"Keaton always said, 'I don't believe in God, but I'm afraid of Him.' Well, I do believe in God... and the only thing that scares me is Keyser Söze."A villain or Anti-Hero whose primary characteristic is the fear the other side has of them. To be the Dreaded, a character has to be far and away the most feared person in the story. These are people who make you quail not because of anything they are doing at that moment, but simply because you know who they are and what they've done before... and sometimes the latter part is optional. Maybe this character has a reputation as a Hero Killer; a person who kills the other side's strongest and noblest supporters. Maybe they use fear as a magical effect which triggers panic in others. Maybe they've done so many horrible things that nobody ever wants to speak of them again. Maybe they are simply so mind-breakingly horrible even the strongest of hearts falter. But the defining trait of the Dreaded is that they are feared. Probably has a scary name, unless they use a really scary alias instead. If their ability in combat lives up to their reputation, then the only choice one has when facing them may be to Run or Die. When/if the Dreaded character dies, his/her/its death will almost certainly be followed by much rejoicing...if he's actually dead, that is (see the entry from Vlad the Impaler under the Real Life section). Although there are exceptions, (particularly on the other side of the fence) a key characteristic of this trope tends to be invisibility. In general, characters—villains, in particular—who conform to this trope will not be seen directly the first few times they are mentioned. The show will tend to work on building up their perceived threat in the minds of the audience: a dark, shadowy something that's out there somewhere, but you don't know where, who or what they are, or even whether or not they can be killed, at least at first. As such, it usually involves acceptable forms of Character Shilling. It is possible for them to remain this trope after they come out of the shadows, but if they do not then beware Villain Decay. Additionally there is a heroic equivalent called the Terror Hero, when there is a hero so renowned that the enemy would rather flee than possibly encounter them. They tend to be anti-heroes of some kind though (ranging from grades 2-4), due to audiences seldom associating dread as an emotion a pure hero inspires. Some criminals also tend to go for this in order to prevent anyone from informing on them. Note that it isn't the audience's reaction to the Dreaded that matters, but the other characters' reactions to the Dreaded. Other characters think this person is pure Nightmare Fuel, whether they deserve this reputation or not. See also Mook Horror Show; when The Hero is the dreaded to his enemies, this is a common way of demonstrating it. Not to be confused with characters who are merely dreaded, although both tropes may apply to the same character. Compare/contrast Respected by the Respected, where a character is defined by the respect other respected characters have for them. See Supernatural Fear Inducer for when a character can literally induce dread.
— Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects
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- Zagreus in Big Finish Doctor Who. Even Death herself is frightened when she's suddenly humming his song, without any idea where it came from.
Zagreus sits inside your head,Zagreus lives among the dead,Zagreus sees you in your bed,And eats you when you're sleeping.
- The Dalek Time Controller is treated like this by the 8th Doctor, who considers them the most dangerous Dalek of all.
- Then there are the Eminence, a Super Smoke from the end of time who use the Breath of Forever to turn people into Zombies. They are so dangerous 8 is willing to work with the Dalek Time Controller against them, despite the Time Lords trying to use them against the Daleks.
- Played for laughs in The Thrilling Adventure Hour; Frank and Sadie Doyle fear only one thing, and that is the bumblebee that got into their apartment through an open window. Whenever it is spoken of or remembered it is with horror and terror.
- Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Her mere presence strikes fear in the hearts of everyone present, the queen fears her enough to call her "your excellency" to avoid offending her and the palace guards back down from their order to capture her simply because she raised her hands and commanded them to stand back.
- Maleficent is so dreaded, in fact, that even Disney crossover materials go out of their way to show it—with other Disney villains, the reactions from the heroes tend to be mixed and often times they're confident enough to take chances. But when Maleficent shows up the response from everyone is almost universally pure terror. For example, in Fantasmic!, Maleficent's presence inspires more fear in Mickey than that of the Evil Queen, Genie!Jafar or Chernabog (who is pretty much Satan!).
- Rattlesnake Jake from Rango. Even the Big Bad's minions are deadly afraid when told to contact him.
- Monstro from Pinocchio is known throughout the village and is famous for swallowing whole ships; even the mere mention of his name is enough to send other sea creatures fleeing.
- Shere Khan from The Jungle Book. Nearly everyone is scared of him, and the rest are Too Dumb to Live. He's stripped of this status in the sequel, what with his humiliation at the hands of Mowgli, and goes full-blown Knight of Cerebus trying to get it back.
- Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda, a rogue kung fu master so scary that an entire prison was built specifically to hold him. When he escapes from said prison, everyone in the Valley is afraid of him, including his former master and The Chosen One.
- Played completely straight with Chakal from The Book of Life, but also parodied with a Running Gag where the same child announces that him and/or his bandits are coming to others, usually by bursting through a door and yelling.
- Sharptooth from The Land Before Time series, especially in the very first movie. The very word frightens any other dinosaur who hears it.
- Night Furies from How to Train Your Dragon. Some vikings do not believe they exist, but those that do dread the idea of encountering one. They outrank nearly every other dragon in speed, strength, intelligence, etc. despite its size and they blend in with the dark. No one has ever encountered one and lived to tell the tale. Even the dragon manual says that should one ever encounter a Night Fury, they should "hide and prey that it does not find [them]", and this is a book that tells you that dragons that spit acid, turns you inside out and shout so loud that your ears explode should be "killed on sight."
Hiccup: This thing never steals food, never shows itself and... never misses.
- A typical feature of the main characters of Memetic Badass sites. Examples:
- The most famous one: Bogeymen scare their children with stories about Chuck Norris.
- The only reason Chuck Norris is afraid of death is because he knows Bruce Lee will be waiting for him.
- The A-Team was originally composed of 6 versions of Mr. T, but they changed it after every criminal in the world was immediately vapourized in the first episode.
- Neville Longbottom is the only thing that Dumbledore ever feared.
- Death had to take him sleeping, for if Theodore Roosevelt had been awake, there would have been a fight.
- When Ron Swanson eats, it is the food that is scared.
- Classical Mythology
- Typhon likely doubles as the original Hero Killer, storming Olympus by himself and driving the gods into hiding. When he first showed up to fight Zeus, all of the other Olympians except Athena and Enyo immediately fled in terror.
- Hades was this to the Greeks themselves; he's the yardstick by which terrifying creatures in myth (like Typhon) are compared to. Typhon is so bad that he was not only scarier than Hades, he frightened him.
- Zombies are always depicted as this. A walking, living, brain-eating corpse—any normal/sane person would definitely fear these creatures. And to make things worse, think of how many people have died, historically, and lie as waiting corpses beneath the ground... yes, consider us humans screwed.
- Norse Mythology
- The children of Loki, including Jormungandr, Fenrisulfr, and Hel, were feared by god and man alike. Of the three, one is a serpent that wraps entirely around the earth and will kill Thor, one is a wolf whose jaws open wider than the sky and will kill Odin, and one is the personification of ignominious, dishonorable death.
- Odin himself was dreaded by men to the extent that some effort might be made to avoid getting his attention at all. The chief danger in Odin is that his plans and interests revolved solely around himself and disregarded the cost to anyone else; being a champion of the creator god sounds great until you realize most of his champions met horrible ends and gained nothing, not even Odin's favor in the afterlife. Even the Einherjar (the chosen warriors who live in Valhalla) were not chosen for reward so much as recruited into Odin's personal (doomed, see above) army.
- On a more conventional level, Thor was feared by essentially everyone for his prowess in battle, to the extent that in some tales his antagonists run screaming when they realize who they're really messing with. On the other hand, Thor was usually friendly to mankind.
- Arguably the most dreaded of all, Níðhöggr was an Eldritch Abomination that gnawed the roots of the world tree, would show up for Ragnarok (and evidently survive it), and was feared by everyone and everything, including the gods. If there is one Norse being you would rather never meet, it's Níðhöggr.
- Egyptian Mythology: Apep/Apophis. He was so terrifying, the Egyptians built temples to prevent him from coming to them.
- For centuries, many religions believed The Devil was especially this if not the original. Although mostly a story, one cannot help but think if there really is a creature of pure evil in this world. If so, then God help us all.
- Folk Lore: The Bogeyman is this trope personified. Every child that has heard of him fears him, he can appear as the thing you fear most, and if you've been naughty, God have mercy on your soul.
- For generations, Vampires of all kind are personified as this trope too. They are based upon the fears of rape, sexual assault and cannibalism, which are all real terrors. To add more danger to the name, such beings possess powers of great intimidation from turning into wolves, to raising the dead.
- Monster heels are this by default, especially if they are inhumanly large. The definitive examples in the WWE would be The Big Show and Mark Henry.
- The Great Khali was a special example, at least during his heel runs. It wasn't just his colossal size and strength, or his barely being able to speak; opponents also had to fear his Psychopathic Manchild tendencies, which could easily be exploited by his handlers. Khali could be told to do anything terrible - and by God, he would do it. Knocking down Undertaker with a single blow also helped his rep a great deal.
- Brock Lesnar. As CM Punk put it, for all his physical gifts, Lesnar's greatest weapon was the sheer fear all of his opponents had for him, whether they showed it or not. Punk himself was not intimidated, because he wasn't after Lesnar — to him, Lesnar was just another obstacle in the way of his real goal, Paul Heyman.
- Randy Orton is this for no other reason than his uncontrollable rage, his inability to be reasoned, and the fact that his finishing move can literally come out of nowhere. The fact that he Hates Everyone Equally means he's a danger to everybody, not just whoever has directly earned his ire at the time. He'll often RKO someone for no other reason than because they were hanging around the ring too long, or because the RKO has been banned at the next pay-per-view and he needs to get them "out of his system."
- The Undertaker. It doesn't matter who you are, even if you're the owner and chairman of the biggest wrestling promotion in history — you do NOT fuck with the Deadman.
- Vince McMahon is primarily this to authority figures, especially heel ones. For all their frequent abuses of power to stroke their own egos, as far as Vince is concerned, they are even more expendable than the talent on the roster and if they screw up, he has no issue making that very clear.
- Kana/Asuka is probably the closest you can get to having someone be a Wrestling Monster without actually looking like one. She is feared for her notoriously stiff style which involves things such as reversing a simple slap into a flying armbar, a hip attack that has legitimately injured people, and managing to win multiple victories by straight up knocking the opponent out with a kick to the head. Also her creepy smile and primal screams mid match probably doesn't help. In her NXT run, she's also undefeated; the only person who has managed to even come close to being on her level was Bayley, and considering she was the NXT Women's Champion at the time, she had the best chance of any competitor there.
- In Grisaia no Rakuen, during the climax, Yuuji invades the floating fortress of Heath Oslo. Heavily outnumbered and arriving almost unarmed, he goes out of his way to fight in as terrifying a way as possible in order to sow confusion. He baits people and then destroys them, completely crushing the morale of his opponents.
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney has legendary prosecutor Manfred von Karma, who hadn't lost a single case in forty years by the time Phoenix had to go up against him. He throws out objections left and right to counter his opponent's every move and has been rumored to have fabricated evidence and twisted testimonies in order to maintain his perfect record.
Edgeworth: Manfred von Karma is a man to be feared. Just picture a prosecutor as vicious as me... multiplied by a factor of ten.
- The Irregulars from Tower of God. Normally, people who climb the Tower to get their deepest desire fulfilled have to be Chosen and are invited as Regulars. Not these guys. They came and kicked the metaphysical doors open by themselves and every time that happened, the Tower underwent drastic changes. Five Irregulars (not counting the Ten Great Warriors and Zahard) are known. One was a man-made god who defeated the entire ruling structure of the Tower and then simply disappeared. Before him came a person who slew a Physical God and could create life. The third supposedly followed the former into the Tower, climbed it ten times faster than anyone elsenote and built a N.G.O. Superpower that rivals the government. The fourth one was almost completely immune to magic and could copy any spell on sight, doing what normally takes people decades in instants. And the last one was an incredibly normal girl who stabbed her best friend in the back. People are not very fond of Irregulars. They are afraid of them.
- Kore in Goblins has a tendency to induce Oh Crap! moments in those he meets, or even those who hear stories of him, particularly since he has utterly no qualms about killing anyone if he perceives them as evil, and is said to have fought entire armies and won. Even a fellow dwarf paladin refers to him as "the Cursed Scourge of the Realm". And then there's how he Would Hurt a Child.
- The Photographer in The Chosen Four is feared by Ness, which is Played for Laughs. However, the Photoman is the most powerful being in the comic, per Rule of Funny.
- Jack Noir is a fairly light hearted take on this. Due to some alternate timeline stuff, not always so lighthearted.
- Doc Scratch, who is feared by anybody knowing him (including Jack). He has nothing on his boss Lord English, though; even Hussie (the author of the comic) is afraid of him.
- Para Ventura from Schlock Mercenary is a hilarious variant. That's how she got enlisted—Captain Tagon knows the cost of a good reputation (just for comparison, that was the incident which didn't impress the dock bot).
- In Our Little Adventure, Angelo invoked this feeling when he confronted Randi and Peganone during their quest to capture Umbria. He probably would have for Eva as well, but she retained her resolve due to her Paladin's fear immunity. What happened to Eva due to her not backing down and running away was accordingly horrifying.
- In The Mansion of E, Uncle Frederick's bed-mate is called variously the Woman of Mystery or the Scary Lady.
- Karin-dou 4koma: Seren is infamous as a brutal Person of Mass Destruction, with nicknames such as "The Human Solar Cannon" and "The Bomb Princess". Before Meguru actually met Seren, her mental image of Seren featured a Slasher Smile, glowing eyes, and claw-like fingernails. She's really not a bad person. She is still a Person of Mass Destruction, however.
- Slade from Heart Core, The Dragon of Royce Lashiec. Not only does he love to cause even MORE pain than his master does, not only does Ame, the third strongest living demon so far, fear the mere thought of being in his presence, bu not even his own allies can be with him without fearing for their lives, knowing how he can at any point kill them just out of curiosity and boredom.
- In "Axe Cop: The Moon Warriors", the Moon Warriors can't fight the Vampire Man Baby Kid on their own because he's too powerful and "scary". When Axe Cop sees him, even he says he's scary. Then they kind of forget about that and try to decapitate him in different ways.
- In Rusty and Co., one very well-organized gang of villains had detailed dossiers on Rusty's crew and all the people who are likely to help them. When Princess shows up and they open her file, the mugshot shows her snarling at the camera from behind her oncoming fist and the notes "DO NOT ENGAGE. EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. RUN."
- The Old Heterodynes in Girl Genius were this. In a world filled with depraved Mad Scientist warlords, the Old Heterodynes were a particularly egregious example... Until the Heterodyne Boys, Bill and Barry, redeemed the family. The current scion, the titular heroine Agatha, has proven to have the capacity for good like her father Bill... and the capacity for brutality of her forefathers.
- Apparently Agatha's uncle Barry did something to make the Big Bad fret at the mere offhand-dismissive mention of him, fearful that it might invoke another encounter with him.
- On the Wulfenbach's side, there's the Dreen, strange, clawed cyclops with conic hats and veils that don't quite look that threatening. But once they enter the fray, general Zog's plan immediately turns towards getting the hell out of here. A reminder: These creatures scare the crap out of a centuries-old Super Soldier general who single-handedly shot down a carrier full of troops. And just to rub it in, one particular Dreen survived a stomp by a Humongous Mecha intact, and blew it up by touching it, immediately afterwards. It's later revealed they might be related to the enormous Eldritch Abomination currently threatening Mechanicsburg.
- For reasons that haven't entirely been made clear, Oglavia Spüdna. Post-Time Skip, she's a fairly high-ranking spy, she's written a book...and a keeper of the Incorruptible Library breaks and starts begging to talk the moment she introduces herself.
- The gleefully evil demon Xaneth Antaris of True Villains is this, knows it, and loves it.
- Baskets of Guts: Pangreedi, the head of the Royal Secret Chancellory, is described as "a beast, not a human" with scars all over his face. It turns out to be quite far from truth though, so it's rather a subversion.
- Kamikaze Kate, who, as the name implies, is known for racing in a suicidally reckless way. After her sister was killed by reckless racers (who got off scot-free), she started to act like she was trying to kill everyone on the track, including herself. She raced every single person who showed any talent, wrecked most of their cars and nearly killed several of them. Just hearing her name is enough to make Ash shiver. It turns out that a large part of Kate's advantage came from the fact that she was possessed by her sister's vengeful ghost, but she's still genuinely the best racer around.
- Played for Laughs after Kate's sister is exorcised and she undergoes a Heel–Face Turn. Kate becomes a friendly and helpful mentor to Ash, even calling Ash "little sister" and inviting Ash to be the maid of honor at Kate's wedding. But Ash is still completely terrified of her, to the point that she can tell when Kate is near by the nameless feeling of dread.
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
- Mr. Popo, who the rest of the cast are quietly terrified of (and in Goku's case, loudly terrified). The only ones who aren't scared of him are Kami and Piccolo (both of whom are just below Popo himself on Popo's "Pecking Order").
- The Ginyu Force and Freeza both scare Vegeta, who has spent most of his life living under Freeza's rule. When Vegeta realizes that Freeza has summoned the Ginyu Force to Namek, he panics. And when Freeza himself shows up during one of Vegeta's angry rants, he stops mid-sentence out of sheer terror. Though he manages to overcome his fear of both the Ginyus and Freeza and fight them.
- In Dead Zone Abridged, Goku is this to Garlic Jr. Upon finding out that his minions just beat up his wife and kidnapped his son while stealing one of the Dragonballs, he understandably freaks out.
- Kirby from There Will Be Brawl, or as he is known in the series, "The Cannibal". Suffice to say Mario is rather reluctant to let Peach visit him when she looks for information about The Butcher.
- The Meta from Red vs. Blue. Given its utterly ruthless demeanour in battle, the massive gun it carries, and the the variety of additional abilities it can avail of from the AIs that it captured, it's understandable why the first instinct that many of the main characters who come across it is to run for the hills. It even manages to go toe-to-toe with Tex, who's renowned in the series as being a One Woman Army.
- Near the end of Ruby Quest, one of the most dangerous and insane mutants is found crying in a corner because Ace is coming.
- BKCRMWDJVG of the Whateley Universe. When even a small part of it is let onto Earth, it causes insanity and terror and Mind Rape just by revealing its true appearance.
- That Guy with the Glasses:
- Atop the Fourth Wall: Lord Vyce. Interestingly, virtually no one except Vyce himself has heard of the far more dangerous Entity he was battling.
- Less eldritch-y, but Todd in the Shadows visibly sinks lower every time The Nostalgia Chick tries to get him to spend time with her. Considering some of the things she's done, his fear is very justified.
- Linkara himself, at least according to The Nostalgia Critic.
"Keep your voice down, Sci-Fi Guy! He can smell geek!"
- Hyper Fangirl has made Critic drop to the floor in fear of her several times. Her responses to this are usually anger or excitement.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-173 is a living sculpture that kills its victims when they break eye contact with it. What puts it firmly in this category, however, is that 682, the regenerating lizard that just doesn't die and hates all life on earth, only yelped in what appeared to be terror and stared at it for hours when put in the same room, growing new eyes when they were shot out so 173 could do its thing. When you scare the crap out of this thing, you know you're feared.
- From Dr. Clef's 001 Proposal, this is a creature so powerful that Able refuses to go anywhere near it.
- SCP-557 isn't an artifact but a location, an ancient prison somewhere in the desert that used to hold something horrible and only referred to as "bastard son of Apep" (see the Mythology folder). Used to.
- Endbringers and Class S supervillains in Worm have this status: Nilbog and the members of the Slaughterhouse Nine. Of the latter, Jack Slash's superpower (being able to extend the cutting edges of his knives to a near-unlimited range) is not nearly as frightening as his ability to pull together a team of the most murderous sociopaths in the world and terrorize entire cities with them.
- Among the Slaughterhouse Nine, there is one who inspires more dread than any other, even within their ranks: Gray Boy. He doesn't kill his victims, but for a few thousand years they'll wish he had. When Jack decided to have all the past members cloned by a factor of nine each, Gray Boy was the sole exception. Bonesaw guesses that one Gray Boy is all Jack could hope to control.
- When he was running the Nine, King held this position.
- Skitter is also starting to be added to the list by some circles, due to her creative use of her power and propensity for winning fights that are way out of her league.
- Lung was strong enough to fight off entire cape teams on his own and was the main reason the ABB gained significant power in Brockton Bay. Nobody really wants to fight a guy who can go toe to toe with Leviathan and walk away.
- The most feared of all is the Sleeper. When he portals to another world and "subsumes" it, everyone simply writes it off as a lost cause. Khepri, having gathered every cape she can find in every universe and the Endbringers to her service, sees him sitting peacefully on a lawn chair and decides to leave him alone.
- Mario Brothers has King Koopa, who is portrayed as a terrifying, nigh-unstoppable villain.
- The Slender Man is a walking Brown Note, a living Meaningful Background Event and the single most terrifying Invincible Villain of all time. He also looks creepy as hell. Understandably, no one goes near him willingly. Maybe.
- In the Noob webseries and comic, Dark Avenger is heavily implied to have been the most feared Player Killer of the game before he got in his Mistaken for Badass situation with Sparadrap. The Game Master seen in the comic shows his "Wanted!" Poster alongside two other ones, which are for Tenshirock and Ash.
- In RWBY, Yang left quite the impression with her visits to Junior's nightclub. Her first visit caused so much chaos that it can be best described as Yang turning into a red-eyed, flaming-haired Super Saiyan, Curb-Stomping everybody with Fire Punches and exploding bullets and completely destroying the place! In her second visit, a few Faceless Goons tried to prevent her from entering the club again, only to get knocked out of the way. Yang then literally burst her way in and cockily say "Guess who's back!" with a big grin on her face. Every single one of Junior's men has her at gunpoint! (Not that it would've done them any good...) Needless to say, they remember her very well!
- Her Uncle Qrow has the outward appearance of a surly drunk, but he is one of the best fighters in the entire series (and he was probably holding back during his fight with Winter). His mere presence is enough to cause Mercury, one of Cinder's Co-Dragons and a seasoned fighter/executioner, to panic and run to let Cinder know he's here.
- Later comes Salem who is without question, a most dark and dangerous anomaly. Even before her initial reveal, nobody talked or mentioned anything about her, just by her appearance you can see why.
- In Citadel there is a man called Monster. He got the name by slaughtering a bunch of random people and then forcing the lone survivor to record an answer to a simple question. Despite not having any obvious powers, though there's lots of theories, he's so feared that even the Citadel's most famous operative shudders at the thought of facing him again.
- In RubberFruit's videos, Painis Cupcake tends to play this role. This is most prominent in Heavy's Tiny Picnic Adventure - Part 6, where the introduction of Painis Cupcake causes everyone to panic and stop their current petty conflict to help each other run for their lives.
- In Jolt, we have Perses. He is known by everyone in the setting as the most dangerous villain in the world, having apparently ravaged the world while he was free.
- In My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series, Celestia is portrayed as a tyrant, who salts lands, slaughters civilians, pours silver down her advisers throats, and makes sure all her little ponies fear her. Especially her faithful student.