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Bad Habits

James Bond: Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned...
Q (disguised as a Greek priest): Well, that's putting it mildly, 007!

Religious clothing is visually arresting, and priests, nuns, and monks certainly are perceived to have an inherent moral authority. In fiction, scoundrels will dress up as a religious figure as a part of a disguise. This can be used for comedic or dramatic effect. The clothing of the Catholic Church is used for the most part, since all Christianity is Catholic in the movies.

A villain who actually is a priest is probably a Sinister Minister.

Compare Nun Too Holy, where a character is ostensibly part of a religious order, but doesn't seem too concerned with observing its tenets or restrictions.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • At the beginning of the Black Cat anime, we see Train shooting and beating up what appears to be a priest at prayer and a bunch of nuns. Then they whip off the habits to reveal that they're actually terrorists with machine guns.
  • Black Lagoon features The Church of Violence, an illegal arms smuggling operation disguised full-time as a church.
  • Holo in Spice and Wolf dresses as a nun occasionally. Or more accurately, she dresses in habit that is very nun-like without actually belonging to any denomination — she wouldn't want actual Church officials to ask about her credentials. In Season 2, Amati refers to Holo as a "nun of convenience", having taken no formal vows or affiliated herself with any church. The novels state that women travellers do this to attempt to avoid trouble, assisted by nuns regularly hiding their denomination while travelling to avoid sectarian violence.
  • Kei of the Dirty Pair is something of a mistress of disguise. She's used the nun disguise at least twice (interesting, since she's the "bad girl" of the Lovely Angels).
  • Duo in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing. Justified in his backstory: he was an orphan who had been adopted by a priest that made him wear the clothes as part of leading him into becoming one himself (having been an orphan and a scoundrel adopted by a priest himself), and continued to wear the style after he had been murdered by the Alliance troops.
  • Justin Law in Soul Eater (technically not a Catholic priest, but worships Shinigami-sama although he becomes a Sinister Minister by betraying the crap out of everyone later on in the manga. Being a man of the cloth only extends as far as wearing the cloth, it seems.)
  • The assassin pretending to be a priest who takes Manji's confession in the first chapter of Blade of the Immortal.
  • The reverend in the western (as in, with cowboys) Shōjo (Demographic) manga Miriam. He's not a real reverend, for one thing, having killed the real one and taken his place years ago. He's also a sexual predator who tried to take advantage of 17-year old protagonist Douglas when he took sanctuary in the church, and he works for a local crimelord. He eventually leads the protagonists into a trap... and reveals that he's the Big Bad.
  • Played straight in Samurai Champloo, with a fake priest (and fake European) who command Christians to produce more guns to avoid hell and reach paradise, so he can sell them. Of course he also kidnaps and threatens to kill (forcing her to marry him) at least one woman.
  • Sonia Shaflnarz of Hayate the Combat Butler. The characters continually call her 'Sister' despite knowing her name, and her acting nothing like an actual sister.
  • In Baccano! Isaac and Miria dress up as a priest and a nun as one of their many, many crazy thieving schemes. Firo seems to completely buy it and apologizes for his earlier rude behavior, saying he didn't realize they were with the church.
  • Nicholas D. Wolfwood in Trigun, hired gun and man of the cloth. Though not without sin, at least he doesn't preach what he doesn't practice.

    Comic Books 
  • Flintheart Glomgold dressed up as a nun in Don Rosa's The Last Lord of Eldorado. Humorously, despite having a beard, he was only discovered when he got into a fight, because the real nuns learned better style than that in their judo classes. (Scrooge himself, being Genre Savvy, wasn't fooled for an instant, though.)
  • The hero of the franco-belgian comic Soda is a NYPD cop who is afraid to tell his mom his job, because she has heart problems, and keeps her believing her son is a clergyman. He usually switches his clerical outfit for street clothes as soon as possible, but more often than not things conspire to force him to keep it and do his police work dressed as a priest.
  • Astro City
    • The pre-eminent crime lord is the Deacon, who dresses and acts like, well, a deacon. It's not a disguise, however, but simply part of his motif.
    • It also fits well with his Arch-Enemy, The Confessor. Who is also a vampire, but... a surprisingly nice guy.
  • In one Ghost Rider story has Johnny Blaze telling his back-story on a confessional before telling the priest that he knows that he is just a crook and giving him the taste of Hellfire.
  • In one Suicide Squad story, The Penguin is disguised as a Russian Orthodox priest while undercover on a mission in Russia.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Terry and the Pirates, Cap'n Blaze and his gang disguise themselves as monks when they set up an opium farm inside a monastery.
  • "Father" Lamont in the Modesty Blaise arc "Milord", who poses as a priest in order to abduct girls for a porn and snuff film ring.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Charlie Chaplin film The Pilgrim, Charlie, an escaped convict on the run, puts on the first clothes he's able to steal. Naturally, it's a Protestant minister's vestments.
  • One of Robert Mitchum's most iconic roles was in the 1955 film noir The Night of the Hunter, in which he plays the "Reverend" Harry Powell, a thief, con artist, and serial killer who poses as a priest and marries his executed cellmate's widow to get his hands on the man's hidden loot, but finds himself stymied by the dead man's young children.
  • In The Wrath Of God, Mitchum again plays a phony priest, this time a turn-of-the-century bandit in a Banana Republic south of the border. We discover that he is not really a priest when he whips a Tommy gun out of a guitar case and riddles a bar full of soldiers with hot lead. We later learn that he also carries a pistol in his Bible and a switchblade in his crucifix.
  • James Bond: Q dresses up as a Greek Orthodox priest (complete with false beard) in For Your Eyes Only.
  • Brigitte Nielsen disguises herself as a hot nun to assassinate a guy in Double O Kid.
  • In Two Mules for Sister Sara, Shirley MacLaine's character dresses up as a nun while escaping from the French. It also helps her get help from Clint Eastwood's character.
  • Whoopi Goldberg hid out as a nun in a convent from hit men in the movie Sister Act.
  • Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle has the Angels disguised as nuns. And that's the sound of Theology flying out the window.
  • At the end of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Jack Sparrow is having his crimes announced just before he is about to be hanged. These include "impersonating a cleric of the Church of England", provoking a smile of amused reminiscence from Jack.
  • The basic premise of Nuns On The Run is that the "nuns on the run" aren't really nuns. (They also aren't really women, making this a combination of Bad Habits and Disguised in Drag.)
  • Done twice in the Cannonball Run movies. In the first movie Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. play a pair of racers who dress up as Catholic priests, and in the second two women dressed as nuns (they're showgirls in a production who were at a restaurant, still in costume) end up accompanying two men dressed as soldiers (who are disguised for an edge talking to the police). The men slowly realize that these women don't behave quite like nuns...
  • The Manchurian Candidate: The brainwashed assassin disguises himself as a priest to assassinate the Presidential candidate of one of the leading parties of the United States.
  • Assassins (1995). Contract killer Robert Rath (driving a stolen taxi) is searching for rival hitman Miguel Bain. On hearing that a priest wants a cab to take him to the airport, Rath instantly says "That's him", implying that it's an old assassin's trick.
  • In The Left Hand of God Humphrey Bogart doubles as Father O'Shea. He even get's some divine blessing for it.
  • Mafia! (1998). "Say hello to my little friend." The very tall priest has a midget assassin hidden under his coat.
  • Sheldon Sands from Once upon a Time in Mexico dresses as a Catholic priest, replete with extremely fake beard, for a confessional scene.
  • The Four Musketeers (1974). Milady de Winter dresses as a nun to get into a nunnery and strangle Constance.
  • In his introductory scene in Face/Off, Castor Troy disguises himself as a priest in order to plant a biological bomb in the Los Angeles Convention Center. He then takes a little extra time to dance to a choir singing the Hallelujah chorus and grope a choir-girl.
    Castor Troy: You know, I never really enjoy the Messiah. In fact I think it's fucking boring. But your voice makes even hack like Handel... seem like a genius.
  • In Top Hat Bates disguises himself as a priest so he can void the marriage between Dale and Alberto. Dale is only marrying Alberto out of desperation because she wants to stop herself from loving her friend's husband- well, who she thinks is her friend's husband.
  • This guise fails in The Godfather 3 as the old mafia boss recognises the assassin sent to kill his guest Michael Corleone.
  • Kambei's introductory scene in Seven Samurai has him rescuing a child from a hostage situation by cutting off his topknot and having monks shave his head and lend him some robes. In his guise as a monk, he brings food so that the hostage-taker will lower his guard, and then rushes in and kills the hostage-taker and saves the child.
  • In The Seventh Seal, Death disguises himself as a priest to trick the knight into telling him his next move in the the game of chess for the knight's life.
  • The Mask of Zorro: In his first time out in the mask, the new Zorro runs into a church for sanctuary, and the priest, an old friend of the original Zorro, hides him in the confessional booth. He find himself improvising his way through a confession with Elena, who is there to confess, well, feelings of lust for Zorro.
  • Angels and Demons. The Illuminati killer dresses as a priest when dumping a fatally stabbed victim in the middle of St Peter's Square.
  • In Parker, Parker dresses as a priest during the first heist in order to persuade the security guard to open the door for him.

    Literature 
  • Favoured disguise of Carlos the Jackal in The Bourne Series. He starts referring to himself as the "monseigneur from Paris" (monseigneur being used as a honorific title for priests in the Roman Catholic Church) and hangs out in churches. Bit ironic for a Marxist, who later converted to Islam in real life.
  • This was a favourite trick of Zorro.
  • Done by The Count of Monte Cristo in his Abbe Busoni persona.
  • Sherlock Holmes disguises himself as a Nonconformist clergyman in "A Scandal in Bohemia" and an as an old Italian priest in "The Final Problem."
  • In the Sven Hassel novel "O.G.P.U Prison" Porta and Tiny hire a hitman called "Happy Release" who dresses up like a parson, complete with "soul remover".
  • The Sicilian, a novel by Mario Puzo. After the bandit Guiliano foils one assassination attempt, The Mafia send a hitman disguised as a priest, who tries to get Guiliano alone to "hear his confession". Guiliano laughs and points out that his sins are all over the newspapers, so what's the point of confessing them in private? His bodyguard then searches the priest's effects and finds a silenced pistol. The priest assumes that he'll be released unharmed, as the previous assassins were, but Guiliano is infuriated by this violation of the confessional and tells the hitman he's got thirty seconds to make his peace with God before he dies (in the movie the fake priest is crucified and dumped at the Big Bad's door).
  • Discworld
    • Done in Making Money by Cribbins, a former partner-in-crime of Moist von Lipwig.
    • Similarly, in The Truth, Messrs. Pin and Tulip dress as a priest and a "Vestigial Virgin" respectively in order to locate and dispose of a witness to their crime.
  • One of the Jackal's disguises in The Day of the Jackal is that of a Danish clergyman.
  • Richard Marcinko's book Holy Terror, in which his SEAL team goes up against a plot to blow up St. Peter's Basilica. Both the Islamic terrorists and the SEALs disguise themselves as various ministers, priests, and nuns-with no shortage of snarkiness from Demo Dick about the unlikeliness of their disguises.
  • Malevil has Fulbert. Aside from a gaudy silver cross he doesn't dress like a priest and he is unwilling to discuss his credentials as an ordained holy man as well. He convinced La Roque and once they entrusted him with their weapons and food he became their oppressive Sinister Minister. Later it's revealed that he has Become The Mask and believes his cruelty and Vilmain's marauders to be a Necessarily Evil sent by God.
  • In the Gentleman Bastard series, the priests of the Thirteenth (the Crooked God) including the protagonist disguise themselves as priests of the twelve more respectable Gods.
  • A couple of times in the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce.
    • In the second Daughter of the Lioness book, revolutionaries occasionally disguise themselves as priests of the Black God since the vestments completely obscure the wearer's face.
    • Beka does the same thing in the second Provost's Dog book when she's hiding from the Rogue and Lord Lionel. Subverted in that, while not a priest, she does work for the Black God, so she has a legitimate right to wear the vestments—as she says when her friend worries that she's going to incur the Black God's wrath for doing so.
  • The Wrath of God by Jack Higgins (made into the above-mentioned movie starring Robert Mitchum). Van Horne is a bank robber who goes round in 1920's Mexico dressed as a priest with a Thompson submachine-gun in his Gladstone bag. When given a choice between the firing squad and killing a local despot, he's forced to play the priest over the long term and starts Becoming the Mask.
  • Villains disguising themselves as clergymen or nuns is a common tactic in the novels of J.T. Edson. Examples occur in The Remittance Kid, The Sheriff of Rockabye County and Diamonds, Emeralds, Cards and Colts.
  • Lin Chung dresses as an Anglican clergyman in The Castlemaine Murders to allow him to pass without comment in white society. Phryne Fisher finds the sight of him in clerical garb quite arousing.
  • The first assassination in the opening chapter of Never Send Flowers has a killer disguised as a nun shooting a General (who is visiting the pope in Vatican) in a scooter drive-by.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Master takes over the village of Devil's End as their charismatic new vicar, Mr. Magister.
    • The Meddling Monk isn't really a monk, either.
  • Sydney and Nigel dress up as monks/nuns in Relic Hunter.
  • In the MacGyver episode "The Assassin", the (male) assassin Piedra dresses up as a nun to try and assassinate an archbishop. It's a double whammy since Mac has dressed up as the archbishop.
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Final Justice, a gangster dresses up as a monk, but the cop pursuing him quickly recognizes him. This leads to a painfully long scene with the cop chasing the gangster, still disguised as a monk, on foot...followed by a painfully long scene with the cop chasing the gangster in boats.
  • The A-Team:
    • Face wore a clerical collar as a disguise. It was somehow enough to cause people to perceive him as a Catholic priest.
    • In a Season 2 episode, Face and Murdock had to disguise themselves as nuns in order to help protect a missionary convent in Ecuador from some evil thugs.
  • Used in an episode of Family Matters, wherein Steve, Eddie, and Waldo are infiltrating a convent. Don't ask.
  • In The New Avengers episode "The Eagle's Nest", a group of Nazis disguise themselves as monks.
  • In the first episode of Mork and Mindy Mindy thought Mork was a priest lost in the woods. Turned out he was wearing a regular black suit with white shirt and tie, but he put it on backwards.
  • This is used in 'Allo 'Allo! multiple times.
    • Herr Flick and Smallhousen are disguised as monks and trapped in a building for several episodes.
    • LeClerc is disguised as a priest once: as to sneak in a saw to Rene and others so they can escape from prison.
    • Crabtree was disguised he could void the marriage between René and the resistance leader except it was Edith.
  • Airwolf:
    • In one episode, Dom and Caitlin disguise themselves as a Catholic priest and nun respectively to get inside a Latin American prison. For some reason, they also put on awful Italian and Irish accents respectively. Seriously, just because your surnames happen to be Santini and O'Shannessy...
    • In another episode a terrorist pretends to be a priest.
  • Prison Break's Carmelita/Sister Mary Francis is apparently a prostitute who wears a nun disguise.
  • Brennan's con artist father does this in Bones.
  • The Equalizer. A contract killer approaches Robert McCall asking him to help avert the assassination of a politician's wife, who's a former Love Interest of both men. During a flash forward of how the hit would go down, the killer is shown disguised as a priest.
  • Emerson, Chuck and Ned disguise themselves as "Vatican investigators" to look into the murder of a nun in the Pushing Daisies episode "Bad Habits". Emerson adopts the pseudonym "Father Mulcahy" (as from M* A* S* H) while Chuck calls herself "Sister Christian" (a reference to the song). Note that their rather obvious aliases are partly responsible for their being discovered, in an excellent example of the intended deceived not being as thick as the protagonists thought.
  • Leverage:
    • Nate dresses up as a Catholic priest in "The Wedding Job". It is interesting because he was actually studying to be a priest at one point before becoming an insurance cop and later thief.
    • We also get Hardison as a priest and Parker as a nun in "The Beantown Bailout Job".
    • "The Miracle Job" features a variation on this: Nate is trying to help out an old friend, now a Catholic priest, against that friend's will. The friend demands Nate see him in the confessional so they can talk in private about what's going on. Nate goes along with it — but sits in the priest's side of the box. After their conversation is over and the priest leaves, Nate lingers in the priest's half long enough that the mark's assistant comes in to give his confession, which allows Nate-pretending-to-be-the-priest to push the assistant towards publicly exposing the mark later in the episode.
  • Michael Westen of Burn Notice does the same thing to discredit a mark when he brings unexpected backup.
  • In the Queen of Swords episode "Honor Thy Father", the Queen disguises herself as a nun to break two prisoners out of jail.
  • Earl and Randy from My Name Is Earl are shown in a flashback in a jail dressed as a priest and a nun, presumably after they were arrested for committing a crime in those outfits. (By the way, both are men—so yes, Randy was a man crossdressing as a nun.)
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Angelus first encountered Drusilla when he was killing a priest in a confessional; she entered the other compartment unaware of what was going on, and he pretended to be the priest during her confession. It turns very creepy very fast, as she's very religious and he tries to convince her that her visions make her inherently doomed to damnation.
    • Caleb in turn started out as a genuine Sinister Minister, but Joss Whedon has confirmed that despite his outfit, this guy is definitely no longer a priest.
  • In the Knight Rider episode "The Ice Bandits", Michael infiltrates a monastery that diamond thieves are using as a front for a clinic that specializes in plastic surgery.
  • In 21st-century Battlestar Galactica, the Cavil-model Cylons tend to adopt priestly identities when infiltrating Colonial society. Included here instead of Sinister Minister as it seems likely that they didn't go to the lengths of actually being ordained, although it's never clearly stated on-screen.
  • In Wild Boys, the bushranger Captain Moonlight masquerades as Preacher Scott in order to gain access to polite society.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "A Sacred Trust", Jones disguises himself as a nun in order to trap a murderer.
  • In "At Bertram's Hotel" in the ITV series of Miss Marple, Canon Pennyfather turns out to be a Nazi war criminal in disguise.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Traveller Classic adventure "Action Aboard: Adventures on the King Richard". The space pirate Nightshade masquerades as a nun to infiltrate the starship King Richard.
  • Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Mauretania". A Bolshevik agent pretends to be a priest to get close to a Russian count for an assassination attempt.

    Theater 

    Video Games 
  • Altair exhibits this in the trailer for Assassins Creed: he kills somebody, then quietly shuffles with a group of monks that are dressed like him. The guards can't find him. This is also done in the game itself to move quickly but undetectably. This is addressed in-game later, by a paranoid leader, who starts accusing monks of supporting the assassins due to their similar wardrobe helping said assassins move through towns easier. Though the robes do look similar, one wonders how the guards don't notice the 10 lbs of knives and other sharp implements that are stuck all over the outside of the outfit. Even more hilarious is the fact that the paranoid guy kills a real monk while Altair is in the crowd. Not paranoid enough, it would seem.
  • In one chapter of Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, your character discovers that the old church he is visiting to see a religious relic is actually home to a cult that worships an ancient evil.
  • Sins of the Fathers has Gabriel Knight wear a black shirt, and a priest's collar, and mousse his hair in order to convince an old lady he's a priest. Never mind that if he shows up without said shirt or collar, the lady won't recognize him, even though he might later on pull the trick anyway, not even taking into account the moussed hair thing. It's a good thing she's blind as a bat.
  • The Acolyte class' costume in Ragnarok Online.
  • Hitman
    • In one of the missions of Hitman: Blood Money, this is an option — you're infiltrating a "hick" wedding in the swamps of Louisianna, to assassinate the groom and the father of the bride (leaving the bride with a healthy inheritance, one might perceive). One of the more showy (if unwise) ways to execute the groom is to take out the priest, steal his clothing, and then call the 'dearly beloved' together for the final ceremony... and then pull out a gun in the middle of the ceremony. Ideally right after the "Till death do you part" bit. (This will get you involved in a dangerous gunfight, since most of the guests are armed, but has the advantage of confirming your suspicions - the bride will be heard saying "Well, FINALLY!" when you gun down her groom.)
    • The sequel Absolution had a trailer featuring a hitsquad of female assassin's called The Saints who wear nun habbits as disguise. They take these off when going into combat wearing latex fetish outfits with insane high heeled platform boots underneath, keeping their weils on. As if to make fun of this, the trailer shows them quickly being taken out by the main character. To add insult to injury later trailers try to play up how badass and dangerous the woman are including showing them fighting in a jungle in those outfits. However like the original trailer they are not really dangerous in the game either.
  • Though not a Christian example, Rao from Ōkami is a cross between this and Ms. Fanservice when it's revealed that the real priestess Rao is dead, and Ninetails assumed her form to infiltrate Sei-An and obtain the power of Himiko's crystal ball.
  • Bayonetta dresses up as a nun in the beginning of the game... and kills angels while still wearing that outfit. And after beating the game, you may buy the outfit as an alternate costume.
  • A slight twist on the trope occurs in Sleeping Dogs were the main character, Wei, infiltrates a Shaolin monastery by disguises himself as a monk, and talks his way past the real monks by spouting Ice Cream Koans at them.

    Western Animation 
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman disguises himself as a priest at the beginning of one episode to sit in at the deathbed confession of a sick mobhead to learn the name of the man hired to kill his parents, Joe Chill.


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