A smile is supposed to be a reassuring expression, indicating happiness and complete absence of angst and danger. If someone's smiling, it means all is well with the world...
...unless it's a Cheshire Cat Grin, which always denotes that someone's in for it.
The Cheshire Cat Grin is an expression made by a Trickster
who's up to something, and "something" never bodes well for the person they are smiling at. Usually, it involves their total humiliation — occasionally it involves mortal danger. A typical scenario runs something like this:
Wait, we need someone to dress in a bikini, swim across a river full of piranhas, placate the pride of man-eating lions with the power of dance and steal the sacred ruby out from under Lord Evil's nose? Who's the poor fool who's gotta do all that
? Character B: (grins at character A) Gilligan Cut to character A dressed in a bikini swimming across a river full of piranhas to placate the pride of man-eating lions with the power of dance so he can steal the sacred ruby out from under Lord Evil's nose.
Generally, this is drawn as a smile with far too many teeth on display, where the mouth doesn't match up with the eyes, going practically from ear to ear. For example, the mouth may be a broad grin, but the eyes definitely have a wicked gleam in them. It occasionally has sexual connotations, particularly when there's a predatory quality about the grin.
Strangely, it's usually done by heroes who have a Zany Scheme
in mind, rather than by villains, who tend to prefer the Psychotic Smirk
or the Slasher Smile
. Heroes and heroines who are slightly eccentric — or slightly deranged
— favour the Cheshire Cat Grin. If it's an anime, expect a Cat Smile
instead. Common trait for The Gad Fly
and serves as a warning that they're going to pull their antics on someone. If this smile is a permanent feature, it's a subtrope of Frozen Face
; if it's cut into
the character's face, it's a Glasgow Grin
. Shares living space with The Un-Smile
If you ever see someone with the Cheshire Cat Grin in real life, vacate the premises before you can discover what they're smiling about. Or, for that matter, how their face manages to do that.
Although Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
is considered the Trope Namer
, the term "grin like a Cheshire cat" was actually common in Britain
during Lewis Carroll
's time. The origin is uncertain; the most likely sources are some Cheshire cheeses that were molded into the shape of smiling cats, and a famous inn in Cheshire that had a painted grinning lion on the door.
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Legendary schemer and thief, Lupin III, has a smile, when not showing teeth, that is more of a Cat Smile, but when he shows teeth and does the raised eyebrow, it's pure Cheshire Cat Grin.
- Haruhi Suzumiya does this quite a bit, particularly when sizing up Mikuru for a new outfit, or dragging Kyon into trouble. Here's an example.
- Gengar, from Pokémon, tends to have either this or a Slasher Smile depending on how it's drawn. Either way, it is constantly worn and only twice in the anime does Gengar actually frown.
- See the example under Video Games for a time when he does frown.
- Dee Laytner, from the FAKE manga and anime, is a good example of a grin with sexual overtones, while he's plotting how to seduce Ryo. Occasionally, Dee's expression is downright scary, and it leads Ryo to comment, "You're grinning like the Cheshire Cat." Here, have a look.
- Washu of Tenchi Muyo!!, usually right before she's about to stuff Tenchi into some machine or another.
- Kisuke Urahara from Bleach, particularly before unleashing one of his training regimes on someone.
- Ichihara Yuko from Xxx Ho Lic has a grin that can roughly be summed up in words as: "Not only do I know something you don't know, but it's going to bite you in the ass in a very amusing fashion." Despite this, it's when she appears serious that should really scare Watanuki. This is because Yuko's Cheshire cat grin simply means she's going to make him do all the laundry, whereas the latter expression is usually a forecast of man-eating crow demons or similar.
- Deviant genius Hiruma from Eyeshield21 has this as one of his default expressions, to the point where those new to the series — or complete non-fans — can identify him as 'the one with the teeth.'
- Road Kamelot of D.Gray-Man, several times. Along with some of the AKUMA. Hell, the Earl probably counts as well.
- Haruko of FLCL, usually when she's about to be entertained, between the Cat Smile and Slasher Smile stages. It's very, very much a bad thing for Haruko to be entertained.
- Mahou Sensei Negima!! plays this for comedy; if Haruna starts smiling, something embarrassing and/or unpleasant is about to happen. The other characters are rightfully scared of her.
- Invoked by Kaede when speaking with "Kunel Sanders", a mysterious, suspicious, and very powerful man who is interested in Negi but refuses to say why. In the end it turns out that he is trustworthy, but he also admits people tend to not believe his smiles.
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has a few characters sport these. Most of the time it's either Mion, Shion, or Satako, and it usually involves getting Keiichi into a ridiculous outfit, pulling a prank, pushing someone's buttons or out of his clothes entirely.
- In The Big O, Jason Beck sports one.
- Ed from Cowboy Bebop sports one perpetually, even her little avatar. Very appropriate, given her cat-like nature.
- Holo from Spice and Wolf does this whenever she's sweet-talking someone (usually Lawrence) into doing what she wants. She's usually teasing with it, instead of plotting things with bad consequences.
- Hikaru and Kaoru from Ouran High School Host Club when up to mischief, usually at Haruhi's expense.
- In Black Butler, Undertaker has a very nice one.
- Not to mention Ciel. When he fakes a smile, it's adorable. When he gives a real smile... It probably means someone is about to get hurt. Badly.
- And in one of the OVAs? Grelle literally had the Cheshire's smile while playing the Cheshire Cat!
- Bel from Katekyo Hitman Reborn! tends to have this as his default face, along with making one when he laughs his creepy "Ushishishishi~" laugh.
- Hmmmm... notice how his default outfit is actually a pink and purple striped shirt? And how in one Omake he's considered a house pet in the Varia family? Looks like the resemblance isn't just the smile...
- Naruto Uzumaki smiles like this a few times, usually when thinking of a prank. Some of those times (notably in the 101 episode) his Cheshire Cat Grin overlaps with Slasher Smile.
- The Kyuubi's face is eternally twisted into a Cheshire Cat Grin.
- Sumiko from Kekkaishi seems to have one of these as her defining trait, when she was The Faceless it's all we saw of her. May actually be more malevolent, as we don't know much about her. The fact that now that she's not The Faceless reveals that the smile does NOT reach her eyes is a bad sign.
- Xerxes Break from Pandora Hearts has a very typical one. And his doll has exactly the same smile. And, oddly enough, the character called the Cheshire Cat does not.
- Lots of the eponymous Titans of Attack on Titan sport unnerving grins, even when they logically should be in pain. For some these cross the boundary into Glasgow Grin because of the fact they're missing bits of skin.
- Roronoa Zoro from One Piece, whenever he's not sleeping or eating. Also, Urouge.
- This is basically Gold Roger's default expression.
- Irabu from Trapeze gets a disconcerting grin on his face whenever he give some kind of devious advice in order to help his patients somehow.
- Ham Egg from Osamu Tezuka's works is easily indentified for making this grin constantly, which foreshadows his unpleasant and villainous nature.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Truth's grins are the only visible feature on his otherwise blank body and are too wide and large to be physically possible on a human being. The fact that he lacks eyes or eyebrows makes identifying the emotion behind the grin impossible.
- The Gold-Tooth Alchemist echoed this, often wearing a bizarrely-wide grin at times when there was no discernible reason for anyone to be smiling. Add the unfocused eyes and it moves into Slasher Smile territory.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion:
- Milly Ashford of Code Geass pulls these a lot when she's teasing her friends or getting an idea for a School Festival.
- Hellsing: The Major is noted as having "a detestable grin which would split his cheeks". Combined with his artificial origin, Supernatural Gold Eyes and his desire to spark the world to eternal war it's quite creepy. It will occasionally flicker into Slasher Smile territory, especially towards the end of the series.
- Captain Gotoh in the Patlabor manga specializes in these wonderfully awful toothy grins.
- Lain's alter-ego from Serial Experiments Lain does this constantly.
- Drosselmeyer from Princess Tutu is always sporting one.
- Neferpitou from Hunter × Hunter is almost never seen without his (cat) smile. It doesn't help that he has a deadly and terrifying Battle Aura and permanent creepy eyes.
- Kawarino from Yes! Pretty Cure 5, especially in his human form with Eyes Always Shut. And you don't want to see any other of his facial expressions.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica brings us Charlotte's One Winged Angel form right before ''that'' scene.
- Goku as a kid in the original DragonBall often gave these kind of smiles when he was up to something especially mischievous.
- Krilin also gives Cheshire Cat Grins when he's thinking up a dirty plan or find something funny at someone's else expense; mostly Goku and Vegeta.
- Vilmarh Grahrk from the Star Wars: Republic comics seems to have one of these on his face all the time◊. Considering his nature, it may be considered a Slasher Smile.
- Agent Graves from One Hundred Bullets rarely displays any sort of emotions but when he does smile its usually means someone is going to be in a world of hurt.
- Topped by Lono, whose presence is often defined by his grin. There are many times throughout the comic where all you can see his smile, shining in the darkness.
- Trolls in the Franco-Belgian comic Lanfeust often make those, usually when they are about to brutally slaughter people or cause heavy property damage (which is most of the time).
- X-Men team leader Cyclops wears one◊ right before answering the man's question... he lied about his powers being gone!◊
- Loki has this down, especially in his younger and less evil iterations. The Asgardian Agent even pulled one combined with the disappearing trick... and nothing but the smile remained.
Films — Animation
Films — Live-Action
- Dr. Phlox in Star Trek: Enterprise does this in the pilot. Season 4 reveals that his species are capable of inflating their heads, which goes some way to explain why Denobulan smiles don't lead to self-decapitation.
- Not quite a Cheshire Cat Grin, but with the same effect in "Bride of Chaotica!" an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. The holodeck malfunctions, and someone must go into the program to resolve the issue playing the part of Queen Arachnia. When Captain Janeway asks Tom "Who do you have in mind?" Tom, and the rest of the crew turn to her with evil smirks.
- Talk show host/Comedian Jay Leno always seems to have one of these on his face.
- Theo Kojak pulls out one of these at least every couple of episodes.
- Doctor Who:
- Mentioned in "The Mind of Evil" where the Brigadier snaps at Yates for grinning like a Cheshire cat. Later, the Doctor reminds Yates, when the Brigadier is being especially annoying and it looks like it's going to be 'one of those days', "Cheshire cat, Yates, Cheshire cat".
- This is one of the Fourth Doctor's most famous gimmicks. Having wide bulging eyes, a very large and toothy mouth and an egotistical, cheery, terrifyingly sly personality, it is virtually his default expression and forms a big part of his frightening yet oddly charming appearance.
- And the Tenth.
- And Nine, who does this whenever faced with imminent danger, usually while uttering "Fantastic!"
- And John Simm as The Master. "What this country needs... is a Doctor.◊"
- Speaking of the Fourth Doctor, Romana II is known for her charming, brilliant grin, too. Especially when doing and/or saying something clever. Which she does a lot.
- River Song is fond of it, too.
Television Without Pity recap:
I think part of the actual — not the endlessly explicit and told-not-shown, but the actual, the perceivable — charm of River is her lovely smile when she's doing something really awful.
- The Sixth Doctor does one in his opening credits.
- The Eleventh Doctor tends to wear one when he's being extremely clever◊.
- Strangely enough, the gentle, unassuming, adorkable Fifth Doctor often wore one of these, especially when talking to people taking him prisoner. He smiled most of the time, in fact, but it very rarely reached his eyes.
- In the Eighth Doctor Adventures novels, Fitz has been known to smile "with a wicked twist to his mouth that showed far too many teeth", although he's really a very Nice Guy under the somewhat sleazy exterior and it doesn't tend to mean he's really up to anything all that bad.
- Lampshaded by Jon Culshaw in Doctor Who Confidential where he flipped between his Fourth and Tenth Doctor impersonations for the amusement of David Tennant, explaining how the facial expression differs:
Jon: (in Fourth Doctor voice, pulling goggle-eyed, grinning face) Now, with Tom Bakerrr you get one kind of eyes and teeth... and (in Tenth Doctor voice, pulling a massively different goggle-eyed, grinning face) with you, ya get anather kind af eyes and teeth.
- The Twelfth Doctor has a really scary kind that has very little resemblance to an actual smile, overlapping heavily with The Unsmile.
- Vala in Stargate SG-1 has a grin that shows a lot of teeth and can be deeply disconcerting.
- Michael Westen from Burn Notice does this a lot. His smile will eat your soul.
- Judge Frasier did this all the time on This Is Wonderland.
- Red Dwarf:
Lister: All we need's a battering ram. Something, say, 6 foot tall, fairly sturdy, with a flat top.
(everyone grins at Kryten)
- The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Because of her basic nature, anytime Cameron smiles, you should be on your guard. No matter what, that smile is intended to manipulate you.
- Nikola Tesla (as played by Jonathon Young) on Sanctuary.
- Kamen Rider Fourze has stoic "I don't wanna be involved with this Kamen Rider Club" foolishness Kengo Utahoshi have one of these as he drags the poor Butt Monkey JK into piloting a mecha known as the Power Dizer.
- Justified has Detroit mob lieutenant Robert Quarles, who has a big, unsettling smile.
- Babylon 5: Mr. Morden will give you a big jovial-looking smile, just as he's about to screw you and your entire species over.
- Sister Julienne of Call the Midwife, nun-in-charge of Nonnatus House, has one, which she usually deploys right after she has "asked" someone to do something. The "or else" is implied.
- Smallville: Tess Mercer's smile is always a sign she's plotting something. Somewhat subverted, in that she does ave a genuine smile she can use when happy, and her intentions are always for the greater good, but when plotting, her smile can be downright scary.
- Done superbly in the David Tennant version of Hamlet. "O villain! Smiling, damned villain...", saying this all while sporting a spine-chilling smile. We know his sanity is long, long gone.
- In the Super Famicom title Monopoly 2, there are four tournament players in each match including the player. Two of these opponents (which include fortune tellers, ventriloquists, and salarymen) are dupes, and one is a smug snake par excellance. Want to know which? Just keep your eye out for this facial expression.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Midna makes quite a few of these (in her imp form). Especially whenever she hits a turning point in her quest to overthrow Zant.
- Link's nightmarish Elegy of Emptiness statue in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.
- Father Vincent of Silent Hill 3 smiles one of these quite a lot.
- The wolverine mascot of Alcatraz Elementary from Nightmare Ned has this.
- Gengar from Pokémon is almost constantly making a Cheshire Cat Grin. In the handheld games from Red and Blue all the way to Platinum, every single one of his sprites is doing it.
- Not quite so in the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games. A formerly human Gengar shows not only a Cheshire Cat Grin and Slasher Smile; he frowns quite a bit as well, and even tears up by the time Gardevoir's body is restored.
- We also have Sableye◊ from Gen III, but it's generally hard to smile pleasantly when you have a mouthful of sharp teeth.
- Tohsaka in Fate/stay night is described as being scariest when she's smiling, because then you know she is going to get you. Nobody else is ever happy when she smiles.
- That's nothing. Sakura's can silence a room and extinguish candles. It makes sense. They are sisters, after all.
- Mario & Luigi: Fawful's face seems to be permanently frozen into this expression. Whether he's dropping a giant rock on our heroes, fighting them off in a mech, selling them badges, or mutated by the power of a Sealed Evil in a Can into a freaky bug thing, he always has a giant toothy grin on his face.
- Super Paper Mario: Good ol' Dimentio's mask/face is always curled up into an unnerving smirk. Although, to be fair, he was never even trying to be on the heroes' side to begin with, so no mystery there. Beyond that, it was more so when he ended up possessing the final boss, though that arguably made his joyful look even more unsettling.
- Taokaka of BlazBlue typically makes this face whenever she wants to "play" or she's about to attack some poor fool. This being a game that centers on, y'know, fighting, she keeps the expression some 90% of the time.
- Dee Jay from Street Fighter smiles because he's an almost always happy dude, but the type of smile he has is this one.
- In A Witchs Tale, the Cheshire Cat almost always has one of these. Cause he's the Cheshire Cat.
- The Grimmification of Alice In Wonder Land, American McGee's Alice, naturally stars the Cheshire Cat, albeit a much more insane and macabre version of him. His Cheshire Cat Grin also has bit of Slasher Smile.
- Travis Touchdown of No More Heroes, particularly whenever he enters a fight while in a good mood. The loading screen for the second game even shows a small picture of him sporting one.
- The Judge in OFF sports a permanent one. Ironically, he's probably the nicest character in the entire game. Even better, he's actually a cat.
- Touhou characters have such a warm and cheerful smile, even when speaking grim or gory things. But have you seen some art made by fans with Flandre? Yuuka? Marisa? Reimu? Yukari?
- This is pretty much Jade Curtiss's default expression throughout Tales of the Abyss. He's more often seen as a Stepford Smiler since he's a borderline sociopath with Dark and Troubled Past, but he's also the game's king Troll, and when he's trolling "Cheshire Cat Grin" seems a more appropriate term.
- Both Zimmy and Coyote in Gunnerkrigg Court. Oddly, the effect of each character's grin is heightened by the fact that they have the wrong sort of teeth: Zimmy has shark-like teeth and Coyote has uniform, flat teeth.
- Of course, both of them pale before the awesomeness of Jack's smile.
- Jack outdoes himself in this strip.
- Tedd from El Goonish Shive has been seen with one of these from time to time, generally when there's a noteworthy bit of Author Appeal.
- The Mad Scientist in Books Don't Work Here tends to smile like this when he is up to something, and whether it will work or not he always tries to be up to something.
- Rocky, from Lackadaisy seems to have this as his default expression. His cousin wears a combination of this and Slasher Smile. Like so.
- Smiling Man from User Friendly smiles all the time, but sometimes it gets even worse.
- Paranatural's Ed does this frequently. Sometimes edging into Slasher Smile territory, particularly when accompanied by phrases such as "You're all gonna die!" Isabel gets in on the act occasionally as well.
- Shadowchild from Digger has smiled like this twice. Both times it went badly for the other guy.
- George from Johnny Wander is always depicted with one of these. Except one time when he grimaced and it was basically the same thing but upside down. Even his tombstone has that grin.
- In Girl Genius, "wild" Jagers tend to wear this most of the time: there's so much funny things to happen — like plowing through a crowd of monsters — and they have pointed teeth. Gil grins like that when he is stuffed to the gills with combat stimulants and about to blow up something.
- Sparks tend to wear a huge grin when they've got an idea. Considering the stuff they usually invent, this is seldom good news for anyone in town.
- Joey Von Krause from Mortifer is almost always smiling like this, even when you've succeeded in pushing his Berserk Button (Looking under his eyepatch, in case you were wondering). It's later stated that he smiles whenever he's in control of the situation, which is all the damn time.
- Dagre from The Meek sports one...kind of. It's more of his jowls drooping, giving an absolutely terrifying grin appearance.
- Subverted/defied with Florence Ambrose in Freefall — her natural smile is a face full of teeth, since she's an anthropomorphic "Bowman's Wolf." She has to remember to smile with her lips closed to avoid this trope — though she's not above invoking it...
- Occasionally, Sam gets one of these. That's rather a lot of teeth for an squid in a suit...
- The Whiteboard: Bandit gets one of these when Doc upgrades Bandit's firepower in one game.
- Terezi◊ from Homestuck has this as her default sprite expression.
- Claud Southend of Quantum Vibe pulls an epic one (complete with fade-out) in full trickster spirit in his farewell towards the end of the Luna arc.
- In Pacificators, Cinna Grossul get to bust out a couple awesome ones.
- The typical expression on the face of Dolan.
- The Fox Sister: Often seen on the Kumiho in human form.
- Questionable Content: Penelope vomiting a rainbow mixed with Losing Your Head.
- Karin-dou 4koma: Mifi splits her face with a Cheshire Cat Grin when she catches Elza masturbating, and again when Seren asks her how she knew.
- Several tricksters and fair folk do this in Roommates but the grand master is the Scribble Person/Living Words ( aka the vaguely anthropomorphic personification of the Story) whose hard-to-trust grins can literally spell things like "Sacrifice" or "Tragedy" especially when (s)he is offering deals.
- Visseria: Done by a couple of characters, but Jack in particular pulls off a nice one when convincing a guard to follow him along.
- Canta from Sire sports a terrifying one while creeping on Leif.
- In Off-White, the wolf Sköll does this when asked to bring his dead father figure back to life, showing he's gone insane.
- Nesariel in Autumn Bay sports this nearly all the time.
- In Namesake Alice Purcell can do this, literally - including vanishing and reappearing somewhere else. It turns out her first trip to Wonderland almost ended at the beginning, and a family of Chashire Cats each gave her one of their lives to save her. They also adopted her.
- Chimpanzees "smile" by baring their teeth as a way of warning potential challengers that this chimp is not to be messed with. This has led to more than a few people getting mauled, because, hey, the monkey is smiling at 'em! And ain't he just like a little person? Maybe he wants a hug! NO. When a chimp smiles at you, he's telling you to fuck off. By the way, those teeth? They go for the face. And chimps are strong. Mister Peanutpants does not want to be your friend, kids.
- In fact, this is true of many animals, since their teeth are their main weapons. Its meaning is lost for humans because of our greater variety of expressions and because our teeth are puny compared to theirs.
- Former Australian Treasurer Peter Costello was famous for his Parliamentary savaging of his opponents in debate, of which his Cheshire Cat grin would be a prime indicator to get out of the way of his victims.
- Tony Blair was known as the Cheshire cat (then the less favourable "Cheshire twat") since he became leader of the opposition and then prime minister due to his smile.
- The logo of Troublemaker Studios.
- The 2012 vice presidential debate became known for Joe Biden giving these repeatedly when Paul Ryan was talking. There was even a mash-up done of them.
- When The Doors arrived in England for their 1968 European tour, a reporter asks Jim Morrison his occupation in the group; Jim just turns to the camera and gives a mischievous smile.
- This pic of Love frontman Arthur Lee, who seems to be preparing to flip the camera man off.