- The Zuko vs Azula fight at the end of Avatar: The Last Airbender Season 3 would count as this. Azula is clearly losing her mind, and the fight. It's hard not to feel bad for her all of a sudden, over the course of the last couple episodes, especially since even as he makes the challenge Zuko still thinks that if she were sane he wouldn't be able to fight her.
- In the same episode, after Ozai unlocks Aang's Avatar State, he manages to dodge Avatar State Aang's Sphere of Power for several minutes, even managing to get a few attacks off. Still doesn't work.
- There's Zuko's attempts at defeating Aang in the first season despite getting curbstomped every time they meet. This along with Zuko's woobie status can easily drive a viewer to root for him simply out of sympathy.
- Lesser villains get their share of valorous moments, as well. For example, the thoroughly unpleasant prison warden from "The Boiling Rock" declares that he would rather jump into the boiling lake surrounding his prison than let a single prisoner escape. When he's taken hostage he proves his boast true when he orders his men to drop the gondola they're riding into the lake, even though he would die as well.
- For everything said about Sid the Squid in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Man Who Killed Batman", including being a Harmless Villain, Bumbling Sidekick, and he was set up to be a fall guy, he did try to take on Batman.
- Castlevania (2017): In the Season 2 finale, Isaac the Forgemaster is all too ready to sacrifice himself for Dracula, not out of fear or fanaticism but genuine loyalty and friendship.
- In Gargoyles, Owen seems to just be Xanatos' butler for the first several episodes; however, when he catches the gargoyles trying to take the Grimorum Arcanorum and they challenge him to stop them, he calmly takes off his glasses, holds up his fists and fights them for it. He doesn't win, of course, but it's the show's first hint that Xanatos keeps him around for more than paperwork and dry humor.
- Xanatos too. In a scene where he is sparring with Owen, Owen manages to hand Xanatos one of his few, if only, confirmed 100% defeats (given which trope he lends his name to, Xanatos doesn't really lose often). When Xanatos points this out, Owen offers to pretend to lose. Xanatos immediately refuses the offer, telling Owen he's fired if he ever did that.
- In Justice League Unlimited, the Villain Episode "Task Force X" followed a band of Badass Normal Boxed Crooks employed by Well-Intentioned Extremist Government Conspiracy Cadmus to infiltrate the Watchtower and steal a magical artifact from inside. The episode goes to great lengths to show how the normal humans are awed by the Metahuman leaguers and how they (in their own worlds) "feel like they're infiltrating Mount Olympus". The episode commentary has the writers going into detail on how and when they were invoking this trope.
- It could be argued that it's deconstructed: Everyone in the team is The Sociopath and they really can't care for each other. Everything they do, is egoist, not heroic in a sense of helping others. The mission plan developed by Clock King counts on this: as long as everyone looks for himself, and only for himself, the plan will work and everyone will be safe (the heroes aren't going to kill them, after all). Unfortunately, field commander Rick Flagg, Jr. is not a Boxed Crook nor a sociopath, he's a normal person who believes My Country, Right or Wrong. So he insists on extending the plan because he believes in getting his team out alive. This causes the disfigurement, or death, of one member of the squad. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, indeed!
- Though that only happens because said member insisted on using their last explosive to kill a League member instead of escaping - and of course the most dickish member of Task Force X shooting the explosive the former had on her, as the rest of the group teleports away. Less to do with Flagg being the "good guy" (relatively speaking) of group, and more to do with the inherent toxicity and destructiveness of having a group of sociopaths in a team together performing dangerous missions.
- It's perhaps telling that once the mission is over, the first thing Flagg does in debriefing is to slug said dickish team member right in the gut, unable to hold his contempt back any longer.
- The Legend of Korra, Avatar's sequel, has some valiant villains as well.
- Season 1 has the Equalists, nonbenders who regularly get into fights with not only benders, but the Avatar herself — who has mastered three elements at the series start — and hold their own. Two of them have an all out fight against Korra (said Avatar) and Mako (a firebender of formidable skill) and manage to match them for a bit, though they're eventually forced to retreat.
- Season 3 has Zaheer. Before gaining airbending from Harmonic Convergence, he was a skilled martial artist, nonbender, and member of the Red Lotus who managed to gain the trust of three powerful benders (winning the heart of one of them.) and led them on an ill-fated mission to capture Korra when she was younger. After gaining airbending, he immediately and singlehandedly breaks his cabal out of their prisons to finish what they started. He is always seen on the front lines with his gang and even provides cover when their plan to capture Korra in Zaofu goes awry. Even during his final confrontation with Korra, who is in the Avatar State and in an Unstoppable Rage mode that makes Aang's worst look mild, Zaheer doesn't back down and continues his attempts to kill her, nearly succeeding had it not been for the intervention of Jinora and the Airbenders. Zaheer is many things, but coward is not one of them.
- Season 4 has Kuvira, who commands the entire Earth Kingdom (renamed the Earth Empire) but seems to think little of going alone into battle with a half-dozen opponents. At one point she goes one-on-one against Korra for control of Zaofu, and announces to her troops that she wouldn't send any of them into a battle she wasn't prepared to take on as well. She absolutely refuses to give up, even in the very rare times where it's clear that she's outmatched. At worst, she makes strategic retreats or a fallback plan, but never outright surrenders until Korra makes her go through a Heel Realization.Korra: Kuvira! Give up!
Kuvira: (Quietly) Never.
- The treacherous Commander from Sym-Bionic Titan. Yes he betrayed Galaluna, but he could have fought and killed Lance easily with his Power Armor or let the Mutrati tear him apart, instead he opts to fight him in a fair sword fight. Granted he was considered much more skilled than Lance, but for such a monstrous villain, it certainly takes guts to take on a prodigy like Lance with just a sword when he could have easily finished him off through a more brutal and sadistic method without a second thought.
- In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), we see this trait in the Utrom Shredder Ch'rell and the Demon Shredder, the original Oroku Saki. Both of them are monstrous, irredeemable villains but if there's one good thing that can be said about both of them, it's that they never retreat and are ready and willing to die fighting against the Turtles.
- Transformers: Prime sees Megatron fighting against a half dozen, mountain-sized Unicron clones before a fantastically choreographed scene of him and long time rival Optimus Prime being Back-to-Back Badasses as they fight Unicron's internal security systems. You start to understand why he's the Champion of Kaon.
- Similarly, when Airachnid makes her play to commandeer the Nemesis and hijack the Decepticon Army, the previously unbeatable bug finds herself squashed by Soundwave, who makes it quite clear that, even in absentia, Megatron's commands are law. He takes a similar stand in a later season when Airachnid and her Insecticon swarm attempts to overrun the ship, starring down the shrieking horde as it charges for him before opening a space bridge right in front of them and stranding them on one of Cybertron's desolate moons.
- We often see Brock Sampson from the henchmen's point of view in The Venture Bros.. The most notable case of Valiant Villainy here would probably be Henchman Number 1's stand against him, or maybe the lightsaber thing.
- In Young Justice Black Manta's men carry themselves very much like a professional, competent military force who are all personally and unwaveringly dedicated to his cause even in the face of superheroes who outclass them.
Villainous Valour / Western Animation