Not every villain has to sound like one. Perhaps, instead of having a malevolent rasp
, a gloating shrill, or a booming baritone
, the villain's voice is instead light and low. They don't yell or intimidate, and might not even be impolite — instead they speak with a soft tone that seems unassuming, meek or even kind, with a soft chuckle and a sort of warm energy... hiding the menace within. The end result is something dissonant and creepy, a monster who might describe just how horribly he's going to mangle you, while speaking in a voice that's anything but monstrous.
Keep in mind this doesn't always mean the character in question is a Sadist
See also Affably Evil
, Faux Affably Evil
, Dissonant Serenity
, and Creepy Monotone
and compare Wicked Cultured
. Note that if and when they eventually drop this soft-spoken demeanor, then that's a surefire sign things are going to get worse. Contrast with Evil Is Hammy
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Anime and Manga
- Frieza from Dragon Ball, in all but the Brazilian dub, where he had a Badass Baritone instead.
- Sosuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru, Szayel Aporro Grantz and Shuukuro Tsukishima from Bleach.
- Digimon Adventure: Of the four Dark Masters, Mugendramon is easily the most prolific killer, effortlessly slaughtering dozens of Numemon with no hesitation whatsoever and being willing to bring down entire cities to capture his targets. He also barely raises his voice above a cold, robotic whisper and has little interest in idle banter. It truly is something to hear him call his Infinity Cannon in a completely lifeless, quiet, deadpan voice.
- Xellos from Slayers.
- YuYu Hakusho: Itsuki's smooth, mellow voice tends to hide his inner crazy.
- Light Yagami, Villain Protagonist of Death Note, who stays cool and calm even while delivering his judgments face-to-face. Poor Naomi Misora.
- Later subverted, once he is outed as Kira. By the final episode of the series, he seems to have forgotten how inside voices even work.
- In the American dub of Star Blazers Desslok has an almost feminine voice, which makes him far more creepy than his original bog-standard Japanese villain growl.
- Johan Liebert, the eponymous Monster. He speaks in the quietest and most innocent sounding voice possible.
- Sailor Moon's male villains tend to speak like this as well. Dirmando, Sapphire and Tiger Eye are some nice examples.
- Mukuro and Byakuran from Katekyo Hitman Reborn!.
- Iason Mink of Ai no Kusabi as part of his Hot Guys Are Bastards persona.
- Kanzaki from the Area 88 TV anime is a Manipulative Bastard who betrayed his best friend. In contrast to his ominous voice and mannerisms in the OVA, his voice comes across as reserved and completely normal in the TV series — which makes his villainy all the more chilling.
- Vincent Nightray from Pandora Hearts, though not exactly evil, has done quite a few morally ambiguous things and takes any chance he gets to act needlessly sadistic. This picture◊ sums it up quite nicely.
- Kyubey in Puella Magi Madoka Magica was voiced by the same woman as Kagami Hiiragi and Matoi Hachikuji and shares their high, thin voices, and seems to be like another cutesy Magical Girl series mascot. This is not the case.
- Cardfight!! Vanguard: Picture it, a boy with Aichi's unfailing politeness and Ren's sadistic personality. That's how Aichi acts under the manipulation of Ren.
- For the most part, Russia from Axis Powers Hetalia. Despite being a huge man who finds it amusing to bully, he usually speaks in a soft, high, childlike voice and he has a sweet, gently smiling, blushing face to match.
- Roose Bolton from A Song of Ice and Fire is mild-mannered, courteous, and speaks so softly that others have to listen closely to hear anything he says. He's as cold-blooded a lord as the Seven Kingdoms can offer. His family uses a flayed man as their sigil and has a legendary reputation for torture.
- Harry Potter:
- Snape is described as being able to keep a whole class at attention without going much louder than a whisper in the first book, and though his speech often contains contempt and sarcasm, he rarely ever does anything but speak softly - which serves to make the times he does outwardly show his rage all the more significant. Demonstrated when he and Sirius have an argument; as they both get closer to violence, Sirius loses his indoor voice while Snape gets tenser and more waspish. Also, Voldemort who speaks in an almost snake-like whisper, especially shown during the first chapter of Book 7. He rarely raises his voice, and when he does, it is supposedly extremely terrifying.
- Crabbe and Goyle spend so much time serving as Malfoy's Dumb Muscle that Harry hardly ever hears them speak. When he finally does in book seven, he's surprised by how soft Crabbe's voice is. By this point, Crabbe's had plenty of lessons on torture from the Carrows, so he definitely fits the "sadist" part.
- Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
- In Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, Flenser is described as having a voice like this.
- Lord Vetinari of Discworld, in his scarier moments, though he's at least nominally a good guy.
- After decades of being the very face of Axe Crazy and Evil Is Hammy for the Warhammer 40,000 franchise, the Horus Heresy series has revealed that Kharn the Betrayer's voice was once "soft, low, and measured" before he became the herald of Khorne.
- The Dresden Files has Nicodemus, a 2000 year old in a willing partnership with a Fallen Angel who feeds off pain and suffering. His demeanour is usually completely calm, reasonable and friendly, and though he does occasionally slip he quickly regains control. Harry specifically notes that when Nicodemus laughs it is with the rich laugh of the supremely confident rather than the the typical sadistic Evil Laugh of a Card-Carrying Villain (and Harry's had enough experience with them to tell the difference). The fact that most of Harry's enemies are Drunk on the Dark Side to one degree or another makes Nicodemus' reserve all the more noticeable.
- Harry's earlier encounters with Gentleman Johnny Marcone led him to think of Marcone this way, but it becomes apparent that Marcone cannot really be considered "evil", nor is he in any way sadistic, being far too pragmatic to be anything other than ruthlessly efficient.
Live Action TV
- Desaad from Smallville, who never loses the creepy, even tone as he kills tons of people by making them bleed to death from the inside.
- Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones. In his very first scene, he advocates torturing prisoners for information as if it's the only logical course of action, even while acknowledging that few if any of them will have any useful intelligence. He also betrays Robb at the Red Wedding.
- The Reaper from Criminal Minds. He's condescendingly soothing while stabbing Hotch in 'Faceless, Nameless'. And in '100', he uses such a cool, conversational tone to taunt Hotch on speakerphone while calmly playing toy soldiers with Hotch's son. He even covers the kid's ears and spells out D-I-E-S. He plays it so well, the kid isn't even sure if he's a bad guy. This is seconds before he murders Hotch's ex-wife while he listens.
- In The Twilight Zone episode "What's in the Box", Sterling Holloway (his second time on this list!) plays a mysterious but malevolent television repairman who he acts the role of the friendly old blue-collar worker, who gives an exasperated man some extra perks in his cable, and then gets to watch, smile, and subtly gloat as his "product" ruins two lives, never dropping the benign facade.
- In The X-Files:
- The Cigarette-Smoking Man has a pleasant, avuncular New England accent. (Except for the times he has a pleasant, avuncular Canadian accent.)
- The death fetishist Donald Pfaster from season 2 episode "Irresistible" has an unsettling soft voice.
- In the Star Trek: TOS episode "Wolf in the Fold," John Fiedler played a serial-killing alien, and he spoke in the same tremorous, timid voice he used when he was playing Piglet.
- Adelai Niska, Firefly's resident psychotic crimelord, can be very soft-spoken in the tone of a kindly old man. The fact that he does this while he's zapping the living daylights out of you, cutting off your ear, or even worse things makes him utterly rutting creepy.
- Marlo Stanfield from The Wire. He's very soft spoken and almost never raises his voice — even when ordering the murder of a man and his family.
- In Supernatural, Lucifer is very calm, collected, and acts in a casual and gentle manner. He also tortures and kills anyone to get what he wants.
- The Goa'uld Tanith in Stargate SG-1. Unlike most of his kind, who are very much of the Large Ham variety, Tanith preferred to coldly taunt his enemies before utterly destroying them. Politely wiped out a civilization.
- Ba'al, after spending too much time on Earth, eventually stopped using his Goa'uld-voice entirely, with his later interaction with SG-1 was conducted in a rather pleasant, if sardonic, tone of voice. No-one is fooled that he's not still the same guy who repeatedly used a Sarcophagus to revive Jack after torturing him to death.
- Wynn Duffy from Justified, played by Jere Burns, is a ruthless Dixie Mafia henchman, but he has a very soft, almost meek voice.
- On Burn Notice, Anson Fullerton, the Diabolical Mastermind behind Michael's burning, affects this, in keeping with his Psycho Psychologist persona. Played by Jere Burns, as with Wynn Duffy above.
- Arnold Rothstein from Boardwalk Empire is polite and soft-spoken - but he's a ruthless gangster, who once tricked a man into choking to death just for his own amusement.
- In Babylon 5 Captain Sheridan gets captured and is brought to a Torture Technician to be physically and mentally broken until Sheridan disavows his cause and publicly supports the fascist regime of President Clarke. The torturer is a skinny, balding, older man with glasses who looks and sounds as if he should be teaching math to children.
- The killer in the Law & Order episode "Hubris." McCoy tells the jury that he's going to ask them to realize that this "nicely dressed, soft-spoken young man" is a murderer.
- In the third season of The Walking Dead, the Governor. He very rarely raises his voice, but he definitely enjoys killing.
- Deucalion in Teen Wolf is like this whether he's exhorting someone to murder, scheming, or disciplining his subordinates. Except the time he screamed "I AM THE DEMON WOLF!" at the top of his lungs, but that's very much the exception.
- In NBC's 2013 Hannibal series, serial killer Hannibal Lecter speaks calmly and softly at all times.
- Wyatt from Prison Break. He sounds like he's telling his son a bedtime story, just as he's about to kill you.
- In Dino Attack RPG, Dr. Carolyne Provencal is known for acting sweet, kind, and polite. She is also one of the most sadistic villains in the RPG.
- From the Harold Pinter play One For The Road, Nicholas is an extremely genial person who happens to be in charge of torture for his government.
- CLAUDIUS. Dear God, Claudius.
- Sweeney Todd, in his Sondheim incarnation.
''Inconspicuous Sweeney was,
quick, and quiet and clean he was.
Back of his smile, under his word,
Sweeney heard music that nobody heard...''
- Which makes it fantastically ironic that Hearn was cast as Sweeney, really.
- Yuri from Command and Conquer Red Alert 2.
- Leon in Star Fox is implied to be a sadist in more ways than one. Character-wise, however, he fits.
- Dutch Van Der Linde of Red Dead Redemption has a rather quiet, soft voice, which contrasts sharply with his violently insane nature.
- Ingun Black-Briar in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim fits this trope quite well. She's always very polite, happily greets you and thanks you for your hard work on her behalf and rewards you nicely. However, she also reveals herself to be a Nightmare Fetishist with a penchant for alchemy and mixing poisons, largely because she finds glee in the horrors these poisons can inflict on a person.
- Lord Ghirahim in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword frequently swings between this trope and Evil Is Hammy, but even when he has his temper under control, he still threatens to beat Link within an inch of his life and talks rather casually about burning him to a crisp in the Earth Temple.
- Bioshock: Subverted with Atlas (alias Frank Fontaine), who spends a good two-thirds sounding friendly, jovial and humane before The Reveal gives us his actual voice. Sofia Lamb plays it straight (ala her Tautological Templar personality). Both were designed to contrast Andrew Ryan's Large Ham persona.
- Iris in RosenkreuzStilette. She may certainly look Moe, and even speak politely, but that doesn't stop her from causing suffering for others for her own entertainment, does it?
- Osmund Saddler, the leader of Los Illuminados from Resident Evil 4. This quality makes him all the more creepier, seeing how he managed to convert an entire village to his insane cult with pure charisma, even before they were injected with Las Plagas.
- The Daemonslayers Lady Blood (aka Aster), a seductive demoness whose sole purpose in life is to torture, interrogate and ultimately break her prisoners into serving the demonic armies, which she does with orgasmic relish. It was Aster who eventually broke Blackjack's mind when he was transformed into a dracosvulf by the late demon queen Shine and stripped of his memories to make him more pliable.