"Mages who sit on thrones always mean trouble, Olive-girl. They take themselves too seriously."Take an Evil Sorcerer, mix with Evil Overlord, place against one incredibly physical and muscular protagonist and leave to stew in a realm of Creepy Crows, palantirs and monstrous minions. The Sorcerous Overlord is probably one of the most common variations of Evil Sorcerer due to the strong themes that come out of having a single hero or small Ragtag Bunch of Misfits against a ruler whose power comes from a vague, nebulous and potentially ever-pervasive source. They can always have a number of devices to keep inserting their presence into the plot: Magic Mirrors, evil animal minions, setting up magical warriors. Every element of the overlord's realm can be a more direct extension of themselves (with inherent Always Chaotic Evil) and they can come up with various ways of sending a threat against them. They also make good foils for the strong hero who fights through mainly physical stabbing-meaty-things-with-pointy-things methods. On the other hand, this can make it hard to explain why there are any limits on the sorcery when fighting the hero. See also The Magocracy. If the magical overlord is also a Lich then their realm doubles as The Necrocracy, a domain ruled by the undead. Contrast Benevolent Mage Ruler where a magic-user rules benevolently, and Court Mage, where a magic-user is a ruler's advisor rather than the ruler themselves. Compare Emperor Scientist, who has science instead of magic. (However, Sorcerous Overlord and Emperor Scientist are known to overlap quite often.)
— Olive, Wyvern's Spur (Finder's Stone Trilogy)
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Anime and Manga
- Di Barrow in The Five Star Stories is a former Evil Chancellor who managed to become the sorcerous overlord of a country. And then it turns out he's just a host body for the ancient wizard Bosjathfort, who plans to become overlord of the galaxy.
- High Priest Zagato appears to be this in the first part of Magic Knight Rayearth. When the heroines arrive in the world of Cephiro, he has apparently imprisoned Princess Emeraude, the rightful ruler, and instigated an iron-fisted reign of terror enforced by both his minions and his own tremendous magical ability. It turns out to be a bit more complicated than that. The short version is that Zagato is in love with Emeraude, who reciprocates, but is distressed because the continued existence of Cephiro requires its ruler's constant singleminded prayers for its peace and stability. When her thoughts start drifting more and more towards Zagato rather than her duty, she imprisons herself and summons the heroines to come and kill her (both because she is unable to commit suicide and because her selfish thoughts will eventually create a Super-Powered Evil Side that will annihilate the world before it has a chance to select a replacement ruler). Zagato, finding the whole setup extremely unfair (to say the least) amasses power, followers, and a reputation as a Sorcerous Overlord on purpose in an attempt to keep the heroines from fulfilling their mission in an attempt to flip the world that denies his love a giant middle finger.
- In the light novel, anime and manga Overlord, Villain Protagonist Ainz is a very, very rare example of a protagonist being this trope.
- Kulan Gath from the Conan the Barbarian and Red Sonja comics. Most of Conan's foes, actually.
- Doctor Doom is a fusion of this trope and Emperor Scientist. He started out relying almost exclusively on science, but over time began utilizing his innate talent for magic as well.
- Dormammu is this trope, as he is an Evil Sorcerer as well as being a demonic god-tyrant, Pure Magic Being, and Dimension Lord. Unlike other examples, he both draws on magical beings for power and is a magical being whose power is drawn upon. His sister Umar also fits this, though she has fallen victim to Shapeshifter Mode Lock and appears to be a handsome young woman.
- Darkhell was this in the country of Shiar, with some Emperor Scientist aspects. He lost the place after the Legendaries defeated him for the first time, though, and remains a mere Evil Sorcerer in most of his latter appearances.
- Black Moon Chronicles: Haazheel Thorn is an incredibly powerful and ancient archmage who has built his own dark religion to conquer the Empire of Lynn and prepare the world for the arrival of the forces of hell.
- Kingdom Hearts New Epic The First has the malevolent and dangerous Wolfang Richler. Despite initially appearing to be a harmless, wacky trickster, it is made evident even in his introduction that this is not someone you want interested in you. He has incredibly fearsome magic that is, by all appearance, solely One-Hit Kill moves. Including a very literal Death Glare. Its even mentioned that he once had a lot more power in the worlds than he currently does, and he's looking to get all that back.
- Subverted in The Difference One Man Can Make. Sure, the Witch-King-Beyond-the-Wall seems to be this: he uses mystic powers, he rules over the cold and dreary Land beyond the Wall, the wildlings bow to him and his reaching to Essos and the Seven Kingdoms implies he nurtures the ambition to go south of the Wall as many of his predecessors... Except that the Witch-King is actually Harry Potter, Nice Guy to the finest who only seeks to improve the Free Folk's lot and has no wish to involve himself or his people in the game of thrones.
Films — Animated
- Merlock in DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. It's not stated explicitly what possessions he ruled over, but he's an Evil Sorceror who used Genie to spread terror and fear wherever he wanted. His dark floating fortress at the end wouldn't look out of place as Sauron's residential palace.
- Maleficient in Sleeping Beauty, who's either an Evil Sorceress or one of The Fair Folk. She seems to rule over a dark land adjacent to the human kingdoms from her ominous castle, populated only by her monstrous and incredibly dumb minions.
- The Horned King in The Black Cauldron, although his magical powers are fairly limited and require complex rituals to realize. This tyrant is a horned, robed member of the undead, probably a lich. He plots to take over the world from his fortress by acquiring an army of skeletal warriors known as the Cauldron Born.
- Jafar in Aladdin manages to work his way up to the trope full-time for the last act of the film. He is already a talented wizard at the start and hypnotizes the Sultan, being an Evil Chancellor, but once he gets the Genie's magic lamp, he wishes himself Sultan, and then wishes himself as the most powerful sorcerer. IN THE WORLD!!! His third wish, however, turns him into a Genie himself after he's goaded by Aladdin, which traps him in a lamp.
- Ommadon in The Flight of Dragons is one of four wizards, each one of them representing an aspect of the magical world they live in ("water and sky", "light, air, peace, and transcendence", "earth and nature", and evil). He is the evil one out of the bunch, naturally. He reigns over a Mordor-like desolated kingdom and his powers include Mind Control over dragons and various other creatures to serve his deeds, teleportation and summoning dragon heads from his body.
- Blackwolf in Wizards turns a bunch of mutants and demons into an expy of Nazi Germany, intentionally. His good brother Avatar could be a king but seems to be too lazy to be more than just a powerful wizard.
Films — Live-Action
- Thulsa Doom in the first Conan the Barbarian (1982) movie. He's obviously magical what with the turning into a snake, the snake arrows, and the More Than Mind Control, but sometimes you get the feeling that he's really best defined by being the opposition to the sword wielding Barbarian Hero.
- Palpatine and several Dark Lords of the Sith in Star Wars are this trope, only IN SPACE!. Despite the science fiction setting, Palpatine lives and breathes this trope to the point of going around in public wearing a black robe. The Expanded Universe takes this a lot further, often depicting Sith Lords even more explicitly as dark wizards doubling as galactic conquerors.
- In The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the Dragon Emperor qualifies, not only is he a good fighter, he has control over magic as well, and plans to gain immortality.
- Matai Shang in John Carter, a Sorcerous Overlord IN SPACE!.
- Queen Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman is a powerful Vain Sorceress who has usurped the throne.
- Her sister Freya in the sequel.
- In In the Name of the King, this is how Gallian is able to retain his magical abilities, while not actually serving a king (this appears to be a requirement for all magi). He explains that he uplifted the mindless Krug and made himself their king. Thus, by serving himself, he became this trope. His eventual goal is to crush all opposition and rule the world. Of course, it's stated that only Gallian's twisted mind could make this work. Naturally, he is primarily opposed by Muggles, specifically Farmer, who has no powers of his own but still kicks plenty of ass. His good counterpart is Merick, the magus serving the King of Ehb.
- Kull the Conqueror: Queen Akivasha is an ancient witch queen who once ruled over Valusia and is resurrected by the bad guys to remove Kull the Barbarian from the throne. Though her plan is apparently to bring Hell on Earth, the way she came to power by marrying Kull and then arranging his death (he escaped) means she can't really be upfront that she's evil to her subjects and has to be a Villain with Good Publicity.
- The Lord of the Rings:
- Sauron is probably the Trope Codifier, having vast supernatural abilities beyond being a nigh-unstoppable warrior in his Tin Tyrant shape, as he's essentially an angelic being who was corrupted by his cruelty and lust for power.
- The Witch-King of Angmar often acted as this, ruling his own independent realms with little direct oversight from Sauron.
- Saruman the White, who along with Gandalf is actually a lesser angelic being somewhat similar to Sauron, tried to establish his own dominion by allying with Sauron, but it didn't work out for him...
- But way before them was Melkor/Morgoth, he's basically a Vala of great might. The mightiest of all who can use his magical powers to destroy and twist matters into his liking. He can even engage in Mind Rape and cursing people according to what he wills and succeeds.
- In Masques, the ae'Magi is one of those. He has entire towns of people do his bidding, because he has charmed them to love and admire him so much that even saying something negative about him will get you beheaded by the next random passer-by.
- Clark Ashton Smith liked this one:
- Maal Dweb, by virtue of his magic, is the absolute ruler of a solar system with six planets. He spends most of his time alone in his fortress with a harem of petrified women, collecting tributes and getting rather bored.
- Malygris is the preeminent Necromancer on a remnant of Atlantis. Although he isn't a formal leader, he's so feared that he's offered a tithe of the island's trade as a matter of course, as the "overlord of all kings and sorcerers." Being dead has barely slowed him down.
- Ossaru was this for the realm of Zothique, ruling half the continent with the blessing of a God of Evil even before an Eldritch Abomination arrived to tutor him in the arcane. He's introduced as a legend in "The Tomb-Spawn" and has merged with said abomination to form the titular beast..
- Galbatorix from the Inheritance Cycle.
- The Shadow Lord from Emily Rodda's Deltora Quest series. He arrived as a mere Evil Sorcerer, now he rules the shadowlands formerly known as Piria with designs on adding it neighboring land of Deltora to his domain, which has the ports he can use to spead his evil to other lands.
- The Warlock Lord, Brona, from The Sword of Shannara.
- Emperor Ariakas from Dragonlance was a Magic Knight flavor of this: challenge him, and he can best you in a duel, char you to a crisp, or some combination thereof.
- Emperor Otha of Zemoch from The Elenium, also head of the local Religion of Evil. He's also completely sedentary and dumb as a post, but he makes up for it with his magical power and being the head of the single most powerful nation in the world. He's still answerable to his god...
- The Black Company series by Glen Cook is chock full of these guys and gals, with the most prominent being the Lady (in the present day) and the Dominator (in the backstory). There're also some former Sorcerous Overlords - specifically, most of the Taken seem to be this - who were enslaved by the more powerful ones. Always a Bigger Fish, indeed.
- Emperor Ma'elKoth from The Acts of Caine books fits this to a tee.
- Elric of Melnibone. He's somewhat less evil than is usual for the trope.
- The Shadowlord from Tanya Huff's Smoke and Shadows.
- Ozorne, the title character of Emperor Mage. He has a good counterpart in Jonathan, the king of Tortall.
- The White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia pulled this off twice. In The Magician's Nephew, she is found in suspended animation on the dying world of Charn, where she murdered the planet's population with a Fantastic Nuke rather than allow her rival sister to defeat her. She escapes to Narnia, where she is able to rule for a century of Endless Winter and wanton petrifications before getting eaten by Crystal Dragon Jesus in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- Harry Potter: Voldemort's long-term goal was to become one of these, being an immortal dark wizard who would rule over a fascist magocracy. However, for most of the series he's more of an underground terrorist against the current rulers. Even after usurping control of the Ministry of Magic in the last book, he elected to control it behind the scenes through a puppet minister, as basically crowning himself would have been too blatant a move for the wizarding world to ignore.
- The Elminster Series:
- In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, a country was taken over by a cruel archmage. He's known as "the Mad Mage" because torturing people is his pastime. Elminster tries to defeat him, but almost gets killed and has to be rescued by Mystra.
- Elminster himself consciously averts this at the end of the same novel: after overthrowing the Magelords, he could legitimately claim the throne for himself by right of descent (and having the witnesses to confirm that he really is who he says, too), but decides that he's not really rulership material and that the kingdom likely has had its fill of being governed by wizards for a good long while.
- One of Elminster's friends is a more ambiguous version: she's a very powerful mage and also queen of her country. Though not cruel, she's feared by her subjects due to being reckless and unstable.
- In Elminster: The Making of a Mage, a country was taken over by a cruel archmage. He's known as "the Mad Mage" because torturing people is his pastime. Elminster tries to defeat him, but almost gets killed and has to be rescued by Mystra.
- Sword of Truth: Darken Rahl, lord of the D'Haran Empire. Later Emperor Jagang, head of the Imperial Order. Some might also see Richard as this later on, despite him officially being the hero.
- The Silerian Trilogy: Kiloran wants to be this for all of Sileria. He takes over one of its cities to begin once the Valdani depart.
- The Fighting Fantasy game books have no shortage of these. Chief among them are the Demonic Three, Card Carrying Villains who studied the black arts together before going their separate ways to pursue world domination:
- Zagor, ruler of monsters in the vast cavern network beneath Firetop Mountain, who first Comes Back Wrong to terrorize the countryside, then returns again from death as a powerful demon to threaten the entire world.
- Balthus Dire, formidable Magic Knight, third in a line of thoroughly malevolent warlords ruling the local Mordor; evil enough to have a debilitating sunlight allergy normally only suffered by The Undead.
- Zharradan Marr, master of inflicting Power-Upgrading Deformation; began his career with relatively Pragmatic Villainy, developing gold mines to recruit his forces and expand his territory, then unleashed them on the world to pursue lost secrets of arcane power.
- Discworld: Sourcerers essentially become these by virtue of being sources of magic, which is why wizards are forbidden to have children. Their power is so potent that they enhance the powers of the wizards around them and multiply their ambition to rule over everyone else. In fact, sourcerers were around during the early days of the disc and began the "Mage Wars" which nearly led to its destruction, due to the reality-warping nature of unleashing raw weaponized magic which devastates everything.
- In Imajica, the Autarch of Yzordderrex rules three Alternate Universes, mainly by virtue of his unmatched magical prowess and utter ruthlessness.
- The Crimson Shadow: King Greensparrow, who rules Avon, Eriador and the islands nearby.
Live Action TV
- Darken Rahl. Richard also becomes this briefly when possessed of the power of Orden in an alternate reality.
Mythology and Religion
- Queen Himiko in Japanese Mythology had a dash of this. She was a shaman-queen of Yamataikoku, the land that would become Japan. Legend says she ruled her people with magical mind-control, or something to that effect.
- King Manassah of Judah is said to have practiced sorcery, and The Bible quite simply states "he did evil in the eyes of the Lord."
- Manshoon used to be the leader and creator of the Zhentarim in the Forgotten Realms until he was Demoted to Dragon by his lieutenant Fzoul Chembryl (who isn't technically a wizard, but an incredibly powerful priest of the dark god Bane).
- Also the Red Wizards of Thay, an order of mages who rule a country that suspiciously sounds like Mordor sometimes.
- Every single city-state in Athas is ruled by a Sorcerous Overlord. And they are horribly evil, every single one of themnote : they got to be where they are now because they sucked all magic out of the world in the past to fuel their bloody campaigns, turning it into a blasted wasteland. Indeed, each has ascended into a dragon-like monstrous entity by virtue of committing genocide and consuming the souls of entire species. This is why Athas has no trolls, orcs, gnomes, pixies…
- Vecna from the Greyhawk setting was one.
- In Warhammer the dark elves are ruled over by Malekith the Witch-King, a Tin Tyrant who requires a magical suit of armor to give him strength after an encounter with holy fire.
- Warhammer 40,000:
- Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons Legion, who crafts complex plans from the Planet of Sorcerers. Ironically, Magnus was the ''good'' counterpart of this trope, being a peerless scholar and warrior-magus who lead his Legion respectably, albeit indulging them and himself in some studies in the dark arts. He would have gone on this way, until betrayal and desperation lead him to making a pact with the Chaos God Tzeentch in order to save the Thousand Sons from total destruction.
- Any Tzeentch-aligned Chaos Lord also counts, though any Chaos warbands, worlds, or other entities lead by a Sorceror counts as well.
- Tzeentch, deity of sorcery and ambition, runs on this trope as well as weirder stuff.
- In any other setting, The God-Emperor of Mankind would have been one back when he could actually move. He was the greatest psyker in human history, led a Grand Crusade to conquer the scattered lost colonies of man, eradicated multiple species and religions, and trillions have died over the millennia as a result of his actions. But in the Grim Darkness of the Far Future, he qualified as a Benevolent Mage Ruler.
- The Lich-King of 13th Age was like this back when he was simply the Wizard King. Following his death and resurrection, he wants to start doing it again, but as one of possibly the least popular figures in the world with the other power players, it's not going to be an easy row to hoe.
- The Villain Protagonist, eventually. You start off as an armour plated warrior but to advance and gain more power and to fit more stereotypically into the Evil Overlord mode you can gain magic powers.
- The Old Overlord, possessing the Gandalf stereotype wizard who killed him, is a more straight example.
- World of Warcraft:
- Arthas Menethil, the Lich King. Combination of one of the most powerful necromancers and death knights? The world is screwed (if he can get up from his throne, that is...).
- Queen Azshara, once queen of the night elves, described as the most powerful mortal mage to ever live. Her people loved her, but the only person she considered worthy of her was the leader of the Burning Legion whom she attempted to bring to Azeroth. Now she rules over the naga, plotting her revenge.
- Magus from Chrono Trigger, until his Heel–Face Turn.
- Final Fantasy:
- The Emperor from Final Fantasy II is a textbook example.
- Final Fantasy in general loves this. Out-and-out examples include Golbez, Exdeath (both of whom mix it with Tin Tyrant), and Ultimecia, with other characters depending on your definition of an empire.
- Big Bad Sorceress Ultimecia of Final Fantasy VIII rules over an uncertain future, can possess sorceresses in the past (which is when the game takes place), can create monsters and corrupt GFs, and said GF is one of eight monster guardians in her castle whose job it is to stop the opposing SeeDs from being able to put up much of a fight against her in the Final Boss fight of the game. Oh, and she can create GFs and spells herself. Her goal: compress time into a single singularity, though it's never clearly stated why she wants this.
- Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat, to the point of being the Evil Counterpart to Raiden, who is a god. Shinnok also has shades of this, though he is a fallen Elder God who just seems to have a bit of a sorcerous theme going on. Shang Tsung also falls into this when he's ruling the titular tournament as an old, decrepit man, and is a textbook example since his personal nemesis both in this form and later is Liu Kang, a Wushu practitioner who was one of the main protagonists for most of the series.
- The Magic Emperor in Lunar: The Silver Star and its sequels.
- Evil Lord Drokmar from Magic Sword.
- The Legend of Zelda features Ganon, whose magic abilities, which mostly derive from the Triforce of Power, are more or less divine. There's also Vaati; while his overall power, as pertains to both magic and dominion, pales in comparison to Ganon's, he makes up for it by making greater actual usage of magic in combat.
- Dragon Quest IX has King Godwyn, ruler of the Gittish Empire. He experimented with draining the magic power of Celestrians as power, and he is an extremely competent mage. Even his normal attack seems to have at least some sort of magical element to it.
- Manannan from King's Quest III rules over Llewdor, but more like a bully than a king who rules outright, keeping the population in fear and maintaining a watchful (and paranoid!) eye over them from his telescope.
- In South Park: The Stick of Truth, Cartman plays the role of the Grand Wizard of the King of Kupa Keep and leader of the human faction. He's not an actual wizard however, just playing the role of one.
- Disney's Magical Quest: Emperor Pete, the Big Bad, is a Dark Lord with vast magical powers ruling from an imposing fortress.
- A 4X video game called Master of Magic involves 14 wizards with various affinities towards particular magics (Life, Nature, Sorcery, Chaos and Death).
- Super Mario World: Piranha Island: The Piranha Wizard is the evil ruler of Piranha Island. He possesses immense magical power and can send many types of projectiles at Mario in both of his boss battles. His castle, Piranha Castle, is even an elaborate Pipe Maze filled with his Piranha Plant minions. He also has a fleet of tanks, which is used to guard his castle from intruders.
- Starcraft I: Sarah Kerrigan was originally a Ghost (psionic humans trained to use their powers for assassinations) before being captured and remolded by the Zerg into the Queen of Blades. At that point, she was still more of a melee Magic Knight even after taking over the Swarm (her powers limited to cloaking, summoning electricity and eating her troops to regain energy), the "sorcerous" part comes across further in the expansion, where she mind-controls a Dark Protoss matriarch across several light-years and manipulates her enemies into attacking each other. Then in Heart of the Swarm, she's briefly depowered before being re-powered by the Primal Zerg, giving her a lot more psionic abilities (including the equivalent of a Terran nuke) to give her the power she needs to fight the rogue Xel'naga in Legacy Of The Void by turning into a burning, flying angelic figure, eventually Ascending to a Higher Plane of Existence (and taking Jim Raynor with her).
- Xykon in The Order of the Stick can be considered this as he's an Evil Sorcerer, leads the nomadic goblins/hobgoblins and started the strip holed up in an impressive cavern system containing one of the lynchpins of the universe. He recently became a more classical overlord when he conquered Azure City, though he's reluctant to just sit there and rule it in typical overlord fashion.
- Razikale of To Rule is patron both the magics and the sciences.
- The Queen of the Crown in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers.
- Mozenrath in Aladdin: The Series is the perfect example of this. He is the ruler of the land of the black sand, he has powerful magic, and his schemes usually involve conquest or becoming more powerful in some way to facilitate said conquest. Aladdin fits the role of the muscle bound protagonist with his, as Iago put it, "two fisted ways." In this particular example, the sorcerous overlord and the musclebound protagonist sort of form a yin yang. Mozenrath is not completely incapable of defending himself in a physical confrontation, and Aladdin has the Genie and his magic to help him. The reason for this might be due to Word of God stating that the original plot of the third Aladdin movie was to reveal that Mozenrath was Aladdin's brother.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Discord served as this during Equestria's early history before Princesses Celestia and Luna defeated him. The Royal Sisters in question both serve as the unambiguously good version this for Equestria most of the time, using their magic to raise the sun and moon, and generally make life good for their subjects.
- Shortly prior to Luna's fall into darkness, King Sombra imposed an evil reign upon the Crystal Empire, based around the enslavement of its entire population, by becoming immensely powerful through the use of Black Magic. The traps in the castle he once occupied still hold great potency one thousand years later, and when he attempts to return, his evil magic has so consumed his nature that he takes the form of an advancing, disembodied force of malevolence.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): Skeletor - similar set up to Thulsa Doom - big guy with loincloth and sword fights weird villain with powers that vary Depending on the Writer.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Fire Lord Ozai, as well as the Fire Lords before him since Sozin. Firebending isn't unique to the royal family, but it does show up with unusual consistency when it's usually completely random, and they're often much stronger than average.
- Just for reference, it's entirely possible for one of a pair of identical twins to be a bender while the other is not, and even being the offspring of the Avatar and one of the most powerful waterbenders ever won't guarantee you bending powers, yet every prince and princess of the Fire Nation is throwing fireballs before puberty.
- Aku from Samurai Jack is a shapeshifting Eldritch Abomination who conquered the world after flinging the titular samurai far into the future. Aku rules Earth and a few planets beyond with an iron fist, and is more than eager to smite any fool that dares rise up against him.
- Every villain in Thundarr the Barbarian. As if a character with that epithet was going to face anything else.
- Prince Phobos from W.I.T.C.H.. Unlike many of these examples, though, his primary opponents are also magic-users.
- Master Cyclonis from Storm Hawks.
- The Demon Sorcerer clan from Jackie Chan Adventures, mixes with Demon Lords and Archdevils, and a textbook example of the trope.