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". Therefore, it can involve Reminiscing About Your Victims.

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: i.e. an Idiot Hero Reality Warper or Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds 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.


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     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.
  • Strange Times Are Upon Us has Brokosh and the crew of the IKS HoSbatlh accidentally cause the solar storm of 1859 after they accidentally Time Travel and have to cause a solar flare to destroy a Breen warship that was dragged along with them.

    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.
  • Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell: During a course on Greek history, the immortal Jackass Genie (wearing the skin of a college professor) describes how the Trojan war and the destruction of the entire civilization was caused by the Djinn.

  • 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.
    "Neither claimed any responsibility for Milton Keynes, but both reported it as a success."
  • Croup and Vandemar have one in Neverwhere that isn't particularly specific but apparently includes assassinating kings, heroes and gods.

     Live-Action TV 


    Tabletop Games 

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    Web Original 
  • In Everyman HYBRID, HABIT, a malevolent entity who possesses people, claims to have a very long historical rap sheet including the likes of Josef Mengele and Jack the Ripper.
  • 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 
  • The Fairly OddParents:
    • In an early episode it's revealed that once every few millennia fairies have to be evil for 24 hours. During Wanda's stint she killed the dinosaurs.
    • Through sheer ignorance rather than malevolence, Cosmo burned down Pompeii, sunk Atlantis nine times, and turned Xanadu into Pittsburgh.
  • In Yoohoo and Friends, Father Time was responsible for starting the Salem Witch Trials after trying to help three women carrying heavy buckets of water... by enchanting brooms to carry them. Thankfully he managed to save their skins shortly afterwards.
  • The Simpsons:
  • One episode of Xiaolin Showdown has Dojo turn evil for a day (apparently it happens naturally once every couple thousand years). Master Fung mentions in passing that the last time around was the last time anybody ever heard of Atlantis. (This is contradicted in a later episode, where the cast visits the abandoned city.)
  • In Futurama it was the Big Brain that killed the dinosaurs.
  • A Freeze-Frame Bonus in Gravity Falls has Bill Cipher suggest he may have had something to do with JFK's assassination. Then again, this is Bill we're talking about.