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"Odd," he said, "how willing they are to grant a man the quality of courage in battle. They have only tradition to go on, and yet not one of them questions it. Not one of them, in fact, fails to stress it."
"It was an enemy's tribute..."


This is one method for avoiding doldrums from having a Boring Invincible Hero. Scenes of Villainous Valor show the antagonists to be outmatched, forcing them to rely on daring, cunning, skill and determination to hold their own against the heroes, or at least go out with a little dignity. They sometimes even continue a hopeless battle for higher reasons than spite! This often results in a tense back-and-forth as the heroes' raw power is set against whatever the villains brought.

Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but the mark of Villainous Valor is that it sees the "bad guys" using tropes that you wouldn't expect from them. In fact, if you were just tuning in, you might even be confused about who you're expected to root for. Is it the unstoppable White Knight, or the desperately overwhelmed warrior studded with Spikes of Villainy bravely holding him back? Even if you know who's on what side, you might find yourself pulling for the little guy anyway, hoping to see the hero brought down a peg.

This often appears in shows where the villains are sympathetic or the heroes questionable. Nevertheless, this is not a trope about viewer sympathy so much as bravery, ingenuity and skill on the part of a villainous underdog. If the villains are acting more like the soon-to-be-slaughtered protagonists of a horror film, we might be looking at a Mook Horror Show instead. Contrast David Versus Goliath, where the hero is the weaker one.

Compare Worthy Opponent. See also Evil Virtues.

Examples of Villainous Valour include:

Anime and Manga

  • In the early engagements against the Combat Cyborgs in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS, we're presented with a small group of specialists carrying out a daring mission against a whole world full of mages led by a pair of warriors who could mop the floor with them in a straight fight. (The Numbers who can stand up to Fate and Nanoha are introduced later.) Nevertheless, through a series of hair-raising encounters and desperate escapes, they finally win through and make off with the MacGuffin's box.
    • Mitigated by the fact that they are backed up by a very literal army of robotic drones armed with state-of-the-art antimagic technology and show no compunctions about being willing to open fire on an unarmed transport carrying, among other things, a helpless child; later revelations about said child's nigh invulnerability notwithstanding.
    • For instance, and before switching to the good side, Fate Testarossa shows an exceptional amount of bravey, particularly when it becomes evident the Time-Space Administration Bureau is going after her and her own mother and boss is using the girl almost like an expendable soldier, she still presses on in finding the Jewel Seeds.
    • This is one of the lesser-observed common threads often found in Nanoha. The Wolkenritter in A's start out stronger on an individual basis than the protagonists, but they're massively outnumbered and, by the middle of the series, outgunned as well. They still carry on their fight, though, until The Reveal.
  • This appears many times in the Gundam series. Of course, given the nature of the universe, it makes sense.
    • Several versions feature enemy aces piloting machines that are no match for the Gundams, but able to hold their own thanks to superior skill.
      • Early on, Zechs Marquise of Gundam Wing managed to disrupt Heero's descent despite him being in a 15-year-old mech while Heero was in what may have been the most powerful Gundam at the time and just curb stomped his two wingmen. Then there are the characters like Walker and Otto, who perform Heroic Sacrifices because they're that loyal to Zechs.
        • And then there's the final battle, where the Earth's forces exclusively use said 15-year-old mech despite the fact that their enemies are state-of-the-art Mecha-Mooks that give even the Gundams a hard time.
      • Char was introduced this way: the Gundam had been shown invulnerable to the Zaku II used by Zeon at that time, then Char arrives in another Zaku and makes clear the only thing SAVING Amuro is said invulnerability of the Gundam. Later lampshaded by Ramba Ral, who, upon having his Gouf destroyed by the Gundam, remarks that Amuro only won because the Gundam was more powerful. Later inverted in the final battle: Char finally has a mobile suit that is superior to the Gundam, but the only reason Char pulls a draw is that Amuro dragged the fight so the rest of the Federation armada would be able to attack Zeon's space fortress without having to deal with Zeon's most capable shipkiller.
      • Another UC example, from the original series: right after Ramba Ral's introduction, the White Base is sighted by a group of Zeon soldiers who, knowing that the Gundam was on board and hoping to be allowed to return home, decided to take on the Gundam in spite of knowing well they were underequipped. They nearly destroy the Gundam after nearly dying placing time bombs on it, and after Amuro narrowly disarms the last they decide to be good sports and, dressed as civilians, come to the White Base to say hi (Bright sees right through it but allows them to leave). Particularly worth of note because nobody will ever be more successful than them against the Gundam until Amuro use it as a bait to take down Char.
      • And no one can forget Garma Zabi kamikaze-ing his ship into the White Base or Dozle Zabi's One-Man Army attack on The Federation.
    • The early parts of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 have this in spades, as the pilots of Celestial Being crash around invincibly and the rest of the world scrambles to keep up. You even see Mooks making Heroic Sacrifices.
    • Zeta Gundam has Captain Ben Wooder an Elite Mook and Mauve Shirt who appeared in episodes 17-20. Initially little more than a Smug Snake, Wooder quickly proved to have an intense dedication to carrying out his orders, no matter what he had to do to make them possible. When supremely powerful Cyber-Newtype Four Murasame deserted, leaving the Tsudori without a pilot for the Psyco Gundam, Wooder climbed into the cockpit himself, despite having no experience with it and no Newtype powers. That alone would probably qualify him, but it's his exit in Episode 20 that really cements his status. With Four defeated, and the rest of his ship's mobile suits out of commission, Wooder orders the rest of his crew off the Tsudori and prepares to ram the Audhumla with it. When Four returns and tries to stop him, he shoots her himself. When Kamille tries to stop the Tsudori and steal a rocket booster off of it, Wooder climbs into a gun turret and tries to shoot the Mark II Gundam down himself, despite the danger this presents to the ship. His bravery is such that it inspires a number of his men to stay behind and make the Heroic Sacrifice with him.
  • Fights in Hellsing are often shown more from the villains' perspective, and we get to see their horror/resolve while Alucard goes One-Winged Angel and cackles like a madman. You may even feel a whisper of sympathy for the Nazi Vampires as a SR-71 Blackbird crashes down on their heads and a shadowy Eldritch Abomination bursts out of the flames to destroy them.
    • Sure, some bad guys keep their cool and go out like protagonists, but others, such as Lief and Jessica or Luke Valentine can't quite manage it. While Anderson seems to be a triumphal example in Volume 8, he equalizes the power difference by using the Nail.
  • Take a look at the opening scene of the third Inuyasha movie. Setsunano Takemaru, a normal samurai with a simple sword, charges into a flaming castle missing one of his arms to confront a powerful Demon Lord wielding freakin' Sounga. He was unquestionably a wretched punk who deserved everything that was coming to him, but damn.
  • Cell from Dragonball Z shows this from time to time, as he's pitted against near impossible odds, yet finds ways to still outsmart his opponents. When he finally reaches perfection and realizes he's no longer the underdog, he gives the heroes more time to prepare as a concession that someone may prove to be a Worthy Opponent. It's later subverted when Cell breaks down and runs out of all his tricks but one to defeat Gohan.
    • Complete Monster though he may be, Frieza still puts up a valiant effort in battle against Super Saiyan Goku, refusing to admit defeat.
    • At times, this might apply to Majin Buu as well. In terms of raw power, he frequently ends up outclassed, and there's often a back-and-forth between the protagonists and Buu over who is actually stronger. Come to think of it, that's what much of the battles in Dragonball Z revolves around. Even matches are rare.
  • Here's a simple one. In the final episode of Noir, Kirika is attacked in close-quarters by a knife-wielding battle nun. After her first attack is dodged, the nun finds a gun in her face while her knife is poised too far away to stand a chance of killing Kirika first. Does she give up and beg for her life? Of course not. She steels herself, tenses and gets shot in the face.
  • In Naruto when Gaara and Rock Lee fight Kimimaro, the latter displays a respectable sense of honor throughout the fight. In the end he is trapped underground, outmatched, when in a final dramatic effort he is stopped dead literally inches away from killing Gaara by his own disease.
    • Deidara has some of this during his first fight, as Gaara had him on the ropes for much of the fight (due in part to Deidara's own overconfidence) and even crushed his arm at one point. But even then, Deidara still managed to win through his stylish brand of cunning and tactical brilliance.
    • Ditto Deidara against Sasuke, depending on who you consider the villain at that time.
    • Kisame was willing to die for his cause[1].
  • Seen in episode 4 of Katanagatari with the Maniwa Insect Squad and Nanami. Sort of. It was quite scary.
  • Almost certainly intentional, at the end of the first season of Code Geass, Lelouch finally gets the upper hand over the arrogant, racist Cornelia... in the most douchy way possible, and inspires her and her men to put up a valiant defence against overwhelming odds that ends up making her look like the hero. Cornelia might qualify as this before as her greatest virtue is her valour, but this is the first time she's truly outmatched.
  • It's possible to overlook the fact that Shirabe is actually the bad guy for her fight in Mahou Sensei Negima considering A. she has a legitimate reason for her behavior B. was outnumbered six to one C. has good intentions and D. showed some awesome Plucky Girl and Undying Loyalty credentials since she was fighting for the guy to whom she owes her life. The fact that this resulted in Asuna being put back on the ritual altar without any means of getting her back off of it only hits you a moment later.
    • There's also Fate's first fight with Jack Rakan. Going into the fight, Jack is clearly show to be much stronger than Fate, but Fate keeps fighting despite clearly losing, and actually managed to hurt him, which is definitely impressive—outside of flashbacks to the war and Negi absorbing the energy from one of his attacks, everything thrown at Jack is treated as Won't Work On Me.
  • Viral. Constantly.
  • Uchuu Senkan Yamato has some, starting from Domel, who, after his master plan to destroy the Yamato backfires at the last moment, try to stop it and the doom it brings for Gamilas by blowing up himself with the ship, to Deslar, who, in spite of being the Big Bad of the first series and The Dragon in the second, is an extremely brave character (and, in spite of inferior technology, much more effective against the Yamato than the generals of the White Comet Empire) who later pulls a Heel Face Turn. Later the third season gives us one combined with Rooting for the Empire: we are first introduced to the Bolar Federation as one of their fleets try and fails to fight a Galman fleet (shown crewed by Gamilas people, usually the villains), and, later, one of their officers, Ram, is shown as a sympathetic character who dies in battle after apologizing for unwillingly involving Earth in the war between Bolar and Galman. Only later we find out that the Bolar are space Nazis, and then that the Galman soldiers that attacked the Yamato are Well Intentioned Extremists working for the post-Heel Face Turn Deslar.
  • In One Piece: Hannibal versus Luffy in the Impel Down Arc. Hannibal knew he was outmatched by Luffy but never gave up trying to prevent Luffy from escaping Impel Down. The touching World of Cardboard Speech he gave during the fight certainly helped too!
  • Kunzite in the anime version Sailor Moon. He's shown to be stronger than the main five Sailor Senshi, and is arguably stronger than Queen Beryl (unlike the manga which clearly showed her to stronger than him), but when Usagi gets the Silver Crystal, she clearly has Kunzite overpowered and he has no chance of beating her, but despite that show an amount of determination rivaling the series' heroes' when things are hopeless for them.
  • Yami Bakura in the Memory World Arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! isn't facing that bad a disadvantage in the RPG they were playing. He only has a handful of characters against Yami Yugi's entire army, all seven Millennium Items, and all three Egyptian Gods. Bakura's only advantages were a handful of one shot gamebreakers and knowledge of what was actually going on, but considering one mistake would have led to a quick defeat and it was well known he was evil at that point, it was still a delicate operation until Zork was finally summoned.

Comic Books

  • Given that Superman is practically the poster boy for the Boring Invincible Hero (at least according to some) and his arch-nemesis is an unpowered human, it would be a shock if this never happened in his stories.
  • Admit it, it takes balls to go up against the Goddamn Batman when your motif is penguins because you have the physique of one.
    • The Scarecrow's own phobia is the constant fear of Batman himself. That's right: the one and only thing in the world he himself fears is the thing he is most constantly willfully opposing, and someone whom he frequently seeks out and starts the fight with of his own accord.
  • In the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, Anne is one of the chief "Purifiers" (elite paramilitary soldiers) for the story's Big Bad, Reverend William Stryker. She's shown to be cool and ruthless in her attacks on mutants, who (as per Styker's preaching), she genuinely believes to be evil. There's a scene in which she and other Purifiers are in an elevator, taking captives to a basement level of their base, when Magneto yanks the elevator out of the building and through the air (they don't call him the Master of Magnetism for nothing, baby!) and his erstwhile allies, the X-Men, enter the little chamber, recover the captives, and take the Purifiers prisoner. All, that is, except Anne, who escapes by prying the door open, leaping out of the elevator, and (barely) catching herself on the edge of the base's roof. Wow. The lady may be whack, but she is brave, determined, and impressive. It's hard not to feel at least a little sympathy for her later, when she discovers she's a mutant herself, and Stryker, her revered mentor, literally casts her away because of it.
  • Although his role as a villain is questionable, Secret Six 's Catman has gone toe-to-toe with the big black Bat every so often, and the fights usually end in a draw. Which may make Catman the poster boy for this, considering this is Batman we're talking about.
  • It's an Evil Versus Evil scenario, but you've got to give Superman's pre-Crisis Evil Counterpart, Ultraman credit, flying into the Anti-Monitor's antimatter wave in a last attempt to save Earth-3 from destruction. When Power Ring demands to know what he's doing he gives a classic Superman smile and replies "What I have done all my life. I fight to the very end."
  • Skurge the Executioner in "The Death and Life of Skurge the Executioner", a Thor graphic novel. Single-handed, he held off an army of the dead. "He had a grin and a gun and the grit to do it."

And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head ... the answer is always the same ... he stood alone at Gjallerbru ... and that answer is enough.

  • It's been noted that Silver Age villain Whiplash I/Blacklash must have had solid steel cojones, given that he repeatedly goes up against Iron Man armed with...a titanium whip and nothing else, no power armour, no magic, no lasers, no nothing.
    • Consider the Sportsmaster. A Silver Age villain who went up against Green Lantern with sports equipment. When you're taking on a guy armed with the most powerful weapon in the universe, and all you've got is a baseball bat and some hockey pucks, you are practically generating your own gravity well by the sheer size of your IMMENSE NEUTRONIUM BALLS.

Fan Works

  • This is the focus of The TSAB Acturus War. The Democratic Republic of Acturus cannot win against the Bureau, but it will do its best to bleed the enemy out as far as possible.
  • In the Service has more than one comment on the bravery and discipline of the common New Belkan soldier. No matter how badly the situation around them goes, no matter how little chance there is they will survive the effort, they will carry out their orders. Some characters think them brave far beyond the point of stupidity. Others think they're the finest soldiers the universe has ever seen, with some of the worst training and leadership.


  • A version of this is present in, of all things, A League of Their Own, where the younger, less-talented sister is pitted up against Geena Davis' star catcher. She plays the final match through waves of intense determination, and ends up crying at one point. That's how much she wants to win. She eventually does, after running through a stop sign at third and plowing over her sister hard enough to dislodge the ball, scoring the winning run.
  • In the film United 93 the youngest terrorist (who looks about 14) puts up a disturbingly valiant fight when he's rushed by half the plane's passengers at the end of the film.
  • In Scanners, you can't help but admire Revok's escape from the ConSec headquarters after he assassinates their last scanner. It gets even more impressive when you realize that as the head of a major scanner underground, he could have sent in underlings, but no, this was something he had to do himself. Also, toward the end of the movie, it's The Hero who pulls the Not So Different card instead of the villain.
  • In the movie Five Minutes To Live, the evil gangster played by Johnny Cash takes a hostage (six year-old Ron Howard) in order to escape from the police. He quietly tells Ron that he has nothing to fear; Johnny would never kill a kid. When this doesn't stop the police from shooting at him, he's outraged, and you can't help but agree with him.
  • Colonel Miles Quaritch from Avatar is a killer who attacked a civilian target with incendiary bombs. But some people can't help admiring his sheer determination when things don't go his way. Hell, at one point he is set on fire and he waits until his AMP suit is prepared to drop before putting the fire out.
  • The Nazis in several scenes of Inglourious Basterds come across as very human. The Nazi sergeant who refuses to give up his comrades' positions even under the threat of torture (and is beaten to death with a baseball bat for his refusal) is presented as heroic and brave. In another example, even Shosanna seems impressed by Zoller's tale of bravery, despite her burning hatred for Nazis.
    • Even for the audience, as the film's primary target audience is Americans, given that Zoller is hailed as a hero for single-handednly killing hundreds of American soldiers.
  • In Ryuhei Kitamura's Versus, "The Man" finds himself lying battered, lacerated and hacking blood before the newly energized hero. However, when the hero tosses him his sword, he rises and prepares to give a good accounting of himself even though he knows he doesn't stand a chance. In the Director's Commentary, Kitamura described that as the "spirit of Versus." Also, depending on how you take that business in the epilogue, it's possible that the whole movie was a case of Valiant Villainy.
  • When Blonsky (with a little help from some Captain America (comics) serum) first fights the Hulk as a human in The Incredible Hulk, you can't help but be impressed by the guy. Sure, he's a creepy jackass, but this is an almost ordinary man going hand-to-hand with the friggin' HULK!
  • Both the cook and Captain Tupalov in The Hunt for Red October.
    • Both of them were merely doing their job, trying to prevent a hyper-advanced submarine, not to mention an experienced naval officer, from ending up in the hands of the enemy. There's nothing inherently evil in their actions.
  • The Nigerian gangster boss Obesanjo from District 9. You really need huge balls to laugh at the hero while he aims a Big Fucking Alien Gun at your head, that had just smashed your bodyguards through a wall seconds ago.
  • Riley Biers from Eclipse. Fighting for his lover, and actually putting up a good struggle against a werewolf after losing a hand.
  • The bomb maker from the beginning of Casino Royale probably earns quite a few fans with his skill at Le Parkour as James Bond chases him.
    • They hired Sebastien Foucan, a real-life urban free running champion, for that chase sequence. Yeah, no wonder it was impressive.
  • The Jamaican gangster King Willie from Predator 2, who believes that the titular Predator is actually a demon spirit. Despite this, after it approaches him, he calmly whips a sword out from his cane and duels the damn thing, even though it had single-handedly slaughtered a large portion of his gang as well as the rival Colombian gang.
  • Ironbar in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. At one point, while he's hanging from a pipe extended off the side of a speeding train, the train goes over a bridge, and he repeatedly has to hoist his body over metal substructures studded along the span's length. It's impressive that the actor/stuntman was even able to shoot the scene.
  • Mutiny on the Bounty: Lieutenant William Bligh is a tyrant who terrorizes his men until the eponymous mutiny. He's then set adrift in a rowboat with some of the men who didn't join the mutiny, so many that the boat's sides are just inches above the water. In this seemingly hopeless situation, he manages to navigate them to Timor without losing a single man. This was Truth In Televsion. In spite of his Historical Villain Upgrade, Bligh was brave a decent man.
  • The Sheikh's Number Two in Taken puts up quite a fight against Liam Neeson's character, even after being wounded by him. He's fighting for his Sheikh, after all.
  • Uncle Les in Braindead spends most of the film as just a lecherous, repulsive Jerkass. Then the climax hits, and he surprisingly becomes quite a zombie-killing badass, with a Crowning Moment of Awesome where he single-handedly takes out about twenty of them with a pair of cleavers.


  • The Lord of the Rings
    • In Return of the King the Haradrim troops keep fighting after Sauron's defeat, and the author comments how they are brave and noble warriors who just happen to be on the evil side of the fence.
    • In The Two Towers, when the Eored commanded by Eomer manage catch up to and attack the orcs that have kidnapped Merry and Pippin, most of the orcs break under the attack and try to run. By contrast, Ugluk was mentioned to be one of the few orcs who maintained formation and showed actual combat skill, as he rallied a group of Uruk-Hai who grimly tried to fight their way into the (false) safety of the nearby forest. Ultimately Ugluk died in a dismounted duel with Eomer himself.
  • There's a great scene in Treasure Island where the pirates all want the map that they think Jim has, which he doesn't. Long John Silver picked the map from Jim's pocket, but he allows the other pirates to go on thinking that Jim knows where it is, because as long as he's the only one who knows where it is, they can't hurt him.
    • There's another bit at the end, where Long John knows his chances of escape will be improved greatly if he shoots Jim in the head, but he can't bring himself to do it. Jim, unwilling to use John's mercy against him, helps him escape anyway.

Dr. Livesay: I can almost find it in my heart to hope he makes it.

  • In the first trilogy in SM Stirling's Emberverse, Dark Action Girl Tiphaine Rutherford (later Tiphaine d'Ath) performs a daring rescue/kidnapping on the good-guy Mackenzies' own land, finds herself outnumbered four-to-one in a confrontation with a quartet of Rangers, and is betrayed by a member of her own band, who attacks while he's in full armor and she's in her civvies. She's not a nice person, and her objectives are often questionable at best, but it's hard not to applaud the combination of courage, dexterity, and quick-wittedness with which she consistently beats the odds.
  • In the Dale Brown novel Air Battle Force, several scenes are dedicated to the Taliban detachment's brave struggle against their numerically and technologically superior enemies.
  • In John C. Wright's War of the Dreaming, this role goes to Manannan, king of the Selkies, who knows that if the Great War comes about, his people are going to suffer horrible casualties if the Dark Side wins—and be exterminated altogether if Light wins. He consequently spends the series desperately playing one side against the other in an effort to stave off the war altogether. He fails, but the heroes sympathize with his goal enough to give him One Last Smoke.
  • In Soon I Will Be Invincible, Dr. Impossible is a supergenius with mild superstrength and limited invulnerability. The fight scene where he goes from quietly drinking his coffee to fighting off an entire team of superheroes despite being ludicrously outnumbered and overpowered is one of the best in the book.
  • The Sardaukar in Dune
  • In the opening chapters of The Three Musketeers, the titular characters and D'artagnan are engaged in a duel with five members of the Cardinals Guard, the traditional enemies of the Musketeers. After four members of the Guards have been wounded, one fatally, all four of the protagonists turn to the single remaining Guard and ask for his honorable surrender since he is outnumbered four to one. The Guard refuses, however, and is ready to fight all of the Musketeers until his superior officer, who had been wounded earlier in the fight, orders him to stand down. He accepts the order, but breaks his sword over his knee rather than surrender it, and even his enemies concede his valor and bravery.
  • Elizabeth Bear's All The Windwracked Stars: "... The heroic old woman in her frayed brown sweater, indomitable, uncowed before the armored witch on her iron beast of Hel." Guess which one's the hero.
  • In Freedom there's one part where the Major is trying to escape the wrath of Daemon operatives who have already captured or killed his partners. The odds are quite against him and he has quite a few close calls, so you can almost want him to make it. Unfortunately, he does and it comes back to bite the heroes in the arse.
  • In Scaramouche, the Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr is an honest, intelligent, honorable man who (even though he knows he's outmatched) shows no fear in the face of danger.
  • Voltan, from David Gemmell's Midnight Falcon, might be a cold-blooded killer and a ruthless enforcer for an oppressive religious order, but when the odds turn against him he shows an admirable bravery in the face of imminent death.
  • In Captain's Fury, the fourth book of the Codex Alera, when Gaius Sextus unleashes a fearcrafting on Kalarus' Legions the entire force is instantly routed. Many simply die of fright, and the rest are paniced to collapse and flight. However, one single legionare resists the mental assault and actually raises his sword in defiance. Amara feels pity for him and regrets that the reward for his courage, which was greater than the entire rest of his Legion, is to be killed by the First Lord
  • In Margaret Sidney's Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, little Phronsie Pepper interrupts a burglary. One of the burglars rushes at her, "his arm upraised", but the other one grabs him, shouting, "Stop!" They flee, leaving her unharmed and the loot behind.
  • There's a minor villain in Andre Norton's Operation Time Search who when captured by the authorities refuses to spill his secrets. In sentencing him to be Mind Probed, the Emperor replies:

Evil are you, and the willing servant of evil. Yet courage is yours if in an ill cause.


Live Action TV

  • Almost certainly the reason for Spike's early popularity on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, being simultaneously the first vampire adversary of Buffy to be depicted as more than a soul-less monster, and the first to avoid the Curb Stomp Battles that were endemic in season one. Likewise, it's hard not to feel kinda happy for the random vampire mook who hands Buffy a lucky defeat in "Fool For Love".
    • He's also just really, really cool.
  • On shows such as COPS and Worlds Wildest Police Videos, there will sometimes be a perp who leads the police on a bit of a chase... No matter what terrible thing they may be accused of doing, considering the Can't Get Away with Nuthin' the shows are (rightfully) based on, there will still be a small part of your brain (depending on your political leanings, it might not even be small) that wants to root for them.
  • Hilary Briss on The League of Gentlemen. Creepy as hell though he may be, he's presented as the Villain Protagonist of his own arc, and you sort of want him to escape.
  • An episode of the classic World War Two series Combat! called "The Cossack" had the most tenacious German soldier of all time. In the teaser, he fails to blow up a strategically important bridge during the German retreat, and tries to complete the task before the rest of the American army comes through. He infiltrates the local Church and disguises himself as the town priest. He manages to keep his disguise with all the Americans around him, making up cover stories for his German accent ("I'm Swiss.") and being near the bridge ("I'm going fishing.") on the fly, even managing to get away with killing the young Catholic GI who sees through him without anyone seeing. It was almost disappointing to see him fail in the end, he'd worked so hard up to that point.
  • Happens to Davros, of all people, in the Doctor Who story "Revelation of the Daleks". Even though he's as nasty as usual, it's hard not to respect him for having apparently found himself completely alone on the planet, with none of his usual allies, and still got himself into the top position.
    • This could apply to the Daleks themselves. No matter what The Doctor does to them, they still manage to keep themselves going.
  • The villain team of every Power Rangers season usually has at least one member who gets this, although it's often during infighting. Several seasons have an evil General with a Dark Knight gimmick who takes his honor and principles very seriously.
    • A good example is Treacheron from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, who keeps fighting against Leo despite being been badly injured and having his sword broken.
  • Bully Beatdown pits bullies against pro MMA fighters for the chance to win $10,000. Nobody likes bullies, but the deck is clearly stacked against them, and one can't help a twinge of admiration for those who hold their own and don't get stomped outright.

Newspaper Comics

  • In Chester Gould's Dick Tracy, once the villains' evil plans have been foiled, they often end up going on the run, and are usually quite ingenious in their attempts to get away. This sometimes makes them seem sympathetic, even if we've seen them acting like Complete Monsters earlier in the story; Gould was certainly savvy enough to play this up deliberately (such as when the injured Brow is taken in by Gravel Gertie, or when Sleet gets blackmailed while hiding out), but then the villains usually get a couple of Kick the Dog moments during the chase, just so we don't forget who we're supposed to be rooting for.

Professional Wrestling

  • Most people who face HHH or the Undertaker. Especially Undertaker. In general, this applies to whenever a beloved mid-carder with perceived superior skills goes up against an opponent they could not legitimately be expected to defeat for story reasons.
  • The best example for pro wrestling has to be the match between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Bret Hart at Wrestlemania XIII, where Austin went in as the heel. The sheer balls he showed throughout the entire match, fighting dirty like a heel but never acting cowardly like one, earned the fans' respect. When he refused to tap out to the Sharpshooter, face covered in blood and eventually passing out from the pain, the fans switched, and in one night, a Heel Face Turn and Face Heel Turn were completed in one legendary match.
  • Subverted with Muhammad Hassan in 2005. A radicalized Arab-American from Detroit (although played by Italian-American wrestler Mark Copani), he certainly had good reason to be angered by anti-Arab prejudice at the height of the Iraq War. He denounced other Arab-Americans as Uncle Toms for being ashamed of their native culture, and would enter arenas in a Bedouin headdress and wailing loudly like a muezzin just to outrage bigoted audiences. He even seemingly had the courage to challenge Undertaker to a match for the Number One Contendership to Batista's World Heavyweight Championship at the Great American Bash in July. But Hassan was a lot more cowardly than he appeared at first glance: he took on Undertaker, yes, but only after garroting him with piano wire and having several black-clad, faceless "sympathizers" beat the tar out of him. 'Taker finally punished him by powerbombing him through the Buffalo arena's entrance ramp, apparently killing him (which was actually a result of Executive Meddling, since WWE thought that the character was in bad taste after a terrorist bombing in London).

Tabletop Games

  • Though the Imperium is most often presented as crumbling, it is still the most powerful faction in Warhammer 40,000. In stories set from the 'Evil' faction's POV, we can often see just how much firepower the Imperials can bring to bear against them. And the fact that it's a Crapsack Galaxy for them too.
    • In the Inquisitor guide Using Space Marines, the author recommends this as a way to deal with ludicrously powerful Space Marine PCs. We are reminded that Space Marines don't sneak about, so the enemy will likely have plenty of chances to lay ambushes and traps before the rampaging behemoth.
    • Virtually any faction in Warhammer gets moments of this really.
  • Tucker's kobolds are a textbook case. Even though they were no match for the high-level adventurers in a straight fight, they used the terrain to their advantage and set up a variety of clever traps to make the PCs' lives hell.


  • The titular character in Macbeth gets a moment of this at the climax of the play. Despite being subjected to two No Man of Woman Born moments in rapid succession (including the Trope Namer) leading him to realize that his opponent would probably win and Macduff's offer of clemency, he refuses to stand down. This is appropriate since while it does not undo his horrific acts it does confirm his status as a Tragic Hero.

Video Games

  • While this is a series with Black and Gray Morality , the soldiers of the Brotherhood of Nod, the 'bad guys' of the game, show during Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars exceptional bravery, just consider the bulk of Nod military is formed of civilian militia from the ravaged and impoverished Yellow Zones armed with assault rifles, portable missile launchers and light vehicles(they are backed by some elite forces), these guys first manage to outmatch for some time the Global Defense Initiative, which is basically a coalition of the world greatest powers, and then they hold their ground against a massive alien invasion force with tecnology capable to disrupt the laws of physics and GDI's full operative military power.
    • It helps that their leader, Kane, is a very cunning strategist, and most of their generals are competent as well.
  • Maleficent in Kingdom Hearts, especially in Birth by Sleep. She never gives up on her ambitions, or allows herself the luxury of true failure. Evil as she is, you have to respect that. She even fought Sora face-to-face in the first game without hesitation or fear. Remember that Sora hasn't just defeated all her allies and most of her Heartless troops before the battle but also he had the help of Beast, a nine foot tall creature with claws and teeth who has no problems taking down even the strongest Heartless with just one punch. It takes guts to fight something like that.
  • The Turks in Final Fantasy VII, who lack the mako-enhancements and materia arsenal of the heroes but still put up a good fight when confronted.
  • Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn subverts this slightly, as the ones having villainous valor are good guys (well, one group of them) forced into being bad. 2 countries against 3? Even match for the enemy. 1 1/2 countries against 4 1/2? They absolutely DEVASTATED the enemy army.
    • In some Fire Emblem games the player gets dragon units, in these cases one also has to admire the guts of the Mooks for being able to stand toe to toe with(or even outmatch) a creature that is three times their size.
  • In the freeware RPG Last Scenario, the Omega Team does this twice in quick succession. First, after the heroes defeat the Big Bad, they rally to defend him and fight as a full team for the first time, resulting in a Boss Fight many times more difficult than their leader. They manage to escape after losing, but the weight of their unconscious leader allows the heroes to catch up before long. So the alleged "Reliable Traitor" Helio stops to perform a Heroic Sacrifice, using a Psycho Serum that he knows will only allow him to stall the heroes while his comrades escape, and will kill him even if he wins. But not before delivering a combination between Villainous Breakdown and World of Cardboard Speech proving his unwavering loyalty to his team and their leader.
  • The short roguelike "Smart Kobold" features a tribe of kobolds which your character could kill effortlessly in a straight fight - so, their cave has guards posted to raise an alarm the moment you walk in, and when it goes off the kobolds immediately start snatching up all their weapons, valuables, and babies, and retreat (setting traps as they go) to a large room where they can easily snipe you to death. Where this really crosses the line from cleverness to outright valor, though, is that if you corner one of their mages or archers, he'll often snap his wand or bow in half, so you can't use it when he dies (and you'll need a ranged weapon to have any hope of winning).
  • Several antagonists are quite valiant in their efforts to defeat the main party in Tales of Symphonia. The final boss in particular. Just before he dies, he states that he doesn't regret any of his actions and would do it all over again if he could.
  • In Transformers: War for Cybertron, Megatron spends the first half of the game being outmatched and trying to accomplish "impossible" goals (such as controlling Dark Energon, storming Autobot City and defeating Omega Supreme) only to come out victorious in all three tasks, despite everyone (both allies and foes) pointing out that the odds are against him.
  • Partially Subverted in God of War 2 due to the ways of Kratos. With Zeus being the King of the Greek Parthenon it would be hard for any one to defeat him unless you're the son of the god himself.

Web Comics

  • In Cheshire Crossing, The Wicked Witch Of The West repeatedly faces off against Mary Poppins. Poppins is depicted as a stern, overpowered witch who flattens her opponents with brute force, and shows off in both magical matters and mundane with little flourishes that let others know just how totally in charge she is. The Witch of the West on the other hand is made out to be a bitter underdog, defeated before at least once, who spends her time in search of arcane secrets and power sources. When they encounter each other for the first time while in Oz, Poppins is able to knock the Witch of the West around until the Witch of the West gets the drop on her with a bucket of water. Oz has special rules, and Poppins hasn't done her homework.
  • In A Miracle of Science, one may find it hard not to root for Doctor Haas as he strives to take over the world despite being hunted down by not only the police, but also a godlike Hive Mind.
  • In Drowtales, althought not villains per se, the dvergar who choose to fight the drow rather than trading with them shows this. Even after being reduced to a remnant by the desperate, fleeing dokkalfar (and later outright invading drow) and having no mana, they still are a real danger to drow trade caravans and even manage to get in a few good blows against the highland raiders. Keep in mind that the last is a bit like somali pirates attacking a US battleship.

Web Original

  • The Salvation War has shades of this. As horrible as the demons might be, they fight heroically against the humans' modern technology and get pasted.
    • Later causes divisions between those humans who respect this and those who do not.
  • In this video that is violently opposed to the Skyrim arrow to the knee meme, a short, fat, nerdy guy goes to type the arrow joke into a youtube comment when the game's main character bursts out of the screen, kneecaps the nerd with arrows to both knees, then begins to strangle the nerd and tell him how much he sucks for liking meme jokes. He goes to make some gory and violent death threats should the nerd ever do it again. The nerd responds by making an arrow to the knee joke. Sure, it gets him Killed Mid-Sentence, but as the top rated comment on the video says "I have to admit, the nerd has balls."
  • Displayed by Adolf Hitler of all people during his second appearance in Epic Rap Battles of History. He's ready to rap (against Darth freakin' Vader) only seconds after having been thawed from carbonite, a process that is agonising, debilitating, and blinding. He then goes on a veritable roll, hitting every single one of Vader's Berserk Buttons, culminating by declaring the Sith Lord's life to be a giant Epic Fail and referring to him as both "Annie" and "The Emperor's Whore." It gets him dropped into the Rancor Pit, but damn.

Western Animation

  • We often see Brock Sampson from the henchmen's point of view in The Venture Brothers. The most notable case of Valiant Villainy here would probably be Henchman Number 1's stand against him, or maybe the lightsaber thing.
  • One could argue that 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.
      • Particularly amazing considering that he was fighting someone channeling the power of a thousand Avatars at once. He may have been the strongest and most skilled non-Avatar bender ever.
        • Being fair, he's greatly amped by the powr of Sozin's Comet at the time he's doing that. Under normal circumstances he'd have had no chance vs. a fully-realized Avatar. Still, he put in an immensely impressive showing.
    • And of course there's Zuko 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.
  • 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.
  • The trecherous general 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 it takes guts to take on a prodigy like Lance with just a sword when he could have finish him off without a second thought.
  1. Of course one could say that he was tricked into fighting for a cause other than his own