No Antagonist
Sometimes your inner demons are all the conflict you needÖ

Villains are supposed to help drive the plot, right? They provide the biggest obstacle for the protagonist to overcome. They give the audience something to channel their hate towards with terribly evil actions such as genocide, kidnapping, world-conquering, and kicking of puppies. Usually, this is the case... Except, of course, when they don't happen to be present at all.

Since all fiction essentially narrows down to conflict between two or more opposing forces, it is typical to represent these forces in the story's characters, with one faction called the protagonists or main characters—usually (but not always) being the "good guys" (from the perspective of the work, at least)—and another in opposition to the protagonists called the antagonists, who are usually (but not always) the "bad guys" (again, from the perspective of the work, at least).

Some stories, however, are cut from a different thread. Rather than representing the conflict as the "good guys" against the "bad guys", the central conflict is caused by other forces and does not feature characters in direct opposition to the protagonists. Instead, the forces at work are more intangible and not bound to a set of characters.

This doesn't mean that there is no conflict or tension—otherwise there wouldn't be a story. It simply means that the central conflict of the work has no characters who are a defined source of friction. This could mean that the conflict comes from an internal struggle, such as with addiction, or it could mean that the conflict arises from some sort of natural/scientific disaster, or from simply trying to survive in a hostile environment. As long as there are no "bad guys" directly opposing the main characters, this trope applies. If villainous characters do appear in this kind of story they will be a case of Villain of Another Story. It's possible that one of the characters will be the Hate Sink: not actually a Big Bad, but someone who makes the characters' lives more difficult to give the audience an outlet for the bad-guy hating.

For example, if Bob is seriously addicted to heroin and the work focuses around his battling of his addiction, then a drug dealer that constantly supplies Bob would not count as the antagonist, even though he is certainly not nice, unless there is conflict generated between Bob and the dealer. In the case where it is not, the work would have No Antagonist.

The trope does, however, require an actual conflict taking place within the story—works with no real conflict, such as sandbox games, would not apply. Most Slice of Life works have No Antagonist, due to the conflict being life itself, but that doesn't apply to all series where the antagonist can easily be someone damaging the life of the protagonist. This trope is also common in Lit Fic, where it is usually broken down into the categories "character vs nature", or "character vs themself".

Contrast Plot-Irrelevant Villain, where there is a villainous antagonist but is of little to no importance in the big game.

Important: "No Antagonist" means Exactly What It Says on the Tin. If one or more sentient beings get in the way of the protagonists, however well-intentioned they are and however justified their actions, it is not an example.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Stellvia of the Universe has no antagonists whatsoever, as it is about united humanity trying to prevent a cosmic cataclysm that is about to hit Earth.
  • A lot of Studio Ghibli/Hayao Miyazaki, especially the Slice of Life, films are like this. Some of them have characters who at first seem to be antagonists, but are really not.
    • My Neighbor Totoro: The story centers around the characters' exploration of the rural life they are thrust into and its magical title character. The chief dramatic tension comes when a five-year-old girl goes missing, not from any antagonist.
    • Kiki's Delivery Service, where the main conflict is Kiki's struggle to forge a satisfying life for herself in the big city.
    • Ponyo: The main conflict is the massive storm and flood, and while Fujimoto at first appears to be an antagonist, he's really just an Overprotective Dad.
    • Princess Mononoke, while the main conflict comes from Mankind's war against the forest, it paints Lady Eboshi as the main antagonist in a Grey and Grey Morality tale.
    • When Marnie Was There is a Coming-of-Age Story about a girl named Anna, and about the close friendship she builds with the titular Marnie. There is a focus on figuring out just who Marnie is and other events surrounding the film but there are no real antagonistic characters
  • Most Slice of Life anime shows follow this trope, such as:
    • Lucky Star The only character who could even remotely qualify is Akira from "Lucky Channel", and even then she's more of a jerk than a full-on villain, and never actually opposes the main characters.
  • Azumanga Daioh The closest thing to an "antagonist" is a cat that likes to bite people. Yukari can be a borderline Sadist Teacher sometimes, but even she fails to qualify. Her car, on the other hand, is considered by some to be the true main antagonist, as one ride in it scarred Chiyo for life (though it had more to do with Yukari driving in a way that makes Trevor Phillips look sane).
  • Haibane Renmei fits this. The most common interpretation is that it's a story about a group of angels in purgatory.
  • Welcome to the N.H.K. is about an hikikomori and his friends trying to overcome their psychological problems.
  • The Girl Who Leapt Through Time has no opposing force besides Makoto's numerous errors, and most of the plot involves her and Chiaki trying to fix said errors.
  • Children Who Chase Lost Voices is an interesting case as there's a lot of danger and quite a bit of fighting but lacks any central antagonist, instead having several brief possible ones, none of which truly qualify. The most noticeable is the Arch Angels who show up in a black helicopter shooting freely, but they're quickly escaped and their squad leader immediately surrenders to fulfill his own ambitions. There's the various guardians and Izoka who are more hazards than antagonistic forces. There's the members of the tribe who show up to impede the protagonists but they very quickly leave and go home leaving the climax to be a conflict between two of our heroes which involves body snatching and stabbing, but the instigator of the trouble isn't shown as antagonistic at all and as soon as the conflict is resolved, the one he hurt most hugs him and they all leave together peacefully. The movie easily could have made these threats an antagonistic force but instead all of it's drama is derived from the character's personal problems like a standard No Antagonist work but still features a lot of real danger from tangible forces.
  • Being a Magical Girl Warrior series, you'd expect the heroes of Sailor Moon R to face an antagonist, or at least a Monster of the Week. In a filler episode notorious for being skipped by DiC Entertainment and uncollected in ADV Films's uncut DVDs, the conflict does not come from any antagonists or monsters, but from Rini's refusal to eat fish, and the protagonists searching for Rini on an uncharted island inhabited by a dinosaur that took her, which turns out to be friendly. The girls do transform into Sailor Scouts to fight off... an errupting volcano.
  • Suzy's Zoo: Daisuki! Witzy completely fits this. There is no conflicts in the world, and the little issues that pop up (forgot to bring along dessert for the picnic!) are trivial to solve. Then again, this is Kodomomuke fare for infants, so it's probably expected.
  • Toradora! is just about two people (Ryuuji and Taiga) having crushes on other people (Kushieda and Kitamura, respectively), which also happens to be the other's best friend, so they attempt to help each other hook up with their respective crushes. The whole conflict boils down to "the people crushing on other people start to love each other on a deeper level and trying to cope with their feelings", which isn't caused by a person. The only truly mean character is Kawashima, but she's more of an Alpha Bitch who doesn't do anything truly villainous and eventually warms up to the protagonists.

    Comic Books 
  • In the classic graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell's mortal enemies the Skrulls did show up, but not as antagonists - they were there to mourn him, along with all the other heroes by his side. He died after losing a fight to the one foe he simply couldn't defeat - cancer.
  • Quick and Flupke: There's no real antagonist, unless you consider the policeman who just does his job, or Quick and Flupke, who are just playing pranks.
  • Pierre Tombal: A Gag Series about a grave digger, with no real villains.
  • Gaston Lagaffe: A Gag Series about an employee in a publishing company, where there are tensions between Gaston and his co-workers and a police officier, but no real villains.
  • Final Night may be the only Crisis Crossover without an antagonist, and the focus is instead on attempting to survive a cosmic calamity. While the Sun-Eater is a threat, it is depicted more as a force of nature than an opponent.
  • Tintin:
    • Red Rackham's Treasure is more about Tintin and his friends looking for a treasure than them fighting villains. The closest thing to a villain is a shark that attacks Tintin while he's diving. There's also "descendants" of Red Rackham who turn up at the beginning, wanting a share of the treasure, but they are chased off by Haddock in the first few pages.
    • "Tintin in Tibet" has no villains, and in the end, even the supposedly monstruous Yeti is revealed to only be lonely and misunderstood.
    • "The Castafiore Emerald" has people showing off prejudices against gypsies, and a couple of underhanded papparazzi take pictures and write stories without permission. But if you compare it to the villains in other Tintin stories, it is really nothing. And as for the thief, who had stolen the emerald? (It was only a magpie).

    Fairy Tales 
  • The Little Mermaid is about a mermaid who turns into a human because she's fallen in love with a prince; if they marry, she'll stay human forever and get an immortal soul, but if he marries someone else, she'll die the next morning and get no afterlife. (And she can't tell him this, since she paid the Sea-Witch with her tongue.) Unfortunately for her, the prince has a Perfectly Arranged Marriage set up with someone else. Unlike in the Disney version, neither the Sea-Witch nor the other woman are evil (though the former seems amoral), and since none of the human characters know the mermaid's problem, you can't really blame them for not helping her out.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Animated 
  • Yellowbird deals with the protagonist's fight with his fears on a jorney to gain confidence, without a single villain to defeat.
  • Arthur Christmas: You might assume that Arthur's brother Steve would become the villain, but he doesn't have any real animosity for Arthur, and really just hates how his father has such unreasonably high expectations of him.
  • Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch doesn't have a real antagonist. The movie is about Stitch being defective and dying. While Mertle serves as a rival to Lilo who indirectly helps drive Lilo apart from Stitch for a bit, she's really not an antagonist, just her usual, ambiguously racist bully self.
  • Inside Out is about a young girl who moves to a new city, and how her anthropomorphic Emotions try to deal with her subsequent mental breakdown. The closest we have to an antagonist are some scary or obstructive figures who exist inside her mind.
  • The Peanuts Movie focuses on Charlie Brown trying to overcome his deficiencies and impress the Little Red-haired Girl; fate seems determined to screw him over, but if anything the other characters are actually nicer than in other versions. Technically the B-plot has the Red Baron vs. Snoopy, but that's just in the latter's novel.
  • Finding Dory, just like Pixar's two recent movies doesn't really feature any outright villains aside from a squid who antagonises them for one scene. The conflict comes primarily from Dory's inability to remember things.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Rocky: While later movies make the challenging boxers Jerk Ass Opposing Sports Team types, the first film didn't bother. Apollo Creed is Rocky's opponent, and a famous and successful boxer in contrast to the underdog from the streets that the audience roots for, but he's also a friendly charismatic guy who fights clean and doesn't do anything remotely villainous. In fact, it was his idea to let the no-name Rocky fight him in the first place (his scheduled professional opponent had to drop out), claiming that an underdog story would increase the viewership of the match. For his part, Rocky doesn't hold anything against him, and the conflict of the film instead comes from Rocky trying to prove his worth in the eyes of his city, his friends, and himself.
  • Groundhog Day: A flawed man is trapped in a time loop, and goes through the same day all over again indefinitely, until he learns to become a better person. The film has no villain, since Phil is at worst a Jerkass Anti-Hero, and the time loop is simply an unexplained event.
  • Black Swan: ...Maybe. Nina certainly sees Lily as an antagonist who's trying to usurp the lead role in the ballet, but the film refuses to commit one way or the other.
  • Fairly common in any Disaster Movie that doesn't add an extra adversary (many times, a Villainy-Free Villain, Hate Sink, or Designated Villain) for the protagonists to face during the tragedy.
    • Armageddon: One whacking great rock to destroy, but it's not malign in its effect. The moment when the military decide to detonate the bomb early is almost the only antagonism not related to the "destroy the asteroid before it destroys us".
    • The Core: All the story's conflict revolves around the Earth's core going haywire, and no antagonists are involved. You could point a finger at the people behind the experimental earthquake-generator weapon that caused the problem in the first place, but they a) didn't do it on purpose and b) never appear onscreen.
    • Deep Impact: The main conflict is an asteroid about to hit the Earth and there are no antagonists to this end.
    • Poseidon: The bad events are caused by a rogue wave capsizing the boat, and there are no human antagonists.
    • The Towering Inferno. The conflict revolves around trying to save people from a burning skyscraper.
  • Into the Wild: The main theme of the story is the main character's escape from society and there are no antagonists.
  • Juno: A classic example shown in a coming-of-age drama.
  • Requiem for a Dream: The story is centered around several characters' drug addiction, so no antagonist is present.
  • Forrest Gump: With the possible exception of the Viet Cong, no antagonists. Forrest meets quite a few jerks, but none are ever harmful to him in any lasting way. A few of them even inadvertently help him in his life's journey to accidental greatness.
  • Teen Witch: The protagonist and eponymous witch, Louise Miller, has no opponents throughout the movie. The main conflict is that she has the ability to make anything she wants come to pass. note  So all she has to do is wish to be the most popular girl (which she does) and that gets the attention of the most popular boy.
  • Parenthood: Nope, no antagonists; the conflict stems from the various problems the Buckman family have to deal with. To name an example, Gil and Karen are worried about their eldest son and are uncertain if they could take care of another baby. To name another example, Susan and Nathan are in trouble because Susan wants another baby, but Nathan refuses because he's busy educating their 3-year-old daughter Patty to comedic extremes.
  • Up in the Air: Grey and Gray Morality story about George Clooney teaching Anna Kendrick how to lay people off, among other events.
  • My Dinner with Andre. Two main characters, one or two minor ones, and no conflict beyond argument. The whole thing is about two people sitting down and talking over dinner.
  • Apollo 13. Fighting to survive aboard a badly damaged spacecraft.
  • Lost Signal. Drugged teenagers wander around the forest during a blizzard.
  • The Starfighters was really an advertisement for a series of fighter planes shot as a movie. The movie has almost no conflict whatsoever. The closest the film has to an antagonist is the Congressman, whose son is a part of the Starfighter project against his wishes, but he never does anything other than call his son or the CO to try to talk them into reassigning him.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The Thompsons are obnoxious neighbors, but their kids can be alright and the whole family reconciles with the Szalinskis at the end. The scorpion is portrayed as evil, even though nothing it does goes outside basic animal instincts. Otherwise, nobody is ever intentionally causing trouble for anybody, they just happen to become an obstacle for the tiny children through accidents.
  • Zero Hour and Airplane! deal with the passengers of the plane (pilot included) succumbing to a virus, as well as one of the few passengers on board who didn't catch the virus having to land the plane on his own, despite not having flown one for years as well as previously flying a different model.
  • Mary Poppins has no villain, unless you count Dawes Sr. who is at worst a grumpy old banker and fires George Banks for the chaos Michael unintentionally caused in the bank. George is a bit neglectful and severe as a father, but not villainous.
  • Early in the Sylvester Stallone racing movie Driven, Til Schweiger's character initially comes across as the arrogant antagonist you'd expect in every sports movie, but quickly demonstrates that he's actually a good man and Worthy Opponent, voluntarily leaving a race and risking his life to save a fellow racer after a crash.
  • A fair few Romantic Comedies (and non-comedy romance films) have no antagonist and all the conflict is born out of the two leads either not getting along, a love triangle where nobody is villainous or a series of misunderstandings.
  • Top Hat: The story runs on Dale mistaking Jerry for her best friend's husband, her struggle to overcome her attraction to him, and his attempts to break through her sudden reluctance.
  • Follow the Fleet (1936): The obstacles mostly come from misunderstandings and the characters' own flaws.
  • Crazy Stupid Love: Every character is sympathetic on some level. Surprisingly, that even includes David, the man who Emily had an affair with.
  • Gravity: Two astronauts fight for their lives after they're stranded in space. Space debris is the main opposing force, but it isn't a character.
  • All Is Lost: A sailor fights for his life after he's lost at sea.
  • Her is about a man who falls in love with an operating system. The man doesn't have a great relationship with his ex-wife, but she's not an antagonist.
  • Rush: two Formula 1 drivers with opposing worldviews are pitted against each other - and both protagonists of the story. The closest thing qualifying as an antagonist is the weather.
  • The movie Bicentennial Man is about the robot Andrew's 200-year journey towards becoming human and finding love. The closest people to any sort of antagonist in the story are Andrew's stubborn manufacturer, Amanda's obnoxious son Lloyd, and the contrarian first President of the World Congress, each of whom appear in 1 or 2 scenes each and are rather incidental to the plot.
  • The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure: the titular Oogieloves lost their balloons for their pillow's birthday party. There is no villain or anything of substance for that matter.
  • In A Woman of Paris, the source of conflict is Marie's inability to choose between her rich Sugar Daddy and her poor former boyfriend. The sugar daddy really doesn't care and is perfectly willing to get another girlfriend if she wants to break up.
  • In The Straight Story, every character who appears in the film is a good person in some sense of the word. The closest we ever get is the fact that there are some people who try to talk Alvin out of the journey, and even then they're just concerned for his safety.
  • The rom-com/sci-fi movie About Time avoids the usual Love Triangle plot. Instead it has the protagonist battle his own life decisions via Reset Button.
  • In Father of the Bride titular father Stanley has to deal with his daughter Kay getting married and his feelings of empty nest syndrome and separation anxiety. But there isn't a bad guy.
  • Henry & June is character driven. Each individual is portrayed as complex, with their own flaws and strengths. While June is very unstable, she is a catalyst and not a villain; and the other characters do their own share of deceptive, self-serving things anyway.
  • The Seahawks general manager Tom Michaels in Draft Day is the character closest to an antagonist. However, he was just doing business. The real conflict in this movie is about making the right choices in a stressful time.
  • The Martian, as in the literature example below, is about a stranded astronaut trying to survive the environment of Mars, while literally the entire planet Earth comes together to try to get him home. No antagonist indeed.
  • The Santa Clause is about a Workaholic who accidentally becomes the new Santa Claus, and how this allows him to grow closer to his neglected son. Arguably his ex-wife and her new husband could count as antagonists, but it Subverts the usual First Father Wins narrative by giving both dads a positive relationship with the son. The sequels do have straight-up villains, however.
  • They Look Like People: Wyatt's paranoia over "monsters" impersonating people is all in his mind. The conflict is only in the two protagonists overcoming their flaws: delusions and crippling insecurity.

  • The third Warrior Cats series, rather than having a main villain to be defeated, features the protagonists struggling with the meaning of a prophecy about them.
    • Another example from Warriors can be found in a few of the novellas. Hollyleaf's Story, Mistystar's Omen, and Leafpool's Wish are all devoid of villains.
  • Seeker Bears, another Erin Hunter series has no main villain (and no villains after book two) and instead features the bear protagonists as they fight global warming.
  • A lot of H.P. Lovecraft stories as well. It's easy to overlook or forget that very few of them actually have villains as opposed to horrific sights, beings, or facts with a Blue and Orange Morality to them if there is any moral dimension going on at all.
  • Jane Austen's Emma. Emma herself drives the plot with her well-meaning though overbearing attempts to get her protegee Harriet properly married.
  • Enoch Arden: The main story is a love triangle where each of the people involved is sympathetic and well-meaning.
  • Isaac Asimov often has no antagonist. Partly this is because he dislikes writing Villains. He once said that he feels that no one see themselves as a villain, so he tried to write his stories to reflect that. He still has a some sympathetic antagonists, such as The Mule. Mostly he seems to find impersonal problems like social collapse more interesting than problems caused by a character.
  • Three of the books in the original Circle of Magic quartet have no villains. The kids fight some bullies in a couple scenes of Sandry's Book as well, but it's a side issue, not the main conflict. Instead, the kids face an earthquake, ill-managed wildfires, and a plague.
  • Individual stories of Diary of a Wimpy Kid are like this, despite the series itself having recurring antagonists:
  • Arthur C. Clarke quite often had stories like this, and never had a true villain; in any case where there was someone who seemed to be a villain, they'd turn out to be misunderstood more often than not. Averted by Hammer of God, which has religious fanatics trying to sabotage a project to save the Earth from an asteroid.
  • Little Women: The conflict of the Coming-of-Age Story comes from 4 sisters trying to navigate the ups and downs of life as they learn about the world, relationships, society, and their role in it.
  • The Frontier Magic series has no sapient antagonist. Monsters do show up, but they're all just wild animals from the unexplored frontier.
  • Ultimately if the characters in Palimpsest are struggling with anything, it's their own psychology. The creatures they encounter in Palimpsest actually want them to come and make it as easy as possible.
  • Zahrah in Zahrah the Windseeker goes off on quite the splendid adventure, but if she has an opponent it's a combination of the jungle and her people's ignorance.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has no characters who are directly working against other characters. What it does have are the four bratty kids, who are so obnoxious and selfish that they serve as Hate Sinks. Even in adaptations that make the kids genuinely mean/cruel to others, they remain too self-absorbed to directly oppose them — protagonist Charlie Bucket least of all. As they journey through the titular factory-cum-wonderland, the brats manage to take themselves out of the running of a Secret Test by disregarding Willy Wonka's warnings in favor of going after things they want, not realizing how dangerous those things can be. Mr. Wonka has No Sympathy for the brats when they get their comeuppances and it is suspicious that he's showing off so many things that play right into their vices, but on the other hand he tries to get them back to normal where possible. (At worst, he's an Anti-Hero, which is how the 2013 stage musical portrays him.) The book is often criticized for lacking real drama and/or Charlie becoming a Useless Protagonist owing to this process-of-elimination structure, so adaptations tend to tweak the plot to make him more proactive in his fate.
  • The Secret Garden: No bad guys. Just two spoiled children bettering themselves through The Power of Friendship.
  • While the books of the original The Mysterious Benedict Society series have a very obvious and real antagonist in Mr. Ledroptha Curtain, the prequel book, The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, has an interesting twist. Mr. Collum, the orphanage director, seems like a very powerful antagonist to Nicholas. However, Mr. Collum is really just a troubled and stubborn man who doesn't understand children very well and lacks creativity. In the end, Mr. Collum turns out to be a very powerful ally once Nicholas comes to understand him and once he's able to get him on his side.
  • In The Martian, most of the complications Mark faces are from his efforts to survive on Mars and NASA's attempts to bring him back.
  • In the Miss Bindergarten series, and most children's books by Rosemary Wells.
  • There is no real antagonist in "De skandalösa" by Simona Ahrnstedt. Gabriel's father was abusive, but he is now dead. It is revealed that Peter Cronstedt is a jerk, but you can hardly call him a villain. The plot is more about the different couples getting to know each other (and having a lot of sex).
  • The companion novels and the epilogue novel in Addicted Series are character driven and don't have an antagonist or even an overarching plot.
  • In Breakfast at Tiffany's and its movie adaptation, everything that happens to Holly Golightly happens because she's Holly Golightly.

    Live Action TV 
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The episode "The Body" uses this in a heartbreaking manner when Buffy's mother Joyce dies of an aneurysm and, due to the usual happenings of the city, some members of the group desperately seek an alternate explanation for it happening. When they come up with no explanation, Xander says in a rant:
    "Things don't just happen! Not like this!"
  • A few Doctor Who examples:
    • The events of early Bottle Episode "The Edge of Destruction" are caused by nothing more than a spring inside a switch being out of place.
    • In "Hide", the Doctor tries to rescue a time traveller trapped in a pocket dimension. It first appears that there is a monster in the episode, however it turns out he was simply another traveller trying to reunite with his mate.
    • This may or be not the case in "Listen", as it's deliberately left ambiguous whether the monster capable of "perfect hiding" actually exists. Either way, the conflict in the episode primarily stems from the Primal Fears in each character's — especially the Doctor's — head.
    • The closest things "In the Forest of the Night" has to real antagonists are non-sapient animals and a solar flare.
  • Most of Emergency!, due to Jack Webb's semi-documentary style and the Medical Drama nature of the show. Most of the struggles were against accidents, injuries and natural forces. Only a few eps had true antagonists.
  • Many episodes of House fit the trope: the "antagonist" of the medical storyline is just some kind of disease or medical condition, whilst in the protagonist's life the "antagonists" are merely his own personal problems, such as drug addiction. At the wishes of the network, the show has had recurring human antagonists (such as Edward Vogler in Season 1 and Michael Tritter in Season 3), but their arcs were resolved rather abruptly, as the creators of the show were well aware that a villain did not really fit the show's dynamic.
  • JAG: In "Mishap," Harmís former RIO, Lieutenant Elizabeth Skates, acts as LSO when a crash occurs aboard the aircraft carrier USS Patrick Henry. Skates gets court-martialed for alleged culpability in the incident, but it turns out she was not doing anything wrong; but rather that the entire crew was overworked and underfunded (lack of manpower, lack of spare parts etc.). Captain Ingles acts as the Hate Sink, by charging Skates in the first place and impeding Harmís request for documents, he didnít act maliciously or with any hidden motives.
  • MacGyver: occasionally had episodes where Mac dealt with a natural disaster or an accident without any nefarious sabotage involved. The second season episode "Hellfire" revolved around trying to put out an oil well fire using aged explosives and faulty equipment, with most of the drama caused by Mac's friend's bad history and trying to preserve his marriage.
  • Mad Men. Characters' problems and worries are all caused by their own actions or by traumatic events of the 1960s (such as the Kennedy Assassination and the Cuban Missile Crisis). While a character may occasionally have a rival of some sort, it's never on such a level that the other character could be defined as a Big Bad. Occasionally, but not usually, the ad firm on which the show centers or a character has a rival or competitor that could be called a Villainy-Free Villain, mostly similar to the Opposing Sports Team trope, where a change of perspective would put viewers on the other side. Interestingly, despite usually having no villains, and never having a truly evil villain, the show remains on the cynical side of the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, because most characters still have a good helping of Jerkass.
  • Masters of Horror: There's no villain in the episode "Sounds Like"; the conflict revolves entirely around the main character's acute sense of hearing becoming increasingly unbearable.
  • Often in Scrubs, the conflicts are with a disease or simply medical bureaucracy rather than with another character.
  • Six Feet Under doesn't feature an antagonist after the Krohener arc. The business seems to be doing fine, the show becomes far more character oriented.
  • Many episodes throughout Star Trek involve the heroes encountering a Negative Space Wedgie that puts them in danger. The wedgie in question isn't malevolent, but it's no less dangerous. From Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Inner Light" provides a particularly striking example - not only is the wedgie of the week not hostile, it's not even dangerous, with its' only real goal being to preserve the history of a dead civilization.
  • In Transparent, the conflicts of the characters are usually caused by their own actions or by their disagreements with each other as a family. The closest thing to a real villain that the show has is probably transphobia.
  • Some episodes of Married... with Children had the characters' Get Rich Quick Schemes ruined by bad luck or a Spanner in the Works.

  • Pink Floyd's The Wall is about Pink's inner struggle with the demons his life has brought down on him. While certain events and people did play a role in helping him build his "wall", there's no one you can point to and say that they're responsible for all of his issues... except himself.
  • Quadrophenia by The Who is about Jimmy's struggle to both fit in and figure out who he is (and who he should be). Although the Rocker-Mod riots are an important plot point, and Jimmy's relationship with the Mods underscores and enhances his conflict, it by no means causes it. This is quite a contrast to Tommy where the antagonist is seemingly everyone else.


    Tabletop Games 

  • Peer Gynt has no defined antagonist, unless you count the main character, who screws up splendidly and is his own worst enemy. Even the trolls, although sadistically cruel, spout some wisdom, and the Mountain King shows himself as fairly decent, even trying to get Peer back on track in the end. Even his daughter the green-clad woman states that Peer brought his problems on himself: "don`t blame me for this!"
  • Waiting for Godot is simply about two guys waiting for their friend to show up.
  • The conflict of Harvey is people's misguided attempts to "cure" Elwood of seeing the title rabbit. Since Elwood is pretty much the nicest man on the planet, not once does he object.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Animal Crossing. The conflict is simply "you're living on your own and have to pay for your house." The worst folks you have to deal with are the occasional mean neighbor or sly salesman.
  • Harvest Moon: The only HM game that has a clear antagonist is DS/DS Cute, where the Witch Princess accidently turned the Harvest Goddess to stone in the former and the Harvest King turning her to stone because of an insult directed at him in the latter. Every other game is just about a peaceful farming life in which your goals are set up by yourself, like maximizing your profits and getting married.
  • The Atari 2600 game Pressure Cooker. You're working at a fast food restaurant and the conflict is in keeping up with the flow of burgers before they all fall off the chute and not get the orders wrong. There aren't even any other visible characters besides yourself.
  • Zoo Tycoon, being about building a zoo, doesn't really have an antagonist to confront, though at times you could make an argument for the guests.
  • Unless you count the indeferrent plague and human frailty as a Big Bad, Pathologic plays this pretty straight.
  • Uru involves the player character exploring the history of the fallen D'ni culture, so unlike the rest of the Myst games, there is no opposition here.
  • Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar: The goal of the game is to become the eponymous Avatar. While a fair part of that quest involves the traditional Dungeon Crawler, there is no villain and most of the work involved in completing the quest involves simply acting virtuously.
  • Fez. The main conflict of the game is collecting cubes and saving reality from being torn apart.
  • Journey: You are a traveler in the desert walking towards the distant mountain. You meet fellow travelers who help you and dangerous creatures that hinder you locally, but there is no overarching opposing force that prevents you from going on.
  • Gone Home: Although it seems that you are exploring a haunted house, it turns out to be a love story and a Coming-Out Story about your sister and her girlfriend. While their story certainly features antagonists, the player character herself has none.
  • Sky Odyssey has no villains or bad guys to fight. Hostile Weather, mechanical breakdowns, and rough terrain challenge the player, but none are obviously characters.
  • Antichamber: There's something that can be interpreted as an antagonist, but doesn't really do anything visibly bad.
  • While King's Quest I and II have random foes for Graham to defeat, there's no central antagonist behind the whole thing. The AGD Fan Remake of II fixes this somewhat by promoting the witch Hagatha to a more prominent role, giving her more involvement in Valanice's kidnapping, and introducing The Father as Hagatha's Man Behind The Man.
  • Kerbal Space Program: The only obstacles to your progress are your own design or piloting mistakes.
  • Much of the entries in the Atelier series don't have an antagonist, as the plot usually revolves around proving one's self or reaching goals.
  • The Talos Principle: You only interact with two other characters, and while either or both of them may seem deceitful, neither of them want you to fail, nor will they take any steps to impede your progress. Apparently Subverted in the Tower Ascent ending, where Samsara will actively try to keep you from climbing the tower. Milton is just programmed to insert doubt in the simulation and encourage critical thinking, and Elohim is simply reluctant to be defied, knowing that will end the simulation and quite possibly kill him, but he never actually turns hostile and congratulates you should you succeed. Samsara does try to prevent you climbing the tower, though that one is functionally an antagonist to The Shepherd more than to the player, as the obstacles she throws up never render the puzzles unsolvable.
  • Jumper Three has no antagonists for Ogmo to deal with, just abandoned ruins full of the usual spikes, electricty currents, crumbling floors and native creatures that are eager to help Ogmo in finding a new home.
  • Dear Esther: The story concerns a single man's attempts to come to terms with a terrible event in his past. He is the only person on the island and even the event that drove him to solitude was just an tragic accident.
  • Nancy Drew Haunting at Castle Malloy is the only Nancy Drew game to fall into this trope and not have any culprit. As it turns out, the kidnapping that drives the plot was actually an accident and the "culprit" was trying to help the victim... and is a 70 year old feral woman flying around on a jetpack. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • This is officially the case for Uncommon Time according to the Developer's Room, but while it's definitely true for the final movement, which just involves the protagonists going on a Fetch Quest to succeed at the World Tuning, Teagan fits the role pretty well during the first half of the game. The Herald of Winter, Alto's subconscious hatred toward the world, could also count as an antagonist, as she's the reason why the first World Tuning fails, and in fact directly causes The End of the World as We Know It if she achieves dominance over Alto's will.
  • Completely possible in the main entries of The Sims, as you can create whatever kind of Sims you like and can craft whatever kind of "story" you want. Want a world where there's no bullies, jerks, villains, or romantic false leads? Knock yourself out; if you decide to go that route, then the biggest obstacle in your sim's day-to-day happiness will be themselves as you try to keep them from starting fires and starving to death. However, there are certain un-changeable NPC's (mostly in The Sims 2) that are programmed to occasionally be nuisances to your sims, such as the burglars, Mrs.Crumpplebottom, or the Unsavory Charlatan.
  • More often than not, a Super Monkey Ball game is simply about Aiai and the other monkeys feeling hungry and traveling to floating platforms to grab bananas, with no further plot. In the first two games, there weren't even any other characters besides Aiai and his friends.
  • Ignoring the Boss Rush modes, two modes from Kirby Super Star and its remake lack actual villains:
    • The Great Cave Offensive is basically Kirby falling into a hole and trying to escape with as much treasure as possible. While there are four major bosses, with Wham Bam Rock's defeat unlocking the ending, none of them have a plot role, and the mode ends with Kirby escaping.
    • Meta Knightmare Ultra in the remake is just a speedrun through the first five main modes as Meta Knight. Even when some sort of plot formulates towards the end, neither NPC involved (Nova and Galacta Knight) is antagonistic - the first simply grants a wish, and the second just exists for a unique final battle for the mode.

    Visual Novels 

  • The Infinity series in general.
    • Never7 is mostly about the protagonist trying to Set Right What Once Went Wrong, but all of the deaths he tries to prevent were the results of accidents, and where the main cause of everything is what was supposed to be a harmless science experiment Gone Horribly Wrong AND Right at the same time.
    • Ever17 has no real antagonist. There are some bad people alluded to, but the cast does not really come into conflict with them. The story is directly about trying to escape the the park before it is crushed by water pressure and indirectly about figuring out what is actually going on.
    • Kokoro's route in Remember11. Mayuzumi is a jerk and Hotori allegedly has a homicidal split personality, but ultimately any deaths are from natural causes, people freaking out in the bad endings, or caused by the twins, who, being infants, have no idea what they're doing. Satoru's route is a whole different story.
  • Most of the paths in Katawa Shoujo lack an antagonist. Shizune's father acts as one in hers, though he's mostly an ineffectual jerk, Lilly's parents put her and Hisao's relationship in jeopardy by having her move to Scotland, and the art teacher does inadvertently cause Rin's breakdown, but otherwise the characters deal with regular teen problems.
  • Crescendo ~Eien Dato Omotte Ita Ano Koro~
  • Private Nurse; if anything, Hiroki is his own worst enemy as it's implied that his sickness is as much psychological as it is physiological.
  • Kana: Little Sister. Kana's sickness and impending death due to kidney failure is the only "force" opposing the protagonist of the game.
  • Most routes of Little Busters!: Haruka's has her family and Kud's sorta has the islanders at the end, but the conflict in Komari's is all about her brother's tragic death to disease, Mio's presents Midori as the villain but the conflict is actually getting Mio to feel good enough about herself to want to live, and Kurugaya's is about the dream world breaking down. More than that, the main plot of the game itself follows this: while Kyousuke appears to be the villain for a while, he's merely reacting to the real issue, which is the bus crash that almost killed everyone except Riki and Rin, and the weakness of the latter two and their lack of ability to move on or take care of themselves afterwards.
  • Both Narcissu and it's prequel Narcissu 2nd have no antagonist, as their plots are about sick girls dying whilst musing about God & Christianity, fate, the fleeting nature of life, and the finality of death..

    Web Comics 
  • The Bug Pond: Being a character driven slice-of-life webcomic, it has no central villain. The closest it ever gets is the occasional predator who's not given any motivation or real personality outside being a temporary menace.
  • Dissonance: Two researchers deal with a new life form which challenges what they thought they knew about evolution, and their own Angst. Even the life form - a catlike creature that can walk on two legs - is friendly and completely non hostile.
  • Dumbing of Age. Possibly to the frustration of fans, most of the conflict is derived from interpersonal relationships and inner demons. When an actual antagonist designed purely to be hated shows up, however...
  • Gunnerkrigg Court. The comic presents many opportunities for villains to cause mayhem, but they either never act out on it or are revealed to be misunderstood good guys.
  • Questionable Content is a Romantic Comedy at heart. There are no antagonistic characters present, with the conflicts mainly coming from relationship troubles.
  • Sunstone has no villain or other antagonist, with the main problems that Ally and Lisa face stemming from their own fears and failings and their inability/unwillingness to just spit it out.
  • Wapsi Square has a complex save-the-world plot without any antagonistic characters. Instead, the conflict comes from the difficulty in figuring out how to save the world, as well as difficulties in carrying the required plans out. Certain people can't be told certain elements of certain plans, but those people are still working towards saving the world. It's all very confusing.

    Web Original 
  • Unlike other Story Arcs on the site that have the reviewers fighting bad guys like Mechakara or Dark Nella, most of the drama that The Nostalgia Critic deals with comes from his own issues.
    • While the participants of the First Anniversary Brawl are divided into teams (critics vs gamers), none of them are shown as more heroic or villainous than the others. In fact, none of them have much motivation beyond "beat the other guys up as much as possible."

    Western Animation 
  • Typical for animation works targeted at pre-schoolers or younger. This is because the age range is when children start to experience vivid dreams, and shows with antagonists more than often causes nightmares to the target audience, which greatly annoys the parents (no one likes waking up to their kid crying at 3 in the morning and having to drag themselves out of bed to console the kid).
  • Arthur plays this trope straight, preferring to focus on life issues.
  • Bertha - While Mr. Duncan can be over-demanding at times, at the end of the day he's just doing his job as foreman.
  • The Care Bears tends to drift in and out of this. The medias that are villain-free are listed below:
    • Most of the books have no villains. Understandable since it is understood that the books are read to toddlers as a bedtime story and the last thing parents want is the story being nightmare fuel.
    • The Care Bears' Big Wish Movie doesn't have villains.
    • Care Bears: Adventures in Care-a-Lot drifts in and out of this trope, but the final TV special plays this trope straight.
    • Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot also drifts in and out, the resident Villain, Beastly, doesn't appear in half of the episodes.
    • Care Bears & Cousins again drifts in and out of the trope being a continuity of Welcome to Care-a-Lot. However, Season 1 is quite clear-cut: The even numbered episodes of the season lacks villains.
  • Clarence could fall under this trope, that is without Balance or Sandy...
  • Fireman Sam as well, which deals only with fires started by either bad luck or carelessness.
  • Franklin also plays this trope straight — like Arthur, to focus on life issues.
  • Gravity Falls as a whole doesn't qualify in the slightest, but there is the occasional Breather Episode where nothing menacing appears. Examples include "Double Dipper", "The Time Traveler's Pig", the "Truth Ache" segment from "Bottomless Pit!", "The Deep End" and "Carpet Diem".
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, as well as most Pooh media in general. Usually, the conflict instead comes from characters trying to solve simple problems and/or misunderstandings. However, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh averts this by making Heffalumps and Woozles Real After All. Played straight again with subsequent Pooh shows- The Book Of Pooh and My Friends Tigger And Pooh both lack antagonists.
  • Matchbox Hero City does not have a villain unless you want to count the ghosts as antagonists, but all they are doing is searching a quiet place to live.
  • While G1 had an antagonist almost every episode, and occasionally G4 has one, other series in the My Little Pony line (notably, Tales and G3) didn't.
  • Almost every Season Finale of Friendship is Magic has an antagonist driving the plot. The one exception is the Season 1 Finale "The Best Night Ever", where the conflict is the Mane 6 finding out that The Great Galloping Gala is disappointing and nothing like they hoped for, followed by their disastrous attempts to "Fix" it.
  • Pinky and the Brain usually avoided having any character knowingly and deliberately work against the Brain's world domination plots, probably because having a character play the traditional "hero" role against Brain's "villain" would run the risk of making the Brain seem too unsympathetic. The only real antagonist in the series is Brain's archnemesis Snowball, who's just like the Brain only worse (he only wants to stop Brain from conquering the world so that he can have it for himself).
  • Most Postman Pat episodes are like this, with inclement weather, lost kites, special events (such as fetes and birthdays) and too-small suits of armour amongst others typically being the things that drive the plot, rather than a conflict between characters.
  • ReBoot: Subverted in episode "My Two Bobs". It was originally set up to lack a villain, as both Bobs were initially portrayed as "good" and the conflict was whether Dot would choose to be with Glitch-Bob or Normal-Bob. But this style of conflict was thrown out the window when Normal-Bob is revealed to be Megabyte.
  • Rescue Heroes has the conflict being between the Global Response Team and the natural disaster of the week.
  • Star Wars Rebels: The only real antagonist in "Trials of the Darksaber" is Sabine's own demons that are preventing her from giving her all to her sword training.
  • Strawberry Shortcake, In particular, the 2003 series, to the point it causes a Broken Base when actual antagonists appear. In the 2009 reboot, it's this trope played straight until the reintroduction of Sour Grapes. The 80s specials avert this with the Peculiar Purple Pieman as the recurring antagonist.
  • Transformers Rescue Bots: The series is aimed at preschoolers, meaning that the Decepticons are absent (and if Transformers Prime, which the series takes place with concurrently, is anything to go by, it's for VERY good reason). The real conflicts are against natural disasters, malfunctioning machinery, and interpersonal issues between the Autobots and their human allies. Later averted when villains such as Mad Scientist Dr. Morocco and Corrupt Corporate Executive Madeliene Pynch showed up.
    • A few episodes have human antagonists, but they're the exception rather than the rule.
  • Most episodes of The Amazing World of Gumball have some kind of antagonist, but there are some exceptions:
    • Some episodes are just a series of sketches with no overall plot, placing them here.
    • "The Joy" deals with a virus outbreak that Richard accidentally caused. Miss Simian is an asshole, but she's the one that tries to stop it. Nobody's really complicit in the outbreak.
    • "The Origins" doesn't have an antagonist, and most of the plot is driven by the Watterson's bad luck and stupidity.
  • Word Party - much of the conflict in the story stems from the characters not knowing the word to something.
  • Every episode save one of Danny Phantom feature the eponymous hero fighting some ghost or human and stopping some Evil Plan or attempt to Take Over the World (or at least cause serious damage). The one exception is the third episode "Parental Bonding," which has no villain intentionally causing any trouble, just a magical amulet (not an Artifact of Doom with an agenda but a completely neutral object) accidentally turning unwitting victims into a dragon the hero has to stop.
  • More than a few SpongeBob SquarePants episodes don't include villains (such as Plankton, Mr. Krabs, Man-ray etc.) examples include Can you spare a dime?, Rock-a-bye bivalve and The Splinter.
  • Despite its alleged creepiness a sizable amount of episodes of The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack have issues that are caused by the main characters (Flapjack's and K'nuckles) stupidity without a single enemy to trouble them. The other most common scenario is that K'nuckles himself is the villain.