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[[quoteright:310:[[Franchise/StarWars http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/star_wars_emperor_throne_room_7256.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:310:[-[[GambitIndex Everything that has transpired in this trope has done so according to my design.]]-] ]]

->''I've learned that, in every story, there is a big, bad something. An evil force that, no matter the size, corrupts the world of the story, and tries its best to destroy the hero. A wolf, a witch, a giant, a dragon, a knight... or an idea, a desire, a temptation... or even a book.''
-->-- '''{{Lullaby}}'''

The cause of all bad happenings in a story. A Big Bad could be a character with {{Evil Plan}}s or it could be a situation, such as a comet heading towards the Earth. The Big Bad can (and often does) exert effect across a number of episodes, and even an entire season.

Note that Big Bad is not a catch-all trope for the biggest and ugliest villain of any given story. The {{Badass}} leader of the [[QuirkyMinibossSquad outlaw gang]] that the heroes face once or twice is ''not'' the Big Bad. The [[CorruptCorporateExecutive railroad tycoon]] who turns out to be ''using'' the gang as muscle is the Big Bad. If there is a constant [[TheManBehindTheMan Man Behind the Man]] story going on in order to reveal the big bad, then whoever [[TheChessmaster is behind it all]] is the Big Bad, not every major villain in the lead-up. At other times, if a new enemy shows up to replace the previous Big Bad, then they are the [[ArcVillain Big Bads of their individual storylines]].

The Big Bad may be confronted frequently, but is too powerful to finish off until the last episode of the sequence. The Big Bad may work through EvilMinions and will almost certainly have TheDragon protecting him, to keep interest up and provide something for the good guys to defeat. When you look at a season-long story or a major StoryArc and you can identify that one villain as being the one in control of everything, that is the Big Bad. In many cases, you will find that while the Big Bad may be in control, the DragonInChief would still be the greater threat.

The term "Big Bad" was popularized in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer''. It was characteristic of Buffy's Big Bads for their identity or nature, or even the fact that they are the Big Bad at all, to remain unclear for considerable time. Occasionally, characters would even refer to themselves as "the Big Bad", whether or not they were; this is a BigBadWannabe (although Spike was the character to do this most and he was part of the BigBadDuumvirate of Season 2 along with Drusilla until Angelus showed up).

A Big Bad character is also an integral part of the FiveBadBand dynamic. The role remains largely the same, but it should be noted that they are the Big Bad of ''that particular organization''. They are not just the leader of a QuirkyMinibossSquad, but is a set group to counter the roles in the heroes' FiveManBand. Whether or not they turn out to be the Big Bad of the entire work of fiction is not set in stone (although more often than not, they will be).

If a show has a series of Big Bad jeopardies, they can function like a series of [[MonsterOfTheWeek Monsters of the Week]] that take more than a week to finish off. If there is a LegionOfDoom, you can expect the Big Bad to be involved somehow. They're probably sorted by power, with the strongest for last, following the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil.

EvilOverlord, DiabolicalMastermind, TheChessmaster, ArchEnemy, TheManBehindTheMan, and often ManipulativeBastard are specific types of villains who are liable to show up as Big Bads. If he's a MagnificentBastard or HeroKiller, the good guys are in ''big'' trouble. The heroic counterpart of this character is the BigGood, who will very often be the focus of this character's attention over TheHero at the beginning of a series. If a work of fiction is conspicuously lacking a Big Bad, it may be a case of NoAntagonist.

See also BigBadDuumvirate for two (or more) Big Bads working together ([[EvilVsEvil or not]]). Sometimes a Big Bad will get his start as a servant to another villain -- if that's the case, he's a DragonAscendant. If the character who fills the role of Big Bad in most meaningful ways is nominally subordinate to someone else (someone significantly less menacing by comparison), he is a DragonInChief. If the story has many Big Bads at once who ''don't'' work together, see BigBadEnsemble.

Note that the Big Bad of a story is not always the most powerful or oldest existing evil force. Perhaps an evil presence along the lines of an EldritchAbomination overshadows the work's setting, but is mainly divorced from the story's events -- that would be the BiggerBad. The Big Bad is distinct from that by being the main obstacle that the hero must contend with, though the Big Bad might try to harness the BiggerBad in some way as part of their plan. (Whether or not [[EvilIsNotAToy this backfires]] may vary.)

It is one of the most well-known tropes on the TV Tropes community, [[OverdosedTropes it being the only one of three tropes to have over twenty thousand wicks.]] This is probably because it's incredibly common; it's OlderThanFeudalism, and it applies to almost every villain in any multi-part speculative work.


* BigBad/AnimatedFilms
* BigBad/AnimeAndManga
* BigBad/ComicBooks
* BigBad/FanFiction
* BigBad/LiveActionFilms
* BigBad/{{Literature}}
* BigBad/LiveActionTV
* BigBad/{{Pinball}}
* BigBad/ProfessionalWrestling
* BigBad/{{Radio}}
* BigBad/{{Roleplay}}
* BigBad/TabletopGames
* BigBad/VideoGames
* BigBad/WebAnimation
* BigBad/{{Webcomics}}
* BigBad/WebOriginal
* BigBad/WesternAnimation