In the backstory of Naruto, the Fourth Mizukage, Yagura, led the Hidden Mist Village during the years of the Bloody Mist, where half of each graduating class was required to murder the other half in cold blood, one of the village's most famous ninja lead a failed coup, an entire Cipher Division being cut down by their own bodyguard was considered proper procedure, and Kisame (the aforementioned bodyguard) even told Yagura to his face that the latter would have him eliminated at some point. Apparently, people thought highly of Yagura, which could be true, because either Madara Uchiha or Tobi/Obito was mind controlling him the entire time. The fact that Yagura was being controlled by the Akatsuki leader has become public knowledge in the Mist Village, as numerous characters have blamed Akatsuki for the Bloody Mist years.
King Hamdo of Now and Then, Here and There is a petty, raging tyrant who expends his armies of enslaved Child Soldiers at will. His first scenes involve strangling his cat when it upsets him, and then having the child protagonist tortured for hours and hours on end.
The World Government of One Piece appears to fall into this, although not the Marines protecting it. The World Government itself is incredibly corrupt and brutal, being major patrons of the mostly pirate-run slave trade and using the Marines for acts of mass butchery to silence those that found out their dirty secrets or could threaten them. The nobility of this world is even worse, as the upper-middle class will cheerfully burn an occupied city to the ground to make things look neater for a World Noble's visit and claim it's the poor people's fault for being too stupid to be born nobles. The highest social class are so batshit insane they wear air bubbles to prevent themselves from breathing the same air as commoners and regularly murder anyone they encounter them over the very pettiest gripes.
Villains who actually work for them is a case-by-case basis. For example, most of the antagonists in the Inpel Down arc are just as Axe Crazy and sadistic as any noble, with the notable exception of Magellan, the Big Bad of the arc; he was the closest anyone in the prison came to an Anti-Villain and a Reasonable Authority Figure, despite being loyal to his employers.
Were he to achieve his goal of taking over Fishman Island, Hodi Jones would easily be this - his immediate plans would be to slaughter anyone on the island who wants to live in peace with humans, followed by going to a council of kings with the intended purpose of murdering them all.
Queen Himiko from the Dawn arc of Phoenix, who then dooms her kingdom by exiling her Brother when he finally tells her enough is enough.
Kano from Texhnolyze, the Big Bad. While very intelligent, charismatic and eloquent, he's a deranged solipsist who believes that he's the only real person in a world that exists inside his mind. A possible explanation for this may be the fact that he's the result of generations of selective inbreeding, designed to create the perfect ruler.
Light Yagami, a.k.a. Kira, of Death Note certainly qualifies in the later part of the show, as his reign is based strictly on his personal idea of justice, not to mention that his god complex consistently gets in the way of his judgment. Those who disagree or stand in the way have about forty seconds to live.
Former Shi'ar king D'Ken, who is at least partially responsible for Vulcan being as screwed up as he is, was another fine example (until he was killed by, you guessed it, Vulcan).
The 1994 story "The Great Pretender" (the first in a miniseries of Showcase issues each featuring a different Batman villain) shows us an alternate Gotham City in which the Joker has apparently taken over everything and crowned himself "King." In addition to his usual cold-blooded murders, King Joker makes his subjects take baths in custard, has all government employees dress in Elizabethan-era costumes, and broadcasts his decrees via giant video screens towering over the streets of Gotham. And as if all that weren't wild enough, there are numerous crazed men running around in white makeup and green hair dye who seek to overthrow King Joker, including an amnesiac who believes he is the Joker. Plus, various Batman impostors are also roaming the streets to do battle with all these faux Jokers. Yeah, it gets pretty crazy.
He also exhibits some of these characteristics in the 1989 movie, such as when he appears at the Gotham City 200th Anniversary Parade seated on a throne (in Real Life an actual throne, donated by the King of Sweden). He also, like Nero (see below), fancies himself a Mad Artist, although his "masterpieces" are mostly just vandalized or outright destroyed works by other artists or human victims whose faces he has perversely scarred. He even has one of his Mooks carry around a boombox playing a song whose first verse announces: "All hail the new king in town!"
Conan the Barbarian came up against mad and corrupt kings with some regularity, but the most notable of these was King Numedides, who Conan overthrew to become king of Aquilonia. Numedides regularly had men and women flayed alive for minor transgressions; indeed, when Conan was imprisoned in his tower, Numedides executed a dancer who Conan liked and ordered a scrap of her flesh tossed in Conan's cell. Conan immediately recognized whom it belonged to because of the dancer's many tattoos. As well, in order to become immortal, Numedides enlisted the services of the Evil Sorcerer Thulandra Thuu; together, they sacrificed young women in order for Numedides to bathe in their blood.
The Red King, main villain of the Planet Hulk storyline, fits this trope to a T.
Like Conan, Red Sonja has come up against her fair share of mad kings. Unlike Conan, most of them attempted to imprison her in their harems. Bad move.
Sin City's Roark Junior, a.k.a. That Yellow Bastard, would have been this if he was able to inherit his family's political power. He was an insane and violent sexual deviant who preyed on kids... and was being groomed as a future US president before he met his end.
In the Dark Empire arc of the Star Wars comic lines, Palpatine became this after his first resurrection. Although he was definitely not a good person prior to his first death in Return of the Jedi, he at least was sane enough to actually succeed in his plans and manipulate factors in his favor. Afterwards, he's become just yet another insane, megalomaniacal tyrant. (His increased insanity was heavily implied to be the direct result of transferring his spirit into clones.)
It also probably didn't help that said clones were being sabotaged by one of his guards to genetically break down.
Vulcan (from the Summers' Tangled Family Tree) becomes king of the Shi'ar empire and essentially drives the people to hell, dividing them and thus starting the War of Kings.
Chief Judge Cal in the Judge Dredd story "The Day The Law Died" (collected as Judge Caligula) is, as the name suggests, closely based on the Emperor (even being drawn to resemble John Hurt in I, Claudius). Caligula (allegedly) made his horse a senator; Cal made his goldfish Deputy Chief Judge. Caligula demanded grandiose building projects; Cal expected the citizens to build a mile high wall around Mega-City One in a week. He also argued with deceased former Chief Judges, preserved his execution victims in vinegar, and sentenced the entire city to death twice. At least the mile-high wall actually helped protect the city later on.
In "The Hour of the Dragon," Valerius fits this trope perfectly: his drunken revelry, sexual violence and senseless slaughter was so extensive that his co-conspirators had to step in, to stop him from running the kingdom into the ground.
In A Brief History of Equestria it is shown that most of the founders of Equestria were Flanderized in the Hearthswarming Eve pageant, Chancellor Puddinghead, on the other hand, was toned down. Elected via youth vote and managed to get killed shortly after Hearthswarming in a stupid dare. Among many, many, other things like appointing her pet parrot to her cabinet, which it retained even after it died.
On the other hand Commander Sullamander, Hurricane's predecessor, was less the humorous type and more the savage dictator type. General Wind Whistler was able to lead roughly two-thirds of the pegasus military against her when the coup came.
Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove is one example where The Caligula in question is the Main Character, although he's spoiled, feckless and self-absorbed rather than outright insane. He gets better.
The film implies that his being in the trope at the start of the movie was due to Yzma's influence when he was growing up. Yzma plays the trope straight. After throwing him off the throne, she became all the things of a stereotypical Caligula, especially outright madness.
Roberto is depicted as one in Futurama: Bender's Game, having sent his entire army out to wage war on scallops, but sunk the ships wiping them out.
King Koo-Koo, the ruler of Loony Land in Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure, is a textbook example of this - even by the standards of his realm. The only thing in existence he seems to care about is his frustration at being extremely short, which he is determined to fix by granting himself endless opportunities to laugh at other people (since laughing makes him swell up to the size of a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon). To this end, he has his Dragon, the crazed knight Sir Leonard Loony, play all kinds of practical jokes on anyone who visits his court (and even keeps an entire wagon full of cream pies on hand for Pie in the Face gags), all the while making his courtiers laugh so hysterically that over time they have degenerated into zany robotic monstrosities. He ultimately crosses the Moral Event Horizon when, in his bid to become the largest being who ever lived, he has a giant squid-monster who is his friend entertain him by trying to literally tickle all the good guys to death.
King Candy from Wreck-It Ralph, who rules the world of Sugar Rush. He can be seen as somewhat kooky as he actually participates in (and always wins) the daily races. But, in reality is actually Turbo, an arrogant racer from the 80's arcade game Turbo Time. As Turbo, he went into the game's mainframe, removed Vanellope's data and everyone's memories of her, and adopted the persona King Candy.
Film - Live Action
In 13 Assassins, Lord Naritsugu is the Shogun's little brother, and uses his position to commit all manner of horrific atrocities, such that his house's vassals start committing seppuku in protest. The main conflict of the movie is that the Shogun wants him killed without dishonouring their house.
The Alternate Universe version of Biff Tannen in Back to the Future: Part II. Using the Gray's Sports Almanac he obtained from his future self, he wins an insane amount of money from gambling, which he uses to become mayor and buy off the police, turning Hill Valley into a Mad Max-styled city.
In the Woody Allen film Bananas, the rebel leader Esposito goes mad with power the second he gains control of San Marcos. For your consideration, his speech to the people of San Marcos:
"From this day on, the official language of San Marcos will be Swedish. In addition to that, all citizens will be required to change their underwear every half-hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside so we can check. Furthermore, all children under 16 years old are now... 16 years old!"
The Roman Emperor Commodus as depicted in Gladiator and The Fall Of The Roman Empire. Commodus wasn't as bad in real life as he was in either film, but he still wasn't the sort of monarch you'd take home to mother — he once walked into the Senate with a severed ostrich head, fought as a gladiator in the arena (against disabled opponents who stood no chance)note which was actually a lie part of the "Damnatio Memoriae" operation the senate organized against him after his death. In reality, he was actually widely recognized as the best arena fighter of the time, and is best-known for ending the "Five Good Emperors".
Swan, the villainous record producer of Phantom of the Paradise. Though he styles himself as an Affably Evilmanipulator, almost every single decision he makes in the film is made on a whim: his employees are hired, fired or reassigned on the flimsiest of reasons, he imprisons his stars in torturously ironclad contracts, rewrites the Phantom's music to cater to his own eccentric tastes, and orders his fiancée assassinated at his wedding for the sake of publicity. Worse still, not only is he in complete control of the music industry, he's also immortal.
Then there's Quo Vadis?, which gave us a delightfully mad Nero played by Peter Ustinov. Arguably one of the best things in the whole movie.
Admiral General Aladeen from The Dictator. Among other things, the guy has his own men executed for the most trivial reasons such as his nuclear missile program head not having made the missile pointy or one of his men accidentally blocking him on a staircase (though it turns out his executioners are rebels and everyone he has ordered killed is alive and living in New York), he hosted his own "Aladeen Games" where he won every single event (one event shown being a race where he shoots the other athletes in the leg and has the finishing line carried forward to break it) and changed a large percentage of the words in the language in his country to "Aladeen"...including contradictory words like "positive/negative" and "open/closed", causing immense confusion. All Played for Laughs, naturally.
Aedenoid Hynkel from The Great Dictator, a parody of Hitler who even dances with a globe of the world as he thinks of becoming 'Emperor of the World'.
The King of The King and the Clown is based on the Korean ruler Yeonsangun of Joseon. In the film he is ruthless and erratic in his behavior, but also very cultured and rather sympathetic at times, with loads of Freudian Excuse.
The portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland exemplifies this trope almost perfectly. He begins as an Anti-Hero and descends into complete madness and insanity.
Harold Shand, anti-hero of the classic 1980 British gangster movie The Long Good Friday. He begins as a competent mob boss with grand ambitions, who nonetheless seems sane and grounded. After a series of mysterious and violent incidents chip away at his criminal empire, he gradually falls apart; by the end of the film he has slit the throat of his most trusted lieutenant, alienated his most valuable business partners, and had his fellow gang bosses strung up on meat hooks. It all ends badly.
The roman dictator Sulla is portrayed as this in the 2002 film version of Julius Caesar. His political ambitions to maintain the senatorial system is glossed over and he invades Rome and orders purges just to seize personal power. He massacres all his enemies, orders Caesar's heart cut out by Pompey, and sentences a coin minter to death because he felt like it. His tyranny ends when he drowns in his own bath due to a heart attack.
K. A. Applegate loves this trope, and all of her series feature it to varying degrees:
Visser Three from Animorphs fits this trope like a glove. In the main series he's an Ax-CrazyEvil Overlord who executes subordinates at the drop of a hat, meets every threat that comes his way with overwhelming force, and due to being the only Andalite-Controller and having a bastion of Eldritch Abomination morphs is a Physical God by the definitions of this series. The prequel Chronicles books show his backstory as a quite sane and capable Manipulative Bitch who's climbed from obscurity by studying the Andalites when no one else would. This study led to his obsession with becoming the first Yeerk to infest an Andalite, a goal he eventually reaches. Once he hits that high mark, there's nowhere else to go but down.
Most of the gods portrayed in the series Everworld fit this description perfectly. Almost every god that the main characters encounter, regardless of what mythology they originate from, has an utterly apathetic regard for life in general (being gods and all) and shows a certain degree of sadism, though some of them (especially Neptune) are simply bat-shit insane.
In RemnantsTamara's baby. It was damaged by whatever they were exposed to on the journey over, and grew up quickly into a monster, who led humans and then some of the aliens.
A.E. van Vogt's Empire of the Atom and The Wizard of Linn has most prominent characters as analogues of Roman history, starting with Clane/Claudius. "Calaj" is the obvious Caligula stand in, the grandson of Lydia/Livia and related to Clane and Tews/Tiberius.
King Ademar of Gorhaut in Guy Gavriel Kay's A Song For Arbonne has rabid dogs tearing each other to pieces before the throne and maids give him blowjobs right in front of a very discomfitted court, among many other strange hobbies.
A Song of Ice and Fire gives us both King Aerys II "The Mad" Targaryen and King Joffrey Baratheon (who knew a 13-year-old could be that psychotic?). The former was the worst King that Westeros ever had, and a powerful 300-year old dynasty was overthrown because of his insane actions. Bonus points for being killed by his bodyguard. The latter's reckless, childish cruelty and love of ordering executions resulted in a continent-wide civil war. Ironically if Joffrey's father actually was who he says he was he would be distantly related to Aerys, but Joffrey was actually fathered by his mother's twin brother.
Indeed, the whole Targaryen dynasty had this trope going on. Half of them were either good or competent rulers. The other half were Caligulas, with Aerys merely being the one who took it too far. Of Aerys' children, his son Rhaeger and daughter Daenerys are sane, while his other son Viserys is the next Caligula-to-be. The dynastic tradition of Brother-Sister Incest might have had something to do with this.
The Crackling Prince in Walter Jon Williams' Aristoi seems to qualify, although he never appears and is referred to only in discussing the past. He planned on "artistically" reconfiguring planetary landscapes with gravity generators —- with the people still living on them and expected to be grateful. Understandably "a commission had been formed in Perseopolis to examine his behavior", but he was somehow persuaded to retire before the other Aristoi actually did anything.
The ruling Urga line of Cthol Murgos in the Belgariadall reliably go insane before late middle age. Taur Urgas is said to execute people for stepping on his shadow and encourages his sons to kill each other so the strongest one could claim the throne; when the king of Algaria kills him, he turns completely animalistic in his death throes. Urgit, his successor in the Mallorean, survived to that point by stealing a key to the treasury and hiring assassins; he's actually sane, if a Deadpan Snarker, but that's because he's not Taur Urgas's son at all - his mother had an affair with Silk's father, and he was the result. Thankfully for Cthol Murgos, the Urga bloodline has died out.
Urgit does seem a bit unstable at first, though more flippant than bloodthirsty, but that is because he is very well aware of the 'all reliably go insane before late middle age' rule. If you know you'll descend into insanity soon enough, why bother? As soon as he learns why his mother is so insistent the Urga curse won't affect him, he quickly drops the flippancy and becomes an effective ruler.
There was King Gurnt the Stupid of Lancre, whose attempt at training an aerial attack force of armored ravens never got off the ground.
Duke Felmet, also of Lancre, might have been stable before he gained the throne through regicide, but afterwards he would regularly try to remove the blood from his hands via sandpaper or cheese grater and be surprised that this only generated more.
Ankh-Morpork has had its share of unbalanced rulers as well, like King Ludwig the Tree, who once issued a royal proclamation on the need to develop a new type of frog and thought up the city motto "Quanti Canicula Ille In Fenestra" (which is pseudo-Latin for "How much is that doggy in the window?"), and King Lorenzo the Kind, who was "very fond of children". King Lorenzo was the last straw; after his execution, Ankh-Morpork became a republic, led by the Patrician — although actually it was more like the nobles appointed one of their number to wield power. By the time of the books, the Council chooses the Patrician and includes nobles and Guild leaders. Safe to say there is no electing in the modern sense going on. Some of the Patricians weren't much better:
Homicidal Lord Winder turned Ankh-Morpork into a police state out of paranoia.
The aptly named Psychoneurotic (sometimes merely Mad) Lord Snapcase — who, in a Shout-Out to Caligula, made his horse a councilor. (Although it apparently wasn't a bad one compared to the others: a vase, a heap of sand, and three people who had been beheaded.)
The Agatean Emperor in Interesting Times, who is liable to order people tortured to death or rewarded based upon the slightest whim (since no one ever dared to tell him that this is wrong).
In Raymond Feist's Riftwar series, King Rodric IV descended into insanity as the Riftwar proceeded. Subverted at the end of his reign, when the blow to his head that eventually killed him also released him from his lunacy sufficiently to allow him to appoint a good successor.
They've also had Prince Serg, who would certainly have qualified, had he not... conveniently died... before succeeding to the throne.
Also, there is a widely-mentioned historical case where a Count Vortala did appoint his horse, Midnight, as his heir, but there is no indication that Vortala was either crazy, or evil. He just did it as a Take That to his previous heir, whom he was having an argument with.
Specifically, "If a horse's ass can be a Count, why not the whole horse?"
At least as portrayed in the 1632 series, Charles I of England seems to qualify. The Stuart monarchs in general were firm believers in the divine right of kings; they were also generally pretty feckless as rulers. 1632 Charles has heard what will happen to him and is lashing out at his future enemies. True to form, he's messing it up (he's driven his historical best supporter into working with Cromwell, who's still alive, if on the run). Odds are the English Civil will come early in this world. This makes him a particularly incompetent Caligula.
This is a concern raised about Maeve in The Dresden Files: Cold Days. If her mother Mab is killed, then Maeve will inherit the mantle of Queen of Winter. Harry begins to realize just how bad this would be when he starts learning more about Mab's job: The Winter Court's army outnumbers that of the Summer Court by a huge margin, and could probably take over all of Faerie if their Queen willed it. However, the vast majority of Winter's troops are stationed at the Outer Gates, where they are constantly holding off a siege by the Outsiders. If the Outsider army ever got in, they'd destroy reality, and Mab isn't crazy enough to sacrifice reality in favor of her own personal goals. Maeve, however, probably is.
Mad King Alan II in Stephen King's The Eyes of The Dragon is a good example of this, although his madness tended more towards harmless debauchery. It was only through the malevolent influence of the story's Big Bad that he inflicted genuine suffering on the populace.
Randall Flagg from The Stand barely remembers most of his own life, is prone to childish fits of anger, and doesn't even seem to understand his own motivations; he just seems driven by some instinct or outside force to cause as much mayhem and destruction as he possibly can. And he may or may not be the devil.
In Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds The Story of the Stone, the infamous Laughing Prince committed all sorts of horrors on the peasants in his valley, some of them in pursuit of immortality, some just because he was crazy. He was named for his cheerful, laughing demeanor and charming little dance step. Li Kao diagnoses him as brain-damaged from repeated consumption of a mercury-laced "elixir of life."
In Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne, the Orlesian usurper Meghren, who is given control of Ferelden by The Emperor, really hates being stuck in this "backwater" part of the Orlesian Empire. As such, he forces the Ferelden nobles to go out of their way to please him... and then randomly executes a few just for kicks. He doesn't care about ruling the land and only wants to get back into the Emperor's good graces so that he will be allowed to return to the Orlesian capital.
Animal Farm has Napoleon. Then again, what do you expect from a Josef Stalinexpy? This is especially pronounced in the live-action film, where he utterly ruins Animal Farm through inept despotism.
The Centauri Republic's insane emperor Cartagia from Babylon 5. He even sets his planet on a path he knows will probably end with it blown into little pieces because he thinks it'll make a fitting ceremony for his ascension to godhood. In the end, soon-to-be Prime Minister Londo and his associates assassinate him.
The new series' Master, who under the alias of Harold Saxon became Prime Minister, despite still being as mad as ever, if not more so.
John Simm had actually played Caligula in a made-for-TV miniseries in 2004, with copious amounts of ham(oh yes). Later, Simm has been quoted as saying that Caligula was just a dress rehearsal for the Master, and that he partially based his performance on Caligula.
Monica Mancuso on Las Vegas. The Montecito's other owners have ranged from reasonable (Gavin Brunson) to friendly (Casey Manning) to aloof but thoughtful (AJ Cooper), but Mancuso gradually devolved into outright megalomania during her stay.
In the 1998 Merlin series, King Uther became this shortly before his death.
Peter Falk plays a thinly-disguised Expy of Fidel Castro in an episode of the original Twilight Zone that revolts against the previous ruler. Once in power, he becomes insanely paranoid and orders the executions of all of his former allies because he thinks they want to assassinate him. He finally flips out completely and commits suicide.
Wiseguy's Mel Profitt is a billionaire Arms Dealer and drug smuggler who suffers from bipolar disorder and severe paranoia. He's given to sudden manias (in one episode, he forces the protagonist to join him for batting practice at 3 o'clock in the morning so he can rant about his plans to buy an MLB franchise) and weird obsessions (he believes that everyone from Virginia is either a CIA or FBI agent, and has had people killed on that basis in the past). In the end, he completely self-destructs when he convinces himself that a Caribbean strongman he's in business with has put a voodoo hex on him.
In Stargate SG-1, the episode "Lifeboat" has Daniel accidentally end up sharing his body with multiple consciousnesses from a crashed ship. One of them is their ruling Sovereign, who definitely comes across as one of these.
The co-owners of "Amy's Baking Company" from Kitchen Nightmares to the point they have their own subsection in its Tropes page just to show how insane they are.
Guard Duck from Pearls Before Swine. During his brief reign as Mayor he used the city's funds to get revenge on his "enemies list", built a giant statue of himself, and saw All the President's Men as an instruction book on how to run the city.
Vince McMahon has been portrayed as the ultimate Caligula in Professional Wrestling. Like the phrase "Don't Cross The Boss". If you do, you might be forced into a handicap match with the Wrestling Monster and or Power Stable of the week, have to join Vince McMahon's 'Kiss My Ass' club or simply be told that "You're fired!!!!"
Eric Bischoff was WCW's Caligula, was WWE's Caligula when McMahon chose to step out of the spotlight, and is currently TNA's Caligula.
Triple H during the McMahon-Helmsley era and later during the Evolution era.
Recently Vickie Guerrero has been wrestling's number 1 Caligula. Cross her and you can kiss both your dignity and your balls goodbye.
AJ Lee had been thoroughly driven out of her mind by Daniel Bryan, so Vince McMahon decided to give her a stint as Raw's general manager, likely because he thought it would be funny or something. But TV Tropes wants you to know it never called her crazy because it would rather not wrestle Kane.
AJ might not belong here because whatever else you could say about her - that she's rude, annoying, manipulative, and not mentally fit to run a hot dog stand - it's a stretch to call her "evil." She's still clearly the face in all her altercations with heel characters, if not with fellow face characters, and is more a Psychopathic Womanchild than anything else. Instead, the Caligula figure here is once again Vince McMahon, who willingly put this will-o'-the-wisp in charge just to boost Monday Night Raw ratings.
Exalted: Anyone whose soul is affixed to the Exaltation will behave this way due to death-curse from the creator-gods they murdered, but Solar Exalted takes the proverbial cake.
Lies spread by CommieMutantTraitors. Friend Computer is flawless and all-knowing, and works tirelessly to ensure the safety and well-being of all citizens of Alpha Complex. Will the citizen who wrote the above entry please report to the nearest Termination Booth. Further, all citizens who read this Commie Mutant Traitor propaganda are declared to be irreversibly contaminated, and are to report for termination at once. Please note, failure to report for termination is grounds for immediate termination. Have a nice day!
Ravenloft loves this trope. About half the domains are ruled by Caligulas (even if they're not the actual dark lord). Some examples include Othmar Bolshnik, who's on the brink of declaring himself king of a nation that withholds the title of "king" for their mythical religious ruler; Ivan Dilisnya, a paranoid opera fanatic who sends suspected enemies, actors who displease him, and anyone else he has a problem with to his Play Room; and Vlad Drakov, who seems to be the creators' attempt to put Vlad the Impaler and Hitler in a blender and see what comes out.
Traveller: Emperor Cleon III, the last known descendant of the Third Imperium's founder, was known for resolving disagreements within his cabinet by shooting the most vocal ones. Within a year he was assassinated by the Imperial Moot, who then codified the "Right of Assassination" in law.
Vampire: The Requiem: the Ventrue clan. While it's possible for other clans to go Caligula, 9 times out of 10 it's a Ventrue. This is because they not only have lordly instincts, but their clan weakness is a tendency to easily pick up Derangements if they fall down the Karma Meter. So if a Ventrue Prince has to make the hard choices, and is able to rationalize them away, the crazy's going to start to leak through sooner or later...
The Ventrue have dozens of bloodlines, all based on this concept. Just want to be a crazy? Try the Malkovians. Creepy obsessive shut-ins? Malocusians. Sadistic gluttons? Macellarius. Ventrue supremacists with overhanging racist/nativist tendencies? Deucalion. Crazed worshipers of divine architecture? The Architects of the Monolith. In fact, in a possible creation myth explained in Mythologies, Caligula was, in fact, the first Gangrel. Gaius Julius Caesar was the first Ventrue. Bullshit, yes,but a very clever Lampshade Hanging about the Julii clan.
More than a few planetary lords in Warhammer 40,000 probably fit into this category, but special mention must be made of High Lord Goge Vandire, who in the 36th millennium managed to take control of both the Imperium'sAdministratum and Ecclesiarchynote by means of first installing an incompetent and weak minded Ecclesiarch and then having him executed for being incompetent and weak willed before declaring himself Ecclesiarch, beginning the Reign of Blood. Vandire was notoriously paranoid and ordered the deaths of millions and the destruction of entire worlds due to real or imagined plots against him. He eventually developed a phobia of light and took to wandering the darkened corridors of the Imperial Palace while muttering to himself, and was ultimately killed by his all-female cadre of bodyguards to end the devastating civil war. In the four thousand years since then, the Imperium has all but destroyed itself waging penitent crusades to atone.
Werewolf: The Apocalypse had the Silver Fangs, the "ruling tribe" of werewolves, who, thanks to inbreeding with the royal houses of Europe, had an increasing tendency to be off their rockers.
Black Tooth, a Simba (werelion) king among the Bastet, was a brutal ruler who waged a genocidal campaign against the Ajaba (werehyenas).
BattleTech: At least one member of each of the Great Houses has played this role. The most infamous of them all is Stefan Amaris of House Amaris, who instigated the Amaris Coup and brought an end to the Star League. Most members of the Houses are known for being paranoid, sadistic and power hungry, and Stefan is the universe's equivalent of Hitler.
And in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, Malcolm describes himself as this to Macduff. Specifically, he claims that his appetites for wealth and women are insatiable, and he would dedicate all the blood and treasure of Scotland to satisfying his carnal, venal, and pointless urges. This is all a ruse; he is making these claims because he suspects Macduff is an agent of Macbeth, in which case Macduff would continue in his stated goal of bringing Malcolm back to Scotland to take the throne. As Macduff is a true loyal Scot, he is instead demoralized by Malcolm's revelations, at which point Malcolm reveals the truth and they form an alliance.
Macbeth himself, on the other hand, plays this much more straight. Visions, paranoia, and murder are all par for the course for him.
Vath from AdventureQuest Worlds. He enslaved the dwarves, making them work without food, water, or even weapons. He's a lousy dictator, believing that their weakness and hunger was fine with him and not even caring if they starve to death as long as they forge enough Chaos Gemeralds for him to use to hatch the Rock Roc.
Vath: Dwarves are a hearty breed. That is why I allowed them to live as my slaves. If a few die then we are just pruning the weak branches from the strong tree.
In the first Assassins Creed, Majd Addin is the Token Evil Teammate of the Templars, since while the rest are Well Intentioned Extremists, the better world they are striving for means nothing to him, only the rush of power and the kill. Probably best described by himself when confronted about his misdeeds:
"I killed them because I could. Because it was fun! Do you know what it feels like to determine another man's fate? And did you see the way the people cheered? The way they feared me? I was like a god!"
The cast of Blood Storm is nearly composed of megalomaniacs, all of them fighting to become the High Emperor and thus be true Caligulas. Take your pick: the pyromaniac warlord, the ice-blooded king with a superiority complex, a Hive Mind that tortures people for fun, an Amazon hoping to eliminate the entire male gender, the radioactive mutant that intrudes on the contest, the vengeance-obsessed cyborg smuggler, or the spoiled princess/assassin. The only good character enters the contest to get everyone to stop listening to the paranoid nuts and actually start fixing the planet.
King K. Rool from Donkey Kong Country. It got so bad that apparently his minions deposed him and replaced him with a robot. Then you find out later that he was controlling the robot anyway...
Dwarf Fortress: dwarf nobles have a tendency to sentence dwarves to "hammerings" (usually fatal, but not always) when their mandates are not met.
King Zephiel in FE6 is pretty far off the handle, too. After all, the most seriously disturbing facial expression in FE7 is Zephiel's mad gaze at the end of the epilogue...and this is a game whose Big Bad has a Mad Eye with a nasty scar over it. Yeah, he's seriously wacked... and the saddest thing is that he wasn't always like that.
Final Fantasy VI: Kefka! He was already stark raving nuts when he was serving as the Emperor's Dragon. But when he got hold of the power of the gods and bumped off the Emperor, hegotevenworse.
Mad King Ashnard, Social Darwinist villain of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance. In order to be crowned king, he orchestrated a plague that wiped out a large amount of his country's population to get rid of the many nobles who were ahead of him in the line of succession. Notable for attempting to start a worldwide conflict and release a dark god on the world just because he felt like it. After touching an amulet that was established to drive most humans into a mindless killing rage, his personality remained unchanged, the implication being that he couldn't possibly become any worse than he already was. Interestingly enough, he wasn't considered to be a bad ruler by the common people of Daein, largely due to his policy of awarding high-level positions to anyone of sufficient skill.
Mortal Kombat's Shao Kahn. He cares nothing but holding absolute power, driven by an ambition based solely on ego and a lust for conquest and power. He even promoted infighting and competition amongst his minions in a "divide and rule" policy to the point where the Centaur and Shokan races went to war with one another to curry his favor (and thus gain more power), and as long as he holds absolute power he doesn't really care about laws beyond "what Shao Kahn feels like" and how his people live their day to day lives, though it tends to be pretty miserable, desperate and violent thanks to how sadistic and brutish he is.
Halo's Covenant Prophets tend to fall in this category, especially the main trio. They know the whole Covenant thing is a load of crap. They just want to genocide humans because the humans are inheritors of the Forerunners, and proof that the Forerunners were physical beings and thus proof that their religion is all lies. Truth really stands out, by the end he's clearly a complete psychopath.
Fun fact: the canon scientific name for the Prophet species is Latin for "Worms of Treachery." Also, what the main three Prophets are Prophets ''of'':
The Prophet of Truth is a blackmailer. He blackmailed the other two into take power alongside him, and blackmailed his way into power in the first place. He's also a Consummate Liar and a total psychopath.
The Prophet of Regret is a milquetoast who regrets an affair and being blackmailed by the Prophet of Truth.
The Prophet of Mercy is a psychopath who killed his own lover when she got pregnant, because having a child right then would be politically inconvenient.
In the back story to the Homeworld series of RTS games, the Taiidani Empire fell under the control of a particularly... 'unstable' ruler, who then proceeded to compound the problem by massacring all his rivals and decreeing that all future Emperors would be clones of him. The insane policies 'he' carries out during the course of the game lead to the empire being overthrown after the insanely efficient Hiigaran fleet kills 'him'.
Mega Man Zero: The first game's Big Bad who made a recurrence in Zero 3, Copy-X, was intended to be a hero for Neo Arcadia in place of X and is esteemed as such by the humans, who believe that he is the original X.
Also, in the same series, we have Dr. Weil (the Bigger Bad of the entire series) in Zero 3 and 4, known in history for starting the Elf War, which resulted in the annihilation of a large percentage of humans and reploids and the creation of the Crapsack World the series takes place in, and he's incredibly insane. This resulted in him being sentenced to exile in the wastelands he created in an undying mechanical body. Once he succeeded the Neo Arcadia throne after sabotaging Copy X Mk. II and blaming it on Zero, he started to oppress both Reploids and humans because he believed they deserved to be punished for banishing him out into the world he created. It got so bad that in Zero 4, some human refugees (who were brave enough) fled from Neo Arcadia to get away from him, and Weil retaliated by attempting to destroy Area Zero, - the only other habitable place left on Earth - forcing all humans to live under his oppression. Even his Dragon, Craft, realized how insane he was that he fired Ragnarok on Neo Arcadia in a (failed) attempt to kill Weil.
Porky Minch from MOTHER 3. He passes himself off as a great hero, despite corrupting the once vibrant world into an industrial wasteland, and using anything and anyone he can get his hands on as his personal playthings. At the end, he reveals his plans to awaken the Dark Dragon and destroy what is left of civilization, all for a quick laugh.
Radiant Historia's King Victor was by all accounts pretty bad, to the point that his son and his brother actively rebelled against him, but he has nothing on the stuff his second wife pulled once she gained the throne. Queen Protea managed in only a few years to turn the country into a police state where dead bodies littering the alleys are a common sight and half the population is starving to death, while she spends her time lounging around the palace and ogling choir boys. Then, when La Résistance gets uppity, she has the entire city lit on fire.
Yggdrasil in Tales of Symphonia: Because his sister was killed, he's striving for an age of lifeless beings, thus misinterpreting his sister's wish of a world freed of discrimination and tyrannizing the world. Even when his own sister - temporarily resurrected - tells him how wrong his plans are, he refuses to listen, thinking she's rejecting him, and simply goes crazy.
A somewhat more humorous example of the trope is referenced in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's back story, detailed in the in-game book The Madness of Pelagius. Pelagius was given an amulet that drained his sanity over the years. Early on, his weight would shift alarmingly from overweight to anorexic. He was known to have locked foreign princes and princesses in his room with him until their countries threatened to wage war, but his madness became much more noticeable when he stripped naked during a speech. This was before being crowned emperor. When an Argonian diplomat came to Tamriel, Pelagius insisted on speaking in what he believed to be its "natural language:" Grunts and squeaks. The book mentions him ordering his servants to clean the palace early in the morning; he is said to have defecated upon the floor to give them something to do, but this is described as "probably apocryphal." After he began to bite and attack visitors to the palace, he was moved to an asylum, his last act on Earth being to outlaw death. On his deathbed. This is a borderline example, since he didn't actually rule the empire.
The Elder Scrolls also has Sheogorath, appropriately the god of madness. He features heavily in Oblivion's Expansion Pack, where the player can visit his realm. Though not nearly as dangerous or unpredictable as other Caligulas, Sheogorath does have his eccentricities, including going into a rant about cheese while briefing his champion on a mission, making burning dogs fall from the sky, alternating randomly between happy and violently threatening, and having a Split Personality: the expansion pack's Big Bad.
He is also implied to have several personalities and random, semi-frequent bouts of more specific neuroses, such as hypochondria. And anyone who grows facial hair is to be executed. Because only the Lord Sheogorath is allowed to grow a beard, obviously.
Zant from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess plays this trope to a T. After forcing Midna into exile, he proclaimed himself the new ruler of the Twili, only to be soundly rejected by them. Being the power hungry man that he is, he didn't take it well, and turned to Ganondorf in order to enslave his own people against their will.
Viva Caligula from the Adult Swim web site is built around being a crazy tyrant and killing everyone you meet in creatively horrible ways.
Lord Dimwit Flathead, the most well-known (and infamous) ruler of the Great Underground Empire in the Zork series, was particularly known for his excess - a coronation ceremony that took thirteen years to organize and carry out, the 3000-gated Flood Control Dam #3 (which served absolutely no purpose whatsoever), the creation of a subterranean desert mountain in a cave below his castle, and a 98% tax rate (and on the day of his death he proposed to adopt all his subjects and cut off their allowance to raise taxes to 100%) instituted to pay for such grand civic works. His last work was to be the creation of a new continent shaped in his likeness. Fortunately for mapmakers, he died before the project could be started.
King Leoric of Khanduras from the Diablo series was once a just and noble king, but was driven mad by Diablo's attempt to take him over. When his Evil Chancellor, Archbishop Lazarus, kidnapped his youngest son Albrecht to be made a vessel for Diablo, Leoric lost it completely and fell into this trope's territory, having many people tortured and executed, up to and including his own queen, out of paranoia. Leoric was slain by the captain of his army, Lachdanan, who could no longer bear to see his people suffer under his liege's madness.
It's mentioned that the Grey Wardens were originally exiled from Ferelden after a failed coup lead by Warden-Commander Sophia Dryden against King Arland, when the other nobles begged her to depose him for being completely out of his mind. Avernus mentions having attended a feast where Arland nonchalantly presented the Teyrn of Highever's head on a platter, as a warning to the other rebellious nobles.
During the Arl of Redcliffe questline, Connor Guerrin has shades of this, due to being under the influence of a Desire Demon.
Vaughn Kendalls from the City Elf origin. A brutish, unrepentant rapist and murder, who's allowed to get away with terrorising the Elves in Denerim due to being the son of the local Arl. That is, until the City Elf finally has enough.
Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night. Sofreakingbad. The prequel reveals that he's so batshit crazy irresponsible that he might as well be a Starfish Alien as far as Saber is concerned. And as in the original epic also royally pissed off his own people when he invoked Droit du Seigneur on the women of his kingdom, to the point that the Gods answered their prayers in the form of Enkidu, who beat the snot out of him before they eventually became friends. Saber qualifies depending on which of her subjects you ask; her kingdom splintered due to her willingness to sacrifice villages to win wars and her alien mindset, being unable to relate to her subjects. Her inner circle of knights, however, believe she was a good king.
King Steve from 8-Bit Theater is a Black ComedyCloud Cuckoo Lander. One of the least dangerous things he has done was betting the office of King in a poker game. He lost the game to a piece of string..."whom" he then assassinated by cutting it in two with scissors when no one else was near.
Black Comedy as babies are what his shoes are made of. They tend to rot, however, so he has to get new ones "Fresh daily."
One if his frequent "elections" simply gave the population the choice of either King Steve as supreme ruler, or to get a sword in the head. 52% of the survey population died.
Another time, he set up a snow cone stand. This might sound mundane at first, but the Light Warriors noticed something strange about the aforementioned snow-cones, leading to this exchange:
Black Mage: What is this?
King Steve: It's no cone!
Thief: It's a cube.
King Steve: Oh, no. That's a common misconception. It's a stube.
He also thinks that he invented inventing, started a war to force pacifism on the elves, and was once told he had news and enthusiastically asked "does it involve cupcakes?" and decided he didn't care when the answer was no, thinks he designed his castle to be four hundred years old, and apparently knew what a robot version of himself was saying even after the robot exploded. If he isn't a ditz then nobody is. Did we mention that he is unable to tell the difference between his daughter and his Beleaguered Assistant Left-Hand-Man Gary? (In case you were wondering, his right-hand-man is a coffee stain called Rodney.)
Chancellor Valorum in Darths & Droids. The annotation explains that they wanted to make him more interesting than in the movie version, who was bland and boring. Consequently, he becomes a maniac who praises the droid army for overthrowing their human oppressors, urges people to replace their bodies with cyborgs, and demands that all shall "Kneel BeforeValorum!". His getting voted out of office makes a lot more sense now.
And he turned out to be General Grievous. It makes so much sense.
Kharla'ggen Vel'Vlozress of Drowtales is extremely insane, and has a hobby of turning living peopleinto living dolls and altogether has the mental capacity of a young child and no real sense of morality. Despite this she does get a few Pet the Dog moments with her adopted sister, Kiel'ndia (who, despite Kharla being the one who turned her mother into a puppet, seems to get that Kharla doesn't really understand and thus doesn't blame her) and it's suggested that if left alone she wouldn't be so bad.
Among the Sharen clan, all of whom could qualify at some level, Sarv'swati Vel'Sharen develops into this over the course of the story. It's not so much that she's crazy like Kharla so much as extremely brutal, exerting what her own sisters call "maniacal" control over her family to the point that after her sister Sil'lice was exiled she executed members of her own family for sympathizing with her, and brutally executes one of her own relatives after fails her for the last time. She also was part of a plot to kill her own mother, and was the one who sealed the deal by sealing her in her throne room to die, and covered it up by using a Body Double for public funtion and masterminds the idea of Dari'yako, a Penal Colony where commoners are sent, and her use of a slave army made of conscripted commoners that turns most of the population against her.
To quote from Zhor, Snadhya'rune is the truly rightful heir to the empire of the entire Drow race, and would be the undisputed ruler were she not completely insane. Her latest plan involves poisoning her enemies with a lethal fungal disease, and evolving the fungus so that the only ones who can survive the disease are tainted. Her ultimate goal is to TAINTEVERYONEALIVE. And she uses speech craft and her own insanity to pose this as a good thing, right in front of her entire collection of potential allies.
Eridan Ampora (aka "caligulasAquarium") from Homestuck is a number of the royal sea-dwelling troll caste. His primary interests revolve around genocide of the land-dwellers and his many failed efforts at romance. He mostly embodies this trope in his blind self-absorption and poor decision making until his Face-Heel Turn.
A better example of this trope, oddly enough, is the Grand Highblood, Gamzee's Ancestor, who brutally terrorizes the other, lower land-dwelling castes through capricious homicide and psychic nightmares in the name of his Monster Clown religion. However, this is characteristic of the Subjugglator caste as a whole and not a one-off thing.
The biggest Caligula so far is Her Imperious Condescension, who in her home universe spent her time flying to new civilizations and meeting with them peacefully before blasting them to smithereens. And then after her empire is destroyed by The Vast Glub enters into the service of Lord English and goes to the B2 Earth, where she goes mad as the result of repeated botched attempts to recreate her old empire "in all its convoluted symbiotic glory." She ends up taking out her frustrations on humankind, by trying to bioengineer them to have troll blood colors and outlawing sex because she finds it squicky, so by the time Dirk and Roxy are alive 400 years later humanity is extinct.
The Law of Purple: Silver is the king of a planet called Caligula and yes, he's a very bad king.
Richard from Looking for Group seems to be this with the town he is mayor of. However his citizens don't mind it since they are already dead.
Implied in an Oglaf strip where two princes have been forced into arranged marriages by their father... with a pig and a withered corpse. One prince comments that there should be a rule that you should be forced to abdicate the throne when you start doing things like that.
Christian Weston Chandler plays this trope to the hilt as the Mayor of CWCville in Sonichu. He enacts all sorts of bizarre laws that treat smoking as being as heinous as rape and murder, he brutally slaughters anyone who tries to stop him from doing whatever he wants, and his will is enforced by what is essentially a multicolored hedgehog Gestapo who according to Word of God enjoy full immunity from the law. His civic policy decisions are equally as insane-in Sonichu: The Animated Series, he ordered that the CWCville waterworks circulate orange soda pop instead of water, which leads to fires continually breaking out all over the city.
The Baron in Spiky-Haired Dragon, Worthless Knight is as much of a Caligula as he can be without pissing off higher-level nobles and fellow barons, which is still a lot, especially to the title character (the knight, not the dragon).
Stephen in Terror Island, who somehow managed to be elected Czar of Geography City, largely wields his power to sentence innocent people to indentured labor at Jame's restaurant and to attempt to force Sid to buy groceries. His successor Blueteen isn't much better, sending people to prison (including himself) for attending parades. Not only that, but the parade was actually only supposed to be for stuntmen. Why? Because he had just solved the problem of Jame's stuntman no longer being bound by law to him for jaywalking by telling Jame to just hire him.
King Jeffrey in Dragomirs Diary is a moody, capricious, fickle ruler who constantly changes the laws in his castle to suit his bizarre whims. Jeffrey is enough of a jerk that the only visible path into his castle, a bridge called the Neck, has been rigged with a horrifying buzzsaw trap that will cut up anybody he deems dangerous - but because the Neck is constantly clogged with guts, it tends to go off whether Jeffrey wants it to or not. Yet he won't have it removed...
A milder Caligula appears in v2 of Open Blue, Count Marcus Veneto, who even made his horse his war advisor, in a Shout-Out to the Trope Namer. The 'milder' comes from the fact that he's trying to get his act together. It's implied that this change of heart is the result of Men In Black being sent by two allied empires to intimidate him into doing so. Suffice to say, that hasn't stopped him from requesting an Amazon Brigade for his personal guard and naming them the Killer Bunny Assassination Squad.
When he couldn't go to Gamelon 'for the hell of it', spent the rest of the day saying 'Mah boi' over and over again.
Ask King Sombra presents Sombra as this instead of his depictionin the show. He's pretty dang nuts. In fact, most of the occurrences in the blog are simply him hallucinating after his defeat at the hooves of the mane six, which reduced him to a horn (Coffee Talk is trapped with him). Except the the ghost monster. That was actually Luna. His Enemy Within, however, is pretty much how he was depicted in the show proper.
Adventure Time has Xergiok and Lemongrab. Xergiok is a sadistic, cruel, jerkass leader who delights in spanking his subjects and intimidating them. Lemongrab is a bit of a more sympathetic example—he isn't evil, but he certainly is inexperienced (at being a ruler, AND at being alive) and has anger issues, which eventually leads to everyone in the candy kingdom being sent to the dungeon.
It doesn't help that Ozai made himself the Phoenix King when he crowned Azula, effectively making her position as Fire Lord meaningless. So while she would rule the Fire Nation, Ozai would rule the world.
The Almighty Tallest of Invader Zim have tendencies as such, being perfectly happy to put their subjects under such events as Probing Day, where they make Invaders do ridiculous things to entertain them or else suffer a pummeling (pushing some buttons that lead to said Invaders getting beat up by their own technology). The entire principle of destroying a planet to build a parking garage or food court also says something about them.
They also tried to kill their best invader just for being shortnote and ugly. They order everyone to retreat from battle just because of their snacks being lost, and once even punished someone by shooting them out of the airlock. Security threw out the wrong person by accident. Their response? Apathy.
Tallest Purple: That was the wrong guy, but... it's okay. I think everyone gets the point.
Lucius Heinous VII on Jimmy Two-Shoes, who is primarily concerned with making sure everyone under his reign is Miserable. Special mention goes to one episode where he casually orders the destruction of one of Miseryville's suns because he felt that three was too many.
A tame example occurs in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Hearth's Warming Eve". Pinkie Pie's character in the pageant about the foundation of Equestria is Chancellor Puddinghead, leader of the earth pony tribe and clearly a few apples short of a bushel. She was apparently an elected official, but it's a bit of a mystery why anyone would vote for her; it's possible that the various hardships brought about by the extended winter drove the earth ponies to desperation, as hinted at by the quote below.
Puddinghead: I was elected because I know how to think outside the box, which means - *shoves head up a nearby chimney* - I can think inside the chimney! *beat* Can you think inside a chimney?
In her second appearance Trixie becomes this thanks to an Artifact of Doom, turning Ponyville into an empire without Celestia (who at the time was performing royal duties in a far-off location) there to stop her. It was also making her more insane by the moment, to the point she spent half the episode being pulled around in a chariot without wheels because she didn't trust wheels.
Canon Princess Celestia is a wise and reasonable ruler, with just a few trickster shades. Fanon tends to exaggerate those shades out of proportion. The result is Princess Trollestia, who falls squarely into this trope. The best known example is probably the flash Friendship Is Magic Bitch.
Nero appears in an episode of Garfield and Friends, where Garfield tells the story of the cat who invented lasagna. In the story, Nero is depicted as a Villainous Glutton who imprisons (or in some cases, executes) bad chefs. When the cat's owner (the cat and the owner being Expys of Garfield and Jon) is thrown in prison, the cat appeals to the Emperor's appetite, claiming Jon is an excellent chef (even though he isn't) which persuades the Emperor to give him a chance. The cat's idea is that cats and emperors are very much alike, lazy, greedy people who like to be waited on, so he figured the Emperor would like what he likes, and directs his owner to make what is eventually called lasagna. It works; the Emperor loves it, and pardons the man.
The Sponge Bob Square Pants special "Whatever Happened to SpongeBob?" has an amnesiac SpongeBob finding himself in a city under the tyranny of a greaser gang who outlawed bubbles just because they have the potential to cause harm. In the end they turn out to have been Properly Paranoid when the city (somehow) collapses into chaos only a few hours after SpongeBob's bubble laws were put into practice.
Galvatron from Transformers Generation 1. Spending the time between the movie and season three in a lava pit turned him from the Megatron-but-competent of the movie to... uh... the way we all remember him being. He blasted more of his own troops in his rages than Autobots in battle, and at one point, some other Decepticons told his right hand bot Cyclonus that if something didn't change, they were going to deal with both of them. Too bad no Decepticon civil war ever materialized.
Straxus from the comics is even worse. His Animated counterpart, however, is played for laughs on a fan-run formspring page.
Cambyses, son of Cyrus The Great. Herodotus accuses him of Brother-Sister Incest, murdering his brother after a dream of him taking the throne, and other atrocities. He finally had Death by Irony, he accidentally stabbed himself in the part of the thigh where he had struck the sacred Apis Bull.
Accounts of horrific corruption are told of every last emperor of each dynasty in China, which makes them suspect since the usurpers obviously want to paint the old guard in as bad a light as possible to justify killing what the common people saw as divine. Some of these accusations even entered the Chinese language as idiomatic expressions. Here are some highlights:
The last emperor of Shang devised a punishment in which people had to walk across a bronze column over a blazing hot fire, threw dissidents into pits of live snakes, and once had one of his few honest ministers killed by cutting out his heart. He was egged on in all of this by his equally horrible concubine Da Ji, who had the son of another minister chopped to pieces and fed to his father because he wouldn't flirt with her. This minister, the Duke of the West, eventually rebelled and founded the Zhou Dynasty. A very loose adaptation of the tale can be read in Fengshen Yanyi.
The First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, and most of his worse excesses came about only after many years of self-inflicted, systemic mercury poisoning (long believed to be a key ingredient in alchemy for the Elixir of Life) though he was hardly nice before. The man was an all-powerful leader who was first to rule all of known China with an iron fist. Being a Legalist (or rather, being strongly influenced by his Chief Justice/Prime Minister Li Si, who was a Legalist), he imposed laws that meant All Crimes Are Equal, burned books that didn't agree with his philosophy, up to and including Confucian books to the point that he almost single-handedly caused the eradication of Confucianism were it not for a secretive and resourceful peasant who hid the rest of the books in a secret wall in his home (and later revealed by fellow believers during the Han Dynasty, which subsequently became their new religion), and on at least one occasion buried some scholars alive for obliquely insulting him. He also used peasant labor for extravagant projects such as building his own tomb, spiffying up the capital city, and building what would become the Great Wall. Then when he died he had his ministers and concubines buried alive with him.
The notorious Dowager Empress Cixi, if even half the stories about her are true, had all the mothering instincts of a cannibalistic shark.
New Testament example: King Herod the Great, ruler of Judea. Known in the Christian tradition for the Massacre of the Innocents, an attempt on the life of the toddler Jesus (although some historians regard that account as a piece of symbolic storytelling). Much of Herod's bad reputation amongst the Jews (and consequently, amongst Christians) can be chalked up to his being all buddy-buddy with the Romans, who installed him as a puppet ruler. His attempts to bring Roman and Hellenistic culture to Jerusalem probably weren't very much appreciated by those who lived there (remember the Books of Machabees), so his evilness was probably played up a bit. Still, he was extremely paranoid about being overthrown — meaning that he killed so many of his family members that Emperor Tiberius quipped that he would rather be Herod's pig than his son. Robert Graves' I, Claudiuspoints out that, as Herod was Jewish, his pigs were presumably perfectly safe - although Herod was actually an Edomite. Not technically Jewish, and therefore one reason that he was viewed by Jews as an illegitimate builder of the new temple and an illegitimate king overall. Still, he would not have dirtied himself with personal stock in swine while Jewish leaders were looking.
General rule among historians of The Roman Empire: those who were Christians (like Lactatius and Eusebius) adored pissing on the Pagan Emperors who persecuted Christianity, describing them as huge Caligulas, especially Diocletian and Galerius. On the other hand, their Pagan counterparts (like Zosimus) did their best to bash Constantine. Then Christian hagiography took the first phenomenon and ran with it. And we're not even including the Senate-affiliated ones.
Again, let's start with Caligula. For example, he allegedly once burst out laughing while entertaining two consuls, and when asked why, told them that it had just occurred to him that he could have them both killed. The imperial guards finally snapped and killed not only him, but his entire family (including his two year old daughter) just in case it was In the Blood. The only survivor? His uncle Claudius, who became the next emperor (and managed to survive for quite a while by using Obfuscating Stupidity).
However, the reliability of the stories about Caligula is very much questionable. It's certain that he wanted to increase his authority, and this made him unpopular; so after his death, he was accused of every kind of evil act imaginable. He was probably a bad ruler, but not as evil and crazy as commonly portrayed.
It's speculated that he could have been brain damaged after a severe illness. Before that, he was more or less fine; after recovering, he started acting like we know.
Emperor Nero, the nephew of Caligula, wasn't exactly a bastion of sanity, either. This is the guy who loved the theater so much that he actually forced people to watch his performances, and locked them in the auditoriums so they couldn't leave.
Nero also brutally persecuted many groups including Christians, and he would have the men, women, and the children thrown to the lions for his own amusement. He also worshiped himself, believing himself to be the greatest artist that ever lived.
Though considering everyone who wrote about the guy (except his friend Senectus, who praised him) personally knew and hated him, kinda makes it hard to tell if anything they said about Nero was true. Though he probably was a great lover of the arts.
It's also generally believed that he had more affinity for the commoners than the nobility...which didn't exactly endear him to Roman historians, who were invariably of the nobility.
And Domitian. He would sit alone in a room and stab flies with a pen, among other...eccentricities. Again, if you believe what ancient historians wrote about him. Which, given his relationship with the senatorial class, the most likely audience and source or authors in those days, was unflattering. Not helped by his Conspiracy Theorist fame, at least partially confirmed by his prosecutions of many different groups in the Empire. Christians were just one of the people he ordered to arrest, imprison and execute.
Again, many of the above are senatorial-made fake-portraits of him, for sure that of the fixed matches in the arena.
One of the craziest things he tried to do was replace nearly all proper nouns with different forms of his name. At one point Rome, the Roman Empire, and the Roman people were Commodus, the Commodian Empire, and the Commodian people. The worst part about this is that archaeologist have found ample evidence indicating that a good portion of the streets and buildings in Rome were renamed after him too.
Then there's Elagabalus (also called Heliogabalus), a sex-crazed transvestite (and possibly transsexual) who became emperor at fourteen and was reported to have prostituted himself. He also allegedly held parties where guests were showered in rose petals until they suffocated, and was looking for a surgeon who could create a vagina somewhere on him. He was also apparently a tremendous glutton who would eat an entire lamb in one sitting. He married a statue of the goddess Athena, a Vestal Virgin, and two men. His biographies make for great reading. Then again, like with Caligula, these may have been rumors blown out of proportion by later historians.
Byzantium also had more than its fair share of insane emperors. Then again, what do you expect from the Roman Empire's successor?
One of the most prominent examples was Justinian II, an Ax-Crazy despot whose reign was marked by incredible violence. While he was gifted in many ways, his talents were outweighed by his stubbornness, divine belief, paranoia, and bloodthirstiness. He brutally persecuted the Manichaeans and other "deviant" religions, his economic policies angered nobles and commoners alike, and his foreign policy only made the domestic situation even worse. He was deposed in 695, after which his nose was slit and he was exiled to the Crimea. However, he returned to the throne in 705, whereupon he got his revenge on those who overthrew him. Then he murdered his political enemies and ruled in an unhinged, bloodspattered Reign of Terror. In 711, he was overthrown again and killed.
The sixth Fatimid caliph of Egypt, Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, was infamous for his random changes in temperament. His odd decrees included banning the eating of grapes, watercress, and molokheyya (an Egyptian national dish, a soup made from jute leaves), as well as the game of chess; the only reason that anyone can think of is that he thought of these as characteristically Sunni (the Fatimids were Ismaili Shia), but this makes very little sense for a variety of reasons. He also ordered that all work be done at night, because that's when people are apparently at their most productive. Unfortunately, not all of his eccentricities were so harmless. He ordered all dogs in Cairo be killed, and their bodies be left in the desert. He also had a habit of going down to the Cairo souk (bazaar) in the company of a big, burly African slave named Masoud and looking for dishonest merchants; any merchant caught cheating would be sodomized on the spot.note To this day, Cairenes will say "Don't play me for a fool, or I'll bring Masoud!" He was also infamous for his religious persecution of Christians (despite the fact that his mother was a Christian—or perhaps because of it), Jews, and other Muslim sects (including, again, the Sunnis, who were a majority in his realm), culminating in the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. He may or may not have also believed himself to be an incarnation of God; he certainly had a really self-aggrandizing religious view. In 1020, he even ordered his armies to attack Cairo, his own capital city. Fortunately, a year later, he disappeared in the desert. His successor, Ali az-Zahir ascending the throne and overturning his decrees was much celebrated as well as the disappearance of the former.
Oddly, the Druze sect/religion (whether it should be considered a particularly odd subsect of Ismailism or a religion unto itself is a rather difficult question) regards him as a holy figure. To this day, the Druze respect the aforementioned fruit and vegetable bans. He is considered the founder of the Druze along with Ad-Darazi and Hamza. Note, the former of the two co founders was executed by Hakim. The Druze consider Hakim to be the Mahdi, King in the Mountain, and A God Is You.
The medieval Holy Roman Emperor Heinrich IV was a tall, handsome, "lynx-eyed" man with a famously turbulent personality, described by the contemporary chronicler Ekkehard as "arch-pirate and heresiarch and apostate and persecutor of souls". He kept his second wife, Evpraksia of Kiev, a prisoner in the Italian city of Verona, and when she was released in 1094 by his arch-rival, Matilda of Tuscany, Evpraksia went to the pope and complained of her husband's sexual sadism, alleging that Heinrich forced her to participate in orgies and performed a black mass upon her naked body. Heinrich's son by his first wife, Konrad, also alleged that his father had offered to "share" Evpraksia with him, to which Konrad reacted with horror. It's worth noting that reports of Heinrich IV's sexual deviancy were reported by chroniclers throughout his reign, not just during his conflicts with the papacy. Even at a time when a king was expected to keep concubines, Heinrich's paramours were scandalizing the populace as reported by the chroniclers Lambert and Bruno in 1073, and in the mid-1080s the chroniclers Manegold and Wido of Ferrara claimed that Heinrich committed pederasty, incest, and fathered illegitimate children.
Mansa Khalifa of Mali is best remembered for insanely firing arrows at random people from his palace rooftop.
Both Charles VI of France and his grandson Henry VI of England were quite mad for some time. It was an episodic thing, but still difficult to deal with. Most famously, Charles believed himself to be made of glass at times, while Henry completely lost the ability to know what was going on. They didn't quite play the trope straight, though, since relatives and powerful noblemen stepped in to take the reins of government. Which led to the whole Wars of the Roses thing in England. And Charles's feeble condition did France no good in the more or less on-going Hundred Years War.
Giles de Rais, a personal confidant of Joan of Arc. Upon his departing her service, he indulged in some of the more extravagant public festivals in France's history to that date, bankrupting his family and feudal territories in the process. Oh yes, he also did unspeakable horrific things to several hundred little boys, none of whom survived the experience. As with a few others on this list, it is considered possible by some modern historians that de Rais' atrocities were played up by his enemies (or even that he was outright framed) so they could get choice pieces of the duchy of Normandy for themselves. He pleaded guilty at his trial probably mostly because that way, while his family and descendents would lose some of their lands, wealth, and prestige, they wouldn't lose it all, which is what would have happened if he'd pled innocent and been found guilty anyways, a very likely outcome in the late Middle Ages. That being said, this still didn't mean he wasn't a nasty piece of work. It's almost certain the essentials of the case were true. The quality of the investigation and trial were far better than the Medieval norm, and it and the local records provide a wealth of documentary evidence that coo-berates a lot of the charges.
Vladislav Basarab III of Walachia, better known as Dracula, was alleged to have committed many shocking crimes, such as impaling his enemies and forcing women to eat their roasted children. However, the most notorious crimes were attributed to him by his enemies, who had every reason to want his memory slandered. It does sound like he was somewhat unhinged, probably due to an abusive childhood as a hostage to the Turkish sultan, and he had a twisted sense of justice. After a guard caught a thief inside his home, Vlad had the guard killed — because the thief was a common scoundrel, but the guard should've known better than to storm into his home without permission. In addition, Dracula was doing his level best to keep the Turks from invading his country, and thus had an interest in looking as terrifying as possible. Supposedly, Mehmet the Conqueror, a man known for conquering the Byzantine Empire, turned back after encountering a huge forest of stakes with impaled bodies on Wallachia's border. The main difference between Vlad Tepes and most other Caligulas are that while a regular Caligula would kill you because he felt like it, Vlad would kill you because you commited a crime—or rather, because you did something he considered to be a crime.
It's because of this desire to protect his people from the Turks that Romanian writers and poets to this day consider him a national hero who was "harsh yet fair", and that he kept his country safe from invaders and purged Wallachia of internal corruption from its nobility class.
Of course, Vlad was, in fact, no worse than many other rulers of Romania at that time. The reason for his infamy is because his reign coincided with the invention of the printing press, making him, in a way, the first ruler to become notorious due to bad press.
It would be easier to list the monarchs of Castille-Leon and Aragon/Spain who weren't insane (between the mid-17th Century and the elimination of the monarchy in the 1930s). That's what you get when you mix Hapsburg and Bourbon blood and start in-breeding it to ridiculous levels (there were at least two occasions when a king of Spain married his own niece and had children by her), to the point where by the start of the 18th century, repeated inbreeding had given Spain a king who was mentally retarded and unable to have children. You want a good reason why Spain ceased to be a world power? This is one reason.
Sweden's own Caligula was Erik XIV. He earned the nobility's resentment by marrying a common girl for love, and thereafter descended into a spiral of increasing paranoia and delusion, culminating in the slaughter of the influential Sture family, after which Erik panicked completely. He was deposed and imprisoned by one of his brothers who, supposedly, later had him killed with a bowl of poisoned pea soup. Much of his ill-advised actions toward the nobility was later blamed on his Evil Chancellor, Jöran Persson. And boy does he look evil◊.
Though certainly not the ruler for whom this trope was named, Ivan Vasilyevich — also known as "Ivan the Terrible" — epitomizes this trope. Although he started off as a benevolent ruler, a near fatal illness and the death of his wife plunged him into madness. Thousands died from starvation and plague during his reign, and he ordered the massacre of the entire city of Novgorod, nearly 60,000 people. Not only that, he also accidentally killed his favorite son, after the son tried to protect his wife from his father's abuse. He was also in the habit of marrying women, murdering them, and executing whomever he wished on charges of murder. He had a much dreaded private army, whose members were rewarded with the property of the victims of their atrocities. Interestingly, his bad rap came mostly due to his acknowledgements of his bad deeds. A deeply religious man, he had seen himself as a terrible sinner, so he vexed and vaned about his sins all over the realm as a penance. His enemies took it, and ran with it — as many sources say, compared to other XVIth century monarchs Ivan the Terrible was much better than most. Although his prayer sessions usually excited his desire to torture people in various horrible ways (including alternating between pouring freezing and boiling water until their skin peeled off), meaning he wasn't that much better. He eventually died from some unidentified illness. There are a lot of speculations that he was poisoned, but there wasn't any proof (his remains did contain high doses of mercury, but it was a common medicine at the time), he wasn't really young back then (54, actually), and lived a life of excess (mercury was used as a cure for syphilis), so it's more probable that his death was natural.
Elizabeth Báthory, a Hungarian noblewoman whose activities earned her the title "Countess Dracula," reportedly murdered hundreds of young peasant women. While fanciful accounts pin the reasons for her doing so on her wanting to bathe in their blood and remain young, the truth may be that she just did it out of sheer cruelty. Thus, she earns a place as one of the rare female Caligulas. Unlike most people on this list though she was not in a direct position of power, she was the wife and later mother of a minor count, however through her linage and relatives she was able to escape prosecution for several years, until the peasants she preyed on got wise to her and she moved on to the daughters of other nobility. Strangely recently some people have been attempting to give her a Historical Hero Upgrade claiming that she was attacked because she was a woman in power and they wanted her land and money despite the fact she technically did not have any power or land.
Alexandru Lăpușneanu, prince of Moldavia, was overthrown at one point. He then returned several years later, intending to exact revenge on the noblemen who betrayed him. He did so by inviting them all to dinner, killing all 49 of them, and making a pyramid out of their severed heads. He's present in the old chronicles of Moldavia, but the main source Romanians have for his life is the highly-fictionalised and exaggerated account from the novel with the same name by Costache Negruzzi, so it's really hard to tell which bits were true and which were just exaggerated by Negruzzi. And in the novel, he does that in order to "rid" his wife of her "fears" (read: terrify her into not objecting to his authoritarian rule any further).
Zhang Xianzhong played this trope with frightening efficiency. After conquering China's Sichuan region, he ordered the execution of anyone who opposed his rule - which happened to include everyone, regardless of whether they were genuinely on his side or not. The man was more concerned with watching people die than tending to his country, even going so far as to demand his own soldiers to kill each other and setting up a literal "monument to nonexistence" as the Manchu Dynasty was closing in on him. By the time he was killed, over 99% of the population of Sichuan was wiped off the map.
The flamboyantly mad Sultans of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in the 17th century, fit this very well. Coincidentally, the Ottomans' old enemy Spain was having similar problems with her monarchs at around the same time. This was owed not to royal inbreeding but partly due to the atrocious conditions in which Ottoman princes were raised.
One, Selim II "the Blond", was so well known for killing members of his court, often without reason, that a popular Turkish curse of the time was "May you become Grand Vizier to Sultan Selim!" (He was also known as "Selim the Sot.")
Frederick William I of Prussia was a very good example of this trope. He had an obsession with unusually tall people, which manifested in the form of a military unit called Potsdam's Giants. Not all of the recruits were willing (many being kidnapped, sometimes from other countries), and the unit was never actually used in battle, being judged "too valuable". He also had an irrational hatred of France. On one occasion, he smashed an entire set of dishes because they were made in France. At mealtimes, he threw plates and silverware, attacked his servants, and spat in people's food. Frederick considered himself a "soldier king", and carried around a rattan stick at all times. He used it to thrash everyone in sight, including members of his own household. One time, he smacked an ambassador in the mouth so hard it broke several of his teeth. Another time, he beat a man unconscious for speaking French in his presence. On his frequent walks around Berlin, he often randomly attacked other pedestrians. He kept two pistols filled with salt by his side. One valet had his eye shot out, another was crippled. Frederick's courtiers were so terrified of him that one died of fright when summoned to his private quarters. One of his favorite pastimes was to gather his drinking buddies, get the court scientist drunk to the gills, and make fun of him while he tried to deliver slurred lectures on recent scientific discoveries. To top it all off, he was horribly abusive to his son (the future Frederick The Great—whose love of French culture and all things French may have been inspired by his antipathy to his father and his father's hatred of France).
That said, Frederick William was actually a very effective king. After all, he implemented many important economic reforms and made the Prussian army to a force to be reckoned with. He even left his son enough money to fund his wars against Austria, after his own father almost ruined Prussia. Even Frederick II who clearly hated his father later admitted that without his father's preparations, his own successul conquest of Silesia would not have been possible.
Czarina Anna I of Russia had a very twisted sense of humor. She punished her victims by either giving them a horrific death or utterly humiliating them.
Christian VII of Denmark, who was about as close as you could get to Caligula in the 18th Century. He started showing signs of insanity when he was ten, turned out to be schizophrenic and had very little self control. He was an alcoholic before he hit puberty, regarded a fun time as going through the streets of Copenhagen with his buddies beating up passers-by, then retiring to a nearby brothel for a nice, quiet orgy. It was said that the only person he wouldn't have sex with was his wife (although they did manage to have a son). He did manage to find a doctor who could help him, a German named Johann Struensee, and unlike most on this list actually understood something was wrong and tried to fix it. He ended up making Struensee Prime Minister, after his wife started sleeping with Struensee (something Christian didn't mind because that meant that he could sleep with whoever he wanted to, although he did end up claiming the couple's daughter as his). He ended up falling under the influence of his Wicked Stepmother, who had Struensee executed and the queen exiled. He spent the rest of his life certifiably insane and like a male Ophelia and was only trotted out in public for ceremonial occasions and purposely left out of government, despite the fact that Denmark was still an absolute monarchy at the time.
Christian's mental state was only widely known in royal circles. Until the full story broke years after his death, Danish history books taught that he had simply become a little odd because he was molested by pageboys as a child.
Crown Prince Sado of Korea, the crown heir of Korea was going to be this. He regularly burned sets of silk clothes, raped servants, and killed them. Eventually, he was executed by being shut inside a chest for eight days.
However, as that link states, he may have been framed and deposed of as a rival, with stories of his cruelty being exaggerated (or even made up) so that they would feel more "justified" by executing him.
Shaka Zulu. You know you're crazy when you have hundreds of wives and kill any child they give birth to.
Bolivian dictator Mariano Melgarejo definitely qualified for this. An illiterate alcoholic, his insanity resulted in Bolivia losing huge amounts of territory and prestige. For one thing, there was a time when a woman came to him pleading for the life of her brother on death row. Not only did he free the man, he married her and made his new brother-in-law a general. Bolivia's neighbors decided to take advantage of this new leader. For example, the Chileans showered him with gifts, so he rewarded them by appointing a Chilean to his cabinet and granting Chile favorable treaties. However, Brazil gained the most. When Brazilian envoys met with Melgarejo to negotiate a treaty, they gave him a White Stallion as a gift. Melgarejo was so impressed that, in gratitude, he placed the horse's hoof on a map of Bolivia and gave the Brazilians the entire area covered by it. He became so infatuated with the horse (named Holofernes), that he brought it to parties at the presidential palace, where it was trained to drink beer and pee on guests. One day, somebody told Melgarejo the story of Caligula and Incitatus. Melgarejo responded by naming Holofernes a general. Another infamous incident had him force-feed a British ambassador hot chocolate until he vomited. In response, Queen Vicky withdrew recognition of Bolivia and had all Bolivians kicked out of the British Isles. He managed to hold on to power for six years until he was ousted and later assassinated by one of his generals... the same man he saved from death row.
Ungern-Sternberg. Holy shit, Ungern-Sternberg. A Russian aristocrat who served in the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, and the Russian Civil War, he repeatedly earned demotions for thuggery. He was a sadistic anti-Semite with delusions of grandeur almost from the beginning of his career. His service in the far east led to a fascination with Buddhism and the Mongol Horde. He became a White Russian warlord, governing the town of Dauria, where he killed any Communists or Jews. However, he went rogue and conquered Mongolia in the name of the Bogd Khan. He reigned in a surreal fiesta of despotism, torture, and murder. His tyranny and sadism eventually devolved into a god complex, seeing himself as the reincarnation of Genghis Khan. He had long adhered to a quasi-religious mysticism, and this ended up taking a millenarian bent. He anticipated a coming apocalypse, the collapse of society, and the creation of a new world order. In June 1921, his armies were defeated by the Bolsheviks, and he himself was captured. He was executed by firing squad that September.
Josef Stalin, brutal sociopath and paranoiac who amassed more power than any of the Tsars who had ruled Russia before him and used it to cause the deaths of 20-odd million Soviet citizens (conservative estimate) and generally set the bar for twentieth century tyrants, and whose sheer death toll alone would put him on this list even if nothing else would. And there was plenty else; a massive cult of personality developed around him as a Godlike figure of benevolence and superhuman strength, he accepted titles such as "Coryphaeus of Science," "Father of Nations," "Brilliant Genius of Humanity," "Great Architect of Communism," "Gardener of Human Happiness" and more, simultaneously saying to his underlings that he desired to be remembered for "the extraordinary modesty characteristic of truly great people". At the same time, however, he appears to have been more than a bit cynical about it, suggesting that he didn't really buy into his own cult but just used it as a tool to maintain power; he was even known to joke about it:
Stalin: Comrades! I want to propose a toast to our patriarch, life and sun, liberator of nations, architect of socialism [he rattled off all the appellations applied to him in those days] ... Josef Vissarionovich Stalin, and I hope this is the first and last speech made to that genius this evening.
Anyone who didn't laugh probably found themselves getting a bullet in the back of the head before too long, so that's not exactly definitive evidence. However, there is the story about how he disciplined his son, Vasily Stalin:
Vasily's schoolteachers complained to his father that he was an arrogant and disobedient prankster. The elder Stalin, while taking off his belt to give his son a whipping, told him: "So you think you're Stalin, eh? Well, you're not Stalin! Even I am not Stalin! [pointing skyward] Stalin's way up there!".
Let's end with some old Soviet jokes about Stalin...
Stalin is addressing a crowd when, during a pause in his speech, someone sneezes. He yells out, "who sneezed?" No one will admit to it. "First row, stand," Stalin orders. They do. "Shoot them." The first row of the crowd is led out by the guards and executed. "Who sneezed?" Stalin asks again. Still nobody says anything. "Second row, stand." They stand. "Shoot them." The second row of people is led out and executed. "Who sneezed?" Now one man comes forward, grovelling, and, in the most miserable voice imaginable, confesses: "it was I who sneezed, Great Comrade Stalin." There is silence. Stalin leans forward. "Bless you, comrade."
- - -
One day, Stalin arrives at his office ready to work (probably mid-afternoon, and maybe still hung-over). He checks the drawers for his favourite pen, but can't find it. He calls Beria in.
Stalin: Comrade Beria, someone has stolen my pen! I will not stand for this! Find them and punish them!
Beria leaves, and Stalin finds another pen and gets to work signing death warrants or some such. Much later, as he is preparing to leave, he finds his pen on the shelf behind him. A little embarrassed, he calls Beria back in and asks him how the investigation is going.
Beria: Good news, comrade Stalin! Three men have confessed to stealing your pen, and they have all been executed. All of them acted independently!
Stalin's "cult of personality" was relentlessly parodied in The Onion on an article for when he died. "Soviets mourn loss of beloved Stalin: who will crush our spirits and destroy our will to live now?"
Rafael Trujillo "the Goat" of the Dominican Republic was an almost textbook example of a Latin American caudillo. A deranged narcissist, he covered himself in medals (earning him the nickname "Bottlecaps"), renamed the country's capital city and highest mountain after himself, and appointed his three-year-old son a colonel. Other, more mercenary eccentricities included forcing the whole country to repaint their buildings every year (he owned every paint factory in the country) and ordering that rural folk wear shoes in the city (he sold all the shoes) Unfortunately, he also killed thousands of political opponents and stole millions of dollars. In 1937, he ordered his troops to kill all Haitians in the Dominican Republic, an event that would be remembered as the "Parsley Massacre". By the 1950s, Dominicans - and the United States - were sickened by his excesses. After a plot against him was uncovered, Trujillo tortured and murdered the Mirabal sisters, in an event that horrified the world. He finally got his just desserts in 1961, when CIA-backed plotters assassinated him and kicked his family out of the country.
Compared to some of those he shares this list with, Adolf Hitler was almost mundane; he was known to shun and disdain the more grandiose affectations that many tyrants took upon themselves. Yet he belongs here too; even if not initially (and there are certain persistent rumours about his private life and sexual predilections that make this questionable), then certainly by 1945. Even leaving aside the fact that the Holocaust alone could never have been ordered by a sane man, by the end of the war he so self-identified with Germany and the German people that one of his final orders before his death demanded the complete annihilation of Germany's entire industrial, agrarian and urban capabilities, because he genuinely believed that Germany could not survive his passing and that the German people deserved to be punished for failing to meet his standards. Fortunately for Germany, saner heads prevailed and the orders were ignored. Unfortunately for Germany, it was half occupied by the Soviets...see above.
Khorloogiin Choibalsan, Communist leader of Mongolia, is also considered as this. A follower of Stalin with a pan-Mongolian vision, while there were improvements in infrastructure and literacy rates under his rule, he would conduct many Stalinist-style purges in the country, killing thousands of potential enemies (specially Buddhist lamas and local nobility). He also re-named more than one place in Mongolia after himself - like the Bogd Khan Uul mountain, and both the province and the city of Choibalsan.
Hermann Goering. A corrupt and cruel narcissist who nonetheless managed to be quite charming and had a winning smile. As the years went by he turned more and more decadent, stole countless artistic masterworks, dressed in ridiculously expensive and over-the-top costumes, threw wild parties (often with an Ancient Roman-style theme - making the parallel to Caligula even more prominent) and over-indulged in drugs to the point that he became useless as a military or political leader. He didn't give a shit about Nazi ideals either, and joined them because it afforded him a quick route to wealth and power, so he could indulge in said decadent lifestyle more easily. He was actually officially diagnosed as The Sociopath during the Nuremberg Trials. Unlike Caligula, he was perfectly sane and had a brilliant mind—an IQ test performed on him during the Nuremberg Trials came back with a result of 138—but he was an ass who was in it for himself above all else. During the trial he thoroughly dominated his fellow defendants and tried to disrupt the proceedings with lengthy political screeds. He also objected to the death sentence handed to him, on the grounds that a man of his stature didn't deserve to be hung like a "common criminal", when the judges refused to allow him to die by firing squad, he committed suicide by swallowing cyanide just to spite them. He also believed that he'd be remembered as a folk hero by the German public, boasting that future generations would erect statues of him all over the country.
Enver Hoxha, communist dictator of Albania. After Albania's liberation from Fascist Italy in 1944, Hoxha came to power. He soon went on a Stalinist campaign of repression and murder. Paranoid of a Yugoslavian invasion, he ordered the construction of 750,000 bunkers... even though Albania only had a population of 3 million. His Secret Police, the Sigurimi, were brutal and ubiquitous. Declaring Albania an atheist country, he closed all churches and mosques and arrested all clerics. He also added his own individual, quixotic touches, banning beards, private car ownership, and color television. His propaganda proclaimed him to be the greatest Albanian of all time.
Francois Duvalier, better known as "Papa Doc", was probably the most infamous dictator of Haiti. His reign was marked by corruption, brutality, and madness. He portrayed himself (and likely believed himself to be) a semi-divine figure, a bizarre amalgamation of Jesus Christ and the Voodoo god Baron Samedi. He wrought terror and bloodshed on an unsuspecting nation, and was concerned only with serving his own ends.
Indonesia had the peculiar fortune of being led by two of these back to back during its first five decades of independence.
The first, Sukarno, more than provided the eccentricity of the Caligula: While he was charismatic and, by all accounts, tremendously brave, he was also vain, autocratic, and calamitously inept at affairs of governance, ushering in triple-digit inflation and nearly leading the nation into famine (while erecting monuments to himself all over Jakarta and starting a war with Malaysia) by the time he was deposed...
... by Suharto, who supplied the Caligula's brutality. Originally a mid-level army officer, he used the instability of Sukarno's last years to consolidate more and more power, culminating in a nation-wide anti-communist purge in 1965 that killed at least half a million people. It's true that, after he finally took the last of Sukarno's powers, he helped pull the economy out of its rut, but he only used this new prosperity as a chance to rob the nation to the tune of $30 billion or so.
Mao Zedong, while he was a born revolutionary and a calculating politician, he was an administrative moron, particularly when it came to economics. His enthusiasm for PeasantRevolution! won out over his reservations about the wisdom of politicising all of Chinese society inclusive of the civil service, which became an integral part of the Communist Party... which resulted in a civil service which would be punished if it failed to implement all the Party's directives to the letter and was rewarded for telling the Party's leadership what it wanted to hear. This backfired spectacularly under the second 'five-year plan' of economic development - aka 'the Great Leap Forward' - which mandated infeasibly large increases in agricultural and industrial output. This resulted in some completely idiotic orders being issued by lower-level party leaders to meet their quotas (such as demanding that villages make their own iron-forges, which they'd likely have to sacrifice their iron tools to in order to produce pig iron... which, in turn, would be shipped off and probably turned into low-quality farming tools just like the ones they melted down. Yeeeah.). The resultant labour and tool shortages soon translated into in regional agricultural shortfalls and eventually outright famines which went unacknowledged and unaddressed by the Party for many months, if not years. Resulting in many hundreds of thousands - millions, even - of otherwise-healthy people dying of malnutrition-related diseases.
Then there was the cultural revolution, which saw the removal of all students from colleges and universities to work on farms - that they might 'learn peasant values' - and/or carry out the Cultural Policing work of the 'Red Guards'. This effectively and just about frighteningly accurately made Mao the modern-day equivalent of Qin Shi Huangdi. The resultant loss of cultural heritage and the effects of the collective psychological trauma are incalculable, but in a few words they were really, really bad and nobody who lived through them likes to think or talk about those times. When Mao finally died, the blame for the excesses of the revolution was shunted onto the 'Evil Chancellors' of the 'Gang of Four'. By attributing the madness of the revolution to a conspiracy at the highest levels of government, they completely avoided addressing the extremely uncomfortable issue of the universal, mandatory popular involvement in the revolution - which in some cases saw Red Guard cadres put down by armed force when they refused to stand down and denounced the Peoples' Liberation Army for not being revolutionary enough.
Mao's wife, Jiang Qing, also qualifies. Before marrying Mao, she was infamous for her deceit and debauchery. Mao's relationship with her was very controversial, mainly because he was technically still married to a senior party official and she had a very checkered past. After a compromise with the party, Mao was able to take her as his partner. In 1963, she became Minister of Culture. It was in this capacity that she oversaw the Cultural Revolution, suppressing all traditional, foreign, or "bourgeois" cultural activities. She banned the piano and made sure that the only forms of media available in China were propaganda. In her heyday, she behaved with an unsavory combination of paranoia, excess, and hypochondria. While peasants struggled in appalling poverty, she would have warships cruise around rivers so she could practice photography and have roads built specifically for her to visit beauty spots. Despite feeding the masses a bland diet of Maoist propaganda, she busily imported foreign films. Her rooms had to be kept at a specific temperature, and she jailed servants for phantom indiscretions. For example, while suffering from a bout of diarrhea, she sent her child's nurse into prison. She took three doses of sleeping pills every night, and ordered all birds and cicadas be removed from around her house so they wouldn't disturb her. Servants had to walk with their arms aloft and legs apart in case she heard their clothes rustling. She practiced a technique for promoting youth and vigor that involved transfusions of blood from healthy young men. She had her pet monkey randomly attack people strolling through her orchard garden. After Mao's death, she was arrested in a bloodless coup and imprisoned for life, hanging herself in 1991.
Francisco Macias Nguema, first president of Equatorial Guinea, was a particularly destructive example of this trope. The son of a witch doctor, his rise to power was a move the country would deeply regret. He slaughtered politicians and businessmen in an effort to take complete control of the country. Other victims of Nguema's wrath included the director of Equatorial Guinea's central bank, 114 senior civil servants, several union bosses, the ambassador to the United Nations, an archbishop, all former lovers of his mistresses, and a statician who "couldn't count". Nguema was also a rabid anti-intellectual, shutting down private schools and driving educated people out of the country. He shut down several hospitals in favor of witch doctor practices, which did not go over well. Nguema also banned the use of lubricants in a power plant, claiming he could keep it running with his magic powers. Unsurprisingly, the plant broke down, and the capital was engulfed in darkness. He destroyed the country's economy and hoarded its wealth for himself. He banned all religions, and the only form of worship permitted was of Nguema himself. He frequently indulged in bhang, a drink made from marijuana, which couldn't have helped his mental state. He was clinically insane, talking to himself and having serious mood swings, all the while spending time with imaginary friends and executing imaginary enemies. He had an enormous collection of human skulls, fuelling rumors that he was a wizard. Nguema converted the country's wealth into cash and stored it in a jungle shed. By the time of his overthrow and execution, 100,000 Equatorial Guineans (a third of the country's population) were killed, and 125,000 had fled. His brutal reign of terror had brought Equatorial Guinea to its knees.
Burmese dictator Ne Win was a deeply superstitious man who bathed in dolphin blood because he thought it would restore his youth and vitality, kept soothsayers as advisors, and threw the country into an economic crisis by changing the currency into denominations consisting of multiples of nine. That's not even getting into his political repression...
When Pol Pot rose to power, he personally wanted to change Cambodia as he saw fit. He banned and abolished everything he considered as bourgeoisie (money, religion, sports) and also declared Year Zero, which would be the Khemer Rouge's new calendar. His first step as ruler of Cambodia was to force everyone out of the cities to work as slaves in the fields; then, he ordered the execution of people he branded as enemies... namely those who were religious, intellectual, sickly, ethnic minorities, and those who picked wild berries or fruits in forests - this was considered a "capitalist enterprise". While, contrary to popular belief, wearing glasses was *not* punishable, it was still enough for the wearer to be considered "suspicious", apparently due to the association of "glasses" and "intellectual" in popular culture. His goal was to turn Cambodia into a Communist paradise, and spent most of his time hunting down perceived enemies rather than running the country. He also wanted Cambodia to be completely self-sufficient, which though not crazy as such - most nations try to produce as much as they reasonably can domestically - was and is completely impractical given the country's very limited resources and industrial base and his fervent opposition to any sort of advanced education. If that wasn't enough, he declared himself as Brother Number 1, and had all children refer to their real parents as uncle/aunt.
Uganda's Idi Amin Dada, whose megalomania extended to bestowing upon himself such titles as "master of all the beasts of the earth and fishes of the sea". The full title he preferred was, according to The Other Wiki, "His Excellency, President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin Dada, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular". The man was crazypants, but he knew how to come up with a good title. Another of his self-bestowed titles was "The Last King of Scotland". Yes, Scotland. As part of his "heroic black leader" shtick, he also had all white residents of Uganda carry him through the streets of the capital on a gilded throne, and then kneel before him and recite an oath of loyalty and after his bizarre alliance with Israel soured, he planned to erect a statue of Hitler in Kampala. See The Last King of Scotland for a fictional depiction.
Jean-Bédel Bokassa, self-proclaimed Emperor of the Central African Empire during the late 1970s. He adored Napoleon and tried to fashion himself after him as much as possible. His coronation ceremony cost a third of the country's entire budget for the year, and to this day rumors linger that at the ceremony, he served human flesh as the main course. He killed 100 schoolchildren at once after they didn't wear the government-mandated, expensive school uniforms. Embarrassed and outraged, France ended up overthrowing him.
That ridiculously huge palace of his was left intact despite being a symbol of his insane rule, because it's so huge they can't afford the demolition costs. To be somewhat fair to the old dictator, the palace was supposed to house all of the primary organs of state—the President, the Cabinet, the Parliament, and the Supreme Court. However, even then it would be too big (the Parliament is there, as is a history museum, an art museum, the headquarters for an intergovernmental organization, and what amounts to a conference center, and there are still bare, empty rooms that nobody ever uses).
Turkemistan's Saparmurat Niyazov was a thorough nut. His antics included building a solid gold statue of himself designed to rotate to always face the sun, changing the Turkmen word for "bread" to "Gurbansoltan" (his mother's name), naming January after himself and September after a book he had written, instructing all citizens to chew bones to strengthen their teeth, banning all newscasters from wearing makeup (because he couldn't tell the men from the women), and in a crowning moment of lunacy, decreeing that an ice palace large enough for 1,000 people be built outside the capital. The capital is in a desert. He even instituted a new compulsory state religion based on that book he wrote. Which happens to be an autobiography. L. Ron Hubbard, eat your heart out.
Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac. Uday, his son, was worse. House Of Saddam, a 2008 Mini Series, actually had to tone him down. Among other things, Uday had oversight over Iraq's Olympic Games commitee. As part of his self-appointed duties in that office, he had Iraqi athletes tortured if they peformed too poorly. Saddam's other son Qusay was maybe a bit more sanish than Uday, but he was infamous for killing political prisoners to make room for more prisoners.
Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe seems to verge on this every so often - although he may be toning down a bit in his old age and with being forced to work with the parliament these days. Still, single-handedly turning Zimbabwe from Africa's "bread basket" to a starving, destitute nation. May well go as evidence that good revolutionaries don't necessarily make good politicians.
The Gambia president Yahya Jammeh. A guy who says he can cure AIDS and did think that The Gambia was the biggest country in Africa before colonization(Gambia is one of Africa smallest countries for you information), He too did try to ban western things like medicine(Since he can "cure AIDS") and says that he want to chop of the head of homosexuals.
"Dear Leader" Kim Jong Il of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea AKA North Korea. His father, Kim Il-Sung, was known as "Great Leader", and started the whole personality cult thing in N. Korea. He is remembered today as the "Eternal President" of North Korea, outranking his son even in death. No less crazy, certainly (but then, he did start the Korean War).
And then there's the "Official History of North Korea", presumably written, at least partially, by Kim Jong-il. It states that he was born at the foot of the holy mountain Paektu, under a new star and a double rainbow. He has never defecated, is the inventor of the hamburger, and can create rainstorms at will.
He's hardly as bonkers as most of the people on this list, but (then-)Crown Prince Tupu'atoa of the island country of Tonga, who was interviewed for the magazine National Geographic in 2007, at about the time his father, the king, was dying, is probably as close as one can come to being this trope while ruling a semi-democratic, quasi-Western nation note Although Tongans are mainly of Malayo-Polynesian stock, most of them are fluent in English and belong to evangelical Protestant churches started by European and American missionaries. and still holding on to power (and just barely, since Tupu'atoa's eccentricities sparked urban riots, which until that time had been unknown in Tonga's history). A pathological kleptocrat, Prince Tupu'atoa collected all manner of "toys" from around the world - and these "toys" tended to be ridiculously grandiose (not to mention expensive) objects that no one individual should be allowed to own, such as the prince's collection of World War II-era bomber planes. (He defended his enormous greed by pointing out that countries like the United States have staggering economic inequality as well, and when challenged to give an example of this, he said: "Galveston, Texas.") He spoke with a British Accent despite being Polynesian, dressed the part of a proper Victorian gentleman, and insisted on Tonga remaining an absolute monarchy because without a king, Tongans would probably "urinate in elevators." The journalist who interviewed the prince hinted that he might suffer from multiple-personality disorder, given the various incongruous works of art, musical instruments, and other hobbies displayed in his private chambers. Not that Tupu'atoa's forebears were much better: they crashed the island's economy by trying to convert the nation's main power source to diesel fuel made out of saltwater(!) and by appointing a foreigner as "court jester" who turned out to actually be a con artist and robbed the royal treasury.
Canadian politicians are usually known around the world for being relatively dull (Pierre "Just Watch Me" Trudeau notwithstanding), but Rob Ford, the shit talkin', hard drinkin', wife beatin' mayor of Toronto, who is currently under investigation for organized crime ties and admitted to smoking crack cocaine at least once is a shining example by anybody's standards. Canadian law is so structured that a mayor cannot be stripped of office until the end of his term, barring felony convictions, but he can be effectively stripped of his powers, which Ford has been.