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The Exalted Torturer is someone who uses the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique as if it's just fine and great, Perp Sweating to the degree of outright Police Brutality, war crimes and similar atrocities, and/or other forms of behavior that qualify him or her as a torturer and sadistic person. The Exalted Torturer is above and/or outside the law he claims to uphold. He is almost Always Male (because a woman torturing people in such a way would always be a villain or at best portrayed as Ax Crazy or a Tsundere or Yandere), and possibly out for nothing but the gratification that torture and inflicting pain brings him or the viewers, as he takes all Acceptable Targets to the pain and he should, by almost any standard, be considered a Complete Monster....

Except he's not. He's the Designated Hero either by the author, or even if the author doesn't originally intend to somehow make him heroic and a Real Man (tm), Misaimed Fandom causes the writer to play up his torture and abuse as "good" or heroic. He's on the "side of good" not just in his fictional world, but he can also possibly become a cause celebre for Real Life defenders of torture and/or police brutality or whatever form of atrocity he's inflicting upon his victims, either because they are Acceptable Targets or because he's the Designated Hero, or both.

An Exalted Torturer is:

Compare Path of Inspiration for an institutional example: something that is made to look "good" and "heroic" and has a ton of good publicity, but is, in reality, nothing of the sort. Compare and contrast Cowboy Cop, Moral Dissonance, Values Dissonance, and especially the Torture Technician (when the torturer isn't specifically defined within his story as a heroic or "good" character and is only glorified as a result of Misaimed Fandom or Fan Dumb, he is a Torture Technician and not this trope). Fridge Horror may exist when Writer on Board is in effect from the beginning (as in at least one of the examples below).

Examples of Exalted Torturer include:

Anime & Manga

  • Rapeman. While the manga and anime are arguably Satire featuring Black Comedy Rape, enough Viewers are Morons that it reinforces the idea that rape can be a valid "punishment" or source of redemption for victims.
  • Ibiki Morino from Naruto, who is actually one of the good guys. Despite his reputation though, his methods are largely psychological.
  • Saito Hajime of Rurouni Kenshin believes strongly in justice, but it's hard to deny that he really likes killing people. While he doesn't torture on-screen, at one point, he disaudes a boy from taking revenge on his parents' murderer by telling the boy that the murderer will undoubtedly have information tortured out of him before being gruesomely executed, and thus letting him be arrested would be the better revenge.

Comic Books

  • Sin City's Marv not only does this to criminals but he loves it. There is an entire monologue in his first story about how much he enjoys what he's doing.


  • Dirty Harry, possibly the Trope Maker for film depictions in the US.
  • The protagonist of the Hanzo The Razor films, who was once this page's picture before the cleanup. The same as the Rapeman example, except not played as satire and Black Comedy. Instead, he's played straight as a "good cop" who investigates his cases by raping his suspects into submission.
  • The Dark Knight Saga sets the following baseline for Batman: If you are a Smug Snake of a dirty cop, he won't hesitate to traumatize you and scare you half to death as a form of interrogation. If you're a crime lord holding out information on a madman going on a destructive rampage through his city, he will go even farther. If you are said madman and the clock is ticking on people's lives, he will start at bodily harm and beat you within an inch of your life if that's what it takes. The Joker sees all this and, with mixed awe and annoyance, declares him "incorruptible" (because he has only one rule, "no killing", and he won't break it).
  • An in-movie example in the 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame - the official flogger who publicly whips Quasimodo is cheered like a sports hero.

Live Action TV


  • In the Ksin saga, the royal torturer is that. He is a true master in causing pain and does his worst than he works - but he also exemplifies Honor Before Reason - even though he knows that some things he does are unreasonable, he considers it a must at his position - a torturer must be a paragon of honor or else he will be worse than a beast.
  • Subverted in Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Severian at first believes this, but then comes to later realize that torture is bad.
  • Depending on who you ask, God or Satan (or both) in The Bible. The book of Job is an example, where an innocent victim is tortured solely to prove his faithfulness.
  • In the Left Behind series, it's God who's propped up as the Exalted Torturer. Not that God or Jesus Christ enjoy it, as Jesus sadly watches the Antichrist, the False Prophet, and all those who rejected Him throughout the ages go to their appointed doom. To quote Jesus speaking to Ashtaroth, Baal, and Cankerworm in the Dramatic Audio:

  "Like My Father, with whom I am One, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but justice must be served, and death is your sentence."

  • While no details are given as to what exactly Butcher Brakespeare of the Flora Segunda books did during the war, her reputation as her country's greatest war criminal makes it clear that it was not very nice. But apparently she thought very hard about it and while it was difficult for her to do, it was the only way. So that's all right then. (Meanwhile, the other side's equally-vague war crimes are treated as completely unjustified and horrible.)
  • In the Lensman universe, Worsel of Velantia and Nadreck of Palain VII both unleash the torture instruments of the Delgonian Overlords upon their former masters in the search for vital information. In Worsel's case, the other Lensmen let him do it because his own species was for countless centuries subject to the Overlords' depredations (basically a combination of Mind Rape, torture and a kind of telepathic sadism, and concluding with snuff and the consumption of the dying victim's life energies), while Nadreck is a member of a species which literally cannot comprehend such concepts as suffering without years of study, and even then can't feel it.
  • Pulp detective character Mike Hammer did a fair amount of beating and killing perps. Notably, while this was depicted as praiseworthy in the novels, one of the notable films based on the series, Kiss Me Deadly is something of a Stealth Parody making him a Villain Protagonist.

Tabletop Games

  • The Gray Guard Prestige Class/Paragon Path from Dungeons and Dragons was supposed to allow paladins the ability to go all Dirty Harry on potential perpetrators without losing their alignment.

Video Games

  • A Renegade Commander Shepard in Mass Effect.
  • A Dragon Age 2 example. During the quest "Inside Job", Hawke can torture a miner and have him killed. In his/her own home.
  • World of Warcraft is a special case. While most of the torturers in game (Torturer Lecraft and such) are NOT this trope because they are antagonists to both factions (which would make them Unexalted Torturers), there are characters that do meet this trope because at least one faction considers them non-antagonist (Sergeant Kanren in Falconwing Square is a Horde example, Interrogator Khan in Telaar an Alliance one), and there's a class (Death Knight, at least in the beginning) and quests for both Horde and Alliance that can make your character become an Exalted Torturer.

Web Comics

  • Sonichu and Christian Weston Chandler's self-insertions.
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