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Worthy Opponent

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"I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend."
"You may have only enemies whom you can hate, not enemies you despise. You must be proud of your enemy: then the successes of your enemy are your successes too."
Zarathustra, Thus Spake Zarathustra (not to be confused with Chicken Run)

The equal and opposite enemy to the hero, who, save for the tragic circumstances of his life, upbringing, political ideology, or financial situation, might have been the hero's best friend. Unfortunately, though, he must be the hero's opposition. Evenly matched, with a sense of honor that allows the hero to trust him about a select few things, and an honest respect for the hero, the Worthy Opponent also fights to the same standards of fairness as the hero; he will not shoot you In the Back, and may even prevent someone else from doing so; in military situations, he will obey The Laws and Customs of War. The Worthy Opponent will also do things like negotiate honestly or allow the wounded hero to escape to fight another day. He will invariably even the terms of a fight when he possesses a clear advantage, often being unwilling to fight an unarmed foe (either discarding his weapon or allowing the protagonist to reclaim his own), and waiting until an unconscious enemy has woken and can engage in an honorable Duel to the Death, because they must settle things like gentlemen. He may not dispatch the wounded hero even when the hero tells him to Get It Over With. Sometimes found in the role of The Dragon, but is almost never the Big Bad. If he's a commander, he may be A Father to His Men; indeed, his men may prove a sticking point with the Big Bad. Assassins, manhunters, and various wandering duelists frequently invoke this trope, often choosing their profession to engage in a test of skill by Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Such characters rarely share the same values as their employers and are often disparaged for fighting fair or letting the hero go out of respect.

The Worthy Opponent is rarely a recurring character, but is usually likely to evolve into a Friendly Enemy. More often, he is killed (sometimes by a fanatic on his own side) after one or two episodes, prompting the hero to mourn the loss of such an honorable but misguided soul.

This is usually the only enemy to whom you may say that It Has Been an Honor. And most often, these feelings are mutual between you. When he gets beaten and stays alive, he will be a Graceful Loser. Despite their honor, they rarely seem to decide to stop enabling their country or their leader to do evil.

When worthy opponents are of different genders, it can develop into a situation of Dating Catwoman.

See also Antagonist in Mourning, Anti-Villain, Touche. Noble Demons tend towards this trope, as do members of Proud Warrior Races. Contrast with the Evil Counterpart, Dark Magical Girl, Unknown Rival and Minion with an F In Evil. The Noble Bigot with a Badge is a subtype--when they're not the protagonist, anyways. Very likely to become a Friendly Enemy, though respect does not always equal friendliness. Works with strong espionage, political, or underworld themes will sometimes use the related Beware the Honest Ones, in which characters feel comfortable opposing one another precisely because they both use underhanded means to pursue selfish goals. More distantly related to The One Thing I Don't Hate About You.


Examples of Worthy Opponent include:

Anime and Manga Edit

  • Wham from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure. He's the only one of his group who has any semblance of a code of honor when it comes to combat and the only one to end up sharing mutual respect with Joseph Joestar.
  • Yuuri and, later, Mimi and Sheshe from Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch.
  • L and Light from Death Note, only emphasizing the fact that the show has a Villain Protagonist.
  • Ashram from Record of Lodoss War, at least in the TV version.
    • He was this in the OVA, too -- it's just that, for most of the series, he was Kashue's Worthy Opponent, not Parn's (or rather, Parn had to level up quite a bit to be a worthy opponent for him).
  • Yusuke Urameshi and Younger Toguro in Yu Yu Hakusho. Younger Toguro even has to pretend to kill Kazuma Kuwabara in order to greatly increase Yusuke's Power Level for him to truly become his Worthy Opponent
  • Nietzsche Wannabe Schwarzwald of The Big O, although initially antagonistic to hero Roger Smith, became an unspoken ally of Smith later in the second season. Both searched for the truth behind The Event: Schwarzwald preferred fear, aggression, and mass murder to spread his message, while Smith opted to protect the citizens of Paradigm City from Schwarzwald's attacks and was nearly killed by Schwarzwald in the process. Smith later spoke fondly of Schwarzwald, who left clues for Smith in an attempt to lead him to the ultimate truth behind The Event.
  • Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann ended up doing a Heel Face Turn and became The Lancer.
  • Shimi from Outlaw Star makes a great drinking buddy to Gene until he has to kill him. He eventually decides to settle this in a duel where his gun jams and the crew bury him before setting off...until he digs himself out ("They should have buried me deeper.") and reveals that he faked the whole thing since he hated being a space pirate and was looking for a way to quit.
  • Sendoh Akira and Sawakita Eiji to Rukawa Kaede in Slam Dunk.
  • S-Cry-ed is built around this trope, having two main characters who start off on opposite sides of the conflict and are bitter enemies, but actually have a lot in common, unite against a common enemy in the second half of the series, and become sorta-friends, though they still have an intense rivalry and can't have a conversation without it devolving into insults.
  • Rambal Ral from Mobile Suit Gundam, who actually did befriend Amuro before they battled to the death.
  • Although they are enemies, Ankoku Daishogun and Tetsuya Tsurugi (both from Great Mazinger) respect each other as warriors, and when the first falls, Tetsuya gave him a salutation for being a Worthy Opponent. Obviously, this gets carried over in Super Robot Wars.
  • Nanoha and Fate quickly become Worthy Opponents of each other in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, complete with adorable, pre-teen Foe Yay and inevitable Heel Face Turn. In the second season, Fate and Signum pair off similarly, maintaining a friendly rivalry even after the second inevitable Heel Face Turn (never mind that Fate's Just a Kid when they meet and Signum is Really Seven Hundred Years Old, respect is respect). Nanoha and Vita, on the other hand, are more like rivals due to the latter's attitude.
  • In Martian Successor Nadesico, Tsukumo Shiratori and Captain Akiyama seem to consider themselves the Worthy Opponents of the "heroic" mecha pilot Akito and the "brilliant" captain Yurika, neither of whom really seem to care. The pilot pair do become friends for a brief while before, yep, Shiratori gets offed by a scheming fanatic on his own side.
  • Eyeshield 21 has this kind of relationship between the Devil Bats and many of the members of the other football teams they play, but especially the Oujou White Knights. A couple of times, you get the feeling that Sakuraba and Monta, and Kurita and Otawara, could've been the best of friends if they were on the same team. On the other hand, Shin and Sena are probably as close as they'll ever get, as fiercely competitive yet friendly rivals with deep respect for one another.
    • Same with Sena and Panther. Both are from different continents, different cultures and speak a different language and yet have a deep respect from each other and are always in friendly competition.
    • Gaou regards anyone who has the guts to face him as a Worthy Opponent and expresses an open liking to them, particularly Banba, Riku and Kurita. In fact, Gaou's Berserk Button is if anyone insults those he considers to be his Worthy Opponent and he will go on a rampage to find said person to tear them to pieces.
  • Mugen and Jin of Samurai Champloo, from the moment they first meet. Within seconds of coming into contact, they fight to the (almost) death, then get arrested together and commiserate (half naked, too), all while swearing to murder each other once they escape.
  • Father Anderson and Alucard in Hellsing (at least, in the manga and recent OVA). In one sequence from the manga, Alucard watches admiringly as Anderson slices his way through an army of mooks Alucard summoned in order to have a final showdown with Alucard.
  • In Dragon Ball Z, before Goku obliterates Kid Buu with the Spirit Bomb, he comments that the fight with him was so good and intense that he wishes he wasn't evil. He wishes that, maybe in another life, they'd get to do this again. Interestingly, his wish came true, as Buu was reincarnated into a human boy named Uub, and in the 28th Tenka'ichi Budokai, he loved the fight so much that he abandoned left his family, friends, and the most persistent rival of the series, Vegeta (who truly is a worthy opponent looking at what happened to the rest of Goku's rivals in the series) to help him master his abilities and fight him again. In Dragon Ball GT, this took ten years.
    • Applies best to Vegeta, who's Goku's rival/Lancer. He hates Goku with a passion through most of the series and spends half that time trying to kill the latest Big Bad so he can finally get his fight with Goku. First, he learns to respect Goku, then, he learns to understand Goku's motivations. Finally, ultimately, he makes his peace, recognizes that Goku is simply the better warrior, and, if you don't count Dragonball GT, may even have found peace in his life.
    • Earlier in the series, during the Namek arc, Captain Ginyu treats Goku as a worthy challenge for his skills and refuses to take advantage of Jheese's surprise attack. However, when he realises that Goku is actually more than twice as powerful as he is, this attitude goes out the window and he uses his body change technique instead.
  • Vagabond has Miyamoto Musashi, who has this dynamic with various other characters even before they fight; in fact, in his first major fight, he survives because Yoshioka Denshichirou wants him to become this. (Unfortunately for Denshichirou, Musashi makes far better use of the year between their duels and ends up defeating him easily.) In'ei trains him specifically because he's the one for Inshun (no one else can threaten Inshun's life), but Musashi's two most clear Worthy Opponents seem to be Yagyuu Hyougonosuke and Sasaki Kojirou.
  • Although he starts out their match aiming to injury Tezuka (and succeeds), rival captain Atobe from The Prince of Tennis ends the match considering Tezuka a Worthy Opponent (and becomes it himself, in turn), to the point that once he finally wins the match after a ridiculously long tiebreaker, the first thing Atobe does is raise Tezuka's hand in a sort of shared victory.
  • In the Pokémon Special manga, Bruno is the only Elite Four member who isn't evil, he just wants a worthy opponent to fight with. He finds one in Red.
    • It's confirmed midway through the Hoenn arc that he mentored Brawly as well. From one badass to another, it seems...
  • Negi and Kotaro in Mahou Sensei Negima start out this way with Kotaro as Negi's enemy. Tsukuyomi also appears to feel this way about Setsuna (among feelings beyond mere admiration).
    • And now Tsukuyomi has gone off the deep end...
    • Fate now considers Negi this. Indeed, his face heel turn now seems all but guaranteed.
  • In Full Metal Panic, apparently Gauron feels something of this sort towards Sousuke. It's one-sided, though - Sousuke really, really hates him. The first time they meet, Gauron even wanted to take Sousuke in. However, Sousuke refused. As an ally or as an enemy, Gauron has a great appreciation for Sousuke's stoic-ness and skill. His affection and obsession, however, may have actually deepened because they became enemies...
  • Kenshiro and Raoh. The ending of series one even credits Raoh as helping restore stability to the world.
  • Code Geass gives several examples of this relationship. The most obvious example is Suzaku and Kallen in their piloting skills. Lelouche and Schneizel have this in their Magnificent Bastardry.
    • Well, that's a stretch. Suzaku and Kallen do respect each other, but there's also a lot of hatred, especially after the events of the first season's finale. That goes triple for Lelouch and Schneizel. Schneizel seems to enjoy Lelouch's competition, but Lelouch doesn't reciprocate, as Schneizel is a man who tried to kill his favorite sister's "special manservant/knight" for no discernible reason other than it being convenient, and tried to slaughter several hundred million people for "peace"...including most of his own country's population. Though Schneizel did threaten Lelouch by using Nunnally as a human shield, so maybe he doesn't really respect Lelouch that much.
    • Gino Weinberg sees Kallen as this; he's the type who enjoys a good, honest fight. She doesn't see it the same way, but she holds nothing against Gino personally; he's on the other side, she's going to beat him to get past, that's all. They eventually end up on the same side (against Lelouch) towards the Grand Finale.
  • One Piece
    • Vice Admiral Garp was the Worthy Opponent of none other than Gold Roger himself. So much so that Roger, knowing he would soon die, entrusted Garp with the life of his unborn child.
    • Luffy and Koby are probably going to end up like this, now that Koby knows Soru and they are on opposing sides, yet remain best friends. And either or both Eustass Kidd and Trafalger Law for the Pirate rival.
    • Mihawk to Zoro. In fact, Mihawk sees Zoro so much as his Worthy Opponent that not only does he decide to spare Zoro's life after their first battle, he also trains Zoro during the timeskip!
    • Fleet Admiral Sengoku and Whitebeard. The commander-in-chief of the Marines also says he was the best of the pirates.
    • Whitebeard and Shanks are both members of the Yonko, reigning over the New World, but when another Yonko, Kaidou, attempted to attack Whitebeard when the latter was distracted trying to rescue Ace from the World Government, Shanks stopped him. And later, after Whitebeard's death, Shanks stepped in and allowed the Whitebeard pirates to bury his and Ace's bodies without the Marines defacing them.
  • Ghost in the Shell is full with Worthy Opponents. Kuze Hideo from the second season of Stand Alone Complex is a prime example, though it gets more complicated in later episodes.
  • Azumanga Daioh plays this rather humorously as Kagura is transferred to the class midway through the series. She immediately decides to take on the tall and popular Sakaki as her rival, believing that the feeling of competitiveness will be reciprocated. However, Sakaki wants to do nothing but dream of cats and do cute things and doesn't even realize that Kagura believes that they are rivals.
  • Legend of Galactic Heroes has Reinhard von Lohengramm expressing this sentiment towards Yang Wen-li for much of the series, even while he has yet to meet the man in person. Yang, on his side, does not have the personality nor the strategic luxury of being able to consider any of his opponents as 'worthy', but he does at least seem to respect Reinhart's tactical and political acumen. Yang does express sentiments of this nature towards Reinhart's second-in-command, Siegfried Kircheis, after the two met during a hostage exchange and cessation of hostilities agreement, but nothing more comes of it as Kircheis is assassinated not long afterwards.
  • Sayoko of Ah! My Goddess seems to view Belldandy as this. When Sayoko finally wins and reduces Belldandy to her maid and personal plaything, she even declares it a pointless victory as she relied on the power of another to achieve this and didn't succeed in truly crushing Belldandy.
  • Rou Barabba Dom in The Irresponsible Captain Tylor acts this part; his problem is that Tylor doesn't seem to be quite as worthy as Dom thinks he is.
  • Kisame towards Might Guy and, in turn, Guy to Kakashi in Naruto. Guy has trouble remembering who Kisame is, and Kakashi would rather not deal with Guy's idea of a rivalry.
  • Bleed/Jotaro Kaga towards Hayato Kazami in Future GPX Cyber Formula, especially in ZERO and SIN, in which the arc was focused on their rivalry.
    • Before Kaga, Randoll considers Hayato this. One for a Love Triangle problem with Asuka Sugo, second for the fact that he's the first one to beat him in a race.
    • Leon Earnhardt and Henri Claytor for secondary characters.
  • Hisoka of Hunter X Hunter, being an Ax Crazy Blood Knight, is always searching for a Worthy Opponent to fight and kill. He believes that Gon and Killua could grow up to become such opponents, and has taken steps to help them do just that. He is also trying to restore Chrollo's nen abilities in exchange for a chance to fight him.
    • A one-sided case appears in the latest chapters. The Chimera Ant King Meryem comes to admire the Hunter Association Chairman Netero's near flawless martial arts. Though the blows cause minimal damage, he cannot avoid them. Netero just sees Meryem as a monster that has to be exterminated.
  • Subverted, and played straight, in Black Lagoon's Japan arc. Chaka sees Revy as a Worthy Opponent...however, she doesn't see him the same way...and, later on, we find that Revy does see Ginji that way.
  • The Gold Brothers in Shippu Iron Leaguer are introduced as ruthless sports player, but after being beaten by the protagonist's team for so many times, they end up throwing away their dirty methods of playing and end up as this.
  • In Star Blazers/Space Battleship Yamato, Desslok is a very honorable opponent. In the first season, when the Star Force escapes traps which he'd thought unbeatable, his reaction is typically to send them a message of congratulations rather than strike them again while they're wounded. The main reason for it, at that point, is that he doesn't consider them a serious threat, yet. In the second season, when he has been reduced to being Zordar's dragon, he takes them very seriously and is on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge--but, in the end, when he has Wildstar and Nova at his mercy and can finally strike them down, he realizes that he's come to respect them too much to do it. He declares their conflict over, offers them a bit of advice on how to defeat Zordar, and departs in friendship.
  • In Lupin III, Zenigata views Lupin as a worthy opponent. In fact, besides Lupin, Zenigata is usually able to capture any criminal he sets his eyes on.
  • Kenpachi Zaraki from Bleach constantly seeks a worthy opponent, aka an opponent who can last longer than a second and is strong enough to hurt him. Kenpachi, and later Grimmjow, consider Ichigo this. Kenpachi then adds Nnoitra to the list. Aizen, after gaining the incredible power of the Hogyoku, informs Ichigo that he is bored and wants Ichigo, the one with the potential to become as powerful as him, to become stronger so that they can have an epic battle. Once Ichigo obliges, Aizen drops this attitude and has a Villainous Breakdown once he realizes that Ichigo is stronger than him.
  • Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin of Sengoku Basara show nothing but respect for each other, and see's the other a truly worthy opponent. Even when Kenshin is beaten in The Last Party, Takeda compliments him for being such a great opponent.

Comic Books Edit

  • The DC Elseworlds story Red Son, in which the infant Superman's rocket ship crash lands in the Soviet Union and Kal-El is brought up to become a Communist leader, the American scientist (and, later, President) Lex Luthor is Superman's Worthy Opponent, impressive for a man with no superpowers. Their rivalry is much more personal than the international politics they are embroiled in, and though they are constantly seeking to destroy one another, Superman, at one pivotal moment, refers to Lex as "old friend". Lex, the irony lost on him, at one point muses that he and Superman could have been close allies had Superman been raised in America.
    • Every incarnation portrays their relationship this way. Luthor is the one person Superman can't defeat with strength and Superman is the one person Luthor can't control with his wealth.
    • This is only true of the post crisis continuity, since the golden and silver age Luthor was a known criminal rather than the percieved philanthrapist he is now
    • One "Imaginary Story" involved a minor villain named Dimension Master killing Lois Lane, and Superman having to deal with it. Dimension Master then has his shapeshifter wife briefly disguise herself as Lois just to further torment him. At this, Dimension Master is suddenly defeated by Luthor and Brainiac. Supes asks in astonishment why they are helping him, and they tell him that even though they are his enemies, they respect him, and they couldn't stand watching D.M.'s pointless cruelty.
  • Similarly, Charles Xavier and Magneto, despite wildly differing views on mutants and their role in normal (well, for the Marvel Universe) society, get on fairly well. When Grant Morrison blew up Genosha, Xavier even went to help Mags clean up. Since about 2005, and Xavier's slow and self-imposed eradication of his ethics, he's getting some rightly Not So Different accusations from his X-Men.
  • There's also an incredibly minor subtext of this in Fantastic Four, between Reed Richards and his ARCHNEMESIS!!! Doctor Doom. The two of them regularly top canon and fanon lists of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, and Reed steps in and out of feeling guilty for what happened to Doom in college. Part of it comes from the fact that they don't have to talk down to each other -- smartest men in the world and all that.
  • Enemy Ace Hans von Hammer is often portrayed as a Worthy Opponent. He is obviously inspired by the real-life Red Baron, mentioned below.
  • Captain Marvel (no, not that one), after Nitro exposed him to a certain gas, developed cancer. On his deathbed, Mar-Vell was visited by many heroes and champions, but by none of his own creed (little pun there). Yet he was visited by a Skrull high commander, the people who had been in war with his species since fuck knows when, who then commemorates him with the highest honour an opponent of the Skrull could have.
    • But wait! There is more! As Mar-Vell reaches Death's door...He sees Thanos of Titan, who was dead at that time. He walks up to him and says that an end like this was unworthy of his greatest enemy and then proceeds to battle him, calling forth upon the souls of defeated enemies of the Captain until he reaches Death, and hence, relief and rest from life's burdens. Some say this is Starlin's best work.
  • In the X Wing Series comics, readers encounter the Baron Soontir Fel, the Empire's best pilot since Vader died. He's death on a pair of twin ionizing engines, but unlike nearly every other Imperial in the series, he doesn't wallow in evilness. Far from it: he knows what he is in the dark and is moral, devoted to his wife, and just generally isn't hateful. When the Rogues shoot him down, he asks to speak in private to Wedge Antilles - the best New Republic pilot since Skywalker left to go Jedi-ing - and compares himself to Skywalker. Defeat Means Friendship, and Fel's wife is Wedge's sister and only surviving relative, and the Empire that Fel was so loyal to is dead...
  • Scrooge McDuck and Arpin Lusene have a Rich Victim - Gentleman Thief type of mutual respect in Don Rosa's comics. Lusene is a very good sport about losing, and Scrooge admits that the Frenchman is the greatest threat his fortune has (which says a lot, coming from him).
  • In one issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic, Ace and Wild Weasel (with Lady Jaye and The Baroness as co-pilots) accidentally encounter each other while flying their jet fighters one day. They spend the entire issue using every trick they know to try to shoot the other out of the sky. At the end, they both realize that they're completely out of ammunition. They fly their heavily-damaged planes past each other close enough to salute, then fly home (while their respective co-pilots ask, "That's it? We're just going to let them go?").
  • Flash and his Rogues have great respect for one another in nearly ever incarnation to varying degrees. In fact most of the time the rouges plans are just ways to get Flash to become a better hero.
  • In Usagi Yojimbo, Usagi and Captain Torame in "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy"; both are good samurai (Torame exemplifies loyalty and he'll stay by his lord's side even though he knows his lord is wicked) and express regret that they have to be enemies.
  • Marvel Comics have traditionally referred to their rivals DC Comics as "The Distinguished Competition".
  • The Death of Spider-Man arc averts this big time. Peter is faced against the Sinister Six with a bullet in his hip and takes the time to say Electro was his greatest adversary and it was an honor to fight him. But naturally this being Spidey he says he didn't really mean it and he doesn't even give Electro a second thought.


Fanfiction Edit

  • Hilariously subverted in the Firefly fanfic Forward, where the Arrogant Kung Fu Guy Si Quan confronts River, sizes her up, and considers her a worthy opponent who can test his abilities. River disagrees, and shoots him in the head.
  • Villain Protagonist Tyrin Lieph and the advisor to the krogan overlord, Halak Marr, in Mass Effect:The Council Era. A Villain Protagonist and Magnificent Bastard (well, he might not fit the Trickster part of the criteria, but that's it) plays Xanatos Speed Chess with a Chessmaster for the control of the galaxy. Halak even admits that if the two had been born of the same species, they would've been unstoppable as a team.
  • Katara and Azula in Avatar The Last Airbender Revised. Over the course of various battles and confrontations, the two develop a begrudging respect for each other.
  • In the Teen Titans fanfic Jewel of Darkness, resident Psycho for Hire Guerra views Cyborg as this, as he was the only one of the Titans to provide him with a decent fight, and actually managed to defeat him. It gets to the point that, during a fight with Robin, Guerra compares his fighting style with Cyborg's, and while he loses all interest in the Titans after his contract with Midnight expires, he's still looking forward to a rematch with Cyborg.
  • In the Evangelion fic Nobody Dies, Zeruel appears to consider Shinji Ikari to be this. According to Junior, Zeruel actually fears Shinji, and this is why, when he attacks, he singles Shinji out among all other opposition. Shinji himself is rather astonished by that revelation.

 Shinji: "That... that thing killed three Cherubim, took a nuclear missile to the face and it's afraid of me?"

Junior: You have battled the Father. You have slain more of that which you call Angels than any other. You are the one whom the Angels fear, Pilot Ikari. He is coming to do battle with you, as you are the only one upon the Earth whom he feels is his equal.


Film - Animated Edit

 The Joker: Adios, Brucie. I guess I should salute you as a worthy adversary and all that, but the truth is I really did hate your guts. **Blows raspberries at Bruce**

  • This is essentially the view the Colonel has of the wild horse by the end of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as evidenced by the scene where he subtly nods to him and rides away on his own horse.


Film - Live-Action Edit

 Patton: "Rommel, you Magnificent Bastard, I read your book!"

And later:

Patton: "You know, Dick, if I had my way, I'd meet Rommel face to face; him in his tank and me in mine. We'd meet out there somewhere... salute each other, maybe drink a toast, then we'd button up and do battle. The winner would decide the outcome of the entire war."

  • In The Princess Bride, both Inigo Montoya and Fezzik have become bored with curbstomping opponents in their respective fields. They both go out of their way to give the Man in Black the opportunity to fight them at his full effectiveness. He ultimately bests them both. They're so impressed that they join forces with him.
  • The World War II movie The Enemy Below, in which U-boat captain Von Stolberg (Curt Jurgens) was the Worthy Opponent of destroyer escort captain Murrell (Robert Mitchum).
  • Star Trek Nemesis is quite literally about an equal and opposite opponent to Picard, a clone of him who grew up in different circumstances.
  • Bill Cutting from Gangs of New York considered Priest Vallon, the leader of the Irish immigrant gang, the last man he could truly respect. After the gang battle in the beginning of the movie ends in Vallon's death, Cutting orders that Vallon's body "will cross over whole", while the other dead are mutilated for trophies, and is himself buried beside Vallon at the end.
  • The Operative from Serenity, who genuinely respects his opponents for their ingenuity and tenacity: "We should have done this as men - not with fire."
  • In Troy, Achilles eventually comes to feel this way about his nemesis Hector, despite having already killed and desecrated him in vengeance for the death of his cousin. Also, Hector's father, King Priam's attitude towards Achilles himself ("We are still enemies tonight. But even enemies can show respect.").
  • Detective Lt. Vincent Hanna of the LAPD and master thief Neil McCauley in Michael Mann's Heat are excellent examples of this trope; see especially the scene where Hanna pulls over McCauley's car and suggests they go grab a cup of coffee.
  • The Zulu Army in Zulu. They are a Proud Warrior Race who follow The Spartan Way. And in the movies, the Zulus sing their war chants and the Welsh Redshirt Army sing "Men of Harlech", which is a Welsh war song. Thus, they show that "all warriors are brothers." One of the commanders starts to scream at the Zulus after they come back near the end, believing that they are taunting them, only to have an Afrikaaner local inform him, while laughing, that 'they salute fellow braves'.
  • The Irish agent in The Man Who Never Was.
  • Ellie Driver from Kill Bill considers the Bride one of these, going so far as to murder the Bride's "killer" in revenge for depriving her of her foe. The feeling is not mutual.
    • She does, however, consider O-Ren Ishii a Worthy Opponent, once they're down to one-on-one combat, and likely the only DiVA she honestly respects.
  • The Predator in both movies lets the human who shows most combat ability (Dutch and Harrigan) fight him in more even circumstances, with the alien removing its mask and Shoulder Cannon.
    • Predator 2 shows that they are willing to reward a human who has managed to kill one of their own and let that person walk away.
  • In the 2000's film King Arthur, after Arthur threatens the you'd-swear-the-man-was-played-by-Tim-Robbins-but-he-wasn't-so-they-must-have-been-secretly-separated-at-birth Saxon leader to his face and rides away, the Saxon leader mutters, "Finally! A man worth killing."
  • Kingdom of Heaven features this with the rivalry between King Baldwin of Jerusalem and Saladin of the Muslims. The backstory mentions that they've been warring on and off for at least a decade, with Baldwin winning a smashing victory when he was only 16 before he contracted leprosy. When their armies meet again, after Saladin marches to avenge his sister's death, they meet in the middle of the battlefield and Baldwin promises that Raynald, the knight who raided a caravan under Saladin's protection, will be rightfully punished. Saladin accepts this and offers his physician's services to Baldwin, whose condition drastically worsened due to the forced march. After Baldwin dies and Guy takes over, Guy provokes an open war, marching his army into the middle of the freaking hot desert with no water or supplies, where they are cut to pieces. He is taken captive by Saladin, who asks him, "Were you not in the presence of a great king long enough to learn by his example?". When Saladin reaches Jerusalem, Guy is stripped down, tied to a donkey, and paraded before the city walls to the raucous laughter of the Muslim army.
  • In The Battle of Algiers, Col. Mathieu pays his respects to a fallen foe.
    • "I will say that I had the opportunity to admire the moral strength, intelligence, and wavering idealism demonstrated by Ben M'Hidi. For these reasons, although remembering the danger he represented, I do not hesitate to pay homage to his memory."
  • Monty Python and The Holy Grail has an explicit example. When Arthur has just cut off the Black Knight's arm, he utters: "Now stand aside, worthy adversary!"
  • Near the very end of Smokey and the Bandit, there's a moment where The Bandit and Sheriff Buford T. Justice share a moment of mutual admiration for each-other's tenacity, and Bandit goes so far as to pass up a chance to trick Buford so they can properly continue their chase. It happens again in Smokey And The Bandit 3, with Snow Man/Bandit II explaining that "You can't have a Bandit without a Smokey" as his reason for letting Bufford take the shark. It happens again, at the very end, with Bufford giving up the chace to finally arrest Snow Man (who he thinks is the real Bandit) in order to resume the chase, so he won't have to go back into retirement.
  • Hook feels this way about Peter Pan. A large part of the conflict of the movie is Hook's depression at the fact that he feels that Peter no longer lives up to it, and has to wait for him to remember who he really is.
  • By the end of Pirates of the Caribbean The Curse Of The Black Pearl, Commodore Norrington seems to have developed a grudging admiration for Captain Sparrow and Will Turner, going so far as to give them a head start when Jack yet again escapes his hanging and they give chase.
  • The Empire Strikes Back gives us Captain Lorth Needa, who sacrifices himself to save his crew from Vader's wrath.
  • In Red Dog, this is mentioned as a possible reason as to why Red Dog and Red Cat became friends.
  • In the Sherlock Holmes movies with Robert Downey, Jr., this is Moriarty's fascination with Sherlock.
  • Zatoichi has met several in his long career, but a notable one is the Ronin Hirate from the first film. Ichi sheds tears after their inevitable duel to the death, pays for Hirate's funeral and returns to visit his grave later.
  • Captain Hook in Hook. Beaten by Peter: "Well done, Peter. Good form."

Literature Edit

  • In the Honor Harrington series, Thomas Theisman would qualify, taking into account that Honor fears and respects him at the same time. Lester Tourville, too, arguably.
    • Victor Cachat and Anton Zilwicki.
  • In David Gemmell's Ravenheart. One of the Villain's men, Huntsekker, kills one of his own men for breaking a promise made to one of the enemy
  • Irene Adler to Sherlock Holmes.
    • It is also interesting to note that when Maurice Le Blanc needed a worthy opponent to his own character, Arsène Lupin, especially as Ganimard simply wasn't cutting it, he instead decided to use Sherlock Holmes, though for copyright reasons, his name was changed to Herlock Shears or Homlock Sholmes (who lives in Parker Street with his roommate Wilson). The first Crossover, where Sherlock Holmes arrives too late, kept the original names, however. Since Holmes became Public Domain, most editions today change it back to the original names.
  • The Sharpe books often included this type of character among the French ranks. Often, the character would be a portrayal of a real French officer whom the author respected. In a military context, this character makes more sense.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin books, several French officers (Captain, later Admiral, Christy-Palliere and his nephew, and Admiral de Linois, for example) are this to Jack Aubrey and his men. Also, Captain Lawrence of the U.S.S. Chesapeake.
  • Sergey Golovko or the Soviet Union as a whole in Tom Clancy novels.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40000 Eisenhorn novels, Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn regards the Sealed Evil in a Can Pontius Glaw as a being who is intelligent, erudite, charismatic, and likable, and regretfully remarks that if Glaw hadn't chosen to follow Chaos, then they would have been the best of friends.
  • Rudyard Kipling's The Ballad of East and West is a prolonged exploration of this trope, culminating in the purportedly villainous character being so impressed with his enemy that he sends his own son to serve as the hero's bodyguard.
  • In Scott's The Talisman, Sir Kenneth and the Saracen.
  • The titular magicians from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell never lose their mutual respect for each other's abilities, even as their rivalry grows more intense.
  • Ranger's Apprentice has quite a few of these, most notably, Erak the Proud Warrior Race Guy, who later becomes a close ally of the protagonists, and Selethen, who ends up the Graceful Loser.
  • The Canim from the Codex Alera series consider one of these better to have than a friend.
    • Specifically, they have a term for "trusted enemy", which is gadara. To be a gadara is to be highly respected, both as an opponent and a peer; for example, a gadara can enter his own gadara's camp and expect to not be attacked by the guards, as only gadara can spill their blood. Gadara are, however, still technically enemies, just friendly ones. Warmaster Varg considers his own son as gadara to him, and vice versa.
  • Subverted in the Star Wars Expanded Universe; Han Solo tells his evil cousin, Thrackan, that the Emperor's enemies mourned him as a worthy opponent, though Han knows full well that news of Palpatine's death provoked dancing in the streets.
  • Jelaudin in Bones of the Hills - having survived the fall of Samarkand, he understands the Mongols' tactics and is able to counter them. Genghis Khan privately admits a grudging respect for him. Just to drive the point home, his life after the loss of Samarkand is a compressed repeat of Genghis' own. When he dies, Genghis himself comments on his courage and honour.
  • Rana Sanga in the Belisarius Series is the Worthy Opponent to Belisarius as a general, and to Raghunath Rao and Valentinian in individual combat. He has the latter healed and treats him as an honored guest after (just barely) defeating him in single combat and taking him prisoner; when Sanga's army is forced to retreat from the invasion of Persia, he releases Valentinian. In the last two books, Valentinian's role in protecting Sanga's wife and children from a plot against them by Link and the Malwa dynasty is key to Sanga's Heel Face Turn, and he eventually sends his own son and heir to be Valentinian's apprentice in the art of combat.
    • Also, Domodara, to a lesser extent, and before their Heel Face Turns, Kungas and Vasudeva. In fact, the Rajputs and the Kushans in general, being Proud Warrior Races, kind of qualify for this.
  • In The Mists of Avalon, Uther Pendragon cries because the death of a viking king he slew, calling him a good enemy.
  • Lancer and Saber in Fate/Zero. Neither one is really a bad or good guy, they just happen to be on opposite sides pursuing the same goal. And their Masters are both a lot less noble.
  • Emeth, the good Calormene from CS Lewis's The Last Battle, tells Peter that he'd be glad to have him either for an enemy or for a friend, and that there's a Calormene poet who wrote, "A noble friend is the best gift and a noble enemy the next best." (Possibly, he sought to invoke a legend about the Real Life Muslim conqueror Saladin, who was famous for his "noble" treatment of Christian enemies.)
  • Harry Dresden and Gentleman Johnny Marcone seem to invoke this trope even though they seem to end up working together more often than not. Both mistrust yet respect the other's accomplishments. Marcone seems to always keep his word and, in Small Favor, refused to be rescued before the twelve year old Archive. Also, when Harry found out about the comatose girl, he told Marcone that he could keep the Shroud of Turin for three days as long as he mailed it back afterward.
    • Harry also earned this status with the Erlking, Faerie Lord of goblins and master of The Wild Hunt. He initially pissed off the Erlking by trying to bind him in place to save the world (long story, involving ghosts, ghouls, necromancers, and a couple of very important books) and the Erlking intended to kill Harry for the offense, but then Harry raised a freaking T-Rex zombie and rode it to war, which impressed the Erlking so much that he put off the impending wizard-killing until their next meeting. When they do meet again, the Erlking sarcastically refers to Harry as a "guest" and Harry latched onto that like a bulldog, further impressing the Erlking with his quick mind and Politeness Judo.
  • Varr in Ben Counter's Warhammer 40000 novel Chapter War. When he learns that the Soul Drinkers are renegades, he admits to being in a penal unit for having revolted, for much the same reasons. He does not fight them until compelled by the Howling Griffons, and apologizes for it.
  • Simok Aratap in Asimov's The Stars Like Dust.

  Rizzett: You know, if the Tyranni were all like him, damned if I wouldn't join their fleet.

  • The Earl of Thirsk is regarded by the protagonists in Safehold to be the single most dangerous commander the enemy has. Given that he was able to score the first victories against the otherwise Curb Stomping Imperial Charisian Navy, this assessment is completely justified.
  • In the Iron Man 2 novelisation, Tony eventually admits to seeing Ivan this way.
  • Patrius in the Farsala Trilogy.
  • Given that it's set in a war-torn universe with prominent Humongous Mecha, BattleTech fiction features these every so often, with perhaps the most iconic example being the rivalry between Morgan Kell (honorable mercenary) and Yorinaga Kurita (classic samurai and follower of bushido) that forms one of the plotlines in the Warrior trilogy.
  • The Science Fiction and Fantasy of Poul Anderson are full of worthy opponents; in fact, the opponents in most of his works fit into this type. For example, in the novel Star Fox, a relationship of grudging respect is built up between the hero, space privateer Gunnar Heim, and his enemy, Cynbe, an exceptionally gifted member of the alien Alerione, trained from a young age to understand his species' human enemies to the point of being alienated from his own kind. In the final scene, Cynbe challenges Heim to a space battle which only one of them would survive. Heim accepts, whereupon Cynbe says, "I thank you, my brother."
  • In Wilkie Collins's epistolary novel The Woman in White, Count Fosco spends a great part of the few pages he narrates rambling about his Worthy Opponent Marian Halcombe. Granted, part of the rambling is because he's also in love with her. But still.
  • Bungo Pete in Run Silent, Run Deep.
  • Captain Marco Ramius and the titular submarine to Captain Bart Mancuso and the USS Dallas in The Hunt for Red October. The two actually ally and help command the same submarine in the later book The Cardinal of the Kremlin several years after the former's defection.
  • Cao Cao and Liu Bei in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. They began on the same side, but were forced apart as Cao Cao ceased to believe that the Han was worth saving as anything but a puppet, and Liu Bei wished to restore the throne to its former glory. Cao Cao would declare to Liu Bei that they were the only two true heroes in all of the land, a hero here being defined (in text) as "ones who cherish lofty designs in their bosoms and have plans to achieve them. They have all-embracing schemes, and the whole world is at their mercy."
  • Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal relates the battle of wits between the Jackal (Chacal in French) - an assassin hired to kill French President Charles De Gaulle - and Deputy Commissioner Claude LeBel of the French police, charged with stopping him. Lebel and the Jackal develop a grudging respect for each other, without ever meeting - with the Jackal again and again evading Lebel's clever traps and Lebel again and again penetrating the Jackal's clever disguises. Lebel certainly appreciates the Jackal far higher then he does the government officials he has to work with. When they at last meet face to face, they look, for a split second, into each other's eyes, Lebel saying "Chacal" and the Jackal saying "Lebel" before they scramble to kill each other. Lebel, being a split second quicker, wins. On the following day, he attends the Jackal's burial in a nameless grave, saying nothing to the handful of other people present.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty: at their fateful last encounter, gentleman Moriarty lets Holmes write a farewell letter to Watson before starting their fight to the death, and Holmes knows he can trust Moriarty to wait patiently until the letter is finished and not to push him into the nearby falls while his attention is on the paper.
  • Ned Stark felt this way about the Kingsguard he and his companions had to slay in A Song of Ice and Fire. One particular instance that highlights this is when Ned makes it a point to return Arthur Dayne's sword, Dawn, back to his family.
  • The marlin that nearly kills Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea is strongly portrayed this way.
  • Martel is portrayed this way in The Elenium, despite his betrayal of the Pandion Knights. Before the final duel, he espresses a similar sentiment about Kurik. When Martel is killed, Sparhawk and Sephrenia both mourn over him, and Martel calls them "the only two people that I ever loved"


Live Action TV Edit

  • The Romulan commander in the Star Trek episode "Balance of Terror", as quoted above. This episode was specifically inspired by the movie The Enemy Below (see the Film section above).
    • The Female Romulan Commander in The Enterprise Incident.
    • It is extremely common throughout the original series (and its movies) for the opponent to be a Worthy Opponent of Kirk or, at the very least, have a very healthy respect for him (albeit one full of hatred). Most notable of these was Khan Noonien Singh, originally a Worthy Opponent of Kirk-- as well as the only one who was also an actual Earth-man (vs. simply a metaphor); in Space Seed, the two Worthy Opponents parted in mutual respect and honor, with Kirk dropping all charges against Khan and granting him his original wish of a new world to command.
    • In the movie Wrath of Khan, he was changed to a Big Bad with a serious grudge against Kirk, as the new world ended up becoming an inhospitable wasteland after six months due to a Negative Space Wedgie and his wife subsequently dying from brain slugs.
    • Also from Trek (and also Romulan), Commander Sela was Data's Worthy Foe - a concept TNG constantly beat us over the head and chest with whenever Sela showed up.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: By Inferno's Light. Worf has spent the last several days fighting Jem'Hadar in death matches. When he finally faces the biggest and most badass of them, his refusal to quit makes the Jem'Hadar back down.

  Ikat'ika: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.

  • Of the three men who pursue The A-Team over the course of the first four seasons, only Colonel Decker actually seems to view the team (particularly Hannibal) in this way. He has a definite grudging respect for them. Hannibal, in turn, actually seems to admire Decker's relentlessness.
  • This is sort-of played with on The Colbert Report with the segment "Formidable Opponent", where Stephen debates himself, with the footage flipped and the background color changed (from red to blue, naturally).
    • Similarly, red and blue ties.
    • Used as a Take That against one guest when Colbert referred to him as "a formidable opponent", implying an unfortunate similarity between the guest and his own Strawman Political character.
    • Note that, in the segments themselves, one Stephen Colbert generally rhetorically runs over the other Colbert, implying that the claim of worthiness is typical self-serving braggadocio on the character's part.
  • Hauptmann Hans Dietrich of Rat Patrol. Though he was rarely able to stop the Allied commando unit, he was smart and always honorable.
  • Mr. Wolf, leader of a bank-robbing team of former Marines, who engages in an epic duel of wits and will with police negotiator Horst Cali in Kill Point.
  • Steven Keane from Highlander: The Series.
  • Hilarious subverted in Blackadder between Lord Flashheart and Baron von Richthofen (played by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, respectively.)

 Baron von Richthoven: Ah, and the Lord Flasheart. This is indeed an honour. Finally, the two greatest gentleman fliers in the world meet. Two men of honour, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies, face to face at last. How often I have rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams. The panoply to encapsulate the unspoken nobility of a comradeship.

Lord Flasheart: (Shoots him) What a poof!

    • However, Blackadder and Captain Darling, who detest each other for most of the series, approach this in the final episode, when they're about to go over the top.
  • FBI Agent Alexander Mahone, Worthy Opponent to Prison Break protagonist Michael Scofield in the second season. Mahone frequently expresses his professional admiration of Michael, and is the only person that Michael really fears will catch him (out of, you know, the entire United States law enforcement community). However, while he fulfills every other requirement to a T, Mahone brutally subverts one aspect of the trope by being genuinely committed to killing Michael, and offs a fair few other characters along the way.
  • In the pilot of Firefly, Mal calls a previous clash with Patience a "legitimate conflict of interest"; this is not QUITE this but almost.
    • Early may be interpreted as having a bit of respect for Simon, at least enough to know that he could only threaten him with Kaylee.
  • Delenn and Sinclair expressed respect for each other's race because of the Earth-Minbari War. Given future events, this has a bit of Foreshadowing.
  • FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy was this to the titular character of Dexter in season two. Dexter even uses the term himself after Lundy's death in season four.
  • The West Wing: Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick. He had an almost sure-fire way of beating Santos but didn't use it, simply because it would have been dishonourable.
  • In The X-Files episode "Pusher", the supernaturally persuasive Robert Patrick Modell is looking for this. He finds it in Mulder, whom he then tries to destroy (it fails). In the sequel episode, Modell's sister tries to pick up where he left off.
    • In "Two Fathers", The Cigarette Smoking Man reveals that he sees Mulder as this by telling his son "You pale in comparison with Agent Mulder."
  • Fuwa Juzo from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger sees Shiba Takeru/Shinken Red as the biggest opponent for him and is very obsessed with fighting with him to the death.
  • The Doctor, from Doctor Who, is seen as a Worthy Opponent by just about anybody with the slightest martial tilt to their culture. Notably, Dalek machinery that normally needs to scan in pure Dalek DNA to work will also accept the Doctor's testimony of an individual's Dalekness instead.
    • While not precisely canon, "The Destiny of the Doctors" has The Master express this sentiment toward his longtime adversary. Interestingly, he does not feel this way about ALL of The Doctor's incarnations. He talks smack on Four, Five, Six and Seven, but seems to genuinely have great respect for Three. One and Two also seem to fall under Worthy Opponent.
  • When Taylor and Mira have to team up to save themselves in Terra Nova from some slashers, Taylor finding out Mira's backstory leads them both to this understanding. When they've survived, they peaceably go their separate ways back to their communities.
  • Sherlock: the whole reason Moriarty fucks with Sherlock's life. Sherlock doesn't seem to mind it so much...until John's life is threatened.


Music Edit

  • The Folksong "Vive el matador" has the matador praise the bull as a Worthy Opponent.
  • The Devil Went Down To Georgia and its sequel do this with Jonny and the Devil.


Mythology Edit

  • Hector and Achilles of Homer's The Iliad.
    • Hector was an honorable man and considered a worthy foe by many of the Achaean heroes fighting at Troy. Achilles had no such feelings for the man; he spent the early parts of the war pissed at his own leaders and the later parts in nothing less than a homicidal rage toward everyone after Hector killed Patroclus, and spent a lot of time and effort trying to desecrate Hector's corpse. Although he did relent after he'd taken his revenge and cooled down a bit. Achilles actually seemed to think more of Hector's father, Priam, as a worthy opponent (in the overall war) when the latter came to beg for his son's body for proper burial. Achilles agreed to allow Hector the honor he deserved, but Priam's love for his son and his bravery in coming alone to the Greek ships also got to him.
    • Also, the Amazon queen Penthesilea to Achilles. In fact, this, according to some commentators at least, goes all the way into I Love the Dead territory (see the trope's page in question).
  • ...along with The Epic of Gilgamesh: the very reason Enkidu was created was to be Gilgamesh's best friend and Worthy Opponent and give him another way to expend his power and Super Strength besides sleeping with every woman in Uruk.
  • Lancelot, post-Face Heel Turn.
  • Thor of Norse Mythology once visited a Jotun who offered him three challenges to test his legendary strength: to pick up the Jotun's pet cat, empty a largish drinking horn, and wrestle with the Jotun's old nurse. Thor could barely raise one of the cat's paws off the ground, took three superhumanly huge draughts from the drinking horn but couldn't come near to emptying it, and was thrashed by the old nurse. The severely frightened Jotun informed Thor that he had, in fact, just succeeded in lifting the head of the Midgard Serpent, lowered the worldwide sea level, and put up a very good fight against the personification of Old Age. The Jotun told him this while escorting him from his kingdom, upon which he congratulated and complimented Thor and hightailed it home.


Newspaper Cartoons Edit

  • Parodied in this Dilbert strip.


Professional Wrestling Edit

  • Nikita Koloff started out as a standard Evil Foreigner, then became a Worthy Opponent to Magnum T.A.; when Magnum's career was ended by a car accident, Nikita became an Antagonist in Mourning, which eventually led to a Heel Face Turn. Whew!
  • CM Punk has become this for John Cena. Cena, the family friendly company man, runs opposite to Punk's more abrasive, Anti-Hero character. Yet they generally respect each other, even if they disagree with the other's methods. In the ring, they're shown to be on the same level.
  • Jerry Lawler became this for The Miz up to their match in Elimination Chamber 2011. The Monday before the match, The Miz announces that Lawler's mother passed the Saturday before and gives him his deep condolences. Instead of bad-mouthing him, Miz takes the time to state that he doesn't want this passing to get in the way of their match and to have a good fight (although thanks to Michael Cole, it didn't turn out to really be a good fight).


Sports Edit

  • In college football, few rivalries are as heated as the one between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies, whose fans often sport shirts with the Longhorns' logo's horns sawn off. However, when they aren't actually facing each other, both teams will occasionally show a little in-state solidarity. During the 2006 Rose Bowl championship, when the underdog Longhorns defeated the favored USC, some Aggies fans donned t-shirts with an image of their rival's logo with bandaged horns and the caption "Today Only: Gig 'Em, Horns!"
  • Some British football rivalries can take this form at times, particularly if the teams in question share a town, such as Liverpool and Everton, or a particular region, such as Newcastle and Sunderland, particularly if fans of each team are playing the Fish Out of Water in another part of the country.
    • Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic are attempting to recast the Old Firm rivalry as this in an effort to curb anti-sectarianism, with mixed success. The rivalry in question is rooted in ethno-religious conflicts far older than mere football.
  • Almost every hockey fight between two enforcers, who's main job is to fight and add toughness, is this. All of them follow an unwritten code and respect the other player for their efforts.
  • The rivalry between legendary basketball players Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the ultimate example between athletes. After first meeting in college in the 1979 national championship game, Bird and Johnson revitalized the struggling NBA during the 1980s, meeting in the NBA Finals three times and winning a combined 8 NBA championships between them. Their rivalry was a proxy for multiple cultural issues in the United States at the time: West Coast vs. East Coast, Hollywood glitz and glam vs. blue collar work ethic, even the racial politics of black (Johnson) vs. white (Bird). Johnson claimed that the 82 game season was divided into two levels of importance, with 80 regular games, and two games against Bird. Similarly, Bird said that the first thing he did every morning was check the newspapers to see how Johnson had done. However, despite the rivalry, the two had great respect, admiration, and friendship for each other. Bird was the man who formally inducted Johnson into the Basketball Hall of Fame during the induction ceremony; on the occasion of Bird's retirement, Johnson attended and described Bird as a "friend forever".
  • Similar to the Bird/Johnson example, we have Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. They epitomized Statistical dominance vs Championships , the charismatic larger-than-life attitude vs politically militant disciplined stoicism, playing for many teams vs staying with one, and individual brilliance vs the consummate team player. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced each other 37 times, Chamberlain and Russell faced each other 142 times. Outside of basketball, they were great friends, though the friendship soured after 1969 and was only revived in The Nineties.


Tabletop Games Edit

  • Traveller: the Sword Worlders and the Aslan in Darrian service believe in this so much that they have a system of bars for them to visit each other when they are not busy killing each other.
    • In one side-story, it was told how there was a clan dispute that was to be solved by an Aslan style (with claws) duel to first blood between two female Aslan. One of them was completely untrained but she held steady while her opponent circled around. Finally, her opponent nicked herself on the newbie's claw and said "I submit to the stronger spirit."
  • Da Orkz closest thing to the concept of a best friend is "best enemy".


Theatre Edit

  • 1776 has John Dickinson for John Adams. When Dickinson refuses to sign the Declaration, saying he cannot in good conscience sign such a document while still hoping for a reconciliation with England, he then says that while he cannot sign, he "regards America no less than does Mr. Adams" and vows to "join the Army and fight in her defense". Adams' response to this is to lead a standing ovation, saying, "Gentlemen of the Congress, I say, 'Yea, John Dickinson.'" In real life, Dickinson would go on to become a signer of the United States Constitution.


Video Games Edit

  • General Leo of Final Fantasy VI worked for the Empire, but was otherwise an honorable person. And, like the trope states, he was killed off by Kefka (a power-hungry lunatic also working for the Empire).
  • Invoking Defeat Means Friendship, several of the Guardian Forces in Final Fantasy VIII are acquired by battling them. Kick their butts and they're impressed enough to serve you.
  • Alastor in Viewtiful Joe has many traits of the worthy opponent, not to mention being rather the Blood Knight.
  • Gogandantes, the Greatest Swordsman of all the Demons, from Onimusha 2, is essentially a demonic Samurai. He appears to be entirely invincible, but repeatedly refuses to finish off the hero, since that would be dishonorable. During the hero's final fight against him, he rescues the main love-interest from a fiery death before engaging him in an honorable duel. When, thanks to a magic flute, you actually defeat him, the hero acknowledges his honor and skill as he dies. What a senseless waste of demon life...
    • Given that the higher-ranked demons in Onimusha are of a western bent and Gogandantes uses a straight sword and a fencing stance, he's probably closer to a demonic knight than a samurai. Still, chivalry, bushido, close enough.
  • It is stated repeatedly throughout Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that one of the primary reasons Phoenix became a defense attorney is that he could meet his childhood friend Miles Edgeworth in court, as Edgeworth is a prosecutor. Despite their positions as adversaries in court, their mutual desire for justice leads them to jointly take down quite a few criminals. In the fourth game, Apollo Justice gets his own Worthy Opponent, Klavier Gavin.
  • Vergil from Devil May Cry fills this role in the third outing and, arguably, somewhat in the first, as well, being Dante's brother, with a definite tendency towards only using melee weapons.
    • He nearly invokes this trope with his devil triggered catchphrase 'You are not worthy as my opponent!'
  • Meta Knight in the Kirby games, who will give the hero a sword in their battles so they can fight on more or less even terms. In many games, he will even refuse to fight unless Kirby picks up the sword.
    • Admittedly, the latter half was partially so that he wouldn't get stuffed in a pot and cooked or suffer similar fates possible in some of the games.
    • In Amazing Mirror, the fact that he doesn't give you a sword is a sign that it's not really him.
    • In Revenge of Meta Knight, he'll wait thirty seconds for you to pick up the sword before starting the fight. This seems insignificant until you realize that you are both on a giant warship that is about to crash into the ocean.
  • The Drakengard games have two examples. The first game has Caim and Inuart. Inuart bemoans early in the game how he is never as strong as Caim, but when he turns evil, he gains the power of a pact with a dragon and handily defeats Caim in a tense cinematic. They hold each other to a certain standard as Inuart doesn't take advantage of the situation to kill Caim. The second game has Caim appear as the Worthy Opponent to Nowe, the protagonist of that game. Caim's duel with Nowe is only a formality as Nowe isn't the one Caim wants dead, and Caim only fights Nowe long enough to weaken him and achieve his real objective, which, once learned, is actually quite sympathetic.
  • Tales of Symphonia features an...unusual Worthy Opponent in the form of Forcystus, one of the Desian grand cardinals, who is posthumously constructed as a Worthy Opponent in a discussion between Kratos and Lloyd and is easily the most tolerant and sensible of the lot. However, considering that he's still a spluttering racist who enslaved humans and used them as Human Resources, repeatedly kicked the dog by going beyond the call of duty in retaliating against you by turning Marble into a monster, and finally died when he tried to shoot an innocent bystander In the Back, their discussion on how racism and war makes noble people enemies comes off as a little...odd.
  • Wodan Ymir in Super Robot Wars Original Generation 2 to Sanger Zonvolt, his still-living Alternate Universe counterpart. In one battle, he actually helps Sanger out versus another enemy faction because he is The Only One Allowed To Defeat Him.
  • In Battle Moon Wars, Berserker regards Original Generation character Takumi Atsuta as a worthy Rival.
  • Forsythe from Advance Wars: Days of Ruin fights on the side of the Lazurian army, but is a kind-hearted general who stands by a strict code of honor and turns down Caulder's offer to resort to dirty tactics when fighting against Brenner and the Rubinelle army. When he is defeated, he promptly surrenders without resistance and is killed by Admiral Greyfield, leaving his subordinates Tasha and Gage to fly the Lazurian banner for him after his loss.
    • In the Wars World-based Advance Wars trilogy, Hawke of the Black Hole army holds some grudging respect for young Orange Star CO Andy. In Dual Strike, he and his Perky Hench-Goth Lash switch sides and help them fight the remnants of the Bolt Guard during the last few missions. Hawke and Andy even get a bonus when teaming up in Dual Strike multiplayer.
  • If you're a named villain in the Fire Emblem series, it's pretty darn certain that one of the following will happen to you:
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater, Ocelot and Naked Snake view one another as Worthy Opponents even though they stand at opposite sides of the Cold War. This causes Ocelot to act like a Stalker with a Crush.
    • Also, The End seeks to end his life with a sniper duel against a worthy opponent - the player.
    • After defeating Sniper Wolf, Snake comforts her and delivers the final blow while telling her that she died without betraying her ideals.
  • Shinobu from No More Heroes gains the respect of Travis Touchdown, who spares her life with the intent of fighting her again when she's stronger. This turns out to be the right move when she later saves his life. Henry, as well.
    • Incidentally, they're both playable in the sequel.
    • Speaking of the sequel, Travis gradually gains more respect for his opponents as part of his Character Development. There's Ryuji, who Travis believes fought honorably and is disgusted when he is promptly gunned down after his fight. Then there's Captain Vladimer, whose body Travis refuses to let the UAA destroy. Then there's Alice Twilight, an assassin with ideals so close to Travis' own, that he undergoes a Heel Face Turn after being forced to kill her.
  • Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies' Yellow Thirteen calls Mobius One this after Mobius One makes a name for himself, and it's reinforced after Mobius One destroys Stonehenge and shoots down Yellow Thirteen's wingman, Yellow Four. Mobius One, however, proves that he's actually better, shooting Yellow Thirteen down during the Siege of Farbanti.
    • Ace Combat, as a rule, tends to do this quite a bit, throwing entire squadrons of Worthy Opponents at the player. In fact, the Knight path in The Belkan War was specifically designed for the player to be a Worthy Opponent to the enemy aces. Also, from the Soldier Path, Erich Hillenberand (Schnee 1) considers Cipher a worthy opponent and says that he would be glad to fly with him again (even though he became a civilian pilot instructor after the war).
  • Admiral Gregorio in Skies of Arcadia. A completely honourable man and the adoptive uncle of Defector From Decadence Enrique, he is killed by Big Bad Galcian after the latter betrays the Valuan Empire. Intriguingly, even Galcian seemed to consider Gregorio a Worthy Opponent and insists that his body be shipped back to Valua with the highest honours.
  • Elvis, That One Boss from God Hand. He gives his Mooks a Megaton Punch for disrespecting the bodies of their victims and treats Gene like an old friend when he sees him. Gene even comments that he and Elvis could have been good friends if Elvis wasn't a demon.
  • Several bosses from Mega Man Zero count; most notably, the Four Guardians.
  • Captain Narville of Killzone 2 sees Colonel Radec as one, and Radec, in turn, sees Templar as one.
  • The Amarr and Minmatar roleplayers in Eve Online view each other this way. Out of character, they recognize that the only real difference between them is which fictional nation they chose to fight for.
    • An excellent example is this video, made by the Amarr alliance CVA in tribute to their enemies, the Minmatar alliance Ushra'Khan.
  • Boomerang and Lucied from Wild Arms 1, what with them being Blood Knights and all.
  • The Suffering: Ties That Bind has a strange variation on this. Copperfield is the ghost of a slave catcher, and as Torque's ancestors were slaves, Copperfield continues to hunt Torque down. He seems rather pleased that Torque puts up such a struggle, especially when compared to everyone else who just died, and compliments him on his actions and fighting style. The feeling is not mutual.
  • In the Backstory of Knights of the Old Republic, the Mandalorians considered Revan and Exile these.

 Canderous: We wanted to fight the best in a battle that would be remembered for centuries, and Revan won. I don't hold a grudge against Revan, and neither do any of my people. (Not realizing at the time that he's talking to the mind-wiped Revan. Dialogue is slightly different if it's accessed after The Reveal.)

  • Played with in Mass Effect 2, where Grunt, the resident Proud Warrior Race Guy who was apparently built from the ground up to be the ultimate example of the krogan species, lays out the krogan definition of a Worthy Opponent: an enemy who does indeed test you in battle, but then whom you utterly destroy. Apparently, the krogan mindset says that the greatest honor that can be offered to an enemy is to completely wipe them out; to the krogan, the worst insult they can offer is to say someone isn't worth fighting and slaughtering.
    • In the first Mass Effect, Saren finally considers Shepard this, which is something, knowing Saren's racist attitude towards humans.
    • It's arguable that the Reapers see Shepard as this as well, considering how s/he continues to thwart their efforts at a galactic harvest and just won't die, something no organic has done in recorded history.
      • Harbinger labels him/her "an annoyance", and given that the Reapers see organic life as nothing more than an accident and organics themselves lower than dirt, this is probably the biggest compliment they're going to make to an opponent.
      • After killing the Reaper controlling the Geth in Mass Effect 3, it is revealed that it knows your name, despite never meeting you before. When asked about why, it responds that Harbinger speaks of him/her. All things considered, Shepard's probably the only human to have ever had that privilege.
    • In Mass Effect 3 it is revealed in several recorded videos in Chronos Station that the Illusive Man, despite considering Shepard his enemy, has considerable respect for him/her.
      • Unlike the Illusive Man's right-hand man, Kai Leng, who stubbornly refuses to accept how skilled s/he really is and to really take him/her as a true threat. The Illusive Man continuously warns him not to underestimate him/her and to respect his/her badassery. He doesn't listen and it ends up being his undoing.
    • This is also how the turians saw the humans after the First Contact War, with the turians noting that it was the first REAL military opposition they had faced in over a millennium.
  • In Halo, particularly in the books, it is shown that, while the Brutes are much more brutal, the Elites consider the Spartans later in the series to be Worthy Opponents. This is particularly shown in Halo Legends, where the future Arbiter throws the downed Master Chief an Energy Sword, so that they could have a fair fight.
    • The Elites seemed to have developed this sense for humanity in general in later games, acknowledging humanity's tenacity in putting up this much of a fight against the overwhelming forces of the Covenant. This may be one reason they were willing to ally with humanity against the Covenant in Halo 3.
  • Most recurring characters in Touhou view Reimu to be this trope, someone that will beat you to a bloody pulp but will make it a lot of fun in the meantime (as opposed to Marisa, who uses her victories as excuses to take everything not nailed down and/or on fire). Suika, in particular, considers Reimu worthy enough to actually live with her for a while after her defeat.
  • In Dragon Age: Origins, If the player chooses to personally challenge Loghain to a duel, he'll tell them this:

  "'A man is made by the quality of his enemies.' Maric told me that once. I wonder if it's more a compliment to you or me."

    • Loghain himself is probably too evil to qualify, but his Dragon, Ser Cauthrien, fits this trope nicely.
  • In Dragon Age II, Hawke can become this to the Arishok, to the point that, right before the final duel between the two, he'll say this in regard to him/her to the nobles that he's got at his mercy.

  Arishok: (To Hawke) "You alone are Basalit-an[1]." (To the nobles) "This is what respect looks like bas! Some of you will never earn it!"

  • Thassarian and Koltira Deathweaver in World of Warcraft regard each other like this following the end of the Scourge war. However, in a twist, it is Thassarian's fault to begin with that they're on opposite sides, as it was he who told Koltira to join the Horde instead of coming with him to the Alliance.
  • Bowser of Super Mario Bros. considers the Mario Brothers to be worthy opponents, and enjoys fighting them, even though he really wishes he could win against them. But, hey, they're the Mario Bros. He beat Mario once, in tradition with most examples of this trope, he sees it as quite a feat.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
    • Although minor in their appearance, the Garo Ninjas consider Link a worthy opponent. They not only praise him upon their defeat, but also provide him with some helpful tips as a token of their respect before they finally dispose of their own bodies.
    • Ganondorf has shades of this in the The Wind Waker, where the tragic circumstances of the storyline have granted his feud with the Hero a rather profoundly personal significance. He goes so far as to declare his belief that Link must be the "Hero of Time, reborn" and their clash a matter of fate. This is a notable departure from the majority of the games, where Ganondorf is either completely Ax Crazy or suicidally overconfidant to the point of dimissing the Hero outright.
  • Wings portrays Allied and German fighter pilots as developing increasing respect for enemy pilots as time goes on.

 I waved to the single approaching Fokker, partly in greeting, partly to say goodbye. There probably wasn't a reason to risk our lives, yet what better way to say goodbye than one final man-to-man dogfight?

    • This is applied especially strongly to the case of Baron von Richtoffen, who killed many Allied fighters, and yet was admired by them. Truth in Television, as this mirrors the Allied perception of him in real life.
  • In the air combat game Crimson Skies 2, a mission requires you to commandeer a Zeppelin. At the end of the mission, you receive a letter from the Captain of said zeppelin thanking you for your mercy and courtesy regarding the passengers, and finishes his letter by saying "I wish we had met under different circumstances".
  • Dr. Eggman has this view of Sonic the Hedgehog, once even solumnly refering to him as his "admirable adversary" when he believes he has finally taken him out. Sonic Adventure 2 as a whole revolves around this relationship between both the hero and dark counterparts (even the rival boss theme is titled "Worthy Opponent" in the games OST).
  • In The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim, the dragons see the player character, who is "Dovahkiin" (literally, "Dragonborn," a mortal blessed by the gods with the soul of a dragon) as a worthy adversary, both due to personal prowess and also out of respect toward a fellow dragon. Despite the fact that they are terrified of the player (because only the Dragonborn can permanently slay them by consuming their souls) they will still attack the Dragonborn and refuse to back down, willingly testing their Thu'um against your own. The fact that Alduin, their leader, flees when you overwhelm him with the Dragonrend shout eventually makes the other dragons question his leadership because he fled rather than stand and fight to the death.
  • In Distorted Travesty, The Darkness reveals near the end that the Shroud Lord considers Jerry to be its Worthy Opponent, and it insists on having a final showdown with him before allowing the peace talks to go any further.
  • Rivals in Pokémon series start thinking of you as such during the second half of the game. The first half they are just the fans' Scrappies for a reason.


Visual Novels Edit

  • Lancer (again, see above Fate/Zero entry) or Assassin for Saber in Fate/stay night. The first is so disgusted by his Master that he turns on him in both routes he plays a part in and is also rather tetchy about Archer's tactics and lack of pride despite his ability. Assassin lets Shirou go and helps fight off Archer, as he has an agreement with Saber to fight again and therefore will not allow Archer to give him an unfair advantage. His Neutral Evil alignment actually doesn't really make much sense since he doesn't do anything even immoral. He is also a Graceful Loser even to True Assassin.


Web Comics Edit

  • Father Bloodrage and the enemy commander in Looking for Group serve this role to each other.
  • Dominic Deegan has one in Celesto Morgan. Although he is only treated that way for a combination of 'increasingly possesses cosmic powers' and Dominic just being that nice a guy, because an overview of his conduct and associates over the course of the series would give Dominic every right to loathe him utterly.
      • The guy blew off Dominic's leg in revenge for saving his life and soul. Well, actually, revenge for being right when Celesto was wrong, but still.
    • The fact that they're each the only powerful seer the other one knows and keep running into each other in extreme contexts mean that they get one another in ways no one else does, which may be part of why their rivalry isn't as bitter as it may be.
  • The Order of the Stick
    • Hank seems to be one of these to Haley, to contrast her Arch Enemy Crystal. In the Backstory, he warns Haley that Crystal will be after her when she leaves the thieves' guild, and when they meet again as opponents, they clearly have some mutual respect.
    • More recently, General Tarquin views Roy as one, respecting him as an intelligent, resourceful warrior. It gets to the point that he appoints himself to the Linear Guild in place of Thog, who Roy does not view as either a proper Evil Counterpart or Worthy Opponent, just to get the chance to fight Roy himself.
      • When the entire Order (minus V) assaults him (thinking he's Thog thanks to some quick acting) Tarquin's response to seeing five high-level adventurers charging straight toward him? "Magnificent."
  • Colonel Pranger's mercenary company, Pranger's Bangers, from Schlock Mercenary functions as a one-time opponent in the House Phica story arc; they're portrayed as equally competent and equally skilled, if not more so, than the protagonists. Later on, due to Time Travel fun, Tagon's crew actually ends up hiring Pranger's Bangers for that same mission. There's a good deal of mutual respect between Tagon and Pranger.
  • The Paladin considers Sebastian this in True Villains.


Web Original Edit

  • In The Antithesis, Yahweh, the leader of Heaven, and Lucifer, the leader of Hell, become friendly enemies when a Civil War between the angels and demons tragically force them to oppose one another. Previously, both had worked together as scientists in Heaven's main corporation for Technology and Science, 'The Plexus', and though now friendly enemies, they still strive for the same objective: peace between Heaven and Hell.
  • In the SCP Foundation, there is SCP 076-2, or Able, who was upset when one of the Agents at his holding facility was killed by an explosion meant to contain him. The reason being that the Agent was one of the few who could keep up with him and he felt that he deserved a death in combat.


Western Animation Edit

  • Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender filled this role for Aang in the first season. In fact, after Zuko frees Aang from the Fire Nation (because Zuko needed to be the one to capture him), Aang says something very similar to the Romulan Commander quote at the top of this page. Zuko responds by flinging fire into his face. But, surprise surprise...
  • Robin and the second Red X in Teen Titans. One could argue that Slade considers Robin a Worthy Opponent but Robin simply sees Slade as a diabolical villain.
  • The Venture Brothers' Brock Samson and Molotov Cocktease are one part this, two parts really frustrating Foe Yay.
    • It's true that they are worthy opponents and there's a lot of Foe Yay included, he says that quote to The Phantom Limb, not Molotov.
  • Kim Possible
  • In a non-combat related example, look at Huey and the government agent in one particular episode of The Boondocks. Yes, Huey is suspicious of the man, who may or may not always be watching, but they both understand where the other is coming from and engage in calm and intelligent conversation. The agent even mentions at the end of the episode that if Huey ever needs to talk about something, he'll lend an ear.
    • In the "Red Ball" episode, Huey gains another one who even calls him this: Ming, another 10-year-old trained into being the perfect kickball machine and the only one to match Huey's skill, and is the whole reason Huey participates in a kickball game for his whole town. The two's final standoff results in both getting cracked bones and STILL CRAWLING TO THE FINISH.
  • The straight example is Vlad and Danny in Danny Phantom, but one episode had Skulker of all people declaring Valerie and Danny to be this. So much so that he hunted them both when he couldn't decide who was better.
  • Samurai Jack had his share of these.
    • A warrior cursed by Aku to spend eternity encrusted in the rockbed but who then managed to shape himself into a huge lava monster actually begged Jack to become his Worthy Opponent and strike him down in a battle in order to lift the curse and free his spirit.
    • Desperate to beat Jack, Aku enlisted a tribe of superb hunters from another planet to capture the elusive samurai. They scored a success but, unfortunately for himself, Aku Did Not Do the Research and thus didn't know that, by the hunters' custom, a prey that demonstrated such remarkable prowness as Jack deserved to run free.
  • The titular character of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is sometimes depicted as viewing Zack and Ivy in this way, genuinely liking them and enjoying the long-standing battle of wits she has with them.
  • Zim and Dib from Invader Zim are certainly worthy of one another. Doesn't mean they are particularly good at what they do though.
  • Yogi Bear viewed Ranger Smith as this. When Ranger Smith left the park to enjoy an inheritance, Yogi quickly became melancholic due to the lack of challenge in stealing picnic baskets.
  • Peter Pan has Captain Hook, who views Peter as this. Peter doesn't really care, but when Hook thinks he's killed Pan, he says "So passes a Worthy Opponent."
  • Storm Shadow on G.I. Joe was usually portrayed this way. He eventually makes a Heel Face Turn.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Emission Impossible", Stewie and Bertram refer to each other as worthy adversaries.
  • Dr. Robotnik tells Sonic that he's this in Sonic Sat AM.


Real Life Edit

  • Darius III of Persia to Alexander the Great. Read this ancient passage describing his reaction to Darius' death:

  "When Alexander came up he showed his grief and distress of the Kings death and un-fastened his own cloak, he threw it over the body, covering it. Later, after he captured Baptus, who had murdered the king, Alexander had the tops of two straight trees bent down so that they met. And part of Baptus's body was tied to each. Then when each tree was let go and sprang back to its upright position, the part of the body attached to it was torn off by the recoil. As for Darius body, he returned it to his mother for it layed out for in royal state."

    • Also, King Porus to Alexander. While it's debatable whether Alexander even won, in the legend, after Alexander defeated Porus' army in the Battle of the Hydaspes, Alexander asked Porus how he wanted to be treated. Porus' answer, "like a King", impressed Alexander so much, that not only did Alexander allow Porus to remain a king, he even enlarged Porus' territory.
  • After the Russian army defeated the Swedes in the Northern war, the Russian emperor, Peter the Great, treated the captive Sweden officers with great respect and allowed them to keep their swords. During the celebration feast, Peter raised a glass to the Swedish king, Carl XII, and called him his teacher.
  • WWI German fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen, better known today as the Red Baron, was greatly admired among the Allied powers. Upon his death, he was given a full military funeral by his Australian opponents. Erwin Rommel, the Wehrmacht Field Marshal from World War II, known as the Desert Fox by his enemies, was similarly praised by his opponents, especially his legendary archrival, George Patton. Both the Red Baron and the Desert Fox were the living Magnificent Bastards of their time (in fact, the trope Magnificent Bastard was named after Rommel). It should be noted that Rommel, while not a member of the Nazi party, was still under the command of Adolf Hitler. However, he had Jewish friends and consistently defied orders to execute both Jewish and non-Jewish prisoners of war. In fact, his Afrikakorps was well known for being fairly humane and were not charged with any war crimes under his command. Though not directly involved, he knew enough about the German Resistance's July 20 plot to kill Hitler to become entangled in the aftermath and was given the choice of suicide over execution. The fact that he managed to become the only German general from the Second World War with his own museum just shows how well he exemplified both Magnificent Bastard and Worthy Opponent.
    • "If I had to take hell, I would use the Australians to take it and the New Zealanders to hold it." - Erwin Rommel
    • Though nowadays overshadowed by Rommel, Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (commander of the German forces in Tanzania during WW 1) qualifies as well. So Badass was he that he surrendered after the war was over in Europe, despite being completely cut from any source of supplies and reinforcements. The British were so impressed that they paid his retirement pension. It also helped that he gained the reputation for giving Hitler the shaft. An anecdote had Charles Miller ask the nephew of a Schutztruppe officer, "I understand that von Lettow told Hitler to go fuck himself." The nephew responded, "That's right, except that I don't think he put it that politely."
      • There's a very clear reason why he didn't like Hitler, unlike Rommel - with half of his force made up of local soldiers, his men were living proof that Hitler's ideas were bullshit.
      • Karen von Blixen - who would later write the novel Out of Africa - actually travelled on the same ship with von Lettow-Vorbeck on her way to Africa. She would describe him as the strongest example of what the German Empire truly stood for.
    • In the same vein as Erwin Rommel, the German WWII officer Hans von Luck (seen by Rommel as a sort of adoptive son) could count. He was all over the map in WWII, being first of the German Panzer forces to the sea, furthest into Moscow, in the Africa campaign (he even captured the founder of the SAS, who escaped during a lavatory break), on the defense during the battle of Pegasus Bridge, and eventually spent years in a Stalag before arriving back in West Germany. When he visited the site of Pegasus Bridge, the British commandoes, to a man, pretended he was polish to get him past the embittered old woman who had been liberated decades before. He also gave lectures to former Allies' military trainee officers, and generally was completely accepted. His opinion of the Allies in WWII was more of the same - he mentions that he and the Allied desert scouts had a ceasefire every night at 6pm, arranged prisoner exchange, and on one occasion, his car was attacked by a fighter - which refused to shoot until the Germans were out of the vehicle.
    • Hasso von Manteuffel, a German panzer commander who later became a German politician and named the Bundeswehr, Germany's post-war armed forces. Eisenhower invited him into the White House and the Pentagon, and he worked as an advisor on many American war films. He was pretty Badass too - when he served under Rommel, he commanded for several days without food or rest, beating back Allied attacks, before he collapsed. When he was defending Berlin, Soviet troops broke into his command post. He shot one and killed another in a knife fight.
    • Another World War One example was German fighter ace Werner Voss. After his skillful flying managed to let him go toe-to-toe against seven British aircraft for over ten minutes, one of the British Aces he fought against had these to say:

 James McCudden: As long as I live I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single-handed fought seven of us for ten minutes, and also put some bullets through all of our machines. His flying was wonderful, his courage magnificent, and in my opinion he is the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see fight.

James McCudden: Rhys-Davids came in for a shower of congratulations, and no one deserved them better, but as the boy himself said to me, "Oh, if I could only have brought him down alive," and his remark was in agreement with my own thoughts

  • At the Battle of Hastings, the Anglo-Saxons and the Normans shouted to each other when they were resting at night, and there's also the famous Christmas truce of 1914.
  • The rivalry between Takeda Shingen and Uesegi Kenshin, two Daimyos in Japan. Although ruling different territories, and often waging war against one another, legend says they developed a deep respect for one another, to the point where Kenshin reportedly wept openly and loudly at the death of Shingen, and never again attacked Shingen's territory.
    • Kenshin went so far as to break a blockade against Shingen during his opponent's most dire hour, sending him salt (for preserving food) and saying: "Wars are to be won with swords and spears, not with rice and salt."
  • King Fredrick the Great of Prussia once commented on Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, "I warred with her, but I was never her enemy."
    • The feeling doesn't appear to have been mutual.
  • Union and Confederate soldiers in The American Civil War sometimes conducted temporary truces to trade for tobacco, food, or alcohol, with or without their superior officers' knowledge or consent. There is at least one documented instance of soldiers deserting and joining the opposing side because their commanding officer killed a soldier they had made a truce with.
    • Also from the Civil War: General Robert E. Lee was well respected by many members of the Union, including Abraham Lincoln. Before the Civil War, Lincoln had requested that Lee be the commander of the Union Army. The only thing that kept him from joining was because he had been born in the confederate state of Virginia, and couldn't bring himself to fight against the place he was born.
    • Ulysses S Grant was similarly well respected by Lee, who, after the war, never, ever tolerated an unkind word about Grant in his presence. Joseph Johnston was similarly disposed towards his rival. Considering that the rival in question was the oft-villainized William T. Sherman, that's saying something. Johnston even served as a pallbearer at Sherman's funeral, and refused to cover up despite poor health and the bone-chilling cold. Because of this, he caught pneumonia and died shortly afterwards. When a friend advised him to at least put on his hat (hats aren't worn at military funerals as a sign of respect), he told him "If I were in his place and he were standing here in mine, he would not put on his hat."
      • Exemplified by Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox. To quote the other wiki: "Dressed in an immaculate uniform, Lee waited for Grant to arrive. Grant, whose headache had ended when he received Lee's note, arrived in a mud-spattered uniform—a government-issue flannel shirt with trousers tucked into muddy boots, no sidearms, and with only his tarnished shoulder straps showing his rank. It was the first time the two men had seen each other face-to-face in almost two decades. Suddenly overcome with sadness, Grant found it hard to get to the point of the meeting and instead the two generals briefly discussed a previous encounter during the Mexican-American War." Grant was surprised that Lee, a cavalry colonel from a famous military family, remembered who he was, as at the time, he was a very junior infantry lieutentant.
    • Joshua Chamberlain ordering his men to carry arms as a salute to the surrendering Confederates at Appomattox comes to mind as well.
    • Indeed, the Civil War was full of this, as most of the Confederate officers had been Union officers until just before the war. Old West Point men were fighting their classmates. Even worse, Sherman, who had headed a military academy in Louisiana just before the war, may have found himself fighting boys he had taught. Families were divided and brothers really did meet on the battlefield and fathers in one uniform find their sons in another among the dead or captured.
    • The Johnny Horton song "Johnny Reb" is this trope, from the POV of the Union after the war.
  • Raizo Tanaka. He was one of Japan's finest naval officers and the leader of the legendary Tokyo Express in the Solomon Islands Campaign in 1942-43. He kept Japanese outposts alive, and evacuated them when the time came, in the teeth of the American naval and air forces, fighting a number of fierce actions. Fortunately for American arms, envy of his success and anger at his lack of tact caused the Obstructive Bureaucrats of the Imperial Japanese Navy to beach him.
    • Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of Pearl Harbour, had a tremendous respect and appreciation for the military power of the United States, gained whilst working as a Japanese naval attache in Washington. He repeatedly advised the Japanese government not to pursue a course of war against the USA and was vocally opposed to the Tripartite Pact (the alliance with Germany and Italy), which led to him receiving death threats. When ordered to present a plan for a sneak attack on the US fleet, he judged it futile, claiming that even in the best-case scenario (the destruction of the US carriers), all he would gain is six to twelve months of freedom of action in the Pacific before the US gained the upper hand, and sure enough, the US achieved this by winning the Battle of Midway just six months after Pearl Harbour. Whilst Yamamoto's respect for the military and naval power of the United States was high, this was not entirely reciprocated, as his role in planning the 'cowardly' Pearl Harbour attack made him more a figure of hate than respect. That said, the Americans did 'honour' him by going to the trouble of sending a long-range intercept mission to shoot down his aircraft when they learned its flight-plan through code intercepts.
  • The military ethic has analogies to the legal ethic in that it presumes that a professional soldier will do his best for the State he serves (barring Very Exceptional Circumstances like Those Wacky Nazis) just as a lawyer does the same for his client. Thus many soldiers do not think it contradictory to try to kill someone and yet admire them, as killing is their job but hating isn't, as, after all, enemy soldiers aren't much different from themselves.
    • The problem with this is, while it sounds nice and fine when you talk about it theoretically in your peaceful home, in real wars, people always develope hatred and contempt for their opponent. It's always "exceptional" when it's real. Turn on the TV. When was the last time you saw any soldier bow to their enemy's guts or cleverness?
      • It happens more often than you'd think, at least among infantrymen. In House To House: A Soldier's Memior, which chronicles the 2nd Battle of Fallujah, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia repeatedly noted and acknowledged the bravery and cleverness of the ambushes he and his troops were encountering. There was some rage and contempt, but an equal amount of respect and admiration for the insurgents they were fighting.
    • This is probably due to the changing nature of warfare in the 20th-21st centuries, with emphasis shifting towards irregular forces, guerrilla warfare, false-flag operations, killing civilians, terrorism, and all the rest of it. It was different back when armies clashed formally on more or less pre-designated battlefields.
  • "Casabianca", also known as "The boy stood on the burning deck", is a poem by British poet Felicia Hemans, first published in August 1826. The poem commemorates an actual incident that occurred during the Napoleonic Wars. In the 1798 Battle of the Nile, the French ship "Orient" caught fire while fighting the ships of the British Royal Navy. Giocante, the young son (his age is variously given as ten, twelve and thirteen) of commander Louis de Casabianca, remained at his post and perished when the flames caused the magazine to explode. Many generations of romatic young Englishmen were taught to admire the heroic young Casabianca and seek to emulate him, despite his having been an enemy who died fighting against their country.
  • What with the glorification of chivalry, the Middle Ages should have been full of these, but one outstanding example is Saladin of the Third Crusade who treated Richard the Lionheart with a profound respect. Given the contention surrounding the events that took place during the Crusades, how true this really was may never be known.
    • Since a good deal of Saladin's praise comes from christian monks who chronicled the events, it's hard to argue. On the other side, muslim chroniclers exclaimed that Balian, who had defended Jerusalem, held a rank in their eyes equal to a king. He had asked Saladin for leave to evacuate his wife and children from the Holy City, and Saladin agreed on the condition that he does not return to take up arms. When Balian got there though, the people implored him to stay, citing the greater need of Christendom. He stayed and defended the city, and when the time came to negotiate terms with Saladin, the sultan reportedly held no ill feelings to Balian for breaking his oath, and sent an escort to guide his family back to Tripoli.
    • Richard the Lionheart was apparently this back to Saladin, as he was in general. In fact, he ordered the crossbowman who had mortally wounded him to be pardoned and set free. Unfortunately, after Richard died, a certain mercenary captain in his army, named Mercadier, said Screw it, Richard won't argue, and had the poor kid flayed alive.
  • In Budapest's historic Castle District, which had seen hard fighting in 1686 when a Christian army (re)conquered it after 150 years of Turkish rule, can be seen "The Monument of the last Turkish governor" erected by the victors, with the following epitaph:"Here fell the last Turkish governor, Pasha and commander of Buda, Abdurrahman Abdi Arnaut on 9 late-summer month of 1686, in his 70th year of age. He was a noble enemy and a hero, may he rest in peace." [1]
  • One of the first things the Israel Defense Forces did after the conquest of Jerusalem in 1967 was to build a memorial to the Jordanian Arab Legion, who had defended East Jerusalem and the West Bank valiantly but suffered from a complete lack of air support (the IDF had taken out more or less the whole Royal Jordanian Air Force within 45 minutes of the opening of the war).
  • Australians and Turks respect one another a lot. Why? Because they were the very embodiment of this trope to one another in World War One, during the Gallipoli campaign - Australia was Turkey's worthy adversary, and Turkey was Australia's. Though both sides fought with extreme tenacity and dedication, they also fought one another with a great degree of honour. The Turks eventually renamed the beach where the invasion took place "ANZAC Cove" in honour of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps; in return for this, the Australians established the only war memorial in the Australian capital ever dedicated to a former enemy - a tribute to the Turkish commander at Gallipoli, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
    • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's own opinion about the ANZACs can be read here.
  • Many of the old guard in the United States military regarded the Soviet Union as having been a fine and worthwhile adversary - at least when the prospect of nukes wasn't involved. The two superpowers stood toe-to-doe for decades without managing to get into a [direct] shooting war with each other, and often copied each others' tactical doctrines and combat innovations. Especially among the United States Navy and double among the submarines, now largely without a job, it's not unknown for senior American officers to lament the fall of the Soviet Union - fighting terrorists just isn't the same, and mileage varies on the idea of China as a replacement adversary.
  • There are several instances of the Victoria Cross being awarded (posthumously) in World War II partly or, in one case, entirely on the recommendation of German officers:
    • The destroyer HMS Glowworm fought the much larger German cruiser Admiral Hipper, ramming the larger vessel before being sunk. The captain of Glowworm, Lieutenant Commander Gerard Broadmead Roope, received the Victoria Cross in part at the urging of the commander of the Hipper, who wrote to the British via the Red Cross of the courage displayed by the skipper of the much smaller Royal Navy vessel.
    • Sergeant Thomas Frank Durrant was a British Army commando killed while engaging a German destroyer in his small boat. Durrant's commanding officer was captured, and the captain of the German destroyer met him in a POW camp and recommended the sergeant be decorated for his bravery.
    • Flying Officer Lloyd Allan Trigg of the Royal New Zealand Air Force received the Victoria Cross entirely based on the testimony of the men he was trying to kill. He attacked the German U-boat U-468 in his B-24 Liberator bomber; he sunk the enemy submarine, but in doing so, his aircraft was shot down with no survivors. Trigg received the Victoria Cross based only on the testimony of the survivors of the U-468 (including its captain) when they were rescued by the Royal Navy.
    • United States Navy Captain Charles McVay was court martialed after World War II in response to the sinking of his ship, the heavy cruiser USS Indianapolis, during the final days of the War while delivering the nuclear material and other parts for the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Imperial Japanese Naval Commander Mochitsura Hashimo, the commanding officer of the submarine that sunk the Indianapolis, testified on McVay's behalf at his court-martial, and years later, joined the surviving crew members of the ship in a campaign to exonerate him.
  • During the Thirty Years War, the Protestant King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden apparently respected devout Catholic commander Johann Tserclaes, Count of Tilly, enough that he sent his personal physician to tend to the man's wounds as he lay dying. Tilly, in turn, told the physician, "Your king is truly a noble knight."
  • Adolf Hitler, who had fought Canadians in World War One, paid his respects to the Vimy Ridge Memorial. During the Germany occupation of France in World War II, he posted guards to make sure that the site was not desecrated in any way.
  • In the special features of one DVD version of We Were Soldiers, Hal Moore says that he would like to meet the NVA commander.
  • The legendary World War II dogfight between Saburō Sakai and James 'Pug' Sutherland, which saw both men display astonishing courage and skill in a dogfight that lasted several minutes in an era where dogfights were typically over in seconds. It eventually ended when Sakai shot down the crippled and disarmed Hellcat, but he had such respect for its pilot that he took care to aim his finishing shot at the engine rather than the cockpit so as to give the pilot a fighting chance of surviving. He did, but unfortunately died in a jet training accident in 1949.
  • Perhaps all the more poignant for the fact that the Worthy Opponent's name or even his unit is not known, Israeli pilot Asher Snir's story of an encounter with a Syrian Mi G-17 during the 1970 War of Attrition: The Man in the MiG
  • At The Battle of Bemis Heights (Second Battle of Saratoga), Daniel Morgan ordered sharpshooter Timothy Murphy to kill British General Simon Fraser with these words: "That gallant officer is General Fraser. I admire him, but it is necessary that he should die, do your duty."
  • Carlos Hathcock and the Viet Cong sniper known only as the Cobra. Hathcock, considered by the United States Marines to be the greatest sniper they ever produced (and they produce some damn fine snipers) had a bounty of $35,000 put on his head by the North Vietnamese, and the Cobra was sent to collect. The day started with Cobra spotting Hathcock in camp, unawares, lining up a shot...and killing another marine a few feet from Hathcock, just to get his attention. Hathcock geared up and the two (along with Hathcock's spotter) proceeded to stalk each other around the valley they were in for the rest of the day, cat and mouse. Finally, as the sun was going down behind Hathcock's back, he caught a glimpse of sunlight glinting off a scope, and took the shot. When they found the Cobra, the bullet had passed straight through his scope, without even touching the side. Hathcock admitted that it was mostly luck, but had he not been the quicker on the trigger, the outcome would have been reversed; the shot was only possible because the Cobra had been trained directly on him. He would later admit in an interview to having a sneaky respect for the Cobra, saying "I figured he's almost as good as me...but nobody's that good."
  • Duke Cunningham also found a Worthy Opponent with the still not reliably identified North Vietnames fighter pilot variously called Nyugen Toon or Tomb who engaged him in a dog fight he only managed to win by the hair of his teeth.
  • To this day, the Mexican military respects the French Foreign Legion a lot for the Battle of Camarón. A Mexican soldier meeting a Legionnaire salutes...even if the Mexican is a general and the Legionnaire a private.
  • After the Zulu War, the British built a monument...to "the Zulu warriors who fell here for the old Zulu order."
  • Billy Bishop, the top Canadian ace of WWI and arguably the top ace of the British Empire, was nicknamed "Hell's Handmaiden" by the Germans, and after the war, he was invited as a guest of honour to a gathering of German aces in Berlin.
  • The Canadians in general were well respected and feared by the German soldiers in World War One, and earned the nickname "shock troops". There is even a quote from notorious German WWI veteran Adolf Hitler: "Give me Canadian men and American equipment and I'll win the war."
  • There's a reason the U.S. armed forces gives their helicopters names like "Apache", "Blackhawk", and "Iroquois".
  • The English for the French and vice-versa, throughout history, to the point that they joined forces and ultimately stood united through two World Wars, after eight hundred years of intermittent but plentiful warfare.
  • A less violent version can be found in Jon Stewart and Bill O Reilly; they seem to be as close to friends as their differing viewpoints allowed.
  • Politicians almost always invoke this trope when acknowledging an opponent they've just defeated, and occasionally under other circumstances such as their opponent's retirement or death. In 2010, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ousted after a successful leadership challenge by his deputy Julia Gillard. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described Rudd as "a worthy opponent" and said "he deserved better".

Notes

  1. an outsider worthy of respect

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