A sadist is someone that enjoys the suffering of others. This is the kind of character that takes pleasure in inflicting Cold-Blooded Torture and psychological abuse. Whether it's physical or psychological, a sadist will take pleasure in making or seeing others suffer. Sometimes a sadist has a Lack of Empathy that stops that from feeling any guilt from the suffering they cause. However, that is not a prequisite. Most do indeed feel bad about their actions; many enjoy it too much to stop, while some other feel to guilty to act out their desires.
The Trope Namer comes from a Real Life disorder called sadistic personality disorder. The word sadism itself originates from the Marquis de Sade, who was the author (and practitioner) of some rather sadistic works. The specific disorder was removed from the referenced Diagnosis and Statistics Manual after the 3rd edition (or rather, demoted to the "Other" section), partly due to fears of legal abuse (ie. the disorder being misused as a valid Insanity Defence), partly because the criteria was deemed flawed due to lack of research in the area.
Modern psychology has a much broader understanding of the term than listed above. In general, a sadist is anyone who seeks not only to harm another person, but to control or dominate them; others seek revenge (even pre-emptive revenge) for perceived slights, real or imagined, sometimes targeting innocent people as substitutes for the true subject of their wrath (eg. Abusive Parents); some are emotional vampires who like to experience terror by instilling it in others (kind of an inverse or twisted empathy); some take out their personal inadequacies, stresses or self-loathing on other people; and still others wish merely to feed their own ego- having power over another "proves" they are better than them; and some merely wish to see others suffer.
In practice, most sadists are not physically violent, and the ones who are usually come from a violent culture or background. Psychological and emotional sadism is much more common and, in some cases, much more sophisticated and harmful, being easier to disguise from either the victim or their loved ones. Its also, often, very mundane- the Bad Boss, The Bully, and the Domestic Abuser are all often types of sadist. Many target family members in particular, as they are "safe" targets they can control easily, or otherwise go after someone who is in their power (eg. a Mean Boss with their employees, or a Sadist Teacher with their students) so that it becomes harder for them to resist.
The difference between The Sociopath and the sadist is that the latter wants to hurt others; the former is defined by their utter indifference and lack of remorse, and typically cause harm only as a means to an end. A sadist is not necessarily devoid of guilt; rather, like the Narcissist, they just ignore or find excuses for it, frequently blaming their victim ("You're stupid"; "you're weak"; "Why Did You Make Me Hit You?", etc). That being said, the two disorders are highly comorbid, meaning that there are plenty of sadistic sociopaths and sociopathic sadists both in fiction and in Real Life. When sadism meets narcissism the results are equally ugly. Serial Killers and, indeed, many violent criminals and personalities, often have shades of all of the above. Many sadists won't see, or even consider the idea that there is a problem with their behaviour.
The difference between this trope and a Blood Knight is that a sadist may not even enjoy fighting. They simply love the misfortune of others. Whereas a Blood Knight will enjoy fighting his opponent, a sadist is perfectly fine with torturing a helpless victim. Expect them to take extreme actions to make their victim suffer as much as possible. That said, there are plenty of characters who fit both bills. The Comedic Sociopath is usually this trope Played for Laughs. See also It Amused Me (which may or may not include torture), Hollywood Personality Disorders, Soft-Spoken Sadist, and Unsexy Sadist. May overlap with Ax-Crazy, The Sociopath, Mad Doctor, Sadist Teacher, Depraved Dentist, Blood Knight and Loves the Sound of Screaming. Compare and contrast with Combat Sadomasochist, who's just as happy receiving pain as dishing it out. Dystopia Justifies the Means often involves sadistic delight in the misery of a whole setting.
A sadist is quite capable of delving into Stupid Evil if they take their joy for harming others over actually choosing the more intelligent decision.
Note that within the BDSM subculture, a person who can only get off through hurting others is pretty uncommon. Actual sexual sadists absolutely exist, of course; they just very rarely hang out in that community.
open/close all folders
Anime And Manga
In Black Butler Sebastian and Grell fit well into this trope.
Grell's favourite colour is red, and he delights in painting the world red with blood. His line of work as a reaper effectively involves him hacking up people with a chainsaw every night. With paperwork in between. He is also actually Jack the Ripper
Sebastian isn't sadistic 24/7. He can be somewhat caring when it comes to Ciel, but he drops straight into sadism whenever he fights Grell: "You have a lovely screaming voice"
Enter Vincent Nightray from Pandora Hearts. If he isn't molesting his stuffed animals with scissors, he's stalking his hot younger brother or kidnapping women.
In Fullmetal Alchemist Envy delights in giving pain to others...but he doesn't like the same being done to it.
In Durarara!! Izaya genuinely screws with people simply because he enjoys it and likes seeing their reactions — except for Shizuo. He hates Shizuo.
Frieza of Dragon Ball Z slowly kills his enemies rather than outright killing them as shown when he impales Krillin with his horns.
Cell too, to even greater degrees. While Frieza is satisfied with only just the physical suffering of his victims, Cell prefers to add the psychological element to his cruelty, terrorizing and destroying any chance for hope his opponent has, before killing them.
Kid Buu is a very sadistic Omnicidal Maniac. Even he has hinted he would to enjoy the death of every living thing that exists.
His Super Buu form is on par in terms of sadism, even worse than Frieza or Cell. He specializes in killing his victims in extremely sadistic ways. He even killed a man by liquifying his own body, forcibly going down a guy's throat, and making him explode from the inside out. It also uses torment and psychological torture, such as the Gohan fight.
Nappa, in fact, he seems to have a sadistic joy with each act of destruction he performs.
Suigetsu enjoys cutting off the limbs of his opponents before cutting of their heads.
Sakon in the Creepy Twins duo of the Sound Five also counts, since he always likes to prolong fights.
Hidan is the most obvious example. He intentionally strikes non vital areas of his opponent so that he can make them die a "good death". Though he does feel the need to join a Religion of Evil before acting on his sadistic impulses, so at least he feels his sadism needs some "higher" purpose.
Orochimaru is a power-hungry psychopath but he clearly likes making people suffer along the way. He also seems to enjoy making a mockery of other peoples' beliefs and values, for example by how much his horrific actions freak other people out, as well as manipulating others to fight and die for him; in addition, his stated reason for trying to start another global war was "peace is boring". He also once lost the use of arms because he dragged a fight out for too long- because he was trying to make his opponent, his mentor the Third Hokage, psychologically suffer before losing.
He once tells Kabuto, his underling, that he is even crueller than he is. Kabuto is a Mad Doctor who earned Oro's praise because he was able to keep their human experiments alive for longer, and later forces the zombies of various famous ninja to fight their friends and family as a form of psychological warfare.
Gaara the Sand ninja is introduced as a psychotic sadist- he believes he must kill people to feed the chaos inside of himself, driven as he is by a combination of Demonic Possession, lifelong insomnia and a horrifically traumatic childhood. He once killed three ninja in battle, and then tried to find more people to kill because it wasn't enough. He also kept his older brother and sister in line by threatening to kill them if they didn't do what he said. He got better though.
Fist of the North Star features many villains who enjoy inflicting torment and cruelty on the innocent. As Kenshiro despises such villains, they are often subjected to just as cruel ends.
Dark Marik from Yu-Gi-Oh! is a pretty clear case of what used to be Sadistic Personality Disorder. He's a psychological and physical sadist, who rigs up his duels so that they will cause the maximum amount of emotional and physical trauma to the victims, gloating about it the entire time. The Spirit of the Millenium Ring is of a similar mindset, though he's not near as blatant about it as Dark Marik is.
Darkseid is a sadist on a tyrannical scale. He has built a galaxy-spanning empire as well as a Religion of Evil entirely on the concept of spreading misey and suffering and his self-proclaimed right to control, dominate and enslave all life in the universe. All of his underlings are absolutely terrified of him and he often has them tortured or killed for the most trivial offences — or for no offence at all. One of those, Desaad, is actually the God of Sadism, though of the depraved spineless bully variety rather than the relentless force of evil his master embodies.
The New 52 version of Superwoman. Her lasso looks like barbed wire.
The Joker is typically characterised this way as well. His original Golden Age incarnation was out simply to kill people and terrorize the city, and many later versions are if anything worse.
Malekith the Accursed from The Mighty Thor, demonstrates a penchant for torture and dismemberment that few can rival.
Norman Osborn has built his entire supervillain career around the torment of one man, usually by targeting said man's friends and family. He is a misogynistic Control Freak who was finally caught after it was discovered he was murdering his employees and nosy female reporters For the Evulz in his spare time, and his Green Goblin persona is an Ax-CrazyMad Bomber whether or not it is Osborn himself who is running the show. And he bullied and dominated the life of his only son Harry, in the delusional belief that this would make him more of a man.
Another Spidey villain sadist is Carnage, whose mission in life is to go on ultraviolent killing sprees. He thinks the world is dull and uninteresting but can be made more colourful by spraying the streets red with blood. He is also a Straw Nihilist who thinks the very idea that "murder is wrong" is just The Man keeping you down, and that cowardice and weakness are the only reasons everyone else isn't killing too.
Rattlesnake Jake from Rango. He constantly terrorizes his victims. In his first appearance, Jake strangles Beans and licks her face, and strangles her again in another scene, looking like he's enjoying it way too much.
In Wreck-It Ralph, we have Turbo, known as King Candy. "I should thank you...but it'd be more fun to kill you!"
Lotso Huggin-Bear from Toy Story 3 is so embittered that his owner lost and replaced him that he snapped, took over the Sunnyside daycare centre, and turned it into a toy prison where he rules with an iron fist. While his principal aim is to ensure that he and his cronies get to live the good life and have run of the place, he clearly takes pleasure in deceiving new toys and bullying those under his power and gets especially mean when the idea of owners actually loving their toys is brought up and nearly laughs as he leaves Woody and the others to burn to death, saying "Where's your kid now, Sheriff?"). Even his underlings seem more than a little scared of him.
Lord Business from The LEGO Movie is so sadistic, it's a wonder how they managed to put him in a kids' film. He kills a man in cold blood by decapitating him, he psychologically and physically tortures his lieutenant Good Cop Bad Cop to turn him into his puppet for his masterplan and he crushes Emmet's self-esteem brutally in the climax when Vitruvius claims the prophecy was made up just before he dies before leaving him and the Master Builders to die in the Think Tank, which he sets to self-destruct. Oh, and let's not forget that after using Bad Cop for his own goals, he abandons him to the same fate.
Tommy De Vito from Good Fellas is constantly seen using sadistic violence to threaten others, and shows no apparent mercy for his victims. He also seems to be very familiar with utilizing fear and humiliation, especially when he kills Spider.
In the film version of Battle Royale Kiriyama actually joined The Program to kill students he doesn't even know, and shoots at them with a smile.
"I don't give a good fuck what you know, or don't know, but I'm gonna torture you anyway, regardless. Not to get information. It's amusing, to me, to torture a cop. You can say anything you want, but I've heard it all before. All you can do is pray for a quick death... which you ain't gonna get."
Red Grant of From Russia with Love. His SPECTRE file describes him as a homicidal paranoiac, which comes into view when cornering James Bond, where, instead of just of going with the fake murder/suicide, Grant plans to humiliate and torture Bond.
"The first [bullet] won't kill you. Not the second. Not even the third. Not until you crawl over here and kiss my foot!"
Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye, whether it be crushing her victims to death during sex or gleefully machine gunning a bunch of computer programmers.
In The Crow: City of Angels, crime lord Judah Earl admits point blank to one of his goons he executes that hurting people is his only enjoyment.
Judah: Weren't you listening before, Basset? I said we all have our pleasures. Mine is the pain of others.
The Caligula Joffrey Baratheon takes delight in his absolute power over his subjects, and particularly enjoys ordering executions, mutilations and forced duels to the death.
And Joffrey is often compared to Aerys II, who did such lovely things as lighting people on fire and setting up Saw-like traps for the people who weren't on fire. At one point, one of his bodyguards reminisces that Aerys would get sexually aroused from seeing people burned alive, and one time clawed his own pregnant wife so fiercely while having sex with her that she had to be evacuated from the capital, covered in scratch-marks.
Sauron as well, though for slightly different reasons- several thousand years of being thwarted and forced to run away from fights- and on more than one occasion, the physical death of his body-, along with general decay of his powers, has left him extremely embittered and completely intolerant of anyone who defies his will. Case in point, his torture of Thorin's father- he tried to get him on side with a We Can Rule Together bargain, but one refusal from the dwarf was enough for Sauron to flip and torture him for days on end out of spite. By the time of The Lord of the Rings he wants to dominate the world and destroy all opposition simply because that's all he's got left.
As a child, Peter Wiggin from Ender’s Game flayed squirrels alive and subjected his brother to cruel games. His genius qualified him for Battle School, but he was rejected as too dangerous. As he grew up, his moral compass largely overcame his sadistic tendencies, and he used his intelligence for good.
Achilles de Flandres is his inverse. He doesn't take pleasure in the method of death, favors efficiency over pain, doesn't even need to witness it, and only goes out of his way to kill someone if they have shamed him in some way. Yet he is more evil than Peter.
The Villain Protagonist libertines written by the Marquis de Sade were all about enjoying themselves, very frequently at other people's expense — and their treatment of others, particularly those they hated, was beyond cruel. There's a reason this guy is the inspiration for the word "sadism".
From That Hideous Strength, Miss Hardcastle a.k.a. The Fairy. She uses cigarette burns to interrogate a prisoner—then she gets so carried away with the torture that she neglects to get any actual information from the prisoner.
Drake Merwin from the Gone series is one of these. A vicious psychopath who serves both a sociopath and a God of Evil purely for the chance to hurt as many people as possible. There is rarely anything he does in the series that is not for the pleasure of harming another human being. His psychological profile at the Coates Academy even diagnosed him as a sadist. Diana drew a smiley face next to it.
Toby Meres from Callan takes great pleasure out of 'interrogating' members of The Opposition, is the only assassin in The Section who volunteers to visit the interrogation department, and generally enjoys seeing even his co-workers in pain (emotional or physical) and is inclined to try to see how much he can get away with in regards to increasing it.
Charles Augustus Magnussen from Sherlock. Sherlock describes him as "a shark", as well as the worst person he had ever met, and says that he "picks on people who are different". He is a media baron who is secretly the "King of Blackmailers"; digging up dirt on people — usually people in positions of power or influence — seems to be his very raison d`etre. But he doesn't use this information just to gain advantages for himself or his newspapers; he uses it, along with his own position of power, to bully and humiliate people in extremely cruel and childish ways, such as forcefully licking a government minister (something the law might consider sexual assault) after threatening to paint her husband as a child molester (her husband had earlier committed suicide over this threat — he cheated on her with a 15 year old girl, but he thought she was of legal age — so Magnussen going after the man's wife afterwards is beyond low), to pissing in Sherlock's fireplace, to having Watson thrown in a bonfire (claiming afterwards that he had a man there ready to save him if Sherlock didn't) and watching it on his television over and over and over again... all for no other reason than he can. He also admits at the end that he is willing to publicly humiliate and ruin people in his newspapers regardless of whether he can actually prove anything he says.
Many killers from Hannibal, but explicitly the man himself when somebody tries to copy his crimes and both Will and the FBI realize the key difference between the two killers- the copycat didn't torture his victims to death. Its strongly implied in the novels that this is how Lecter kills but it is made crystal clear here. Beyond that, of course, is that he is the Trope Namer of Hannibal Lecture for a reason, and in his particularly twisted pathology seems to regard psychological torture, Criminal Mind Games, exercising and abusing power over others, and pitting people against each other as acts of love. He likens himself to God and thinks that he is Above Good and Evil, and believes that both he and God are cruel to those they love because that is simply their nature.
The Beatless song Maxwell's Silver Hammer'' is about Maxwell Edison, an Ax-Crazy kid (and pretty sadistic) that uses the title hammer to murder a girl, his teacher, and the judge who took his case, in front of a full courtroom.
Only the most vile of Dino Attack RPG's wide cast of villains are Sadists, including Michelle Glados, Carolyne Provencal, Zed Provhezor, the Brickspider Bot v1.0, and the Darkitect, for they are the ones who actually enjoy watching the suffering of others.
Hazama of BlazBlueloves mind raping others, and trolls them as they get defeated. And that's not even mentioning the great enjoyment he appears to take in physically hurting his opponents in battle, either. It's suggested by another character in-story that he gets off on ruining people's lives and Hazama doesn't deny it.
Hazama: It's time for a little punishment! I'll let you feel the most exquisite pain! Does it hurt? Doej it huwt?
StarCraft: Kerrigan the "Queen of Blades", and leader of the Zerg loves playing mind games with the other factions, and pitting them against each other, usually by feigning innocence to gain their trust. In StarCraft II this attitude of hers returns, when she tries to weaken Zeratul's mind by making him beleive the Protoss will be doomed to extinction no matter what he does.
In her first appearance in Lotus Land Story, she playfully threatened to reduce you to a mist of atoms.
In her second appearance in Mystic Square, her motive for wrecking through Makai and beating people up is basically because she's bored and wants to play. She also uttered her infamous "Genocide is just a game" line. Her tendency to add "<3" at the end of every sentence doesn't help.
In the Windows era, she reappears in Phantasmagoria of Flower View, where she's supposedly has calmed down a lot. She still threatened everyone who met her, or accepted other character's accusations of being the culprit of the incident, even when she's really not, just so she has a reason to beat them up. When Eiki Shiki confronted her about this, she said it was just 'daily teasing'.
We get two of these in the Ratchet & Clank games: Courtney Gears and Gleeman Vox, the latter being owner of an illegal gladiator games franchise.
The Metal Gear Solid franchise provides us with two. The first being Revolver Ocelot, who is outright referred to as one in the first game, and takes great joy in torturing Snake, and tortured Donald Anderson to death. If the player forfeits during the torture sequence, he promises to kill Meryl, for no other reason than to be cruel.
But worse than him, by far is Colonel Volgin, from Metal Gear Solid 3. Unlike Ocelot, who serves higher (if extremely convoluted) purposes, Volgin's sole motivation for anything he does is to cause other people as much pain and suffering as humanly possible, which is why there's no small reason why he's one of the only MGS villains to not get the Draco in Leather Pants treatment. Within minutes of being introduced, he nukes his own country just because he can, knowing full well it could spark a war, and during the game, he abuses EVA, both physically and sexually, he beats a suspected informant to death with his bare hands, beats Sokolov also to death, and tortures Snake/Big Boss as well, expressing enthusiastic enjoyment when he sees Snake losing bladder control due to the pain. He is also stated to be personally responsible for hundreds of murders, most of them again, by beating people to death with his bare hands.
Mryorg the ogre in Goblins, who, as the result of one too many journeys into hell, has been stripped of his ability to get satisfaction from anything except inflicting suffering on others.
Dellyn Goblin-Slayer enjoyed the Cold-Blooded Torture he inflicted on monsters, both the physical and the emotional. He also couldn't fully enjoy raping Kin unless he'd beaten her to near death at the same time.
Basically, every character from The Simpsons has been a sadist in some way or other at least once — excluding Marge and Maggie — especially when they watch this program.
This is especially in characters like Mr. Burns, Sideshow Bob and Bart Simpson.
Ren Hoek from The Ren & Stimpy Show is probably one of the most sadistic cartoon characters in the 90s Western Animation. There have been several episodes where it is implied that he loves to inflict pain physic and psychologic of others and even himself.
Eric Cartman. He's a sociopathic Enfant Terrible who is frequently shown to have a horrific sense of humor at the expense of others. He laughs at several of Kenny's deaths, delights in torturing Kyle relentlessly (and revels in the idea of actually killing him) and is revealed at one point to have bullied a classmate to the point of being Driven to Suicide. And probably, one of the most sadistic moments in the entire series was in the ending of "Scott Tenorman Must Die".
Mr Mackey: Well, what did you use to think was funny?
Cartman: You know, all the usual stuff. Dirty jokes, funny movies, seeing someone die...
The Woodland Critters. What list would be complete without the mention of them? They have been considered one of the most sadistic, twisted and evil things ever imagined. Even with the conclusion that they love to give their victims with a slow and painful death.
And we do mean "imagined"- they are the products of Cartman's imagination.
Saddam Hussein. In the film, he takes a sadistic joy (and probably sexual) when torturing Kenny.
Grandma Stotch (Butters's grandmother). She is horribly sadistic, bullying her own grandson For the Evulz.
Mickey Mouse. He treats his employees horribly, and what does he do? just laughs at the pain of one of them when he hit him brutally.
Carter is even worse. Although not an inventor nor showing a particularly murderous streak, he is often gleefully sadistic, particularly towards Peter, and is shown to keep a Rancor in a pit below his house in "Peterotica". Worse, he torments orphans For the Evulz and it is implied that molested his own daughter when she was a child.
Jeff Fecalman from "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q." definitely qualifies as well. Unlike Peter and the other reoccurring jerks of the show, he is known as one of the most evil villains of the show and has no redeeming qualities.
Plankton. Even in one episode is seen in a dream, he is destroying Bikini Bottom, even tried to crush gary with a sadistic glee. And this is is evident even in the movie, where he feels a great excitement and joy when Mr. Krabs will be executed.
The entire Bikini Bottom people has sadistic tendencies. This is evident in episodes like "No Hat For Pat" and "Spongicus".
Batman: The Animated Series: Several villains, with The Joker and the Scarecrow beign the obvious examples, the latter especially since his crimes are almost entirely based around spreading terror and driving people insane with fear. There is also the one-shot villain Lock-Up, a cruel and power-mad guard at Arkham who thinks that criminals deserve to be tortured and clearly enjoys doing it- and when stopped, expands his definition of "criminals" to those who got him fired or condemned his actions, as well as Gordon, the Mayor and Batman because he thinks they are too "soft" on criminals. He is so scary the other Bat-rogues tried to escape Arkham solely to get away from him.
Pamela Isley, alias Poison Ivy: all her crimes imply Pamela enjoying the suffering of others. She is a Control Freak and while most of her crimes fall into Well-Intentioned Extremist territory, at the same time she just enjoys taking revenge on behalf of mother nature. Like Lock-Up, she is a good example of a sadist who truly thinks that their victims had it coming.
Vicky the Babysitter from The Fairly OddParents. Her main hobby? torturing, tormenting and presumedly trying to kill children For the Evulz, though she also tries to profit from this by hiring out her services to gullible people who think she is good at her job. She also bullies her little sister and even her own parents.
Crocker (a Sadist Teacher) as well, especially in the earlier seasons.
Wanda himself is this in "A Bad Case Of Diary-Uh!", at the point of being an Ax-Crazy.
Total Drama has the host of the show, Chris McLean. This man throws teenagers in the most perverse, screwed-up challenges ever just for kicks and ratings. By the time of the fourth season, the original cast is so sick of him that many have sworn to never be on the show again in any capacity, barring the demos and other schticks their contracts required for the new cast of contestants/victims. DJ freaked when he was back in Camp Wawanakwa for a challenge in the fourth season, and he was the judge. The only reason a fifth "All-Stars" season happened is because of their contracts, with many explicitly stating that they hated Chris. There's a reason the writers have stated that Chris is the series' Bigger Bad.