Evil Cannot Comprehend Good / Film


  • Beauty and the Beast:
    • Gaston is unable to understand why Belle would choose the Beast over him. To him, love is just a convenient bargaining chip—or a distraction, or a function of physical beauty. He also doesn't understand why the Beast let him live at the end, if his final attack is any indication.
    • When the Beast is still selfish at the beginning of the film, he seems genuinely shocked that Belle would give up her freedom to take her father's place as a prisoner.
  • Kung Fu Panda 2. Instead of questioning how Po was able to grab the cannonballs and throw them back at his ships, Shen is baffled how Po was able to attain inner peace despite facing the one who murdered his birth parents and wiped out his people. For years, Shen has allowed the day his parents banished him to be the thing that drives him to get what he wants and continuously ignores the Soothsayer's requests that he not let his past control him. The fact that Po attained what Shen had wanted for years, inner peace, by listening to the same advice Shen ignored, completely baffles him.
    • Shen generally has trouble comprehending that, unlike him, Po isn't the type of person to hold a grudge (or at least he tries not to hold grudges against others). Earlier in the film, he carefully rehearsed his confrontation speech, expecting Po to angrily swear vengeance for his dead parents, only for the act to fall apart when Po just casually greeted him (but to be fair, Po was very tired and out of breath at the time, and didn't realize that Shen was the one who murdered his biological family).
  • While they're more 'weird' than 'evil', this is the basic premise of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack understands the basic feeling behind Christmas, but not how traditional Christmas icons translate into Christmas feelings. The other townsfolk don't have a clue and merrily set about to twisting Christmas toys to their own scary designs because they feel this improves them.
  • In Disney's Sleeping Beauty, the Good Fairies disguise themselves as human peasants, give up their magic, move into a cottage in the forest, and raise Aurora/Briar Rose as though she were a foundling, because they know it will never cross Maleficent's mind that anyone could perform such a selfless act. As Fauna notes: "Maleficent doesn't know anything about love, or kindness, or the joy of helping others. You know, sometimes I don't think she's really very happy."
  • In Frozen, Prince Hans' reaction to Anna's Heroic Sacrifice and resulting recovery from her frozen heart has left him perplexed and dumbstruck. And from his POV in A Frozen Heart, when he tells Elsa that Anna is dead because of her and causes the snowstorm to stop, he briefly notices how Elsa is taking it, and is genuinely baffled at the grief she has for her beloved sister, so for a moment, Hans starts to realize he might have gone too far... but he quickly gets over it. Plus, when Anna tells that he's the only one with a "frozen heart", he looks confused at her statement.
  • In Toy Story 3, Lotso obviously never expected Woody to return to The Alcatraz to help his friends after he safely escaped, or for Ken to choose Barbie over him, a la Voldemort's assumption about Snape and Lily.
  • In Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, Lady Tremaine and Drizella don't believe in love and assume that the King and the Prince are only being nice to them because they're obligated to be so. By contrast, it's Anastasia who realizes that love is more powerful than magic and that the King and the Prince really are genuinely nice people. She quickly does a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Syndrome from The Incredibles has this problem. He's blindsided when his Dragon Mirage makes a Heel–Face Turn after Syndrome left her to die to call Mr. Incredible's bluff. He never considered her feelings in the matter, so he felt that his reassurance that he knew that Mr. Incredible probably wouldn't kill her was enough. He's utterly surprised when she angrily tells him to bet his own life next time he gambles and walks away.
    • He also has a short moment where he completely misses the point when Bob calls him out on killing off real heroes so he could just pretend to be one. He thinks that Bob is talking about powers and disparaging Syndrome since he didn't have any, and retorted that he's "real enough to beat you." It never crosses his mind that Mr. Incredible was actually talking about morality, and meant that Syndrome was killing off good people who fought crime in order to help others so he could stage disasters and solve them for glory.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Frollo gets enraged at Quasimodo when he tells him that Esmeralda has been kind to him.
    Frollo: Isn't this one new? [Picks up the Esmeralda figure] It's awfully good. Looks very much like the gypsy girl I know. [a nasty scowl creeps across his face as his voice rises] You helped.. her.. ESCAPE! [points finger to Quasi] And now, all Paris is burning because of you!
    Quasimodo: She was kind to me, master.
    Frollo: [enraged, he smashes the table and its setting, and grabs Quasi by the collar] YOU IDIOT! That wasn't kindness, it was cunning! She's a gypsy! Gypsies are not capable of real love! Think, boy! Think of your mother!
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, when Sunset Shimmer threatens to destroy the portal back to Equestria if Twilight doesn't hand over the Element of Magic, she is shocked when Twilight refuses, knowing what Sunset could do with it. Sunset never expected Twilight to jeopardize her way home to protect a world that wasn't hers.
    • Abacus Cinch, the principal of Crystal Prep in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, is obsessed with winning the titular event. Once she becomes aware of the magic at Canterlot High, she assumes that they're using it to cheat, and promptly seeks to use it to ensure her victory. It never occurs to her that they would do otherwise.
  • In Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Commander Lyle T. Rourke shows complete confusion and frustration when his crew abandons him for condemning Atlantis to death out of greed, and when they explain that they didn't want anyone hurt in their tomb-robbing, he remarks, "P. T. Barnum was right" ("There's a sucker born every minute.").
    Rourke: Aw, you can't be serious.
    Audrey: This is wrong and you know it!
    Rourke: We're this close to our biggest payday ever and you pick now of all times to grow a conscience?!
    Vinny: We've done a lot of things we're not proud of; robbing graves, eh, plundering tombs, double-parking... BUT, nobody got hurt! Well... maybe somebody got hurt but, nobody we knew.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2, as Drago Bludvist sees it, dragons can only be controlled through intimidation and fear. Working with dragons, nurturing them instead of enslaving them, is unthinkable to him. Exemplified when Toothless overrides the Dark Alpha's control to protect Hiccup.
  • In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, Batman's counterpart Owlman doesn't understand why Batman doesn't come to the same conclusion about the futility of choice and thus existence.


  • The Tag Line to Pan's Labyrinth is "Innocence has a power evil cannot comprehend", which explains a lot of Cpt. Vidal's actions, as well as his inability to see the Faun at the end. Case in point: he's left utterly bewildered when Dr. Ferreiro chooses to Mercy Kill a captured rebel to spare him more Cold-Blooded Torture at Vidal's hands, despite knowing that Vidal would undoubtedly kill him for doing so.
    Dr. Ferreiro: To obey—just like that—for obedience's sake... Without questioning... That is something only men like you can do, Captain.
  • Star Wars:
    • Attack of the Clones: The Evilutionary Biologist Kaminoans cannot understand why Jango would want an unaltered son to raise.
    • A New Hope: Alderaan gets destroyed by Grand Moff Tarkin as a warning to star systems thinking of opposing the Empire or sympathizing with the Rebel Alliance. It has the opposite effect, making many systems more sympathetic to the Rebellion, and in the expanded universe, it even sparked a mass defection by Alderaan-born Imperial officers. Leia even told him "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers..."
    • Return of the Jedi:
      • Emperor Palpatine's arrogance and relentless self-centeredness blind him to the idea that Luke would show mercy and redeem his father instead of co-ruling the Galaxy—with someone he is destined to overthrow in due time, no less—causing his carefully-laid plans to fail. The idea that Darth Vader would turn on him rather than watch his son be murdered presumably never entered his mind either.
      • This is foreshadowed earlier, when Vader senses Luke aboard a captured Imperial shuttle headed for Endor. Palpatine comments that he cannot sense anything—presumably because he's turned so completely to the Dark Side that he simply doesn't recognize the rest of the Force. It also explains why he isn't more careful about provoking Vader's Heel–Face Turn: he could only sense the evil side of him.
      • For Luke specifically, his main error was in not realizing that Luke didn't really seek power, to the point that some in the expanded universe speculate on whether he even really understood the idea of wanting it. While rage against Vader and the Emperor was a temptation to the Dark Side, he really had no reason to side with them.
  • The Dark Knight:
    • The Joker's "social experiment" uses a Sadistic Choice in an attempt to prove that people are cruel at heart, but both groups do the right thing. In a gloriously believable way, no less. It's not a stretch to think that not a single typical civilian will be cruel and cold enough to actually blow up a ship, even one full of criminals. Flip side, it's also believable that there might be just one guy on the ship of criminals who's not all bad. Batman even spells this trope out to the Joker, who can only look at the ships, dumbfounded and disappointed.
    • What makes it even more this trope is that the Joker wasn't counting on a convict having turned his life around.
    • Then Batman takes the blame for Harvey's crimes to further thwart the Joker.
  • Batman Begins: Henry Ducard, AKA the real Ra's al Ghul, doesn't understand why the Batman refuses to be an executioner.
  • In Schindler's List, Amon Goeth often can't understand Schindler's actions of compassion towards his Jewish workers. In particular, he acts thoroughly confused when Oskar wants to buy all of them before they go to Auschwitz, trying to figure out how Oskar will make money off this. It never once occurs to him that Oskar might simply want to save a thousand people from genocide.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Megatron and two other Decepticons gang up on Optimus Prime. The battle revolves mostly around why Prime thinks Sam Witwicky is so darn important.
      Megatron: Is the future of our race not worth a single human life?
      Optimus Prime: You'll never stop at one! I'LL TAKE YOU ALL ON!
    • Occurs again in the third film. Sentinel Prime has decided to cooperate with the Decepticons to enslave humanity as a work force to rebuild Cybertron. He makes it clear that he wants to ensure that the Cybertronian race doesn't die out and believes his authority as a Prime puts him above coexisting peacefully with humans. So it becomes a huge case of frustration for him when Optimus Prime, his former student, chooses to defend the freedom of mankind over the possibility of having his home restored. Optimus simply responds by saying that it was Sentinel who taught him that "freedom was everyone's right."
    • In Age of Extinction, Harold Attinger and the rest of Cemetery Wind are incapable of realizing that there are good and bad aliens and their actions are just as evil and extreme as the Decepticons.
  • In Patton, one German points out that Patton, who they believe will lead the invasion of Europe, is facing a public backlash after slapping a soldier and may be court-martialed. He gets the reply "Don't believe their newspapers! They would never keep their best general out of the war just for slapping a soldier." That's exactly what they do (albeit as part of a Batman Gambit). This is an interesting case, as in the harsh reality of war, overlooking personal failings—even major personal crimes—of a great general might really be the "good" thing to do, not just the expedient thing. Keeping your best leaders in the field saves soldier's lives. note  Patton's commander, Eisenhower, thought the man was Ax-Crazy and liable to screw up the Alliance with his rivalry with Montgomery and his open hostility towards the Soviet Union. Putting him in charge of the decoy invasion served two purposes for Ike: it convinced the Germans that the decoy was actually real, and it kept Patton out of the front lines (and the headlines).
  • In The Magnificent Seven, Callvera's last words to Chris were "You came back... for a place like this... Why? A man like you... Why?" The reason he let them go in the first place was because he thought they were all on the same terms, and thus they would never come back to save a bunch of farmers.
  • Played straight in The Matrix Revolutions—Neo's refusal to give up, no matter how badly he's beaten, allows him to push Smith into a Villainous Breakdown without saying a word. Then Neo allows Smith to assimilate him. Smith is completely surprised that Neo would do such a thing, and is even more surprised when, his purpose fulfilled, he is wiped out of existence.
  • Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life goes through the entire movie without picking up so much as a clue as to what makes Peter, George, or indeed any of the Bedford Falls townspeople tick. Potter's expectations that George will hand the Building and Loan over to him in exchange for a job or that the townspeople will quickly turn against George at the first opportunity are disappointed throughout the movie. It never dawns on him there's something about his fellow men that he just doesn't get.
  • Used and subverted early in Serenity. Someone from the Academy says that Simon Tam "must be crazy" to have run such risks and gone to such lengths to save River. The Operative, true to his Well-Intentioned Extremist nature, recognizes love for what it is: something much more dangerous.
    Operative: Madness? Have you looked at these tapes? At his face? It's love, in point of fact. Something far more dangerous.
  • In Superman II, General Zod and Ursa assume Supes is protecting the humans because they are his pets.
  • In the end, the Big Bad of Ghost Ship tries to tempt the Final Girl into his trap by turning into the crew mate that he just killed. He attempts to use the crewman's love to trick her, but fails horribly because he believes the material items he offers will win her over. Shows up after his ruse is uncovered when he tries to trade her life for keeping the ship afloat and can't seem to understand that she doesn't care that she may die if she can destroy the ship and free all the trapped souls.
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, while beating him up, Nizam remarks to Dastan his dislike of the King adopting the homeless boy and making him Prince. Earlier, the King did explain that Dastan is brave and noble, so he judged him worthy of becoming Prince.
    Nizam: I never understood why my brother brought trash into our house! Enjoy the gutter, Dastan! It's where you will stay under my rule!
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both Holmes and Moriarty employ a Sherlock Scan to predict the outcome of their final confrontation, and both come to the same conclusion: that due to Holmes' injured shoulder, he can't win. However, Moriarty—self-interested to the point of outright sociopathy—couldn't comprehend that Holmes was willing to sacrifice his own life to defeat him.
  • In Daredevil, after the titular superhero has soundly defeated the Kingpin and has a chance to Finish Him!, Kingpin is dumbfounded by Daredevil's refusal to do so.
    Kingpin: I ... I don't understand. Why?
    Daredevil: Because I'm not the bad guy.
  • In The Last Stand, Cortez seems completely baffled that Roy won't accept a bribe of millions of dollars (escalating with each offer) to let him cross the border and escape to Mexico.
    Roy: My honor's not for sale.
    Cortez: Fuck your honor!
  • Oh, God! You Devil features George Burns as both God and the Devil. When the Devil has manipulated a man into attempting suicide, he and God have a poker showdown for the soul. God raises the stakes, offering to cease protecting a great many of people at risk if he loses, but that the Devil will cease interfering if God wins. When the Devil considers the offer, he decides there's no way God would do this without being certain of victory, since one man wasn't worth it. To Him, one man was. It's played for a strange form of PG-rated Black Comedy.
  • In The Last Samurai, Nathan Algren is greatly haunted by the atrocities he committed in the past as a soldier. His fellow soldier Bagley sees his own atrocities as duty and barely remembers them. Bagley cannot understand why Algren is so bothered by them.
  • In Little Shop of Horrors, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., doesn't understand why Seymour Krelborn would want to kill him, because Scrivello had never done anything to Seymour. He never imagines that anyone would want to protect Audrey, of all people.
    Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.: What did I ever do to you?
    Seymour Krelborn: Nothing. It's what you did to her.
    Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.: Her who?
    Seymour Krelborn: ...
    Orin Scrivello, D.D.S.: Oh. Her.
  • Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Throughout the movie, she can’t understand that Indy doesn’t want to find the grail for the same reasons as her. She insists that she “believes in the grail, not the Swastika”, but Indy retorts that she “stood up to be counted with the enemy of everything the Grail stands for.” In the end, she refuses to believe that the grail isn’t meant for her to keep. As she heads for the exit, she crosses the Great Seal and triggers the temple’s collapse. She almost falls into a chasm but Indy catches her. Instead of letting him save her, she pulls a hand free to reach the grail that she dropped. She comes so close, but her glove slips off the hand Indiana was holding and she loses her life. Henry Sr. later comments that Elsa thought the grail was “a prize” and she didn’t understand the spiritual meaning behind it.
  • The Devil's Advocate: John Milton Satan succeeds in the beginning because he is expert in manipulating Kevin's vanity and ego. He also thought Kevin would forget that he raped his wife and would lust after his demon half-sister. Ultimately Kevin loved his wife more and was selfless enough to kill himself rather than create the Anti-Christ, which literally makes Milton explode. And when Kevin is brought back to life, Milton sees Kevin's new moral stance as just another form of vanity he can manipulate.
  • At the end of Paths of Glory, General Broulard is so impressed by Colonel Dax's efforts in his battle against General Mireau to save his men from public execution that he's going to offer him Mireau's place. When Dax refuses because he wasn't doing it to have a promotion, Mireau is completely dumbfounded that anyone would try to save lives without something to gain from it, and threatens to have Dax arrested.
  • Midnight Run: Serrano is aggravated by the idea that someone like Jack would give up his family and career rather than become a Dirty Cop on his payroll. He also never expected that Jack would work the FBI to bring him down, instead of getting Marudukas back, which is what Jack had been focused on since the beginning of the film.
  • In Richie Rich Laurence Van Dough spends the movie trying to break into the Rich family vault which he naturally assumes is packed with mountains of gold, jewels, and money. When he finally does enter, all he finds is various family artifacts and memories of key moments in the Richs' lives. Van Dough is stunned, unable to accept the idea that anyone would waste a vault on such "junk," not getting that to the Riches, these are true treasures.
    Van Dough: I don't get it. Where's the money?
    Mr. Rich: In banks. Where else?
    • The Riches don't even bother hiding how they think Van Dough is an idiot for assuming that the richest family in the world would keep their wealth hidden around rather than investing it in stocks.
  • Downfall has Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Nazi Praetorian Guard and the man responsible for the concentration camps, surrender to the advancing British army on the assumption that the Allies would prop up the Nazi regime in Germany to prevent the Communist Soviets from taking over. It seems to escape him that after all the horrendous atrocities they have committed, any human of normal moral code wouldn't consider co-operating with them for a second.
  • Falling Down: Nick, a crazed, homophobic, Neo-Nazi, hears about D-Fens antics and assumes that D-Fens is a crazed racist like him, rather than a man having a nervous breakdown. He flips out when D-Fens tells him off.
  • Green Lantern: What ultimately brings Parallax down. Because he feeds off fear, he believes courage means having no fear whatsoever. He assumes Hal Jordan will fall because he has fear in him. Courage is about not letting fear take control, which is why Parallax underestimates him and is unable to feed off him.
  • King Ralph: Lord Graves, in an attempt to discredit Ralph, pays Miranda, a showgirl that Ralph fallen for to seduce him. When Miranda genuinely falls for Ralph and calls the deal off, Graves naturally assumes that she just wants more money.
  • As in the comics, Lex Luthor has this going on twice:
    • In Superman: The Movie, when Ms. Teschmacher asked if he thinks that Superman is the real deal, Luthor replies that if he is, he's not from Earth. Granted, Superman is a Human Alien, but it does show that Luthor doesn't believe anyone on Earth could be as selfless as Superman.
    • This is his whole reason for his hatred of Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: he was abused as a child, and prayed to God for it to stop, only for it to continue, concluding that either God Is Evil or doesn't exist. Naturally, he views Superman's mere existence as an affront to his worldview.
  • In the original Miracle on 34th Street, Dr. Sawyer is about the closest thing thing we have to a legitimate villain. He openly believes that the only reason Alfred likes playing Santa, or that Kris claims to be Santa, is because they are both delusional. As far as he's concerned, anyone who's that nice has be harboring a severe guilt complex.
  • James Bond: This is a recurring motif and Fatal Flaw for most Bond villains in the movies — because most of them are criminally insane megalomaniacs who think they're Well Intentioned Extremists and Knight Templars, so whenever they explain their motives and discuss their Evil Plans, it quickly becomes clear to 007 that they're just talking about themselves and their selfishness, as they're trying to psychologically project their viewpoint and explain his own flaws, only for Bond to make a sarcastic but accurate remark about their insanity, angering them. For example:
  • Munroe the Big Bad of The Expendables somehow doesn't realize that even if his operation is making General Garza rich, the latter will still likely turn on him, after he abducted and tortured his partner's daughter (who is a CIA informent), even after Garza made it very clear that he would not stand for that.
    Garza: Sometimes, the money just isn't worth it.
    Munroe: Sure it is, money is what allows people to be the real ass wipes nature intended.
    • Later, during Munroe's confrontation with Barney Ross, after he has taken his now dead partners daughter hostage, he tells him that they are Not So Different and he asks why Barney would have come for him, when he could have offered him all the money wants. Barney's response:
    Barney: I didn't come for you dipshit! I came for her! (Fills Munro full of lead)
  • The Magnificent Bastard Cipher from the Fate and the Furious (the eighth Fast and Furious film) mocks Dom for showing kindness to a cheating driver he defeated at the begginning of the film, to which Dom informs her by letting bygones be bygones, he earned the man's respect and a new ally who plays a part in his scheme to turn the tables on her, something Cypher dismisses. This comes back to bite her in the end, after Dom makes peace with his former enemies, the Shaw brothers, he gains an edge on Cipher that she never saw coming.
  • In the climax of Hocus Pocus, Winifred doesn't understand why Max was willing to put his life on the line for his sister, unable to understand the love that siblings share.