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Historical Rap Sheet
"The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance."
Ra's al Ghul, Batman Begins

The crimes of the villain(s) date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past. Stock Unsolved Mysteries are particularly useful for this.

These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy, or a single person, like We Didn't Start The Führer. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this trope is about the "crimes".

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: i.e. an Idiot Hero Reality Warper could've caused a natural disaster through clumsiness.

Subtrope of Historical In-Joke, and essentially the evil twin of Been There, Shaped History. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, Julius Beethoven Da Vinci and Historical Villain Upgrade. Often a form of List of Transgressions or Offstage Villainy.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

     Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
  • Immortal criminal Vandal Savage from The DCU claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering, and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe.
  • Batman villain KGBeast, a Soviet super-assassin, has been described by the CIA as a participant in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.

    Fan Works 
  • Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler and betraying Anne Frank.
  • Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.

    Film — Animated 
  • In The Castle of Cagliostro, the Cagliostro family's centuries-old counterfeiting operation caused the collapse of the Bourbon dynasty, financed Napoleon and brought about the Wall Street Crash.
  • DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp shows that the villain Merlock was responsible for the sinking of Atlantis and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

     Film — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Begins the League of Shadows claims to have sacked Rome and Constantinople, engineered (or at least spread) plagues, and caused the Great Fire of London. Whether there is any truth to these claims is never answered.
  • In Zoolander brainwashed male models set in motion by an evil council of fashion designers have had a hand in every major assassination attempt, beginning with Lincoln and on up through JFK. It Makes Sense in Context. Kind of.
  • Captain America (1990) has the Nebulous Evil Organization that Red Skull works for being responsible for such things as the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier features the resurrected HYDRA as having been responsible of pretty much most (if not every) major terrorist event done since World War II, as part of their "force people to give away their freedoms" Evil Plan.
  • The second Smokin' Aces movie implies that the Corrupt Hick Neo-Nazi Tremor family was the real perpetrator of the March 11, 2004 bomb attacks in Madrid, as part of a world-wide campaign of terror orchestrated by Big Bad "Hal Leuco".
  • In Near Dark, two vampires in a small pack roaming the Southwestern US committing bloody massacres, Jesse and Severen, reminisce how they started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
  • Men In Black: A small Hyper Destructive Bouncing Ball located within MIB headquarters was the trigger of the 1977 New York blackout.
    J: A practical joke from the Great Attractor. He thought it was funny as hell.
  • Déjà Vu mentions that the last time that the Time Machine that is central to the plot was used to actually try to send something into the past instead of just viewing it, the power necessities accidentally caused the Northeast blackout of 2003.

    Literature 
  • In The Pariah by Graham Masterton the death of the Toltecs, the atrocities of Caligula, the Black Death and the Salem witch trials are all attributed to the demonic antagonist.
  • Incarnations of Immortality: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
  • Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
  • A Running Gag in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever: the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.
  • Croup and Vandemar have one in Neverwhere that isn't particularly specific but apparently includes assassinating kings, heroes and gods.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. In "Wolf in the Fold" it is discovered that Redjac is a noncorporeal lifeform which has been a serial killer on several planets, including Earth where it was Jack the Ripper as well as a few other unnamed killers (in China in 1952 and Kiev in 1974).
  • In the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, the Master attributes an invented historical rap sheet to the Doctor while recruiting Chang Lee. The Doctor himself has been responsible for inspiring the Great Fire of Rome and starting the Great Fire of London (both accidents) as well as bringing about the destruction of Pompeii (by stopping it and then triggering it again as a crossing of the Godzilla Threshold), among other historical encounters.
  • The X-Files: According to the Day in the Limelight episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", the CSM was personally responsible for the assassinations of JFK and MLK, and made sure that the Buffalo Bills never won the Super Bowl.
  • In Supernatural, the demon lord and Torture Technician Alastair implies that he had a hand in the concentration camps, noting how he hasn't been on Earth since "Poland, '43".
  • Babylon 5: A Vorlon "inquisitor"-slash-Torture Technician sent to test the resolve of Delenn and Sheridan mentions that he was abducted back in the Victorian age... and it's implied that he was Jack the Ripper.
  • Bewitched: Bumbling Aunt Clara causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 when she tries to use magic on some candles.
  • Quantum Leap: In one of the show's Kisses with History, Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 during an attempt to leap home.

    Music 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • In Everyman HYBRID, HABIT claims that Josef Mengele was one of his possessed victims.
  • Hardly Working: Over the course of the show, the Phantom of the Office has taken responsibility for the Black Plague, the extinction of the dodo bird, and most shockingly, the death of Jesus Christ.

     Western Animation 

Hide the EvidenceCrime and Punishment TropesHollywood Law
Historical Person PunchlineSpeculative Fiction TropesHive Caste System
Hijacked by GanonVillainsHistorical Villain Downgrade
Historical In-JokeAlternate History TropesHistorical Villain Upgrade
Historical Hero UpgradeCharacterization TropesHistorical Villain Downgrade

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