I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star i' th' darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.
Hamlet, Act V, scene ii

Jewelers often put shiny metal foil underneath a gem to make the stone shine brighter. A literary foil serves a similar contrast. This character highlights someone else's trait, usually by contrast.

Sidekicks often serve as foils to the hero by being something the hero himself is not. A calm and pragmatic sidekick when the hero is hotheaded, for example. In the classic good-guy versus bad guy scenario, both the hero and villain can each be considered the other's foil, in that each acts to show how the other behaves in certain situations.

These are far from the only possible pairings, however, as virtually any story with multiple characters can contrast the characters to show greater depths to them, regardless of what side they are on in the good versus evil equation. Good versus evil doesn't have to come into the picture at all.

Sometimes a foil is a flat or Bit Character, a secondary character that comes on stage, sparks a response, then fades from the story. More often, though, the foil is a recurring character that has a personality, or an opinion of things, that is different from another recurring character. This character can be the opposite of the character in many ways — or perhaps very, very, very similar, except for a crucial difference.

Many intentional foils are depicted as physical contrasts to the main character. Thin vs. fat and tall vs. short are among the most common ways of setting up a contrast. Similarly, when the heroine's hair is blonde or white, the villain tends to have dark or red hair; when the villain is blond or white haired, the hero tends to be dark or red haired. Opposing genders and races are common even in modern media, but often tend to be handled more delicately due to these types of differences being an Unfortunate Implications minefield.

As implied earlier, virtually any two characters or character types can serve as foils to each other if they're put together properly and a little good writing goes into them. However, there is a surprisingly large number of character types that exist primarily for the purpose of being a foil, usually to the main character, or in the case of a set of characters, to each other.

If you're feeling a little poetic and look around at your surroundings enough, you'll probably discover that this trope is a bit of Truth in Television.

Nothing to do with fencing or the preferred headgear of a Conspiracy Theorist. See also Duo Tropes.

    Common Foils 

Compare Shadowland, which applies to settings.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, Dr. Manhattan acts as the Foil to both Rorschach and Ozymandias.
    • Watchmen is full of these. Rorschach and Ozymandias are very obviously foils, since their lifestyles, methods and ideologies are the exact opposite (Rorschach is apathetic while Ozymandias is empathetic, Rorschach is ugly while Ozymandias is handsome, Rorschach lives in squalor while Ozymandias is rich, Rorschach is Asexual while Ozymandias is homosexual {or ambiguously so} etc). Another obvious pair is Nite Owl II and Manhattan, enhanced by Laurie having had a relationship with both of them (Dan is receptive while Jon is distant, Dan is out of shape and middle-aged while Jon is in perfect shape and eternally thirty, etc)
  • Very common element in most Super Hero comics is for heroes to have villains that are either their Foil, or are Not So Different. Even more common is for a villainous foil to be their Arch-Enemy:
    • Batman and The Joker. The Joker is possibly the only villain who Batman cannot defeat through his M.O.s of reasoned deduction and intimidation.
      • The two are also philosophical foils in The Killing Joke. The Joker is a Nietzsche Wannabe who believes life is one big joke and the only way to deal with that is by giving in to madness. Batman is an Anti Nihilist who also believes life is meaningless but decided to create his own purpose.
    • Superman and Lex Luthor. They are the two most influential people in Metropolis by a long shot. Their differing attitudes (and forms of influence) towards their precious city are the reason why It's Personal between them.
      • Superman and Brainiac as well. The former is an alien who has allowed himself to become fully human. The latter is the very cold, remote, and incredibly dangerous alien that people like Luthor expect Superman to be.
      • Superman and General Zod as well. Superman is the ultimate immigrant, bringing the best of his homeland to his new world, and standing for the peaceful synthesis of culture through understanding. Zod is the reason why people fled the Old Country in the first place, and when he travels, it's only to head an invasion force.
      • For a more allied/friendly flavor, Batman and Superman are often this to each other.
    • X-Men and all anti-mutant organizations.
      • Charles Xavier and Magneto, as well. Former friends with similar goals (acceptance for mutants), but vastly different philosophies and methodologies (helping humanity and proving their worth in the process vs. warring against humanity and overthrowing or exterminating them).
  • In Hellblazer, John Constantine has his best mate and sidekick Chas Chandler as an example. Both these two are good friends, but often different in many ways. John is cynical, while Chas is an optimist. John is a lazy bum who is a addicted to adventure, while Chas is a hardworking taxi driver who wants nothing more than to keep himself in one piece. But these two are inseperatable even in the hardest times of their friendship.
  • In Jeremiah, by Hermann: The protagonist's partner, Kurdy Malloy, is much more cynical, streetwise and childish than he is. Jeremiah is no fool by any means, and he is an action guy, but he is much nobler and more romantic than his friend, and puts more trust in others.
  • Corto Maltese, by Hugo Pratt: he does not have a permanent "sidekick", but many times he has adventure partners who are much crazier and more violent than him: Rasputin, an Ethiopian warrior, A Chinese Assassin girl. He also has had partners who are more of the "professor" type, which turns him into the guy who leads the action.
  • Astro City features The Cape, Samaritan, and his arch-enemy the Infidel. Samaritan comes from the distant future (having come back in time to avert a Bad Future), sees the good in everyone around him. Infidel comes from the distant past, sees everyone as small-minded and ignorant. Samaritan is a strict minimalist in the use of his powers, while Infidel uses them for every single task he's faced with. Both use Appropriated Appellation — Samaritan made his debut saving lives, while Infidel got his name from deliberately breaking every taboo he can think of.
  • Wolverine and Cyclops have always had a relationship like this, though it goes deeper than it might appear at first glance. Wolverine is a scruffy loner who wears his rage on his sleeve, Cyclops is a clean-cut leader known for his stoic personality and his deeply repressed self-doubt; Wolverine is a skilled hand-to-hand brawler with brute strength on his side, Cyclops is a cold strategist with a long-range laser cannon built into his eyes; Wolverine is a veteran soldier and former mercenary who was Walking the Earth for years before he met the X-Men, Cyclops grew up at the Xavier Institute through his awkward adolescent years; Wolverine remains aloof from the team, Cyclops sees them as his only true family; Wolverine turns out to have a surprisingly idealistic heart under his gruff exterior, Cyclops turns out to be surprisingly manipulative and calculating under his respectable exterior.
  • Reed Richards and Victor Van Damme from Ultimate Fantastic Four both share a similar backstory, suffering at the hands of abusive fathers, pouring all their energy into science at a young age. Unlike Victor, however, Reed had a loving mother and younger sister, as well as a best friend in the form of Ben Grimm, which kept his life from being a living hell. Ultimate Mystery and Ultimate Doom shows us that even a loving mother, sister and best friend isn't enough to keep Reed from going over the deep end to the point where the heroes are wondering if he's just Doom II.
  • Knights of the Old Republic has its hero Zayne and villain Haazen. Both were incompetent Padawans, routinely humiliated, but best friends with the most outstanding member of their class. But while Zayne accepts that he's going to flunk, Haazen expected to skate by on his friend's coattails. Zayne didn't blame anyone for his expected failure; Haazen blamed everyone in the Galaxy except himself. While Zayne was ready to find a new path, Haazen trailed after his friend and grew so bitter that he betrayed him to his death. Then Haazen spent the next decades trying to rot the man's legacy, while Zayne is so true to Jedi principles he outdoes most of the actual Jedi in the story.

    Fan Works 

  • In the Deliver Us From Evil Series, Inspector Patterson serves as a stark foil to Sherlock Holmes, though the two do not even meet in the first book. The people who know these men are unsettled by the similarities (right down to nearly-identical looks), but they also see the differences. Patterson is basically Sherlock Holmes Up to Eleven.
  • In the Pony POV Series, Fluttercruel manages to be this to herself. More specifically, the Epilogue timeline version of her shows how much of a monster the main universe 'Cruel isn't, even prior to her Character Development and Heel-Face Turn. Word of God says the primary difference is that Epilogue!Fluttercruel was raised by Discord whereas POV!Fluttercruel was raised by Fluttershy.
  • In the Simpsons AU fic The Fourth Simpson Child, Lisa and Samantha serve as stark foils to each other. Lisa is cold, self-absorbed and cynical, and, as The Unfavourite, motivated entirely by jealousy of her older sister. Samantha on the other hand is a friendly Wide-Eyed Idealist who is Homer and Marge's favourite. Samantha is legitimately talented, but ditzy and is kind to everyone she meets (as seen with the bullies, Fat Tony and eventually Sideshow Bob). Lisa is less talented, but is a Smug Snake Insufferable Genius, has virtually no contact with anyone except her family and she has no friends. Even their bedrooms play off of each other. Samantha's room has light blue cloud wallpaper, a "WELCOME" notice on the door, with pictures on the wall of herself and her friends, in which she is always smiling. Lisa's room has dark red wallpaper, has a "GO AWAY" notice on the door and has pictures of herself with a sour expression on her face.
  • In The Flynns Move To Springfield Isabella and Lisa are foils to each other. Isabella is a kind, friendly Naïve Newcomer. Lisa is a spoiled, vain Alpha Bitch who treats others like dirt. Lisa is initially an Affably Evil Villain with Good Publicity, whilst Isabella is largely unnoticed by classmates. However, when Isabella gets the lead role in the school play, their positions flip, with Isabella becoming more popular and Lisa becoming more pshycopathic as jealousy begins to take her over. Essentially, the higher one ascends, the lower the other falls.
    • Several more... benevolent examples occur in another crossover A Tale of Two Geniuses, in which most of the drama and humour comes from the similarities and differences of the leads.
    • Bart vs. Phineas: Both are quite clever (and have a healthy Friendly Rivalry), but have differing personalities, as Phineas is idealistic, sweet-natured and well-mannered, while Bart is cynical, sarcastic and rude.
    • Bart vs. Ferb: Both are sidekicks, with genuine respect for each other. They both have a dark side, but they have different personalities. Ferb is mild-tempered and quietly influential, preventing Phineas from going overboard, while Bart's flamboyance and irresponsibility are the tip of his self-destructive behaviour, leading to a Sibling Rivalry with his "genius" (Lisa).
    • Lisa vs. Isabella: Both are intelligent young girls. However, Isabella is a lot more calmer and friendlier than the socially awkward, short-tempered Lisa.
    • David Shapiro (the story's Big Bad) himself has traits that resonate or clash with each of the leads. He's an almost giftedly intelligent inventor (Phineas). He's quite theatrical and self-centred (Bart). He blatantly manipulates emotions (Ferb). He disregards human life and freedom (Lisa). He lacks any and all empathy (Isabella) and is coldly logical (again, Phineas).
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Dr. Light and Dr. Wily contrast in every way, from personality to backstory.
    • Kalinka and Tron Bonne; both have an attraction to Mega Man but only one is love. Also, Roll and Tron both care for their robot companions but are on opposite sides of the law.
    • Mega Man, Proto Man, and Bass all qualify too.
    • George Cochran is an honest politician who believes in equality for robots, but his son William is a fervent anti-robot racist.
  • In Mega Man Reawakened, Megaman and Bass are both the doctors' grandsons, and humans who have been rebuilt as robots, but which side they're on is different.
    • Bass and Blues are driven by power, but while Bass is hotheaded, Blues is calm and rational.
  • In Necessary To Win, a Girls und Panzer and Saki crossover found here, there are a few cases.
    • Maho and Teru. The former is forced to keep distance from Miho as a result of having to be the Nishizumi heiress, which involves a cold and professional facade, but follows that role and fulfills her mother's expectations so that Miho will be able to live freely. The latter does not care whether her parents approve or disapprove of her doing tankery, and treats Saki coldly while putting on a cheerful face for the public.
    • Yukari and Nodoka's families. Yukari has not made many friends through tankery until recently, but while her parents don't understand tankery well, they are supportive of her interest in it. By contrast, Nodoka has made friends through tankery, but her parents disapprove of her doing it.
    • Also Hana's mother and Nodoka's father. Hana's mother is, in most cases, warm and caring to Hana, but also takes it personally when Hana goes into tankery against her wishes, since she is a traditional woman and wants Hana to inherit the Isuzu school of flower arranging. Nodoka's father is stern and emotionally distant, thinks tankery is a waste of time that distracts Nodoka from working toward a good job, but according to Nodoka, would not think as much of tradition and has a less specific goal for her, career-wise.
    • The Nishizumi and Atago families. The former is highly traditional and is determined to win at all costs, while the latter has been established more recently, and is more concerned with players improving themselves, including learning from defeat. Specific members also contrast with each other.
      • Shiho Nishizumi is cold, ruthless and distant from others. Masae Atago is warm, personable, and cares a great deal for her children and the rest of her family.
      • Their eldest daughters. Maho Nishizumi is outwardly cold, and reveals very little about herself, including how much she cares for her sister, to her subordinates. Hiroe Atago is hot tempered and somewhat brutally honest, while more openly caring for her younger sister.
      • Their younger daughters. Miho Nishizumi initially wanted to emulate her sister, but after realizing that Maho wanted her to find her own way of tankery, set out to find a way of tankery different from that of her family. Kinue Atago was initially uninterested in tankery, but once getting involved, is largely content to follow her sister's footsteps.
  • In the The Legend of Korra fanfic Book Five: Legends Temuji is an obvious one for Korra. He and Fumiko also act as one for Mako and Bolin collectively, as a pair of bending siblings who’ve lost all family except for each other. Their (original) elements even match. Retroactively some elements of Temuji also match Asami’s story arc about missing a deceased parent, though whereas Asami came to terms with this, sadly Temuji did not.

     Film - Animated 
  • Brent and Flint in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, especially in the first two acts of the film. At first, Brent is everything Flint is not: famous and well-liked by the whole town, if not the smartest fish in the school. But once Flint's invention gets going, their positions flip, with Flint being cheered by the crowds and Brent largely forgotten.
  • Gru and Vector in Despicable Me. Gru was motivated by his "Well Done, Son!" Guy from his mother and became a Jerkass With A Heart Of Gold because of his desire to become an astronaut and go to the moon. Vector on the other hand isn't shown being motivated by anything and is a spoiled rich kid thanks to his father Mr Perkins. Gru struggled to get where he is and is legitimately talented and likes making friends (as seen with the Minions, Dr Nefario and eventually the girls). Vector doesn't have any real talent presumably getting all his technology from his dad, has a no non-aggressive contract with anyone except his father and no one is invited to his house. Even their houses play off of each other. Gru's house is normal, though slightly large and foreboding, with a secret underground lair and is between other houses. Vector's house just screams look at me! look at me! and is all alone.
  • For Beauty and the Beast, Disney gave the story an antagonist in the form of Gaston to contrast with the Beast, with the Beast being ugly (well, by humans standards, and that was before Furry Fandom exploded) but having a heart of gold and Gaston being handsome (somewhat) but having the heart of a pig. The earlier French film adaptation did something similar with Avenant, further driving the comparison home in the ending where Avenant turns into the Beast and the Beast turns into a handsome prince who looks suspiciously similar to Avenant.
  • Quite a few foils appear in Wreck-It Ralph:
    • First off, Ralph and Felix. The former is giant and destroys things while the latter is short and fixes things. Not to mention Felix is universally loved by everyone while Ralph isn't.
    • There is also the cheerful, Adorkable Felix with the cynical, rough Calhoun.
    • Ralph's Gentle Giant nature is contrasted with Vanellope's initial Bratty Half-Pint behavior, though they eventually get along and bond over their desire for acceptance.
    • The most major one would be Ralph and King Candy/Turbo, who is a dark reflection of what Ralph's dissatification could have led to. Both leave their game in order to take what they think is due but whereas Ralph is ultimately good-hearted and makes up for his mistakes, Turbo cares for no one except himself and never learned from his mistakes in attempting to take control of other games. Also, Ralph was the antagonist of his game but becomes a hero where Turbo started as the hero of his game but becomes a villain.
  • Ronin the seasoned warrior, to Nod, the rookie warrior in Epic.
  • Waternoose and Dean Hardscrabble from Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University respectively are excellent foils to each other. Both are people in a high position and rooted in the old ways of scaring. Dean Hardscrabble's cold, harsh personality and her demonic design contrasts Waternoose's grandfatherly, warm personality and his relatively harmless appearance. More about them is revealed throughout the films and Waternoose would go to extreme lengths (including kidnapping children) to support his company, while Dean Hardscrabble learned from her errors of prejudice. In the end, the kindly old man becomes hard and villainous, hindering the heroes but the strict headmistress becomes kinder, wishing Mike and Sulley good luck.
    • Mike and Sulley, especially in Monsters University. Mike is very knowledgeable and skilled in scare tactics and theory but lacks the physical appearance and instinct of a true scarer. Sulley is gifted at scaring, having the build and natural abilities but lacks the technical aspect. Not to mention how people react to them. Mike is mostly ignored or seen as a nuisance whereas Sulley attracts attention and others admire him.
    • The Scare Floor scene in the first film highlights how different Sulley and Randall are when it comes to their job. Sulley is clearly enjoying what he does, remains energetic even to the end and has great teamwork with his assistant/coach Mike. Randall on the other hand is obsessed with outdoing Sulley, seen being tired halfway into the job and shouting abuse at his assistant.
  • Kristoff and Hans are foils to each other in Frozen. Hans is a sensitive, gentleman prince who experiences Love at First Sight with Anna. Kristoff is a rugged ice harvester who's a bit of a grump and chastises Anna for getting engaged to someone she just met. When Hans is revealed as the true villain, the foils are switched around; Kristoff actually has a Hidden Heart of Gold and has genuine feelings for Anna while Hans was manipulating her to think he loved her the whole time.
    • Hans manages to be a Foil for almost every major character in the film as he is shown as an Evil Counterpart to several characters, such as Elsa, Olaf, and even the Duke and Anna herself.
    • Anna and Elsa, as a Sibling Yin-Yang.
  • Hiccup and the Big Bad Drago in How to Train Your Dragon 2. Both grew up fearing dragons before overcoming that fear and realizing that dragons could work with humans. They even both have artificial limbs;in contrast, Hiccup uses gentle touch and Drago uses a harsh boot. But whereas Hiccup is curious and compassionate with working together with dragons, Drago seeks to rule over them through fear and intimidation. Hiccup works as a team with his dragon while Drago commands and orders his dragon.
  • The Book of Life:
    • Manolo and Joaquin. Both are skilled in their respective talents, however Manolo is a Humble Hero, and Joaquin veers into The Fighting Narcissist. The two worry about living up to their fathers' expectations, except Manolo refuses to do so if it means killing the bull, but Joaquin will do anything, even using the Medal of Everlasting Life to do so.
    • Manolo and Xibalba. Both are Determinators concerned with gaining the favor of the women they love, but Xibalba is much shadier and willing to hurt others to achieve his goals, a sharp contrast to Nice Guy Manolo.
    • A rare marriage example with La Muerte and Xibalba. They are both Gods, but that's about the only thing they have in common. Xibalba thinks humanity is selfish and unnecessary creatures; he is made out of everything icky and slimey in the world, and therefore hated and/or feared by all. On the other hand, La Muerte believes that mankind is good. She is a colorful character made out of everything good and sweet in the world, and therefore beloved by all.
  • In Big Hero 6, Professor Callaghan and Krei are explicitly set up as foils at the expo, with Krei wanting to profit off of Hiro's invention while Callaghan wants Hiro to use his talents for something more.
    • Hiro and Yokai/Callaghan. Both are genius inventors who lost a loved one and most of their actions in the film were driven by their grief and need for revenge. However whereas Hiro learned to see the error in his actions and accept his loss, Callaghan was too mad by their grief to change and refused to let go of their bitterness. Also, Hiro was surrounded by friends and family who supported and helped him get through his depression while Callaghan kept their pain private and didn't tell anyone.
  • In The Lion King II: Simba's Pride, Vitani and Nuka are foils. Both grew up with an abusive, neglectful mother, and both were embittered by the experience. But Vitani takes the first opportunity she can to leave her mother, and grows up to be a respected member of the Outlander pride. Nuka never breaks away from his mother's beliefs and seeks validation through bullying others (eventually dying in an attempt to murder Simba).
  • Po and Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2. Both are the victims of traumatic pasts, Po witnessing the deaths of his mother and most of his species, and Shen being banished by his parents for causing it. But while Po eventually comes to grips with his past and moves on, Shen is consumed by his past and refuses to let go which ultimately gets him killed.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games emphasizes this, introducing the Shadowbolts who are introduced with Versus Character Splash. Of particular note is Human Twilight Sparkle contrasting to Sunset Shimmer. Besides being a Shrinking Violet loner contrast to Sunset Shimmer's tight circle of friends, she's a major contrast to Sunset's own path to villainy. Sunset was an Alpha Bitch who sought to use magic to dominate and was stopped by Pony Twilight Sparkle. Human Twilight Sparkle was driven to villainy by peer pressure and sought to understand magic.

    Film - Live Action 
  • The heart of much of the humor and drama in The Avengers is the similarities and differences of the leads.
    • Steve Rogers vs. Tony Stark: Both are tied to Howard Stark and motivated by a sense of American patriotism and to bring peace. But where Steve is idealistic, sweet-natured, well-mannered and uses his intelligence to defeat his enemies, Tony is cynical, snarkish, rude and rushes in to fight.
    • Bruce Banner vs. Tony Stark: Both are genius scientists with genuine respect for each other. They both have a dark side, but they have different personalities. Bruce is mild and cautious to control his id while Tony's flamboyance and irresponsibility are the tip of his self-destructive behavior.
    • Steve Rogers vs. Thor: Both are old-fashioned in ideals and aesthetics, initially unease on modern Earth and are driven with a sense of duty for their homeland.
    • Loki himself has traits that resonate or clash with each of the Avengers. He's from Asgard and of royalty (Thor). He's clever and loves theatrics (Tony). He manipulates emotions (Bruce). He blatantly disregards human life and freedom (Steve). He lacks empathy (Black Widow) and disregards free will (Hawkeye).
  • In Guardians of the Galaxy, Yondu Udonta serves as a foil to Thanos on a personal level. Both have a fearsome reputation, and "adopt" alien children and raise them to serve their own agendas (Peter as a Ravager and Gamora/Nebula as Thanos's personal muscle) and eventually their adopted kids betray both of them. However, Yondu genuinely cares about Peter and helps him out in the end, while Thanos tortured and abused Gamora and Nebula.
  • James Bond:
    • The World Is Not Enough: Elektra King and M are powerful women who have very different ways of exercising control within a patriarchal system. Elektra overuses her femininity to manipulate the men around her, whereas M suppresses her femininity to maintain her authority over her employees (especially male chauvinists like Bond); when handling Elektra's kidnapping, M even explicitly states that she went against her instincts as a mother.
    • Skyfall: Raoul Silvia has elements that make him similar to Bond, Q and even M. He was an MI6 agent who uses multiple gadgets like Bond. He's an expert hacker like Q. He makes very dark decisions and leads his organization like M.
  • Juice: Highlighted in an argument between Bishop and Q. While Bishop wants to gain respect through fear so that no one will mess with him, Q wants to earn respect legitimately (presumably through other passions like DJing).
  • In the Jurassic Park franchise, Owen Grady is basically a Good Counterpart to Robert Muldoon. Both are park employees hired to work with the raptors. The difference is Muldoon is a grim Kenyan Great White Hunter who views the Velociraptors as Worthy Opponents and wants them all exterminated, while Owen is a cheerful Fluffy Tamer who imprints on his Velociraptors and has a special relationship with them based on mutual respect.
  • In Pacific Rim, Mako and Chuck are both young and exceptionally talented pilots with varying issues with their fathers. Mako initially made a rude comment about Raleigh when she first meets him. Chuck was initially friendly with Raleigh (or as friendly Chuck could be) but when he found out Raleigh worked on the Kaiju Wall, he became rude and condescending to Raleigh. Whereas Mako immediately learned from her mistakes and treated Raleigh much nicer, it took Chuck a little longer to respect Raleigh.
  • The young, muscular, stupid and aggressive Daniel Lugo is hunted by the old, frail, cunning and even-tempered Ed Du Bois in Pain and Gain.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Rocky uses Paulie and Rocky as foils to each other over the entire franchise, with Rocky certainly seeming like a better man when next to Paulie.
    • Rocky exemplifies Dumb Is Good. Additionally, he is physically fit, generally well-meaning, learns from every encounter, optimistic, idealistic, and forgiving (especially of Paulie). Rocky has no envy and is genuinely welcoming to everyone. He earns success despite his limitations through very hard work and grit. He also shows off good ol' salt-of-the-earth working-class values. He treats Adrian with affection and rarely speaks ill of anyone.
    • Paulie is a lower-class scumbag. He is overweight and aging, violent, frequently drunk, jealous of Rocky and others, judgmental, racially intolerant, and prone to falling for get-rich-quick schemes. Paulie never learns no matter how often he is proven to be wrong. He frequently feels entitled despite showing no real merit and never being shown to work hard for what he wants. He lashes out often at Rocky despite riding Rocky's coat-tails to a better life. He is terrible to Adrian. Paulie also has a hell of a mouth, often taunting professional boxers face-to-face. Paulie is so scuzzy he makes it easier to forget that in the first movie, Rocky was a leg-breaker for a loan shark or bookie, and Paulie's conflict with Rocky was that Paulie wanted to be a leg-breaker while Rocky wanted out.
  • Luke Skywalker and Han Solo in Star Wars. The former is a young naive hero who trusts the Force, while the other is the older, cynical, streetwise anti-hero who prefers to trust his gut and some cold hard steel.
  • X-Men:
    • Pyro to Bobby.
    • Callisto to Storm, who she fights twice in X-Men: The Last Stand.
    • X-Men: First Class:
      • Shaw serves as one to Xavier. Both are doctors of genetics who are interested in maximizing Lehnsherr's potential, but whereas Sebastian uses torture to uncover his raw power, Charles utilizes emotional intimacy to give Erik greater control. Erik grows to love Charles as a brother, but vehemently opposes the latter's peaceful approach to human-mutant relations. Magneto wholly embraces Shaw's mutant supremacist views, but loathes the man for murdering his mother.
      • You can probably write a whole essay on how Charles and Erik contrast each other. Producer Bryan Singer gives us a very basic summary from the "Magneto the Survivor" featurette:
      "Ultimately, they come from different places. Erik Lehnsherr is a victim of the Holocaust, he probably left the war with nothing, and is very much a solitary man, while Xavier had a life of privilege, became a professor at Oxford, was surrounded by peers, has an intimate relationship with Mystique since childhood, so he's quite loved, and therefore quite idealistic, less embittered, and just has a very different view from Lehnsherr."
    • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
      • Both '70s and future Magneto contrast each other in the film. '70s Magneto continues to move forward with mutant supremacy and attacking Charles and his group, while future Magneto was fighting to protect both mankind and mutants while lamenting his pointless struggles with Charles in their younger years. Past Erik is very much on his own, but his elderly counterpart is a valuable team member.
      • Past Magneto and Past Xavier were both inactive and isolated in between 1963 and 1973 (the former due to imprisonment, the latter due to depression). Erik shows signs of wanting to repair some of their previous friendship, but a bitter Charles isn't interested for the most part. Magneto tries to kill Mystique while Xavier tries to protect her. Hank remains unwaveringly devoted to Charles, but Erik loses Mystique's loyalty after the murder attempt. In X-Men: First Class, Erik personified "rage" while Charles embodied "serenity," but their roles are reversed in 1973. Xavier is now the one who is full of pain and anger, and therefore has great trouble wielding his telepathy, whereas Magneto is (relatively) calm and controlled, still possessing great mastery over his power despite being deprived of metal for a decade. (We even see Erik adopt a meditation pose in his prison cell, which makes him appear almost Zen-like.)
      • Wolverine and the younger Magneto are violent individuals who love Xavier, but whereas Jerk with a Heart of Gold Logan possesses Undying Loyalty towards Charles, Jerk with a Heart of Jerk Erik is quick to betray him.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A recipe for many a tag team. Either there is very little to differentiate the two, sometimes not even that much or there is some immediate difference everyone with sight can see.
  • Jacqueline served to show how reserved Ivory had become in Right To Censor, how much more of the boys she was with the Kat, who was a Girly Girl and how much more fun she was to be around compared to snobish tease Traci Brooks. In the latter case, James Storm and Bobby Roode were also foils as Slobs Vs Snobs, only they worked together as "Beer Money".
  • In Ring of Honor, The Carnage Crew were given the rich, disrespectful burnouts Special K to feud with, in order to better get the blue collar audience to identify with them. This backfired as the ROHbots hated both groups.
  • This trope was basically the angle of the Wrestlemania XXV match between The Undertaker and Shawn Michaels. The Heartbreak Kid cast himself as the "Light" that is fated to defeat the "Darkness" embodied by the evil Deadman, and consequently end the latter's legendary winning streak.

  • The Phantom of the Opera: Erik portrays dark and passion, Raoul light and clear thinking.
  • In Wicked, Galinda and Elphaba. Galinda acts like a stereotypical blonde, pretty, popular, and not much going on in her head. Elphaba is (viewed as) ugly and a bookworm. Elphaba is also much more responsible and mature, and when faced with a discovery that turns their world upside-down, one spreads the word, reputation be damned, and one uses it to her advantage.
  • William Shakespeare has many, many foils in his plays (appropriate since he's going for dramatic effect):
    • In Hamlet, Fortinbras, the Prince of Norway is a foil to Hamlet, having none of the latter's introspection when it comes to avenging his father's death. Another classic example of Hamlet's foil is his friend, Horatio, whose level-headedness clearly serves as foil to Hamlet's rash nature.
    • Several other characters serve as a foil to Hamlet as well. Before they engage in the climactic swordfight, Hamlet describes himself as a foil to Laertes ("I'll be your foil, Laertes: in mine ignorance your skill shall, like a star i' the darkest night,stick fiery off indeed."). Of course, it is in fact the other way around, and Laertes can tell that Hamlet is mocking him. This passage may be the Trope Namer.
      • Hamlet is also making a play on words, since "foil" is the term for the flexible sword-like weapons used in fencing practice.
    • Macbeth has Macbeth and Macduff, and (more obviously) Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff.
    • Falstaff is the foil to either Prince Hal's father, Henry IV, in the King Henry plays. And oh, what a foil he is.
      • In Henry IV, Part 1 Hal has a foil in the form of Henry Hotspur, who's everything Hal's supposed to be but isn't.
    • Mercutio is Romeo's foil: he's brash, upbeat and joking while Romeo is always moping and mooning around.
    • Arguably, Caliban and Ariel are foils for each other, or they're both foils for different sides of Prospero (id and superego, respectively). Caliban is ugly, crude, hated by Prospero, not too smart, and an unwilling slave; Ariel is airy, graceful, beloved by Prospero, and serves with his best efforts (at least until his contract is up).* In Antony and Cleopatra, the two nations of Rome and Egypt play foil to each other, with Rome with a superego, duty before self set of ideals while Egypt is far more hedonistic and leans towards the id.
  • In Sweeney Todd, Anthony Hope is clearly meant as a foil to Todd.. Also, to a lesser degree, Johanna and Mrs. Lovett. Both are madwomen, but have entirely different ways of expressing their issues.
  • In Dorothy L Sayers' The Emperor Constantine, Helena awaits the arrival of the ex-husband who divorced her for a political match, and then took her son away when he was eleven, with calm and dignity, while her elderly servant fumes over the indignities she was subjected to. (Thus also making clear what it takes for her to be calm and dignified.)
  • Ariel and Tupolski from The Pillowman are constantly at odds. Even when Tupolski starts getting aggressive with executing Katurian, it's immediately after Katurian is revealed to have never murdered any children. Ariel, originally being depicted as ready to kill Katurian at the word, backs down completely at that point.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Tau Empire of Warhammer 40,000 serves as one to the Imperium of Man. While the Imperium is ancient, impossibly vast and slowly decaying, the Tau Empire is comparatively young, small and on a meteoric rise. They also serve as a foil to every other established race to a lesser extent: while other races use traditional, Fantasy Counterpart Culture inspired weapons and tactics, the Tau use modern military tactics and futuristic weapons in modern ways; they have Mini-Mecha with jump-packs and foot soldiers with plasma rifles, rather than, say, guys with chainsaw-swords and Powered Armor, or massive bayonet charges supported with artillery fire. Most notably, though, is that they inject a sense of hope and optimism in the otherwise deeply cynical Black And Gray Crapsack World that is the setting. All of these combine to make them a bit of a Base Breaker among the fandom.
  • The Zefra archetype in the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG is a foil to the Qliphort. Both archetypes are named after concepts from Judaism and focus on Pendulum Monsters. However, the Qliphort uses Pendulum Summon alongside Tribute summon while the Zefra uses it with Ritual, Fusion, Synchro, and Xyz summon.

  • The following quote comes from this The Order of the Stick strip, featuring Jirix and the Anti-Villain Redcloak talking about their Card-Carrying Villain partner Xykon. Coincidentally, this strip occurs just after several in which the paladin O-Chul and Redcloak had served as different but excellent foils for each other.
    Jirix: But... aren't we all on the same side?
    Redcloak: That is a complicated question ... Our alliance with Xykon is one of the most powerful tools we have, and we cannot afford to screw that up. That does NOT mean we should trust him. I know he seems funny and charming, but believe me, when you see for yourself the depths to which he'll sink, you will never sleep well again.
  • Com'c: Block and Krixwell are contrasts to each others. For example, while Block has yet to even smile in the comic (although he does have a slight smile or three in the December 2013 calendar), Krixwell has yet to say something without smiling.note 
  • In Gunnerkrigg Court, Zimmy and Gamma, "two strange girls", work as a pair of foils to the main characters Annie and Kat, the other "strange girls". Jack is Kat's own foil: both are technical-minded, curious and slightly mischievous people who have a dramatic meeting with the supernatural world. Kat is baffled but eager to understand it, while Jack becomes suspicious and frustrated after a traumatic experience with psychic powers.
    • James Eglamore's close female friends Surma Stibnite and (miss) Jones: Surma was a literal Fiery Red Head while Jones has compared herself to a stone because she claims to feel has no emotions she's also existed since the earth was a ball of lava and cannot be harmed much less killed while Surma died young. Hilariously James cannot fathom why his ex Surma liked, let alone married Anthony Carver while he's perfectly happy being friends with Jones.
    • Reynardine the fox and Ysengrin the wolf: Rey is trapped in a plush wolf, likes humans, and has become friends with his "master" Annie; Ysengrin willingly asked his master Coyote, who is constantly insulting him and eating his memories for a humanoid exo-skeleton so he can be stronger (ironically Ysengrin hates most humans and his dependance on the armor appears to be atrophying his real body).
      • Reynardine and Hetty, who despises her "master" and wants to kill him to be free Hetty's "master" is a young boy who has no idea Hetty exists and it's implied Hetty killed his sister, her original master. Rey's real form is a land-dwelling mammal (fox) while Hetty's appears to be a water-dwelling crustacean (shrimp).
    • Smitty and Parley: She's tall, physical, and can randomly teleport; he's short, intellectual, and can manipulate probability to "make things boring".
  • In The Indefensible Positions we have Foil (no pun intended) and Frank. It's revealed that Foil was Frank's imaginary friend. After they split up, without him Frank's personality was changed to completely opposite of Foil's.
  • In Agents of the Realm, Norah and Adele. While the former is antisocial and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, the latter is outgoing, friendly and cheerful once she's past her homesickness.
  • Shadowgirls: On one side we have Becka McKay - dark hair, rock-style clothes, Chain of Command and Cool Loser with golden heart. On the other side there's Misty Snow - blonde and very popular girl, typical combination of Spoiled Brat and the Alpha Bitch. Similarly with their mothers - Charon McKay and Christmas Snow. Two Eldritch Abominations that lives inside them, Shadowchild and Mother Hydra.
  • Lightbringer, a superhero who believes in an objective morality and bent on doing the right thing; and Darkbringer, a supervillain who believes in an objective morality and finds Lightbringer to have misplaced what is right and wrong.
  • In The Dreamer, there are several foils: Alexander and Alan, Alan, and Nathan, Beatrice, and Alan, Yvette and Liz, Beatrice and Yvette, Beatrice and Liz, and Ben and Alan.
  • In Girl Genius, Gil and Tarvek are increasingly making foils of themselves. Tarvek is a well-bred, thoughtful, mannerly aristocrat; Gil is an energetic, sometimes rash, son of a self-risen dictator. They both are in love with Agatha, they're both powerful sparks, and they both want to "ally with" the last Heterodyne and bring peace to Europa — but in different ways. They were also friends at school and now they apparently hate each other.
  • Squid Row: Randie has an organized goal-setting friend who tries to persuade her out of her lack of planning.
  • Tedd and Susan of El Goonish Shive were foils for each other early on; Tedd emphasizing Susan's Straw Feminism and Susan emphasizing Tedd's perversion. Gradually due to Character Development they became more like Vitriolic Best Buds instead.
  • In Bobwhite, Ivy goes to the library at Redding University (rival to Bobwhite University) and gets annoyed by three guys. Marlene and Cleo realized that these guys are the evil reverse-gender doppelgangers of themselves (though Ivy interjects that her supposed counterpart really looks nothing like her). Which makes things kind of weird when Ivy later starts dating one of these guys (the one who's pretty much a male version of Marlene).
  • Many, many possible constructions in Homestuck, given the enormous character roster.
    • The concept of moirallegiance (a friendly relationship characterised by complementing or pacifying the other member's extremes) seems to lend itself to this relationship. No wonder the symbol for it is a diamond.
      • Feferi, the highest in the caste system, is friendly and just wants to help everyone and barely manages to keep Eridan's genocidal urges in check.
    • John, Terezi, Kanaya and Jade manage to bring out the sensitivity behind Karkat's apoplectic rage.
    • John's unassuming trust and friendliness to Vriska's casual sociopathy; it actually has quite the effect on her and makes her reconsider her ways.
    • Rose's shrewdly analytic mind in cutting through Dave's coolkid persona.
    • Rose and Kanaya's different brands of "snarky horseshit."
    • Dave is a stoic Deadpan Snarker, while Terezi laughs at everything and is cheerfully weird, and where Dave is cynical but honest, Terezi is a Magnificent Bastard Guile Hero.
    • Kankri was intended to represent the worst of social justice bloggers (being overly obsessed with details, giving sermons instead of having conversations, being generally arrogant and consescending) and Porrim the best (articulating her point clearly and concisely, sorting through bullshit and real problems, and generally having a life outside social justice).
    • John and Rose have foils in Tavros and Vriska, who could be described as "John and Rose if they grew up on a dystopian Death World." John and Tavros are both Breath heroes with similarly sweet, naive, trusting, and amiable personalities; Rose and Vriska are both Light heroes who exhibit questionable morality and get played by Doc Scratch even while they're trying to play him.
    • Jade has Kanaya (both Space players, both had highly unusual guardians, woke up early on Prospit, and have similar theme colors).
    • Dave and Karkat serve as foils to each other, both being mouthy smart-alecs (in totally different ways) who use snark to cover for their raging inferiority complexes. They're both Knights, have red as their color motif, and even have similar taste in girls (Terezi, Jade).
    • The B2 kids serve as foils to the B1 kids, especially Dirk/Dave and Roxy/Rose, and the A1 dancestors do the same for the A2 trolls, especially Kankri/Karkat, Latula/Terezi, Aranea/Vriska, and Rufioh/Tavros.
    • Expanded upon a bit with the B2 kids, who later act like the B1 kids post-Character Development. Roxy is initially a Foil to Rose, though later becomes one to Dave, with Dirk foiling Rose. Jane mostly foils against John - their love of pranks, living up to their past generations, and their happy-go-lucky personalities - with Jake foiling Jade, mostly in their upbringing and whimsical, detached hammy personalities.
  • There are three main foil types in the main adventuring group in Our Little Adventure. Angelika and Rocky are one, Julie and Lenny are another, and Julie and Angelika make the third.
  • Sinfest's Percy and Pooch: arrogant, bored, and cynical vs. humble and excitable.
  • Kerri and Terri are foils for each other in Misguided Light. Kerri is the friendly ditz, and Terri is the grouchy one with a brain.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe: roommmates and teammates Chaka and Fey are definitely foils for each other. One's black while the other's white, one's hyper and the other's calm, one's human and the other one's mostly Sidhe, ...
    • Also, Solange is a foil to Phase, since Solange is the Rich Bitch that Phase could have easily been.
  • In We Are Our Avatars, Selim Bradley the Homunculus of Pride from Fullmetal Alchemist and Selim Bradley from the 2003 anime version are polar opposites; the two have bad chemistry together.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: Goku and Freeza. Freeza's cool and collected demeanor takes Goku's Idiot Hero personality Up To Eleven.
  • Ultra Fast Pony, "Hippocratic Oafs". In the source material, Trixie was already Twilight's Shadow Archetype. Here, the two of them are shown to be exactly the same—Trixie is even renamed Blue Twilight—in order to highlight the absurdity of Ponyville treating the two of them differently.
    Twilight: There's no such pony as Blue Twilight!
    Blue Twilight: Everyone look at my magical skills. I don't need friends!
    Twilight: Holy crap, it really is blue me!
  • In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, both Mr Collins and Darcy are initially disliked by Lizzie due to certain personality traits but eventually make their peace with her. Whereas Darcy knows what to say but not how to say it, Collins talks a lot but says very little.
  • RWBY: Jaune and Pyrrha. Pyrrha is a very intelligent and competent warrior who has garnered some in-universe fame for her exploits, i.e, a classical hero. Jaune is an unassuming young man who has a famous legacy, but unfortunately for him has inherited none of his famous ancestor's skill or courage, and so much of his Character Development is about him trying to become like Pyrrha and trying to live up to his ancestor's fame, while also dealing with a deep seated personal shame that he cheated his way into Beacon Academy.
    • It's later revealed that Pyrrha is exceedingly lonely because her fame isolates her, and finds it difficult to express herself emotionally. They both have self-esteem issues, they just deal with them differently. Which adds to the example. Ironically, they both want to be what the other is: Pyrrha is a famous heroic badass who is sick of people putting her on a pedestal and just wants to be a normal person with a normal life i.e Jaune, and Jaune is an unassuming guy with a legacy of heroic badassery he feels he needs to try to fulfill i.e Pyrrha.
    • Winter and Yang are both older siblings who care about their young siblings and specialize in dual-wielding melee weapons but that is where the similarities stop. Winter is cold and distant to Weiss, maintaining an air of refinement and is associated with the cold. Yang openly loves Ruby, is playful and is associated with warmth.
    • Winter and Qrow. She is aloof and very formal, interacting awkwardly with Weiss and keeping her at an arm's length. Qrow is nonchalant and snarky, tousling Ruby's hair, fist-bumping her and treating her affectionately.
  • The War Comms have several examples of this:
    • Lucy Bennet and Shannon Blake. Both are starry-eyed teenage girls prone to crushing on fictional characters and writing self-insert fanfiction. But where Lucy is immature, oversensitive and delusional, Shannon is mature, sensible and well-grounded in reality.
    • Trisha Grant and Candy are both preps. Trisha is a classic Alpha Bitch, while Candy is kind and helpful to others.
    • Raye Lynn and Cassie Ironbachs, the former with a strong anti-hero preference and the latter preferring side characters to mains. However, while Cassie bashes mains every chance she gets Raye Lynn prefers to focus her energy on loving her favorites.
    • Heather Foreman and Molly Nevins are a combination of this and Shadow Archetype, both being insecure redheads who get picked on a lot. Molly Apologizes a Lot and genuinely feels responsible for her plights, causing others to want to look out for her even if she deems it unnecessary. But Heather is very vocal in feeling persecuted and unloved, blaming her problems on mean girls at school and her mother, which causes people to be stingier with their sympathy for her.
    • Cousins Patrick and James Wells are both slight, brown-haired gay teenagers who favor yaoi. James is a fragile Ill Boy who needs constant care, but hates feeling like a burden and tries to take on as much as he can by himself. Patrick is physically healthy but mentally unstable, tries to appear more delicate than he is for sympathy points.
    • Esmeralda Iceworth and Lily Haverlock. Both are old-fashioned and mainly ship traditional couples, but while Lily is polite about her preferences and a classic Proper Lady, Esmeralda is bossy, entitled and actually a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing.
      • Mark Keller is also this to Esmeralda, both shipping the traditional couples and favoring happy endings. But while Mark actively seeks out and writes what he wants to see and avoids what he doesn't, Esmeralda will read things she dislikes just to complain about them.
    • Marion LeRoy and Josephine Thompson are mothers who will go to great lengths to protect their children. But while Marion does it via smacking down assholes who deserve it, Josephine does it via trying to shut down anything above a G rating.