The Heavy is the antagonist whose direct actions are the primary focus of the storyline. This is a big role for an actor, if not the largest role, in a play or movie. The term, which goes back to theater in the 1800s, refers to this player probably having the heaviest script.
This can be the Big Bad, but is also often The Dragon, since keeping the Big Bad mysterious generally makes him scarier. This is especially true in the case of a Non-Action Big Bad. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Emperor Palpatine may be the Big Bad, but Darth Vader is the plot driver. He's seen more. He has more to do. He dominates the films, and as the prequels prove, the story is about him.
Actors often cast in such parts are known for "playing the heavy."
Compare Dragon-in-Chief, which is when The Dragon fills this role specifically because he overshadows the Big Bad as a threat. Likely to intersect with Villains Act, Heroes React.
Do not confuse with the Heavy Weapons Guy* Though he does tend to be the driving force of his team, who is The Big Guy. Or the band.
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Anime and Manga
Fullmetal Alchemist has Father whose actions to absorb God, not only founded Amestris, but the main characters along with most of the cast would've never been born if he hadn't done so.
The 2003 version gives us Envy, who actually fights much more often than Dante. Not only does he do her bidding, he actually manages to kill Ed.
Bleach has longtime Big Bad, Sosuke Aizen. To start, Ichigo, his sisters and Uryu would literally not exist without his interference.
It also has a far less extreme example in Yhwach, Emperor of the Vandenreich. He's the progenitor of all Quincy, meaning that his blood literally runs through the veins of not only all of the current antagonists of the series, but also of the Ishidas, and the Kurosakis. To top it all off, his awakening is what caused the deaths of Masaki Kurosaki and Kanae Katagiri, Uryu's mother.
Zouken Matou in Fate/stay night. While Kotomine is the Big Bad, he always sends others to do his work and runs out of those quickly in Heavens Feel. Kotomine isn't even seen as an enemy until the very end, and its possible that no one even remembers that he was since Shirou is the only one who was there and his memory of the events is a little hazy, for good reason.
Tobi is the most prominent example. Literally speaking, absolutely nothing would have been the same had he not gotten involved. Naruto probably would have had a much happier life if Tobi hadn't gotten involved in it.
The extent has become clear with the revelation of Chapter 599. If Obito had never actually "died", then not only would Kakashi never get his Sharingan eye, the Fourth Hokage and his wife would be alive, Naruto would've have had a much happier childhood, the Akatsuki would've most likely never existed, etc. It really begins to show how much of an impact Tobi had on the plot, now that it's been revealed he's Obito.
Eyeshield 21: Reiji Marco is this during the Kantou Regionals, with his obsessions and schemes driving most of the plot, and helping to totally upset the way the tournament was supposed to go. During the Youth World Cup, the Big Bad Duumvirate of Clifford D. Louis and Mr. Don take over as the main threat to the Devil-Bats, with their seeming invincibility driving the story for the remainder of the arc.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has Decil Galette take this role in Generation 1, Zeheart Galette seize it in Generation 2, and Lord Ezelcant take centre stage in Generation 3, after having been portrayed as little more than a shadowy manipulator for the first two seasons. Though Decil takes the cake for causing Flit to go down a downward spiral to become the Dark Messiah. And all he had to do was play around with a friend that Flit took to liking until she broke as if it was one of his toys.
The Colossal Titan in Attack on Titan, appearing just long enough to quite literally kick off the plot. Ironically, when in human form he's actually extremely passive and merely a pawn of an unrevealed greater threat.
Yes! Pretty Cure 5 has Kawarino, He's responsible for the invasion and destruction of the Palmier Kingdom, he manipulates and abuses all other villains, and he's the one who makes Desparaiah's wish coming true. And if the Palmier Kingdom was never destroyed, the Pretty Cure 5 wouldn't even exist.
The Yu-Gi-Oh! anime has one each arc. Usually they are the Big Bad of that arc, but not always. They are:
Maximillion Pegasus during Duelist Kingdom, whose kidnapping of Yugi's grandfather and Kaiba's brother serves as the motivation for both of them.
Marik Ishtar during Battle City, with his plans to seize the power of the Pharoah and the three Egyptian God Cards eventually dragging in everyone.
Noah Kaiba during the Virutal Nightmare arc. While his father Gozaburo is the Big Bad, Noah is the actual threat, and does most of the work.
Dark Marik during the Battle City finals; defeating him is the end goal of Yugi, Joey, and Kaiba.
Dartz during the DOMA arc, as he's the one behind the entire arc.
Zigfried von Schroeder during the Kaiba Corp Grand Prix; it's his plan to derail Kaiba's tournament, and he's the one who forces Leon to help him.
The Spirit of the Millenium Ring during the Millenium World arc, both as The Chessmaster in the present, and by possessing himself in the past.
Inverted in Sin City in which the heroic roles drive the plot. In Hartigan and Marv's stories, the main characters respond to crimes that happen off-screen to people they have little connection to. Because they decide to act, this leads them to make more decisions and the plot follows them. Dwight is an even greater example. He starts off reacting to Jackie Boy being the plot driver but he takes over the plot when he decides to chase Jackie Boy into Old Town and from there, his actions led to trouble from different directions. The main villain of that particular story doesn't have a part in the plot until the mid-way point.
Barbossa in the first, Davy Jones in the second and third, and Blackbeard in the fourth. Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
Colonel Miles Quaritch of Avatar. He doesn't run the RDA, but Jake and the Na'vi must fight Quaritch and his army to save the day.
Die Hard is something of a subversion. While Hans Gruber does set the events of the movie into motion, forcing other characters into action, and otherwise driving the entire plot of the movie, John McClane also sends the plot into other directions by being proactive and antagonizing Gruber. Their battle of wits, both men acting and reacting to the other, sets the general cat-and-mouse tone of the movie, with both taking turns in either role.
Loki does such a good job of driving the plot in The Avengers that it's easy to miss his brief conversations with "the Other" about the mysterious head honcho who gave him the scepter and a mission. The Stinger reveals he's actually a pawn in Thanos's scheme.
While Cobra Commander is the Big Bad, Zartan is the most prominent antagonist in G.I. Joe: Retaliation and does more to set Cobra's evil plan in motion.
In The NeverEnding Story, Gmork fills this role in the first movie. The Nothing is probably the actual Big Bad, but Atreyu has to fight him. Gmork even says something to this effect:
Atreyu: Who are you, really?
G'mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.
Elysium: As the leader of Elysium's secret police force on Earth, Agent Kruger serves as Delacourt's primary instrument against Max and the band of freedom fighters with whom he aligns himself. He later replaces Delacourt as the film's main antagonist by murdering Delacourt in a plot to seize control of Elysium for himself.
District 9: Although Piet Smit is technically the main antagonist of the movie, Koobus Venter is the one who commands all the mercenary soldiers and takes part of the action.
In Serenity, the Operative is a secret government agent who represents the Alliance's interests and carries out their plans to use extreme measures to create a better world. The government elite who give him his orders remain unseen, so he's the closest to an overarching villain in the movie and presents the biggest threat to the heroes.
Dead Beat: Grevane, who appears first and most often of the three necromancers and is fought most consistently through the novel, though he's probably the least dangerous.
Proven Guilty: The Scarecrow
White Night: Vittorio Malvora
Turn Coat: Shagnasty the Skinwalker
Changers: Duchess Arianna
For the series as the whole, the Red Court of Vampires are the most obvious and heavily featured recurring villains, though the Black Council is shaping up as series-wide Big Bad. With the Reds out of the picture, the Fomor look to be stepping into their vacated role.
Nom Anor in the New Jedi Order series. He's not the leader or even a leader of the Yuuzhan Vong, being a mid-ranked but influential intelligence agent, but he's by far the most recurring villain in the novels, and by the last quarter or so the series is as much about him as it is about the heroes.
AntonChigurh of No Country for Old Men, the most menacing and visible of those searching for the drug money. In theory, there is a Big Bad Ensemble of the major players who hired Chigurh and the various Mexicans (implied to be the "Matacumbe Petroleum Group" and real-life drug lord Pablo Acosta), but they're ultimately rendered irrelevant by Chigurh's inscrutable, single-minded rampage, a point driven home when Chigurh kills the guy who apparently hired both him and Carson Wells for interfering with his work, then negotiates a new contract with the man at the very top.
Accountant: He felt, the more people searching-
Anton: That's foolish. You pick the one right tool.
Krait, the assassin in Dean Koontz'sThe Good Guy. He spends most of the book as the sole enemy hunting down Linda on behalf of a vaguely defined shadow government that is both explained and destroyed near the end of the book. Played with, as Tim also helps drive the plot by intervening in the hit, similar to the Die Hard example above.
If you could really call him a "villain" per say, Pepe el Romano in The House Of Bernada Alba manages to drive the story without even appearing once. His presence in the background causes sister to bitterly turn against sister, and eventually undermine's Bernada's authority over the house, as Adela rebels.
A more straight-up example may come in the form of Bernada, who is most definitely a villain.
Visser Three in Animorphs. He's in essence the field commander of the Yeerks' invasion of Earth and the Animorphs' most frequent and personal foe, though he is answerable to Visser One, who oversees the infiltration and in fact kicked it off by drawing the Yeerks' attention to humanity in the first place, and the Council of Thirteen who rule the Yeerk Empire. Visser One is thus closer to being the overall Big Baduntil the Council get impatient and send her off to defend another planet, and she is later killed, with Visser Three becoming the new Visser One and starting open war on Earth.
In the second and third Old Kingdom books, the necromancer Hedge is the most visible villain and the most direct threat to the heroes, though it's implied throughout that he's getting his marching orders from elsewhere. He's actually working for Orannis the Destroyer, a powerful Sealed Evil in a Can; because of said sealing, Orannis has very limited ability to interact with the world beyond sporadically taking over Nick and using him as a mouthpiece, therefore leaving most of the heavy lifting on evil's behalf to Hedge by necessity.
In the Rainbow Magic series, Jack Frost's actions start the plot of every series.
Ben on LOST, especially in late season 2 (even without knowing his real name...) and all of season 3.
Diana in V — Jane Badler even got top billing, thanks to alphabetical order. Although Diana commands the Los Angeles mothership during the initial invasion, she shares power in the Visitor fleet hierarchy with several others such as Steven as head of security and several superiors who outrank her in military matters. At the end of the two miniseries, she takes power from Supreme Commander (Fleet Admiral) John and boasts that while she planned the entire operation, he was just a meaningless figurehead.
Anna in V (2009) (and though unlike Diana, she has no direct superior, there are other leaders whose combined might even she wouldn't want brought to bear against her.)
Sylar from Heroes, especially in the first season and the second half of Volume 4.
One could make a definite case for Earth-2 Lionel Luthor in the latter half of Season 10. Darkseid and his Co-Dragons may be the Big Bad, but it's Earth-2 Lionel's schemes who drive most of the plots, and (unintentionally) enable Darkseid to eventually cross over.
Gatehouse of The Shadow Line. He's a Dragon-in-Chief rather than a Big Bad, but his plans are eventually revealed to be driving almost every aspect of the series's plot, even in the storylines he's apparently uninvolved with.
Tony Almeida in the seventh season of 24. Alan Wilson is the true Big Bad of the season, but Tony's actions throughout the entire thing serves one giant Gambit Roulette to kill Wilson which is what serves as Season 7's entire driving force.
Mr. Sark in Seasons 2 and 3 of Alias. He plays The Dragon to two separate Big Bads who prefer to operate in secret, so he becomes the face of their organizations.
Bo Crowder takes this role in Season 1 of Justified following his release, with the rest of the show being about his attempt to rebuild his criminal empire. Season 2 has Big Bad Mags Bennett and her Starscream son, Dickie, alternate the role. Season 3 has Robert Quarles. Season 4 lacks an overarcing villain, and Season 5 seems to be setting up Daryl Crowe for the part.
House of Cards (US) is an interest case in that he's one of the few cases where a character is the show's heavy, Big Bad and main character all rolled into one.
This type of villain was one of Shakespeare's specialties, three of the most notable being Iago in Othello and the eponymous characters of Richard III and Macbeth.
Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII. Everything that happens to Cloud and co.throughout the game is because of him or a Jenova-generated clone of him.
Though Hojo and Rufus have a few turns being plot drivers themselves.
Golbez in Final Fantasy IV, possibly the most competent villain in Final Fantasy history, leads the heroes through a Gambit Roulette before his Heel-Face Turn. Come to think of it, no Final Fantasy games after III actually avert this trope.
A good example in Final Fantasy of a plot driver who is not the Big Bad is Seymour of Final Fantasy X. The realBig Bad, Sin, is actually a creation of long dead summoner Yu Yevon, who is, according to a few people in the game, by now barely intelligent, neither good nor evil. Hence, while a giant brute is scary (lordy, is Sin scary), he's not really compelling villain material. Enter Seymour, with the most lines and screen presence of all the antagonistic cast, engaged in a plan whose effects drive a great deal of the story.
Resident Evil 2: WilliamBirkin. There are other villains, like the UBCS and Mr. X present, but Birkin is the most recurring threat, pursuing you from the earliest chapters of the game until your final escape at the end. Not to mention that the outbreak is his fault in the first place.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis: Nemesis. Again, Spencer is The Man Behind the Man, and the USS and T-103's have their own agendas, but it's Nemesis who provides all the dramatic tension, chasing Jill and Carlos from one end of the city to the other in fullfillment of its mission.
Resident Evil 5: AlbertWesker again. With Sergei and Spencer gone, Wesker steps up as the Big Badand the game's most visible and potent physical threat, using everyone as part of his plan to unleash the apocalypse.
Resident Evil 6: With all the previous antagonists now gone, whoever drives the plot differs depending on which campaign you play. For Leon and Helena, it's Derek C. Simmons. For Chris and Piers, it's Ada Wong's evil clone. For Jake and Sherry, it's the Ustanak. Ada's campaign subverts the trope and doesn't feature one.
In FEAR, Alma. Pretty much everything that happens in the game is a direct result of Alma's actions, whether they be conscious or unconscious. What isn't a result of her actions are due to Genevieve Aristide, Harlan Wade, and Paxton Fettel, but none of them have as much presence in the games.
The same could be said for The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks's Chancellor Cole. Like Ghirahim, everything he does is in the name of resurrecting his master, but he has a much greater presence in the plot compared to Malladus himself.
In Twilight Princess, Ganondorf is the Big Bad, but the heroes don't even meet him until right before the final battle. Zant is the threat for most of the game, and has a closer connection to Midna than Ganondorf does (though arguably not to Link).
Emeraude in Tales of Graces is probably the most notable example. At no point in the game is she positioned as a main antagonist, but flashbacks reveal that she is the root cause of everything that goes wrong in the story.
Although, granted, what Van Grants did and does in the game prior to Mohs' actions is driving the plot to move into the direction of Mohs' actions.
Saren in Mass Effect 1, Kai Leng in Mass Effect 3. The former remains Shepard's most personal enemy even after it's revealed he's the servant of a much bigger threat. Kai Leng, by contrast, is the guy the Illusive Man (an exclusively mental opponent) sends to get his hands dirty. As a result, Shepard doesn't bother trying to teach Kai the error of his ways and just kills him.
The World Ends with You: The Composer sits back and lets the Game Masters, led by Megumi Kitaniji, do all of the work. Kitaniji himself lets his underlings do all of the work, and the Game Masters generally stay in the shadows until close to the end. (Minamimoto is the exception, and Konishi was Game Master of a special week). The Composer takes a huge hands-on role in Week 2 under the alias of Yoshiya "Joshua" Kiryuu, and on the final day, you fight Kitaniji three times in a row when he realizes he needs to take care of things personally. The two acted more hands off than usual because of the Game they were participating in to determine the fate of Shibuya. In Another Day, Higashizawa does all of the work for the Black Skullers. Turns out he was using them the whole time and eventually backstabs Uzuki.
Loghain in Dragon Age: Origins. While the Archdemon and the Darkspawn are the premier threats of the game, Loghain is the biggest obstacle to the player when it comes to trying to get Ferelden to band together.
The Joker serves as this in Batman: Arkham City. Although Hugo Strange serves as the real Big Bad with Ra's Al Ghul as a Bigger Bad, he winds up becoming the cause of most of the actions Batman takes in the game to save everyone in Arkham City, and he is even encountered much more frequently than either of the other villains. Even after Strange and Ra's are both killed, the Joker remains at large and ultimately serves as the Final Boss of the game's story.
Technically it's Clayface who serves as the final boss. Joker just watches.
Touhou: Starting from Mountain of Faith onwards, the goddesses of the Moriya Shrine are the driving force in the narrative. When something happen, it's either their scheme to gather faith, or their screwing someone else from gathering faith.
Char Aznable takes on a heavy role in Shin Super Robot Wars's storyline because he sides with the Ze Belmary Empire, builds the Angel Halo, causes the Zanscare Empire to collapse and forced Master Asia to use the Devil Gundam on humanity.
Fawful has this role in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. He causes the blorbs virus that infects the Toads, tricks Bowser into eating Mario and the rest of the main cast, takes over all the castles in the land and tries to use the Dark Star's power to conquer the world. He also gets the most lines in the entire game by far, which is rather good considering his status as a Large Ham throughout.
Season 1 has Zuko and Zhao competing for this position, with Zhao ultimately taking it in time for the Season Finale.
Azula holds this position throughout most of Seasons 2 and 3 until the four part finale, where Ozai take over.
Long Feng is this during most of the Ba Sa Sing Arc during season 2, until the after-mentioned Azula shows up.
Amon in book one of the Sequel SeriesThe Legend of Korra. The second season has Unalaq, who acts as The Dragon (or, considering his exclusive loyalties to his own ideals, possibly the other half of a Big Bad Duumvirate) to Vaatu, who was up to this point the Bigger Bad for the franchise as a whole. Vaatu is sealed away in the Spirit World, so Unalaq drives the plot with his attempts to free Vaatu and merge with him into a Dark Avatar.
Slade, whenever he shows up in Teen Titans - even when serving under Trigon the Terrible (see Vader and Sidious - while not the Big Bad, Slade is a menace through the season, while Trigon is a threat only in three episodes.)
During Season 3, Brother Blood takes over this role (and Big Bad) while Slade is dead; though he appears in fewer episodes, when he does appear he hogs the spotlight a lot more than the shadowy Slade usually did.
Season 5 plays this one interestingly. The Brain is the Big Bad, but he's the head of the Brotherhood of Evil, and each of the core brotherhood members gets his or her chance to star as headlining villain at least once during the arc- except for poor General Immortus, who was introduced with much fanfare but ended up as little more than window dressing.
In Gargoyles, Xanatos and Demona tend to hand this role back and forth depending on the given episode or story arc (and they're each half of the show's initial Big Bad Duumvirate). However, the Archmage takes over during the "Avalon" multiparter, and Oberon during the "Gathering" multiparter.
Ben 10: Omniverse: Khyber; trailers seemingly etablished him as the Big Bad, he was the one chasing Ben for several episodes and seemed to have a motivation for that. Predators and Prey reveals he was actually The Dragon for Malware, a villain that has only had one episode and a cameo at this point, and Dr Psychobos, a guy we had never seen before, but Khyber still is the one acting while they are just waiting for him to do the job.
The Urpneys in The Dreamstone. While Zordrak is the Big Bad, he has very little involvement outside threatening his soldiers into making a new scheme to steal the stone. Urpgor invents most of the plans and inventions, while Sgt Blob, Frizz and Nug act them out. Only two or three episodes feature Zordrak prominently as the main antagonist, with other antagonists such as Zarag and Urpgor's Auntie appearing for about the same amount. This expands even onto the heroes, who are often merely reactors to the Urpney's schemes and have only a limited number of side plots throughout the series.