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 Z, in all but the Brazilian dub, where he had a Badass Baritone instead.
- In the Latin-American dub it's a bit of both: Gerardo Reyero is also a Badass Baritone, but as Frieza, he speaks in a very smooth tone and with quite polite speech patterns. Until he's on the losing side, that is.
- Then there's the Abridged version. He keeps calm throughout most of the series, even during beating up the Heroes. He does lose it when he's livid however to some degree.
- Same for Abridged Cell, but he plays the Sadist part moreso than most people.
- Sosuke Aizen, Gin Ichimaru, Szayel Aporro Grantz and Shuukuro Tsukishima from Bleach.
- Digimon Adventure: Of the four Dark Masters, Machinedramon 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 Giga Cannon in a completely lifeless, quiet voice.
- Xellos from Slayers.
- YuYu Hakusho: Itsuki's smooth, mellow voice tends to hide his inner crazy.
- Kurama is a heroic example. He's always polite and charming, even though he's even more willing to brutally kill or maim (or both) his enemies than Hiei, who generally fights with a sort of controlled anger instead. In the manga, he takes particular pleasure in messily killing an opponent who threatened his mother.
- 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.
- Illumi Zoldyck from Hunter × Hunter is very serene and rarely emotes at all, but he's just as (if not more) sadistic as Hisoka.
- Kagerou Project: The series' Big Bad, the Wide-Open Eyes Snake, is like this so long as he's possessing Kenjirou, but if he's on his own or possessing Konoha, all bets are off.
- Child Of The Storm has Gravemoss, who's responsible for the resurrection of ancient Asgardian undead nightmares, wields the Darkhold and routinely conducts horrific experiments on people, has a voice which is regularly described as soft and disturbingly lulling. Apparently this is either an affectation or a natural talent, because Gravemoss actually notes to Lucius Malfoy that it's far easier to sacrifice people if they're nice and calm. However, those who get past the lulling effect note that it's strangely... dead.
- Garland Greene from Con Air almost always have a dissonant smile on his face, takes time out of their criminal escape to have a tea party with a cute little girl, and is more than happy to pleasantly talk to whoever sits by him. At the same time, he gets the full Hannibal Lecter treatment when being transported, has nearly all the other hardened criminals on the plane terrified of him for the atrocities he's committed, and the things he talks about? He calmly discusses his murders and his twisted views on semantics and human psychology without a shred of regret for the things he has done.
- Angel Eyes from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
- Kaa from Disney's The Jungle Book (played by Sterling Holloway), especially in the first movie where, despite having the gentle voice of an genial old man, is menacing enough to scare Bagheera. Later, he uses that soft quality in his voice to "convince" Mowgli to trust him.
- Especially creepy given that there's almost no audible difference between Kaa's voice and Pooh Bear's.
- The Silence of the Lambs: Hannibal Lecter.
- Inglourious Basterds: Col. Hans Landa, sometimes.
- Mr. Blonde from Reservoir Dogs is a very cool-headed, soft-spoken individual who always exudes a casual aura. This makes it all the more unnerving when he slaughters a store's worth of people after the alarm goes off, or when he calmly describes to a captured cop how much he will enjoy giving him a slow, painful death.
- Quentin Tarantino apparently likes this trope. His character Richie in From Dusk Till Dawn is a sadistic rapist with a soft, calm voice.
- Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men embodies this trope to a disturbing degree.
- Gaear Grimsrud from Fargo, when he is not snapping randomly.
- The Thief of Bagdad has Jaffar, an Evil Vizier and Evil Sorcerer who raises his voice once, in order to cast a spell at sea. It sort of gets rid of the common "who would trust that guy" Fridge Logic about more Obviously Evil viziers: he sounds extremely trustworthy. Too bad he isn't.
- Toht (the bespectacled Nazi) from Raiders of the Lost Ark is usually smirking and speaks with a halting, breathy delivery as if he's on the verge of chuckling.
- Dr. Jonathan Crane is easily the most softspoken character in Batman Begins. (He also sprays people with a toxin designed to cause intense panic attacks, tries to burn people alive, and gives his fear toxin to someone who supposedly told him the plan was to hold the city to ransom.)
- Mister Teatime in the adaptation of Hogfather.
- Loki in Thor and The Avengers, when he isn't being a zealous would-be ruler, is overwhelmingly cool and polite. When the Avengers are all gathered on the flying aircraft carrier, the imprisoned Loki actually seems to be the calmest of them all. And even though, when things stop going his way, he breaks that pattern, he's right back to it at the very end.
"If it's all the same to you, I'll have that drink now."
- Esther from Orphan is soft spoken and very rarely raises her voice, even if she's threatening your life with a gun.
- Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
- In Sneakers, Marty finally comes face to face with the Big Bad, Cosmo, who he's thought long dead. Cosmo speaks casually of crashing entire countries' economies. Plus this little gem:
- Cosmo: I cannot kill my friend. [to his henchmen] Kill my friend.
- Bradley Uppercrust III in An Extremely Goofy Movie has a light, mild voice, and is so evil he has life-threatening assault, arson, and attempted murder under his belt. The vast majority of the other series antagonists are saints compared to him.
- HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey has this, overlapping with Creepy Monotone.
- Richard Burton's portrayal of O'Brien in the film release of 1984. He never raises his voice and, in his own creepy way, actually seems to think he is being kind in torturing Winston.
- Nightbreed. A major contributing factor to how creepy the psychotic Dr. Decker is is how calm and collected he always remains even during his hands-on murders.
- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: Henry rarely raises his voice, and his apparent shyness almost comes across as endearing. Trusting him, however, will get you killed, as Becky finds out the hard way.
- Christopher Guest's portrayal of Count Rugen in The Princess Bride is a particularly scary example, because almost the entire rest of the film falls soundly in the Large Ham category.
"As you know, the concept of the suction pump is centuries old. Well, really, that's all this is. Except that instead of sucking water, I'm sucking life. I've just sucked one year of your life away. I might one day go as high as five, but I really don't know what that would do to you. So, let's just start with what we have. What did this do to you? Tell me. And remember, this is for posterity, so be honest — how do you feel?"
- Lord Cutler Beckett in Pirates of the Caribbean. Especially when compared with Barbossa, Davy Jones, and Blackbeard, who are all loud, hammy villains, he's very calm, and rarely shows any extreme emotion.
"You can fight, and all of you will die. Or you can surrender, in which case only most of you will die."
- Atlantis The Lost Empire has the Big Bad Commander Rourke, who always speaks pleasantly no matter what heinous things he's discussing. Even when the chips are down and he's finally be pushed to anger, he still talks quite calmly:
Rourke: Well, I gotta to hand it to ya, you're a bigger pain in the neck than I would have ever thought possible. I consider myself an even tempered man. It takes a lot to get under my skin, but congratulations, you just won the solid-gold kewpie doll.
- In Masques, the ae'Magi. He is universally considered a very nice and kind man, and his mild-mannered behaviour contributes to this. He even murders people with a kindly smile on his face.
- 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.
- Dragon Bones: The person who eventually betrays the heroes afterwards talks softly to Ward, as if nothing happened. It creeps him out.
- 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 Ax-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, who's two thousand years old and in a willing partnership with a Fallen Angel who feeds off pain and suffering. His demeanor is usually completely calm, reasonable, and friendly, and, when he (only occasionally) slips, he quickly regains control. Harry specifically notes that when Nicodemus laughs, it is with the rich laugh of the supremely confident, rather than the typical sadistic Evil Laugh of a Card-Carrying Villain (and Harry's had enough experience 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.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Adam never ever loses his cool or faux affability, yet he kills a child for the hell of it in his first few minutes.
- 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.
- And then there's his bastard son Ramsay. In every sense of the word.
- The Reaper from Criminal Minds. He's condescendingly soothing while stabbing Hotch in "Faceless, Nameless". In "100", he uses 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 crime lord, 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.
- In Margin for Error, the Consul speaks calmly and unctuously so long as he feels assured of himself, especially when he's issuing veiled threats.
- Yuri from Command & 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.
- Jamie Washington in Splinter Cell: Double Agent is kind of geeky with somewhat poor social skills and would be the lovable dork in any other story, but in this one he's a cold-blooded Poisonous Friend with absolutely no qualms about killing anyone.
Jamie (After shooting a hostage if Sam refuses to): Sorry... (chuckles sheepishly) s-sorry.
- Akechi Mitsuhide from Sengoku Basara, a consummate Combat Sadomasochist, speaks using a seductive yet sinister purr in both the Japanese and English versions. However, in the Japanese he tends to turn into a Large Ham when excited.
- Julian Day, a.k.a. Calendar Man in the Batman: Arkham Series is very soft spoken. To date he's only raised his voice(making it much rougher) once.
- Thresh in League of Legends. Nearly all of his many lines are playful, sadistic mockery spoken in a magnified, echoing whisper. Pretty much the only times he raises his voice are when he's been killed and when he's laughing.
- Since his rework, Karthus dabbles in this. Most of his lines have a serene calm to them one wouldn't expect from a lich. Once the pops the Requiem though....
- Erika Furudo in Umineko no Naku Koro ni speaks in a soft, polite and composed manner most of the time. She also defines herself as an "intellectual rapist" who loves to unveil people's secrets against their will and utterly lacks anything ressembling human empathy. Even when she snaps and screams, she keeps using polite forms.
- Rose Guns Days Season 3 introduces Gabriel Kaburaya, Special officer in charge of counter-measures against organised criminal activities. This Man of Wealth and Taste very rarely shows any other expression than a soft smile... and wants to "try and drench his own hands in mafia blood". He also does something to Butler in the toilets that isn't shown nor described, but is unlikely to be anything pleasant — with the same smile all along.
- 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.
- Katz from Courage the Cowardly Dog.
- Stewie Griffin from Family Guy. He is quite Affably Evil, as long as not in their evil intentions.
- Catbert: Evil Director of Human Resources is portrayed this way in the Dilbert animated series.
- Pythor in Ninjago certainly counts. Until he gets angry at least.
Pythor: Humbly, I am Pythor P. Chumsworth.
- Mozenrath from the Aladdin: The Series.
- Airachnid in Transformers Prime who likes to eviscerate her victims inside-out, and she has smooth feminine voice, and likes to make small talk to her victims and psychologically tormenting them.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, the Clock King always talks naturally because he has no emotions to display except maybe annoyance. So, he can deliver a You Have No Chance to Survive speech without any emotional intonation.
Mr. Freeze: "Remember, there might be some momentary discomfort." [cut to people outside the building hearing gasps of fear turning into bloodcurdling screams]
- The same goes for Mr. Freeze, whose Creepy Monotone is more effective and spine-tingling than all the Large Ham rants the likes of The Joker can muster.
- The Scarecrow is another disturbing example, thanks to Jeffrey Combs's delivery.
- Marvin the Martian from Looney Tunes is quiet, soft spoken, and polite. This makes his frequent attempts to commit genocide all the more unnerving.
Bugs: 'Scuse me, Doc. Can you direct me to the bus back to Oith?Marvin: The Earth? Oh, the Earth will be gone in just a few moments.Bugs: Oh, well, never mind then. No point tryin' to get back to da Oith if it — zuh?!
- In The Legend of Korra, Zaheer may be the prime example. Zaheer is always soft-spoken, polite, and nice to his opponent. But below his affable likable exterior rests a sadistic man who will go to any lengths to secure his goals. His lack of remorse or empathy to his victims is simply disturbing. It also doesn't help that he's a Bomb Throwing Anarchist to boot and will kill anyone who could possibly stand in the way of achieving his goal. It's to the point where the fanbase started disliking his voice in the beginning, but fully saw him as this in the end.
- Kim Possible had many hammy villains, but Senor Senior Sr. was entirely different: courteous, composed, and gentlemanly. Good manners, good sportsmanship, and domination of the world were his three priorities.
We will meet again, Kim Possible. Until then, be well!