"Ofttimes a very small man can cast a very large shadow."Since Asskicking Equals Authority and Authority Equals Asskicking, your average Big Bad tends to be (appropriately enough) big — however, a frequent subversion of this is for the big cheese to be a half-pint. Generally this will be taken to an extreme degree, and may be accentuated by giving him two Giant Mook bodyguards. Almost invariably The Napoleon, with a Berserk Button about their height. Or they might have an Ironic Nickname along the lines of "Mr. Big" — either they're too dumb to notice the irony, or their minions are Professional Butt Kissers stroking their ego. This might be a reference to their sizable reputation and influence, combat skills, or personality. Often got their position due to intelligence or deviousness that compensates for their lack of physical threat — if Shorter Means Smarter, this guy is a genius. Will often be introduced with a Big Little Man, Hitler Cam, or Big Shadow, Little Creature shot, either as a simple Visual Gag or because his shortness will eventually be The Reveal. Contrast Large and in Charge. Compare Killer Rabbit, Pintsized Powerhouse, and Depraved Dwarf (and indeed, this trope often overlaps with those ones). Has nothing to do with rock band Mr. Big or the James Bond adversary or the Southtown kingpin.
— Lord Varys, A Song of Ice and Fire
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Dragon Ball series:
- Pilaf's short stature makes him hard to take seriously as Goku's first antagonist, but Goku is just a tiny child himself at the time.
- The Red Ribbon Army is led by Commander Red, who is extremely short. This turns out to be relevant to why his organization kept clashing with the protagonists in the first place: he is after the Dragonballs himself simply to wish himself taller.
- Garlic Junior is on par size-wise with Gohan as a child. He does have a much larger alternate form, however.
- Vegeta is the shortest of the Saiyans and at the time of his introduction easily the most powerful.
- Freeza is also much shorter and smaller than his closest bodyguards, Zarbon and Dodoria.
- Zen-O, the Top God of the series is extremely short in comparison to his bodyguards.
- The Major from Hellsing is very short and fat, but he's easily one of the most effective leaders in the show.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: Pride is in charge of the other homunculi and, excluding Envy's true form (which he'll try to not use whetever possible), is the shortest of them.
- Probably one of the most dangerous alien targets that the Gantz team has to kill is Nurarihyon, a child-sized old man who is always accompanied by his two monstrous sub-bosses, an angry-looking Tengu and a giant dog wearing Heian Era attire, who are several feet taller than him. Nurarihyon has the highest point count out of all the previous targets and is a shapeshifter capable of transforming into a variety of different forms, including a 50-foot giant made out of WOMEN. He is also nearly invulnerable and has Frickin' Laser Beams.
- One of the earliest examples in comic books is the Big Man. While his costume made him look like he actually was a tall and heavy guy, he was eventually revealed to be a cringing slender lightweight under his padding and elevator shoes. Nonetheless, he was evidently charismatic and intelligent enough to earn the trust and loyalty of the Enforcers, who helped him take over all the other criminal operations in New York City for a while before Spider-Man exposed him.
- Fancy Dan, a member of the Enforcers, is also a rather small man, albeit highly self-confident and possessing well-nigh legendary martial arts skills. He was also charismatic and intelligent enough to be shown running his own criminal gang many years later in the Spider-Girl comics.
- Big Figure from Watchmen. Averted somewhat as he remains relatively cool despite Rorschach's digs about his height. His bodyguard is not quite so restrained and suffers for it. In the film, Danny Woodburn turns in an excellent performance in this scene as someone who's trying very hard not to show that Rorschach is leaning on his Berserk Button and almost succeeding.
- Joe Dalton from Lucky Luke, the mastermind of the four Dalton Brothers and easily the worst-tempered, is two heads tall.
- Scarface — and the Ventriloquist is still a small man compared to Scarface's mooks.
- The Dummy inverts this setup, being a small man disguised as a ventriloquist dummy, fooling even his own underlings into believing their boss is an eccentric who insists on speaking through a dummy.
- Batman villain, The Penguin, has always been depicted as a small man, sometimes comically so. He is, however, shown to have a good deal of Stout Strength when fighting, and his Mooks, while almost always taller, are often no more physically intimidating than he is. (Exaggerated in the later episodes of the animated series, when the Penguin ran a nightclub and employed a number of leggy dames in snowbunny costumes, he was about the size of a tall child, and even the women looked like titans next to him!)
- Nappy Klains, The Napoleon of Crime, "They call you that because you're small and evilly ambitious!" in World's Finest #154. He's short enough to pass for a pre-teen boy with the aid of heavy makeup.
- Grigori "Little Greg" Irinescu, The Don of the Vampire Mafia in Top 10, who has to stand on his desk so people can kiss his ring without getting on their knees.
- René Goscinny as portrayed by Ach!lle Talon. This hyperactive, yelling, mallet-wielding version was so pervasive and so fitted with what people think of Da Editor that one of the most common things said to him on being introduced in Real Life was "Hey, you're not short!"
- Mr. Mind in the classic Captain Marvel arc "The Monster Society of Evil", commanded a number of Captain Marvel's greatest villains, including Dr. Sivana, Captain Nazi, Mr. Atom and Herkimer the Crocodile Man, shouting his commands via radio as no one would ever see his face. Turns out he was a telepathic alien worm, roughly 2-3 inches in length.
- In the Super Gran graphic novel Super Gran in Space, the villain is called Mr Big and is only ever seen as a face on a huge TV screen, until the final scene reveals he comes up to the average character's waist.
Films — Animation
- Lord Farquaad in Shrek. He's very sensitive about his frankly childlike stature, and tries to appear taller however he can. His palace is also the closest a medieval building could come to being a skyscraper. ("Do you think he's compensating for something?")
- The mob leaders in The Triplets of Belleville are pint-sized dons flanked by bodyguards three times their size.
- One of the antagonists of Zootopia is an arctic shrew crime lord who is even named Mr. Big. He has polar bear henchmen. Fortunately, he ends up owing Judy Hopps a few favors after he learns she was the one who saved his daughter's life and that they're on the trail of a case where his florist and friend was a victim.
- Sing also features a tiny gangster, a mouse voiced by Seth MacFarlane.
Films — Live-Action
- Vizzini from The Princess Bride, especially in comparison to Fezzik, one of his henchmen, who is a giant.
- Master of Master/Blaster in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, a genius in a small body. Fortunately, he has Blaster to do the musclework, and rides on his back.
- Mr. Giant from For Your Height Only, a Filipino James Bond take-off in which both the villain and hero are midgets. As per Blofeld, the villain's face (and therefore height) is only seen when he finally confronts the hero.
- Swan from Phantom of the Paradise. 5'2 Paul Williams' evil multimedia mega-tycoon plays against 6'4 William Finley's naive antihero.
- Cubby Khan from Pocket Ninjas. Explained by his being very young, so I guess there's one thing in that movie that makes sense.
- Texas Jack in The Great Race. No berserk button about his height, but all the male main characters and all of his own henchmen are several inches taller than him. However, he's still by far the most feared fighter in the town.
- Rory Breaker in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, the short but ruthless leader of the black London gangs. He's described as "that psychotic dwarf with an afro." His two massive bodyguards rarely have their heads in frame.
- Big Tits Zombie features a dwarf Yakuza boss.
- Forbidden Zone (the Richard Elfman movie) is ruled by King Fausto, played by Hervé Villechaize.
- Cutler Beckett of Pirates of the Caribbean. While his height is never emphasized, he is notably shorter than every other character.
- Arliss Loveless in the movie Wild Wild West, is a variation on this — he is an [considers phrasing carefully] average-sized person, but completely legless. Don't say it....
- Alien from L.A. features a mob boss named Mambino played by Deep Roy.
- The Mule in Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. Played entirely seriously. He does however have psychic powers that he uses to control people.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- A kind of strange version in Paezhar zo Myraq, better known as 'The Little Pigeon', is a slave owner and general in the Yunkish army. He is only five feet tall, and has his slaves specially bred for height, and wear stilts into battle, making them 8 feet plus. Most of the other regiments in Yunkai have similarly elaborate and impractical gimmicks, since the only fighting they've done for years is mock battles against each other.
- Then there's Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf who's easily one of the most badass characters and effective leaders, though he has trouble actually getting put in a position where he can lead because everyone hates him, including his sister. He's actually the most heroic of the Lannister family (relatively speaking) but suffers from a bad case of Hero with Bad Publicity due to Westeros's prejudice against people with dwarfism, leading to people thinking of him as this trope. This image isn't helped by his entourage of hulking mountain clansmen bodyguards, nor indeed his public perception as an Evil Chancellor due to the fact that most people aren't aware of the royal court's inner workings and blame him for the antics of Joffrey and Cersei when he's actually doing all he can to reign them in.
- Lady Olenna Tyrell (nee Redwyne) aka The Queen of Thorns probably fits this trope best. She's a Miniature Senior Citizen, accompanied by two towering bodyguards, and is the hidden brains behind House Tyrell.
- A canine example is Big Fido from Men at Arms, the toy poodle Adolf Hitler Expy in charge of a gang of much larger dogs.
- Picrochole, the diminutive petty king from Gargantua.
- The fearsome Director Sato from Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol stands at a towering four feet eight inches.
- Eldest Gruff from The Dresden Files: Small Favor is the elder brother of a gruff approximately the size of an elephant, and makes ominous booming sounds when he walks. He's five foot nothing.
- Variation in The Wheel of Time: Sammael is one of the most feared of the Forsaken, and the most visible villain for several books in the middle of the series. He's only slightly under average height, but unluckily for him, the people he hates and envies the most (rival Forsaken Ishamael and Demandred, his ancient enemy Lews Therin Telamon, and Lews Therin's reincarnation and current Chosen One Rand) are all very tall, and Sammael is extremely self-conscious about his height as a result, to the extent that Word of God has explicitly said he'd use magic to make himself taller if he knew how.
- A feline example is Scourge from Warrior Cats. A tiny cat barely larger than a kitten, but also the leader of BloodClan and universally feared by all who know of him, and for good reason. No one is either brave or stupid enough to joke about his size, particularly since he uses it to great effect in combat, by slipping out of holds and generally being faster than his opponent.
- The title character in Ian Fleming's Goldfinger is all of five feet tall, although this doesn't carry over into the film version.
- In the Spellsinger novel The Day of the Dissonance, Tom-Jon, captured by big, ferocious, Funny Animal pirates, expects their captain to be an even bigger and more ferocious animal. He turns out to be an actual Pirate Parrot, who controls his crew through sheer force of will.
- Roald Dahl's The Witches describes the Grand High Witch as shorter than the rest of her Witch Species.
- Gus, the "Gucci dwarf" from Black Books, a feared London Gangster who's flanked at all times by two massive bodyguards and carries a fold-out highchair in a briefcase.
- Mr. Big, the main villain from the pilot episode of Get Smart. As with For Your Height Only he actually has dwarfism, which is only revealed when Smart and Mr Big are in the same room.
Agent 86: So you're Mr. Big.
Mr. Big: So you're Maxwell Smart!
- Dr. Miguelito Loveless, a recurring Evil Genius villain on The Wild Wild West. Both he and Get Smart's Mr. Big were played by dwarf actor Michael Dunn.
- Napoleon in Jack-of-All-Trades (where he is played by Verne Troyer, aka Mini-me).
- The crime lord Mr. Boss in iZombie can at first come off as a short, unassuming man, but every character is absolutely terrified of him.
- Downplayed with Domingo Colon in Luke Cage; he's somewhat shorter than the other crime bosses, though not tiny, and is introduced with the standard Hitler Cam-flanked-by-large-bodyguards shot. What's particularly notable in this case is that while he makes no effort to disguise his stature, walking right up to Cornell Stokes and staring him square in the chest, the usually arrogant and bullying Stokes doesn't crack the slightest joke about it, making it immediately clear who has the upper hand. Incidentally, Jacob Vargas, who plays Domingo, is an average sized person at 5' 7½", while Mahershala Ali is 6' 1½", so editing tricks are used to achieve the effect.
- Roman Mysteries: In "The Colossus of Rhodes", the criminal mastermind known as 'the Colossus' is revealed to be a dwarf.
- In the CarToon Wars setting for Toon, Harvey Hamster, as his name suggests, a hamster, who has a controlling interest in the dueling circuit and employs two rhinos as debt collectors.
- The Orcs and Goblins of Warhammer usually subscribe to Large and in Charge, but sometimes especially clever or crazy goblins can end up leading sizable warbands into battle, and manage to keep the bigger strains of Greenskins happy by leading them to bigger and better fights.
- Jasper Batt Jr. from No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle starts this way, but ends up growing bigger for the second phase of the fight. And for the third phase, he gets really big.
- Salazar from Resident Evil 4. He fits the mold spectacularly, being a Napoleon-inspired short guy with two large bodyguards (genetically engineered monsters, no less) flanking him. Oddly he breaks a tradition of sorts in video games by sending one after you at once and then fighting alongside the second (as opposed to watching on the sidelines and having both double team the player).
- In MouseHunt for Facebook, the Nerg Chieftain Mouse is the smallest mouse in the tribe. It's also the most difficult one to catch in the Nerg Plains.
- LEGO Pirates Of The Caribbean turns Cutler Beckett into one of these as a caricature of the movie character's rather less extreme shortness.
- One of the villains in Borderlands 2's "Captain Scarlett and her Pirate Booty" DLC campaign is Sandman, a midget pirate captain. It's implied that he keeps order among his men via his vicious reputation, and the fear inspired by his massive enforcer, the Big Sleep. Interestingly, nobody mentions his small stature except for he himself, and Scarlett is afraid of a one-on-one confrontation with him, describing him as being very strong. Even when you knock out Big Sleep and the regular mook reinforcements, he's still a tough fight.
- At the end of level 28 in New Yankee in King Arthur's Court the "Dark Lord" was uncloaked only to reveal a midget on stilts. Destroying his fortress during it earns you the "Napoleon" achievement.
- In Dark Souls III, only one of the five Lords of Cinder is sitting at his throne, waiting to be sacrificed to keep the First Flame burning to protect the world: Ludleth of Courtland. He is a tiny legless undead man wearing a crown, and proud of it, saying "I may be but small, but I will die a colossus."
- Commander Sith from Ghost Trick is very short, but is in charge of the criminal organization of blue people.
- Galactamaru from Girlchan in Paradise!! is portrayed with a extremely muscular build and a deep, booming voice, and is always shot via Hitler Cam... until the third episode, where he's finally put in the same shot as the heroes, revealing that he's less than a foot tall and easily defeated by Yusuke.
- The Bonkers series has an eponymous Mr. Big, a crime boss mouse.
- In Goof Troop episode Lethal Goofin', Douglas Twinkmeyer, the school's "most respected kid", student patrol head and the evil mastermind the heroes are looking for. Max lampshades this trope out-of-universe when talking to him:
I've got a hunch somebody's behind the scenes!.. A mister... mister... Mister Big!
- King Koo-Koo in Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure is about the size of a squirrel compared to the heroes, and is very, very touchy about it. His ultimate ambition is to be the largest king who ever lived, which he can only achieve by nonstop laughter. In the meantime, he makes up for his diminutive stature by reigning from a throne mounted on several elevated platforms high above his courtroom.
- Clyde from the Ant Hill Mob in Wacky Races. Slightly subverted in that his henchmen are just as vertically challenged as him.
- Mr. Big, the shadowy ruler of Pottsylvania in Rocky and Bullwinkle, was actually six inches tall.
- Cavitus from 3-2-1 Penguins! is small but wears a suit to disguise it.
- The Big Bad in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was basically a brain with a face, stored inside a Giant Mook.
- Mr. Boss of Code Name Kids Next Door is generally considered as the leader of the show's B villains separate from Father, he's maybe four-five feet tall, as opposed to his averagely tall minions.
- Duke Igthorn from Adventures of the Gummi Bears isn't exactly short, but most of his henchmen, being ogres, tower over him. He can keep them in line because they all have the collective intelligence of a box of hammers.
- Tong Fo from Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is a loris (about the same height as Master Shifu) who is a criminal mastermind and sometimes has the croc bandits as lackeys.
- Many depictions of Napoleon Bonaparte portray him this way. Napoleon was actually around average height for a Frenchman of his time period, and would hardly be considered tiny nowadays, but soldiers tended to be larger and burlier than the average man for obvious reasons, causing him to look fairly undersized around his fellow soldiers. This effect was amplified by the fact that he was most often seen around the elite (i.e. larger and taller than average for soldiers) Imperial Guard. He was given the affectionate nickname "The Little Corporal" by his men. Britain, his sworn enemy, seized upon the perception and lampooned him in propaganda cartoons as a midget tyrant. note Further confusing issues for the British, Napoleon was 5'3 tall in French measurements, but due to the fact that French feet were longer than Imperial feet this equated to 5'7 in British measurements.