Smug Smiler

"Os quoque parce Erigitnote  — nothing could suggest more vividly the smirk of a persevering governess who has finally succeeded in getting a small boy in trouble with his father."
C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love

This is the character who always has an infuriatingly smug expression on his face. He thinks he's better than you, and it shows. He may not be a Smug Snake entirely; either he's not a proper villain (just an annoying jerk), or he's only disdainful to certain people (mostly The Hero).

See Also Smug Snake and Smug Super, for more villainous/heroic versions; that said, this trope doesn't necessarily not involve them. Compare Psychotic Smirk and Cheshire Cat Grin for much the same reaction.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ciel from Black Butler, especially in the manga. Always a smug expression, always a snarky remark.
  • Aizen from Bleach mixes this trope and Dull Surprise for Memetic results.
  • Quattro from Lyrical Nanoha, when she shows her true colors.
  • Lelouch vi Brittannia from Code Geass (pictured above) loves this trope to the extreme. Only that just as often, given his bad luck, he ends up with an Oh, Crap! expression on his face moments later.
  • Durarara!!: Izaya almost always has a devious smirk on his face, to the point that if he doesn't it means either you should really worry, or that one his plans has failed.
  • And Saruhiko Fushimi of K (who happens to share a voice actor with the previous two), whenever he comes into contact with "...".
  • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh! practically owns this trope. Heck, with only one exception, this is the only type of smile he's known for.
    • Yami Yugi can pull off a pretty good one on occasion, especially when he's about to deliver it.
  • Fujiwara (or "That Sneering Bastard"), from Haruhi Suzumiya, is described as looking like an "evil version of Koizumi" due to the fact that he constantly wears this expression.
  • Count on Light Yagami from Death Note, too.
  • Michio Yuki from MW.
  • Cell from Dragon Ball Z. It's mostly done in his perfect form, but it's done a lot in his Perfect form.
    • Future Trunks from the beginning of the Android saga adopted this mode when dealing with Frieza and his father King Cold. Being that he spent the better part of his life fighting Androids more powerful than him in the Bad Future he came from, completely wiping the floor with and annihilating two utter monsters was therapeutic for him.
      • He gets it from his father, Vegeta, who is one of the most arrogant characters in the entire Dragon Ball series.
  • Gotou from 3-gatsu no Lion saves these for whenever he's taunting Rei.
  • Unadonman from Anpanman has his eyebrows and mouth flipped up at the tips. Combined with his simplified Tsurime Eyes, it makes it look like he's looking down upon others and their food choices. Conversely, these same traits can make him eventually look humbled when he has learned his lesson.
  • Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is almost never seen without one, so you know that when he stops smirking you are either the newest entry on his shit list or about to become extremely dead (although the former is almost inevitably followed by the latter.)

    Comic Books 
  • Kevin in Sin City. Even getting his head hacksawed off doesn't get rid of it.
  • In the first Blacksad, he mentions he couldn't have shot the villain if it hadn't been for that smug smile.
  • Transmetropolitan: After a few pages, it's pretty clear what sort of smile the Smiler really has.

    Fan Fiction 

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Daniel Atlas and Thaddeus Bradley both infuriate people for how smug they act in Now You See Me. To be fair, though, their smugness is usually justified.
  • Alex sports a pretty arrogant smile of his own in A Clockwork Orange
  • The Blank version of Oliver Chamberlain from The World's End.
  • This is the most frequent expression on the face of Louise Leroi from The Legend of Frenchie King.

  • Zaphod, of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, meets a man with a smile he wants to hit with a brick. He eventually does so.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • This is one of Theon Greyjoy's signature traits in addition to being a Smug Snake, although he's later revealed to have been a rather tragic Stepford Smiler. When he falls into the hands of a sadistic villain who he had previously looked down upon, in addition to other mental and physical tortures, the villain purposely breaks all of Theon's teeth.
    • Jaime Lannister does this a lot (which fits with his first appearance as a stereotypical fantasy villain), although the chapters written from his POV show that he consciously puts on his smile whenever he's unsure of the situation, because he's learned that people will read lots of different things from a knowing smile. This is in fact one of the early indications that he might turn out to be a better manipulator than you'd think from his initial thoughtlessness.
    • The HBO tv adaption interprets this as Littlefinger's default expression, and whilst he is a Perpetual Smiler in the book, his smile is described as either quite friendly or rather sad.
  • Dolores Jane Umbridge from Harry Potter.
  • Prince Calder in the The First Law novel The Heroes is a self-professed coward and schemer who employs a smug smirk as "armor" against all of the bloodthirsty barbarians he interacts with. He's something of a composite expy of Theon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister (see above), including the aspect of seeming like a total bastard up until he becomes a POV character.
  • Artemis Fowl is really good at this.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine this was Bashir's default expression for most of the first three seasons.
  • Rimmer of Red Dwarf, generally when something unpleasant is going to happen to Lister. (Almost invariably, it happens to him instead.)
  • The officers on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, whenever they catch the perp of the week.
  • Britta Perry from Community is mostly sympathetic and well-meaning, but she can get and look very, very smug whenever she gets on her self-righteous high-horse about something or starts lauding her supposed moral superiority over her friends. Which is often.
    • Jeff Winger's is even worse; in keeping with the fact that he's an Amoral Attorney with an Inferiority Superiority Complex that manifests itself in a conviction that he's above everyone he's surrounded by, a smug, insufferably pleased-with-himself smirk that kind of makes you want to punch him is practically one of his default expressions.
  • Played for laughs at the end of a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch where David Mitchell and Robert Webb are plotting out the good and bad sketches of their show, which in turn leads to the two discussing common criticisms of their work. It ends with Webb gloatingly dismissing the criticism with "And people call us smug!", at which point the two sit around nodding at each other with the most absurdly smug expressions on their faces.
  • Game of Thrones
    • Dagmer. He has a constant smirk on his face that would classify as mischievous if it weren't for the fact that it tends to accompany his Evil Mentor and Kick the Dog moments.
    • Theon is prone to smirking when he's being cocky. His opportunities to be cocky, however, get fewer and farther between as the series progresses.
      • His sister Yara (Asha in the books) also qualifies, smiling whenever Theon messes up... which is often.
    • Daario Naharis generally wears a mischievous grin, especially when he's trying to impregnate Daenerys with his eyes.
    • By his expression, it's clear that no one thinks Petyr Baelish is more cunning or witty than Petyr Baelish himself.
    • Daenerys Targaryen has really turned up the smug in the later seasons, if you think this is justified or not will generally dictate whether you are her fan or not.
  • Dave from Storage Wars, whenever he's bidding.
  • Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street has the greatest, self-satisfied, shit-eating grin to end all self-satisfied, shit-eating grins.
  • Mr. Morden from Babylon 5. One of several signs that he is BIG trouble.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 

  • RWBY
    • Neopolitan has an adorable grin that persists for all of the appearances she had in Season 2 (save for one Oh, Crap! moment). Said grin borders on mockery when Yang attempts to fight Neo one-on-one, with Neo wordlessly dodging and redirecting every single attack thrown at her and even finding the time to casually take a break in the middle of the fight. Yang is driven nuts by Neo's playful attitude, but at the same time just can't land a single hit on her opponent.
    • Mercury Black usually has a sardonic grin that almost never seems to leave his face. He approaches almost any situation with a smile that borders on arrogance, because it's usually combat he's tasked with, and he knows almost no one can keep up with him.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Judah P. Benjamin, the southern Senator and Confederate cabinet member, was almost always photographed and drawn with a smirking expression, which was unusual for the 19th century. As an influential Jew in government, he was prone to being insulted for his faith, but usually maintained his cool with a smug smirk. In a notable exception, he challenged Jefferson Davis to a duel on the Senate floor over an insult, but the two reconciled and became Fire-Forged Friends.