[[quoteright:226:[[Theatre/MacBeth http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mcbth_small_035_6984.jpg]]]]

->''"Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:\\
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;\\
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it."''
-->-- '''Antony''', Scene II, ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar''
%% One quote is sufficient. Please place additional entries on the quotes tab.

There's a character who aims to improve his/her situation in life, be it in terms of [[FictionFiveHundred money]], [[InWithTheInCrowd fame]] or [[TheDarkSide power.]] There is a high probablity of this character starting out as evil or [[FaceHeelTurn becoming evil]] very quickly. The VisionaryVillain and WellIntentionedExtremist will do horrible things to achieve their positive goal; TheSocialDarwinist will commit every act of sabotage and supterfuge to move up the ranks; the CorruptCorporateExecutive began as a NiceGuy who wanted to be rich, etc. Upon attaining this power, he'll likely [[TheDarkSideWillMakeYouForget forget whatever it was he wanted it for in the first place.]] A tale of {{Tragedy}} for the one who dared to be ambitious is likely.

Fictional and Real Life moral codes (Administrivia/NoRealLifeExamplesPlease) have a tendency to demonstrate [[ItsAllAboutMe Selfishness]], {{Greed}}, {{Pride}}, [[AGodAmI Megalomania]], and Machiavellian ChronicBackstabbingDisorder as a consequence of the catch-all term "ambition". If you consult a dictionary it's broader than that. Ambition is the same thing that motivates some heroes to make the world a better place, but in that case it's more likely to be called [[HopeSpringsEternal "Hope".]]

This trope is one of the reasons why VillainsActHeroesReact. Villains who don't have great ambitions would not [[EvilPlan plot grand schemes and motivate story driving conflicts such as]] WorldDomination or UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans, and therefore, would be boring and petty. It is possible to write an "ambitionless" villain - see ForTheEvulz - but has a risk of being considered a GenericDoomsdayVillain.

{{Justified|Trope}} when the existing society is an evil {{dystopia}}, or otherwise flawed -- "advancing" in such a society would mean complying with or encouraging its systemic injustices. Also justified when [[PassionIsEvil ambition, or other emotions, is the personification of evil itself.]]

Can happen as a result of StatusQuoIsGod. Normally used as an {{Anvilicious}} [[AnAesop Aesop]] about What's Really Important. Unfortunately ends up in a BrokenAesop that teaches us EvilIsCool (or at least open to [[EqualOpportunityEvil social progress).]]

TheSvengali, since his goal is usually to profit through his (supposed) protege, will usually be an example of this, ''and'' turn his protege into one, unless they realize in time.

This is not an uncommon trait of TheStarscream; indeeed, it's often what ''makes'' them TheStarscream.

The heroic converse of this trope is ToBeAMaster where the hero is motivated by ambition. Note that heroes tend to pursue "healthy" goals such as strength and knowledge, while villains are more likely to be after power or money, usually [[ItsAllAboutMe for their own benefit and no one else's]] and at other people's expense.

For some reason, while even high levels of ambition are bad, [[{{Determinator}} equal or greater levels of determination]] are usually seen as good, or at least not bad. If you have high levels of ''both'', you're TheUnfettered. Heaven help the character intending to use their [[StockSuperPowers super powers]] this way; it guarantees ScrewTheRulesIHaveSupernaturalPowers. If a character wants to rise above the level of his or her fellows, it might be a case of TheComplainerIsAlwaysWrong.

This, in a way, is the reverse of LivingIsMoreThanSurviving - in that achieving more than the most basic things people can do is seen as good, in contrast to this trope.

See also {{Pride}}, PersonalGainHurts and EvilVirtues. Contrast with SelfMadeMan, who did pursue his ambitions, and isn't evil, as well any RagsToRiches story where TheProtagonist meant to become rich.

[[noreallife]]

%%If you have time, please take time to put examples in alphabetical order. This page Administrivia/HowToAlphabetizeThings should help you with that.
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!!Examples

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder: Anime and Manga ]]
* ''Manga/{{Berserk}}'': Griffith. Originally, he "merely" wants [[RagsToRiches to rise from a poor street urchin to king]] in a society that does not encourage this sort of upper mobility. After [[HumiliationConga a few]] [[{{Understatement}} setbacks]], he sets his sights [[AGodAmI a little higher.]]
* In ''Manga/KatekyoHitmanReborn'', Futa's "ambition" rankings actually seem to measure how treacherous a given person is.
* Isamu in ''Breakshot'' is described as "an ambitious guy"... because he often cheats to win.
* Very much averted in ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'', where a number of characters (e.g. Mustang, Olivia Armstrong, Greed, and Ling) are ambitious but they are generally good ''because'' of this, not in spite of it. Ling's ambition to become the next emperor was the only thing that prevented [[spoiler:Greed from taking over his body completely.]]
** Greed's ambition is notable in that he desires to possess everything. Most people would chalk this up as evil, but the thing is that he also ''values'' everything he possesses. His minions may be possessions, but they're ''his'' and ''[[BerserkButton killing them is equal to stealing from him]]''.
* In ''Manga/AirGear'', the BigBad just wanted to improve his lot in life and ended up [[JumpedOffTheSlipperySlope Jumping Off the Slippery Slope]].
* Averted in ''Manga/{{Bleach}}''. During his more reflective moments, Ichigo makes much of becoming more powerful so that he can better protect the people he cares about, even if he's doing it by using his SuperpoweredEvilSide. Combined with WithGreatPowerComesGreatInsanity around the 350th chapter/the final stages of his fight with Ulquiorra, where [[spoiler: the latest upgrade to his SuperpoweredEvilSide only appears interested in protecting Orihime, and will casually attempt to kill anyone else who gets in his way--like, for instance, Uryu]].
** Played straight with BigBad [[spoiler:Aizen]]. His unlimited ambition is the sole reason for all his evil.
** Inverted with Starrk, one of the few [[AntiVillain amicable]] arrancar. He has a ''very'' similar backstory to Aizen, with the biggest difference in their CharacterDevelopment coming from Starrk's extreme laziness.
* Subverted in ''Anime/CodeGeass'', [[spoiler: Everyone assumes Lelouch, a prince, used the Black Knights for personal gain at best and a [[ForTheEvulz game]] at the worst. However, by the end, a select few realize that all of Lelouch's ambition was for the good of the world.]]
** [[spoiler:Schneizel, described by WordOfGod as lacking ambition, ended up being the BigBad since he would pursue whatever goal tickled his fancy at the moment without any overall or long-term interest.]]
* Played straight and subverted quite often in ''Manga/OnePiece''. Most of the villains have pretty lofty goals, but the main characters have arguably the highest ambitions in the series. Inverted with Captain Kuro, who annoys Luffy because his goal to retire from being a pirate is completely lame.
** Played straight with Blackbeard, whose ambition to become Pirate King led him to kill one of his own crewmates in the back story, capture Ace to secure a position in the Seven Warlords of the Sea, try and kill Luffy, [[spoiler: caused a war that led to the death of Ace, Oars Jr., and who knows how many others, killing Whitebeard directly and unleashed who knows how many of the world's worst criminals on an unsuspecting world]].
** Basically ''Manga/OnePiece'' is more like "Ambition is Neutral," as many of the villains they have fought had aims similar to the heroes, and it was merely their methods that were evil, not necessarily their aims. Blackbeard above is the best example as he also wants to be King of the Pirates, but his methods involve all sorts of cruelty. Or Eneru, whose ambition was to go to the Moon, perfectly innocuous except that he wanted to do it by plundering an island of all its gold then planning to blow the island up into the sea.
*** It should be noted that said blowing up wasn't even ''necessary'' to the plan. It was just for the sake of it.
** Hell, "Haki" (Japanese for "ambition") is basically ''Manga/OnePiece'''s resident LifeEnergy. Those who can control and project it out of their body get a substantial boost in battle. And the most powerful form, which one has to be born with, is the "Ambition of the King" - the sheer desire to ''reign over everyone else''. The main hero has it[[note]]He wants to be king of the pirates, after all[[/note]]. The BigBad, probably, too.
* In ''VisualNovel/UminekoNoNakuKoroNi'', Eva's ambition to succeed her father as the head of the Ushiromiya family instead of her older brother was stepped on most of her life due to the HeirClubForMen, but wow, [[spoiler:once she manages to achieve her goal, she goes nuts and kills most of the rest of her family]].
* Slade (no, not that [[WesternAnimation/TeenTitans Slade]]), a minor character in ''Manga/RaveMaster'' who worked with Haru's dad back when he was a soldier, is the person that Gale turns to to report his best friend who has since gone bad and began to run a criminal organization. He promises to tell Slade where the group, known as Demon Card, has its headquarters so long as Slade only arrests King. Slade agrees, then brings the whole army and shoots everyone down in as flashy a way as possible so his superiors will notice and he'll get a promotion. In doing so, he [[FreudianExcuse pushed King all the way into]] BigBad [[FreudianExcuse status]], and set his ''six year old son'' down the road to that as well.
* Played straight with [[Manga/DeathNote Light Yagami]]; by the time [[spoiler:the US President surrenders to Kira, he's already lost his father and sister (and tried to use the former for his own gain ''while he was dying'')]], and the difference between his innocent, idealistic self and the person he becomes with the Note is startling.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'': Orochimaru's ambition to have eternal life (which he believed would be more easily accomplished by becoming Fourth Hokage, and he was passed over in favor of Minato) is pretty much the reason why he turned into the BigBad. Similarly, Danzo was a political rival to the Third Hokage who sought to impose his warlike ideals on the village with means from covert operations to [[spoiler:using his mind control powers to seize the Hokage title after Tsunade goes into a coma]].
** Averted for several characters too, most notably Naruto himself, who wants to be Hokage one day and by Hashirama Senju, the First Hokage, whose boundless ambition to change the world [[spoiler: created the entire system of hidden ninja villages and drastically reduced the [[CrapsackWorld Crapsackiness]] of the world]].
* Averted for the most part in ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann''; daring ambition is the most powerful force in the universe, and the vast majority of the protagonists indulge. However, [[spoiler: according to the Anti-Spiral, it's also the force that will eventually destroy reality]], so really it could go either way.
* In ''LightNovel/{{Durarara}}'' [[spoiler: Mikado]]'s goal is to unite the Dollars and Blue Squares to show [[spoiler: Kida]] that he can stand on his own. In his own words, "The only way for having your dreams realized is to have power." However this has pushed [[spoiler: Mikado]]'s sanity as of recent novel volumes [[JumpingofftheSlipperySlope out the window]] for the most part (unless he was [[CuteAndPsycho crazy]] from the beginning.) [[spoiler: In a good example of the evil bit, he even goes as far as setting people who piss him off on fire.]]
* Enchu of ''MuhyoAndRoji'' desperately wanted to become an Executor to help his ailing mother, while [[BrilliantButLazy Muhyo]] did not want the position, and would have turned it over to Enchu if given the chance. The committee for choosing an executor recognized that Enchu's preoccupation with his mother was a risk factor; hearing of her death and losing the position to Muhyo pushed Enchu into his StartOfDarkness.
* Gihren Zabi of ''Anime/MobileSuitGundam'' is the single most ambitious member of the [[BigScrewedUpFamily Zabi family]]. He's also the single most evil member, and the only one with no redeeming qualities.
* In ''Manhua/CyberWeaponZ'', Leiting may look like a WellIntentionedExtremist but, at the end of the day, what he really cares about is his increasing his own power [[spoiler: by siphoning that of the Demon King Solote]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Comic Books ]]
* This seems to actually be a trend among superhero fiction; [[http://www.juliansanchez.com/2011/09/21/ceos-in-comics-villains-earn-heroes-inherit/ this article]] notes that rich superheroes tend to inherit their money, while self-made men are usually villains.
* Subversion: Tony Stark (aka ComicBook/IronMan) is hugely ambitious, to the point of it frequently [[Comicbook/CivilWar biting him in the ass]], but his drive is less for personal gain and more for the betterment of mankind... he hopes. His worst excesses (such as Comicbook/CivilWar and the Armor Wars) are usually not driven by lust for power, but by an overzealous [[ComesGreatResponsibility sense of guilt and responsibility]].
* Half the point of ''ComicBook/TheAuthority'' was that, where other superheroes simply react to supervillains' schemes and preserve the status quo, The Authority would use their powers to genuinely change the world. The implications of this vary from author to author, but often involve the team JumpingOffTheSlipperySlope and becoming {{Anti Villain}}s or just plain villains.
* Seahn of [[Creator/CrossGen The First]]. He's the personification of ambition, and a nasty, ''nasty'' piece of work.
* [[{{Irredeemable}} The Plutonian]] has a very subtle version of this. It's been revealed in flashbacks that he has a strong desire for love and adoration. Since his ambitions were very altruistic, and he used his superpowers to make them come true by helping people, nobody seemed to mind (or just assumed he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart and not a need for affection). But then he eventually realized you can't please everyone and just gave up on being a hero and instead just get back and ruin a world that he could never get to love him when his ambitions became fruitless.
* The first SquadronSupreme miniseries (whose members are [[CaptainErsatz CaptainErsatzes]] of the JusticeLeagueOfAmerica) had the heroes helping to rebuild the world (after they themselves helped conquer it under an evil alien's mind control) and decide that instead of rebuilding it as it was, they would make it ''better''. They even announced that if people trusted them they would give up control over Earth in exactly one year. However this was seen as a bad thing by half the heroes, who organized a resistance against them. The reasons given weren't very convincing- they just seemed to be there just to maintain the Status Quo of their Earth resembling the real one. Note that this story inspired both DC's ComicBook/KingdomCome and ComicBook/CivilWar.
** Only one hero, the Batman CaptainErsatz, actually objected to improving the world. What causes the real split was when the majority of the SquadronSupreme decided to use BrainwashingForTheGreaterGood.
* TheHood suffers MotiveDecay (he initially just wanted to support his family) because of his ambition to be a big-time supervillain criminal mastermind instead of the street thug he really is. Acquiring the magical hood and boots [[spoiler:empowered by Dormammu]] gave Parker Robbins an appetite for power that has gotten worse with time.
* The cape-killer ([[spoiler:Ozymandias]]) of ''Watchmen'' might fit, depending on whether you think he's evil or a WellIntentionedExtremist. It's true that he gave up a fortune, but that just underlines his ambition (he wanted everyone to know that his accomplishments were ''his'' accomplishments, not his family's).
* ComicBook/TransformersLastStandOfTheWreckers: Averted with Prowl, who is the most morally grey of the good guys as he's willing to go to lengths to end the war others find uncomfortable. He just wants the war to end; he doesn't want any credit or glory. For the Decepticons, Overlord is quite possibly the most evil Decepticon in the IDW comics. Megatron always thought that he'd pull [[TheStarscream a Starscream]] on him, but Overlord does not care about rank and he doesn't care about advancing in the power structure. He just wants to kill people. Kup speculates that his goal in life is to upgrade from homicide to genocide, and keep killing.
* ComicBook/TransformersRobotsInDisguise: [[TheStarscream Starscream]] is this. Bumblebee remarks that his ambition is untempered due to his lack of any ideology and a huge dose of caring only for himself. He wants power and control, but now the war is over, and the world they face is brutal and the people all distrust each other. To get power he... wants to be elected by a committee of his peers. He keeps his smug attitude, but does his best to help the society move into a brighter future, one he wants to lead. He even befriends his political rival Metalhawk, and though he snarks at him, seems to respect Bumblebee. When Megatron throws it all into chaos, Scream berates him because of his shortsighted folly, and stands with the Autobots. [[spoiler: When Megatron is defeated Starscream rejoices, and then kills Metalhawk, uses his death as a political maneuver, swears off his faction, and has the entire public rally behind him. He then banishes Bumblebee and all the Autobots and Decepticons clinging to old alliances. His final words to Metalhawk lampshade this:]]
-->[[spoiler: '''Metalhawk''': I thought you were my friend.]]
-->[[spoiler: ''(Starscream murders Metalhawk)'']]
-->[[spoiler: '''Starscream''': I was. I just wanted this more.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fanfiction]]
* In the JackieChanAdventures fic ''Fanfic/QueenOfAllOni'', Jade seems to fit this, as one of her major motivations is to prove herself, even as a villain, feeling unappreciated for all the times she helped against evil and saved Jackie's life, AND she's so DangerouslyGenreSavvy, she's done better than several canon villains already!
* In the Literature/HarryPotter fic ''Why Harry Hates the Headmaster or Alt Sixth Year'' Ron actually started fighting Harry at the mere ''mention'' of ambition, which resulted in Harry giving a somewhat {{Anvilicious}} mini-sermon on how ambition wasn't "Slytherin" or "Dark."
* Averted in FanFic/HarryPotterAndTheMethodsOfRationality, where Harry's ambition to become omnipotent and benevolently reorganize reality is fully endorsed by the Author.
* Twilight Sparkle in ''Fanfic/PagesOfHarmony'' very much fits this, seeing as her ambition is to "preserve harmony"? How does she do so? By [[spoiler: [[MindRape Mind Raping]], torturing, and killing her friends to extract their Elements]]. [[FromBadToWorse And that's just the start.]]
* In ''[[FanFic/BoundDestiniesTrilogy Blood and Spirit]]'', Veress broke off from the main Sheikah tribe to create the Dark Interlopers because of her desire to succeed Impa as the leader of the tribe and lead the Sheikah into battle against Demise. However, since this was not the destiny of the Sheikah tribe, she was passed over in favor of Sheik, her former best friend.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Film - Animated]]
* In ''Disney/TheLittleMermaid'' Ursula was kicked out of Atlantica because she attacked King Triton and tried to seize the throne. Then, when Ariel came too close to getting that first kiss that would undo Ursula's plans, she [[spoiler:sabotages that by transforming into Vanessa and using Ariel's voice to hypnotize the prince, just so Ariel would remain her slave. Then, even after promising Triton to release Ariel in exchange for his magical trident, she tries and fails to kill Ariel. To top it all off, she goes on a rampage and tries to kill everyone because of how badly her plans have been mucked up.]]
* As bad as Lightning [=McQueen=] from ''WesternAnimation/{{Cars}}'' is by putting his ambitions over everything and everyone else to the point of not knowing the names of his own pit crew or caring when they quit (he [[CharacterDevelopment gets better]]), his rival Chick Hicks is much worse. In the big race at the end of the movie, Chick [[spoiler: seems to be willing to kill his long-time rival The King by causing a horrible crash. Chick wins the race, but [[PyrrhicVillainy everybody hates him and it's highly unlikely he'll be getting sponsorship from the people who employ the guy/car he just tried to wreck]].]]
* Lord Shen in WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda2. First, he invents the cannon with plans to use it to make himself more powerful. When his family's Soothsayer predicts that he will be defeated by "a black and white warrior", his response is to try to ''murder a nearby village of pandas''. By the time the film's events roll around, he wants nothing less than to conquer all of China.
* The Once-ler in ''WesternAnimation/TheLorax'' adaptation started out as a young man determined to prove himself to his family by becoming a successful businessman, but when he ''does'' become a success, he becomes obsessed with "biggering" his company until he turns into a full-blown CorruptCorporateExecutive.
* [[spoiler: Prince Hans]] in ''Disney/{{Frozen}}''. [[spoiler: There was no way he'd inherit the throne to his own kingdom since he was the thirteenth-born son, so he plotted to marry into the royal family of Arendelle, kill Elsa and assume the throne.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film - Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/{{Gladiator}}'', Marcus Aurelius wants to make General Maximus his heir specifically because Maximus does not have any ambition to be Emperor and Marcus wants Rome to become a Republic again. Commodus, however, has great ambition to be a wise and just Emperor. When he learns that the position is about to be snatched from him, he murders his own father. This lends credence to an AlternativeCharacterInterpretation that Marcus Aurelius felt that ambition was not the ''only'' flaw disqualifying Commodus from the purple robes of power...
* Eve Harrington of ''AllAboutEve'' is nothing if not driven. She wants to be just like her inspiration, star actress Margo Channing, up to and including taking the role she has, and will stop at nothing to get it.
* Quite a few romantic comedies feature [[DefrostingIceQueen ambitious women]] being brought down to earth because they forsook relationships and families for their careers:
** ''TheProposal''
** ''BabyMama''
* In ''Film/TheThinRedLine'' (1998) the antagonistic Lt. Col. Tall orders a suicidal attack, because the battle offers perfect opportunity for promotion.
* In ''Film/{{Stardust}}'', all of the Stormhold princes murder each other in an attempt to become heir to the throne. Only Primus seems decent, and he doesn't need to be ambitious because he's already the heir. The crown eventually goes to the most humble characters who is in line for it.
* ''Film/TheFamilyMan'': The whole movie is about showing Nicholas Cage's character [[ItsAWonderfulPlot the life he would have had]] if he had chosen to stay with his girlfriend instead of going off on business. The thing is, he actually seems happy at the beginning of the film and miserable with his new circumstances to the point that he spends a fair portion of the movie trying to get his high-powered career back. Eventually though, he does fall in love with the family but is snapped back to his old life and circumstances are contrived as such that he ''has'' to blow the deal of his career to catch his ex girlfriend at the airport (presumably sacrificing his career for a now-hypothetical family.) Why he couldn't have closed that deal and tried to look her up later is left to the viewer to figure out.
* ''WallStreet'': Villain Gordon Gekko famously asserts, "Greed, for a lack of a better word, is good." InAWorld where money is power, greed is ambition.
* Loki in ''Film/{{Thor}}'' and ''Film/TheAvengers'' definitely has ambition: he wants to rule Asgard in the former and [[TakeOverTheWorld Earth]] in the latter. This, of course, leads him to do some [[ManipulativeBastard pretty evil stuff.]]
* Wan ultimately ends up losing everything she actually loved in her grab for power in ''Film/LegendOfTheBlackScorpion''. Then someone killed her.
* Luchino Visconti's ''Film/TheDamned'' provides a thorough exploration of the trope. Various members and associates of a German steel family vie for control of the family business, set against the backdrop of Nazi Germany, using blackmail and murder to advance their means. Their ambitions are ruthlessly manipulated by SS leader [[TheChessmaster Aschenbach]], allowing the Nazis to take control.
* [[Franchise/StarWars The Sith]] are all about this trope. [[NeutralEvil They actively betray and murder in order to obtain more power]], in contrast to the [[LawfulGood Jedi Philosophy.]] [[DarthBane One particular Sith]] went so far as to destroy the entire Sith leadership because they had stopped the repeated betrayal that usually only weakened the Sith as a whole.
* IndianaJonesAndTheLastCrusade: Elsa Schneider is a well-educated scholar who used her allegiance with the Nazis to obtain the Holy Grail. Her ambition drives her to betray both Indiana Jones and his father to get the invaluable information on the grailís location. In the end, ambition was her undoing, as she refuses to accept that the grail couldnít leave its protective temple, which causes a CataclysmClimax. Despite the chaos, Indiana manages to keep her from falling to her death in a huge chasm. In her quest to have the grail at all costs, she wildly reaches for the grail, and Indiana loses his hold on her slippery gloved hand.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The title character in the ''Literature/ArtemisFowl'' series is motivated almost entirely by monetary gain in the first book, but as he makes the [[HeelFaceTurn transition]] from {{AntiVillain}} to a more conventional protagonist over the course of the series. Then his interest in wealth takes a back seat to concerns about his family, [[TrueCompanions friends]], and preventing TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt.
* Creator/JohnSteinbeck's ''Winter of Our Discontent'' has a main character from a formerly wealthy family who goes to extreme lengths to reclaim his former wealth and status.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'' this is used to foreshadow SixthRangerTraitor David's turn to the dark side.
* The "darkest" of the four houses in ''Literature/HarryPotter'', Slytherin, has ambition and cunning as its main valued qualities. Although being in Slytherin does not guarantee you'll become evil (Merlin studied there, for instance, and Slughorn was an okay guy), the house gets a terrible rap because most if not all wizards who did turn to evil have studied there - so while a predominantly cunning and ambitious mind is not a guarantee of villainy, it is a prerequisite for it.
** In Chapter 17 of Sorcerer's Stone, we get a character's ambition mentioned ''in the same breath'' as his hatred and greed.
** Also, Percy's ambition and devotion to the Ministry (despite being a Gryffindor) set him at odds with the rest of his family.
** As revealed in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows,'' this could be how Dumbledore viewed himself. In his youth, he worked with another wizard to find artifacts of great power, ostensibly to help his family but as much for himself. It took a tragedy to bring him back to earth, and ever since he kept himself away from positions of power such as Minister for Magic.
* Averted several times in the ''Literature/HonorHarrington'' novels. The titular character herself spends much of the first book being ambitious about future rank. ''Storm from the Shadows'' plays it straight in regards to most Solarian League Naval personnel, with Battle Fleet having centuries of naval service in each family with characters with ambition to be like their last 10 forefathers and be important Battle fleet Admirals. Because of their ambition and pride, they also get the IdiotBall and see nothing wrong with having had no major battles in 300 years nor a tiny R&D budget with no major upgrades in the last century.
** Several other major characters also resent this trope. Honor fights several times what she feels is favorable treatment to suit her ambition. Her rank is usually thrust upon her after arguing she not only deserves it, but is obligated to take it to better serve [[strike: TheKingdom]] TheEmpire.
** Luis Roszak is sort of a borderline case; he's generally presented as a positive character, but it's clear that he can be absolutely ruthless in the service of his ambition.
** Turns out the Solarian League assumes everyone else has their same ambitions, but just isn't capable because they aren't the Solarian League. This leads to rather poor military intelligence estimates, and once reality hits that people are capable of hurting them, their assumption of ambition means they are going to have to do horrible things to put people in their place...
* Ralph Fitzgerald, as we see later in ''WorldWithoutEnd'', by Ken Follet. He would do ANYTHING to become rich and famous. He is quite frequently the JerkAss, but gradually becomes a more ambitious JerkAss. Godwyn plays it straight, going much murkier routes than you'd expect a monk to go. Godwyn is a Chessmaster with NO morals or guidelines. Ralph, as we all see later is just stupid, and got lucky.
* Subverted in Robert Asprin's ''MythAdventures''. The characters frequently use their FunctionalMagic to make money and usually each book ends with them even richer than when they started.
** In ''Class Dis-mythed'', a secondary character directly argues (in an impromptu lecture) that the most effective way to help others is to focus first on one's own personal security and financial success. While overlooking the obvious rebuttals, this isn't presented as a strawman argument, and quite possibly represents the author's current views.
*** It's the underlying philosophy behind a little known thing called capitalism.
*** [[MargaretThatcher "Nobody would have remembered the Good Samaritan if he'd merely had good intentions, without the resources to back them up."]]
**** Which is also why airport emergency literature says to apply the mask to ''yourself'' first, ''then'' to your child.
**** The important thing to remember is that it says "focus ''first'' on your own personal security and financial success", not "focus ''only'' on". A lot of villains forget that part.
* ''Literature/WarriorCats'' takes great care to mention "[[BigBad Tigerstar's]] ambition" everywhere it can. Every villain so far has been ambitious (except [[spoiler:Ashfur]]). Brambleclaw is ambitious too, but he was able to mostly ignore TheDarkSide.
** Subverted in Bluestar's Prophecy when Bluestar is chosen as deputy. Sunstar mentions that she is ambitious, but only because she wants to serve her clan.
* Milton's [[Literature/ParadiseLost Satan]] said it best: "To reign is worth ambition though in hell;/ Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven."
* Oh so very many villains, and characters who may not be overtly villainous but certainly do a lot for Horus' cause, in the ''HorusHeresy'' novels are guided by ambition in one form or another; these range from the vox officer on the ''Eisenstein'' (who wants to command his own ship one day and betrays them to Typhon), to Horus himself.
* In ''Literature/TheWheelOfTime'', Elaida isn't outright evil in the first place (though definitely [[GoodIsNotNice not nice]]), but her ambition ([[spoiler: and a bit of help from the [[EvilWitch Black Ajah]]]]) cause her to screw up everything and go well inside evil territory to keep her power.
** Also, ambition is the reason [[spoiler: Sheriam, and possibly many others, joined the Black Ajah]].
* This is a recurring theme in Creator/AgathaChristie's mystery novels. One of her favorite types of villain (and/or victim) was a character from humble origins who had clawed his or her way to the top.
* The short story "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" is this trope personified. The main character, Pahom, keeps wanting to own more and more land, but goes about it in a series of deals that make perfect sense (except the last one [[spoiler: that costs him his life]]). [[{{Anvilicious}} In order to make it plain]] that ambition is a bad thing, the character is (supposedly) being tempted by The Devil.
** This story is actually about {{Greed}}, not ambition--the character is a farmer and never intends to be anything but a farmer, he just wants lots of land to farm on. His initial deals aren't presented as being bad, it's the final deal--which involves him trying to lay his hands on more land than any one working man could possibly ever use to its full potential--which is is downfall.
* Ebenezer Scrooge, in ''Literature/AChristmasCarol''. He became, well, TheScrooge after allowing himself to be consumed with ambition and greed. At one point his younger self even lampshades the trope, and what he sees as its unfairness:
-->"This is the even-handed dealing of the world. There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!"
* Many of Creator/PGWodehouse's plots involve a happy, aimless man being pestered by an ambitious woman to improve himself. [[Literature/JeevesAndWooster Jeeves's]] first mission is to rescue Bertie from his fiancee Florence Craye, who is trying to boost him up in the brain department by making him read 'Types of Ethical Theory'. Later, it's his aunt Agatha who is always pressuring Bertie to get a job. Lord Emsworth has similar problems with his sister Constance.
** Also a partial subversion. Bertram Wooster (and his lack of ambition) isn't set up as a real role model. Really, mostly ambition is evil only when someone is trying to make Wooster evil. However, many of his friends have ambition.
* The major recurring theme of ''ThePillarsOfTheEarth'' and ''WorldWithoutEnd'' is that people will put their own ambitions over what is morally right and what is best for everyone. All of the villains are consumed by the desire to rise above their current station and will do horrible things in the attempt. Further, the morally ambililent characters will repeatedly make decisions based solely on what is best for their advancement. Even the heroes are sometimes accused of being too arrogant or ambitious, though unlike others they do so in the pursuit of more noble goals.
* Inverted in ''Literature/TheDivineComedy''. The ambitious are placed on one of the early spheres of the Heaven rather than in Hell.
** Nevertheless, in at least some translations, sins of "violence and ambition" get punished in the same part of Hell.
* In ''TheThinRedLine'' the amoral Dale is motivated by his desire to become a sergeant (this aspect of his character is absent from the 1998 film).
* In Creator/RobertEHoward's ConanTheBarbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", Salome rejected the study of ThingsManWasNotMeantToKnow for using BlackMagic for power.
-->''"He said I was but an earthly sprite, knowing naught of the deeper gulfs of cosmic sorcery. Well, this world contains all I desire--power, and pomp, and glittering pageantry, handsome men and soft women for my paramours and my slaves.''
** In both ''The Hour of the Dragon'' and "The Phoenix on the Sword", more than one conspirator wanted the throne. (At least two wanted the same throne, which gets awkward.)
* [[PlayingWithATrope Played with]] in ''Literature/LordOfTheRings''. Ambition itself is not evil, but the [[ArtifactOfDoom One Ring]] will inevitably [[TheDarkSide twist any ambition or aspiration into an evil parody of it's original form]].
** Well, it ''tries'' to. When The Ring tries to corrupt Samwise by exploiting his desire to be a gardener it shows him that he could turn all of Middle Earth into a garden for him to tend. Sam shrugs it off by noting he'd need an army of gardeners to handle that much work, and what would be the point of gardening if you don't do it yourself?
* ''ASongOfIceAndFire'' features one borderline and one straight example. The minor character Bronn follows a RagsToRiches arc, starting as a lowborn mercenary who, though the strength of his sword arm and some calculated risks, rises to a noble's retainer, then a knight, and then a lord. He's ruthless, unscrupulous, and quick to sell out his employers when given a better offer, but so far doesn't seem to be actively malevolent. Petyr Baelish was born a minor lordling with only a stretch of rocky coast and a handful of peasants, but his knack with finance and his overpowering ambition transformed him into a wealthy power-player with a political vice-grip on the continent (do note though, that simple ambition [[UnluckyChildhoodFriend isn't his]] [[{{Yandere}} only motivation]]). Not only does he have a habit of murdering and betraying people left and right, [[ItsAllAboutMe his entirely self-serving scheming]] was one of the key factors that lead to the new civil war. Which, as far as we know, was intentional on his part, thus making him directly and indirectly responsible for most of the bad things that happened in the series, including about half of Westeros being devastated by said civil war and most likely facing famine in the near future.
** Tyrion comes to the conclusion that it's Littlefinger's limitless ambition that makes him one of the most dangerous men in the Royal Court, whilst everyone else thinks of him as pretty harmless. Varys makes a similar statement in the TV series.
** [[ThePatriarch Tywin Lannister]] is a form of this. Tywin helped rule as Hand of the King for twenty years to [[TheCaligula King Aerys]], and his time as Hand of the King is widely regarded as peaceful and prosperous. But when Aerys rebuffed Tywin's offer of his daughter Cersei for Crown Prince Rhaegar, a marriage that would have permanently tied the Lannisters to the throne, Tywin resigned, and eventually turned on Aerys. His forces sacked King's Landing, while Cersei ended up married to Robert Baratheon. Tywin's driving ambition, as stated in both the books and TV series, is "legacy-" he speaks of establishing a dynasty that lasts a thousand years, and does some very ruthless things to accomplish his goals.
* All Tom Weathers, from the ''WildCards'' series, really wants to do is use his [[SuperpowerLottery immense power]] to make the world a better place. Using his ''personal'' definition of "better", of course: a purely Communist state run along traditional lines... including thought police and the elimination of dissidents. As he puts it, "You can't make an omellette without breaking some eggs", and if the "eggs" in question just happen to be a village full of innocent men, women, and children, all of whom must be killed by their own government so that they can blame another country and start a war, then so be it.
* Morgan Sloat in ''Literature/TheTalisman'' is differentiated from his friends and partners by his ambition.
* ''Literature/InDeath'': This trope has occurred a number of times. ''Immortality in Death'' has Jake T. Casto, a cop who specializes in illegal drugs, make the fact that he wants to be promoted to captain very plain. Which would be fine, except that he is a DirtyCop who has dealt in drugs, money, and murder. ''Witness in Death'' has this one traffic cop try to snatch an operation to arrest a suspect out of Eve's hands and winds up getting Trueheart and maybe the suspect shot. Commander Whitney makes it clear that that cop will be punished heavily for that. ''Betrayal in Death'' has [=FBI=] Agent Jacoby use a murder committed by Sylvester Yost in an attempt to take over Eve's investigation, and he snatched Eve's operation to nab Yost out of her hands, causing Yost to run for it. Oh, and Jacoby got hit in the heart by Yost's syringe when he tried to arrest him later on. ''Treachery in Death'' reveals that Renee Obermann wants to be promoted to captain and eventually commander. Unfortunately, she is a DirtyCop dealing in drugs, money, and murder. Lieutenant Eve Dallas, on her part, has no interest in being promoted to captain.
* This is the aesop of ''Literature/WhereTheMountainMeetsTheMoon''. Minli's mother is only able to be happy once she learns to be content with her impoverished, isolated life, and the fortunes of Minli's family only improve after she gives up on trying to make them better...
* In ''Literature/SeptimusHeap'', Simon Heap's ambition to become [=ExtraOrdinary=] Apprentice causes his FaceHeelTurn at the beginning of ''Flyte'', since it was Septimus who got the job.
* In ''The39Clues'', nearly everyone besides Amy and Dan Cahill displays this at some point, given that the reward for combining all 39 Clues is [[spoiler: a master serum that gives its drinker the powers of all four Cahill family branches.]] Of special note are the members of the Lucian family branch, who prize power above all else. Surprise - the Lucians in the Clue hunt are generally shown to be more willing to inflict serious and potentially fatal harm upon their competitors than anyone else.
* Inverted in ''Literature/AtlasShrugged'', where ambition is pretty much what makes the heroes good.
** . But also played straight! James Taggart, Wesley Mouch, Dr. Robert Stradler and others are descend to horrific levels of evil (e.g.letting an entire trainload of people die simply to avoid being blamed for delaying said train) due to ambition. The difference is Dagny, Reardon, Galt, etc. can actually do the jobs they have ambitions to hold.
* [[BigBad Caine Soren]] from ''Literature/{{GONE}}'' is so ambitiously evil it borders sociopathic.
-->'''Caine:''' Drake is a sick creep. I'm...ambitious.
-->'''Diana:''' That's one way of putting it. Power hungry. Domineering. A bully.
* Played straight in Literature/BelisariusSeries with Narses who is a MagnificentBastard {{AntiVillain}} obsessed with ambition for power and even more, ambition to prove himselve the best {{Chessmaster}} of them all. Downplayed with Theodora and Justinian, whose ambition does not make them evil but does make them proud, curmudgeonly, and sometimes paronoid.
* Totally inverted by [[Literature/TheLegendOfDrizzt Obould Many-Arrows]]. He starts out as a typical if somewhat smarter and stronger than average orc warlord. Unlike most orcs, he [[VisionaryVillain had a dream beyond simple slaughter and mayhem]]. Obould wanted to make a kingdom for his people, one that would be recognized by the rest of the world. Obould's ambition more or less forces the orcs to become more civilized.
* Black Hat Otokoto in ''Literature/AkataWitch'' went very, very wrong because he aspired for material wealth.
* ZigZagged all over the place in A.L. Phillips's Literature/TheQuestOfTheUnaligned. For starters we have the contrast between Tonzimmiel (an extreme meritocracy where everyone is seeking their own advancement, even to the detriment of others) and Caederan (a traditional society where advancing beyond your birth station is next to impossible and attempting to do so is considered extremely evil). Oddly enough, neither society is presented as being exactly right or wrong, rather each is wrong where the other is right and right where the other is wrong. In addition, the arch-villain [[spoiler: became the villain by seeking to gain magic when he wasn't born with any, as the attempt to do so exposed him to TheDarkSide.]] But on the other hand, the [[spoiler: deuterotagonist Laeshana wanted nearly the same thing, and she was granted WhiteMagic instead.]] Considering that this book was written by a student of sociology, this is not surprising.
* The communist-killing Nazi terrorists in ''Literature/{{Icebreaker}}'' could have been dealt with sooner if the KGB agent that was sent to investigate them hadn't been so ambitious. He plans to use the allegiance to lure Literature/JamesBond into a trap, and with him captured and delivered to his peers, he could further his own career.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Live Action TV ]]
* In ''Series/{{Primeval}}'', Christine Johnson is one of the main villains in Series 3. The reason why she's so evil? [[spoiler:She wants to steal an Ancient Egyptian artifact, which supposedly has magical powers, in order to do research on it, and become famous]]. In fact, Christine is so ambitious, that James Lester described her as "like a Velociraptor, only better dressed". [[spoiler:Luckily, in Episode 3.9 of ''Primeval'', Christine Johnson is pushed through an anomaly leading to the future by Helen Cutter, where she is killed, and presumably eaten, by a Future Predator, probably to Lester's great relief]].
* Kind of subverted in ''Series/SabrinaTheTeenageWitch:'' When Harvey tells Sabrina he doesn't plan on going to college, Sabrina secretly doses him with a magical "Ambition" line of toiletries sold to her by her cousin. However she uses too much turning Harvey into a CorruptCorporateExecutive who manages to buy the school and plan on demolishing it. When Sabrina's aunts find out, they learn that the Ambition products lacked a key "expensive and imported" component: Perspective, meaning that Harvey was dosed with "Blind Ambition". When Harvey is dosed with Perspective, he cancels the plan, gives all his money to charity, and everything goes back to normal with an Aesop about [[PygmalionSnapback wanting to change people...]] until Harvey tells Sabrina that he ''will'' go to college after all. (It's important to note that the Harvey at the end of the episode is still Harvey dosed with Ambition-plus-Perspective, not the original, unaltered personality -- in other words, [[FamilyUnfriendlyAesop it is okay to screw with people's brain chemistry without their consent as long as you do it right]].)
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** In the episode [[Recap/DoctorWhoS29E5EvolutionOfTheDaleks "Evolution of the Daleks"]], [[spoiler:[[HalfHumanHybrid Human-Dalek hybrid]]]] Dalek Sec spouts the following line after his transformation (note the other words besides "ambition"):
-->'''Dalek Sec:''' I feel... everything we wanted for mankind. Which is... ambition. Hatred. Aggression. And war. Such a genius for war...
** In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS14E3TheDeadlyAssassin "The Deadly Assassin"]], the Master subverts his ally through appealing to his ambition.
* In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' (and its spinoff ''Series/{{Angel}}'') there's a similar theme running throughout most of the TV portion of the series. First, with most of the non-evil characters high school students, the monsters and villains become distinguished as those who know exactly "what they want to do when they grow up" - they're doing it. More broadly, the show (based on commentaries, deliberately) emphasizes evil and good as proactive and reactive. When the good guys are farther ahead of their game than a last minute response, they're generally making a mistake somebody else will pay for. Organized efforts to protect people ''before'' they're in danger turn out to have been corrupted from the very beginning. Even when the goal is simply to help people who need it (the homeless shelter in ''Series/{{Angel}}'', headed by a genuinely good person), there are hints of evil as entropy: proactively doing good on a local scale inevitably means contributing (at a net loss) to greater if vaguer evils. This seems to end in Buffy's season seven. Maybe. Lindsey, a villain, had a driving motive of his cynicism and ambitions, as pointed out by his actor:
--> '''Christian Kane:''' "I still think this cat looks at the glass as being half empty. And so, damn it, Iím going to drink the rest of that water."
* Never, ''ever'' go on a reality show and express a desire to ''actually win''. I mean, that'd be silly- who'd enter a GameShow with the intention of succeeding?
* An episode of ''YouCantDoThatOnTelevision'' specifically dealt with ambition. One of the cast members remarked that the problem with ambition was "If you don't have enough, you're lazy. And if you have too much, you're ruthless. You can't win." His solution? Be lazy and get a ruthless manager.
* HBO's ''Series/TheWire'' argues that every system, from law enforcement to schools to government, is hamstrung by personal ambition. Everyone is too obsessed with advancing their own careers to actually do what is best for the community. Even if you ''do'' selflessly try to do what is right, you will be thwarted by others who refuse to make the same sacrifice.
* There are some indications on ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' that Sam's desire to go to school was bad.
** His desire for the power to stop Lilith is treated as bad only partly because of the way he goes about getting it.
** Similarly, in the episode "It's a Terrible Life," the moral of the story can be seen as that being a businessman is evil.
* Somewhat subverted with ''Series/{{Glee}}'': Main character Rachel is ''extremely'' ambitious, but it's portrayed in both good and bad ways: her insistence on always getting the spotlight alienates people, but her go-getter attitude combined with her talent is ultimately what will save her from the fate of many of her classmates (being stuck in Lima, OH). Certainly, she's never seen as evil. On the other hand, we have Sue, who single-mindedly pursues her goal of destroying Glee Club - and there's Terri, Will's wife who cruelly pushes him to give up teaching and become an accountant so they make more money.
** Rachel often seems to lack perspective, and goes to extreme lengths such as sending Sunshine to a crack house to scare her out of the glee club, this eliminating her (perceived) competition. By the end of Season 2, though, Rachel seems to have learned her lesson. She'll still be ambitious, but she's going to be nicer about it. Hopefully...
** Will ''is'' ambitious, though. It's just that these ambitions are directed toward elevating the [=McKinley=] High Glee Club as high as possible, rather than making money.
* Anyone in ''Series/{{Mash}}'' who has ambitions is evil. The only people with ambitions are portrayed as being self-centered, selfish, and just plain bad. Some examples:
** Frank is always an antagonist, but any time he's in charge, it goes to his head and everyone turns against him.
** With the exceptions of Colonels Blake and Potter, generals and colonels are portrayed as people who care more about their careers than anything else, including their troops, and in one case, the life of one general's son.
*** In one episode, Potter gives a brief speech outlining exactly how {{Jerkass}} each officer rank is likely to be based on how far away they are from real prestige. (He concludes it with a bit of HypocriticalHumor, noting that colonels are the worst, since "they can practically taste those stars.")
** When Winchester joins the cast, he wants to be head of thoracic surgery at a Boston hospital.
*** Then again, Winchester is also portrayed as more than competent enough to handle this. Unlike Frank, his antagonism comes from a clashing personality as opposed to incompetence. By the end of the show, this troper wanted him to run that hospital!
** When the soldier of the month board is coming up, everyone in the competition stoops to some low activities (brown-nosing, cheating) to get ahead.
** One episode sees the company clerk, Radar, promoted from Corporal to Lieutenant. He's then put in charge of his "friends," who decide that since he's now an officer, he's automatically a JerkAss and no longer their buddy - even though he's shown to be quite laid back, and is only doing the job he was assigned. Radar is so troubled by this that at the end of the episode he asks to be demoted back to Corporal.
*** There was also a nurse who had a crush on him. She was always making passes at him, but he didn't act on them because he was only a lowly corporal. When he's promoted to lieutenant, the nurse loses interest in him and explains that the only reason she was attracted to him in the first place was because it was wrong.
** Subverted with Father Mulcahy, who pushes for promotion but remains a nice guy. And it was because he was jealous of a colleague getting a similar promotion!
*** Not quite subverted - he's shown regretting his actions and talks about the sin of pride.
* Similarly, in an episode of ''Series/HappyDays'' Richie becomes leader of his squad in ROTC. Ralph and Potsie think it's an invitation to goof off and somehow [[BrokenAesop he's the bad guy for punishing them for it.]]
* Morgan le Fay in the 1998 ''[[Series/{{Merlin-1998}} Merlin]]'' miniseries.
* In ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'', this is explicitly given as the reason why genetic engineering is illegal in the Federation, with Khan as the defining example (naturally, this overlaps heavily with FantasticRacism).
* Arguably, the US version of ''Series/{{The Office|US}}''. In the first few seasons, Dwight and Angela are the meanest employees who are [[UnpopularPopularCharacter the most unpopular with their coworkers.]] They are also the most driven, hard-working and likely to take charge. Then Andy was added to the cast and he was originally characterized as someone who, like Dwight, would stop at nothing to become Number Three in the office. By the time he was RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap this goal had mysteriously disappeared. Ryan was corrupted with power when he got promoted to corporate and TookALevelInJerkass, to extreme levels. Jim is at his best when he is BrilliantButLazy and whenever he takes on management duties he finds himself LonelyAtTheTop and is unsure of how to handle the job. Pam has always had an ambitious streak (even if it was repressed at first) which appears to run much deeper than that of Jim. However, while she originally had the sympathetic goals of wanting to prove herself talented and capable and escape her disliked receptionist job ever since she came back from Pratt she has gradually become more concerned with making money than being competent and has undertaken more questionable means of getting herself promoted. In fact, the only notably ambitious character who neither does mean things just to get ahead of others nor gets an intelligence downgrade after being promoted is Karen (she was sometimes mean to Pam because she was a rival love interest, not out of ambition). And that's because she was always going to be PutOnABus for [[DieForOurShip unrelated reasons.]]
* [[Series/{{Smallville}} Lex Luthor]] seemed to catch more than a little flak for ever wanting to help people. Phrases like "The world doesn't need Lex Luthor to save it" were bandied about ''constantly,'' with the implication that because of his [[strike: [[FanNickname DENSITY]]]] destiny to be Superman's greatest enemy (which no one knew at the time because PREQUEL) meant that any and all efforts he made to be something other than a regular nobody would end in a FaceHeelTurn. [[spoiler: And with his murder by Oliver Queen and having been effectively replaced by his clone, it seems all of that worrying was for absolutely nothing.]]
* A recurring theme on ''Series/TheHoneymooners'' is Alice telling Ralph he should be satisfied with his job as a bus driver and not keep trying to improve their lot in life. Admittedly, Ralph has a tendency to go with get rich quick schemes, but if the level headed Alice actually helped steer his ambition instead of belittling him, they might actually prosper.
* Royally averted in ''Series/{{Carrusel}}''. Most, if not all of the kids had an idea of what they wanted to be when they grew up. They were encouraged to study and do well in school, as well as to pursue their hobbies.
* The central theme of ''Series/KamenRiderOOO'' is desire, and most of the story arcs are about dealing with some ambition that's run out of control. The main character himself is characterized by an utter lack of any kind of ambition. [[SuperpoweredEvilSide And then]] [[PowerDegeneration the trope was]][[HeroicRROD inverted.]]
** Particularly by Kosei Kougami, perhaps the closest thing there is to a BigGood in the series. He [[LargeHam loudly]] and frequently espouses the virtue of desire and ambition, because it leads to [[RomanticismVersusEnlightenment progress and evolution]]. This is in contrast to [[TheHero Eiji]], who's lack of desire and focus on what's immediately in front of him are initially played as entirely virtuous, but his outlook is later shown to be the result of [[DarkAndTroubledPast severe emotional trauma]] [[spoiler: and eventually causes him to start losing himself as he transforms into the Purple Greed, which represents the antithesis of desire.]]
* [[InvertedTrope Inverted]] in ''Series/PowerRangersInSpace'', where being more evil seems to increase your ambition. The BigBad has a HeelFaceTurn midway through the season, after finding out she's [[spoiler: [[TheHero Andros]]]] [[LukeIAmYourFather long-lost sister]]. Unfortunately, not long after, the BiggerBad captures her and uses cybernetics to brainwash her into being even more evil than she originally was. After this happens she almost immediately begins plotting to overthrow the BiggerBad, an ambition she'd never been shown to have before.
* Wonderfully averted in ''Series/ParksAndRecreation''. Leslie is extremely ambitious (She wants to one day be the first female president) but is also extremely moral and would never even think of doing something wrong to get ahead in politics.
* Played with on ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' with [[MagnificentBastard Sterling]], who [[KarmaHoudini always benefits personally from the team's actions]], WordOfGod even says Sterling. Never. Loses. . While he is almost always an antagonist of the team, [[HeroAntagonist he is often portrayed as actually being in the right]], especially once he becomes an InterpolSpecialAgent.
* In ''Series/BabylonFive'', [[UltimateEvil the Shadows]] hold ambition as the highest virtue and [[TheCorrupter constantly play to this emotion in the Younger Races]] to promote their philosophy of SocialDarwinism. Londo Mollari, their main 'client' through the story, ends up doing a ''lot'' of DirtyBusiness for his ambitions and suffers greatly for them, especially when he tries putting it right again. WordOfGod confirms that the Shadow emissary Morden recruited Londo specifically because he had a positive ambition to restore the Centauri empire, while G'Kar only wanted revenge on the Centauri, with no vision beyond that. [[note]] At least, that's where they are at the beginning of about two decades of character development.[[/note]] Ironically, the Shadows are convinced to leave the Younger Races alone forever after Sheridan asks them their own ArmorPiercingQuestion ("What do you want?") and they realize they don't know the answer anymore. The Shadows themselves had no real ambitions.
* A recurring theme on ''Series/LittleHouseonthePrairie''. Anyone with money is bad or downright evil (Harriet Olesen, Ebeneezer Sprague) and doing things that will make a character successful will only backfire and provide an Aesop for the protagonists.
** Every time Harriet attempts to make more money, she has the plan fall apart on her and end up costing her money.
** When Charles and Caroline go to a high-school reunion, they feel sad when they realize how much more successful everyone else is, but in the end, everyone who succeeded in life wishes they had the life of Charles and Caroline because they have true happiness.
** When Charles and Mr. Garvey go into the freight business, they're immediately successful, so the first thing they do is go into a fancy restaurant and start ordering things off the menu that they don't even recognize. When the waiter brings them their escargot, they get mad at him, like he's trying to force a fancy life upon them. Charles even yells at the waiter for no reason other than he didn't like the fancy life. Charles and Mr. Garvey leave the restaurant, taking a bottle of wine with them, without paying for any of it. The entire scene is played like this is their "reward" for doing well. Because of this meal, they decide to end their freight business and go home to their wives. Neither one of them had been home for two weeks, but rather than have that be the reason for their return, they focused on the way rich people act.
* First Lady Mellie Grant on ''Series/{{Scandal}}'' will do anything to stay in the White House and clearly has designs on building a Grant political dynasty. We later find out the underlying reason for this. She was raped by her father-in-law and was too traumatized to tell anyone what happened. Instead she convinced herself that her staying silent was a HeroicSacrifice needed to get her husband elected to office so he could do great things. If she were to abandon that ambition, she would have to admit that her 'sacrifice' was for nothing.
* Series/{{Revenge}} has Daniel Grayson who took over his company against his fathers wishes and alienated all other friends and lovers in the process.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Music]]
* Both of the scientists in the Music/{{Vocaloid}} song [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pD4azjx6mbE Project "Ma"]] are this
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Newspaper Comics]]
* A running theme of ''ComicStrip/ForBetterOrForWorse'' is that anyone who shows ambition is [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption doomed to failure]] or just plain horrible. The biggest example of this can be spotted with Therese, [[CreatorsPet Anthony's]] ex-wife. She is demonized for not complying with her husband's wishes and giving it all up to [[StayInTheKitchen become a stay-at-home mom]]. The fact that she apparently gets postpartum depression is glossed over by Anthony; when she [[ParentalAbandonment abandons, then completely rejects]] her own daughter, it's just {{anvilicious}}.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Tabletop Games]]
* The structure of ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons'' averts the trope, since achieving wealth and power is a built-in result of adventuring.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Scion}}'', one of the Dark Virtues is Ambition.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' and ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'':
** Tzeentch is the Chaos god of ambition, also: hope, change, mutation, psychic powers, lies, plotting, [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking ravens]], Etc.
** The Space Marines believe, "Better to die for the Emperor, than live for yourself."
** The Tau are all about this, to a point where they can be a Deconstruction. Everything they do is for "The Greater Good": they don't love in the romantic sense (they breed by eugenics with couplings determined by genetic analysis), they will throw themselves into a meat-grinder knowing full well they will die, and even their leaders will sometimes carry a bomb to blow themselves up all for the Greater Good.
*** Worth pointing out that they think ''personal'' ambition is bad. [[TheEmpire Collective species-wide ambition]] is a virtue. [[BlueAndOrangeMorality Yeah]].
* In ''[[SeventhSea 7th Sea]]'', "Ambitious" is one of the Hubrises that can be taken as a "fatal flaw" by player characters in exchange for more Hero Points at character creation. However, Hubrises aren't explicitly considered evil traits, just dangerous ones, and characters that have one are just as heroic as anyone else. (The game also includes such Hubrises as "Loyal", "Misfortunate" and "Star-crossed".)
* In ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'', ambition is one of the things represented by the color black. Granted, black is [[DarkIsNotEvil not always evil]], but it is the usual home of AlwaysChaoticEvil creatures.
* In ''LegendOfTheFiveRings'', there exist a set of four "Bloodswords", powerful weapons crafted by an evil sorcerer. They are named Passion, Revenge, Judgement, and Ambition, and greatly increase the given emotion/feeling in their wielder to an extremely unhealthy level. Throughout the story, two separate individuals have wielded Ambition. Both tried to murder the Emperor and take over his throne. Both ended poorly for the individual in question.
* In ''[[ProseDescriptiveQualities Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies]]'', "ambitious" best describes the national character of the Barathi, whose empire is tangled, corrupt, and ridden with assassination and Vendetta-killings. The other nations have their own ideals that can cause conflict, but the Barathi are the easiest to hand for any GM who wants a sinister plot driven by someone's desire for power. Ambition is even listed as one of the fatal flaws that distinguishes a swashbuckling villain from a hero, becoming consumed by the need to win.
** Characters can also easily take "Ambition" as a Foible (similar to the Hubrises of ''7th Sea''), which is an open invitation for any GM to have it bite them in the ass. Then again, they can also take it as a Motivation or other Forte so that an ambitious nature works for them rather than against.
* While BattleTech operates under a mostly GreyAndGreyMorality, characters who are presented as ambitious (whether that ambition is to work their way up to a higher rank in the military, become governor of a planet, or conquer the entire Inner Sphere) are almost always presented as antagonists. [[MagnificentBastard Hanse Davion]] is the biggest exception- he came the closest to conquering the Inner Sphere that anyone had done since the collapse of the [[GoldenAge Star League]] but was generally portrayed as heroic because of his actions.
** Brett Andrews is one of the worse cases, as the ilKhan(Khan of all the Clans) he puts his personal ambitions and ideas over the betterment of all the Clans. He instigated the Wars of Reavings which resulted in the Clans tearing each other apart, while his Clan the Steel Vipers benefited from it, at the expense of the rest of the Clans.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* Initially the main protagonist of ''Theatre/TheFix'', Calvin Chandler, only wants to hang out getting high and playing guitar--it's his scheming mother who forces him into politics after her Senator husband dies, because...
-->''If I can't be the wife of the President,''
-->''You can bet your ass I'll be his mother!''
* ''Theatre/{{Rent}}'': In "You'll See," it's revealed that before the events of the musical, ambition and wanting to move up on the social ladder are what gradually transformed Benny from an idealistic bohemian and friend of Mark and Roger, to a rather callous and occasionally unpleasant capitalist who reneges on his promise not to charge rent to his former room and housemates and tries to get a lot containing a tent city cleared out and demolished. Its worth noting that both of these actions are to achieve his dream of building a high-tech studio, which he hopes can allow his former fellow bohemians to actually make money off of their art.
* ''CyranoDeBergerac'': InUniverse: One of the traits of the Gascon [[BlueAndOrangeMorality moral code]]: De Guiche, a gascon soldier is considered [[NoTrueScotsman No True Gascon]] between all the other Gascons because he wants to get power through compromise instead of his personal valor.
* Social hierarchies were a major part of Elizabethan society, so ambition beyond one's station is an important theme in many Creator/WilliamShakespeare tragedies:
** In ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar'', Brutus claims to the Romans that Caesar's ambitious nature was tyrannical, and that stopping him justifies the murder. Antony provides the page quote by acknowledging the dangers of ambition even though he disagrees.
** Ambition is literally Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'s only motivation in favor of kill Duncan: "I have no spur / To prick the sides of my intent, but only / Vaulting ambition".
** In ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', Claudius' ambition to the throne leads him to kill his brother and marry the queen.
* Ambition leads [[GodSaveUsFromTheQueen Abigaille]] to usurp her father's throne in Verdi's ''Theatre/{{Nabucco}}''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Video Games]]
* The aptly-named ''[[Creator/ZapDramatic Ambition]]'' series has this with Yale.
* ''VideoGame/CrusaderKings 2'': The Ambitious trait gives a character a very good stat bonus, but it also adds a very problematic, permanent -50 relations penalty toward their liege, making them likely to rebel at some point. Furthermore, its opposed trait, Content, gives a piety bonus.
** Of course, it is not very problematic if the one with the Ambitious trait ''is'' the liege.
* ''VideoGame/{{Disgaea 4| A Promise Unforgotten}}'': This is the sin that sent [[spoiler:Fuka Kazamatsuri]] straight to ''hell''. [[spoiler:At the tender age of ''[[ImprobableAge five]]'', she wanted to TakeOverTheWorld, and begged her MadScientist father for a little sister who would also double as a PersonOfMassDestruction and her own personal [[TheDragon Dragon]]. Once in the Netherworld, she first tries to take over Hades (as she was sick of being treated poorly as a Prinny), ''then'' tries to take over the entire Netherworld, and ''then'' tries to take over the Human World as well]]!
** It's apparently such a big enough sin that in ''The Fuka and Desco Show'' [[spoiler:she is effectively banned from ''reincarnation'' after she and her sister TakeOverTheWorld! Though that doesn't bother her too much and declares the Netherworld and Celestia are next.]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'': Anders is the only one who shows any kind of ambition towards ending the templar/mage conflict. [[spoiler:So, he blows up the Chantry so there can be no compromise between the two sides.]]
** Merrill also has shades of this trope. Her ambition to link her people with their past prompts her to try and restore a broken mirror that's a portal for a demon to re-enter the world from the Fade. [[spoiler:While she herself survives, this goal gets at least Keeper Marethari killed, if not the entire clan she was trying to help.]]
** Snarky!Hawke plays this straight, being one of the few [[BigGood unambiguously good]] characters in the game. Despite their actions pissing off [[HeroWithBadPublicity more than a few people]] in the process, Snarky!Hawke acts out of a desire to help people with no reward, has no real goals other than protecting their friends and family and at the end of the day, simply desires nothing more than to head down to ''The Hanged Man'' for a drink among friends.
** Played very straight with siblings Varric and Bartrand. The former is a party member, has no patience for "dwarven honor" and is happy to hang out at the Hanged Man drinking and telling stories. The latter is obsessed with reclaiming his family's legacy, incredibly unpleasant to work for, and [[spoiler: leaves you all to die with a little push from an ArtifactOfDoom.]]
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOrigins'': Bhelen Aeducan is a WellIntentionedExtremist who wants to drag the dwindling dwarf kingdom into the modern day, and isn't above [[spoiler: poisoning his own family]] to get on the throne. Should you put him in power, he institutes martial law and sends assassins after anyone who might try to unseat him. He also opens trading deals with the outside world and gives casteless dwarves actual rights. Under the other guy's rule, the dwarves stay an isolationist DeadlyDecadentCourt and not much gets done.
* ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'': In this JRPG, Marcello is obsessed with gaining power and status because he was born to a peasant woman and a nobleman. It doesn't end well. [[spoiler:It does, however, end better for him than for the majority of other named characters; at least Marcello ''survives'' the game.]]
* ''DynastyWarriors'': In the early games, most of Cao Cao's speeches links to the term 'Ambition'. And he is the bad guy in the novel.
* ''EccoTheDolphin: Defender of the Future'': {{Justified|Trope}}. Ambition made dolphins from an alternate reality ruthless and selfish, but only because at the time it was their only trait besides Intelligence ([[ItMakesSenseInContext the others having been stolen from them]]). When those qualities are balanced by the rest - Compassion, Wisdom, and Humility - Ambition instead serves as the noble trait that drives dolphins to fulfill their dreams.
* ''VideoGame/FireEmblemTheSacredStones'': Caellach, a mercenary who becomes one of the six generals of TheEmpire. His greatest ambition is to become a King, and he's also AffablyEvil and ThatOneBoss.
* ''LegacyOfKain'': Kain gets called out on this in a few of games of the series. He may be the hero of the series, but that doesn't change the fact they actually make a point.
* ''VideoGame/ValkyriaChronicles'': This is actually one of the ''major themes'' of the game; ''every single character'' who actually aspired to achieve their rank in the military is in it for some form of selfish gain and nothing else, and most of them die. The exception is Varrot, who only became a captain because [[spoiler:she wanted revenge for her murdered lover.]], and retired shortly afterward. Everyone who either enlists voluntarily or is conscripted, without pursuing an actual military career, gets a more or less happy ending-- and the exception to ''that'' is [[spoiler:Faldio, who dies explicitly for believing in military strength over the power of love.]] The bottom line is that in Europa, the only way to win a war is by blowing it up with your belief in pacifism (and regular guns- magic lasers are evil.) It takes this a step further by having the entire main Gallian army die in a huge explosion. Their deaths are mentioned once and then completely ignored by the main cast-- because even though enemy {{Mooks}} are shown to be human, the Gallian army are Mooks that have no worth at all, presumably because (unlike Squad 7, which is made up of people who volunteered in response to a threat to their hometowns) they're professional soldiers, who only exist to promote warfare and be willingly manipulated by their evil, shallow overlord, General Damon.
* ''VideoGame/{{Zyll}}'': This is what got Zyll into trouble in the first place.
* Mehrunes Dagon of Franchise/TheElderScrolls is the Daedric Prince of Destruction... and of Ambition. He is also the only Daedra to have been the BigBad of ''two'' games, ''and'' one of those games indicates him to have been the BiggerBad for a third. He tends to favour destruction, but the fact that one of the few Princes that pretty much everyone agrees is evil is associated with ambition is rather telling.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Webcomics]]
* In ''Webcomic/BrawlInTheFamily'', this is the ultimate source of [[Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda Ganondorf]] and [[spoiler: [[Franchise/{{Kirby}} Dedede]]'s]] respective {{Face Heel Turn}}s.
* In ''Webcomic/{{Pacificators}}'', there is Princess Belinda. [[spoiler: She [[SelfMadeOrphan poisoned her father]], and successfully [[KlingonPromotion got the throne.]]]] This trope is averted with [[GravityMaster Muneca]], however, who is a good guy. She's still awfully ambitious, though.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Original]]
* Averted In the WhateleyUniverse: Phase used to be a ShelteredAristocrat and is now fairly obsessed with regaining wealth, power, control, and the ability to do stuff with that power...but is a good guy.
* Sigma from ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' is the personification of the Alpha's ambition, and Season 10's flashbacks reveal that his biggest ambition was to achieve "metastability," the AI equivalent of [[BecomeARealBoy becoming a person]]. To achieve such a goal, he corrupted Agent Maine into becoming a psychopath, tortured the Alpha multiple times, and convinced Carolina to take two AI units, all of which either directly or indirectly led to most of Project Freelancer's agents being killed.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Western Animation]]
* For Eddy (along with his friends, who are far less deserving) of ''WesternAnimation/EdEddNEddy'', FailureIsTheOnlyOption by the end of an episode, usually because he is a scam artist who attempts to weasel the other kids out of money. However even if they manage to pull off a relatively legitimate business with rather impressive efforts they will still end up getting screwed over badly.
* On ''TotalDramaWorldTour,'' Ezekiel was really determined to win. ''This did not go well for him.'' Note that he wasn't a villain like Heather or Alejandro--he was just a really determined contestant who wound up [[DesignatedMonkey getting ridiculously abused]] before somehow transforming into [[Literature/LordOfTheRings Gollum]]. And no, [[MakesJustAsMuchSenseInContext It Does Not Really Make Sense In Context]], either.
* Triple subverted in the season 22 ''[[WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons Simpsons]]'' episode "Lisa Simpson, This Isn't Your Life." Lisa spends an episode dreading ending up like Marge and transfers to an elite private school. Sitcom law dictates that the chldren there must be insufferable snobs, sending her running back to good ol' Springfield Elementary. Instead, the school suits her perfectly. Late in the episode, she discovers the long hours Marge works to cover the tuition. She spouts out something out of nowhere about how the children ''are'' snobs, saying she'd actually rather turn out like Marge. But after apparently playing the trope straight after all, we see Lisa turn to the side with a depressed look. It turns out she was lying about her feelings, really wanted to remain at the school and probably would turn out better if she could stay there.
* This is played straight and subverted in ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender.'' The shows main bad guys are the Fire Benders. Fire is described as being the element of power and those who practice it have desire and will and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. They are by their nature ambitious. However we are also shown many characters, including fire benders, whose ambition drives them to improve themselves and the world around them.
** Of especial notice is Fire Lord Sozin, his seemingly earnest ambition started the shows conflict generations later.
* Averted in ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic''; the aesop of "Sweet and Elite" is that while achieving success is great, you should never forget your roots.
** Rarity and Rainbow Dash both have fairly lofty goals, with Rarity wanting to be a part of high society and a top-class dressmaker, and Dash wanting to join her worlds equivalent of the BlueAngels. While the characters can sometimes cause trouble because of these goals, this behavior is generally treated as character flaws apart from the ambition, with the idea of lofty goals being lauded, as long as one doesn't hurt others along the way.
*** The aversion is also obvious in the season 3 episode 'Wonderbolts Academy' where Rainbow Dash realizes that her training partner's recklessness was going to get someone hurt. [[spoiler:The trainers thanked Rainbow Dash for calling out their mistake of rewarding such behavior, and a big point was made that ambition does not mean reaching a goal at any cost]].
* Megatron in ''WesternAnimation/TransformersPrime'' started this way. He wanted was to bring social reform to a caste-bound Cybertron, and believed himself to be worth of the title of Prime. Flash forward to a few stellar cycles later, and he's now a war-mongering tyrant who plans to bring [[CatchPhrase "Peace through tyranny."]]
** As in the comic book section above, most incarnations of Starscream are paragons of this trope (In addition to TheStarscream), wanting to lead the Decepticons for no other reason than he wants to be in charge, and will stop at nothing to achieve this, even though he's usually massively unsuited for the position. As he says in Transformers Prime, he is ''no'' stranger to ambition.
* In ''WesternAnimation/ThunderCats2011'', though the FantasticCasteSystem of TheEmpire of Thundera is presented as deeply dysfunctional, the one person who expresses an explicit, deep desire to rise above his station is the villain Grune, a FourStarBadass with dreams of being TheUsurper of Thundera's king. Frustrated in his efforts, he later settles for the more expedient strategy of [[{{Turncoat}} defecting]] to be TheDragon to the series BigBad, [[LesCollaborateurs collaborating]] in Thundera's downfall.
* HuntikSecretsAndSeekers's [[spoiler:villain Wilder]] is definitely this, to the point his ambitions about ruling TheSyndicate blind him. Clear and looming threats, combined with his Demonic Summons titans and SmugSnake personality make for a villain who doesn't listen to facts or care about the consequences as long as he gets what he's after.
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