[[quoteright:298:[[Film/{{Watchmen}} http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/watchmen1_8063.png]]]]
[[caption-width-right:298:Guess who?]]

->"''At last, the masks had fallen away. The strings of the puppets had become visible, and the hands of the prime mover exposed.''"
-->-- ''VideoGame/LegacyOfKain''

A situation where a BigBad exists in the StoryArc, but his identity is not known until [[TheReveal much later]]. This could be a result of the heroes going against TheFaceless, requiring only a look under the mask to understand everything. In most cases, this is an {{inver|tedTrope}}sion of the HiddenAgendaVillain, where we know that something bad is happening and the DrivingQuestion is the one behind it all.

Usually a MagnificentBastard post reveal. Compare TheManBehindTheMan, except without the first man. It can only overlap if the first man is ''obviously'' a DiscOneFinalBoss.

If the Hidden Villain turns out to be a previously known antagonist, see HijackedByGanon. If it was someone who was never suspected at all, then the trope is TheDogWasTheMastermind.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''TwentiethCenturyBoys''
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'': ItWasHisSled. Even so, this particular [[TheReveal Reveal]] was quite the WhamEpisode.
* While ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'' introduced its main antagonist quite early on, the first [[Anime/FullmetalAlchemist 2003 anime version]] plays this straight.
* [[HeWhoMustNotBeSeen Lord Baan/Vearn]] from ''Franchise/DragonQuest: Manga/DaiNoDaibouken''. Of course, when he is revealed, he's pretty unimposing. Until much, much later, when you learn that [[spoiler: he's really inhabiting the body of a lesser TheDragon who attempts GrandTheftMe on Hyunkeru to transfer to a younger, stronger body. Both the body-snatcher & the intended victim are white haired]].
* ''Manga/{{Trigun}}'' appears to have an obvious big bad at first: a nihilistic killer with psychic powers named Legato Bluesummers, who has seemingly assembled a private army just to destroy Vash. Midway through the Legato arc, we're given a flashback episode that reveals the existence of Vash's brother Knives. A few episodes later, we finally learn that Legato has been acting under Knives' orders all along, and his true objective isn't to kill Vash, but to [[spoiler: force Vash to kill Legato.]]
* In ''Manga/FairyTail'', the Dark Guild [[OurDemonsAreDifferent Tartaros]] is led by [[TheDreaded E.N.D.]], the mightiest of all of [[BigBad Zeref's]] demons, powerful enough to fight [[PlayingWithFire The Fire Dragon King Igneel]] and one of the few beings in existence with the power to actually [[LaserGuidedTykebomb kill]] [[DeathSeeker Zeref himself]]. Despite this, we never see E.N.D. in person throughout the eponymous arc, due to being [[SealedEvilInACan sealed]] away within his [[TomeOfEldritchLore Book of Zeref]], the opening of which is the crux behind the villains' actions throughout. By the end, Tartaros is defeated, but [[DiabolusExMachina Zeref]] shows up to take E.N.D.'s book before it can be destroyed by the heroes. At the very end, alone, Zeref reveals that E.N.D. is actually a character we've seen in the series already, his powers and memory allegedly within the book and he himself unaware of his own existence as a demon. That person? [[spoiler:[[TheHero Natsu Dragneel]] himself, as shown by E.N.D.'s full name being '''E'''therious '''N'''atsu '''D'''ragneel]] and Zeref referring to both of them as the same person, [[SplitPersonality yet at the same time different]].
* Diavolo from Part 5 of ''Manga/JojosBizarreAdventure''. He's only known as TheDon of Passione for the majority of the arc, and in all his appearances until near the very end he's either TheFaceless with his face completely shadowed over, or appearing as his SplitPersonality Doppio (who he ''physically morphs into'', so Doppio doesn't even look like him.) While Giorno and Buccellati's ultimate goal from the beginning is to overthrow him and reform Passione, the focus is more on the cast fighting a splinter group of Passione who want revenge for the death of two of their own at Diavolo's hands, while escorting Diavolo's daughter to him. It isn't until they reach him and find out that Diavolo plans to kill Trish that his BigBad status comes to light. All this is justified in that he ''wants'' to be a HiddenVillain, ''completely'' hidden, to the point of killing anyone (even his own daughter) who tries to find out anything about him, or has even seen his face.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* ''ComicBook/{{Fables}}'': There is an "emperor" (known to the Fables as "The Adversary") and his identity is a secret for a large part of the comic's run, until we find out it's [[spoiler: Geppetto]] of all people.
* The Comedian's murderer and the person responsible for the events of ''Comicbook/{{Watchmen}}''. It turns out that [[spoiler:Adrian Veidt AKA Ozymandias is behind it, [[KnightTemplar all in the name of]] [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans world peace]] of course.]] The picture at the top of the page is this hidden villain from [[{{Film/Watchmen}} the film adaptation]]. No. Not [[TheSlenderManMythos Slender Man]].
* The first ''ComicBook/SinCity'' story hid the SerialKiller Kevin until halfway through. Because of the movie, most people realize who they are but it was a specific mystery at first.
* The head of Leviathan in ''[[Comicbook/GrantMorrisonsBatman Batman, Inc.]]'' is shown as a mysterious figure in white robes and a skull mask, until TheReveal in ''Leviathan Strikes!'' that [[spoiler:her identity is Talia al Ghul]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fan Fiction]]
* Discord is responsible for pretty much everything in ''FanFic/DiariesOfAMadman'', but only the reader is aware of his involvement until much later on in the story.
* In ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'', Mr. Black is initially seen as faceless, but eventually his face, backstory, and name are slowly revealed, as well as his motivations and target.
** The Conduit, his boss, is also this to a greater degree.
* In ''Fanfic/FateZeroSanity'', there is another presence within the Grail alongside [[MadeOfEvil Angra Mainyu]], but aside from some names that have some ties to him (Reaper, Grey), the presence's true name isn't revealed until the very end by Angra Mainyu at his own request. Who is it? [[spoiler: [[VideoGame/MegaManZX Prometheus]]]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Film/TheElementOfCrime'', made worse by the fact that the elusive child killer may actually [[spoiler:have been dead even before the events portrayed in the movie.]] ''And the whole movie is a flashback''.
* In ''Film/TheUsualSuspects'', the mythical Keyser Soze is mentioned right from the beginning, yet his involvement in the events isn't at least somewhat understood until the climax, and only fully comprehensible at [[TwistEnding the very end]]. [[spoiler:Verbal, the guy sitting there telling the story? Whenever he mentions Keyzer Soze, ''he's talking about himself.'']]
* The film version of ''Film/SinCity'' hid Kevin to a lesser extent than the comic, since he's briefly seen just before he kills Goldie. He's still a Hidden Villain however, since the audience has no idea who he even is at this point.
* [[spoiler: Robert]] in ''Film/MysteryTeam''.
* [[spoiler: Aldrich Killian]] in ''Film/IronMan3'', who was the real BigBad behind [[spoiler: the fake Mandarin]].
* [[spoiler:Prince Hans]] in ''Disney/{{Frozen}}''.
* [[spoiler:Sir Lancelot]] in ''[[Film/NightAtTheMuseum Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb]]'', [[spoiler:though he does pull a HeelFaceTurn in the climax]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* The ''Literature/SkulduggeryPleasant'' spends most of the series setting up the mysterious "Man with the Golden Eyes", who seems to be [[TheManBehindTheMan behind nearly every villainous scheme since book 3]]. It is finally revealed to be [[spoiler: Erskine Ravel, one of the main character's best friends.]]
* ''Franchise/TheDarkTower'': The Crimson King isn't mentioned till book 4. From that point on details are given bit by bit.
** However, readers familiar with King's greater universe (Particularly those who have read ''TheStand'') might be savvy enough to catch on a bit earlier.
* The [[TheHeartless dragon-snakes]] from ''Literature/TheDeathGateCycle'' are the collective BigBad and the incarnation of evil in that multiverse, given form by magic gone awry. As such, they're technically the ultiamte villains all along, but are only introduced directly in the fourth book, ''Serpent Mage''.
* For the first three-quarters of the first book of ''MemorySorrowAndThorn'', it's obvious that there ''is'' a BigBad (EvilSorcerer Pryrates is an obvious villain, but as he's getting his power through a DealWithTheDevil he's also obviously not the ultimate string puller) but none of the main characters know who he is. It turns out to be the [[OurElvesAreDifferent vengeful Sithi prince]] Ineluki, resurrected as the undead entity called the Storm King, who had only been mentioned in scraps of legends prior to TheReveal.
* The Crippled God, BigBad of the ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'', was only introduced in person in the third book, though in hindsight he'd been pretty heavily foreshadowed in the first two.
* In ''{{Warbreaker}}'' the BigBad is hidden for almost the entire novel, and the most obvious candidates are eliminated one by one (either by proving harmless, or revealed to be only a cog in the big machine). [[spoiler: It turns out to be Bluefingers, the God King's kindly, timid secretary, who had been considered an ''ally'' of the heroes up to that point.]]
** Also from a work by BrandonSanderson, it was very obvious from the beginning of {{Mistborn}} that [[EvilOverlord the Lord Ruler]] won his position by saving the world from something [[OmnicidalManiac even worse]]. In the second book, it was revealed that this entity was still around, [[spoiler: and it was freed from its [[SealedEvilInACan prison]] at the climax. In the third book, the entity was revealed as Ruin, primordial god of entropy and destruction]].
* In ''FateOfTheJedi'', from the very first book ''something'' had started to make various Jedi go crazy, but none of the already introduced villains (PresidentEvil Daala and an isolated but ambitious cult of Sith) seemed to have the power to cause it. In the third book, readers are introduced to an enigmatic woman with ''tremendous'' Force powers named Abeloth. [[spoiler: Turns out that she's the avatar of an EldritchAbomination who has been subtly influencing galactic events for a while now- and by the end of the book she's out of her [[SealedEvilInACan can]] and ready to take the position of BigBad full time]].
** Also Palpatine ([[ItWasHisSled AKA Darth Sidious AKA the Emperor]]) in the ''StarWars'' prequels.
* In the first of the ''Literature/{{Otherland}}'' books, the focus occasionally shifts to an Egyptian simulation ruled by someone using Osiris as an avatar, who gives out orders and makes commentary that bears suspicious relation to other events in the book, but these connections are never actually stated. Late in the volume, the user is revealed to be a man named Felix Jongleur, leader of the Grail Brotherhood and creator of the [[TitleDrop Otherland]] system.
* Most of the plotline of the ''Inda'' series is driven by EvilSorcerer Erkric's scheming, as he's the one driving [[TheEmpire the Venn]] to be more warlike and expansionistic, but he's not directly introduced until the last third of the second book and his central role doesn't become apparent until later. This is at least in part because the Venn are initially portrayed as a faceless military juggernaut, though- he's introduced at the same time as [[UnwittingPawn Prince Rajnir]] and [[AntiVillain Commander Durasnir]], the other two main Venn characters.
* In ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', it isn't even hinted that there might be something moving behind the scenes until the end of the second book. Said Hidden Villain was chased after for ''over ten years'', and the most tangible evidence that they existed was [[spoiler: the traitor Peabody, who was immediately removed from the equation]]. It is finally [[spoiler: confirmed in ''Cold Days'', and taken UpToEleven when it is implied the villain ''may not even be from our reality'']].
* The second book of the ''Literature/ProvostsDog'' trilogy is about an investigation into a counterfeit epidemic. While they know that Pearl Skinner's behind it and are mostly trying to find a way to stop her, Beka doesn't learn until near the end that the ''idea'' came from [[spoiler:Hanse Remy, who is trying to repay the entire realm for being {{Ungrateful Bastard}}s after his long military service]].
* ''Literature/{{Daemon}}'': The Major is only the DragonInChief[=/=][[TheHeavy Heavy]] of the duology. We never get to meet the true face of the conspiracy he is an enforcer for.
* ''Literature/KillDecision'': We never see the true face of the villains orchestrating the drone attacks, only a pair of spin doctors and a lower-level agent in their employ.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'', in which the fact that there even ''is'' a BigBad is not immediately stated. After several possible major antagonists are introduced over the first five seasons, the true BigBad is not revealed until the season five finale.
* ''Series/DesperateHousewives'' used this several times. The identity of the aggressor in season 6 was hidden this way until the reveal [[spoiler: that he was a serial killer and actually one of Porter's friends]].
* During the third series of ''Series/DoctorWho'', the subplots taking place in present day London throw around the name Mr. Saxon. In the three-parter that ends the season, he is revealed to be none other than [[spoiler:the Doctor's arch nemesis, the Master, who stole the Doctor's TARDIS and traveled 18 months before Martha was introduced, and in that time became Prime Minister]].
** The events of series 5 are caused by someone or something capable of [[spoiler: making the TARDIS explode]], accompanied by the ArcWords "silence will fall". It isn't until the following series that we meet The Silence, a religious order of supposedly {{Well Intentioned Extremist}}s whose motives -- [[spoiler: they believe the Doctor is destined to answer the question "Doctor Who", which will end the universe]] -- aren't revealed until the very end of that series.
* The reveal of just ''who'' was really behind the Series/{{Dollhouse}} and the Rossum Corporation had a very high HolyShitQuotient when it was revealed in season 2.
* Happened in Series/GekisouSentaiCarranger by half of the season the Bowzocks were believed to be the main bad guy's until Exhaus is shown to be the real BigBad.
* A really bizarre example comes from ''Series/BreakingBad'', where the ''main character'', Walter White, is the Hidden VillainProtagonist to his ''own brother-in-law'', HeroAntagonist DEA Agent Hank Schrader, [[spoiler:until "Gliding Over All".]]
* ''Series/{{Bones}}'' did this with the serial killer Gormagon as well as the Gravedigger. Their identities were only revealed late or in the end of the story arcs.
* At least two members of the ''Series/PersonOfInterest'' RoguesGallery finally appeared onscreen, after several episodes of {{Foreshadowing}} and references, as that week's person of interest in disguise. Namely, [[spoiler:[[DiabolicalMastermind Elias]] (in "Witness") and [[TheCracker Root]] (in "Firewall")]].
* In ''Series/BurnNotice'', a Client of the Week turns out to be the head of the Organization that got Michael thrown out of the CIA and forcibly recruited into their group. Later, [[spoiler:Michael's trainer Tom Card]] who is initially a valuable contact and resource for multiple episodes, sends Michael on a SuicideMission without Michael ever realizing what was going on.
* In ''Series/PrettyLittleLiars'', 'A' is a hidden villain and the main antagonist of the show.
* In the first season of ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'', the figure behind [[NebulousEvilOrganization Project Centipede]] ([[ArcWelding and other antagonists of the week]]) was a supposed psychic who could see the future known only as "The Clairvoyant" even though psychic powers don't seem to exist in this universe. It's eventually revealed that the Clairvoyant is Thomas Nash, a man who is completely paralyzed and requires a ventilator and electronic voice box [[spoiler:except not really; Nash is just a decoy for the true Clairvoyant who is actually a SHIELD operative/HYDRA mole named John Garrett, who while not actually being psychic, does have high-level SHIELD clearances which give him access to all the information he needs to ''appear'' psychic.]] And in even more of a twist, [[spoiler:it's also revealed late in the season that Agent Grant Ward, a handpicked member of Coulson's own team, has actually been working for Garrett the whole time.]]
* In the Temporal Cold War arc in ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'', there is the mysterious humanoid only known as "Future Guy", so named because he is communicating with his Suliban henchmen from somewhere in the future. Within the whole run of series, it has never been revealed who Future Guy actually ''is'', though.
* In the ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'' two-parter "Redemption", the Duras sisters are conspiring with a female Romulan officer hidden in the shadows, who's face then gets revealed in the end. While she is a new character, it's still a MindScrew WhamShot for first time viewers, because she is [[spoiler:looking exactly like the deceased Enterprise crew member Tasha Yar. It turns out later that she is the daughter of a time-displaced alternate reality version of Tasha.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''PlanescapeTorment'': [[spoiler: The player character, The Nameless One, is really the bad guy but doesn't know it. In actual truth, The Transcendent One, the mortal aspect of The Nameless One, is the bad guy. It gets confusing. Long story short...the player character was an evil douche, and the mortal aspect of him was split away, leaving The Nameless One.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{BlazBlue}}'': The BigBad isn't revealed until the console-only [[GoldenEnding True Ending]] of ''Calamity Trigger'', and isn't fought until ''[[OddlyNamedSequel2ElectricBoogaloo Continuum Shift]]''. [[spoiler:And even then, that game's True Ending reveals him to be a DiscOneFinalBoss, and it goes straight into TheDogWasTheMastermind.]]
** [[spoiler: And then AllThereInTheManual suggests that no; he was the BigBad all along.]]
*** [[spoiler: And then in ''[[VideoGame/BlazBlueChronoPhantasma Chrono Phantasma]]'' it turns out that his so called puppet was the real mastermind all along and the Terumi was her UnwittingPawn. Why? Because the puppet is possessed by the 'thing' Terumi and Relius called forth: The Goddess of Death, Izanami. And for the record, yes, Izanami does all the planning backstage, leading you to believe that Terumi really look like the BigBad in charge. She might not be so hidden if you have read the aforementioned AllThereInTheManual, but still.]]
* In ''ValkyrieProfileCovenantOfThePlume'', we know that Hel is the BigBad of the game having orchestrated all of the events for Wylfred to wreak as much sin as possible, and give Garm some fun. However; Hel is only mentioned, and when she talks, we never see her.
** She does show up in the first game when she is stopped by the Einherjar that have been sent to Valhalla. Easy to miss if you don't realize that each line of text in the review has a cutscene associated with it.
* The BigBad / Murderer of the first ''VideoGame/LauraBow'' game turns out to be [[spoiler:Lilian]], when very little evidence suggests this.
* The Inaba killer in ''VideoGame/{{Persona 4}}''. [[spoiler: It's Detective Adachi.]] Foreshadowed quite well due to the game being (except Knox's 2nd due to its nature) very compliant to the concept of FairPlayMystery. Who's even ''more'' hidden is [[spoiler: Izanami, aka the nameless gas station attendant, who gave Adachi, Nametame and the protagonist their powers in order to test humanity.]]
** In ''VideoGame/Persona4Arena'', [[spoiler: The Eerie Voice and Malevolent Entity]] never show who they are. Certain aspects of the latter, however, have spawned theories about him being [[spoiler:Nyarlathotep, the Man Behind the Man of the first ''Persona'' game and outright Big Bad of the second]].
* [[spoiler: Al Mualim]] and [[spoiler: Prince Ahmet]] from ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedI'' and ''VideoGame/AssassinsCreedRevelations'', respectively.
* ''VideoGame/DeadlyPremonition'' has this with [[spoiler: George Woodman & Kaysen]] but alludes to the Raincoat Killer many times as being some unknown entity.
* [[spoiler:Yomiel, "The Manipulator"]] from ''VideoGame/GhostTrick''.
* ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising'' features [[spoiler: Hades]], who doesn't even make an appearance until apparent BigBad Medusa is taken out in Chapter 9.
* ''VisualNovel/DanganRonpa'' has Monobear as the facade of the main villain, but as a robot, he has to be controlled by someone. [[spoiler:At the end of the game, we find out that someone is Junko.]]
** ''VisualNovel/SuperDanganRonpa2'' has Monobear again, but since [[spoiler: Junko is a little too busy being dead]] it can't possibly still be them, right? [[spoiler: Actually it is. Technically. More of an AI program of her, but still. Although there's another who could be considered TheManBehindTheMan: Izuru Kamukura, the real identity of the main character pre-mindwipe.]]
* The Elder One of ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition'' is kept a mystery for the first act of the game, until the quest "[[WhamEpisode In Your Heart Shall Burn]]" where it is revealed to be none other than [[spoiler:Corypheus, the villain of the ''Legacy'' {{D|ownloadableContent}}LC of ''Videogame/DragonAgeII'']].
* [[spoiler: OmnicidalManiac Ouroboros]] is this in ''VideoGame/BravelyDefault'', since he only appears in person during the final chapter. He also shares the role with his servant, [[spoiler: Airy.]]
* ''VideoGame/KantaiCollection'': If there is a high command, TheManBehindTheMonsters, EldritchAbomination or other authority in charge of the Abyssals, they have yet to appear onscreen.
* In ''Videogame/{{Xenogears}}'' [[spoiler:Miang, the avatar of Deus]] is the BigBad who has been manipulating events for the last 10,000 years [[spoiler:in preparation for Deus' rebirth.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* [[spoiler: Miyo Takano]] from ''VisualNovel/HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi'', who only reveals her status as BigBad late into the 7th novel. However, clever readers could identify the truth as early as the 3rd novel due to cryptic hints.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* ''Webcomic/AverageJoe'' does this, with the main villain of the series appearing for a bit of EvilGloating as early as [[http://ajcomic.com/?p=167 Strip #5]], but after multiple appearances in flashback and flash-forward sequences we've still never seen his face (over a year later in real time).
* ''Webcomic/{{MAG ISA}}'' -- [[http://mag-isa.thecomicseries.com/comics/pl/119594 Look at these guys with darkened faces sitting around a table]] planning nefarious schemes for you and me...
* [[http://www.drunkduck.com/Harkovast/index.php?p=473700 The Enemy]] in ''Webcomic/{{Harkovast}}'' is mentioned on the first page, but has never been shown in the comic. Who he is has only been hinted at on the comics forum, where his full title (The King in the West) has been stated.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Roleplay/TheGamersAlliance'', the Master of the Totenkopfs, one of the more dangerous villains, has been travelling with the heroes all along while furthering the Totenkopfs' sinister agenda, and the heroes are unaware of having the Master being so close to them. Another example is Ax's longtime friend and ally [[spoiler:Vaetris]] who turns out to be one of the four archdemons in disguise.
* ''In WebVideo/UniversityEverAfter'' [[spoiler: Rose Red]] of all people is the BigBad of Season 2, despite being presented as one of Ella's friends from the very beginning.
* [[spoiler: Lear Dunham]] from ''WebAnimation/BrokenSaints'', [[FakingTheDead who was faking his own death.]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Slade in ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' starts out like this, being introduced in the first episode as a shadowy [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]], but not even ''named'' or revealed to the heroes until later (and it's even longer before they meet him face-to-face and learn of his plans). Also a HiddenAgendaVillain, ironically- meaning that for his first few appearances, ''all'' we know about him is that he exists and is up to no good.
* In ''WesternAnimation/WolverineAndTheXMen'', pretty much the whole first season was masterminded by [[spoiler:the Inner Circle, who wanted to get their hands on the Phoenix]]. They're not introduced until just before the GrandFinale, and aren't truly TheManBehindTheMan because the only character they were directly controlling [[spoiler:was one of the heroes]].
* During the third season of WesternAnimation/{{Ben 10}}, horror monster-themed aliens show up performing seemingly random tasks through several episodes. During the season finale, they are revealed to have been building a superweapon to allow [[EnemyWithout Ghostfreak]] to achieve world domination.
* Until episode 20, it wasn't certain that season two of ''WesternAnimation/{{Wakfu}}'' even ''had'' a real BigBad. [[spoiler:Qilby the Traitor]] was manipulating everyone all along from the very moment he appeared.
[[/folder]]
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