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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.''
-->-- '''Literature/{{Lullaby}}'''

The cause of all bad happenings in a story. The Big Bad may either be personally responsible for the events, or the biggest force in opposition of the hero's goals. A Big Bad could be a character with {{Evil Plan}}s or it could be an omnipresent situation, such as a comet heading towards the Earth. In a serial story, the Big Bad often exerts an effect across a number of episodes, and even an entire season. In a standalone cinematic story, [[TheHeavy their presence drives the plot]].

This trope is not a catch-all term for the biggest, ugliest or even primary villain of any given story. The badass leader of the [[QuirkyMinibossSquad outlaw gang]] that causes the most personal trouble is TheHeavy, ''not'' the Big Bad. The [[CorruptCorporateExecutive railroad tycoon]] who turns out to be ''using'' the gang as muscle is the Big Bad. TheManBehindTheMan is very common for this trope, leaving the reveal of the big bad as TheChessmaster behind it all and proving themselves far more clever and resourceful than the VillainOfTheWeek. Sometimes the BigBad is the grand enemy of the entire story as an OverarchingVillain. At other times, the Big Bad is an ArcVillain who causes trouble for a period of time only to be replaced by another Big Bad with ambitious plans.

The Big Bad may be confronted frequently, but is too powerful to finish off until the last episode of the story arc. The Big Bad may work through EvilMinions and will almost certainly have TheDragon protecting them, 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 its most general terms, a Big Bad will be at the center of the MythArc rather than just any StoryArc. At the same time, the Big Bad is not exclusively the most dangerous enemy of the arc. In many cases, you will find that while the Big Bad may be in control, the DragonInChief would still be the greater threat. In the grand scheme of things and the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil, a Big Bad could even become a SixthRanger to [[EnemyMine aid the heroes against the next threat]]. The GreaterScopeVillain would be an enemy who is an extremely obtuse danger but nothing that directly concerns the heroes at that point in time.

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, though, this is a BigBadWannabe. The structure of Buffy placed the Big Bad as being crucial to the HalfArcSeason, half the episodes are {{filler}} dealing with unrelated enemies while the other half involved the ongoing MythArc with the BigBad. Each season can easily be defined by who the Big Bad was.

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 (where either TheLeader or TheHero is the GoodCounterpart). 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 they're 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 their start as a servant to another villain -- if that's the case, they're 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), they are a DragonInChief. If the story has many Big Bads at once who ''don't'' work together, see BigBadEnsemble. TheBigBadShuffle occurs when there are multiple candidates for the Big Bad position. If the Big Bad doesn't start out as bad but develops over the course of the story, it's BigBadSlippage. If the Big Bad of one section of a work doesn't die on being defeated and stays around as a character in a different plot role (reformed or not), that's ExBigBad.

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 GreaterScopeVillain. 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 GreaterScopeVillain 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 first to have over both forty and thirty thousand wicks, and is the most wicked trope.]] This is probably because it's incredibly common; it's OlderThanFeudalism, and it applies to almost every villain in any multi-part speculative work.

[[MoodWhiplash Not to be confused with]] [[Series/SesameStreet Big]] ''[[Series/SesameStreet Bird.]]''

[[noreallife]]
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!!Examples

[[index]]
* 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
[[/index]]

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Art]]
* Can Churches have antagonists? If so, the Devil is a pretty safe pick for being the main driver of any evil present in the Art/SistineChapel. Whether he's the beautiful serpent lady from the Ceiling Fresco or a much filthier bat-man from a wall painting, Satan can't help but try and coax people into doing evil so when they get to the altar painting, they'll keep him company as God throws every sinner into Hell for eternity in the Chapel's altar painting.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Mythology and Religion]]
* Literature/TheBible:
** The Pharaoh in the Literature/BookOfExodus, enslaving the Israelites and doing everything he can to defy the will of God, even after accepting defeat. Serving as the greatest opposition to Moses and God outside of the personal flaws of the people of Israel, the horrid Pharaoh serves as the UrExample of the Big Bad, predating most examples of the trope by centuries or millennia. The age shows, as the Pharaoh is killed long before the end of Exodus, which details the travels of the Israelites from the Red Sea and God's revelation of the Mosaic Law, as opposed to more contemporary Big Bads who tend to provide conflict for the entire work.
** [[EvilChancellor Haman]] in the Literature/BookOfEsther, who tries to convince the Persian Emperor to wipe out the Jews.
** {{Satan}} in the Literature/BookOfJob and the Literature/BookOfRevelation. In the former, Satan attempts to get Job to denounce his faith and strips away all his fortune from him. In the latter, Satan (as the dragon with seven crowns) corrupts the world with the Whore of Babylon, attempts to get people to worship the Beast from the sea, is revealed to be the Serpent from [[Literature/BookOfGenesis Genesis]] and ultimately, battles the armies of Heaven until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire.
** [[CorruptChurch The Pharisees]] in Literature/TheFourGospels, who try to challenge Jesus at every turn and are the only people who Jesus gets mad at throughout his travels. Notably averted with {{Satan}}, who [[GreaterScopeVillain is a background character with minimal involvement in what happens]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Theatre]]
* ''Theatre/{{Annie}}'': [[OutlawCouple Daniel "Rooster" Hannigan and Lily St. Regis]]
* ''Theatre/TheCrucible'': [[ManipulativeBastard Abigail Williams]] manipulates the girls of Salem into obeying her and gets them all to help accuse others of witchcraft, condemning innocent men and women to imprisonment and death in order to escape punishment for her own evils.
* ''Theatre/{{Faust}}'': [[{{Satan}} Mephistopheles]]
* ''Theatre/{{Gypsy}}'': "[[StageMom Mama]]" [[VillainProtagonist Rose Hovick]]
* ''Theatre/IntoTheWoods'': Subverted, as there is no official main villain in the show. The Witch might come off as the villain at first, but as the show progresses, we learn that her actions are very much justifiable, and eventually, she becomes extremely sympathetic ([[spoiler: mainly after Rapunzel's death]]). The Giantess, while being a major antagonistic force, simply wanted justice for the death of her husband, and the chaos and death that she had caused are often portrayed as accidents (considering that she was near sighted and had lost her glasses). The only character to be truly evil and despicable is the Wolf, and even he's given a hint of sympathetic light (''"Ask a wolf's mother!"'').
* ''Theatre/LesMiserables'': being one of the only lawful characters in the entire show, he naturally opposes and antagonizes every main character: he tries to arrest Valjean multiple times, he defends Fantine's rapist by having her arrested instead, he threatens Eponine and the Thenardiers with arrest (and is presumably already familiar with the latters' antics), and spies on and directly opposes Marius and Enjolras's revolution. Curiously, despite being the main villain, he is not the most evil character in the show: that honor goes to the Thenardiers, who are full-blown ChaoticEvil compared to Javert's Lawful Neutral, and worst of all, [[KarmaHoudini get away with it all]].
* Creator/WilliamShakespeare has various antagonists in his plays. The comedies tend to lack them though; if a major antagonist ''is'' present in a comedy, they will rarely be legitimately evil. [[note]]This list is incomplete. Feel free to help.[[/note]]
** ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'': Claudius usurped the throne that rightfully belongs to Prince Hamlet, who spends the play plotting to kill Claudius.
** ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'': [[ManipulativeBastard Iago]] misleads every character in the play so he can ruin the life of the title character
** ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'': [[VillainProtagonist Macbeth himself]] kills the good king Duncan and ruins Scotland with his corrupt reign, acting as the main villain despite being the protagonist of the story.
%%** ''Theatre/TheTamingOfTheShrew'': [[OverprotectiveDad Baptista Minola.]]
%%** ''Theatre/TitusAndronicus'': [[CardCarryingVillain Aaron the Moor.]]
%%** ''Theatre/RomeoAndJuliet'': [[FeudingFamilies The heads of the Montague and Capulet families]], though Tybalt is the most antagonistic.
%%** ''Theatre/TheMerchantOfVenice'': [[GreedyJew Shylock]] [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation or Antonio and Portia.]]
%%** ''Theatre/MuchAdoAboutNothing'': [[BastardBastard Don John.]]
%%** ''Theatre/TwelfthNight'': [[IneffectualSympatheticVillain Malvolio.]]
%%** ''Theatre/KingLear'': [[BigBadDuumvirate Goneril and Regan]] at first, later [[BastardBastard Edmund.]]
%%** ''Theatre/JuliusCaesar'': [[ManipulativeBastard Cassius.]]
%%** And of course, Richard III, the VillainProtagonist of ''Theatre/RichardIII''.
* ''Theatre/SweeneyToddTheDemonBarberOfFleetStreet'': [[HangingJudge Judge Turpin]] [[AlternateCharacterInterpretation or]] [[LadyMacbeth Mrs. Nellie Lovett]]
* ''Theatre/TheResistibleRiseOfArturoUi'': Arturo Ui, though [[GreaterScopeVillain from an in-universe perspective his threat is overshadowed by]] UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler.
* ''{{Theatre/Urinetown}}'': [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Cladwell P. Cladwell]] head of the Urine Good Company
* ''Theatre/WestSideStory'': [[GangBangers Riff Lorton and Bernardo Nunez]], [[BigBadEnsemble opposed to one another]]. [[spoiler: Both are killed in the Act One Finale, and Bernardo's DragonAscendant Chino Martin takes over as main antagonist]].

[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* ''VisualNovel/DeathRoom'': Could be [[VillainProtagonist you]].
* ''VisualNovel/War13thDay'': The clan of the Vi [[MultipleEndings in most routes]].
[[/folder]]

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[[NoAntagonist Here's some comfort]].
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