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Tropes about characters shifting on the morality axis, redemption and corruption. See also Betrayal Tropes.
See Sorting Algorithm of Face Heel Turning for a sheet of factors figuring into the probability of a turn.
Good to Evil
- Adaptational Villainy
An adaptation of a work makes a character much nastier than they were in the source material.
- Bait the Dog
A character set up to be the more 'charming' type of evil is revealed to be much nastier than their initial impression.
- Being Tortured Makes You Evil
A character who undergoes prolonged torture gives up on their ideals and morality and joins Team Evil.
- Beware the Nice Ones (sometimes)
Sometimes that niceness is just a facade. "Sometimes" because sometimes Good Is Not Nice.
- Break the Cutie (sometimes)
Every now and then, snapping The Pollyanna's mind just MIGHT turn her nasty.
- Character Derailment
Either, technically, but good to evil is more common due getting more Shocking Swerve out of Good to Evil.
- Chronic Villainy
All attempts at a genuine Heel Face Turn unsuccessful.
- Corrupt the Cutie
- Darker and Edgier
Gritty reboots often turn a formerly straight-laced hero into someone more grey and Anti Heroish.
- Despair Event Horizon
Where the character doesn't care that they're about to turn evil.
- Drunk with Power
A normally level-headed character gets a taste of power and becomes a Jerkass.
- Face Heel Turn
- Fake Defector
Except not really turning, it just looks like it.
- Fallen Hero
A once-respected hero for some reason or another turns evil, which often sets up a Cry for the Devil.
- Go Mad From the Revelation
A character sees or experiences something they were not meant to know and goes insane/evil.
- He Who Fights Monsters
Mentally steeling yourself to fight evil eventually erodes your ethics.
- If You Kill Him You Will Be Just Like Him
A character who breaks the commandment of Thou Shalt Not Kill suffers a karmic or moral backlash, or indulging in Revenge breaks the last bit of their sanity.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope
A character goes evil VERY quickly after doing some warned-against but other innocuous thing.
- The Killer in Me
A character doesn't consciously realize how evil they are inside until later.
- Love Makes You Evil (can be related to the Green-Eyed Monster)
- Moral Event Horizon
When a character steps outside the bounds of ordinary, safe villainy into something outrageously EVIL.
- More Than Mind Control
A character reveals that there was some willingness to their Brainwashing, hinting at or exploiting some inner darkness that is now at the surface.
- Not Brainwashed
A character is so evil all along that they don't even need to have their mind broken to be useful to Team Evil.
- Not Brainwashed
- Not-So-Harmless Villain
A comedic, laughable villain is revealed to be much more threatening than people thought.
- The Paragon Always Rebels
Where even a savior figure can become evil, because of the drama inherent in that.
- Peer Pressure Makes You Evil
When having morally shady friends compels an otherwise nice or ethical person to do something they normally wouldn't in order not to let down their 'friends'.
- Protagonist Journey to Villain
Surprise! That innocent fellow you were following from the start is now a villain.
- A Pupil of Mine Until He Turned to Evil
The mentor figure (usually good) laments that the person they trained used to have a good heart, but no longer.
- Reforged Into a Minion
That ally of yours you left for dead? Yeah, the Big Bad got a hold of him and decided it was a good idea to twist him into his Dragon.
- Rival Turned Evil
A once-respectable, if persistent, opponent gradually becomes more evil, turning their existing antagonism/competition into something more serious.
- Rogue Protagonist
A heroic protagonist in a previous story is now the antagonist for some reason or other.
- Ron the Death Eater
Demonization renders a heroic character bad in order to suit the author's purposes.
- Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome
A heroic character becomes an outright villain in a sequel to a work.
- Start of Darkness
The tale of a character's slow but inevitable plunge into black villainy.
- Super Dickery
A normally morally-upright character is shown to be indulging in some evil behavior as an advertising technique.
- Trapped by Gambling Debts
A character is forced into evil by gambling debts to a criminal organization.
- Villain Corner
A character, not quite a Heel yet, is rapidly being pushed in that direction.
- What the Hell, Hero?
The story calls the hero out for doing something morally shady; unless The Hero takes immediately steps to correct their behavior, this is often the first step towards a full Face Heel Turn.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity
Someone's mind is broken by the great power they suddenly possess.
- Who's Laughing Now?
A Butt Monkey or Woobie turns evil in order to get the respect they want.
Neutral to Aligned
Evil to Good
- The Atoner
- Author's Saving Throw (either, technically, but evil to good is more common)
- Break the Haughty
- Character Check
- Comes Great Responsibility
- Conspiracy Redemption
When a Knight Templarish organization as a whole goes from evil to good, or at least to A Lighter Shade of Gray).
- Curiosity Causes Conversion
- Defector From Decadence
When a bad guy defects because he's sick of Team Evil.
- Draco in Leather Pants
The fanbase or an in-universe crowd sees the character as a hero, but it's all in their perception
- Easily Forgiven
- Even Mooks Have Loved Ones
Mook or Dragon defects to protect people s/he cares about.
- Even Evil Has Standards
A candidate for Complete Monster is shown not to be one because there are lines even THEY won't cross.
- Fighting for Survival
Neutral Selfish or Stupid Evil characters discover their morals in order to cooperate with others and save their lives.
- "Get Out of Jail Free" Card
- Go and Sin No More
A villain realizes the error of his ways and prepares for punishment from the hero. Instead, the hero lets him go and tells him to atone for what he's done.
- Good Feels Good
A villain learns that being good leads to greater happiness.
- Heel Face Brainwashing
- Heel Face Mole
A villain fakes his or her conversion; essentially the inverted Fake Defector
- Heel Face Return
- Heel Face Turn
- Heel Faith Turn
- Heel Race Turn
An entire race of people goes from evil to good.
- Heel Realization
An evil character admits that his/her actions are evil.
- In Love with the Mark
- Karma Houdini (sometimes)
- Kill Me Now or Forever Stay Your Hand
- Love Redeems
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal
- Mook Face Turn
- Monster Adventurers
- Must Make Amends
- My God, What Have I Done?
A character's Heel Realization delivers a weight of remorse, which may drive him/her toward the path of good.
- Power of Trust
- Rape as Redemption
- Redemption Demotion
An overwhelmingly powerful villain becomes merely on par with the other heroes after joining them.
- Redemption Earns Life
- Redemption Equals Death
- Redemption Equals Sex
- Redemption in the Rain
- Redemption Promotion
A comedic, ineffectual villain becomes Badass once they start fighting on the side of good.
- Redemption Quest
- Reformed but Rejected
- Reformed Criminal
- Rivals Team Up
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here
- Symbiotic Possession
A demon (or any other sentient force) takes control of a person's body, but the host manages to befriend him, turning him into an ally.
- Tears of Remorse
An evil character's potential for redemption shows when s/he sheds tears over an evil action.
- Villain Decay
An ordinary villain has his threat and vileness neutralized by repeated failure and humiliation, becoming less evil.
- Villainous BSOD (if followed through)
- Welcome Back, Traitor
- What Is This Thing You Call Love?
- Worthy Opponent
When the hero and the villain begin to operate more-or-less from the same side, while remaining rivals.
- Ambiguously Evil
- Awakening the Sleeping Giant
- Becoming the Mask (when pretending to be a Face or Heel is no longer pretending)
- Breakup Breakout
- The Green Knight
Characters introduced as a team have members discard their old alignments once the team dissolves.
- Bring Them Around
- Defector From Decadence
- Epiphany Therapy
- Face Heel Double Turn - one goes from good to evil while another goes from evil to good at the same time.
- Freudian Excuse
Where the turn is caused by a traumatic childhood incident. Letting it go unchecked tends to leads to a Face Heel Turn, treating it tends to lead to a Heel Face Turn.
- Going Native
- Hazy Feel Turn
From one side to another, but not really changing alignment.
- Heel Face Revolving Door
"I'm bad. Now I'm good. But now I'm bad again. Wait, now I'm good again. No, wait....")
- Karma Meter
- Literal Change of Heart
- Mirror Morality Machine
- Morality Adjustment
- Motive Decay
A villain gradually discards the reasons why they became evil in the first place, either losing their sympathy if they keep at it or give up their villainy after no longer caring about their Freudian Excuse
- My Species Doth Protest Too Much
- Sudden Humility
A character suddenly finds him/herself in a difficult position another is routinely in and realizes the hardships it involves.
- They Still Belong to Us Lecture
- Tomato in the Mirror
- Trauma Conga Line
When a hero or villain has so many things go wrong at once that they lose faith in their old ways and explore 'the other side'.
- Wild Card ("What side am I on, you ask? The side I'm always on: mine.")
Specific Aversions/Subversions where an alignment shift should occur but does not.
- Enemy Mine
Even though the villain came and saved the day, it was only a temporary thing not caused by a change of heart.
- Easy Road to Hell
In universes with this in effect, it's impossible not to be defined as "evil".
- The Farmer and the Viper
A character is set up to be redeemed through kindness or The Power of Trust, but it's shown that it didn't work at all.
- Go-Karting with Bowser
("Hey, Skeletor - this is He-Man. Wanna go to the mall this afternoon?")
- Heel Face Door Slam
The villain wanted to reform, but too late.
- Ignored Epiphany
"My God, What Have I Done??....Hell, come to think of it, I've done nothing."
- Kick the Son of a Bitch
A character does something nasty to show how evil they are, but it falls flat because the victim seriously deserved it.
- Obligatory War Crime Scene
The heroes Kick the Dog (or worse) in an inexcusable way without experiencing a Heel Face Turn, because War Is Hell and even The Hero can't maintain their goodness throughout it.
- Post-Mortem Conversion
- Redemption Failure
A formerly-evil character almost reaches redemption... and then stuff happens that forces them back into villainy against their will.
- Slowly Slipping Into Evil
someone gradually come to evil.
- Villainy Discretion Shot
A character is saved from Bait the Dog or worse because their evil acts are glossed over by Rule of Empathy.