"Death is my business, and business is good..."
—Agent 47, Hitman: Contracts
"Snipin's a good job, mate. It's challenging work, out of doors... I guarantee you'll not go hungry, 'cause at the end of the day, long as there's two people left on the planet, someone is going to want someone dead."
—The Sniper, Team Fortress 2
For most characters, killing people is not something they do on a regular basis. For an Affably Evil Big Bad who believes Utopia Justifies the Means or an Action Hero on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge, killing a few mooks or Red Shirts is all in a day's work. But for a Professional Killer, it is the work. Whether you call him an assassin, a hitman, or a hired gun, it means the same. Killing is his job.
While soldiers, mercenaries, Private Military Contractors, snipers, or professional terrorists often (if not usually) have to kill someone to accomplish their mission, that mission typically involves something other than just killing - protecting a VIP, destroying or capturing an objective, spreading fear amongst the local population, etc. A Professional Killer's job typically is to kill one specific person, and nothing else.
In Fictionland there is a distinct dichotomy among those who kill for a living.
If the killer is identified as an "assassin," then they will be cool, erudite, sexy, impeccably dressed and extremely well paid for their services—bonus points if they're women. They might belong to a powerful guild that gives them leverage in contract negotiations. Between contracts they will live a life of luxury in the world's most glamorous locations. They are as likely to be the hero as they are to be the villain, and will very likely be a Consummate Professional. See also Ninja and The Hashshashin.
If the killer is identified as a "hitman," then welcome to the bottom of the heap. The hitman is a thug trying to work their way up the ladder of The Mafia or whatever other criminal organization they're a part of. A hitman's life is hard, dirty, bleak and, very often, short. With rare exception they are the villain of the piece and a disposable villain at that. Respect is not an option in this line of work.
Previously psychologists and criminologists would differentiate between Professional Killers and Serial Killers, the latter being driven by psychological impulses and often a pathological need to kill, the former just driven by money. This is no longer the case and most experts now believe career killers are just a subtype of serial killers, the logic being that if your preferred method of making a living is to murder people, you might just have a problem after all.
See Assassin Outclassin' for them drastically failing.
If you were looking for something that kills your career, not something that kills you, see Career Killer for a list.
Anime and Manga
- Kirika and Mirielle in Noir are assassins and their shooting practice targets are usually hitmen. More sophisticated antagonists are usually female, as well as being fellow assassins.
- Golgo 13 is very much an Assassin, as well as a Consummate Professional.
- Both Claire Stanfield and Ladd Russo from Baccano! are assassins by trade. Ladd is an Ax Crazy Psycho for Hire for the Russo family, while Claire is a freelancer with a strange sense of justice.
- Certain characters from One Piece, particularly the members of CP9 and Baroque Works (or, in the latter case, the Mr. 1 and Mr. 5 pairs for sure), are Assassins.
- Robin has been called an assassin too, mostly before her Heel Face Turn, although ironically, her kill-count has increased far more after it. While not exactly the most powerful of the Straw Hats, she is, quite likely, the deadliest member.
- Tao Pai Pai from Dragon Ball hardly looks like a serious warrior, with his pink outfit and ponytail with a bow. However, in his 20 years as an assassin, he has never failed a job, and while he is very expensive (something he warns a prospective client) he seems to love his job a little too much for someone in this line of work. A master of Chinese martial arts, he once killed a man using only his tongue, and can honestly claim to be the first villain to have defeated Son Goku, even if he never managed to finish the job.
- The protagonist of Rurouni Kenshin is a reformed one, although he spends most of the series doing his best to resist the urge to kill.
- Laura from Mnemosyne is definitely an assassin, sporting all sorts of firearms and explosives. The problem is, Rin is just that Badass (not to mention Immortality) that she beats her almost every single time.
- The MacDougall brothers from Outlaw Star, Ron is the assasin while his brother Harry starts out as the Hitman before Character Development improves him.
- For the Zaoldyecks from Hunter X Hunter, assassination is the family business. Even the gender-confused 10-year-old kid can kill you. With confetti and a paper fan, no less. On top of all that, they're Badass enough that they can give out business cards with their phone number and home address on them. Of course, they live in a Big Fancy House hidden somewhere on their mountain estate (their mountain estate encompassing basically the entire mountain), and anyone who wants to get to them has to first get past the 10-foot-tall
Angry Guard Dogautomated, dog-shaped killing machine, and a small army of battle butlers, an apprentice of which once singlehandedly took down a group of 100 bounty hunters with ease. Yeah....
- Shanin from Angel Heart is an assassin trained from early childhood for the job. She develops a heart, kills herself, and is resurrected with a donor heart which carries with it the memories and soul of the dead woman it belonged to.
- The members of Weiss in Weiss Kreuz are assassins, and also the heroes of the piece, although they consider themselves Necessarily Evil.
- The Takamichi family from Triangle Heart 3 ～sweet songs forever～ are bodyguards. Bodyguards who use katanas, Razor Floss, throwing daggers, and can dangle upside-down from the ceiling to choke someone with piano wire. This may fall under the "It Takes A Thief" category.
- In Black Lagoon, the entire city of Roanapur is composed of either hitmen or people who cater services for hitmen, anyone who has worked in the trade long enough gets really pissed off when they have someone running around messing up potential profitable contracts or clients. It's one of the reasons nearly the entire city gets behind trying to clear off Hansel and Gretel, who are themselves hired killers who know no other way of life. Anarchy just ain't good for business.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn:
- The Varia are elite, if somewhat eccentric, assassins. They're certainly well dressed, and have no problem killing anyone (or each other). They prefer to remain independent from the more peace-loving Vongola however, as Benevolent Boss Tsuna is too nice for their liking. Though their own boss served as the Big Bad for a time, now they're more antiheroes than anything.
- The title character is a subversion of the trope: He always refers to himself as a hitman, never an assassin, There seems to be a clear distinction between the two in the Vongola Family, and the title "Hitman" appears to command the utmost respect. Reborn himself is highly honorable and wise, if a bit of a prankster. Although we're repeatedly told he's the best Hitman alive, we never actually see him kill anyone (but we do see that he is an uncannily good shot.)
- The first episode of the anime has Reborn seemingly killing a thug who attacks him in a bar. We never actually see the guy die, but Reborn pointed a gun at him and we heard the shot...and Reborn NEVER misses.
- In the manga Dead End by Shihoei Manabe, the (warning! major spoiler!) former lives of all the main characters consisted of running contract jobs for their creators. It was implied from their uniforms and methods of execution that they had some military backing, but it's never fully disclosed. Oh, and then you have all the Enemies who have one purpose...
- Most Contractors in Darker than Black are either career killers by profession or kill in the course of carrying out missions. The British agents are probably the most assassin-like, with the others generally being the hit man type. Hei, the protagonist is a bit of both—he's badass and stylish looking with his Badass Longcoat, but he doesn't live a particularly glamorous private life, and a Running Gag is that most of his missions start with him infiltrating somewhere by getting a menial job there.
- While most shinobi carry out specified missions in teams on the order of their leader, hunter-nin stand apart. It is not uncommon for them to hunt criminals solo and they likely bring in large bounties for disposing of traitors and worse.
- Some missing-nin take up this career after leaving their villages. Likely due to the stigma of being from another village or having committed criminal acts, they have difficulty getting honest work. However, a black market exists for bounty hunters who locate, kill, and retrieve targets for interested parties.
- All ninja in Naruto are de facto career killers and are expected to be ready to kill on command, and all ninja villages accept contracts on someone's life, though this is only one of a range of jobs they might do. ANBU Black Op's may assassinate on direct orders of the Kage when more discretion is required, such as against a friendly village- ANBU's ROOT will do this without the Kage's permission. Hunter-Nin are not bounty hunters but ninja tasked with tracking and eliminating known missing-nin, which are ninja who have went AWOL and usually commited a serious crime against the village, though they may be wanted by other village's apart from their native one. The storyline does'nt gloss over this as assassination plans against characters like Orochimaru and Sasuke are both addressed.
- In Slayers, Zuuma is an incredibly badass assassin who is hired to kill Lina Inverse. He follows a strict code, only revealing his name to his employer and his target, and always completing a job even if the person who hired him has died in the meantime. In the novel version, he became an assassin simply because he felt a psychological compulsion to kill; the anime version gives him a bit more of an origin story.
- It gives us the Eye of Michael, an organization of contract killers who appear to have their corporate origins in some kind of plant-worshiping cult. They fill three slots in the Gung-Ho Guns, something Knives doubtless finds very useful since if one of these three is killed the Eye sends in a replacement without his having to go to the trouble of another recruitment drive.
- This is what netted him Wolfwood, an Eye member previously known as Nicholas The Punisher, who shot his mentor Chapel to take his place so as to get closer to Knives in hopes of killing him to save the world. This plan did not work, but hey.
- As implied above, in both adaptations Wolfwood is a Professional Killer, taken under Chapel's wing as an orphan boy. The manga version is just more explicit and detailed, and includes some Strapped to An Operating Table. Legato isn't the only one to get Bowdlerized.
- In the anime Black Cat, Train Heartnet is an assassin after being forcibly raised by the Professional Killer that killed his family.
- In Bleach, Soi Fon AKA "Captain Bitchninja", leader of squad 2 and supreme commander of the Onmitsukido. While she excels in mastery of shunpo and hakuda, her two-hit kill shikai is her signature skill.
- In Queen's Blade, Irma is the leader of the Fang Assassins guild. The position was formerly held by her mentor and ex-lover Echidna.
- The aptly titled Le Tueur (The Killer) centers around one.
- Hitman: Tommy Monaghan is the epitome of The Hitman part of this trope. Although given that while his life is hard, dirty, bleak, and short, he's not really the villain, or if he is he's not a disposable one, maybe he's the ultimate subversion.
- Most of the Marvel Universe's mercs probably fit. Taskmaster, Bullseye, Crossbones, Elektra, Daken and even Deadpool at times, messing with the heroes because the heroes are their intended targets, or simply because the hero gets in the way.
- Likewise with DC Comics, who has an entire League of Assassins that seems to encompass nearly every highly-skilled killer-for-hire in that particular universe. See also Marvel Comics' Assassins Guild.
- Ramba is very definitely an assassin, with the bonus points for being female.
- Shlubb and Klump of Sin City, two low-rent hitmen with "Delusions of Eloquence". Haven't been disposed of yet, but have suffered Butt Monkey levels of slapping around and humiliation—including being burned by a flash bomb on a body they were ordered to dispose of, planted by an employer who just knew they were going to disobey orders and frisk the corpse for pawnable valuables before dumping it.
- Most Professional Killers from Sin City are hitmen; assassins are very, very rare to find, with the possible exceptions of the Salesman and deadly little Miho. While a number of these hitmen are fairly skilled or powerful, they nonetheless all have the life expectancy of the average hitman as described above.
- The titular Ichabod Azrael is, in the very first strip, assassinated by a gang of notorious outlaws led by Bloody Bill Sterling.
- Daredevil's enemy Bullseye proudly claims to be an expert at killing. Also true for Elekra, another of the hero's foes - and occasionally his lover.
- X-Men villain Arcade is a unique example; by his own account, he murdered his own father - some filthy-rich Texas oil tycoon - and discovered he loved killing. After inheriting his father's wealth, he became an assassin, but grew bored with killing the "usual" way, so started to build his Murderworlds, death-trap laden complexes with an amusement park theme, which he would subject the marks to. .
- Laura "X-23" Kinney, the Opposite Gender Clone of Wolverine created by The Facility to be a emotionless, merciless assassin whose services would be sold to the highest bidder. They succeeded, but she got away and joined the X-Men and X-Force. She's begun trying to leave her training behind and bring her actions more in line with X-family practices, but her complete ruthlessness makes her at times even a more efficient killer than Wolverine.
- Valentine D'Eath from 2000 AD (specifically "Shakara") definitely fits the Assassin mold, albeit with all the exaggeration inherent to a gonzo Space Opera scifi setting.
- Spider-Man's enemy Tombstone started out as a mob hitman and usually still is, though he often sets his sights on higher positions in the New York underworld.
- Scud the Disposable Assassin. Think Deadpool, just as an android (without as much fourth-wall breaking), and you get the idea of this Black Comedy take on the Trope.
- Danny from "Killer Elite" is an hitman, who dresses in ordinary clothing and lives in an R.V. However, he is the protagonist of the story and looks down anyone who kills civilians or children.
- Ichi the Killer has the titular Ichi, a deadly assassin, and Kaneko, a rather unsuccessful hitman.
- The movie 2 Days in the Valley explores the differences between hitmen and assassins. Dosmo is a balding, aging, overweight down on his luck hitman, while Lee Woods is a smooth, intelligent assassin. However, Dosmo has the Jerk with a Heart of Gold thing going on, (along with a very rough code of honor) while Woods is a ruthless killer who likes to play with his victims beforehand, and will kill anyone who gets in his way.
- Vincent from Collateral is most definitely an assassin.
- Both Rath and Bane from Assassins are assassins, complete with the Weird Trade Union and all. However, Rath looks down on Bane for Bane's greater willingness to kill, including innocent bystanders or cops.
- Mr. and Mrs. Smith from the film of the same name are definitely assassins.
- Jules and Vincent of Pulp Fiction are either hitmen or else just general Hired Guns. They follow the assassin archetype in some ways, however, both being Badass in a Nice Suit, making snappy conversation and generally being presented as 'cool' ('competent' is another matter).
- Brighton Beach's young in Little Odessa are all either hitmen or hitmen wannabes. They live in a sucky neighbourhood, wear leather jackets, have slicked-back hair, and are generally unrefined and not too bright.
- Grosse Pointe Blank:
- Martin Q. Blank.
"They all have husbands and wives and children and houses and dogs, and, you know, they've all made themselves a part of something and they can talk about what they do. What am I gonna say? 'I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?'"
- This trope is also parodied and subverted, as Marty tells everyone he knows that he's an assassin but nobody takes him seriously except his psychiatrist.
- Jeremy Grocer is also an assassin. Felix LaPoubelle, Steven Lardner, and Kenneth McCullers, on the other hand, are all hitmen.
- Brand Hauser, John Cusack's character in War Inc. (which has been described as "an informal sequal to Grosse Pointe Blank) is an Expy of Martin Blank.
- In Road to Perdition, Tom Hanks' Anti-Hero character is a hitman, and he's very much unnerved upon meeting the Psycho for Hire assassin played by Jude Law.
- Chev Chelios, in Crank, has his feet firmly planted in both worlds. On the one hand, he's well-off, clever, often well-dressed, and shows something along the lines of professional pride and even, rarely, compassion. On the other, he's not very well educated, fights like a street thug, seems to enjoy on some level causing destruction, has little sense of actual dignity, and often takes things, such as someone poisoning him, personally.
- Technically, Julian Noble in The Matador is an Assassin. He is handsome, often charming, highly skilled and a world traveler. However he is also badly dressed, lonely and visibly fraying from his job even before begins to get guilt induced panic attacks. He is possibly about as realistic as an Assassin can get while remaining sympathetic.
- Carson Welles from No Country for Old Men seems to be an assassin, though he is also a Hitman with a Heart, while the many Mexican criminals after the main character's money and life seem to be hitmen. Calling Anton Chigurh any one of these descriptions would be a misnomer, as he is essentially death incarnate.
- The Nameless hitman from the short film made of the Stephen King story Battleground lives a visibly high-class lifestyle. He ruthlessly shoots dead the unarmed CEO of a toymaking company, but uses a tranquilizer gun against his two security guards. Other techniques include using a rubber facemask to conceal his features (it appears to be a real face to a casual observer), a fake bomb to get the guard to open the security door, and wearing a headset so people won't engage him in casual conversation. Unfortunately he has a habit of taking trophies from his victims, which isn't a good idea when the victim's mother is a witch.
- In Bruges, Ken and Ray are hitmen. Although they're often well-dressed, and Ken appreciates art, they are completely unglamourised.
- In The Assassination Bureau Ltd., the titular bureau is filled with the former.
- The title character from Leon, the Professional is something of a combination of the two. While Leon possesses the skills and reputation of an unholy killing machine, he barely spends any money, lives a monastic, anonymous existence, and has an almost childlike personality.
- The Boondock Saints have to deal with two hitmen in the course of the movie. One of them is a "sick fuck" who their colleague Rocco drove to his job one time, who "takes out a whole family -- wife, kids, everyone -- like he's ordering a fucking pizza." The other hitman, Il Duce, shows up shortly after the three finish off the "sick fuck," and was sprung from prison by the Big Bad in order to kill Rocco, who he believes is responsible for the Saints' killings. He turns out to have a Leon-esque code about "no women, no kids," shows himself to be a consummate badass who gives all three saints the fight of their lives, and eventually turns out to be the McManus brothers' long lost father.
- Jet Li's character in... well, Hitman lives an extremely unglamorous life. He rooms with three other bottom-feeder hitmen/thugs, dorm style. To get a job, they essentially have to find an agent to essentially advertise them as skillful. And even Jet Li's agent is a bottom feeder. The only character with the style of an assassin is the "Killing Angel" who starts the mess of the movie to begin with, and he's not even doing it for the money. He's a vigilante cop.
- In The Mechanic, Charles Bronson's character trains a young man to also become an assassin.
"Murder is only killing without a license."
- Willi Cicci in The Godfather parts I and II. As he tells the Senate subcommittee in Part II he was a soldier or "button" for the Corleone family. "When the boss says push a button on a guy, I push a BUTTON."
- Jef Costello, lead character of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai, is in most respects an assassin--Badass in a Nice Suit at all times, extremely suave, highly disciplined and cunning—but other elements of the type are either absent or subverted: he barely speaks, and when he does it's only about the most pragmatic concerns; he lives in a two-room dump of an apartment with the paint peeling off the walls and only his pet bird (who also doesn't talk) for company. His only concerns are practicing his craft with the utmost professionalism and perfection, and maintaining an exacting sense of honor...especially when his employers try to have him killed at the payoff for being spotted by a witness leaving the scene of the job and being brought in by the police for questioning.
- Ben of Man Bites Dog is a well-paid, Faux Affably Evil hitman with pretensions of being Wicked Cultured (he discourses knowledgeably on such subjects as poetry and architecture); he clearly thinks of himself as fitting better into the "assassin" category—which is given the lie when we see glimpses of his true nature.
- The Tournament is about a tournament where Professional Killers and soldiers fight each other to the death to win a lot of money, all for the amusement of decadent, rich people. The movie portrays both sympathetic killers who genuinely want to quit their business as well as Ax Crazy Complete Monsters.
- Joubert, the freelance Alsatian killer in Three Days of the Condor. Always polite, even to the extent of giving the protagonist a lift to the train station when he no longer has a contract against him.
Joubert: Well, the fact is, what I do is not a bad occupation. Someone is always willing to pay.
- Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is a soulless mercenary who hunts down and executes targets for the money. He's portrayed as an utterly cold-blooded sociopath who doesn't so much as bat an eye while having a man tortured in front of him, extorts money from prisoners of war, and always sees a job through to the end once he's been paid.
- James Bond is an Assassin.
- In the opening of the 2006 Casino Royale M laments that Bond doesn't demonstrate the required professionalism:
James Bond: So you want me to be half-monk, half-hitman.
- Odd that Bond always seems so cool, he is described in the novels as simply a "blunt instrument wielded by dolts in high places".
- Bond has a cool and calm demeanor, and he can certainly move under the radar when he wants to, but once he gets started with violence and gun play, his methods generally result in copious body counts and extraneous explosions, often in public settings with little regard for property damage or discretion.
- Francisco Scaramanga from Ian Fleming's The Man with the Golden Gun started as a hitman and became an assassin, later in both the film and novel. He is mostly known as "The Man with Golden Gun" because he only uses bullets made of gold (in the movie) and of course an actual golden gun (both versions, though the model of gun is different). Developed his marksmen skill as a (child) trick shot circus act. In his career, he's worked for the Spangled Mob (novel), US drug runners (novel), Cuba's secret police (novel), the KGB (movie), and freelance (movie and novel).
- Odd that Bond always seems so cool, he is described in the novels as simply a "blunt instrument wielded by dolts in high places".
- Members of the Ankh-Morpork Assassins' Guild are undoubtedly Assassins.
- Inigo Skimmer from The Fifth Elephant is a Scholarship Student and therefore is more of a craftsman than artist at his job.
- Despite being stylish, the Assassins of Discworld tend to be mostly unsympathetic with some notable exceptions, such as Pteppic, who decides he can't kill anyone, and Vetinari, who notably subverts and breaks a number of Guild rules.
- And then there are people like "Snowy" Slopes, who appears in Jingo: "He's an Assassin?" "No no. He just kills people for money."
- Making Money has a guild member who was implied to be another scholarship boy and was a "cleaner" for the villain. He was more of a hitman in that killing was essentially a 9 to 5 job but also had assassin qualities of being well-read and elegant.
- Also important to note that most of Ankh-Morpork's prominent families send their children to be educated at the Assassin's Guild, making it an important political force and that most of those who went there are not technically assassins. The Guild even has a sense of civil responsibility, refusing to take on contracts they feel would harm the city or its interests in an unacceptable fashion. Vetinari and Vimes have both been taken off the register as it was felt their removal would 'not only spoil the game but smash the board'. Though that Vimes survived 9 attempts may have contributed.
- The teachers at the Guild sometimes send students after Vimes to teach them humility. Most of the traps that Vimes has set to them are very lethal - for example loose roof-tiles on greased rails, placed where a hapless Assassin will fall onto an spiky, ornamental, but more importantly, spiky fence, bear-traps, water pits that you can't climb out of, precarious beams above the dragons' cages, etc.
- Jyan and Chen in Robert Wingrove's Chung Kuo series fit the "hitman" side of the trope
- Cindy Stoker in the Thursday Next series.
- The Bourne Series:
- Carlos the Jackal as a 'Master Assassin' as the primary antagonist for the first and third books.
- In the Bourne films, Jason Bourne himself fits the Assassin type before his amnesia.
- Mara Jade Skywalker from the Star Wars Expanded Universe fits this trope perfectly, sexy clothing and all - she's actually one of the best assassins in The Empire (yes, that Empire), and by extension, the galaxy. Being a Jedi Master hasn't hurt her abilities either. Her son, Ben Skywalker, is explicitly described as one in Sacrifice, but he doesn't really fit the trope, despite actually carrying out an assassination mission - he has too much compassion from his parents, especially Luke. Many fans were angered when she was killed off.
- The title character in The Day of the Jackal is definitely an assassin.
- In The Executioner series of action-adventure novels, Vietnam veteran turned Vigilante Mack Bolan is alternatively pursued by, or poses as (to infiltrate various Mafia factions) a 'Black Ace', one of the elite contract killers employed by the New York Commission. They are held in awe by the average Mafia footsoldier and are often described as radiating 'class' and charisma.
- Konrad, from William Gibson's All Tomorrow's Parties is a rather philosophical Assassin who is a rather dedicated follower of Taoism.
- In "Johnny Mnemonic," a Yakuza assassin comes after Johnny. He looks like a humble little Japanese tourist, but he's actually a vat-grown super-assassin who ultimately tangles with Action Girl Molly Millions. Interestingly, he's painted like a hitman when Molly recounts Johnny's fate in Neuromancer. She states that the Yakuza's first killer was all speed and flash, a rather typical affair. The second killer they send, however, was like a monk, who walked right through all of Johnny's traps and defenses like they were air.
- Master Chiun and Remo Williams from the Destroyer series are both assassins, even if Remo's attitude and style fits more in line with that of a hitman.
Master Chiun: Professional assassination. It's the highest form of public service.
- The Mongols go up against the historical Assassins in the third Conqueror book. They're certainly stylish and cool, but still come off as evil.
- John Clark in Tom Clancy novels is a government assassin, a highly trained Cold Sniper. In Without Remorse, he decides to apply his skills on a free agent basis to a vendetta against several local criminals, both the criminals and the police comment on the differences between the way he commits a murder and the way Mafia hit men would carry it out.
- The Night Angel Trilogy "Assassins" are brutish hitmen who have targets. "Wetboys" are suave assassins with magic powers that have deaders, because their target's death is assured as soon as they accept the contract. "Assassins have targets because they sometimes miss."
- Vlad Taltos starts out as an assassin and gradually develops a heart. He first meets his wife, one of the Jhereg's top killers, when she and her partner are hired to kill him. There's also the legendary Mario.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars stories, every Red Martian city seems to have an assassins' guild. While not exactly legal, assassination is common enough that most people of means take measures against it. Pretty much everyone knows who the assassins are, but no one (well, no one but John Carter) wants to take them on for fear of being, well, assassinated.
- H. Beam Piper's short story "The Last Enemy" is set in a culture with a Society of Assassins that operates openly and under a rigid code of ethics.
- Forgotten Realms:
- Artemis Entreri is one of these, known as the king of assassins in his home city of Calimport. He's also, not coincidentally, the best human swordfighter outside of epic-level characters, capable of going toe-to-toe with practically any non-magical opponent in the books. The fact that he also seems to be intelligent and refined (outside of battle, anyway: see Combat Pragmatist) doesn't hurt, either.
- Entreri is one of the best swordfighters period. He can go toe-to-toe with Drizzt himself. (Normal Drizzt, not "Hunter" Drizzt. "Hunter" Drizzt is a match for a god-blessed super-orc armed with a flaming BFS)
- Sorta-subverted in the series Doctrine of Labyrinths by Sarah Monette. One of the main characters, Mildmay, was, in his teens, the most feared and competent assassin in the entire city. However, he didn't even get money for his jobs—it all went to his Keeper (a woman he was totally subservient to and abused by). And the after-effects of his past continue to haunt him, though he says he "doesn't feel guilty".
- Hugh the Hand from The Death Gate Cycle combines elements of both subtypes, though he's called an assassin. Like a hitman he's crude, unsophisticated, and ugly, but he when things get tough he demonstrates an assassin's intellect and deadly skill, and he always exudes an impressive aura of Badass. He's considered the second deadliest killer in the world... and the first is way past her prime.
- The titular character of Vince Flynn's Mitch Rapp series is a completely unapologetic CIA assassin, worst nightmare of terrorists and slimy thugs the world over. He prides himself on never having killed an innocent bystander. Also, what seems to be his preferred method of killing doesn't involve a cut throat or a broken neck.
- Vin, heroine of Mistborn is an Assassin, though she kills out of loyalty to La Résistance and later, the kingdom it morphs into rather than for money.
- From The Stormlight Archive, Szeth is a reluctant but incredibly effective Assassin—his people, the Shin, are an inversion of the Proud Warrior Race who value pacifism above all else and treat violence as hideously dishonorable, and consequently they treat their warriors as little more than slaves who have to obey whoever holds their "oathstone". Szeth, a particularly deadly Magic Knight, got traded to outisders, and because of his deadliness and skill at stealth, he normally gets used as an assassin by his masters. He hates himself for it, but his honor won't let him disobey.
- "American Harry" in The Sacred Art of Stealing is at the "hitman" extreme of the scale: he has few real principles, can be casually violent towards people who try to mess him around and, although he is smarter and more level-headed than some of the people he kills for, he is a somewhat jaded character who seems to have a fairly dull and unglamourous lifestyle.
- In the last two books of the Time Scout series, a small horde of these follow a few of our heroes through a number of time strings.
- The Phantom of the Opera: In the original book by Gaston Leroux, according to the Persian, Erik, the titular phantom, did this as part of his work for the Sha-in-Sha:
He took part calmly in a number of political assassinations;
- The Dragaera series features a number of professional assassins, including Vlad Taltos, Cawti and Mario Greymist.
- Belisarius Series: Range from thugs-for-hire to martial arts experts comparable to Ninja.
- Jaqen H'gar in George R. R. Martins fantasy saga A Song of Ice and Fire is a member of the faceless men, a group of elite assassins. Arya Stark is on the best way to become one too.
- The assassin in the MacGyver episode "The Assassin" is an Assassin. (Sorry.)
- Charmed basically based an entire story around this in the season 2 episode "Ms. Hellfire". After the sisters killed her, Prue had to impersonate the assassin to discover who had taken the hit out on them and the thing she regretted having to give up at the end was the wardrobe.
- John Mercer from the British series The Fixer is an Assassin, albeit one that lives on a Council Estate.
- Sarah on Chuck is an assassin whereas Casey is more of a hitman.
- The Argentinian assassin from the first season of Miami Vice, sent to clean out a list of targets for mob boss Calderone. He looks like a holdover from the 70's, has a small afro, and has one of the quickest draws humanly possible (he was played by a real-life trained marksman). In fact, he kills Sonny Crockett's boss and most of the targets before being taken down, and that's only because more than five police officers (including Tubbs, Valerie and vice officers) shoot at him at the same time.
- Happy seems to fill the role of hitman for the Sons of Anarchy.
- The X-Files. The shapeshifting alien 'bounty hunter' fits this trope. He's ruthless, but not without standards; he shows his true alien face to another alien he's been sent to kill so he can die with honor. And of course there's the various Men In Black types who are often highly-trained government assassins, though not of the Hitman with a Heart type. The Cigarette Smoking Man is himself one of these, though he has graduated to management level.
- The licensed-to-kill British agents in Callan lean more towards the "hitman" end of the scale, even the one who's a lord's son. It's the "flat beer" end of Spy Fiction rather than the "martini" end.
- Ziva David in NCIS was an assassin.
- The Accountant, from the short-lived Kidnapped, is an assassin.
- Criminal Minds had these in "Natural-Born Killer" and "Reckoner". In the former, the guy was actually a serial killer (someone who kills to satisfy an inner desire as opposed to for money) who was working as a mob hitman so he could get payed for his murders. In the latter, it was a common hitman, and he wasn't the primary antagonist, it was his employer.
- Steven Matrix in Matrix started out as a Mafia hit man.
- Brother Mouzone from The Wire is an assassin with more bodies on him than a Chinese cemetery if Proposition Joe is to be believed. Chris Partlow and Snoop fit the hitman type.
- Burn Notice has had its share of both, but the recurring one is Larry (yes, dead Larry), who is definitely an assassin.
- "Payback" by Dreamtale
- "Assassins of Ankh Morpork" by Scavanger, actively invoking the original's stylish side for a Black Comedy.
- "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" by ACDC
- "Killing Is My Business..." by Megadeth.
- "Sick, Dirty and Mean" by Accept is about hitmen and The Mafia in general.
- "Professional Killer" by KMFDM.
- "Sicarios", by Rubén Blades
- Killer characters in Feng Shui are usually either Assassins or Hitmen With A Heart.
- New World of Darkness:
- There is a "Professional Training: Hitman" feat for Hunters.
- Another New World of Darkness example is the Tolltaker Knighthood from Changeling: The Lost. The Tolltakers are, to the last, thugs and hitmen whose special powers rely on designating a target via a contracted hit. Some Knight Bannerets try to only take jobs that deal with "necessary targets" (such as the Gentry, Loyalists and Privateers, and other threats to the freehold), whereas others will just take any job that pays.
- Old World of Darkness:
- The Assamites of Vampire: The Masquerade are an entire vampiric clan with close ties to the hashhashin (to the point that the original Mount Alamut is their home base). The face they present to the rest of the Kindred is that of assassins and brokers of war, but their numbers also include scholars and sorcerors. Unfortunately, one of their castes has a flaw that means they find vampire blood especially delicious...
- The Euthanatos from Mage: The Ascension are often stereotyped as this, but it's more a matter for the Golden Chalice faction. Even then, their actions aren't entirely about killing for pay; as they view themselves of agents of "the Wheel" of life and death, they make it their business to target those whose actions unbalance the Wheel towards death.
- Most agents of the Officio Assassinorum in Warhammer 40,000 are definitely assassins, but a case can be made for the Eversor temple being more about hitmen.
- Rifts and several other Palladium Books games have a partial subversion: Special Forces types typically have two options for their variety of close-combat training: "Hand-To-Hand: Assassin" and "Hand-To-Hand: Commando". Assassin is typically only allowed to characters of an outright evil alignment, and offers supreme lethality but no automatic dodge and fewer raw attacks a round.
- Dungeons & Dragons introduced an assassin class in Blackmoor. The class also appeared in the first edition of AD&D. It was omitted from second edition core, but appeared in The Complete Thief's Handbook and Player's Option as a kit. Third edition reintroduced the class, and it also appears in the fourth edition. What archetype they fit largely depends on how the character is played. In addition, there are several other classes that could perform a similar role.
- Planescape: Among the rilmani (a True Neutral planar race who exists to preserve the Balance Between Good and Evil in the multiverse) the cuprilachs are definitely assassins. Unlike their peers the ferrumachs, who are warriors of the rilmani who form armies, the cuprilachs are killers who believe the best way to preserve the Balance is to eliminate extremists who represent Good, Evil, Law, and Chaos. They are clever and intelligent foes, always doing as much research as they can on a mark (and the mark's species) to determine what the mark's "kryptonite" is, so the cuprilach can become the Man of Kryptonite to do the job. They never fight fair if they can help it, and some say no victim of a cuprilach has ever seen the attack coming.
- Assassins are commonly hired to kill your party in Fire Emblem, but they fit type two (the word "Hitman" probably didn't exist back then). Assassin is also a class you can get, and party members with this class commonly fit type 1.
- Interestingly enough, the Player Character ... is an Assassin. The game can also be played as a Hitman, too, you just have to kill everything you come into contact with.
- A better example of a Hitman in the series would be The Dragon from Blood Money: Mark Parchezzi III. One of his kills you can read about has him emerge from a car in broad daylight, gun down the president of some nation, and then run like hell.
- Agent 47 falls right between the two. He takes prestigious contracts and operates in exotic locations but lives Spartan life and in Blood Money it appears that he was still a mere pawn of The Agency. He doesn't get much respect but he apparently also doesn't need any.
- Max Payne:
- Mona Sax is definitely an Assassin, though she has some Hitman tendencies (she's implied to have come out of the mob and calls a decrepit funhouse home).
- Rico Muerte and Frankie Niagara from the first game were Hitmen, as were the Punchinello Trio.
- As were Kaufman and the Cleaners working for Vladimir Lem from Max Payne 2, though those seemed to have Military level training.
- The Killer suits from the first game have the appearance and training of Assassins, but are really more like Hitmen.
- Assassin's Creed: Seeing as Altair provides the page image, take a wild guess. In fact... Strictly speaking, the protagonist is a Hashashin.
- In Lollipop Chainsaw, Juliet's older sister Cordelia is highly implied to work as one for the government, specializing in hits against zombies.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All:
- Shelly DeKiller is the assassin type, and even calls himself a "gentleman killer". It's hard to deny that he has some of the best manners of any killer in the series. This is probably why most people don't mind his Karma Houdini despite the fact that he kidnapped Maya Fey and was willing to kill her if Phoenix didn't defend Matt.
- On the other hand, case I-4 victim Mack Rell is described as a "hitman" who was brought down to the precinct numerous times. Unlike de Killer, though, Rell was reckless, unrefined and unprepared (hence why he was caught easily).
- Several characters in Mortal Kombat consider killing to be their job: All members of Lin Kuei (Sub-Zero, Frost, Smoke, Cyrax, and Sektor), Scorpion, Kitana, Jade, Mileena, Skarlet, and Reptile, to name a few.
- Virtua Fighter:
- Goh Hinogami is a subverted assassin. He's a creepy looking albino and a relentless killing machine. Still, he does work for and was trained by J6.
- Jean Kujo plays this straight, and he also works for J6.
- Team Fortress 2:
- The Sniper and the Spy are assassins; the Spy is an especially stereotypical example, with his fine suit and upper-class mannerisms. The Sniper is a bit more down-to-earth.
Sniper: (on phone with his father) Not a crazed gunman, dad, I'm an assassin. ... Well the difference bein', one is a job, and the other's mental sickness! (and later) "Feelings? You know who has a lot of feelings? Blokes what bludgeon their wives to death with a golf trophy. Professionals have standards. Be polite. Be efficient. Have a plan to kill everyone you meet."
- As shown above, Sniper's parents consider their son to be option 2.
- It's ironic that he actually notes the difference between a "crazed gunman" and an assassin, considering that psychologists don't distinguish between the two nowadays.
- Given that the line between Hitmen and Private Military Contractors can get somewhat blurry, a case could be made for including most of the team, with the possible exception of the Medic and the Engineer (who seem to be more in it For Science!).
- As shown above, Sniper's parents consider their son to be option 2.
- Lieselotte of Arcana Heart. German Little Miss Snarker assassin dressed in an Elegant Gothic Lolita outfit.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- The Morag Tong guild is a guild of Assassins, whereas the Dark Brotherhood is more of a guild of Hitmen; the former is depicted as the good and honorable one as a result.
- The Morag Tong is the legal option, and they have rather strict standards. The Dark Brotherhood can't even be contacted legitimately without performing some sort of heinous act to get their attention. They come rather closer to Assassins than Hitmen in Oblivion than they do in Morrowind though, since they're a playable faction then.
- The Killer7 run the gamut from MASK DE Smith, an Assassin, to Dan Smith, a Hitman. Several of your enemies are Hitmen, while Curtis Blackburn is probably the most horrifying take on the Assassin imaginable.
- Zevran from Dragon Age Origins belongs to a notorious assassin's guild, the Antivan Crows.
- Claude, Tommy Vercetti and Carl Johnson from the Grand Theft Auto series act as typical hitmen for a large part of the game. Niko Belic is even better example.
- Thane Krios in Mass Effect 2 is the most feared and deadly assassin in the Mass Effect universe.
- And he has something to say about all those other 'professionals' you've fought.
"You've spent too much time fighting thugs who think custom-painted armor makes them professionals."
- No More Heroes:
- Travis Touchdown is a bit of both. His weapon of choice (a Beam Katana), impressive feats of physical skill and endurance, occasional displays of chivalry and honor, and overall competence are very assassin-like. But his Perpetual Poverty, complete lack of stealth or subtly, and overall tastelessness push him more towards the hitman category.
- In addition, being an assassin seems to be the occupation of choice in Travis's world. It's a highly glamorized job with lots of good publicity; most of the people Travis meets is either an assassin, trying to be an assassin, or works directly with one. Considering the sheer numbers of these guys and the impressive hits they accomplish (the moment someone acqires any sort of fame, a rival will send an assassin to kill him or her, unless that someone is an assassin or has hired one as a bodyguard), it's a wonder there's anyone left.
- The Elder Scrolls has an assassin class, and Morrowind and Oblivion both have assassins' guilds, though Morrowind's has the advantage of being sanctioned by the Emperor.
- In Suikoden V, Lyon and the members of the Oboro Detective Agency are all former members of Nether Gate, an assassins guild that used to serve the queendom of Falena. The guild was disbanded by Queen Arshtat and her husband, Ferid, sometime after the bloody succession war that took place between Arshtat and Haswar's mothers.
- In Bloody Roar, both Long and Bakuryu are former assassins of the Tylon Corporation. Each quit for their own reasons: Long gave up his career to atone for the lives he took while working for Tylon. Bakuryu was taken in by Yugo and unofficially adopted. Of the two, Long remains a target of his former employer due to having been one of their top assassins and knowing far too many of their secrets.
- In the sixth episode of Point and click games Xolga and Mr. Toko it's revealed that Mr. Toko used to be a hitman for a shadowy organization, under the alias "Johnny". He doesn't remember that much of that stage of his life because he surrendered his memories as the price to be freed, although he retained the reflexes and the firearm proficiency he acquired at the profession.
- Sluggy Freelance:
- Kusari fits the badass Assassin role to a tee.
- The "Phoenix Rising" storyline contains examples of both types. In (very) brief flashbacks we see that the Canadian mafia sent over a hundred "hitmen, criminals, and thugs" to take control of the town of Podunkton. All were killed by Oasis. After a new boss took over the syndicate, he decided to send down an Assassin instead of a bunch of hitmen. Said Assassin has a badass costume, lots of guns, and in-battle quips.
- Mordecai Heller from Lackadaisy Cats is of the assassin variety. Has OCD.
- Marilith Millions, main character of Marilith, is an assassin.
- Most of the cast of Knights Errant are mercenaries in a fantasy setting reminiscent of Renaissance Italy. The mercenary group the story focuses on, the Errant Knights, are noted in-story for having a code of honor. The protagonist Wilfrid also spent some time as a freelance assassin before joining the Errant Knights.
- In The Gamers Alliance, The Three are a group of three ruthless elven mercenaries who assassinate people for the right price.
- Tinsnip, in the Whateley Universe. We haven't learned enough about him to know if he's an Assassin or a Hitman.
- The assassins of Protectors of the Plot Continuum may or may not fall into this category, depending on whether one counts a Mary Sue as a person. If not, they're closer to demon hunters, or possibly pest control.They might have a lot of departments that deal with a lot of different things, but the one that kills Mary-Sues is one of the biggest and best-developed.
- Snow White and Rose Red of Super Stories are hitmen. They'll accept mercenary jobs where they don't kill anyone, if paid enough, but they think it's sloppy.
- Ato from The Questport Chronicles, in addition to The King of Thieves and Assassins. The Queen of Rogues and Robbers might be, as well.
- Combustion Man from Avatar: The Last Airbender is identified as an assassin by Zuko, even though he doesn't quite fit the 'assassin' stereotypes. For a start he's freaking humongous with a metal arm and leg, and thus not at all elegant. On the other hand he is apparently well-paid and manages to be much cooler than the average hitman by being an intimidating, silent Badass who can blow crap up with his mind. Literally.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man's Enforcers are well-regarded assassins commissioned by the Big Bad to eliminate Spider-man. They fail miserably, but one, Montana, escapes and adopts the Supervillain identity of Shocker to complete his job. Throughout his battle with Spider-man, he expresses a fondness for his work as a killer.
- Mr. Fix, the Starter Villain from Batman Beyond, hired by Derek Powers to murder Terry's father. He didn't survive the first confrontation with Terry as Batman, which sets the stage for the show's Darker and Edgier premise.
- Krombopulos Micheal from Rick and Morty is a hitman who seriously loves his job too much. He's a surprisingly likable - and friendly - character if you put aside how much he loves killing.
- Stan, the protagonist of American Dad, used to work for the CIA as an assassin; currently, he does so part-time.