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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 is someone who highlights another character's trait, usually by contrast, but sometimes by competing with him, hanging a lampshade, making snarky remarks, or egging him on.

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 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 

    Anime and Manga 

  • Lina and Sylphiel, Zelgadis and Amelia, and Xellos and Filia, all of Slayers.
  • Aldnoah.Zero: Two of the show's three main characters, Inaho and Slaine, who are caught on opposing sides of the war between the human factions on Earth and Mars. Inaho is a Child Prodigy from earth who's tactical skills and calm logic get him some serious victories against the martians, and a reputation as a Red Baron of sorts; he never overreacts and always aproaches a situation rationally. Slaine, while originally from earth, is fighting for the Martians and operates mostly on emotion. Even when this seems to work for him, it so far has never failed to come back to bite him. The two characters both want to protect the Martian Princess. Inaho wants to simply because getting her safely back to Mars can end the war; Slaine wants to because he loves her. Inaho has many friends and their respect. Slaine is constantly looked down upon by his peers for his Terran heritage. As the show goes on, Inaho racks up constant victories, while almost everything Slaine does (even when he saves the day) shows that No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
  • While most obviously, Lelouch and Suzaku are foils of each other, an argument could be made that Diethard is also a foil to Lelouch, being a Britannain aristocrat who at the beginning of the series expresses a similar dissatisfaction with Britannian society. However, whereas Lelouch is very active in enforcing change (for good or ill), Diethard is more of a cheerleader for change and pretty much joins La Résistance because it seems interesting and midway through R2 betrays Lelouch when Prince Schneizel seems to be a more captivating leader. In episode 24 of the series right before he is killed, he is shown enthusiastically supporting Schneizel's plan to nuke cities around the world in order to bring "peace".
  • Kyon and Haruhi have such opposing character traits, philosophies, attitudes, etc., that there are significant amounts of Wild Mass Guessing supposing that they are some sort of "foil-power". Or Haruhi chose Kyon exactly because he balances her out. Or opposites just attract. Or they are gods of chaos and order. Pick one, if you like.
    • However, when you add Sasaki, it looks more like Haruhi and Sasaki are foils whereas Kyon is the middleground. Haruhi believes in the supernatural and represents chaos but also creativity, freedom, spontaneity and change. Sasaki believes in logic and opposes emotions while representing order but also conformity, oppression and stability/consistency.
    • Kyon and Haruhi are foils to each other, but their characters are more complex than these arguments suggest, and the foil is correspondingly more elaborate. Kyon is always going on and on about how he'd like an ordinary world, yet he's secretly delighted at the fact that there are aliens, time travelers and espers. Haruhi acts like she's completely convinced that aliens, time travelers and espers exist, but this is a form of denial of her skepticism that they do, and a way of avoiding her disappointment at the ordinariness of her life.
    • Yuki and Ryōko, from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The former is an apparent Emotionless Girl who actually does posses deeply held emotions which she is just incapable of expressing; the latter is a bright and cheery girl who, beneath her stepford smile, is completely void of any real human emotions.
  • Medaka Box: Similarly, the two leads Medaka and Zenkichi are good foils; Medaka is determined, heroic, and altruistic, but also masks destructive and monstrous tendencies and some levels of cynicism. Zenkichi presents himself as her cynical partner who gets dragged around and merely supports, but he hides determination and empathy which are are a similarly invaluable asset.
    • Later Kumagawa Misogi is introduced, providing the most prominent antithesis to Medaka and to a lesser extent Zenkichi. While Medaka is the ideal heroine who constantly wins and gains allies, Kumagawa continually runs into failures and never truly wins. In contrast to Zenkichi, Kumagawa continually brings people to his level while Zenkichi works as hard as he can to catch up to the extraordinary people around him.
  • Cowboy Bebop: Spike and Vicious. Spike prefers guns, explosives, and martial arts to outwit his opponents; Vicious prefers to just use his sword. Spike wishes to leave the Syndicate and let time take it's toll, Vicious wishes to return the Syndicate to what he knew.
  • Inuyasha and Naraku from InuYasha are foils in every aspect. Inuyasha is hot-headed and impulsive, while Naraku is calm, level-headed, and generally avoids fights whenever he can. A more dramatic foil is that, at first, both of them wanted to use the Shikon-no-Tama (Jewel of Four Souls) to become full blooded youkai, but both ended up giving up that idea. Inuyasha gave up that because even though he wanted to grow stronger, he realized that it would mean he would lose his human feelings and likely kill everyone he cared about. Naraku, on the other hand, hated his human feelings but realised he needed them to be able to manipulate and destroy the bonds between people. Lampshaded in the manga itself when Inuyasha observes that while he used his nature to strengthen bonds, Naraku's used his to destroy them.
  • Pokémon has this as well. Ash is impulsive and governs with his heart, while Paul is always more in control and strongly favors cold logic. This was pretty much the basis of their rivalry, mainly with them disagreeing on how it was appropriate to train Pokémon.
  • Part 1 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has Robert E.O. Speedwagon and Dio Brando. Both were born to abject poverty, but Dio craved wealth and fortune and was willing to go to any lengths to attain it, including becoming a vampire and expanding his scope to Take Over the World, before ultimately dying at the hands of his nemesis's descendant. Speedwagon, meanwhile, took to petty crime to support his family, accompanied Jonathan Joestar in his travels after he won his respect, and went on to become rich when he struck oil in the desert, his fortunes going to fund research in medicine and science.
  • Digimon has this all over the place:
    • In Digimon Adventure, Tai and Matt are both take-charge guys, but with Matt being more thoughtful while Tai is a major hothead.
    • Idiot Hero Davis and one his two Lancers T.K. sometimes had this dynamic in Digimon Adventure 02.
    • Digimon Tamers had Rika, who served as a foil to both the bleeding heart Takato and the pacifist Henry.
    • Takuya and Kouji's relationship in Digimon Frontier is very similar to Tai and Matt's in Adventure.
    • Digimon Savers takes this a step further with Marcus and Thomas, who not only have the brazen / respectful dichotomy, but also a Idiot Hero / Smart Guy one and a slack-off / dutiful one, too.
    • As a general rule, each partner Digimon is designed to be a foil to their human partner, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and faults at almost every turn.
  • Monster has several of the side characters with A Day in the Limelight subplot blatantly mirror the protagonist's quest in some way. The village doctor is what Tenma could have become had he married Eva. Richard Braun is what Tenma would have become if he had shot Johan without any question to his past. Milan Kolash is the Tenma who goes through with the murder. Johan also has foils in the form of Nina and Dieter.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion uses the mechanic a lot. The most obvious example is Rei and Asuka - their personalities are diametric opposites in a Red Oni, Blue Oni dynamic, which is further emphasized by their reversed appearances (red eyes and short blue hair, blue eyes and long red hair). Shinji falls somewhere between them in temperament, and so serves as a foil to both. Several scenes draw a parallel between Asuka's and Shinji's relationship and Misato's and Kaji's. Ritsuko contrasts directly with Misato. The series has a Geodesic Cast, with several similar groups set up to compare and contrast.
    • To an extent, the Angels as a whole are a Foil to the "Humans" that inhabit the Earth. They usually embody and symbolize either a trait that their opposition has in abundance or lacking in, or reveal a trait which they have suppressed. Fitting, since they're literally Humans that rejected our Human Forms which metaphorically took a different Path of Life since before Creation.
      • Not quite they have different origins, creatures created from the seed of life vs those created from the seed of knowledge. It's All There in the Manual. Even though, originally they were souls of citizens of the same world.
    • While Kaworu can immediately be identified as on to Rei due to the two of them being Adam and Lilith vessels, he was explicitly designed to be one to Shinji. This gets further emphasized in Rebuild of Evangelion, due to an increased emphasis on their roles as unique Impact triggers, the physical contrast (hair, eyes, reversed plug colors, body language, Kaworu's love for change and Shinji's fear of change, Kaworu's blind trust vs Shinji's mistrust) which are placed in similar circumstances, including rebellion against their manipulative guardians: SEELE and Gendo.
  • Most of the pairs in The World God Only Knows seem to be designed to be foils of one kind or another. Tenri is passive and shy while Diana is pushy and proactive. Vulcan highlights Tsukiyo's cool elegance and emotional reserve, while on the devil side of things you can make similar comparisons between Haqua and Yukie, Elsie and Keima and possibly even Nora and Ryou. (And between Elsie and Haqua, for that matter.)
  • School Rumble
  • Tsugawa and Kudo in Japan Inc. Tsugawa is your typical ruthless manager, Kudo is the social guy who thinks about the employees.
  • The two recurring antagonists of Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Duelist Kingdom arc are Maximillion Pegasus (tournament host, Manipulative Bastard, Chessmaster, Gentleman Snarker and Squishy Wizard) and "Bandit" Keith Howard (a Smug Snake and Jerk Ass who'd be The Brute if he wasn't self-employed). Keith's arrogance, underestimation of his opponents, reliance on beating people up, and his belief that the world owes him something contrast nicely with Pegasus, who plays a much longer game, knows he'll have to work towards his goals, and relies on magic and manipulation over brute force. They do not get along.
  • Guts and Griffith in Berserk.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni has Mion (tomboy with a hidden girly side) and Shion (girly exterior with hidden sadist within). Brought up most in Wataganashi-hen and Meakashi-hen.
  • The two main characters of Kuroko no Basuke serve as foils for each other: Kuroko, a short, physically weak specialist player and a stoic Deadpan Snarker; and Kagami, a tall, naturally talented power player and a Hot-Blooded Idiot Hero.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL has Gauche and Droite (whose names contrast, being "Left" and "Right" in French). Gauche is very Hot-Blooded and his dueling style is aggressive and relies on brute force. Droite is an Ice Queen and her dueling style is passive and relies on weakening and manipulating her opponent. Despite their differences, they care about each other very much and are a nearly unstoppable tag-team.
  • Given that they're both Ace Pilot Newtypes and technical designers with Ambiguous Disorders, poor social skills, and immense Psychic Powers it isn't hard to see Zeta Gundam's Big Bad Paptimus Scirocco as an older, more jaded, and cynical version of protagonist Kamille Bidan. The difference is in how they deal with their issues—Kamille slowly gets over his problems and learns how to deal with other people, while Scirocco simply develops his Mind Rape skills to the point where he doesn't have to be good at interacting with others.
    • Jerid Messa is also a foil to Kamille. They're both young, arrogant, ace pilots with a chip on their shoulder and something to prove. Jerid's Jerk Jock persona makes for a marked contrast with Kamille's Insufferable Genius, while his desire for promotions and personal glory, and weak Newtype status, set him apart from the genuinely committed, frighteningly powerful Kamille.
  • In Fruits Basket, the Honda family (Tohru, Kyoko, and Katsuya) serve as foils to the head of the Sohma family (Akito, Ren, and Akira). When Kyoko learned that she was pregnant, she considered aborting it because she would rather not have a baby than have a baby and give it a miserable life by being a bad mother. Katsuya talks it over with her, and they eventually reach an agreement that she'll have the baby and they'll work together to be good parents and treat the child like a person. After Tohru is born, the three are a close-knit family. After Katsuya dies, Kyoko works hard to be a loving, supportive mother for Tohru. Because of all of this, Tohru grows up to be a kind, understanding person, who doesn't try to force her will on others and tries to make her way through the world. When Ren found out she was pregnant, she uses the threat of an abortion to emotionally manipulate her husband into agreeing to raise their daughter as a boy. When Akito was born, the family began to drift apart, as Ren became jealous of the attention her husband was showing to their kid. After Akira died, Ren became insanely emotionally abusive towards Akito. As a result, Akito grew up being clingy and frightened of the world, which was hidden underneath a controlling and dominating attitude.
  • Bleach:
    • The reason Choujirou became Yamamoto's Number Two is because he made a conscious decision to become Yamamoto's foil.
    Choujirou: 'As a member of your school, I would only be able to imitate you. The role of a right-hand man should be to compensate for those areas which you cannot address!'
    • Iba and Ikkaku. Ikkaku is a Blood Knight who refuses to reveal the fact that he knows bankai to anyone else to avoid having to leave the like-minded 11th Company, even if it means losing a fight or dying. By contrast, Iba chose to improve his kido and leave the 11th Company to become a Lieutenant to please his mother, and is willing to run away or use underhanded tactics to carry out his duties.
    • Ichigo and Uryuu, and their fathers Isshin and Ryuuken. Both pairs embody the shinigami/Quincy contrast and have parallel plotlines. Lampshaded when Isshin and Ryuuken agree they're both lousy fathers, but that Isshin's worse.
    • Yhwach and Ryuken. Yhwach is the black-themed First Quincy, while Ryuken is the white-themed Last Quincy. For all that he claims to hate violence, Yhwach is aggressive, abusive, and surrounds himself with subordinates he cruelly mistreats. For all his protestations of detachment, Ryuken is gentle and caring, and distances himself from those he loves for their own protection. Yhwach thrives on wholesale slaughter; Ryuuken has devoted his life to medicine and healing.
  • In Sangatsu no Lion, two characters both serve as foils for Rei Kiriyama, the frequently morose protagonist who is lacking drive in shogi and his life in general. Harunobu Nikaidou is his foil in terms of philosphy and ideals, while Hinata Kawamoto is his foil in terms of general emotional disposition. Their personalities are used to emphasize the traits that Rei himself lacks.
  • Manabe to Haruka in Kotoura-san. Who better to accompany a mind reader than a guy who says exactly what he thinks?
  • In Girls und Panzer, a few pairs exist.
    • Yukari and Erika are fans of Miho and Maho, respectively, although it's implied that Yukari's admiration for Miho is as a person, and Erika's admiration for Maho is mainly due to her association with the Nishizumi school.
    • In the Little Army manga, Emi is a disagreeable and often brutally honest girl who says whatever is on her mind even if it causes trouble with others (one example is how much she dislikes Miho's older sister for defeating her older sister's team by shooting her flag tank when it went to rescue another). One of Maho's teammates from the manga sucks up to her despite bickering with another member of the team, who believes her doing so is insincere and self-serving.
    • Yuri Isuzu (Hana's mother) and Shiho Nishizumi (Miho and Maho's mother). Both disapprove of their daughters doing tankery to the point of disowning them, but while Shiho believes Miho is doing it for the wrong reasons, Yuri doesn't like Hana doing it. Additionally, Yuri is, on the most part, a warmer and kinder mother than Shiho, if also considerably more emotional, and argues that Hana's flower arrangement is good as it is in response to Hana's saying that she felt there was something lacking from it, while Shiho considers Miho a disgrace to the family.
    • Kay of Saunders and Anchovy of Anzio. The former detests cheating and dirty tactics, sending in half of her forces when she learns that one of her subordinates has been intercepting radio communications, which backfired on them to keep things fair, and believes Tankery is something that should be enjoyed and done with sportsmanship. Anchovy takes Tankery as Serious Business and believes winning matters more than anything else, to the point of angrily accusing Miho of throwing away victory when she abandoned her tank to save the crew of another in the last tournament. The contrast becomes more interesting when you consider that in the anime, Anzio's fight takes place off screen, while in the manga, it is shown in its entirety while the fight with Saunders is reduced to the final shot.
  • In Mai-HiME, Shizuru and Haruka contrast with one another. Shizuru is a calm, polite Ojou who is highly popular in the school and in love with her best friend Natsuki, but believes her feelings are improper. Haruka has a Hair-Trigger Temper, her family is Nouveau Riche, she only got twelve votes in the election, and is the subject of possible unrequited love by her best friend Yukino, but implies she finds homosexuality disgusting.
  • In Muhyo And Roji, Muhyo was (and still is) a Brilliant but Lazy Insufferable Genius with a heart of gold, while Enchu was a hard-working Nice Guy while they were in the academy. This also applies between Enchu and Yoichi, who was another member of their group of friends; when Muhyo's talent became clear, Yoichi realized that he couldn't hope to catch up to him, but Enchu never gave up, and fell into madness after losing the Executor position to Muhyo soon after losing his mother.
  • Black Lagoon: Rock and Revy provide an interesting contrast; the hardened, cynical Blood Knight who loves money and the mild-mannered, idealistic, Guile Hero businessman. What makes it notable is that in some ways they gradually switch roles; Revy begins showing a few more heroic tendencies, while Rock becomes much more jaded, seeing his heroics as more of a game.
  • Bakuman。 features many characters with contrasting personalities and approaches to manga.
    • The main characters and Eiji Nizuma form a Technician And Performer duo, and the pros and cons of each are detailed at length. The main characters carefully calculate whatever they do, whereas Eiji draws whatever comes to mind, making them best suited to cult and mainstream hits, respectively. Eventually, when launching their fourth and second series, respectively, they begin implementing elements of the other type of series, with Eiji going cult and the main characters going mainstream.
    • As couples, Mashiro and Azuki are this to Takagi and Miyoshi. Mashiro and Azuki get engaged in the first chapter, but decide not to see each other again until they fulfill their dreams, at which point they'll get engaged (they end up seeing each other a few times, but they ultimately keep to the promise until they finally succeed). By contrast, Takagi and Miyoshi get married less than halfway through the series, and frequently comment on Mashiro and Azuki's romanticism.
    • Hattori and Miura. Hattori is more experienced, calmer and willing to engage in long-term planning with his writers, working for months or years to generate a hit series. By contrast, Miura can get personally invested in his work, and he often feels under pressure to get a hit going soon, lest he get fired or transferred.
    • Moriya and Shiratori. Moriya is under the belief that mangaka should aim for maximum artistic value, even at the expense of popularity. Shiratori, however, sees art as something everyone can enjoy for a small price, and that artists should strive to be popular.
  • Kafuka (the ultimate optimist) to Itoshiki (the ultimate pessimist) in Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei.
  • In Saki
    • Touka and Momo. The former is obsessed with standing out as much as possible. The latter has grown up while being unnoticed by most people, and has accepted that, but wants to be acknowledged and appreciated most by her friend and senpai, Yumi.
    Momo: (regarding Touka) She must be an outrageous self-interested showboat. (regarding Nodoka) And she has body parts that have more personality than herself. (regarding herself) Then there is the antithesis of such people.
    • The Miyanaga and Matsumi sisters nicely contrast. The Miyanaga sisters were close in their childhood until a tragedy involving the death of a third girl the two of them were close to, at which point their parents separated, Teru stopped talking to Saki and Teru denied even having a sister. By contrast, the Matsumi sisters are very close, with Kuro protecting her older sister Yuu from bullies, while Yuu resolves to gain back any points Kuro loses so that she doesn't feel guilty.
    • Hiroe and Kyouko, in terms of playing style, as summed up by Hiroe.
    Hiroe: "You see, while I have never started a mahjong game even considering the possibility of losing, Kyouko constantly thinks about losing, even to weaker opponents. She derives her strength from that carefulness. That's Kyouko in a nutshell."
    • Hisa and Kazue — both are talented players who ended up in schools with less-than-stellar teams. While Hisa forgoes going to the individuals for her first two years, wanting to go to the nationals with her team, Kazue sees the individuals as a place she can shine without being held back by "weak" teammates.
  • A Certain Magical Index:
  • Fairy Tail loves this trope. Pairings include Natsu and Gray, Erza and Lucy, Erza and Mirajane, Lucy and Cana, Laxus and Mystogan or Fried (at least before Laxus takes a round trip through the Heel-Face Revolving Door), and those are just the obvious ones.
  • Kouen and Sinbad in Magi - Labyrinth of Magic. Kouen is the first crown prince of the Kou empire and is quiet and serious, valuing his family above everything. Sinbad is constantly happy and goofy, born into poverty but became rich and founded his own country and is a Knight Templar for the world. Both inspire Undying Loyalty from their subordinates and hold multiple Djinns at their command. And as revealed in chapter 212, both are willing to dirty their hands and use morally questionable methods to protect their countries.
    • Reim's Fanalis Corps and the Magnostadl's magicians. The Fantalis has low quality of Magoi so they are unable to perform magic (with the exception of Muu and perhaps Myron) but they have Super Strength and Super Toughness. The magicians have more than average Magoi and can perform powerful spells but have a weak body (with the exception of Professor Myers and Aladdin himself). Each are viewed as the symbol of strength of their countries. The Fanalis represent "the power of the people" while magicians represent "the power of magic".
  • In Umi Monogatari, Marin is outgoing and positive while Kanon is quieter and gloomy.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion uses Madoka and Homura's relationship to contrast different kinds of love. Madoka's love is extroverted, indiscriminate and conventionally selfless, an emotion that empowers other people; Homura's love is introverted, fixed entirely on one person and dangerously intense- an emotion that empowers herself. (Note that this does not make Homura evil.) Both girls have essentially the same goals, but different methods of reaching them. Which is why it's really unfortunate that they can't work together.

    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.


  • 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.

     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 but having a heart of gold and Gaston being handsome 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.
    • 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
    • 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.
    • Xibalba also works as a foil to Manolo. 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.

    Film - Live Action 
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • Will and Jack.
    • As the commentary to the first film notes, Barbossa is basically Jack, except just slightly more ruthless and greedy- enough to be an Anti-Villain to highlight Jack's role as an Anti-Hero.
    • In a more tragic example in Dead Man's Chest, Davy Jones and Calypso whilst in Tia Dalma's body. Davy Jones has a Humanoid Abomination of a body, abandons all emotions and develops a convincing range of reactions, both facial and verbal; and takes delight in putting the lost souls he captures through torment and pain. Tia Dalma, however, has retained all her emotions, and will not hesitate to help those in need, and does not require a steep price in return.
  • 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 irresponsbility are the tip of his self-destructive behavour.
    • 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).
  • Villain Silvia in Skyfall has elements that make him similar to Bond, Q and even M. He was a 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Shaw 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 at least part 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.)

  • Played for Drama in A Prayer for Owen Meany. The titular character, while physically weaker than the narrator, is self-driven, determined, assertive, and has a good head on his shoulders, if not a bit bullheaded. In stark contrast, Johnny is passive, unmotivated, socially off, maladjusted and after Owen's death, utterly lost and stuck in a rut.
  • In Animorphs, it's all over the goddamn place. All the main characters act as foils to each other to some extent.
    • Marco is foil to Jake (taking orders vs. giving orders), Tobias (pragmatism vs. idealism), Cassie (pragmatism vs. moral relativism) and Rachel (subtlety vs. brute force).
    • Jake is foil to Marco (taking orders vs. giving orders), Rachel (leadership vs. insubordination; they say this is what happens when two "strong" personalities mix), Tobias (confidence vs. insecurity) and Ax (leadership vs. loyalty to authority figures).
    • Cassie is foil to Marco (pragmatism vs. moral relativism) and Rachel (peace vs. conflict).
    • Tobias is foil to Rachel (peace vs. conflict), Jake (confidence vs. insecurity), and Marco (pragmatism vs. honor).
    • Rachel is foil to Marco (subtlety vs. brute force), Jake (leadership vs. insubordination), Cassie (peace vs. conflict), Tobias (peace vs. conflict) and Ax (giving orders vs. taking orders).
    • Ax is foil to Jake (giving orders vs. taking orders), Marco (pragmatism vs. "warrior ethics"), and Rachel (emotionality vs. logic).
    • Ellimist and Crayak act as foils to each other (life vs. death, the forces of good vs. the forces of evil).
    • Visser Three is foil to Visser One (psychopathic, sadistic, irrational evil vs. pragmatic, intelligent, everyday evil).
  • In Harry Potter, many characters have several foils:
    • Harry:
      • Draco Malfoy is the foil to the titular hero; he has grown up with a rich family, has loving (and alive) parents, is arrogant and selfish and cold, all striking contrast.
      • Ron Weasley, who is poor, has a loving family of six siblings, knows a lot about the wizarding world growing up in it since birth. He had a life like Harry would've if it weren't for Voldemort. Ron is also rather down-to-earth most of the time, almost never jumping to wild conclusions.
      • Neville Longbottom, who was nearly the Chosen One that could have been Voldemort's equal in the prophecy. Hell, name any two of the Loads and Loads of Characters in the series, and likely as not they'll be foils to each other in some way.
      • Voldemort is also set up as Harry's foil; Dumbledore specifically comments that the two are very similar, except that Harry always chooses good while Voldemort chooses to only care about himself.
    • Hermione:
      • Lavender and Hermione are this in terms of being Ron's girlfriend in Half-Blood Prince. Lavender is extremely clingy, failing to notice that nothing but kissing and hugging just drives Ron away. When Ron and Hermione finally hook up, they share a few intimate moments, but there is a decided lack of endless snogging. According to Rowling, she deliberately wrote Ron's relationship with Lavender so that he could realize what he didn't want in a relationship, namely for it to be purely physical.
      • J.K. Rowling has also commented on Luna being Hermione's foil: Hermione is rational and depends on firm knowledge, while Luna is intuitive and functions solely on faith.
    • Severus Snape:
      • James Potter: While both are tall, thin, and have black hair, Snape is Slytherin, poor, and Lily's best friend; James is Gryffindor, wealthy, and initially disliked by Lily. James gets better; Snape gets a lot worse. Snape's other foil is Voldemort both had witch mothers and muggle fathers; both had pretty terrible childhoods; both became ambitious Slytherins; the main difference is that Snape cared about someone at one point while Voldemort only cared about himself.
      • McGonagall: Both are incredibly strict teachers, but while McGonagall is a actually a big 'ole softie, Snape is pretty much a Sadist Teacher, especially to Harry. Though he does have a heart; it's just buried under decades of angst and the fact that Harry is basically the embodiment of his biggest regret.
      • McGonagall's main foil is actually Umbridge. Their both strict, opinionated, ambitious women, who serve a number two position to men in the two most important organizations in Wizarding Britain. In the fifth book they were both in line to become headmistress of Hogwarts. However- McGonagall is deeply loyal Dumbledore, while Umbridge's loyalty to Fudge is questionable. And while McGonagall is indeed strict, she also fair. Umbridge is a notorious sadist, who doesn't actually care for the well being of the students.
      • Peter Pettigrew: They have opposite arcs, as well as opposite personalities. Snape is a brave Slytherine whose undying love for Lily caused his remorse, and caused his Heel Head Turn, leading to his role as a spy for the Order in the lines of the death eaters. Pettigrew is cowardly Gryffindor, who backstabbed Lily and James from within his position as their secret keeper and order member, and then joined the death eaters.

    • Dumbledore:
      • Dumbledore and Slughorn/Fudge/Scrimgeour/ Grindelwald, mainly due to Dumbledore's seeming lack of of ambition it bit him in the ass when he and Grindelwald got caught up in their Utopia Justifies the Means-mania. Also prime ministers Fudge and Scrimgeour (weak/ineffective vs. tough/combative, although both saw Harry as a threat to national security).
      • Aberforth: Albus is a sophisticated child prodigy, has an exemplary reputation and is the headmaster of Hogwarts while Aberforth might not even be literate, did some magical experimentation to a goat, and tends bar in the seedier side of Hogsmeade. Then again, Aberforth doesn't have guilt of helping "Wizard-Hitler" make plans to subjugate muggles and then accidentally killing his little sister.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Boromir might be considered the foil to his brother Faramir as well as to Aragorn, as while he had similar heroic goals, he is a Tragic Hero who is tempted by the Ring.
    • Saruman and Gandalf are both powerful wizards, however, Saruman is seduced by power, whereas Gandalf refuses to take the Ring.
    • Denethor and Théoden are both the rulers of their countries who succumb to the influence of Sauron and Saruman respectively (Denethor via the Palantír, and Théoden through the influence of Wormtongue.) Both kings also struggle with despair. Ultimately, Denethor succumbs to despair and commits suicide, but Théoden triumphs over it and dies an honorable death in battle.
    • Denethor and Faramir: both are noble and powerful pure-blooded Númenóreans with the abilities to read the hearts of other men and to command over them, who share a love for ancient lore and other scholarly pursuits over feats of arm. Yet all these similarities only highlight their differences: the son is warm, gentle and understanding where the father is cold, harsh and scornful. Faramir chooses to keep on fighting despite having lost all hope, Denethor succumb to despair. Faramir demonstrates humility and open-mindedness, Denethor displays arrogance and stubbornness, etc...
    • In J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion, Tuor and Túrin might be considered each other's foil. They're cousins (though they -almost- never meet), are separated from their human families to be fostered by Elves, go live in hidden Elven cities, fall in love with Elven ladies... However, Túrin is a rash, not always sympathetic Tragic Hero Blessed with Suck while Tuor is an all out good guy who ends pretty well - what with being one of the few characters who actually survive to the end of the book.
  • Sancho Panza, Don Quixote's sidekick, is plump, realistic, and has a sense of humor, all of which contrast with his master.
  • In The Reynard Cycle, Reynard and Isengrim are a Red Oni, Blue Oni example.
  • Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson are classic foils. In addition to physical attributes (Holmes tall and lean, Watson shorter and stout), Holmes leaps into plans without explanation and follows up on wild clues. Watson, as his namesake trope points out, tends to ask realistic questions and accept more conventional theories. Holmes is also highly excitable when "the game is afoot" and Watson, a war veteran, is a skilled marksman and cool-headed in combat.
    • Actually, Watson was never stout in the books — the two times he is described physically, he is "thin as a lathe and brown as a nut" in the first book, and "strongly built, with a square jaw and a thick neck", several years later. This description (plus the mustache) still counts as a physical foil next to Holmes's thinness, pallor, and severe, aquiline features, though. He's also usually portrayed as having brown or blond hair, while Holmes's is black.
  • Quite a few examples in the Tortall Universe;
    • Alanna and Kel, the first two female knights in a hundred years. Alanna actively hid and shunned her femininity for years; Kel was proud of her position as the Girl. Alanna is hot-headed and short tempered; Kel is reserved and stoic. Alanna is prone to resenting authority, while Kel is obsessed with duty.
    • George and Jonathon also served as foils to on another, in something resembling Betty and Veronica. Both were natural leaders with devious natures, but George was much more practical and down-to-earth, while Jon was more haughty and big-picture oriented.
  • Sarai and Dove from the Trickster Duet. Both absolutely hate the treatment of the Raka, but they respond to it in different ways; Sarai rages and rants against it, while the more quiet and sensitive Dove speaks to the people. Eventually Sarai runs away, leading to Dove taking her place as future Queen.
  • In a Romeo and Juliet story that's way way different from the original, the titular characters are a demon and angel respectively, whose physical appearances(he wore black spiked armor and had black demonic wings to contrast with her white dress and wings and personalities (he was stoic, quiet, and snarky and she was kind, spontaneous, and cheerful) differed. The places they lived in reflected this as well: Juliet's was a peaceful, well-lit, and beautiful realm as opposed to Romeo's gloomy, perilous, and quite frightening one. Despite the current war between the two races, this doesn't stop them from falling in love. Until Paris, Romeo's Evil Twin tricks Juliet into thinking that Romeo killed her father during the last war(which is actually proven to be true) and is just pretending to be in love with her so that he can find out the weaknesses of the Angels and kill her next, putting her in a Heroic BSOD until Romeo tells her that he is deeply in love with her because she is the only one that truly understands him and he proves his love by giving her the necklace her father wanted to give her and he had to kill her father, who was succumbing to fatal injuries that Paris caused. This, combined with Jessica's and Ron's words, makes her eventually forgive him.
  • Every character in The Stranger is basically a foil for the narrator, Meursault. Not surprising, of course, since the point of the novel is to develop a particular Existentialist philosophy.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novels Deus Encarmine and Deus Sanguinius, Sachiel is used as a foil to Rafen, for his Pride. At his first appearance, Rafen remembers their rivalry and how Sachiel had always preferred to talk, and Rafen to let his actions speak for themselves. Most starkly contrast when Sachiel thinks Rafen dead (No One Could Survive That!) and gloats to the empty air — "Rafen, you are dead." — versus when Rafen sees Sachiel's corpse and feels sorry for him.
  • In Suzanne Collins's Catching Fire, the reaction of Katniss's family and friends is neatly contrasted with that of her prep team, of whom Katniss observes that they never had to be strong for anyone else. (The District vs. the Capital, in small-scale.)
    • Later in Mockingjay District 13 acts as one to the Capitol. The Capitol is dependent on the districts, while District 13 is self reliant. The Capitol's people live in luxury, while the people of District 13 have only there basics needs. In the end it is revealed that Alma Coin the leader of District 13 is just as tyrannical as President Snow, the leader of the Capitol, without his redeeming honesty.
  • Quantum Gravity: The worlds serve as this. Interestingly enough, all of them are foils for all the other ones:
    • Otopia is mostly aetherically dead.
    • Demons of Demonia are very focused on knowing and being yourself, regardless of what that is, in contrast to the different social rules in all the other realms.
    • The Fair Folk of Faery, for instance, deliberately hide things from themselves and forget. They are also the strongest aetherically, throwing them that much farther from Otopia.
    • Elves in Alfheim are masters at hiding themselves, throwing them away from the demons; and also at self-control, in contrast with the generally more playful fey. Their system of alliances would also make anyone from another realm dizzy, and their True Names are very powerful.
    • Zoomenon is everything broken down into its pure state, meaning the creatures/beings there do not always have what we would call a consciousness, and it is a much harsher environment than anything you'd be likely to find in the other realms outside a volcano or something similar.
    • Thanotopia is The Nothing After Death. Probably.
  • In Robert E. Howard's "A Witch Shall Live", Conan the Barbarian's In Harm's Way reaction to victory is explicitly contrasted to Valerius's Home Sweet Home.
    But not all men seek rest and peace; some are born with the spirit of the storm in their blood, restless harbingers of violence and bloodshed, knowing no other path. . . .
  • Ayn Rand loves these, as her characters are archetypes more than they are people. In The Fountainhead, Roark is The Hero and all the others are those who could have been the hero, except for one minor moral failing, or deliberately choosing to be evil, soulmoney-sucking leeches, etc. At least for the men. Women get this treatment, too.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Brienne of Tarth a Knight In Shining Armour who shows Honor Before Reason and always keeps her word is set up as a foil for Jaime Lannister a Blood Knight who breaks promises Unusually for foils, after some tension caused by being on different sides of a civil war, each quickly develops respect for the other's combat prowess, which evolves into mutual admiration and trust over time as they travel together and save each other's lives.
    • Jaime was also the foil for Eddard Stark. Ned believes in doing the right thing but is afraid to get his hands dirty because it's not honorable. Jaime gets his hands dirty all the time doing the right thing but it gives him an unsavory reputation and damages his self-esteem even though he says he doesn't care what anyone thinks.
    • Tywin Lannister can also be seen as a foil to Ned Stark. Both of them are powerful, competent, and highly respected lords with a lot of sway in Kings Landing, but their methodologies are almost complete opposites. Eddard rules with respect and justice, Tywin rules through fear. Eddard leads by example, Tywin delegates. Both men value their families, but where Eddard loves his children unconditionally, Tywin approaches paternal duties as a cold necessity. They also both place a high value on honor, but whereas for Eddard that means always doing the right thing, Tywin is more concerned with his reputation and is secretly full of shit.
    • Jon Snow (ice) and Daenerys Targaryen (fire), though they have yet to meet.
    • Catelyn Stark and her sister Lysa Arryn. Both are mothers determined to protect their children but Lysa's strategy is to simply run and hide from all the problems. Not to mention she is creepily overprotective of her son.
    • Joffrey and Robb are foils for one another. Both are young kings, but Joffrey is a coward who fears real combat and Robb is a brave military commander.
  • Stolz to Oblomov. The latter is a fat, lazy and pessimistic Cloudcuckoolander; the former is industrious and optimistic.
  • Discworld has a few:
    • The earliest example is Rincewind and Towflower, who react to danger in completely opposite manners.
    • Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg. Both are powerful, smart, and tough-as-nails Lancre witches. But Nanny is easy going, has a huge family, behaves in a friendly manner, and is usually drunk and telling bawdy jokes. Granny is serious, stoic, never married, feared and respected by all, and has no sense of humor. Naturally they are best friends (and argue a lot).
    • Vimes and Carrot. Vimes is a cynical, grouchy, dirty-fighting former drunk who has no respect for authority (especially kings). Carrot is an optimistic, ultra-friendly, honorable young officer who always obeys the letter of the law (and may secretly be a king). To make it more complex, Vimes is also clearly a true idealist deep down (his cynicism results from how disapointed he is at the world), while Carrot can show remarkable cunning and deviousness for someone so innocent seeming.
  • The In Death series:
    • Blair Bissel in Divided in Death is this for Roarke, in that he is not brave, not particularly smart, is greedy, has no conscience, has a fragile ego, and has conquests rather than relationships, unlike Roarke. Eve puts a lampshade on that.
    • Magdalana in Innocent in Death is this for Eve, in that she is rich, a thief, loves no one but herself, is charming, speaks French and Italian fluently, and will use Roarke to achieve her ends, unlike Eve. Eve makes a comment about Magdalana being the "anti-me".
  • The Acts of Caine: Berne to Caine. To summarise a lengthy spiel, while both are vicious and skilled fighters, Berne is The Hedonist, while Caine has a cold discipline.
  • In the Twilight series, there is Bella and Leah. Both are completely and utterly in love with someone (Edward and Sam respectively) and both suffer devastating heartbreak when he leaves them. Bella reacts by going into a Heroic BSOD until Edward returns, abandoning plans of any future or attempts at emotional healing. Leah is forced to move on, fighting to protect Forks and, by Breaking Dawn, planning to deal with her anger issues via yoga and going to a nearby community college. Interestingly, Bella is the hero in this situation, while Leah is meant to be disagreed with.
  • In Galaxy of Fear the siblings Tash and Zak Arranda gradually differentiate more, with Zak being Book Dumb while Tash is a Bookworm, Zak being more impulsive and physical, and so on. The two Shi'ido scientists, Hoole and Gog, also contrast; Hoole shape-shifts often and takes combat forms but mostly remains in his default form, Gog never fights but is constantly taking forms for The Infiltration to the point where his default form is rarely seen. Hoole also is The Atoner, while Gog... not so much.
  • Valjean and Javert in Les Misérables. Both are The Fettered who made the choice To Be Lawful or Good. Valjean the convict believes in honor and duty and spends much of his life being a Good Samaritan, even if it means occasionally bending the law. Javert the policeman believes in Law above all; redemption, mercy, and flexibility have no place in his worldview.
  • In Those That Wake, Mike is one to Mal. Mike is an older man who can't fight for anything because he believes he's worth nothing, while Mal is a young man who fights no matter what because fighting is the only thing that gives him purpose.
    • In the sequel, Aaron and Rose are foils to Laura. Aaron is a child genius who believes in the good that technology can bring, while Laura is a teenager who doesn't believe technology is good. Rose is clingy and fragile, while Laura is stronger and assertive.
  • The vikings and blood brothers Hjalmar and Odd in The Saga of Arrow-Odd. Hjalmar became a viking so he will be able to marry princess Ingibjorg back in Sweden, and voluntarily adheres to a chivalrous code of honor. Odd is quite ruthless, fights for his fame only, is not attached to women and plans never to return home.
  • Everyman Binx Bolling is this to everyone he meets.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • Isabelle Lightwood is the seasoned, snobbish, girly Nephilim to Clary Fray's naïve idealist tomboy.
    • Sebastian/Jonathan Morgenstern to Jace: He was experimented on with demon's blood while Jace was experimented on with angel's blood. Valentine raised him to be cold, cruel, and sadistic, while Jace is more compassionate and kind.
    • Aline Penhallow to Isabelle Lightwood; she's conservative and shy where Isabelle is outspoken and outgoing.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffyverse:
    • Robin Wood (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) could be considered one to Daniel Holtz, a Big Bad of Angel'' season 3. Both lost their families to vampires (ironically, the vampires in question are Angel and Spike, respectively) and sought vengeance. Like Holtz, Wood found positively no solace in Spike's ensoulment or remorse and only cared about his revenge. However, Robin eventually managed to let go of his hatred and become a trusted friend and ally to the Scooby Gang, whereas Holtz was single-mindedly consumed by his desire for vengeance to his last breath.
    • Wesley to Giles. The curmudgeonly Watcher never forgot the grief he suffered under Wesley, as Andrew later reports in Season Five of Angel.
    • Faith to Buffy, particularly during her Face-Heel Turn in season 3 of Buffy and later on note  with her becoming an Anti-Hero in contrast to Buffy.
  • The Smallville version of Clark Kent and Lex Luthor, naturally.
    • Jonathan Kent and Lionel Luthor to a lesser degree.
    • Clark and Oliver. It highlights their conflicting idealism and their willingness to act.
    • Chloe and Oliver start out somewhat similar to the above pair, shown best when Oliver kills Lex. But Oliver says she is Not So Different when it comes to protecting Clark. This, combined with her bearing witness to the fallout of Doomsday, lead to Chloe taking a more hard-boiled approach to fighting crime in Season 9, and she and Oliver cease being foils for each other, and instead jointly become foils against Clark's more idealistic methods of crime-fighting.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess: Xena's companion Gabrielle acts as a foil as her compassionate and innocent nature contradicts Xena's bitter and ultra-violent disposition. This dynamic makes up for many of the show's subplots as well as main ones (usually when Xena's foes attempt to separate the duo by showing them the extent of their differences). See The Lancer also.
  • It's been pointed out that on Firefly, Jayne's character exists largely to show what a true Jerk Ass and amoral character would actually be doing every time that Mal is trying his best to pretend he's those things.
  • Professional Wrestling example: 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.
  • Daniel Jackson and Jack O'Neill often serve as foils to each other in Stargate SG-1. (Idealism vs. cynicism, brains vs. brawn (although Jack is not as stupid and Daniel is not as wimpy as they'd like you to think) naivety vs. experience, etc.) This becomes less apparent over the years.
  • Leverage
    • Parker and Sophie seem to have this feel. Sophie is classy, social, and likable, but fake, while Parker is crazy, has No Social Skills and thus is off-putting, but honest (if blunt).
    • Peggy is also this to Parker as a normal citizen. She is also one of the nicest characters on the show.
  • While not on the same show, Duff from Ace Of Cakes and Buddy from Cake Boss. Duff is relaxed, has his friends as his coworkers, and is exclusively a cake chef while Buddy is considerably more tense, surrounded by family (including his mother and four older sisters), and runs a working bakery in addition to being a provider of amazing cakes.
  • The Wire loves this device. There's a lot of parallels between different characters, both those in direct contact with each other (like McNulty and Kima) and some from across different storylines entirely (like D'Angelo Barksdale and Nicky Sobotka). Most conspicuous are the duos of Herc and Carver and Bubbles and Johnny. Herc and Carver are both thuggish and brutal police officers, but Carver shows himself to be more sensitive and thoughtful over time. Johnny is Bubbles's protégé in the streets, but is much more blasé about their predicament and has an "us vs. them" mentality towards the police. Eventually, the underlying differences in both pairs lead the characters in very different directions.
  • 15/Love: High School Hustler Gary "Squib" Furlong and Dean Bitterman Harold Bates may spend the entire show opposing one another, but at the core of things they're very similar, being a pair of Manipulative Bastards with flexible attitudes towards the rules, no time for stupidity, and an amazing ability to convince others to do things for them. Don't tell Squib, but Bates is exactly what he is going to look like at thirty-five.
  • Arthur and Lancelot from Merlin. Everything from their temperament to their social standing to their hair/eye colour is designed to contrast with the other, as do their relationships with both Merlin and Guinevere. In the last case, even their kisses with Guinevere are shot as stark opposites: Arthur's is a Lip-Lock Sun-Block, whereas Lancelot's takes place in a darkened tunnel.
    • Also Guinevere and Morgana. At the beginning of the show Gwen was Morgana's haidmaiden and the two of them were close friends, only to be gradually estranged as the show went on, what with Gwen falling in love with Arthur, and Morgana falling to the Dark Side. Essentially, the higher Guinevere ascends, the lower Morgana falls.
  • 24 had Jack Bauer and David Palmer. Both are willing to do whatever it takes to save the world even if it means resorting to questionable means but David has the added ability to mask his true personality behind a face of amiability.
    • By Season 7, it becomes apparent that Jack and Tony Almeida are these to each other. They start out as relatively stable CTU agents who are wiling to undergo physical and emotional duress to fulfill their duties, with Jack as the one more willing to go rogue and Tony as the quieter, static one. However, as time goes by, it becomes clear that Tony is far more unstable than Jack. Both character lose their wives at some point during the show, but while Jack wallows in self-despair before immersing himself into his work, ultimately putting others before himself, Tony stops at nothing to get back at his wife's killers, gunning down people both guilty and innocent in order to accomplish his goal.
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Marshall and Barney are this to each other, as the Good Angel, Bad Angel advisors of Ted. Barney's mission is to have as many one-night stands as possible, and believes marriage is A Fate Worse Than Death. Marshall loves committing and being married. Many episodes revolve around Barney egging Ted on to live the single man's life and Marshall encouraging him to commit.
  • Friends: Monica Geller and Rachel Green. They grew up together but Monica was The Unfavourite Fat Best Friend who got nothing but hell from her parents, and Rachel was the Spoiled Sweet Lovable Alpha Bitch who everyone adored. As adults Monica is the Team Mom of the gang and focused on her goals. Rachel is the baby of the group and totally lost in the real world. Even their romantic lives contrast with Monica settling into a happy relationship with her best friend but having to push through infertility issues and adopt a baby while Rachel has a ten year Can't Stand Them, Can't Live Without Them dance with an unplanned pregnancy in the middle. Their original characters descriptions spell it out nicely:
    Monica: "Smart. Cynical. Defended. Had to work for everything she has."
    Rachel: "Spoiled. Adorable. Terrified. Has worked for nothing of what she has."
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Lord Renly Baratheon is a foil to Lord Eddard Stark. Renly is a Non-Action Guy and an astute politician who knows how to successfully navigate the treacherous waters of a Deadly Decadent Court. Ned, on the other hand, is a Proud Warrior Race Guy who is a Horrible Judge of Character, and therefore ill-prepared to deal with his enemies in King's Landing. King Robert Baratheon loves and respects his best friend Ned much more than his own brothers, and Renly is even a bit jealous of Ned, as the only attention Renly ever receives from Robert involves the belittling of his masculinity. Ned and his wife Catelyn are in a Perfectly Arranged Marriage and are free to openly express their love, whereas Renly and his boyfriend Ser Loras Tyrell—who are happily committed to each other—are forced to maintain a Secret Relationship because homosexuality is a taboo.
    • Lord Renly Baratheon and Lord Petyr Baelish are both politically savvy courtiers with no combat experience who frequently engage in Snark-to-Snark Combat. Renly enjoyed a privileged life growing up as the king's brother and as the liege lord of the Stormlands, becoming Spoiled Sweet over time. Baelish was born as an impoverished, minor noble, and gained his wealth by becoming a ruthless Self-Made Man. People are drawn to Renly's The Charmer and Nice to the Waiter qualities, which sharply contrasts Littlefinger's unpopular reputation as The Sociopath and Bad Boss. Renly loathes the Lannisters and tries to protect Ned from falling into their clutches, but Baelish sucks up to the family and hands Ned over to them. Petyr is infatuated with Catelyn for most of his life, but she never returns his feelings, whereas Renly's love for Loras is reciprocated.
    • Ser Loras Tyrell and Ser Jaime Lannister are arrogant, highly-skilled warriors, Lord Commander of a family member's Kingsguard, brothers to a queen, and have a socially unacceptable romantic relationship. However, Loras is a Knight In Shining Armour who is widely admired by the smallfolk, while Jaime is a Blood Knight whom everyone reviles for being a king slayer. Loras and his sister Margaery Tyrell are a Brother-Sister Team, whereas Jaime and his sister Cersei Lannister are engaged in Brother-Sister Incest. Loras is recognized as one of the saviours of King's Landing after he helped to end Stannis' siege, but Jaime's greatest heroic deed (i.e. saving the city's population from being consumed by the Mad King's wildfire) is known by no one else besides Brienne of Tarth. As of Season 4, the youthful Loras is a rising star in the world of knights, whereas the middle-aged Jaime is regarded as a has-been now that he has lost his sword hand.
    • King Renly to King Joffrey in Season 2. Their style of ruling is directly contrasted in the manner that they host a tournament. Joffrey is happy when a fighter slays his opponent in the melee; Renly's tourney doesn't involve death (nor would he enjoy watching someone die—in fact he would be horrified). While Joff nearly kills a drunk knight just for the fun of it, Renly elevates a female warrior to his Kingsguard. Renly is polite to his wife, unlike Joffrey, who is verbally abusive towards his fiancée. Joff greets Tyrion—his own Acting Hand of the King—with disdain, whereas Renly is courteous to Lady Catelyn Stark, an envoy from the North. He even comes to Catelyn's defense when Loras and Brienne are rude to her.
    • King Renly is also a foil to King Robb in Season 2. Both men share certain traits in common (e.g. they are young, sensible nice guys who aspire to be good kings), but they are polar opposites in other respects. Robb excels when he's on the battlefield, while Renly is a Non-Action Guy whose greatest strength is his political acumen. In terms of sealing alliances for their respective cause, Renly marries the right woman, whereas Robb very much marries the wrong one. Robb is a Modest Royalty, while Renly likes being surrounded by finery.
    • Ser Loras Tyrell and Brienne of Tarth are knights in shining armor who are introduced as winners of a tourney event, earning their victory with the aid of Combat Pragmatism. They are heirs to their respective Houses, but they love Renly so much that they would rather dedicate their whole lives to serving him as a member of his Kingsguard. They are completely devastated after Renly is slain, becoming knights in sour armor, and both swear vengeance against Stannis. Although they end up with different masters, Loras and Brienne remain devoted to Renly in their own way, and have performed at least one act of Undying Loyalty. Loras is a Pretty Boy (or in some characters' opinion, a Dude Looks Like a Lady), which mirrors Brienne being perceived in-universe as a Lady Looks Like a Dude.
    • Joffrey and Stannis (rivals for the throne) become very direct foils to each other in the climactic Battle of the Blackwater. Stannis, instead of leading from the rear as he does in the books, becomes an Adaptational Badass who is Authority Equals Asskicking all the way and personally leads the assault on the capital. This shows that for all of Stannis's Lawful Stupid Jerkassery, he truly believes in his cause and is willing to fight and put himself in tremendous danger for it. Joffrey, meanwhile, is Dirty Coward who brags endlessly about what he'll do while being a useless, entitled Royal Brat who prevails because other people are doing all the work for him, and he chickens out at the first signs of a setback.
    • Brienne of Tarth to The Hound. Brienne has a lofty notion of chivalry and honor, aspiring to be respected as a knight, while Sandor Clegane does nothing but spit on the notion that knightly honor exists. Both are former Kingsguard members; Brienne is still loyal to Renly even after his death, but the Hound deserts Joffrey during the Battle of Blackwater. Neither character carries the title "Ser," although in Brienne's case, she's not entitled to it because of her gender. Brienne searches for Sansa Stark because she wants uphold her vow to keep the girl safe, whereas Sandor only keeps Arya Stark by his side so that he can sell her to Lady Lysa Arryn for money.
    • Ser Lancel Lannister to Ser Loras Tyrell as of Season 2. They're both Pretty Boy knights who once served as a squire to a Baratheon, but Lancel is nowhere near as Badass, brave or skilled as the Knight of Flowers. The determined Loras cuts down many of Stannis' soldiers at the Battle of Blackwater without getting a scratch, whereas the fearful Lancel only manages to kill one foe before he is seriously wounded by an arrow. When it comes to their illicit affairs, Loras is shown to be the emotionally dominant partner in his long-term romance with Renly, while Lancel is practically a doormat in his dalliance with his cousin Cersei. Lancel is straight, yet he defies the expected stereotypes because his personality and looks are less masculine than the gay Loras.
    • As the leaders of their respective Houses, Lady Olenna Tyrell's progressive matriarch contrasts Lord Tywin Lannister's conservative patriarch. Margaery has blossomed under her grandmother's guidance, whereas Cersei has suffocated under her father's psychological abuse. While Olenna teases her son and grandson, her verbal jabs are nowhere near as cruel as Tywin's horrid treatment of his son Tyrion. When Olenna arranges a marriage for Loras, she betrothes him to Sansa not only for the girl's claim to Winterfell, but also because she knows that Loras' personality—if not his orientation—is compatible with Sansa's. When Tywin arranges marriages for Tyrion and Cersei, he's only concerned about political gain, and doesn't give a rat's ass about his children's objections or feelings. Olenna believes homosexuality is perfectly natural, but Tywin thinks it's a mental illness.
    • Soon-to-be Queen Margaery (who carefully projects an image of being The High Queen) is adored by the smallfolk of King's Landing, while Queen Cersei doesn't give a damn about the commoners, and not surprisingly, they hate her. Margaery is comfortable with her femininity and doesn't see it as a hindrance in her pursuit of power. Cersei resents her gender because she believes it gives her an extremely unfair disadvantage, and is envious of the power that men wield. Margaery has Joffrey wrapped around her finger, whereas Cersei completely loses control of her son after he becomes king.
    • Ser Loras Tyrell (an aspiring Knight In Shining Armour) and Sansa Stark (an aspiring Princess Classic) have learned the hard way that life isn't a fairy tale. Both of them carried romantic ideals, believing that they would live Happily Ever After with their beloved Baratheon ("Prince Charming" Joffrey for Sansa, "The Good King" Renly for Loras). Both have been crushed emotionally when their dreams transformed into nightmares (Joffrey turned out to be a sadistic psychopath and executed Sansa's father, while Renly was murdered not long after Loras pushed him to become king). In Season 3, they are both used as political pawns by Lady Olenna Tyrell, Lord Tywin Lannister and Littlefinger, and they end up being betrothed to someone they don't want to marry. Loras and Sansa are miserable living in King's Landing, but they maintain a Stepford Smiler persona. Both have called Joffrey a monster, and they were among the three people (the other being Tyrion) who were tormented the most by the king in "The Lion and the Rose."
    • Renly Baratheon shares many similarities with his wife Margaery Tyrell. They both believe that the Machiavelli Was Wrong approach to ruling is best, and as a consequence, they have earned a 100% Adoration Rating among the smallfolk (the Stormlands for Renly and King's Landing for Margaery). Renly's desire to be The Good King and the effort he puts into being A Father to His Men mirrors Margaery's ambition to be The High Queen and her Friend to All Children charity work. They are both well-suited for court life, intelligent, responsible, charming, and enhance their good looks by dressing ostentatiously. Margaery isn't at all bothered by the fact that Renly is sleeping with her brother, and unlike most Westerosi noblemen, Renly doesn't mind that his bride may not be a virgin. They both love Loras very much (in different ways, of course).
    • Prince Oberyn Martell and Ser Loras Tyrell have a lot in common: both are formidable warriors who hail from a relatively liberal region of Westeros, non-heterosexual, are in a loving relationship with a person that they can't marry, dearly care about their only sister, hate the Lannisters, but are nevertheless allied to the family through political marriage, driven by revenge after the murder of a loved one, and dress in a manner which would be considered somewhat effeminate by people outside of their homeland. However, their similarities stop there; Oberyn is brimming with passion and Tranquil Fury, and is very open about his vindictiveness and sexuality during his stay in King's Landing, not at all concerned about the potential consequences. Loras, on the other hand, is worried about his family's safety at a Deadly Decadent Court, so he tries his best to conceal his true feelings and orientation beneath a genteel facade, becoming a Stepford Smiler with a lot of Suppressed Rage. Moreover, Ellaria Sand fails to calm her lover down when Oberyn chooses to attack two Lannister soldiers in a brothel, whereas Margaery successfully dissuades her brother Loras from immediately going after Stannis under much more dire circumstances. This demonstrates that although both men are quick to anger, Oberyn is more blinded by emotion than Loras, and is less willing to listen to reason. These differences are ultimately rooted in the two men's distinct political circumstances. Loras is heir to Highgarden and the entire Reach, and so any recklessness on his part could have massive consequences for both the rest of his life and the Reach in general. Oberyn is the younger brother of the current ruling Prince of Dorne, meaning he's very unlikely to inherit (unless something catastrophic happens to Doran Martell's children), and so he has very little to lose from bad behaviour.
  • In LOST , Jack and John Locke are practically the poster boys for this. Jack's the Man of Science, John Locke's the Man of Faith. But by the end Jack becomes the Man of Faith himself, with John Locke dead and Jack knowing that, if it weren't for him, if he had only believed John Locke, he would've still been alive, he finally begins to believe.
  • Breaking Bad loves this trope.
    • Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Despite being partners, their character developments have run parallel but in completely separate directions. Originally it appeared that Jesse would be the remorseless criminal to Walt's principled, well-intentioned one. As the series went on, Walt eventually showed himself to be a textbook example of a Sociopath, selfish and egotistical, and even willing to poison a child to save his own skin. Meanwhile Jesse showed himself to be one of the few morally decent people on the show, feeling incredible guilt and self-loathing for the horrible things that he's done while also feeling trapped in the life he's in, which he is clearly not cold enough for.
      • Examine how Jesse breaks things off with Andrea to protect her, right around the time Skyler becomes basically Walt's prisoner because he refuses to believe he is a danger to her or the kids.
    • Hank and Walt. Terrible experiences change both men, but while Walt becomes even more consumed by pride and turns into a ruthless criminal, Hank manages to subdue his Good Is Not Nice tendencies, becoming more humble and arguably an even better cop.
      • ... until season 5B, when Hank discovers Walt is Heisenberg and becomes fully obsessed with it, even being called out in the fact that the Heisenberg hunt is his personal obsession.
    • Jesse and Todd. Both have a lot of respect for Walt and call him Mr. White, but Todd has no problems being Walt's subordinate. Also, contrast Jesse's initial appearance as a mere thug who later turns out to be much kinder than expected with Todd being introduced as a seemingly unassuming nice guy who later wouldn't hesitate to murder a young child. Which in itself is also a stark contrast to Jesse's love of kids. Todd also appears to be a good deal less competent at meth cooking than Jesse, with the quality of meth being churned out sharply dropping as soon as Heisenberg retires and Todd is left to cook alone, in contrast to Jesse who eventually becomes every bit as good at cooking as his mentor.
    • Walt and Mike. Mike has a considerable amount of money stashed away in his granddaughter's name, making him and Walt two men committing crimes for their families. However, Mike's professionalism and caution allows his work life and home life to remain separate, while Walt's family has become horribly entangled in the meth business. And Mike's emotional stability has allowed him to retain an excellent relationship with his granddaughter and presumably her mother as well, while Walt is emotionally isolated from his family.
    • Gus and Lydia. Both are consummate business people, who dress perfectly and try to approach the meth trade with a degree of professionalism not normally seen in the "game". However, while Gus was calm, unflinching and relatively reasonable, Lydia is paranoid, unpredictable and unwilling to accept the brutality of the drug world. The contrast is best illustrated in Gus's massacre of the cartel and her disposing of Declan's crew - he moves between bodies without fear while taunting the remains of his enemies, while Lydia plugs her ears not to hear gunshots and later has to literally be guided by hand with her eyes closed through the carnage.
  • The Golden Girls: Dorothy and Blanche.
    • Dorothy was born in New York to struggling immigrant parents, had a shotgun wedding at 17, divorced her deadbeat husband, is Hollywood Dateless, and is generally very cynical and progressive.
    • Blanche, on the other hand, was born in Atlanta to Old Money aristocrats, was head over heels in love with her husband George, Really Gets Around, and is much more optimistic and traditional.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Aside from getting beaten up to show how tough someone is, Worf's primary role on the show is to suggest a short-sighted, violent or xenophobic course of action so that the rest of the command staff can shoot him down and show off how wise and diplomatic they are.
  • The Doctor (and to a lesser extent, the Time Loads overall) and the Daleks are Mutual Foils of each other Both are beings who use Time Travel as a means to get around the Universe, have incredibly high standards and mutually have fear and hatred towards one another. What sets them apart (aside from species) is the Daleks are extremely xenophobic and will kill everyone and everything, while the Doctor gives one chance to the Monster of the Week to go else where in the universe and live, or will kill them to save the greater number.
    • Each Doctor is also a deliberate foil towards the immediate predecessor, and sometimes to ones before that. Some examples, in no particular order:
      • the 9th Doctor loathes humanity for its stupidity, the 10th and 11th Doctors love humanity for theirs specialness.
      • taken to a in-universe great extent, with the War Doctor. See Doctor Who Doctors this page for more details.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A recipe for many a tag team. Either their is very little to differentiate the two, sometimes not even that much or there is some immediate difference everyone.
  • 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.

  • 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's 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.)

    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.

    Video Games 
  • Sonic the Hedgehog has many foils, but there are noticeable examples:
    • Dr. Eggman is the scientist who wishes to rule through technology and a totalitarian rule which contrasts Sonic's nature-loving idealism.
    • Knuckles represents the Red Oni to Sonic's Blue, his strength to Sonic's speed, and his solitary life to Sonic's carefree one.
    • Shadow is the deadly serious lethal enforcer contrary to the fun loving adventure seeker in Sonic. While both hedgehogs are heroes, both of them have contrasting methods on how to take action which usually ends in both of them fighting each other.
  • In a similar way to the above example, the Super Mario Bros. series has two relationships between foils: The Mario Brothers ( Mario and Luigi ) and their evil counterparts, Wario and Waluigi.
    • Mario is a humble, adventure loving hero who always has in mind the means to solve the problems for other people. Wario is an greedy and selfish anti-hero who is always looking for himself, despite being not that bad overall.
    • Luigi is cowardly and reserved, but a very nice and decent character who manages to acquire bravery when needed and remains cheerful and gentle. Waluigi is a rude and bitter jerk who holds the cast in high contempt and is quick to be arrogant and confrontational. He acts in such a manner because of his frustration for his constant failures, his inability to succed in his wish to be popular and the victories of others.
  • The Mario brothers are also foils to each other, since, Mario is bold and adventurous, while Luigi is timid and cowardly.
  • Fable III: Reaver is an Faux Affably Evil owner of an Industrial firm that uses child labor, and routinely shoots his workers for a variety of reasons. Once the player becomes the Ruler of Albion, Reaver recommends almost every evil option in the game. Page, the leader of the Bowerstone resistance, detests child labor and the abuse of the workers of Bowerstone. While Reaver disregards the lives of Bowerstone's citizens, Page fights for them. Page's Good Is Not Nice demeanor is the opposite of Reaver's Faux Affably Evil nature.
    • For many of the judgements as the ruler of Albion, its Page stating her case against Reaver. In the first half of the game, much of the antagonism between the two is shown, especially in the emansion sequence.
  • Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske in Guilty Gear: Sol is older, cynical, Tall, Dark and Handsome with red eyes, Brilliant but Lazy, wears red, uses fire, and has connections & motifs with darkness. Ky is younger, idealistic, a blonde bishonen with blue eyes, by-the-book, wears blue, uses lightning, and has connections & motifs with light.
  • In World of Warcraft Varian Wrynn is a foil to Thrall. Thrall is an orc raised by humans, with the cunning and patience more associated with humans, while Wrynn was forced to fight in orc gladiatorial matches, giving him a bloodlust and vendetta against orcs, things found in orcs more often. Their histories also mirror each other's (Thrall had his clan destroyed when the humans defended themselves and had to rebuild it, while Wrynn had his kingdom destroyed by the orcs in Warcraft I and also had to rebuild it).
    • Back in Warcraft III, Thrall's story arc seemed to very strongly mirror Arthas'. Thrall starts off as a slave but eventually becomes the warchief and saves the world through his sheer charisma and decision to ally with his people's former enemies. Meanwhile, Arthas has everything going for him in the beginning but his single-mindedness and arrogance lead to his becoming a slave to the Lich King and the death of his people. Unfortunately, this relation doesn't get any spotlight in the game itself.
    • Wordof God is that Garrosh Hellscream is also this to Thrall. Whether he replaces Varian as this or is just another to highlight different points has yet to be seen.
    • Also in Warcraft III, Arthas and Kael'thas are both princes who lost their entire countries to the Scourge invasion. Their desires to avenge their fallen people and save the survivors manifest in different ways -Arthas goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge while Kael'thas becomes a Well-Intentioned Extremist- but they both end in fighting too many monsters, making a Deal with the Devil, and becoming Drunk on the Dark Side.
    • In Tides Of War, Garrosh and Jaina are foils. Garrosh is described by author Christie Golden as a weak person with a malleable core, who is molded by his environment. By contrast, Jaina is often wounded by traumatic events, such as the destruction of Theramore, but her "core" remains intact.
  • Gorath and Owyn from Betrayal at Krondor can be considered this for each other, starting with their appearance - a towering menacing-looking dark elf warrior with greying slate black hair in armour and a cloak, and a very scrawny 19-year-old human boy mage apprentice with fair hair, innocent blue eyes and wearing a light robe in warm, sunny colours. Then there's the personalities - stoic, reserved, guarded and pragmatic vs. bubbly, expressive, emotional and generally trusting and eager like a puppy.
  • Final Fantasy games are fond of this.
    • Final Fantasy VI had Kefka and General Leo, the two main generals of The Empire. Kefka was a Bad Boss, whereas Leo was a Worthy Opponent. The two were more or less polar opposites in every way, the latter existing primarily as contrast to the former. Terra and Celes, fellow magitek knights and the main characters of the game, also are foils of Kefka...while Terra and Celes learn the value of human life over the course of the game, Kefka sees human life as more meaningless as the game wears on.
    • In Final Fantasy VII, the Arch Enemies Cloud and Sephiroth are opposites or mirror images in just about every way. Even their appearances were apparently designed on this basis. whereas Sephiroth was the absolute elite of SOLDIER apparently even as a teenager, Cloud never made it to their ranks at all. Both angsted at some point that they were the result of a terrible experiment. Sephiroth at first seemed to find out that it wasn't that bad after all, that he was merely built to be the last of the Ancients, but in fact it was if anything even worse than he had thought at first. Cloud seemed to find out that he was nothing but a soulless clone, but actually it was much less severe than that. where through the course of the game we find out how Sephiroth progressively stops caring about humanity, the Ancients and the Planet Cloud goes from Only in It for the Money to caring about AVALANCHE, the Planet's plight and everyone through the course of the story. For each, the time when they find out the whole truth is when they fully became the hero and villain they are.
    • To another extent, Aeris and Jenova are also foils in relation to their influence over Cloud and Sephiroth respectively.
    • Final Fantasy VIII
      • Almost the entire game revolves around the head-butting relationship between Squall and Rinoa. But that just makes it all the sweeter as the game progresses and the player witnesses Squall's multiple occasions of emotional 180. Also, THE ENDING SCENES.
      • Also features the prominent example of Squall versus Seifer. They're both top grade students, specialized in a difficult (and slightly unconventional) to manage weapon, and stand out amongst the crowd going decidedly against the flow. They've also butted heads against each other since forever. However, while Squall appears aloof while being introvertedly struggling with whatever issues that comes to his mind, preferring not to be bothered by other people. Seifer is very much outrovert, enjoying excersizing his status as Head of the Disciplinary Comittee, being very vocal about his goals and ambitions, and clearly likes the leader role of his posse. They can both come off as rude, Squall because he doesn't get other people, Seifer because he likes being rude. As the game progresses, Squall grows closer to his party, while Seifer grows more distant from his posse. As Squall overcomes his past issues, Seifer becomes more obsessed and trapped in his. They both become Sorceress Knights, Seifer to fulfill his childhood romanticiced dream, Squall as a natural step in the chain of events. Also, the stronger and more confident person Squall becomes, the more ragged and dragged down Seifer becomes. They also both had a relationship with Rinoa, Seifer had a brief summer romance, Squall a longer relationship evolving from initial meh, to very real romantic feelings.
  • The Mega Man Classic series has it. The most prominent is Bass and Mega. The coloring of there armor and armor, Mega perfering brighter colors and simplistic design to Bass's Darker and more complex looking armor. The reasons why they fight are different, Mega fights to protect people and asked to become a fighter, where as Bass was created to fight and continues only to prove that he is the strongest.
    • Proto Man operates as this to both Mega Man and Bass. He's free-willed and independent in contrast to Mega Man. Similar to Bass as he used to be Wily's Dragon. However, he eventually becomes more heroic and allies himself with Mega Man of his own free will unlike Bass who is single-mindedly driven to prove himself the strongest.
    • On an ideological level, the Mega Man series could be seen as a conflict between the ideals of Dr. Light and Dr. Wily. Whereas Dr. Light wants to have a future where robots can benefit mankind and eventually develop their own free will, Dr. Wily only seeks to further his own goals with his robots. This can even be seen in the X series, where Wily created the initial Maverick virus to sow further chaos between robots and humans.
  • Two examples from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The first example is Midna for Zelda. Midna is a Tsundere, whereas Zelda is a Proper Lady. Midna is a Deadpan Snarker, whereas Zelda is far less abrasive in her words. And let's not forget that they're both princesses. The second example is Zant for Ganondorf. Zant is secretly a Psychopathic Manchild who maintains a calm demeanor up until the very end, whereas Ganondorf is deathly calm inside and out. Zant borrows the power of another being in order to achieve his ends, whereas Ganondorf had gained his power by means of his own resourcefulness and deceit.
    • Word of God states that Ghirahim from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword was specifically designed to contrast with Ganondorf. Hence, Ghirahim is a Bishōnen, a Fashion-Victim Villain, a Psychopathic Manchild, and an Evil Albino. Especially fitting because Demise, Ghirahim's boss, not only resembles Ganondorf, but is also the one who pretty much creates Ganon.
    • Ghirahim is also a foil of Fi. While she is stoic, subdued, reserved, and very technical, Ghirahim is flamboyant, lets all his feelings out, and is a drama queen. Turns out both of them are sword spirits.
  • From No More Heroes, Henry to Travis, "Don't look at me. I'm just the cool, handsome foil, who also happens to be your twin brother."
  • Ryu and Ken. One is a world famous martial artist, the other a wandering warrior.
  • Kain and Raziel. One's a vampire, one's a wraith. One feeds on blood, the other on souls. One wields a sword that feeds on blood, the other wields a wraith-blade version of the same sword that feeds on souls. One has telekinetic powers that allow him to fling people around like ragdolls, the other can just knock people over with them. One transforms into mist and walks through barred doorways, the other shifts into the spectral realm and phases through them. One spends most of the series running a very complex scheme across time and space, the other spends most of the series being manipulated by anyone with half a brain. One of them has a very concrete desire to rule the world, the other swings between wanting revenge, wanting to understand himself, and wanting to save his own life. One's a king, the other used to be his right-hand man... and yet, both of them are messiah-figures.
  • Villains Sergei Vladimir and Albert Wesker are foils to one another in Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles. Both are undead gunmen created to serve as dragons to Big Bad Ozwell E. Spencer. Both are capable Chessmasters, and are The Man Behind the Man to numerous events in the series. Both are Large Hams who chew enough scenery that it's amazing there's any set left. Yet while Wesker is an Evil Brit Wild Card with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, Sergei is a delightfully cliche Renegade Russian, who serves as Spencer's Dragon-in-Chief until the very end and is characterised by his Undying Loyalty. Their battle at the conclusion of Umbrella Chronicles beautifully highlights their similarities and differences, while showing the audience just how bad Wesker is. At least Sergei has his loyalty. Wesker has nothing.
  • In Lusternia, all of the major organizations have a foil: Celest V Magnagora, Gaudiguch V Hallifax, and Serenwilde V Glomdoring.
  • The World Ends with You's game manual openly states that Neku and Beat are a complete opposites. The former is a Deadpan Snarker who gradually learns to open up to people and fight for the sake of people besides himself, while the latter is especially devoted to his partner and sister to the point where he would join with the Reapers in the hopes of restoring her to normal.
    • And, depending on how you see it, Beat and Rhyme, too. Beat seems Hot-Blooded and devoted to becoming the best skater ever, while Rhyme is calm, but doesn't have a dream of her own. It eventually turns out that they're the opposite of how they seem at first; Beat initially lacked motivation, while Rhyme "had a million reasons to live", in Beat's words, and she kept believing in him.
    • Neku and Joshua are also very obvious foils, and it can be argued that this contributes significantly to both of their character developments. Both have very negative outlooks on the world, initially, and have extraordinary trouble understanding other human beings around them. Joshua even goes so far as to constantly point out these similarities between them, egging Neku on about it, until Neku points out that he actually has a desire to understand people and not just give up on understanding them altogether (which comes as a genuine surprise to Joshua.) Also there's the fact that Joshua was responsible for Neku's death and involvement in The Reapers' Game, making him technically an antagonist all along, which makes their similarities equal parts interesting and ironic, and even emphasizes the different viewpoints between the two of them. It's also implied that Neku's change of heart over the course of the game is what spurs on Joshua's change of heart and ends up actually saving the day.
  • Lots and lots of foils in the Mass Effect series, almost all of them with Shepard. No matter how you play as Shep, the following foils apply:
    • Shepard and Garrus. They have exactly the same morals, but where Shepard is confident and certain, Garrus is confused and looking for guidance. He's basically the living embodiment of the game's Karma Meter.
    • Shepard and Saren. Both are charismatic individuals who can convince anyone to follow them. The differences are large when you're Paragon, and almost minimal when you're Renegade. Whereas Saren used trickery, false promises and mind-control to gain the support of the Geth, Krogan and Rachni, Paragon Shepard can earn their loyalty through trust, cooperation and mutual respect.
    • Shepard and Javik. Both hold the rank of Commander and lead the fight against the Reapers during their respective Cycle, causing them to be revered throughout the Galaxy. However Javik is essentially a more hardened version of Shepard, one who lost his ship, his crew and ultimately his entire race to the War.
  • In Borderlands 2, we have Handsome Jack and Mister Torgue. Both are CEO's (and in the latter case, founder) of their respective corporations, and are basically exact opposites of each other. Jack is soft-spoken, intelligent, and has the muscle mass of a beanpole. He's also a violent, backstabbing, misogynistic coward who tortures people for fun and has no problem killing children for no good reason. Torgue is LOUD, foul-mouthed, dumb as a brick, and built like a dump truck. He's also kind, friendly, acts as Mission Control for his DLC, a Friend to All Children, and considers being nice to women the pinnacle of badassery. Also, while Jack got his position of Hyperion through manipulation and murder, Mr. Torgue personally founded his corporation through his skills as a weapons designer.
  • Sabres Of Infinity has this in your fellow officers and your superior officers:
    • Elson and Cazarosta. Elson is sociable, emotional, and places a high value on honourable conduct in war, Cazarosta is cold, stoic, and believes that in war, expediency comes before honour.
    • Major Hunter and Captain Lefebvre. Major Hunter is bold, friendly, and effusive, Captain Lefebvre is cold, cautious, and reserved.
  • In Katawa Shoujo, Hisao points out Shizune and Misha contrast with Lilly and Hanako. Lilly is elegant, refined, calm and popular in the school (although she doesn't let many people close to her), whereas Shizune is brutally honest and driven, which has resulted in her being somewhat unpopular (despite her desire to have friends and make people happy). Misha is cheerful, energetic, but also blind to social cues, while Hanako is meek, timid, and pays careful attention to social cues.
  • Several foils exist in Pokémon.
    • First is the rivals, gain their starter from the same place as the protagonist, go on parallel journeys and are often the few trainers that get a varied team in contrast with the mono-flavored teams everyone else has.
    • Many Pokémon species are foils to each other, most notably the version mascots and version exclusives for each pair of games.
    • Magikarp and Feebas are a good example of cross-generational foils. Both start out as weak fish with limited movepools but evolve into powerful serpentine Pokémon with enough effort. However, while Magikarp's evolution Gyarados is focused on brute force and is perpetually angry, Feebas evolves into the beautiful and tranquil Milotic, and while Magikarp is found in almost every body of water, Feebas is limited to a single route per game.
    • The man-made Legendaries Mewtwo and Genesect are also foils to each other. Both created to harness the power of ancient mons from a remaining piece of DNA, and both are a warped reflection of the being that they where created from (Mewtwo is larger and masculine to the androgynous Mew, Genesect is a cyborg with a cannon) and have opposite types. Where Mewtwo is a Blood Knight in the games and has a mostly special based movelist, Genesect is obedient to whoever controls it and has a physical based movelist. Its implied, both in universe and out, that this was deliberate.
  • In League of Legends, Ahri is a fox who wished to be human, and was granted it by a dying wizard. However, her humanoid form is still somewhat incomplete, so she searches for a way to become fully human without taking lives, if at all possible (since her new human form came with a conscience). Warwick, on the other hand, is a human hunter who wanted to become stronger, so he drank an incomplete potion that turned him into a wolf-man. He revels in his newfound form and greatly enjoys killing people and tearing them into bloody shreds, but due to the incompleteness of the potion, his wolfish form causes him to lose a little more of his humanity every day...
  • The God-Generals in Tales of the Abyss are carefully designed to reflect each member of the main party. Fitting for a game that revolves heavily around Cloning Blues.
    • Luke and Asch are clones of each other. One wears white, one wears black. Luke is eventually repentant, deeply bonded with his companions, forgiving, and accepting of his identity. Asch is aggressive, unapologetic, solitary and believes his identity has been destroyed.
    • Legretta and Tear are both staunchly loyal fighters doing what they believe is right. Both are love interests to major male characters, but Legretta is bitter because her love is dictated by the Score, and Tear honestly falls for someone who isn't even supposed to exist.
    • Anise and Arietta are both Fon Master Guardians. Both are also having a bit of family trouble: Arietta's mother is the liger you kill in the first hour or so of the game, and Anise's parents are basically being held captive by Mohs. They both have a single goal that drives them - Arietta wants the Fon Master back and Anise wants a rich husband. Arietta doesn't get over her desire, and Anise does. Also, Arietta is openly sad most of the time and Anise is deceptively cheery.
    • Jade and Dist are both scientists credited with developing fomicry and they're both showboats in their own way. However, Jade keeps his emotions in check while Dist is wildly expressive, and Jade recognizes the flawed and morally ambiguous nature of their creations while Dist wants to continue studying them.
    • Natalia and Largo are both honourable and duty-driven, and they both get Heroic BSOD 'd upon losing their love interests. Natalia manages to stay optimistic while Largo crosses the Despair Event Horizon pre-game.
    • It would seem that Sync and Guy are designed to be foils based on their speedy fighting style, but when it's revealed that Sync is another replica of Ion, he becomes the foil for the Fon Master. Both see their lives as worthless, but this realization makes Ion dangerously passive and Sync destructively aggressive. As a survivor of the Hod War who hopes to take revenge, Guy's foil is actually probably Van, considering how Guy manages to get over his feelings (mostly) while Van doesn't.
  • Tales of Symphonia has this a few times over with different characters:
    • Zelos and Colette are both The Chosen One, but while Colette is wholeheartedly dedicated to her role, Zelos is a hedonistic playboy who couldn't care less. Both of them also see their own lives as expendable, but for different reasons. They can also both give Lloyd gifts that will protect him on the final run to the Tower of Salvation, and both can snap Lloyd out of his Heroic BSOD when he finds out Kratos is his father.
    • Zelos also serves as a foil and Suspiciously Similar Substitute to Kratos - they fight in the same style, they both have red hair, etc. They have both given up on escaping the corrupt Cruxius system until they meet Lloyd, and they both appear to betray him for exactly that reason. This is a bizarre case in that their roles are the same, but their personalities are entirely reversed.
  • Flynn and Yuri in Tales of Vesperia were designed to be perfect opposites: Yuri is dark, snarky, cynical, rebellious, and a good cook. Flynn is blonde, serious, optimistic, by-the-book and his food is terrible. The only thing they share is their past in the Knights and the fact that they're exactly the same height.
  • Solid Snake and Raiden in Metal Gear. Snake is older and grizzled, Raiden is young and inexperienced. Snake is cynical, Raiden is idealistic. Snake is Tall, Dark and Handsome, Raiden is a Pretty Boy with white hair. Snake... has a healthy libido, Raiden has a steady relationship. Snake is a modern stealth operative, Raiden is a more traditional ninja. Snake likes guns, Raiden prefers blades. Total opposites.
  • Dr. Vahlen and Dr. Shen of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. They're both scientists, but they both take opposite approaches to it. The young, spirited Vahlen is analytical and idealistic but destructive; while she acknowledges that science can be used badly, it's progress must be unhindered, and in the end, it will work itself out. The older, wiser Shen is creative and constructive but cynical; he believes that scientific progress must be slow, and he's very cautious about the moral implications of his work. It is left up to the player to decide which attitude is correct.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Hank and Dean Venture of The Venture Bros. are an interesting example - they started out with identical personalities (parodies of eager Hardy-Boys type characters who were forever looking for mysteries to solve while having little to no real world experience), before becoming basically the complete opposite in every way. Where Dean is sensitive, Hank is masculine; where Dean is shy and afraid of girls (thus failing to win their affections), Hank is overeager and thinks of himself as a ladies man (while failing to win their affections); and most importantly, where Dean just wants to be normal, Hank just wants to be badass.
  • Aang and Zuko in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Aang and Zuko are both kindhearted kids that got thrust in a difficult situation. Aang ran away from the life of being the Avatar because of the enormous pressure while Zuko was banished devoted his life in chasing the Avatar. Both believed their respective missions will redeem their failings, however when Aang was trekking his path, growing strong and gaining friends, Zuko was losing what little he had and spent the majority of the series being confused and in emotional turmoil. This gets better when he finally got over his issues and joins Aang's team.
    • In a far more complex way, Zuko and his sister Azula. Zuko was regarded as a failure by their father Ozai because he wasn't as talented as his sister while Azula was adored because she's a firebending prodigy and similar to their father in ruthlessness. This led to their mother Ursa (and Uncle Iroh) devoting more love and attention to Zuko while Azula was doted by Ozai. When Zuko envied Azula for their father's favor, Azula also envied Zuko for their mother's love. When Zuko was banished, lost his status as crown prince, and lived like a peasant Azula was doing impressive feats and even conquered the last stronghold of the Earth Kingdom. As the series finale Zuko has peace of mind, love, friendship when he gave up his allegiance to Fire Lord Ozai. On the other hand, even if Azula has always been their father's favorite and she cemented her status as the heiress she ended up being betrayed, unloved, alone and losing her sanity.
    • Not as noteworthy but still present are Katara & Toph, Sokka and Zuko, & Katara and Azula. The latter two is generally a result of the foil between two families: one from the diminishing Southern Water Tribe and the other from the glorious Fire Nation. Both lost mothers and the little sister was more talented than the older brother. Sokka and Katara loved each other unconditionally and their father Hakoda are proud of both of them while Zuko and Azula were fighting and hating each other most of the time. The fire siblings' father Ozai is a cruel, unloving figure that favored one over the other.
    • In Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Rift, we have Aang and Toph. Aang's father figure Monk Gyatso believed that allowing him to be a kid was important, and he has great regard for tradition and staying in touch with his Air Nomad past. Toph's parents, however, were very strict, but said very little about why they were, causing her to resent tradition. It's summed up in this exchange.
    Toph: Don't you think you're trying a little too hard to hold onto your past?
    Aang: Maybe. But don't you think you're trying a little too hard to run away from it?
    Toph: Not everyone's past is like yours, Aang. Some of us have to run away just to... just to live.
    • The Legend of Korra gives us Korra and Asami. Both girls are involved in the resistance against Amon and the Equalists and both are extremely badass. Korra, as the Avatar, has spent her entire life being trained to master the four elements and is pretty much the embodiment of all bending. She also is a buff Action Girl who doesn't show a ton of interest in feminine pursuits. Asami is a nonbender and, though unknowingly, the daughter of a guy heavily supporting the Equalists who fights using stolen Equalist technology and spent her life indulging in various hobbies such as racing and watching Pro-Bending. She also is very elegant, dressing fashionably and enjoying classy things.
    • Korra and Tahno as well. They're set up as rivals right from the start, being waterbenders on opposing teams. They both see their bending as a huge part of their identity. Ultimately, both have their bending taken by Amon and become depressed over it.
    • In Book 2:Spirits we have brothers Tonraq (Korra' father) and Unalaq. Tonraq is big, strong and a fighter while Unalaq is barely intimidating with his lean frame, soft voice and his spiritual methods. Unalaq turned out to be very ambitious and jealous of his older brother's birthright that he devised a plan to banish him while Tonraq accepts his eventual fate with grace and just wanted a simple life for his family. Both men also lied and tried to control Korra in one way or another Tonraq thought it was the best for Korra to be locked up in the South for her own protection while Unalaq manipulated Korra by promising her agency and freedom. Ultimately Tonraq had good intentions and realized his mistake while Unalaq was serving himself.
    • Korra and the first Avatar Wan, separated by 10,000 years, are both present in the recurring Harmonic Convergence. Both have been tricked to do the bidding of the enemy and determined to fix their failure. While Wan is much like Aang - good with spirits and traveled the world to learn- Korra is not talented with spiritual matters and was secluded and controlled almost all her life. There's also the fact that Wan was initially a firebender (having lived on a Fire Lion Turtle) while Korra is a Water Tribe native. Their differences and similarities are also highlighted by the eras they live in- Wan lived in a time where humans and spirits live together and people rely on nature, Korra lives in a time where spirituality is decaying and technology is advancing. At the end of the Book Korra defeats Vaatu without the aid of past lives just like Wan did in the past but instead of closing the spirit portals she has kept them open. Korra also ended Wan's Avatar cycle and started another one, redefining the role of the Avatar in the process.
  • The Legion of Super Heroes cartoon has a few of these:
  • In The Boondocks, Huey and Riley Freeman take Sibling Yin-Yang to new heights.
  • The cast of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a surprisingly complex dynamic, with almost every pair of characters able to act as foils in some way.
    • Among the six main characters, there are two girly ponies (Rarity and Fluttershy), two tomboy ponies (Applejack and Rainbow Dash), and two in between (Twilight Sparkle and Pinkie Pie). Each pair are foils for each other: Twilight (The Smart Guy) and Pinkie (the Cloud Cuckoo Lander) make up a basic Adventure Duo; Applejack (the level-headed, reliable farm girl) and Rainbow Dash (the Hot-Blooded but lazy stunt-flier) are All Work vs. All Play with a major Friendly Rivalry; Rarity (glamorous drama-queen) and Fluttershy (Shrinking Violet Moe Quiet One) are a Light Feminine and Dark Feminine Odd Couple.
    • Rarity and Applejack are a Tomboy and Girly Girl pair, and Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash are occasionally paired similarly.
    • Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie share a strong friendship thanks to their mutual hedonistic, sometimes-mischievous natures despite the fact that Rainbow is more liable than perhaps any of the other characters to be annoyed by Pinkie's behavior.
    • Twilight and Pinkie can act as foils for (or be foiled by) any of the other characters because they're both "outsiders" - Twilight because she's the main character who serves as the lone, sane commentator to everything that happens, and Pinkie Pie because she's just inscrutably crazy.
    • It is also seen within the girls of the same race. The unicorn duo is the socially awkward hero and the cultured lady, the pegasus duo is the wall flower and the braggart, and the earth pony duo are the cloud cuckoo lander and the down to earth pony.
    • Most of the ponies have pets that act as be foils to them.
      • Introverted Fluttershy's aggressive Angel Bunny often pushes her beyond her (very small) comfort zone.
      • Ladylike Rarity owns an evil cat named Opalescence. (If you had a name like that, you'd have a bad attitude, too.)
      • The hyperactive and easily-excitable Pinkie Pie has Gummy, a baby alligator whose sole personality trait is to pay no heed to anything happening around him. Pinkie, oblivious, has been known to project her own concerns onto Gummy and hold serious conversations with him.
      • Twilight's owl, Owloysius/Owlowicious, is not a foil for her, but rather for Spike, who is himself a foil for Twilight.
      • As of Season 2, the high-flying speedster Rainbow Dash has acquired a pet tortoise (not turtle) named Tank.
    • Finally, you notice it in a few of the oneshot rivals that have appeared.
      • Twilight, who is afraid of others perceiving her as arrogant due to her magical prowess, inadvertently found a rival in Trixie, who likes to outshine everyone despite being an entirely average practitioner of magic.
      • The under-confident Fluttershy found hers in her one-time mentor Iron Will, an overly aggressive minotaur.
      • Rainbow Dash, the very Element of Loyalty, had a foil in Lightning Dust, who tends to be self-serving and doesn't care who she hurts. The contrast is only highlighted in that other than this, they're nearly identical.
      • The honest Applejack and her family, who value quality over quantity and have a strong sense of integrity, found foils in the conniving, selfish, cheating Flim-Flam brothers.
      • For the duration of the "This Day Aria" in "A Canterlot Wedding", the real and fake Princess Cadance are made foils for each other, getting some ironically similar but opposite lines, contrasting the former's urgent despair and genuine love for the groom with the latter's smug triumph and callous intent to use him.
  • Shego in Kim Possible highlights Dr. Drakken's ineptitude and Kim's earnestness with her sarcastic commentary.
  • SpongeBob and Squidward Tentacles in ''Sponge Bob Square Pants. SpongeBob is described as perpetually optimistic, and happy, cares for others, and loves his job whereas Squidward is unhappy, self-absorbent, hates his job, and is a Perpetual Frowner. This is perhaps the reason why Squidward was appointed as the manager over SpongeBob in The Movie since he was more mature for the job while SpongeBob acts childish despite being an adult.

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