Peter Sullivan: Why are you always smiling?
Because it's all so fuckin' hysterical...
As far as the most devious and subtle of villains
are concerned, when it comes to facial expression, less is more. A Cheshire Cat Grin
only warns people that something's afoot; a Slasher Smile
is even more glaringly obvious. No, when someone's about to walk straight into your Death Trap
or your Evil Plan
is about to pay big dividends, it's best to show your smug superiority with a devious little smile, probably behind your victim's/lackey's back, or behind your hand (or hands)
. Only the villain and the viewers know that alarm bells should be ringing in the good guys' heads - but hey, they're the enemy, why give them advance notice? For obvious reasons, this subtle hint of treachery is especially likely to turn up as part of a Traitor Shot
The Psychotic Smirk is a favorite with Big Bads
everywhere. There's no need to broadcast just how dangerous they are - everyone's got a pretty good idea already, but no one can prove it. The important thing is to smile with only one side of the mouth. Sometimes, it's accompanied by a Finger Wag
as if to say "Nice try, sucker" if the hero had attempted to defeat them.
Unfortunately, the understated effect is often ruined by an over-the-top Motive Rant
when the penny finally drops for the heroes.
A particular type of Anti-Hero
does this, too: the soft-spoken, underhanded ones who always know more than they let on
, but never see fit to warn others of the danger.
See Sideways Smile
for the generally less evil version.
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Anime and Manga
- Alucard from Hellsing almost always has this, so much so that it's hard to distinguish this from his Slasher Smile.
- The Major also sports one quite a lot. Pretty much everyone in the series has had one.
- The Demons of Ah! My Goddess: Velsper and Hilde more so than Mara, who's a little too over-the-top to pull off the "subtle mastermind" shtick.
- Kagato, in Tenchi Muyo!.
- Anti-Hero type: Count D in Pet Shop of Horrors, particularly when he's manipulating a presidential candidate and his aide in Dual and when he tells a couple to "take good care" of their new pet rabbit/surrogate daughter in Daughter. In the anime, this is made even more creepy when the darkness of the screen emphasises his smirk and his mismatched, glowing eyes.
- Xellos from Slayers is also an antihero version. Of course, he smiles all the time, so his smirks are definitely important when they show up, usually complimented by a slight opening of his eyes, another important visual cue.
- Noa, villain of the Virtual Nightmare arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, has this expression when watching the misery of the heroes from the comfort of his cyber-throne. He gets it almost perfectly right.
- Yami himself. An Anti-Hero example of this and he got it perfected.
- Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, although after he drains Joseph of his blood he gets a Slasher Smile.
- Dilandau Albetou from Vision of Escaflowne, frequently switches between his trademark Psychotic Smirk and a disturbing Slasher Smile.
- Naraku from InuYasha typically has this expression when he has the upper hand and isn't trying to trick the heroes into thinking he doesn't (which is pretty much always).
- Legato Bluesummers from Trigun puts off several of these.
- If you see Aizen smiling even a bit, turn heel and run because it generally means you're on the wrong end of his manipulations - the kind of manipulations that threaten life or sanity. Unfortunately for all the characters, he's always smiling.
- The anime subtly portrays Mila-Rose as someone that enjoys fighting, with a slight sadistic streak as she's shown with a psychotic smirk when fighting an outmatched Matsumoto.
- Ginjou has a habit of letting these slip out. His first introduction to the storyline even included one. As he once confessed to Ichigo, when he's forced to play the role of a villain, he tends to go for the cliché.
- Piedmon from Digimon Adventure does this every time he's preparing his next move.
- Light from Death Note. Three words: "Exactly as planned." One smirk he busts out is so momentous, it's accompanied by a sudden earthquake in the cinematography.
- Also, Mello in the scene where his henchman is killing much of his opponent Near's team. In the anime, in the middle of the scene, while the dice are falling and the people are dying, it cuts to Mello, and a satisfied grin. Also chocolate. Always with the chocolate.
- It's never certain whether Gendo Ikari is actually the Big Bad of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but this is an important facet of his character - every time you see the EVA units going into action, the camera cuts to Gendo seated at his desk, with a smile hidden behind his folded hands.
- Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass loves doing this behind that Cool Mask of his. For good reason; whenever he does it without the mask it passes from awesome to terrifying.
- We're introduced to that smile at the end of the first episode, when he grins just a little too evilly after Geassing the soldiers about to kill him into shooting themselves. It's the blood splashing onto his cheek that really does it.
- Kazuma from Kaze no Stigma. He really doesn't like the Tsuwabuki family...
- Itachi from Naruto seems to consider this his favourite expression. Of course, he only has three; frowning, blank stare, and smirking. If he smirks...you're in trouble. Direct, immediate, trouble, that is. Most likely he's just reversed your attack and you're about to kill yourself unless you stop.
- Suigetsu does this most of the time, usually one with his mouth closed if he's genuinely indifferent, or with it slightly open (showing off his shark teeth) if he's about to kill someone face an opponent he thinks he can easily beat. He usually only does otherwise if he's in some sort of danger.
- And now, Sasuke sports one of these in 476, after crushing Danzo (but not really) for speaking ill of Itachi.
- Kyuubi!Naruto sports an amazing one near the beginning of his fight with God Realm Pain. It's the middle right panel on this page. You don't get better Psycho Smirks than that.
- Now Obito has jumped in on the action after being unmasked. His response to being asked if he really is Kakashi's old friend is just a long parade of these one after another.
- And lest we forget Gaara before his Heel-Face Turn! As shown here,◊ here, here, here and here! And pages 10, 12 and 15 of this gallery have a bunch of his smirks from his battle against Naruto!
- If Akito from Fruits Basket (the manga, at least) smiles, this is usually the smile he chooses. Of course, if you take in what his eyes usually say ("I am so enjoying ripping your little psyche to shreds!"), it's a little more disturbing...
- Vegeta's psychotic smirk was one of his trademarks as a villain, given just before blasting someone to Hell (or the Next Dimension, for those of you who go by the earlier dub).
- Cell's final form on Dragon Ball Z seemed to do this all the time. There's one particular example on the cover of DragonballZ Budokai◊.
- Gohan counts too (Super Saiyan 2 Gohan that is)
- Aion from Chrono Crusade is very fond of this trope. So much so that it's when he stops smirking that you really have to be worried.
- Moka Akashiya's Superpowered Evil Side from Rosario + Vampire hardly smiles, but sometimes she does it to look frighting.
- Ukyo from Samurai 7 is fond of this. And it is creepy.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward, Envy and Kimblee all do this at least once (but then again, we don't think we've ever seen Kimblee when he's not doing this).
- In Episode 37, Kimblee actually has a very sweet smile when he tells Winry about her parents, and how his squad was too late to prevent their demise at the hands of Scar. Which only gets just as disturbing once you learn he and his squad were on a mission to dispose of said parents for assisting the enemy.
- Just FYI: the smile was genuine. Kimblee is a definite sociopath, but he also holds deep admiration and respect for people who stick to their convictions, such as the Rockbells.
- A non-villainous example is when Grumman's Xanatos Gambit to prevent Bradley, A.K.A Wrath, from being able to reach Central, when Mustang's assault happens, which either Bradley will not return to Central due to a training exercise or does return and his train is destroyed while over a bridge planted with explosives, possibly killing him, pulls off. Grumman has this reaction when he hears that the later happened. It's even better in the anime where the opening notes of the ending theme play right when he does this.
- In episode 62 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the camera focuses on Father doing this just before he unleashes a Wave Motion Gun on the heroes.
- Mad Scientist Big Bad Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha wears one of these on his face most of the time. He uses a particularly nice one when Due assassinates the founders of the Space-Time Administration Bureau.
- The Trigger Happy Joichiro Nishi from Gantz wears one of these at all times, right up until his incredibly painful death. Though of course, he was Dead to Begin With...
- Kiku Honda (Japan) of Axis Powers Hetalia does this very subtly in the anime while being very enigmatic. Coupled with his Monochromatic Eyes...
- Psycho Lesbian Tsukuyomi of Mahou Sensei Negima! often does this in her early appearances. Later on, it turns into a full Slasher Smile.
- Occasionally Eva slips into this when things are going especially well for her. For example, right before having five of her ribs broken... putting the expression under this trope.
- Alejandro Corner is fond of doing this as his plans unfold in Gundam 00. And Ribbons starts copying it as soon as it becomes clear that he was just using Corner.
- Gauron from Full Metal Panic!, being the Smug Snake he is, has this as his constant default expression. Only broken when he's having one of his Slasher Smiles.
- While almost everyone in Gintama does this from time to time, Okita and Takasugi probably do it the most.
- Haruko from FLCL usually has one whenever she is fighting.
- Tomomi Saikyo of Ladies Versus Butlers!! is commonly seen with this when she is about to/planning to screw over a classmate of hers. It's hinted that she manipulated Akiharu Hino, a childhood friend, into saying, "I want to become a bride."
- Characters driven insane in Soul Eater mainly get full-on Slasher Smiles. It's just the look that's used. In his moment of madness, Death the Kid gets a smirk not entirely unlike his expression when pleased under normal circumstances. Somehow this makes it worse.
- Stein gets some fantastic ones here.
- Rock from Black Lagoon has started doing this.
- Here in Kunisaki Izumo no Jijou, Kumedara gives one to Izumo before dragging him into drag.
- Berserk: While the Slasher Smile is Guts's forte, Griffith has mastered the Psychotic Smirk, as seen here. Suits the Manipulative Bastard quite well.
- Seto Freakin' Kaiba! Everytime he smiles, a puppy dies.
- Orga Sabnak, Cortho Bauer, and Sting Oakley of Gundam SEED and Gundam SEED Destiny typically sport one of these. Both Cortho and Sting graduate to full on Slasher Smiles following the deaths of their teammates.
- Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie spends most of the movie wearing a cold, stern expression, but he gives a couple of smirks when amused by Ash and co. defiance towards him.
- Vincent Volaju's default expression in Cowboy Bebop: The Movie is this.
- Harusumi of Bokura no Kiseki is pretty fond of this. He'll occasionally combine it with a Death Glare for some truly terrifying expressions.
- Akuma No Riddle has a cast of mostly Axe Crazy Professional Killers. There's plenty to go around.
- Fairy Tail: Mard Geer of Tartaros, constantly. Whether it's lounging on his throne, making a speech on how humans are pathetic, facing down the Celestial Spirit King, or taking on three Dragonslayers, it seems to be his default expression as The Stoic. When he's Not So Stoic though, it turns to a full-blown Slasher Smile.
- In Kyon Big Damn Hero, all the Yakuza can do it, mainly because it implies that they can give you hell. Mori's smirk, on the other hand, can cause fear-induced paralysis, and she isn't even one.
- Severa, from Knights and Dragons, a Percy Jackson and the Olympians fic, is like this. Permanently.
- Ami, like her canon counterpart, is as about a nice a girl as you can get. But occasionally she'll have a really 'good' science related idea or figure out how to get back at a villain in the perfect way. Then a very disturbing smile appears on her face, and it really doesn't help that her eyes glow red
- Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars does this quite a bit, one of the most notable examples would be when he was chuckling to himself behind Vader's back during the latter's infamous Big "NO!".
- Sean Miller, an Irish terrorist in Patriot Games, uses this on Jack Ryan during his own trial for murder and attempted kidnapping.
- Arnold Vosloo's smirk is probably the main reason he got the part of Imhotep in The Mummy.
- Although the fact that he looks rather tasty in a loin cloth probably didn't hurt, either.
- The Villain Protagonist of Mr. Brooks employs a particularly impressive smirk during his Crowning Moment of Awesome.
- Pretty much the whole point of Paranoiac is seeing Oliver Reed grin creepily.
- Laurie has one of these at the end of Halloween II (2009) (2009).
- Alex from A Clockwork Orange, most famously during the opening scene and the stroll with his droogs at the lake.
- Frank Alexander gets in on the action when he's torturing Alex with Beethoven's Ninth.
- Robo-Maria from Metropolis, in every single scene she's in (Even while she's being burned at the stake!).
- Loki in Thor and The Avengers is a master at the enigmatic, tight-lipped smile, although he shows a bit more teeth in The Avengers.
- Castor Troy in Face/Off. Sean Archer does this also, when he is still Castor Troy and when he's drunk, as shown here.
- A staple for many James Bond villains and henchmen, including Ernst Blofeld, Auric Goldfinger, his chaffeur Oddjob, Mr. Wint, Mr. Kidd, Baron Samedi, Tee Hee Johnson, Francisco Scaramanga, Nick Nack, Max Zorin, Franz Sanchez, Alec Trevelyan and Boris Grishenko.
- Norman Bates from Psycho specifically at the end.
- The Omen (1976) with Damien. At the end, during Robert and Kate Thorn's funeral, he turns towards the camera and gives a little smile. Damien's nanny, Mrs. Baylock, also pulls off the trope, most notably when she's about to kill Kate.
Live Action TV
- Murdoch Mysteries: James Gillies has a creepy smirk at the end of "The Murdoch Trap."
- Default expression for Lionel and Lex Luthor in Smallville.
- Chloe gets a small one when Lionel convinces her to do a temporary Face-Heel Turn.
- Sylar from Heroes does this occasionally. Apparently, Sendhil Ramamurthy who plays Mohinder◊ does a pretty good one, too!
- One particularly memorable smirk came while he was shapeshifted as Micah to help him fake his death. For a split second, "Sylar" shows through. The kid nails it.
- Lila from Dexter does this in a Revealing Hug with Dexter, having successfully gotten him to come to see her after he'd previously ignored her phone calls.
- Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones puts on a flat out disturbing one combined with a kubrick stare during The Rains of Castamere when urges Catelyn via his eyes to pull up his sleeve and see he has his chainmail on thus cluing her and the audience in he's betrayed Robb and the Red Wedding is about to begin.
- Benjamin Linus from LOST does this from time to time. The most obvious example would be when he flashes a psychotic smirk in season 4, after having masterfully convinced Sayid to become his personal assassin after they both leave the island.
- Star Trek: Enterprise: Stiff-upper-lip tactical officer Malcolm Reed does this when taken over by a non-corporeal alien in The Crossing, and when he's just plain Mirror Universe evil in "In a Mirror, Darkly" (check out the scene where Reed watches his own ship get destroyed).
- Male Yandere Masato Kusaka from Kamen Rider Faiz used to do this when he was trying to separate Takumi from his friends... until episode 30, when it morphed into a creepy Slasher Smile.
- This seems to be the default expression of Ryan O'Reily in OZ, but seeing as he spends the entire series manipulating one side against the other it's hardly surprising.
- Kerr Avon from Blake's 7.
- Within the first ten minutes of the episode "Innocence", the Judge walks up to Angel, and tries to burn him. Since the Judge can only burn someone with humanity in them, it serves as a marker that Angel has lost his soul. He turns to Drusilla, and says "I'm back," with a very muted psychotic smirk.
- Angelus also sports a particularly evil smirk when he's watching Buffy and Willow break down upon being told about Jenny's murder. In fact, Angelus is nearly always wearing one.
- In Season 8, Buffy gives a particularly frightening one to a vampire as it's doused in fuel, threatening to Kill It with Fire.
- Doctor Who
- Hilary Briss on The League of Gentlemen, who has this hideous, almost mocking smile.
- Anna Espinosa, a recurring antagonist on Alias, was fond of this trope. Sark, too, if memory serves.
- On Merlin we have Morgana. Dear God Morgana. Everytime she does something evil her Psychotic Smirk goes on a rampage and smacks us in the face. Worse? She does it in broad daylight in front of the people she is convincing that she is still good. And they never notice it.
- It does finally blow her cover when Gwen notices it.
- The Trickster from Supernatural wears this a couple of times - there's a particularly good example in the episode Changing Channels◊.
- Jeff Winger on Community (the Anti-Hero version).
- When Randy Orton latest would viciously stomping the heads of other wrestlers (most of them legends), presumably giving them career ending concussions. Right before Orton does the move, he gets a sinister look in his eyes and gives a smirk.
- In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards the ruler of Ripple Star does one of these behind Ribbon's back during the game's false ending.
- Clyde from Army of Two. Just...Clyde.
- Albert Wesker of the Resident Evil games loves this, especially in Resident Evil 0 and Code: Veronica. In both games, he's controlling a series of deathtraps that the player has to navigate through. He also smirks evilly when he takes on Code: Veronica's Big Bad; after finding himself over his head, he smirks and leaves the two of you alone to work out your differences.
- This is Wong's default expression in Psychic Force. Guy's a very happy Chessmaster.
- Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII tosses Cloud a cold, calculating smile as he basks in the flames of the protagonist's hometown (although Crisis Core retconned it slightly so it resembled more of a sorrowful or rageful expression).
- Not to mention a chillingly smug smirk when he runs his sword through Aerith.
- In Advent Children, Sephiroth's Psychotic Smirk is clearly in evidence during his big fight with Cloud. That, a bit of Dissonant Serenity, and the fact that he never breaks a sweat or breathes heavy during this fight was supposedly done to show his immense strength.
- Sephiroth also displays a charmingly evil smirk during his boss battle with Zack in Crisis Core.
- Kain smiles for the first time in centuries in Legacy of Kain: Defiance, just before trumping Moebius for the last time. Or, as one Fauxtivational Poster put it, "Kain is smiling. Run for your lives."
- Vidocq from Doctor Lautrec And The Forgotten Knights does these a few times throughout the game; the first time is about five seconds after his first appearance.
- Jeanette Voerman in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines does a minxy one of these when sending you off on her schemes, Rawr.
- Ishida Mitsunari in the opening video of Sengoku Basara 3, after dealing swift death to a couple of mooks. And then he glares for the rest of the entire game.
- At the start of Mass Effect 2, Miranda is seen first conferring with The Illusive Man and then watching over Shepard with a genuinely warm smile. She reappears after losing contact trying to aid Shepard, flashes a smirk at Wilson, before killing him for trying to lead Shepard into a trap and abandon her to die.
- A rare heroic example, perhaps, would be Commander Shepard him/herself. While the Renegade Shepard does this quite often, there are two particular occasions when even the Paragon Shepard cannot help but break out that signature Shepard smirk that says "I just saved the galaxy and I'm not even tired. What can you do, suckers?" These occasions are when Shepard emerges quite alive from the rubble after the battle with Saren/Sovereign and when Shepard tells the Illusive Man to go fuck himself right after blowing up the Collector base.
- Mass Effect 3: When questioned by Admiral Hackett on how s/he got the krogan and salarians to cooperate (answer: by sabotaging the genophage cure), Shepard's response of "careful diplomacy" is accompanied by a Kubrick Stare and Psychotic Smirk.
- Team Fortress 2's Mac Update trailer features a Scout that meets up with his team's Demoman and Heavy (who are enjoying music courtesy earbuds on thin, white wires), trades his clunky 1950s headset for a matching pair of sleek white earbuds, slings his bat over his shoulder, and unleashes the smirk.
- Master Xehanort of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep is nearly always wearing one of these.
- Larxene pulls one of these before kicking Sora to the ground.
- Since Shadow the Hedgehog is supposed to be a darker version of Sonic the Hedgehog (Stalwart of the Sideways Smile), when he isn't scowling, he will occasionally drop one of these.
- This is the second of Hazama's three smiles, squeezed in between his unpleasant Cheshire Cat Grin and monstrous Slasher Smile.
- Norman Jayden from Heavy Rain sports one of these in the ending "Uploaded" right after scaring the shit out of Carter Blake in ARI.
- Alex Mercer does these from time to time. His habit of flashing them at victims when he believes them at his mercy means they border on slasher smiles a lot (and his dietary habits sure don't help dispel that impression). He's just not a naturally reassuring sort of person.
- In Wand of Gamelon, Zelda gives a creepy little smirk after she kills hectan.
- Ganondorf's default expression in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
- Zsasz displays a very creepy one on his character trophy in Batman: Arkham City.
- Master Contra from Neo Contra.
- Volsung from Wild ARMs 5.
- Richard gets a good one in a cutscene in Tales of Graces, as he is being crowned King of Windor. And after that things go quickly to hell and he mostly resorts to a full-on Slasher Smile
- In a flashback, Joshua of The World Ends with You pulls a deeply unsettling one of these right before shooting Neku in the head. He gets another one in the endgame when threatening to do it again, though the smile gets softer after he actually does.
- Haunting Ground: If Daniella isn't expressionless, she's doing this.
- Bloody Mary from The Wolf Among Us is almost always wearing one from the moment she's introduced in "A Crooked Mile".
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth does this in court whenever he's about to say something that will crush Pheonix's argument.
- Tsukihime: Nanaya Shiki. Usually more of an antihero than a villain, his smirk◊ doesn't mean he knows more than he's letting on...it's just that he's going to love kicking/killing your ass.
- Bernkastel of Umineko no Naku Koro ni does this a whole lot after The Reveal.
- The Anti-Villain Dr. Horrible has one of these at the end of Act II, as he begins "Brand New Day," and resolves to Murder the Hypotenuse.
- Evan from Everyman Hybrid shows off a creepy one at the end of "Joke's Over", while Vince is talking about how two of their friends are missing.
- The Nostalgia Chick gets a good one when she successfully pulls a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on the Critic.
- Speaking of Critic, he spends most of "The Review Must Go On" like this. His even doing it when he's back at his desk made people theorize that he Came Back Wrong. He does it again at the end of The Cat In The Hat when Soulless is screaming in hell from his torture suggestion.