he loved her. This made her confused and sad and at the end, she didn't return to Mana, after she found out what had happened to her dad, and went into an aimless journey.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Piccolo Jr. was born solely to avenge the death of his father, the original King Piccolo, by killing Goku. After Goku's Heroic Sacrifice against Raditz, during which Piccolo dealt the killing blow, Piccolo reflects that he got no satisfaction from Goku's death due to the circumstances, and realizes that he has no idea what to do with his life now.
  • For most of his life, Ren Hakuryuu of Magi was completely obsessed with becoming strong enough to kill his mother in order to avenge his father and brothers, who she had gotten away with murdering when he was a child. When he finally manages to kill her (or so he thinks), he goes into a Villainous BSoD, with his partner Judal noting that this trope must be the reason: Hakuryuu has let hatred and desire for revenge drive him for so long that he doesn't remember how to survive without it. After a while, Hakuryuu comes up with a solution: transfer his hatred to his cousin, Ren Kouen, and anyone else who tells him that his way of thinking is wrong, and set out to kill them too.
  • Ringing Bell: A lamb named Chirin swears revenge against a wolf for killing his mother. Realizing he is not strong enough, he persuades the wolf to teach him how to fight. Years later, when Chirin finally turns on and kills the wolf, he finds vengeance didn't make him feel better, it made him feel worse. Not only are the sheep terrified of him for his savagery, he's killed the closest thing he had for a father.
  • This plays a large role in the backstory of ViVid Strike!. Rinne is tormented for several months by a trio of bullies, eventually snaps, and beats all three of them so bad that they have to be hospitalized. Rather than feel any sort of relief or closure, she is horrified by her actions to the point that she spends 3 years suffering from extreme self-loathing.
  • In So I'm a Spider, So What?, main character Kumoko is traumatized during a close encounter with the dragon Alaba, surviving only because she was too pathetic to bother killing. When she became powerful enough to defeat Alaba, she was going to take great pleasure in killing him, until Alaba drops all his defensive skills and calmly awaits her killing blow. Having sacrificed her own pride and worked so desperately to escape death, the main character can't accept somebody calmly accepting death, ruining her sense of victory.
  • Black Cat: Train is once hired by a boy to avenge his father on a mob boss. Train shoots the guy, and the kid realizes he doesn't feel any different afterward. Train actually used a tranquilizer paint round that made a mess on the surface but left the mob boss alive.
  • In the first season of Gundam 00, Nena Trinty laments that she has to go on a mission, and to break the monotony of the trip, she decides to bombard the wedding party Loise is attending, killing her parents, and most of her extended family. In the second season, Loise, who joined the A-Laws, confronts Nena in battle and kills her, but Loise nearly has a breakdown when she realizes that even though she avenged her family, they're still dead.
  • Used with a twist in Vinland Saga's second arc. Even though his vengeance was denied by having his target mortally wounded by someone else in front of him, Thorfinn still feels empty and without a purpose in life, and wonders aloud whether it would have mattered to him if he had been the one to kill Askeladd.
  • Cannon Busters: Philly The Kid watched his parents get murdered by a Botican war party when he was young, subsequently taking a Deal with the Devil and gaining Purpose-Driven Immortality so he can take vengeance by hunting down and killing the prince of Botica to make the whole country feel his pain. When he finally gets the chance, he hesitates like crazy as it dawns on him that he's really about to kill some random, innocent kid for something he wasn't involved in and didn't even know happened. Ultimately, he tosses aside his weapon, admitting that killing the prince is completely pointless and probably wouldn't even make him feel any better.
  • Kage no Eiyuu no Nichijou-tan: When Twight recognizes his friend Elicia as wanting to kill the man who arranged the death of her father, he tries to talk her out of it. Not because he has an issue against vengeance itself, but because he recognizes what she's doing as "destructive revenge", as Elicia will certainly be killed regardless of her success due to her target's rank and level of protection. Twight had previously explained that vengeance is only to get back something you've lost, to zero out that losses, but it gains you nothing unless you do something more to make your revenge worth it. Elicia refuses to be talked down and goes for the kill. She initially feels elated at her success, but then quickly feels the emptiness she was warned about and the guilt begins to eat at her, and even more so when it appears she's been tracked down for revenge and her friends killed as a result. However, Twight reveals that everything from the moment she killed her target was a ruse set up by him to make his point. The man Elicia wants to kill is still alive, none the wiser. The experience makes her realize what Tweight was absolutely right, and is able to let go of any further desire for revenge.
  • Rebuild World: Akira gets driven as a Determinator to get revenge when one of his combined Berserk Button /Trauma Button issues stemming from his Dark and Troubled Past in the slums comes up. But success only leaves him depressed. Akira has to let his feelings out to someone as The Confidant to feel better.
  • Odd Taxi: Tanaka had his life ruined by an unwitting Odokawa when the latter inadvertently caused him to drop and break his phone when he'd gotten an incredibly rare drop from a lootbox. As the straw that broke the camel's back on top of his already crappy life, Tanaka flips out and tries to kill Odokawa twice during the show with a gun he found by accident. Eventually, he realises he is this trope at some point before his final encounter with Odokawa, and states that even if he got his vengeance at this point it wouldn't solve anything or make him feel any better. So he holds Odokawa up at gunpoint and asks him to apologize.

    Comic Books 
  • In "Kitchen Irish" story line of The Punisher MAX, Yorkie Mitchell meets with Frank, bringing with him the son of a fellow soldier murdered by an Irish terrorist now hiding in New York. In the end, the kid kills his father's murderer, but states he doesn't feel any better for it.
    Andy Lorimer: I don't feel any different. Me dad's still dead and I don't feel the slightest bit different.
    • And, of course, Frank himself (Yorkie even responds to the above quote by asking Andy if he thinks Frank feels any different). The original murderers of his family are all long-dead, but that in no way stops him from killing ever more criminals without affecting his emotions.
  • In The Sandman (1989):
    • After escaping from imprisonment, avenging himself on his captors and regaining his kingdom and his tools, Morpheus goes to Central Park and mopes because he does not feel as satisfied as he thought he would. His older sister snaps him out of it.
    • Some time ago Desire swore to make Dream spill family blood as revenge for not letting them have Emperor Norton, but after Dream does give his own son a Mercy Kill Desire admits that they do not feel triumphant, but scared.
  • In Animal Man, after Buddy Baker brutally avenges the murder of his wife and children, he feels it was all for nothing, and decides instead to travel back in time and attempt to warn his family in advance.
  • Though the main character frequently takes pleasure in brutal revenge, this trope pops up in the Marvel comic version of Conan the Barbarian when Conan's ally Zula slays his former master. After Conan asks him how it felt, Zula responds that it simply felt hollow. Interestingly, Red Sonja also mentions this trope during this conversation when she says she was unable to slay the man who ravished her after he had been badly tortured.
  • Atrocitus in the Green Lantern universe runs into this problem when Krona, the Guardian responsible for reprogramming the Manhunters to wipe out all life in Atrocitus's sector, is killed. He's still left with his rage when it's all said and done.
  • The ending of The Night Gwen Stacy Died has the Green Goblin skewered by his own Goblin Glider. However, Spider-Man, who had swore revenge against the Goblin and vowed to kill him... didn't feel glad about it.
    Spider-Man: He's dead. Somehow... I thought it would mean more.
  • Red Robin's uneasy ally who goes by Promise is driven by her need for revenge against her brother's killer but she expects no catharsis from killing him she simply feels it is her duty to even though the thought of taking another's life displeases her.
  • Lady Shiva is a strange subversion of this trope. Though she became Lady Shiva to avenge the death of her sister, instead of lamenting the emptiness this life has brought her, she revels in it and embraces the meaninglessness of her violent actions.
  • Blacksad: Jezebel Karup sets up a years-long revenge scheme against her abusive father for leaving her mother to her death, even marrying him as part of the plan, then framing him as a child molester so the town will lynch him. However, in the process she ends up making her niece an orphan, nearly gets said niece killed as well, and at the end of the day none of it will ever bring her own mother back. As Blacksad confronts her over all the collateral damage she's caused, she seems to have a Heel Realization:
    I feel so... cold.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Jean convinced the X-Men against taking vengeance against the men in Weapon X.
  • Played with in Sin City: Marv acknowledges that killing the "helpless old fart" who had a woman who was kind to him killed will bring him no satisfaction...but everything leading up to the killing? That'll be a gas.
  • The Boys starts with Wee Hughie being drafted into The Boys after witnessing his girlfriend Robin get killed by A-Train of the Seven. Near the end of the series, Butcher gives Hughie the opportunity to kill A-Train in retribution for killing Robin, but after all is said and done, Hughie finds that offing A-Train doesn't make him feel better.
  • Mark Richards, the second Tattooed Man, was hit by this hard after joining Deathstroke's fake Titans group. Deathstroke promised to help Mark find Slipknot, the villain who killed his son, if Mark joined his team. Mark did so and on his first mission participated in the brutal execution of the completely innocent Ryan Choi (the fourth Atom). Several issues later, Deathstroke found Slipknot and Mark finally killed him. The act of vengeance did nothing to ease Mark's sense of loss, compounded by his murder of an innocent man to get Slipknot. He then returns home and finds out his neighborhood is living in a state of fear thanks to the gangs he left to watch over the place terrorizing the citizens. So Mark's quest for revenge gave him absolutely nothing and his life's now even more of a wreck than before.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction, Vivienne Graham doesn't get any satisfaction out of using her new Physical God form to kill Alan Jonah in revenge for everything he did to her and San. In Ghidorah's backstory before its Slowly Slipping Into Evil, it reacted similarly when it exterminated the alien beings who tortured it, albei mainly because their deaths didn't do anything to satiate the Terrible Ticking they'd implanted in Ghidorah's heads. The penultimate chapter however makes it clear that whilst killing a mad little worm like Jonah didn't bring Viv and San satisfaction, killing Ghidorah (who has caused them both so, so much pain over the story) will be a different matter.

  • A central theme of Child of the Storm; while a Roaring Rampage of Revenge feels good in the moment, at best, it leaves you empty. At worst, it leaves you stained - for one thing, as Sean Cassidy observes, it's addictive. Some people do need to be stopped, permanently, but doing it for revenge won't leave you any better off.
  • In the Harry Potter story Cruciamentum Eternus, Lucius takes revenge on the Death Eaters after Draco is killed. Afterward, it doesn't seem to do him very much good; he starts Drowning His Sorrows and appears empty and unfocused.
  • In the Gunslinger Girl fanfic Death in Scampia, Triela is assigned to kill a Camorra boss who ran the child trafficking ring that had her abducted, raped and tortured. She tries to feel some sense of justice, outrage or retribution, but because her memories of the past have been erased, and she's been conditioned to have no emotional attachment to the act of killing, Triela feels nothing at all when she shoots him.
  • In A Different Fight, After Darhk's attack causes Laurel's miscarriage, she furiously tells Oliver to kill him for it. After he does, they have this conversation:
    Laurel: I thought knowing he was dead would make me feel better...but it doesn't.
    Oliver: I learned a long time ago that revenge...doesn't help in the long run. The only thing that does help is time.
  • In The Fight we Chose, Tyuule, former Queen of the Warrior Bunnies whose kingdom was destroyed and its people enslaved spends a good portion of the story secretly plotting the downfall of the Saderean Empire responsible for herself and her people's suffering. One invasion of the US Armed Forces, one Morality Pet and a harrowing battle later, she watches the last remnants of the Empire including her personal tormentor, Emperor Zorzal being bombed to oblivion. Yet, she felt nothing; in fact she actually breaks down, bawling her eyes out at all the death and suffering laid out before her.
  • In How the Light Gets In, Dean tortures and murders Damian Darhk to avenge Laurel. Not only does he not feel better, but the ease with which he does it has him conclude that Darhk "was a pathetic weasel who would have been dead months ago if the team that was supposed to be watching [Laurel's] back hadn't been so wishy washy."
  • This is the trait of Maylu Sakurai from MegaMan NT Warrior story Maylu's Revenge. Her goal is to delete Roll for being Brainwashed and Crazy. She eventually pulls it off, but she only feels angrier about it. Maylu then moves on to destroy DenTech City when she learned that Roll's actions were driven by the politics of the city. When the city DOES gets destroyed, she will feels empty so she plans on killing anyone who lives in the city itself.
  • In My-HiME story Perfection Is Overrated, Natsuki and Nao reach this conclusion late in the fic. Natsuki, after learning that the Usurper-possessed Obsidian Lord has destroyed the First District, still believes that they deserved to die, but realizes that even if everyone related to her mother's death is dead, she won't come back and her triumph feels empty. Nao realizes that robbing perverts "was fun for a while, but (she) realized (she) was never getting anywhere." The two of them find a new purpose, however, in defeating the Obsidian Lord, the Usurper and the rest of the SUEs so that they can bring the conflict to an end.
  • A sidestory of Pokémon Reset Bloodlines starring Agatha's Gengar who was originally her younger brother Tony has him reflect that defeating the Gengar from Drowning Woods who killed him when he was a human and turned him into a Gastly did not give him any lasting satisfaction afterwards. He uses this trope to dissuade a pack of wild Growlithe and Arcanine who are about to attack a human town as revenge for being driven out of their home forest, instead offering to take them to a place where they can live in peace.
  • Quantity of Quirks: In the unnamed seventh oneshot, Izuku delivers a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Bakugo but admits afterward that he didn't feel any satisfaction from it.
  • Rivals Series: Played with. While Yuuri succeeds in his initial goal of ending Viktor's winning streak, his revenge is technically incomplete until he finally confronts Viktor, explains who he is and why he hates Viktor so much, and rubs it into the man's face. Unfortunately for Yuuri, something always keeps getting in the way, and then he starts sleeping with Viktor, complicating the situation even more. By the time Yuuri finally gets around to telling Viktor part of the truth, he can no longer find any pleasure in it because he's fallen in love with his enemy. All it really does is just reopen old wounds.
  • In the Arrow fic She is Listening, after Oliver kills Damien Darhk for murdering Laurel, he realizes that now he has no revenge to plan, no one to kill, and simply has to live knowing she's gone. Its even lampshaded by his hallucination of her.
    Laurel: I won't say I told you so, but you aren't feeling any better now, are you? (beat) I'm still dead.
  • A Theory of Butterflies and Other Insects:
    • Frustrated by how she hasn't been accepted by most of Wartwood, Sasha agrees to help the toads collect their dues. However, her initial glee at 'getting back at them' swiftly fades, replaced by a a growing sense of guilt as she sees just how miserable everyone is.
    • After nearly a month imprisoned in Toad Tower, Marcy makes a desperate escape attempt that causes several casualties amongst her captors. As Captain Grime coldly informs her of the cost, Marcy finds that she doesn't feel satisfied at all, despite all they'd done to her. She just feels numb.
  • Ace Attorney/My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic crossover video Turnabout Storm:
    • After a rather long time trying to break through their lies, Gilda Griffon breaks down, finally admitting that their spontaneous plan to try to take revenge on the defendant ended up with this.
    • Conversely, the revenge-driven prosecutor Trixie defies this, claiming the opposite after losing the case: that the temporary guilty verdict against Rainbow Dash made her feel on top of the world.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic/Dan Vs. crossover The Wheel and the Butterfly Saga, Dan The Patron Saint of Roaring Rampage of Revenge gets his vengeance on Pinkie for annoying him and ruining his car (in an attempt to do something nice for him), by burning her photo album in front of her. Pinkie's ensuing Heroic BSoD, results in Dan for the first time in possibly hundreds if not thousands revenge schemes, being hit by this trope.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, after Sunset kills the Great White Wolf for her, Applejack realizes that it hasn't made her feel better at all, and isn't going to bring her parents back.

  • Alita: Battle Angel: Ido tells Alita that he hunted down and killed the man who killed his daughter, but it didn't make him feel better.
  • Avengers: Endgame: Thor decapitates Thanos, but as the Time Skip shows, it didn't really make anything better for him. If anything, it might've made things worse for Thor, as he devolves into doing nothing but drinking beer and being a lazy slacker for five years over the realization that his revenge satisfied nothing and saved no one.
  • Batman Forever references this trope when Batman tries to persuade Dick Grayson not to pursue his revenge against Two-Face. Also toyed with in that Riddler convinces Two-Face that just shooting Batman would just leave him with "cold, wet hands; post-homicidal depression". Much better to find out his secret identity, ruin everything he cares about, utterly destroy him mentally, then kill him.
  • Boyz n the Hood: After avenging Ricky's death, it's clear from the look on Doughboy's face that the revenge did nothing to help his pain over Ricky dying.
  • This is indeed how Kenai reacted in Brother Bear after he killed the bear he blamed for Sitka's death. He only screams out loudly to the skies after doing the deed. When he learns the bear is really Koda's mother and that inadvertently leaving him orphaned, he is left with much guilt from it.
  • Cell 8 (Swedish crime thriller/Author Tract on capital punishment): One character is desperately waiting for the state to execute a prisoner on Death Row in vengeance for what the prisoner did, so that the character can finally move on. When that finally happens towards the end of the book, he's still not able to move on. and then the real killer reveals that the prisoner was innocent all along.
  • The original Conan The Barbarian film ends this way. Conan's quest for vengeance began as a child and consumed his whole life, and when it's finally done he has nothing. After the villain who slaughtered his village and parents is dead, and the villain's cult dispersed, Conan sits wearily on the stone steps of the cult's temple in long, bitter contemplation. His companions are gone, his lover killed, his father's sword broken, and the enemy who had provided his motivation in life is no more. This truth is foreshadowed and lampshaded at various points throughout the film, and it's clear that the audience is intended to be just as unsure if it was all worth it as the protagonist is.
  • In Death Sentence, this is how Det. Jessica Wallis thinks Nick Hume's revenge spree will end. She's right.
  • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): Mark Russell spends the first half of the movie (and the preceding five years) holding an unhealthy Animal Nemesis hatred of Godzilla, because his son was a casualty of Godzilla's battle against the MUTOs in the previous movie. When Godzilla is seemingly killed by the Oxygen Destroyer after he twice saved Mark and the Monarch brass from certain death (acts which the movie's novelization note caused Mark to begrudgingly find himself rooting for Godzilla), it's obvious that Mark isn't taking much if any joy in getting what he asked for, especially since Godzilla being taken out of the picture enables Ghidorah to reign unopposed and begin eradicating humanity.
  • Uttered by Hattori in Kill Bill in how it's easy to lose one's way for revenge. Granted The Bride has good reasons for it but not without certain consequences along the way. After getting her revenge she spends hours locked in a bathroom, crying pitifully. One can only guess what she would have done if she hadn't recovered her daughter in the course of the film.
  • Mused on in this inner monologue from Mean Girls.
    Cady: Calling somebody else fat won't make you any skinnier. Calling someone stupid doesn't make you any smarter. And ruining Regina George's life definitely didn't make me any happier. All you can do in life is try to solve the problem in front of you.
  • In Now You See Me 2, Thaddeus speculates that the Fifth Horseman was hit with this after completing his 30 year revenge plot in the first movie.
  • This is, rather explicitly, the entire point of Oldboy (2003), the second film in the Vengeance Trilogy. After destroying Dae-Su's life, Woo-Jin states he has nothing to live for now that he's had his revenge. He briefly feels joy over exacting his revenge, but moments later he returns to being an empty shell of a man, thinking back on his sister's suicide (which he witnessed and tried to stop)note . So after successfully completing his massive, 15 year Batman Gambit, cue Woo-Jin blowing his brains out in the elevator.
  • Said nearly word for word by Dave in Penguins of Madagascar. However his solution is more revenge.
  • In The Revenant, after a long and harrowing quest to avenge his son, Hugh Glass finally catches and defeats Fitzgerald in a bloody fight. But as he is about to land the killing blow, Fitzgerald smugly brings up this trope, asking if Hugh Glass really came all this way just to kill him and saying he hopes Glass enjoys his revenge, "because nothing's going to bring that boy back." Though this doesn't stop Glass from pushing Fitzgerald into the river to be killed by the Ree chief, it does lampshade the Pyrrhic Victory the film ends on.
  • Zig zagged in Sin City. Aware of his troublesome predicament, Cardinal Roark ask his tormentor, Marv, if killing him in a particularly long and gruesome manner will make him feel better. Marv replies by stating the act itself won't, but just seeing Roark wither in pain will.
    Roark: And now he's dead, and you're heare to... eliminate me. Will that give you satisfaction, my son? Killing a helpless, old fart?
    Marv: The killing no. Everything up until the killing... will be a gas.
  • Spectre: After the climatic Final Battle, Ernst Stavro Blofeld implores Bond to kill him on the spot. Instead, Bond has him arrested. It's implied 007 spared Blofeld because he knew that stooping to his Arch-Enemy's level wouldn't give him the closure he sought.
  • In the final scene of the The Sting Hooker, proving Gondorff right, feels this way after beating Lonnegan and remarks vengeance it's not enough. He still cracks a joke: "but it's close!"
  • Implied to have happened in the remake of True Grit.

  • At the end of Take A Thief, the person responsible for Bazie's (Skif's thief-mentor) death is killed by Skif. When Alberich asks, Skif says he's not happy, because "there weren't no justice" — the man got a quick death, and can't be hauled into court to answer for everything else he was behind.
  • The protagonist of Jack Vance's The Demon Princes trains since childhood to avenge his parents deaths and his Doomed Home Town, but after finally taking revenge on all of the titular princes, he realizes he no longer has any purpose in life, and is devastated.
  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Hereticus, after the death of the man who killed her father, Medea realizes that her desire for revenge was really displaced desire to have known her father. (She asks Eisenhorn to tell her about her father).
  • In The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Joe Kavalier escaped Czechoslovakia prior to US entry into World War II and spent two years cultivating his rage over the Nazi occupation of Prague, resettlement of his family, death of his father and finally, death of his beloved brother by German U-Boat. Hell-bent on revenge, Joe joins the navy in hopes of killing German soldiers. By way of Antarctica, he finally acheives his goal of murdering a German. However, the man was an innocent scientist and Joe's successful revenge made him feel like "the worst man in the world."
  • In Bloodhound, Beka speaks to the ghost of one of the people behind the counterfeit plot, who wanted to get back at the whole country because they ended his years of loyal military service for hitting one incompetent officer. He doesn't have any regret for the many victims, but he does say it feels rather hollow to look at it as a ghost.
  • During Dinoverse Janine's old bully has to ask a favor of her. Janine tells her she'll grant it, but Candayce can't say a word until permitted, and so Janine airs her grievances, reminding Candayce - who's been growing a conscience - of all the horrible petty things she's done to Janine. But it's not fun, it doesn't mean anything.
  • At the end of Space Viking, Lucas Trask finally catches up to Andray Dunnan, who he had been pursuing ever since Dunnan murdered his bride on their wedding day.
    It hadn't made the least difference. It had been like shooting a snake, or one of the nasty scorpion-things that infested the old buildings in Rivington. Just no more Andray Dunnan.
  • George Orwell's essay "Revenge Is Sour", published on 9 November 1945 in Tribune, discusses this trope in the context of World War II having just ended.
  • S: A Novel About The Balkans by Slavenka Drakulic. The protagonist has a recurring nightmare where she sees one of the men who raped her in a Bosnian prison camp. She stabs him, and as he dies she sees the look of incomprehension in his face and realises her revenge is meaningless because he has no idea why she's killed him.
  • In Persuasion, Captain Frederick Wentworth's heart is broken by Anne Elliot when her Parental Substitute persuades her to break their engagement on the grounds of his being a flighty naval officer with an uncertain future. He returns eight years later as the most eligible bachelor for miles around when chance has his brother-in-law rent out her cash-strapped family's house, while Anne is unhappy, unmarried, and without her youthful beauty. He makes numerous passive-aggressive remarks about firmness of character and flirts with the Musgrove sisters. But it soon begins to sour when he sees just how much her spirit has suffered since the engagement.
  • Frankenstein: The Creature sets out to destroy the life of his creator Victor Frankenstein after the latter destroys the female Creature he was building for him, fearing that their new race would replace humanity. When he murders Victor's wife, Victor starts to hunt the Creature to the literal ends of the Earth before dying from exposure in the Arctic. The Creature visits his Father after his death, but realizes that he has no more purpose in this world and chooses to commit suicide.
  • In Fire & Blood, after his beloved older brother Aemon, the eldest son of King Jaehaerys I, was killed by Myrish pirates occupying Tarth during efforts to drive them off, Prince Baelon Targaryen laid waste to their ships from the back of the dragon Vhagar, then massacred any surviving pirates who managed to make it ashore. He was hailed as a hero for his actions upon his return to King's Landing, but in private, Baelon broke down weeping in his mother, Queen Alysanne's arms, calling the victory irrelevant because it didn't bring Aemon back.
    Prince Baelon Targaryen: I slew a thousand of them, but it will not bring him back.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Ellaria Sand argues this against Doran Martell's plans for a cautious war, and the Sand Snakes' urging of open rebellion.
    Ellaria Sand: I saw your father die. Here is his killer. Can I take a skull to bed with me, to give me comfort in the night? Will it make me laugh, write me songs, care for me when I am old and sick?
  • In Shadow of the Conqueror, this is the problem faced by Ahrek after the apparent death of Dayless the Conqueror. His family was still dead, he couldn't let go of his hatred, and he didn't even have the satisfaction of doing it himself, leaving him to obsess over the man he hated for decades on end as his hatred slowly ate him alive from the inside out.
  • At the end of Wuthering Heights, after almost twenty years of seeking revenge on the Lonton and Earnshaw families, Heathcliff finds he can't bring himself to separate the newly-in-love Hareton Earnshaw and Cathy Linton, which would have been his ultimate revenge. Hareton reminds him too much of his own younger self (a case of Gone Horribly Right, since Heathcliff purposefully set out to mold the boy into a Generation Xerox of himself), as well as of his aunt, Heathcliff's Lost Lenore Cathy Earnshaw, whom he strikingly resembles. The latter problem also applies to the younger Cathy, who has her mother's eyes. Ultimately, Heathcliff realizes that all he truly wants is to be Together in Death with Cathy, which no revenge can bring him.
  • Played with in The Elenium. Krager is partly responsible for the murder of Khalad's father Kurik (the actual murderer having been killed long ago), and Khalad has vowed to kill him. However, Krager is dying of liver failure as a result of long-term alcoholism and wouldn't even notice a sword being stuck into him. Vengeance would mean nothing. Khalad, being a practical sort, accepts this...but resolves to hunt Krager down and kill him anyway, because the slippery weasel has escaped too many times and It's the Only Way to Be Sure.
  • Ghostweight, a short sci-fi story by Yoon Ha Lee. A woman carries out a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the mercenary fleet that destroyed her people by stealing one of their Lost Technology spacecraft. Eventually the mercenaries track her down, and make it clear they'll keep coming after her no matter what...because they want to hire her services.
  • Played With in The Reckoners Trilogy: David Charleston has dedicated his life to killing the supervillain Steelheart for the murder of his father; at the end of the first book he succeeds. When asked about this trope in the sequel, he averts it by saying that killing Steelheart felt incredibly satisfying. However, it did leave him to run into a different trope as he was left figuring out what to do with his life now.
  • Zigzagged in The Count of Monte Cristo. The Count initially takes a grim satisfaction in getting revenge on the men who wronged him, but when things go too far he wonders My God, What Have I Done?. The Count's punishment of the final man and the main instigator of the plot against him is done as much to force the man to give back the money he embezzled from the Parisian hospitals as it is to get revenge. In the end, he lets the final man go with all the money he earned honestly.

    Live Action TV 
  • Jax spends nearly all of season 7 of Sons of Anarchy violently avenging the murder of his wife, Tara. However, when he finds out that his own mother was the actual murderer, he is overwrought realizing how much unwarranted violence he has committed against gangs that up til then had been uneasy allies, how much potential revenge he has instigated, and how many of his own men have died for a lie. He is distraught knowing that club rules say he has to kill his mother because she caused club blood to be shed and his loyalty to his club conflicts with his loyalty to his biological family. Ultimately, he kills Gemma and then commits suicide by intentionally riding into oncoming traffic.
  • Supernatural: Something that Dean Winchester has come to grips on. All a person feels is nothing but emptiness and points out how meaningless the quest for vengeance can be. In fact the series brutally deconstructs just how dangerous the Roaring Rampage of Revenge trope could be.
  • The story of Daedalus as told in The Storyteller has this message. After causing the deaths of his son and nephew, Daedalus tried to live a good life, but that was sabotaged by King Minos. Daedalus later takes a terrible revenge on Minos, but in doing so, realizes he's destroyed any chance of happiness/being a good person, and is totally emotionally broken.
  • In Lost: Sawyer spent most his adult life tracking down the con man who killed his father. When he finally finds him, he guns the man down in cold blood. Afterwards, though, he still feels empty.
  • It happens to Regina in Once Upon a Time, because after what she went through, she wants a revenge which continues whatever happens.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Even though Robert Baratheon killed the man who captured his beloved Lyanna in single combat, he seems to be unable to be satisfied with it - Lyanna died too and nothing can make up for that. He mentions in his dreams that "he kills him every night" but still finds no peace, which betrays the emptiness he feels even with having revenge.
    • In the penultimate episode, Sandor warns Arya that living your whole life seeking revenge on those who wronged you isn't worth it, and tells her not to throw away her life as he knowingly walks to his death to fight his brother Gregor amidst the collapsing Red Keep.
  • The 100
    • "Resurrection" has Clarke wanting payback on the Mountain Men for their attack on TonDC, but when she kills one of them, Lexa asks if that made her feel better. All she says is, "No."
    • Octavia spends most of Season 4 dealing with this, after getting no satisfaction from killing Pike.
  • Phil Coulson from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after he kills Grant Ward on the alien planet. Of course, it doesn't help that Ward returns to Earth as the Inhuman villain Hive.
  • After Wynonna Earp kills the last of the seven revenants who killed her father and sister, she finds that she doesn't feel any better for it.
    Doc Holliday: In my experience, sometimes when you let the hate out, there's nothing left.
  • In the Malcolm in the Middle episode where Malcolm and Resse engage in a series of ever-escalating pranks that culminated with them playing chicken with go-carts. After bringing them home from the hospital, Hal tells Malcolm to cancel his plans for his birthday because he's grounded, when Malcolm blames Reese for getting him grounded, Reese says that he was grounded on his birthday as well. Before they get into another fight, Lois asks them if they remember ever having a birthday party, only for them to realize that they never had a birthday party because they were grounded that day. Lois then tells them that it's because of their petty fighting, and obsession with revenge that has resulted in them not having a happy memory they can think back on.
  • Nicole Franzelli, the protagonist of No Good Nick, eventually comes to realize this: Her vengeful scheming against the Thompson family for putting her father's restaurant out of business didn't make her feel better or help bring back the normal life she'd hoped for. It only made her feel worse as she hurt people that she'd come to care about. At the end of Part 2, she sets aside her animosity towards them.
  • The Outpost: Talon spent most of her life hunting down the people who wiped out her tribe and eventually succeeds, but as she admits to Garrett near the end of Season 2 when trying to warn him off of starting his own Roaring Rampage of Revenge, it didn't make her feel any better. Later, after taking his own vengeance, Garrett admits that she was right.
  • In Stargirl (2020), Jordan Mahkent (AKA Icicle) has finally completed his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against everyone responsible for his wife's illness and death. He then admits to his employee Barbara (without revealing any details) that he feels no satisfaction over the completion of this "project". And even the imminent completion of his long-term Project New America doesn't feel as great as he'd hoped it would. He admits that it may have something to do with him being forced to skip on spending time with his family to get this work done.
  • One episode of Criminal Minds features a pair of women who had lost loved ones (daughter and nephew, respectively) to criminals who then got off with light sentences. The women team up to kill the people responsible, then continue when they find out the daughter's murderer actually had two uncharged accomplices. When all is said and done, four people are dead, one innocent victim is hospitalized, and the two women flee to Mexico. The first woman bemoans that it wasn't worth it because the revenge didn't give her the closure she was hoping for, while the other flatly states that for her, it wasn't about closure, it was revenge for the sake of revenge, but even she doesn't actually seem satisfied.
  • In My Name Is Earl, during the Prison Arc, Earl attempted to help "John the Artist," a fellow inmate, reconcile with his parents. It didn't go so well, because John is a spoiled brat Manchild. Earl agreed to use the last of his lotto winnings to throw a prom for the prison, seeing as how John missed his high school prom (thanks to being too stoned to go), in exchange for John apologizing to his parents (for burning down their house with his meth lab), so that Earl could make the warden look good in front of the governor and get some time off his sentence. When after all that, John doesn't hold up his end of the bargain, Earl torches John's cell (and all his paintings and art supplies) in a fit of rage. He says he wasn't proud of what he'd done, and was expecting some kind of retaliation. It turned out to be the kick in the pants John needed to see that he'd been a spoiled brat.
  • Loki (2021): Sylvie's life goal is to put a blade into whoever has been running the TVA and forcing her into a life on the run since she was a little girl. Yet when she does, she simply cries having had to betray the first and only person she ever loved to get it and the death itself not bringing a satisfactory conclusion.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the murder of her girlfriend Tara sets Willow off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against those responsible for her death. It's demonstrably obvious to all concerned that flaying Warren brings her no catharsis whatsoever ("Bored now."), and the rest of the Scooby Gang try to prevent her killing Andrew and Jonathan as well because they know it won't help.

  • In the Adventures in Odyssey episode "Waylaid in the Windy City, Part 2" Wit gives a speech to Richard Maxwell about the futility of revenge, focusing on how how pursuing revenge will harm Richard. Keep in mind that this is while Richard has the man who ruined his life at gunpoint.
    Don't you understand that when you go out for revenge, you've got to dig two graves! One for the person you're after and one for yourself! Richard, there's no such thing as revenge, not really. It never replaces what you lost. It never restores. It doesn't even satisfy. You're out of the detention center now. You've got you're whole life ahead of you! Now please, give me the gun!

    Video Games 
  • EXTRAPOWER: Giant Fist: Big Bad Zet's realization after being beaten up in his boss fight and freeing his mind. The decades that he has spent fostering his cult to lure in victims, performing on them the same experiments that humans performed on him, have been in waste. Especially after he sees the granddaughter of his brief lover before him.
  • The Trope Namer is Grand Theft Auto IV. In the game's final act, Niko finally tracks down the man who betrayed his squad a decade ago, only to find that he's a broken, pathetic mess. The man even admits that he sold his comrades out for drug money and has felt gulity for it ever since, and even begs for death. The game then gives the player the option to either kill him or leave him to suffer; choosing the former results in the Trope Namer conversation, whereas sparing him leaves Niko feeling like he can finally move on.
    • Strangely, the game averts this shortly afterwards, giving the player the choice of either taking revenge on Dimitri Rascalov or forgiving him for the sake of a deal. The former leaves Niko feeling better, while the latter leaves him angry with himself. Of course, the situations are quite different - while the traitor is a harmless, suicidal junkie who has long since paid for his crimes, Dimitri is a dangerous, backstabbing lunatic who has been trying to kill Niko for the whole game.
  • 9 Monkeys of Shaolin have you going on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the marauders who killed your gradnfather who raised you. You fight the perpetrator who is the second boss, but besides finding out said killer is a woman, you also realize she's fighting to restore her father's honor and is merely a slave to the Greater-Scope Villain.
    "She was only human. She committed all these murders because she was unable to accept her father's death. I feel better because I was able to discard my hate towards her, and feel sorry that she is dead."
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, Carth obsessively focuses on destroying his former mentor, Saul Karath, after Karath defects to the Empire, glasses his home planet, and kills his wife. After Carth and the player kill Karath, Carth admits that it didn't bring him the peace he thought it would.
  • If the Exile in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords kills the Jedi Masters as revenge for what they did to them Kreia will ask what it has brought them. The general tone of the Exile's possible responses indicating that their actions have brought them no sense of peace or fulfillment.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, the Sith Inquisitor finds space pirate Andronikos Revel in the process of tracking down and murdering his mutinous crew. At several times during the story, he misses out on the chance to personally kill his betrayers, and is visibly distraught about this.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In Mass Effect 2, it is possible to convince Garrus of this through Paragon dialogue during his loyalty mission.
    • Also in 2, Thane Krios gives a good explanation for why this trope is true: even if the target of your revenge deserves it, taking evil out of the world is not the same as doing good. While Thane did manage to hunt down the batarian slavers who ordered his wife's death, it left him estranged from his son Kolyat, who basically had to live with losing both his parents instead of just one. This led him to want to emulate his father, which is the last thing Thane would want.
      Thane: Kolyat, I've taken many bad things out of the galaxy. You're the only good thing I ever added to it.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Javik the last Prothean and the self-proclaimed avatar of vengeance can be pushed either towards this realization (in which case he despairs and plans to commit suicide after the war) or away from it (letting him start enjoying his life again).
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain: Miller falls into this after the death of Skull Face, having spent the entirety of the game in pursuit of revenge. While he's glad Skull Face is dead, it doesn't bring back the comrades or limbs he's lost, and becomes bitter at the realization that nothing will ever bring them back.
    • In a more meta example, Kojima confirms that this is why Skull Face is a Non-Action Big Bad and The Unfought who is unceremoniously killed off in a cutscene. By depriving the player of the opportunity to personally hurt and kill Skull Face, he wanted to point out that when accomplished, vengeance leaves an empty feeling.
  • The fugitive ex-slave Fenris experiences this in Dragon Age II. It's kill-or-be-killed (or worse, returned to slavery), but neither killing his master's apprentice nor his master brings him any satisfaction, despite the years of abuse they put him through. As an amnesiac whose few memories are still of slavery, he has no idea what do once he doesn't have to run and fight any longer.
  • Maiev Shadowsong of Warcraft III's expansion pack The Frozen Throne and World of Warcraft; she pursued Illidan Stormrage for a long time, and realised this after she (along with a large set of adventurers) killed Illidan.
  • Present to an extent in the Max Payne series. At the end of the first game, Max has completed his Roaring Rampage of Revenge and seems to have achieved a measure of inner peace and satisfaction. By the time of the second game, however, he's wracked with shame and Survivor Guilt, wishing he'd been punished for the events of the first game, and by the third, has become bitterly resigned to the fate it brought him.
  • In Borderlands 2 you can do a sidequest for Sir Hammerlock where he asks you to kill the thresher which tore off his arm. After you do it, he realises that he doesn't feel any better but still considers it a job well done.
    • Defied by Maya in the Son of Crawmerax DLC, where she declares that revenge is incredibly satisfying.
      "Someone once said, he who sets out on revenge should dig two graves. That's a stupid-ass quote, revenge is awesome."
  • In Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the protagonist of the second generation Seliph feels this way after killing Emperor Arvis, who murdered the former's father. The secret event between Seliph and the ghosts of his parents has the latter lecturing the former about this trope.
  • Likewise, in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade: Lyn's entire motive for going out with the Tactician at the beginning of the game is to train and grow stronger so she can come back and kill all the Taliver Bandits for butchering her family and tribe. In her A-Support with Wallace, she's anything but pleased that he robbed her at her chance of revenge, until Wallace explains that he did it because he wanted Lyn to let go of her hatred and move on, and not disgrace her parents' names by letting her hate and thirst for vengeance consume her.
    Wallace: If you truly wished revenge upon them, you should be happy. Hatred can be strength. On the plains, you needed that strength to survive. But left too long, hatred can twist and consume you. [...] The blood of your parents flows in your veins. That you live must bring them no end of joy. But for you to be filled with such hate... Is this what your parents would have wished for?
  • Fatal Fury 2: Invoked by Terry, at the conclusion of his rematch with Wulfgang Krauser, when he tells Tony that fighting for revenge leaves only emptiness.
  • Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, after Trip kills Well-Intentioned Extremist Pyramid she obviously doesn't feel any satisfaction, and asks Monkey if she did the right thing.
  • In Starcraft II, Kerrigan is repeatedly warned by various people that her desire for vengeance is empty and won't make her feel any better. In an odd Double Subversion, she is instantly and noticeably happier immediately after killing Mengsk, but it's clearly for completely different reasons.
  • Defied in Watch_Dogs. Aiden realizes that this is usually where people say they just feel empty, but he feels "awake" when he kills Lucky Quinn. Played with as while Aiden says this, he's also destroyed his life by forcing his family into hiding away from him as well as making himself a fugitive.
  • From the original NieR, after Yonah's captured there's a side quest 5 years later into the game that Nier has to destroy many robots for a desperate kid, Weiss puts it perfectly:
    Grimoire Weiss: Revenge is a fool's errand
    Nier: ...I know
  • Played with in No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, by inflicting it on the player. The entire game is about a pointless cycle of vengeance, with Travis seeking revenge against the man who killed his best (well, only) friend, when Travis himself killed that man's father and brothers. The last boss starts out as the Best Boss Ever, but his second form is just blatantly unfair, combining Teleport Spam with not knowing when to die and sometimes just throwing you to your death. After that, his final form is a giant Anticlimax Boss who, despite being the size of a parade balloon, turns out to be about as threatening. Knowing Suda51, this was intentional.
  • Cait in Fallout 4 was physically and verbally abused by her parents, who sold her into slavery when she turned eighteen. Five years later, she managed to steal enough caps to buy her way to freedom, then came home and killed them. Rather than making anything better, it just left her with memories that she sought to forget via her drinking, drug use, and a life of violence.
  • Sagat from Street Fighter came to the realization that to seek vengeance is not honorable and would not revoke the act that Ryu inflicted on him (giving him the scar on his chest) when he met Dan Hibiki, who wanted his own vengeance for Sagat's transgression against his father. To this end, he lets Dan defeat him so he can find closure and live for something more than revenge, much the same that Sagat felt that he needed to end his grudge against Ryu.
  • God of War: After spending most of the series in a state of Revenge Before Reason, Kratos has come to this realization as of the 2018 game, warning his enemies that revenge will not bring them peace. He even says this after to Baldur as he's about to attack his mother in retribution for the spell she casted over him. Sadly for Kratos, the message he's sending sails right over the heads of anyone who hears it.
  • The Devil of Caroc in Pillars of Eternity. She's hunting down one of the men who murdered her family during the purges, and can either kill him or spare him, depending on the Watcher's advice. Subverted. She finds peace only when her target is dead; it's sparing him that makes her feel empty.
  • Octopath Traveler has two instances of this.
    • The first is Erhardt. He blamed the king of Hornburg for the fall of his village through inaction, so he dedicated his life to regicide. He focused his entire lifestyle getting to the point where he was the king's personal bodyguard, and when he finally does the deed, he realizes that he threw away a satisfying and fulfilling life for the sake of a vengeance that didn't even satisfy his anger.
    • The second is Primrose, the dancer. When she finally confronts the head of the group that killed her father, he asks "Is this what your father would want?" While it doesn't stay her hand, she realizes after the fact that she still feels the "hollow pain in [her] heart" that drove her to seek vengeance in the first place.
  • This leads to the ending "Mistakes Repeated" in Blank Dream. In one of the realms in the game, the Realm of Blood, Mishiro will enter a mirror to revisit a memory of when she lashed out at a bully and cut her hand. Instead of completing her objective in the mirror, however, you can choose to linger in this memory and hunt down and murder every single one of the bullies in revenge for their relentless bullying and what Mishiro lashing out meant for her home life. This trope and Ax-Crazy then lead to Mishiro being Driven to Madness.
  • This is what Leo feels about killing Vincent for his deception as an undercover cop in A Way Out. He doesn't gloat or tell him off, only watching him die in silence. While he tries to comfort himself with being there for his own wife and son, and moves them presumably out of state to start fresh, it is clear that killing Vincent did not bring him any satisfaction at all.
  • In Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, Silas Greaves spent his entire life as a bounty hunter in pursuit of the bandit who killed his brothers and by the time of the game he's already killed far more than Roscoe "Bob" Bryant has ever had. The ending has him reveal that he knows full well that the bartender that's been listening to his story is Bob Bryant himself, and if he chooses to finish his vengeance he realizes that he's let violence consume his life.
  • Destiny 2: At the end of the “Forsaken” storyline, the Young Wolf finally kills Uldren Sov and avenges Cayde-6, but it’s clear that doing so didn’t make them feel any better; Cayde’s still dead, and all that their vengeance has really accomplished is wrecking relations with the Reef and deeply straining their friendship with Ghost. They don’t even get much congratulations for it; most allies they talk to afterwards are disturbed and saddened by their Roaring Rampage of Revenge, not proud. There’s no celebration or big reward. They just quietly go back to being Guardians, only now Cayde isn’t there anymore. And on top of all that, Uldren’s body is found by a ghost and resurrected as a Guardian, rendering the victory almost totally moot.
    Ikora: I knew Uldren's death wouldn't make me feel "better," but I thought it would make me feel...something...
  • In Pit People, Pipistrella doesn't feel any satisfaction after getting revenge on the ones who caused her father's death. The Narrator Honey Kiss finds Pip's Thousand-Yard Stare depressing and tries lifting the corners of her mouth to "turn that frown upside down" (much to Horatio's displeasure).
  • Red Dead Redemption II: Arthur Morgan is a firm believer of this. He considers it a game for imbeciles and constantly tells people that. He only takes revenge once, and that's on Colm O'Driscoll for torturing him and killing Kieran Duffy, and even then he quickly moves on and states that it doesn't make the gang's current problems any easier. At the end of the game, John, Sadie and Charles take vengeance on Micah Bell and are very clearly satisfied by it... but in doing so they end up exposing John's location to Edgar Ross, kicking off all the horrible events in the first game that culminate in the Marston family and what little remains of the gang both being all but wiped out, proving Arthur's point about revenge being a sucker's game.
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey: At the end of one quest, the Eagle Bearer is offered a chance to kill the former Oracle of Delphi, who was coerced into giving a prophecy requiring the Bearer's sibling to be thrown off a cliff. They can refuse to take the opportunity for this reason.
  • Legacy of Kain: In Soul Reaver, Raziel is executed by Kain in a seeming fit of petty jealousy, but is resurrected as a wraith by the Elder God, who puts him on the path to avenging his death. Come Defiance, he finally gets the revenge he wanted so badly, defeating Kain in combat and even ripping out his heart before banishing him into a dimensional rift. But at this point, he knows too much of Kain's true motivations, the actions of Moebius, and the Elder God using him, so he ends up feeling he just made things worse.
    Raziel: Kain was gone. The madness of this place had somehow fueled my rage, and as it subsided I felt no elation, no sense of victory. Only a calm certainty that we had once again walked blindly into our enemies' trap. I couldn't be sure whether Kain had truly intended to destroy me - and now it appeared I would never know.
  • Tales of Berseria: During a side quest where Laphicet helps a sick friend, Velvet gives him advice about moving on should he fail and not having his friend's death hang over him. After Laphicet walks off, Rokurou asks if that applies to Velvet's quest for revenge. Velvet gives out the frustrated response that she knows her quest is pointless but it's either that or giving in to the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Subverted in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth 2, Simon Keyes states that after revenge, everything becomes numb and you feel nothing. But to him, this is a good thing, because his entire life has really sucked and now all of his pain has gone away.
  • Downplayed in Tekken 7 where Kazuya has finally succeeded in killing his father Heihachi for all the misery he suffered at Heihachi's hands. As he drops Heihachi's corpse into the same volcano he was tossed into as a child, Kazuya doesn't smile or show a hint of satisfaction, only quoting the same words Heihachi said before the start of their final battle: "A fight is about who's left standing. Nothing else."
  • This trope is central to the plot of The Last of Us Part II. Abby learns this at the beginning of the game; Ellie at the end.
  • By the end of Tomb Raider: Underworld and after a harrowing Enemy Mine moment, Lara Croft and Amanda Everet finally come to this conclusion concerning their hatred of each other.
    Lara: So it's back to this, is it?
    Amanda: What, You think we're even?
    Amanda: ...*silently leaves*
  • The end of Claire Russell's sidequest in Cyberpunk 2077, if she kills Peter Sampson. It turns out that she was lying about the circumstances of Dean's death (Peter Sampson did kill him, but it wasn't intentional) and used V all along just to be able to commit murder and get away with it. Afterwards, she doesn't feel any better and gives V her truck and quits racing forever.
  • In Ghost of Tsushima, after confronting her sister Hana who orchestrated the deaths of her family and clan and caused them to commit seppuku, Masako reflects that she still cannot move on, as the revelation that her sister plotted against her and her family for years over a deep-seated hatred that Masako never knew about gives her no solace. All her attempts to properly mourn her family are now consumed with thoughts of Hana's bitterness and resentment and Masako truly has nothing left.
  • League of Legends has a funny subversion of this with Akshan, the Rogue Sentinel who absconds his Sentinel duties to hunt down and claim vengeance on the evildoers that killed his master. Normally, this would be presented as a cautionary tale, except he wields a legendary Sentinel weapon called "The Absolver" that has the power to bring murder victims back to life by killing their murderers, so in a way, his vengeance is weirdly justifiable.
    Akshan: Killing this person won't bring my friend back... Actually, it will! Let's go do that.
  • In Persona 5 Strikers, when defeated, Monarch Alice Hiiragi will admit that when she first used EMMA's Jail function, she exacted revenge on the school bully who made her life miserable at school and who had also leaked Alice's school record to destroy her upstart career by stealing the hearts of the bully's boyfriends and friends. But deep down, Alice still felt unhappy and unsatisfied, causing her to take her revenge on every woman in Shibuya to break up or split up any couples, partly because Alice was envious of their happiness and partly to show the bully who was the more popular one.
  • In the ending of Steel Assault, Taro Takahashi has just defeated General Magnus Pierce, the man responsible for the death of his parents. When Taro's superior points out that he finally got his vengeance, he remarks that he doesn't feel like he got much of anything. As it happens, Pierce still had followers at large trying to take over the United States, so Taro gladly continues the war with a battleship he had just nicked.

    Web Comics 
  • Inverted in 6 Gun Mage: The revenge lynching wasn't the empty part. In fact, it was quite satisfying. The problem was that it left the pursuer thirsty for that same high of hunting his prey for over twenty years and catching it, and the lack of satisfying targets has left him an empty wreck.

    Western Animation 
  • This is a recurring sentiment held by many characters (especially antagonists) in Greg Weisman's works; Flint Marko (the Sandman) in The Spectacular Spider-Man and Lex Luthor in Young Justice share Xanatos' philosophy on the matter. Those that pursue revenge on others are generally worse off for it in the long run, as all they end up doing is perpetuate a Cycle of Revenge.
  • In the beginning of the sixth season of Adventure Time, Finn swears to take vengeance on his father for abandoning him and running off with a gang of escaped criminals, costing Finn an arm. Ultimately, Princess Bubblegum tricks him into thinking he’s doing that, but soon feels awful when his ‘father’ is noticeably hurting, while it’s actually a simulator she had constructed, to demonstrate this trope to him.
  • Katara from Avatar: The Last Airbender is typically the Team Mom and voice of reason, but when she gets a lead on the man that killed her mother, nothing stands in her way. She finally tracks him down only to find out he's a miserable old man, long LONG past his prime, essentially a pathetic, retired has-been who lives with his overbearing mother. She comes to the realization of this trope when her ice-daggers are inches from his throat. He offers her the chance to kill HIS mother, because that would be fair, right?
  • In the Fantastic Four episode "Behold, A Distant Star", Susan and Johnny's long-lost father Franklin Storm was killed by a Skrull plot. They both want to avenge him by attacking the Skrulls (or to kill the Skrull responsible). By the end of the episode, after the Skrull Emperor gives the team a pardon for saving his daughter from a crossfire between Skrull groups, they asked for the one who killed Franklin. The Emperor sadly points to Morrat, his daughter's lover, who tried to overthrow the Emperor. The team leaves for home, feeling much worse.
  • David Xanatos from Gargoyles acknowledges this trope by making his stance clear that "revenge is a sucker's game". He doesn't get bogged down by petty things like losing a fight, because even that tends to further at least one of his other goals in some way. The only time when he did (albeit reluctantly) try to take revenge on anyone, he got Out-Gambitted.
  • Defied For Laughs in the Gravity Falls episode "Irrational Treasure". Dipper and Mabel find out Pacifica's familial prestige is a huge lie, giving them an opportunity to get back at her for making fun of Mabel. Mabel decides against it, but Dipper happily goes ahead anyway.
    Dipper: Man, revenge is underrated. That felt awesome!
  • In the first episode of Primal (2019), caveman protagonist Spear's family are brutally killed and eaten by a group of theropod dinosaurs. Not long after, he encounters Fang, who is a similar species of dinosaur to those that killed his family and he's about to try exacting proxy revenge on her when the carnivores that really were responsible show up to attack Fang. Spear and Fang team up and kill all the theropods. Once they've won, though, Spear falls to the ground—he's avenged his family, but they're still dead and killing their killers is only a hollow victory.
  • Subverted in "Bartman Begins", a segment of a revenge-based anthology episode of The Simpsons. After Bart, in his guise as Bartman, has killed the man who murdered his parents, a reporter (Lisa) asks him if it was worth it.
    Bart: Well, I do feel a little better, and I got billions of dollars and no parents to tell me what to do!
  • In Steven Universe Blue Diamond comments that she doesn't feel that there's any point to making the Crystal Gems suffer, since it doesn't give her any closure and just makes her miss Pink Diamond more. Yellow Diamond doesn't admit the same, but noticeably she finds no more satisfaction in making the Crystal Gems suffer than Blue and can only lament her own failings that led to Pink's apparent death even during the fight.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012): Expressed in "Vengeance is Mine". Karai has turned against Shredder upon learning that Master Splinter is indeed her real father. After the turtles rescue her, she asks to know what really happened. Splinter tells the story of the long blood-feud between the Foot Clan and the Hamato Clan. Oruku Saki was the only survivor as he was an infant and raised alongside Hamato Yoshi (Splinter) as brothers. However, their rivalry turned bitter when Tang Shen entered the picture. She chose Yoshi and when Saki found his true lineage, he rebuilt the Foot Clan and his bitter duel with Yoshi led to Tang's death and Saki, now Shredder, adopting Miwa and naming her Karai (believing Yoshi to be dead.) When Karai expressed why Splinter never took vengeance, he notes the pain that it would cause. Unfortunately, Karai still attempts vengeance which Shredder anticipated, using her as bait to lure Splinter and the turtles, the plan being to mutate the turtles into monsters. Instead, Karai is mutated herself and becomes a feral snake mutant, leaving both parties utterly depressed. She does eventually regain her mind.