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Aang: When Zhao had me chained up, it was Zuko who came and got me out. He risked his life to save me.
Katara: No way! I'm sure he only did it so he could capture you himself!
Sokka: Yeah, face it, Aang — you're nothing but a big prize to him.



"So yes, we just saved the world. Again. Do I get a free T-shirt if I do it a third time?"


Imagine if you will, Colonel McGoodguy and The Squad are in a pinch. They're all out of ammo, the Redshirt Army is knee deep in Mooks on the other side of town, their Military Mashup Machine is a smoldering pile of scrap, and even though The Smart Guy managed to Reverse Polarity and get a second shot out of the Applied Phlebotinum that only works once, it's not enough. General Shagnasty and his goons have them dead to rights, and they're staring down the barrels of way more BFGs than they should have left after our heroes blew up their factory two episodes ago. The villains gloat, because nothing can stop them now!

But something does. An unstoppable onslaught sends the villains running for cover! The day is saved!

...wait, aren't those the Elite Mooks from season two? ... Dr. Bludengutsen? Is that you? Why are you helping us?

The reasons can be many:

  • Maybe the villain doing the rescuing is The Only One Allowed to Defeat You.
  • Maybe he still thinks you're his best bet against the villain he's saving you from - this can be Big Bad versus rival Big Bad, or The Dragon using you against his master for good or not-so-good reasons.
  • Maybe he wants to cut you open to extract that Plot Coupon you swallowed a few episodes back, and you'll wish you were back with that other form of impending doom in short order.
  • Maybe he wants to gain your goodwill in order to betray you later.
  • Maybe the rescuing villain hates Shagnasty more than the heroes.
  • Maybe he's just very, very hungry and doesn't care what he eats.
  • Maybe the villain is an Anti-Villain and decided to Pet the Dog.
  • Maybe the rescuing villain wants to run the world, and the other villain wants to destroy it.
  • Maybe the villain has a plot in the works that requires the heroes' continued survival to function.
  • Maybe the villain is a bit more affectionate towards the hero than they admit.
  • Maybe the villain simply feels that losing to Shagnasty is an unworthy end for the hero.
  • Maybe the villain has a sense of fair play and thinks that Shagnasty's underhanded methods disqualify this battle.
  • Maybe the villain has a cordial relationship with the hero or really, genuinely is the hero's friend and does not want the hero to get hurt. Or at least not unnecessarily when it's not a matter of foiling the villain's important plans.
  • Maybe the villain has good, if somewhat extreme intentions but otherwise protects those that cannot protect themselves. Luckily, they respect the hero enough to include him or her under that category.
  • Maybe it's genuinely a coincidence, an unintended consequence of an attack on a rival. In this case, the villain is probably not all that happy that he just saved the hero's hide.

Not to be confused with Save the Villain or Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work. Overlaps with Enemy Mine, as it can be how such a situation begins, but not all instances of bad guys helping good guys falls into this category.

Examples of Villainous Rescue include:

Anime and Manga

  • Hero Antagonist version in Darker than Black: Hei winds up saving Kirihara almost incidentally by taking down Wei. From her perspective, it definitely qualifies, since this means the scary masked assassin she's been hunting just saved her life from the Psycho for Hire; however, he's the hero, muddling the issue a bit.
    • Early in the second season, Suo has a series of Contractors trying to capture her, who "save" her from each other. In this case, Hei starts out hunting her as well (like the others, he thinks she is her half identical twin Contractor brother), and the entry of a rival Contractor prevents him from harming her.
  • Of all people, Sir Crocodile in One Piece. By all appearances, he's a Complete Monster who loves wanton cruelty and hates Luffy. However, he pulls an epic move to save Luffy from an Admiral, with no reasoning given other than "If you're going to rescue someone, you should do it right, dammit!"
    • Also an Enemy Mine situation, as he seems to hate the Marines more than he hates Luffy or Whitebeard (at least, he doesn't want to take revenge on Whitebeard after seeing how his age had affected him).
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Kimblee of all people saves Ed from Pride by weakening him at a critical moment. He did so because Pride had violated his own belief system in order to win, which Kimblee viewed as disgraceful, and proof the Homunculi deserve to lose the war. Keep in mind that Kimblee was already dead at this point with no hope of revival.
  • Grimmjaw saving Ichigo from death in Bleach by healing him through Orihime, and fending off Ulquiorra from trying to kill Ichigo again, in order to get the pleasure of killing Ichigo himself.
    • Kurotsuchi saving Ishida and Renji from Szayel is a version of this, since while they are all technically on the same side, Ishida considers Kurotsuchi his mortal enemy since he tortured his grandfather to death.
  • In Suzumiya Haruhi, Ryoko attempts to kill Kyon twice; the first time it's her normally and the second time it's her in an alternate reality. And Kyon nearly bleeds to death the second time. In the 10th novel, Ryoko comes up and saves Kyon from Suyoh, claiming that he's her prey. Not very calming, but eh. Kyon isn't dead yet, and Ryoko does put a lot of effort, like by throwing a knife at near-light speed and even after it's caught by Suyoh, it still vibrates rapidly, trying to move. That's a lot of kinetic energy.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima sort of uses this: Temporarily unsealed Shinso vampire Evangeline pops up to utterly own Fate, followed by a similarly unsealed demon god, during the Kyoto arc. May not apply, since Negi needed help because of the difference in Power Levels, not for any moral reasons. That and the fact that ever since then he's been doubting whether Eva is really a villain. No matter how much she insists that she is.
    • Played straight in chapter 274 when one of Fate subordinates helps Ala Alba to deal with a fleet of battle cruisers. And may or may not be after Ala Alba next.
  • Bando in Elfen Lied is an Axe Crazy psychopath whose only goal in life is to find and kill Lucy/Nyu. But when the Hunter assaults Mayu, Bando comes to the rescue.
  • Happens in Dragonball Z When Vegeta saves Gohan and Krillin from Guldo before he could skewer them. Of course it was all in an effort to save his own hide. Possibly played straight later, when he saved Gohan from Frieza's latest attack. Note that he didn't think he needed Gohan anymore at that point but saved him anyway.
  • Giovanni saves Yellow from Lance during her arc of Pokémon Special. He leaves her to deal with everything that results from him appearing on the island (or, that is, his gym badge appearing), but he does save her from getting herself killed.
  • IN Digimon Tamers, Makuramon essentially saves WarGrowlmon, Rapidmon, and Taomon from being destroyed by Juggernaut when he destroys Hypnos. Although to be fair Vikaralamon was also about to be destroyed.
    • On a similar note, Beelzemon, despite being even more evil than the Devas at the point after he kills Leomon, destroys Makuramon (one of the most evil Devas) and defeats Megidramon, who would have destroyed the world.
  • In Tiger and Bunny an Unpersoned Kotetsu, accused of murder, is saved from being arrested by the heroes by resident Vigilante Man Lunatic. The reason being that Lunatic does his homework into his potential victims, had previously researched Kotetsu, and knew he wasn't (or at least doubted he was) a murderer.
  • In D.Gray-man, Tyki and Road save Allen from being absorbed by the Cardinal after he is imprisoned.
  • In My-HiME, when Nao abducts a powerless Natsuki on two occasions, Shizuru comes to the rescue, once before and once after descending into insanity over her feelings for Natsuki. In Mai's fight with Shiho, a Brainwashed and Face Heel Turned Mikoto intervenes by destroying Shiho's child, which unfortunately also kills Yuuichi

Comic Books

  • Despite being villainous, Zodon and Victor VonFogg are still PS238 students and end up saving the world from an Alien Invasion (with Zodon using a moon-based superlaser to deal the finishing blow when everything else has failed). Victor ends up saving the world a second time (prompting the above comment) when he manages to create a clone of Tyler to convince Prospero to not destroy the world in order to ensure no traces are left of the aforementioned invaders.
  • In a 1970s issue of Fantastic Four, a villain known as the Over-Mind telepathically took control of Mister Fantastic. This caused Dr. Doom to team up with the FF to try to defeat the Over-Mind.
  • During the "Heart of the Monster" arc in The Incredible Hulks, Umar the Unrelenting stops yet another Hulk rampage by hauling him off to the Dark Dimension to ... calm him down.

Fan Works


  • District 9. Gang leader pulls variety #3 and saves Wikus from the MNU mercenaries because he wants to eat Wikus' prawn arm.
  • X2: X-Men United]]: Plane's going down! Wait, why's it slowing down? The damage undoes itself, and we finally see... Magneto calmly holding the Blackbird in place.
    • X-Men Origins: Wolverine]] has Sabretooth saving Logan, because "Nobody gets to kill you but me!"
  • In The Chronicles of Riddick, Tombs shows up with a group of mercs to rescue Riddick from a very nasty squashing by the Necromongers. Of course, the whole reason for the rescue is the bounty on Riddick's big bald head.
  • In Jurassic Park, it's the T-Rex that literally appears out of nowhere in the middle to save the heroes from the raptors. How it appeared there without anyone noticing, or why the protagonists are now less terrified than they were earlier, remains completely unexplained. According to the Word of God, the producers were struggling with the ending when they came to the realization that it was really the hero of the movie, and that is when everything fell into place.
  • In Serenity, the titular ship emerges from the ion cloud that obscures sensors and is caught dead-to-rights by the Operative's flotilla. The Operative laments that it has come to this as he coolly orders his crew to target Serenity ... which is then followed by a massive fleet of Reavers.
  • In |The Fellowship of the Ring, a bit of a frying-pan to fire situation appears in the halls of Khazad-dûm, when the heroes are swarmed by goblins as far as the eye can see. Then the Balrog comes.
  • Jason actually pulls this off a few times in the Friday the 13 th series. For one, Rennie is being attacked by two gang bangers and Jason kills them (and proceeds to try and kill her afterward) in Jason Takes Manhattan. And who could forget the scene in Freddy vs. Jason when Jason stabs Freddy with his own clawed glove as he is about to kill Lori and Will.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon: Sentinel Prime is just about to finish off Optimus Prime when BANG! Megatron blasts him from behind. It was partly Megatron feeling that only he has the right to kill Optimus, and partly Carly convincing Megatron that if Sentinel wins, Megs will become "Sentinel's bitch".
  • Doesn't go too well in Lottery Ticket. The hero (and lottery winner) Kevin stares down neighborhood bully Lorenzo, who aims to take his money. Sweet Tea, a feared, vicious crime boss who has "invested" (so to speak) in Kevin attacks Lorenzo, slamming him into a table. Lorenzo simply gets up and squeezes Sweet Tea's testicles 'till they pop, and beats Kevin ruthlessly. Don't worry though, he's saved by a reclusive ex-boxer he befriended.


  • In Louis Sachar's Holes, Stanley spends a few minutes here and there fantasizing about going back to his old school, with his newly acquired hole-digging muscles and possibly some of his newly acquired friends, and getting revenge on Derrick Dunne. In the end, Derrick provides Stanley with the alibi that gets him out of Camp Green Lake.
  • To sum up what Ryoko does in the tenth novel of Suzumiya Haruhi, she basically says to Suyoh, "Don't you fucking dare kill him! He's mine, bitch!" This is followed by Ryoko starting the fight with a knife flying at near-light speed to Suyoh. Things get epic, really fast. And no, Ryoko doesn't put her body on the line to protect Kyon.
  • Used frequently in the Codex Alera.
    • In the first book, at the battle at the climax, the Alerans are saved from one horde of Marat barbarians by another horde of Marat barbarians, because Doroga hates Atsurak much more than he disdains the Alerans and Tavi won the challenge against Atsurak, so he had an excuse. They don't stay villains for long, though.
    • In both the second and third books, High Lady Aquitaine, who wants to take over Alera, helps the current lord resist another would-be ruler, because she can't conquer the country if someone else already has.
    • From the fourth book on, the Canim, who have been enemies of Alerans forever, work together with them against the Vord, a much more powerful and monstrous enemy. In Canim culture a respected enemy is considered even more valuable and reliable than a friend, so to humans, successful diplomacy between or within Canim basically looks like one Villainous Rescue after another all the time.
  • In Titans of Chaos by John C. Wright, this is used twice in the same battle: when Hermes has cornered and badly wounded all the Children, Ares and Mulciber show up to stop him. Then, as they are about to arrest the Children, Echidna arrives to avenge her son's death, distracting Ares long enough for them to escape.
  • In Shadows of the Empire it looks like curtains for the heroes, Xizor has them surrounded and massively outgunned, cue the arrival of the imperials, who not only reduce Xizor's force to a smouldering heap (and kill Xizor himself), they actually let the rebels go.
  • At the end of A Crown of Swords, Rand chases his current Forsaken target, Sammael, to the deadly abandoned city of Shadar Logoth. He almost plummets to his death inside a building there, but is saved by Moridin, who's the series Big Bad.
  • At the end of Barb Hendee's Memories of Envy, Eleisha is about to be killed by Simone when who should kick in the door and charge to the rescue? Philip? Wade? Some other member of Eleisha's Nakama? Nope. Julian saves her.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the resident Magnificent Bastard and, potentially, Big Bad, Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish, rescues Sansa Stark from imprisonment in King's Landing by the Lannisters, spirits her away to his newly aquired lands, and disguises her as his bastard daughter, keeping her safe from arrest and potential execution for a crime which, as it turns out, he commited and intentionally implicated her in. This appears to be for three reasons--to use her political claims, to train her as his successor in Magnificent Bastardry, and because he's into her.
  • The Agent Pendergast novels has Pendergast being saved by his brother Diogenes at the end of the novel Brimstone. Pendergast is sealed inside a wall to die by that novel's antagonist, and Diogenes manages to successfully break him out of his tomb at the very end and nurse him back to health by the time of the next book. Though it is because Diogenes needs his brother alive since part of the big crime he's planning includes murdering people close to him and then setting him up as the killer.

Live-Action TV

  • Deadly Games. In which villains from the hero's video game appeared Monster of the Week style. Brent Spiner's villainous prankster character had been snuck into the game by an associate of the hero, so just as the booby-trapped VCR is seconds away from going kaboom, the Jackal, aka Christopher Lloyd, calmly ejects the tape. Turns out he didn't see the Easter Egg character as being one of his, and as he put it, "I couldn't let an outsider to do the honors."
  • In Power Rangers Zeo, Rita and Zedd interrupt the Machines' impending capture of Jason. The Machines want Jason's Gold Ranger powers, which are becoming unstable. Rita and Zedd just want to stick it to the Machines. Jason sneaks away from both sets of baddies while they're busy fighting each other.
    • This also happens when Tommy gets kidnapped and brainwashed by King Mondo. Rita and Zedd come to the rescue here too by teleporting the rest of the Rangers to where Tommy is being held. It's pretty apparent that Rita and Zedd hate the Machine Empire even moreso than the Rangers themselves.
    • Also, Power Rangers in Space has Ecliptor save Andros from Darkonda's booby trap (not for his sake, but because Astronema was starting to remember Andros, and he felt it wouldn't be good for her for him to be vaporized just now.)
    • Another instance in Power Rangers Time Force where a particularly strong mutant named Vemonac is turned lose by Thrax and nearly kills the Power Rangers, and are saved by Ransik, who has a grudge against Vemonac for poisoning him prior to the series and forcing him to constantly drink a serum to stay alive (not that the effects of being poisoned frequently saved the Power Rangers in earlier episodes when he was about to kill them).
  • In Doctor Who‍'‍s "The End of Time" The Master saves the Doctor from death by what is almost definitely called the Glove of Rassilon by shooting Rassilon with his life energy fueled lightning bolts. He's repaying the Doctor for not killing him earlier, and getting revenge on Rassilon for driving him crazy.
  • In the season 2 finale of The Mentalist, some Mad Artists are about to kill Patrick for their Red-John-inspired film when the real Red John shows up and takes them out.
  • After the entire Justice League gets captured by the VRA goons in Smallville all hope seems lost...until the Suicide Squad pops up to save their asses.
  • In Farscape Scorpius is this for John Crichton. Bonus points that John is a Living MacGuffin, though arguably Scorpius has formed a relationship with John by the end. Even that kind.
  • In Primeval episode 1x05, Claudia is trapped in a house, partially blind, while a swarm of violent carnivorous pterosaurs are flying around and hunting her down by following the scent of the blood she's covered in. She's saved by Helen Cutter.

Tabletop Games

  • This is pretty much the premise of the Necessary Evil RPG. A supers game set in an Expy of the Marvel Universe, the campaign begins after alien invaders kill pretty much every superhero on the planet. Who's left to fight them? The supervillains, of course, led by Doctor Destruction. Although it turns out that it's actually a superhero called the Aquarian in Destruction's Power Armour.
  • Happens a lot more frequently than you'd expect in Warhammer 40,000, considering the universe is populated almost entirely with xenocidal Knights Templar. The Eldar practically have saving the imperials as their hat, if only to use them as cannon fodder in some later scheme.
    • In once case Craftworld Iyanden was getting swamped by Orks, so they call on their Wraithguards/Wraithlords in a last desperate move. Then the Dark Eldar came in and aided the Eldar fight off the Orks, their reason they were amused enough of Iyandens angst ridden desperation in calling the dead to fight.

Video Games

  • In Super Robot Wars 3, Anavel Gato's claim to fame in his show of origin is launching a stolen nuke at a peace conference. He reenacts this scene in the game, but this time the "peace conference" is between two villainous factions, meaning that his actions have prevented a very dangerous Villain Team-Up.
  • As a subversion of being the Fake Defector, Archer from Fate/stay night pulls off one of these, effortlessly killing Caster and Kuzuki Souichirou before trapping a powerless Saber and trying to kill Shirou.
  • The SA-X at the end of Metroid Fusion stepped in and attacked the Omega Metroid just before it destroyed Samus, although in this case the rescue was because the X parasites were the natural enemy of the Metroids, and it failed to destroy the Omega anyway, but when the X was destroyed instead it gave Samus back her Ice beam which allowed her to defeat the Omega.
  • in Adventure Quest Worlds Drakath pulls this when Nessie is trying to attack The Hero unnoticed Drakath stops Nessie from killing The Hero
  • In one of the ending paths in Contra Hard Corps, the player character is imprisoned when suddenly they are freed and rearmed by the crazed cyborg Deadeye Joe. Joe explains that this is not because he cares about you and is instead because he wants to destroy you himself in an ultimate battle.
  • Etna pulls one off in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories to save the party from fake Zenon. She is not happy about it. It borders on Big Damn Heroes as well, due to being a playable character later and a protagonist of the first game, but she's treated as a secondary villain and serious threat to the protagonists' plans at this point in the story, and rightfully so as she manages to kill, or nearly kill, the fake Zenon in this encounter and she is the highest level opponent, at level 1000, the party will face (that isn't a bonus boss) aside from Laharl.
  • In Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, Don Paolo fixes up the Laytonmobile so that he can get onto Clive's Giant fortress with legs, as well as putting in a Big Red Button to make it grow wings and fly, which proves vital in escaping as the fortress collapses
  • In Mass Effect 2, Cerberus, an organization you spent several sidequests fighting (since they prove themselves to be Well-Intentioned Extremist at best, Complete Monster most of the time) in Mass Effect, is responsible for bringing Shepard back to life in the sequel. Mainly due to Enemy Mine.
  • Flemeth of Dragon Age saved the Warden and Alistair from certain death at Ostagar and gave them vital information and the aid of her own daughter for their quest. Both to neutralize the threat of the Blight and for her own reasons.
    • In the sequel, she rescues the Hawke family from the massacre of Lothering in exchange for a simple delivery to an area close by the city they already decided to escape to.
    • Also in the sequel, Knight-Commander Meredith, the Act III Big Bad and Final Boss, saves Hawke and his companions from being electrocuted to death by a Qunari Saarebas by decapitating him.
  • In Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, Gogandantess saves Oyu from plummeting to a fiery death by leaping in and grabbing her just as she's about to fall. Doubles as a Pet the Dog moment, and it makes Jubei more respectful of his foe.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim features an accidental Villainous Rescue instance at the beginning of the game. The Big Bad Alduin swoops in to kill the player at the beginning of the game, but not only does he fail to hit the player, he also throws off the balance of an executioner who is also about to kill the player. Alduin didn't intend for the player to survive, but through his own actions caused the player to escape.
  • In the True Ending of Asura's Wrath, the Golden Spider rescues Mithra from Olga. It's a villainous rescue because the Spider only did it to because he wants to possess Mithra. At the same time he also reveals that he is responsible for the appearance of the Gohma.
  • At the end of Advance Wars 2, despite losing the battle, Sturm is on the verge of killing the allied COs when Hawke shows up out of nowhere, assassinates him and lets the allied COs go.


  • Monkey Master leads the Aliens in combat against the Martians in It's Walky‍'‍s Final Battle, having decided that their chances of returning home (or at least surviving the Martian invasion) in Head Alien's absence higher if they worked with SEMME.
  • In Emergency Exit, Lord Kyran and crew lead an effort to rescue Eddie from being sacrificed, mostly because they figure he's about to find an artifact.
  • Beyond the Canopy. Glenn and Glade are about to be crushed by a giant robot, then someone offscreen blasts a hole in the robot's chest. Said someone turns out to be a lackey of the Baron, come to take an artifact from Glenn, and to enslave Glenn and everyone else in the vicinity.

Western Animation

  • Rocket Power: During a sand castle contest, the heroes' submission, a model amusement park, which they had spent the whole episode on, is threatened by the rising tide. They're powerless to stop the water from destroying it before it gets judged, when suddenly, one of the characters' older brother shows up with his cronies, and they protect the model with their surfboards.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang is saved from Zhao's prison by a masked ninja called the Blue Spirit, who turns out to be Zuko.
  • In ReBoot, Megabyte teams up with Bob and co against The Web because the web creatures are dangerous for everyone. He backstabs Bob later, though.
  • The residents of South Park are saved from the Jersey invasion by Al-Qaeda.
  • In Transformers Generation 1, Starscream saved the day in the episode "Enter the Nightbird", when he used his null-ray to deactivate a female-ninja-robot (the Nightbird from the title) who was successfully attacking the autobots. His motivation: Megatron demoted him and placed her in his place. He was obviously jealous.
  • Megatron of Transformers Prime prevented his version of Starscream from landing a potentially lethal blow to Optimus both because he intends to defeat Prime himself and because he intends to pay his treacherous underling back for an attempt on his life.
    • He does it again in the Season One finalie. This time by taking out the Unicron-Colossus that was giving the Autobots trouble.
    • Starscream even gets one in, himself. He waves Arcee from being executed by Airachnid and frees her.
  • One Powerpuff Girls episode sees the villains of the week (the Gang Green Gang) defeated by Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins and Him, since the Powerpuff Girls themselves never realize what's actually going on (namely that said Gang used the Mayor's emergency phone to prank call the Powerpuff Girls into beating up villains who weren't doing anything). The narrator seems uncomfortable with making his usual Once an Episode declaration, given who saved that particular day.
  • Sorta example in the The Spectacular Spider-Man episode Gang Land, where the current Big Bad Tombstone is in a three way fight with Doctor Octopus and Silverman. When Spider-Man decides to get involved to stop collateral damage from the fight, Dr. Octopus suggests a temporary truce between the three villains so they can kill Spider-Man, since he's the cause of most of their problems. Tombstone rejects, wanting to stay a Villain with Good Publicity and can't do that if he fights Spider-Man in public, and actually saves Spider-Man from Dr. Octopus. It's only a partial case since when both Spider-Man and Tombstone fall into a sewer and out of view everyone, he Spider-Man start fighting.
    • Played straight when Spider-man and the Rhino team up to destroy the specs for the Rhino suit. Spider-man doesn't want to have to fight an army of Rhinos, and Rhino doesn't want to have to compete with them.
  • In the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon, Tiamat's main purpose seemed to be to save the kids from Venger. This wasn't intentional. Most of the time she probably didn't even notice they were there. She just had a tendency to show up and try to kill Venger right when he had the heroes concerned.