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[[quoteright:350:[[ComicBook/UltimateXMen http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/puppet_master_8781.jpg]]]]
[-[[caption-width-right:350:[[Music/NickCave You're just a microscopic cog in his catastrophic plan\\
Designed and directed by his red right hand]]]]-]

->'''Sydney:''' Wait. I have questions for you.\\
'''The Man:''' You can ask my boss.\\
'''Sydney:''' ''Your'' boss? I thought The Man ''was'' the boss.\\
'''The Man:''' Yes, yes. But I am not The Man.
-->-- ''Series/{{Alias}}'', "Almost Thirty Years"

When a character previously positioned as a BigBad is revealed in fact to be either the [[TheDragon flunky]], [[UnwittingPawn puppet]], or [[MouthOfSauron spokesman]] for a higher authority. Note that gender of either is not relevant, so this trope could include The Woman behind The Man, The Woman behind the Woman, or The Man behind The Woman.

The Man has deeper motives, bigger designs, and more power than the hero(es) could ever hope to smash in one blow; they will usually have to go through another round of dungeon diving just to stand a chance. When they reveal thier reasons for being evil, expect the theme of the plot to unfold quickly and dramatically.

In many genres, the Man Behind the Man often has more sinister and apocalyptic goals than their predecessor. For example, while a PuppetKing or greedy MegaCorp may want to TakeOverTheWorld, the real BigBad may want to [[OmnicidalManiac destroy the world, or even erase all of existence]].

Can be reversed as "TheManInFrontOfTheMan", in which case a person you thought was the BigBad's crony turns out to be the real BigBad. See also BastardUnderstudy, DragonInChief, and DragonAscendant. May be the one pulling the strings of the PuppetKing.

Contrast ChessmasterSidekick and DecoyLeader. In some ([[AntiClimax unsatisfying]]) occasions, The Man Behind The Man may be TheManBehindTheCurtain. If there is no first man to begin with, or the first man is very obviously ''not'' the BigBad, it's a HiddenVillain. If the mastermind turns out to be an innocuous character who was quickly overlooked, then it's a case of TheDogWasTheMastermind. If the Man Behind the Man is a previously-fought villain, then the plot has been HijackedByGanon. Sufficiently complex plots may involve [[UpToEleven The Man]] ''[[UpToEleven Behind]]'' The Man Behind The Man and so forth; the SortingAlgorithmOfEvil usually, but not always, applies in these cases. Do this many times within a story (optionally mixed with the aforementioned tropes) and you have TheBigBadShuffle.

Compare and contrast GreaterScopeVillain, where a villain more powerful than the BigBad exists, but is either not personally involved in the plot or is not a "person" to begin with. Not to do with a GambitPileup, though you might get one if everyone is trying to manipulate each other. This trope and/or GreaterScopeVillain may also come into play if the villains are terrorists backed by larger powers like DirtyCommunists or {{Corrupt Corporate Executive}}s.

Rarely involves TheMan, unless he was the one who created the personified conceptual authority on the first place.

'''Because this trope is often used as TheReveal whenever it appears, beware of spoilers.'''



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* ''Manga/{{Bleach}}'':
** All hints pointed to Gin being the BigBad, but after Aizen is revealed to be alive, he [[BreakTheCutie impales his loving vice captain]] and walks away with Gin following him obediently. It's made even more shocking by the prior implication that they were enemies, and that the former had killed the latter. [[UpToEleven It gets even deeper than that]]. Aizen claims he's basically the man behind the entire series. Ichigo (and Uryu, for that matter), wouldn't have been ''conceived'' if not for Aizen, because he's the reason why Isshin and Masaki even met in the first place.
** In [[{{Filler}} the Shusuke Amagai arc]], it's presumed that Kumoi wants to kill Lurichiyo and control the Kasumioji clan, but then when the confrontation comes, Komoi, Amagai appears out of nowhere, kills him, kidnaps Lurichiyo, and then proceeds to let everyone know his plans to kill Yamamoto, and he used Kumoi and the entire Kasumioji clan to get his hands on a weapon that [[PowerNullifier somehow disables all but his zanpaktou so he could kill Yamamoto with it]].
%%* ''Anime/CombattlerV'': Halfway through the series it was revealed that BigBad Oreana was working for Empress Janera.
* In ''Manga/FullmetalAlchemist'', at first it seems like the homunculi are simply manipulating the country of Amestris because the Fuhrer, King Bradley, is the homunculus Wrath. Then we find out that Bradley himself is simply the result of an experiment by Father, and that Father has been controlling the entire country behind the scenes since the very day it was established 400 years prior. Most of the military's upper command is fully aware of this fact.
** [[Anime/FullmetalAlchemist The first anime]] has a similar scenario, although it differs in key areas. Dante is the mastermind of this conspiracy and controls the government through Bradley, her ultimate creation. Once the Philosopher Stone that Hohenheim left her began to diminish, she infiltrated the government in order to facilitate the creation of a new one. Unlike in the manga, only Bradley and Tucker seem to be aware of her existence.
* Near the end of ''Anime/ExcelSaga'', the head of ACROSS -- the organization Il Palazzo serves -- is revealed to be a previously-established character known only as "That Man". He makes reference to being one of the "ACROSS Six," the other five of whom are revealed in the unaired final episode to be "This Man, That Man There, That Man Over Here, This Man Over There, and This Man Over Here."
* The ''Mazinger trilogy'' played much with this trope:
** ''Anime/MazingerZ'': In the original manga, Baron Ashura shows up before Dr. Hell, leading several Mechanical Beasts and the Iron Masks troops and calling it "Ashura's army". In that chapter he seemed like the BigBad, but one chapter after Dr. Hell is introduced and we learnt Hell was behind the whole operation and he is the real BigBad.
** In the anime, Archduke Gorgon was apparently a Dr. Hell's ally. In the last chapters we learnt he was a DragonWithAnAgenda was working for Great General of Darkness/Ankoku Daishogun. Likewise...
** ''Anime/GreatMazinger'': In the ''Mazinger-Z versus Great General of Darkness'' movie it is said the legions of Mykene Warrior Monsters are commanded by Great General of Darkness. He seems to be the supreme leader of the Mykene Empire. In first episode of Great Mazinger we learnt he is the supreme commander of the Mykene ''army'', and he is under the orders of the Emperor of Darkness (also known like Hades).
** ''Anime/UFORoboGrendizer'': In the original manga, Blackie is the first Vegan commander in showing up, and he seems being behind the invasion. However, in the next chapter BigBad King Vega and DragonInChief Gandal (commander of the armies tasked with the invasion) are introduced.
* In ''Franchise/SailorMoon'', every story arc has this type of villain behind that storyline's recurring villains. The Dark Kingdom has Queen Metallia, the Black Moon has Wise Man (and even earlier, Prince Demand is behind Rubeus and the Ayakashi Sisters), the Death Busters have Master Pharaoh 90, the Dead Moon Circus has Queen Nehellenia, and Shadow Galactica has Chaos. The only time this ''doesn't'' happen is during the Makaiju FillerArc in the [[Anime/SailorMoon anime]], where the aliens and the Makaiju are working entirely alone.
** The [[Manga/SailorMoon manga]] practically makes a matroshka doll of villainy as not only does each story arc feature the same series of villains behind villains as the anime does, but the final story arc one-ups them all as in the manga, the final villain is still Chaos, but in this storyline, Chaos itself has been repeatedly incarnated into all the previous BigBad villains as well and Sailor Moon was merely fighting the same villain for a ''fifth'' time in a new form.
** In the [[Theatre/SeraMyu musical adaptation]] of the series, Chaos is downgraded to Galaxia's subordinate/jester, and not even a true dragon. But he still turns out to be [[InvertedTrope The Man in Front of the Woman.]]
* ''Anime/MermaidMelodyPichiPichiPitch'' did this every season. In fact, in both seasons, we had a DoubleSubversion of this trope. Season one had Gaito (Gakuto and Gackto in the manga), who was working for Sara, who did a HeelFaceTurn, leaving Gaito as a worse BigBad than Sara was. Season two had Michel's sidekick Fuku appear to be above him but below "That Man", but in the end, That Man was also manipulated by Fuku.
* ''Franchise/{{Digimon}}'':
** In the [[Anime/DigimonAdventure02 second season]], we started off with the Digimon Emperor, who later did a HeelFaceTurn and who it was revealed was the pawn of two other villains. They in turn were working for another, who was actually ''possessed'' by still another. It gets even weirder when you realize that some of the Fake Bosses' plans didn't jive well with those of the big man (Malo Myotismon). So, either Malo had one extremely bizarre GambitRoulette going that he never bothered to explain, or the writers simply decided to fall back on HijackedByGanon.
** The fourth season had Cherubimon who went corrupt, but it turned out that Lucemon corrupted him and two other Digimon called the Royal Knights into collecting data so he could return.
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' exaggerates this trope to absurd extremes. It's first revealed that [[StandardEvilOrganizationSquad Akatsuki]] is lead by a mysterious figure known as [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Pain]]. Some chapters and an important character death later, we find out that "Pain" is actually a [[PeoplePuppets collection of dead bodies controlled]] by a man named Nagato, who [[APupilOfMineUntilHeTurnedToEvil once studied under the same sensei]] as Naruto. Then Nagato is actually being manipulated by a masked man known by the alias "Tobi" who claims to actually be the [[TheDreaded legendary shinobi known as Madara Uchiha]]. Later on, Tobi [[DeadPersonImpersonation isn't the real Madara Uchiha, but is actually a former leaf shinobi named Obito who used to be a student of Naruto's father and later turned evil.]] Then, it turns out Obito's [[AssimilationPlot "Moon's Eye Plan"]] was actually the real Madara's plan, and Obito was also supposed to bring Madara back to life to he become the jinchuuriki of the Ten Tails. [[GambitPileup But later we learn that Obito never had any intention of reviving Madara and himself using him in order to become the jinchuuriki of the Ten Tails]]. But then, turn out they both was being manipulated the entire time by Black Zetsu, a mysterious member of Akatsuki and a being that Madara thought he himself had created to carry out his will. And Black Zetsu? He's actually carrying out the will of Princess Kaguya, an ancient [[PhysicalGod Physical Goddess]] whom the current shinobi clans are descended from and who created Black Zetsu centuries ago right before she was [[SealedEvilInACan sealed away]] to ensure that she would be revived. And ''then''Ö [[OverlyLongGag okay, just kidding.]]
* [[Anime/TheBraveExpressMightGaine Might Gaine]]: The series setups up Exeve as the [[BigBad big bad]], being the catalyst of the events to start the brave express but it's eventually revealed he was just a puppet used by Black Noir. [[UpToEleven It's even implied that there was a higher power behind Black Noir's actions.]]
* The ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'' manga reveals at the end that every villain Yusuke faces throughout the series is acting with the approval and, in some cases, the aid of King Enma, who wants to make himself look better by having major threats repeatedly stopped by Yusuke and allies (who work for him). The anime opted instead to end with another TournamentArc, which was glossed over in the manga.
* In ''Anime/YuGiOhGX'':
** The villain of the third season, Professor Cobra, is revealed to be working for a Duel Monster spirit named Yubel. Later in Season 4, initial villain "Trueman" is revealed to be working for Yusuke Fujiwara... only for Yusuke to be revealed as a host for Darkness, the true villain.
** ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'' has a series of these. The first true villains are the Dark Signers lead by Rudger. The second season reveals that Rudger was manipulated by Yliaster and the Three Emperors, who in turn work for Z-one. Furthermore, it is revealed Z-one was the commanding force for Paradox in the 10th anniversary movie.
%%* ''StellviaOfTheUniverse'' does this very well with non-personified antagonists. The supernova (the BigBad for the first half of the series) was caused by the crack in space, which is the antagonist for the second half.
%%* ''Manga/InuYasha'' has Naraku, the puppeteer behind just about EVERY conflict in the show, past and present. At the end of the series, Naraku proves to have a man behind ''him'' as well -- the Jewel of Four Souls itself.
* Late in the ''Manga/SoulHunter'' manga, it's revealed that Dakki is working for Jyoka, one of the [[{{Precursors}} First People who was sealed away for wanting to wipe out everything on Earth and make it into their old homeworld. Dakki agreed to help her in exchange for great power, but planned to take over Jyoka's body and use its power to rule the Earth.]]
%%* In ''{{Gundam 00}}'', who would've thought that Ribbons Almarck was manipulating Alejandro Corner?
%%** Which was a ShoutOut to ''ZetaGundam'' with Paptimus Scirocco playing Jamitov and Bosque for fools.
%%** The Special Edition of ''00'' revealed that Ribbons is literally this to Alejandro.
* In ''Anime/MobileSuitGundamSEED'', Rau Le Creuset is eventually revealed to be The Man Behind The Man to archenemies [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Muruta Azrael]] and [[GeneralRipper Patrick Zala]], pretending to be TheMole for the former and TheDragon for the latter. It's all part of his plan to move both sides in the war to such extremes that [[KillAllHumans human extinction will be guaranteed.]]
* ''Anime/DragonBallZ'' does this several times in a row in the manga and the anime. After Raditz is defeated Nappa and Vegeta are revealed to be the Saiyans behind the Saiyan. After they are defeated, Kaio mentions the "root" of the problem, which is shortly afterwards introduced as the Saiyans' (ex-)boss, Frieza. Even later in the series, Frieza's father, King Cold, is introduced and revealed as the secret leader of the Planet Trade Organization, which Frieza supposedly ruled.
%%** Majin Buu had an odd version of this going for him. He was a childish weapon of destruction at first, but ''inside'' him was a psychotic weapon of destruction, and ''inside him'' was a ''Child of mass destruction''.
** ''Anime/DragonBallGT'', the anime-only continuation, has a confusing chain of this. The Para-Para Brothers work for Cardinal Muchy Muchy, who himself is under the command of Dolltaki. Dolltaki is the leader of the worshipping Luud Cult, and Luud turns out to be a robotic sham creation of Dr. Myuu. Dr. Myuu created Baby, the eventual BigBad of the arc, and it's eventually revealed that Baby created him, not not the other way around.
%%* ''Anime/BloodPlus'' does this fairly often. In early episodes, Van Argeno is set up as the BigBad; however, after about ten episodes, he's revealed to be working to Solomon. Later, Solomon is shown to actually be the lowest-ranking of five Chevaliers. Then, for a time, their progenitor Diva is expected to be the mastermind, but she turns out to be too crazy to be the leader. By the end, it's become apparent that Amshel is calling the shots, whereas Argeno -- who was the first supposed BigBad, remember -- is reduced to cowering in fear and begging for his life. As a kind of a last hurrah, the final episode also implies that Nathan had been pulling the strings all along.
* In ''Anime/DarkerThanBlack'', it looks like it's such a MeleeATrois that there can't possibly be a BigBad. However, it turns out that TheSyndicate, the [[SpyVersusSpy dueling intelligence agencies, the Japanese police force, and PANDORA were all controlled by the same people. ]] Evening Primrose was actually LaResistance, and other than their influence, all the conflict in the series had been due to the higher-ups pitting the Contractors against each other to keep them from finding out their genocidal plans.
* In ''Anime/GaoGaiGar'', the season 1 BigBad Pasdar turns out to be a subordinate of one of the 31 Primevals, which are themselves fragments of the much more fearsome Z Master.
* This is implied near the end of ''Manga/FruitsBasket'', after Akito's HeelFaceTurn, the 'man' in question being the Sohma family elders, who criticize Akito for not emotionally destroying the members of the Zodiac.
* ''Anime/WeissKreuz'' has layer after layer of this. In season 1, Reiji Takatori is the man behind criminal organizations like the Creeper gang and the Liott prostitution ring, and [[AncientConspiracy Essett]] is behind Takatori. In season 2, Mayumi Tsujii is behind [[EnfanteTerrible Todou]] and [[AbsurdlyPowerfulStudentCouncil S Class]], and Epitaph (and by extension Essett again) is behind Tsujii. Rampant ChronicBackstabbingDisorder -- particularly on the parts of [[ThePsychoRangers Schwarz]], who start out as one of the groups that Reijia Takatori is behind and end up backstabbing their way right out of Essett altogether -- muddies the exact order in both cases.
* While not actually villainous, it's pretty obvious that Austria's the true power behind the Holy Roman Empire in ''Webcomic/AxisPowersHetalia.'' Which is what happened in RealLife, via [[TheClan the Habsburgs]].
* Shishio is set up as the BigBad of ''Manga/RurouniKenshin'', but behind him is Enishi, the final villain of the series. Shishio has at his disposal an ultra-modern (for the setting) gunship, which he got through Enishi, who owns a fleet of them, and Enishi's [[TheDragon Dragon]]/ EvilGenius hides among Shishio's group, pretending to be DumbMuscle.
* Dark in ''Manga/SamuraiHaremAsuNoYoichi'' is introduced as a self-aware puppet serving the current Torikago clan leader who is set up to be the apparent BigBad. When the leader is swayed by Yoichi's kind words, Dark reveals her true nature: she is the one who has been keeping the Torikago clan's hatred towards the Karasuma clan alive for generations. Dark turns against her supposed master, stating that she has no right to forgive the Karasuma clan after her ancestors devoted their entire lives to hating them.
* In ''Anime/PrettyCureAllStars DX 3'', similar to the ''Franchise/SailorMoon'' example above it's revealed that the creature known as Black Hole was the source of all evil the girls face. It's kind of hard to figure out, though, if he meant the villains from the TV series itself (which wouldn't make sense as ''Anime/SuitePrettyCure'' was going on at the time) or the villains from the various movies up to that point (whom he resurrected for this).
* In ''Anime/ScienceNinjaTeamGatchaman'', Berg Katse is presented as the face and leader of Galactor. The viewer finds out long before the characters that Sosai X is the true power.
* The Anti-Spiral is effectively this to Lordgenome in ''Anime/TengenToppaGurrenLagann'' as they are the ones who caused him to drive the humans underground.
* While he was a more traditional BigBad in the manga, in the ''Anime/{{Trigun}}'' anime Knives Millions instead occupies this role, with his [[TheDragon Dragon]] Legato doing most of the work until the very end.
* In ''LightNovel/LogHorizon'' Indicus is apparently the maid and representative of Nureha, the leader of guild Plant Hwyaden. In truth Indicus has used [[ManipulativeBastard psychological torment]] and [[BrokenBird Nureha's own self-loathing]] to cripple her, and now controls Nureha, the guild, and Minami as she sees fit.
* In ''Manga/FairyTail'', [[spoiler:Zeref, who is doing the manipulating to bring himself back to life (although he seems to not ''technically'' be dead). Ultear also plays this role both for Lyon and Jellal.]] Although in reality that was [[spoiler:Ultear pretending to be Zeref. Zeref himself doesn't seem to be aware of any of this stuff happening.]] Also,[[spoiler:Ultear's actions are actually based on Hades' commands.]]
* ''Manga/OnePiece'':
** Big Mom is one of the four strongest pirates in ''Manga/OnePiece'', a tyrant in the New World who, along with her children and other allies, can eliminate the armies of entire countries and get them to submit to her. She was not always like this though--she was always incredibly strong, but she was once kind-hearted. Who made her that way? It's [[spoiler:Streusen, a no-name cook]] who decided he would use her raw strength to achieve his own goals of being in control of people. [[spoiler:He met Big Mom when she was still a child and has since effortlessly manipulated her actions so that she would become the conqueror she is at the present while he stays free of suspicion as her head chef.]]
** Donquixote Doflamingo is a major underworld figure, supplying weapons left and right, having moles here and there, and even have enough political leverage to get the [[AristocratsAreEvil World Nobles]] to do him favors now and then. He also ate Ito Ito no Mi, allowing him to produce threads which can be used as RazorFloss and play PeoplePuppets. [[spoiler:[[VisualPun He's the man pulling the strings, figuratively and literally.]]]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The heroes in Creator/WarrenEllis's ''ComicBook/{{Nextwave}}: Agents of H.A.T.E.'', spend most of the series battling or evading Dirk Anger of the evil Beyond Corporation. Once they beat him, they face the Beyond Corporation's CEO, Number None... who is revealed to be a robot controlled by [[TheManBehindTheCurtain a baby M.O.D.O.K.]], who claims to be the DiabolicalMastermind behind it all... before being [[YouHaveFailedMe shot dead]] by Devil Dinosaur, the ''real'' lizard behind the man.
* Franchise/{{Superman}}:
** During ''Comicbook/KryptoniteNevermore'' Morgan Edge tries to bring Superman down because he poses a threat to his true leader, Darkseid.
** Played with in ''ComicBook/TheNail''. It's implied that ComicBook/LexLuthor (believed by the Franchise/JusticeLeagueOfAmerica to be the BigBad) is being manipulated by Starro until it's revealed that [[spoiler:[[RedHerring "Starro" is actually]] a [[TheGrotesque mutated]] version of [[Comicbook/KryptoTheSuperdog Krypto]]]]. The ''real'' BigBad is none other than... [[spoiler: ComicBook/JimmyOlsen]].
** ComicBook/LexLuthor is initially positioned as the BigBad of ''Comicbook/InfiniteCrisis'', but it turns out that the true culprit is Alexander Luthor, Lex's MirrorUniverse counterpart. Note that this also included everything ''leading up'' to the Crisis, such as [[AIIsACrapshoot granting sentience to Batman's Brother Eye satellite]] and instigating the war between Raan and Thanagar.
** In ''ComicBook/{{Convergence}}'', ComicBook/{{Brainiac}} is revealed to be a monstrous alien intellect operating through drones and constructs. This reveal was used in ''Comicbook/SupermanBrainiac'' to explain the contradicting appearances Brainiac made throughout the DC Universe, only now they're saying that Brainiac has been operating this way ever since his debut in UsefulNotes/{{the Silver Age|of Comic Books}}.
* In ComicBook/TheCloneSaga arc that spanned the Spider-Man titles, the Jackal was believed to be the BigBad. The villain truly behind it was the Green Goblin, who was still believed to be dead at the time.
* In ''Comicbook/UntoldTalesOfSpiderMan'', the person backing the Headsman and the Scorcher is eventually revealed to be The Green Goblin.
* In Creator/GrantMorrison's ''ComicBook/NewXMen'', John Sublime is the Man Behind the U-Men, the Weapon Plus Project, Kid Omega, and Xorn. About the only major villain that ''can't'' be traced back to him is Cassandra Nova.
* In some of its last issues before being abruptly cancelled, ''ComicBook/TheIncredibles'' seems to imply that the film's villain Syndrome may have possibly been doing business with or possibly working under the employ of Xerek (a character taken from early drafts of the film). Xerek's long in development XanatosGambit to discredit the supers further had two key components: An adapted use of the Omnidroid technology to create a bipedal giant mecha and the preserved brain of psychic superhero Everseer, who was one of the first victims of Syndrome's Omnidroid series, to act as a living psychic amplifier to enhance the abilities of another telepath/mind controller, Mezmerella.
* Marvel's Loki does this so frequently he basically has this as his M.O., particularly in the Thor comics. The number of Thor RoguesGallery that have nothing to do with him could be counted on one hand. Especially in the early days of ComicBook/TheMightyThor just about every villain Thor ever faced was either created by or empowered by Loki in his attempts to kill Thor, sometimes as part of a multistep plan.
* ''ComicBook/GodzillaRulersOfEarth'' reveals the Cryog were behind [=SpaceGodzilla=], Gigan, Hedorah and Monster X/Keizer Ghidorah.
* ''ComicBook/{{Shakara}}'': Oberon Sneer appears to be the nominal leader of the Hierarchy at first. Cinnibar Breneka, [[FallenHero the former heroic founder]] of the Shakara Federation is later revealed to be ruling The Hierarchy from behind the scenes.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* The Biggest Bad is this to General Hand in [[http://fav.me/d4lv1qv Super Milestone Wars 2]].
* In ''ComicBook/PowerGirl'' fanfic ''Fanfic/AForceOfFour'', it's revealed that [[spoiler:[[WarGod Mars]]]] is the man behind [[TheDragon Badra]].
* ''Fanfic/TheChildOfLove'': SEELE were the group was behind Gendo the whole time. [[spoiler:Kaji tried to wipe them out, but they returned in the sequel.]]
* ''Fanfic/ChildrenOfAnElderGod'': The main characters spend a long time fighting [[Franchise/CthulhuMythos the Great Old Ones]] only to find they are acting at the behest of the [[EldritchAbomination Outer Gods]], their true enemies.
* In ''Fanfic/LastChildOfKrypton'', [[spoiler:Darkseid]] was pulling the SEELEís strings behind the scenes to [[spoiler:find the Anti-Life Equation.]]
* ''Fanfic/{{Downfall}}'' has an interesting one -- although it appears at first glance that Unohana and her faction are the villains, subsequent perspectives given the readers have rendered that perspective uncertain. At best, that is only half the answer, and it is implied that some other force may be manipulating events.
* YodaKenobi, author of the epic ''StarWars'' fanfic series ''Legacy of the Sith'' loves this one. The villain of the first story is set up as [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Vagaari]] leader Goresh Tenziesh, but he turns out to be controlled by [[SmugSnake General Kol Renin]], one of the leaders of the true Sith Empire. ''Then'' it's revealed that Renin is only an apprentice Sith. The real mastermind is his Master, [[MagnificentBastard Darth Malig]]. Now it's being foreshadowed that even Malig isn't the complete answer to the puzzle, though it's unknown if there's another villain controlling him or not.
* ''Fanfic/TheLegendOfSpyroANewDawn'' has its first half with a BigBadEnsemble consisting of [[AntiVillain Deadlock]], [[PhysicalGod Empress Tyrania]], and [[GentlemanThief Boss Kaze]], though Deadlock is TheHeavy of the three. The second half reveals that General Grendel, TheDragon to Deadlock, had been manipulating all three of them as part of his plan to gain an ArtifactOfDoom he can use to obtain the power of the Naga Spirit Of War and take revenge on the dragons for their banishment of the Naga thousands of years ago. In a twist, the readers know he's The Man Behind The Man at the halfway point, but the characters don't until after Deadlock is defeated and he successfully performs the ritual, giving him access to a civilization-destroying EldritchAbomination.
* During the first StoryArc of ''FanFic/JewelOfDarkness'', Slade is this to Midnight -- in [[AlternateUniverse this universe]], she's the first BigBad that the Titans face, as she tries to prove that she's a worthy apprentice to Slade. However, the Titans don't know this, viewing her as an independent villain; they don't learn of Slade's existence until the climax of the arc, when he shows up to rescue the defeated Midnight from the Titans.
* In ''Fanfic/MinesOfDragonMountain'' (the second in a series of crossovers between ''Series/DoctorWho'' and ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic''), it's eventually revealed that [[GodOfEvil Tirac]] has been manipulating [[WellIntentionedExtremist Gabbro]] for years, and everything Gabbro's done in the story is part of a GambitRoulette by Tirac to ensure his [[SealedEvilInACan release]].
* ''Fanfic/ClashOfTheElements'': Part 2 reveals that [[VideoGame/MarioAndLuigiSuperstarSaga Cackletta is responsible for pretty much all the villainous threats to Plit beforehand, up to and including Joe Dark and Tabuu.]]
* ''Fanfic/TheStarsWillAidTheirEscape'': While the reader is aware from the beginning that [[EldritchAbomination Herald]] is the true BigBad, the protagonists spend most of the story believing that his UnwittingPawn Trixie is the main villain, until he reveals himself to them during the fight in Canterlot. And Herald himself is just a servant of [[SealedEvilInACan the Old Ones]], so they probably qualify as well.
* ''Fanfic/EarthAndSky'': To an extent, Diamond Tiara is this to the Flim-Flam brothers -- while she may have lost control of them by the time the Pegalathon starts, she's still the one who sent them after Harmony Aeronautics in the first place, and is still covering for them the best she can. She also turns out to be the one who [[PunchClockVillain hired the LaFish brothers]] to attack the HA team during the race.
* ''Fanfic/DigitalHarmony'': [[spoiler:Fluttershy]] is manipulated into becoming Vespimon by [[spoiler:Daemon and Dragomon]]. Also, according to Nightmare Rarity, [[spoiler:Dragomon]] was the one who caused the corruption of the moon's inhabitants into the Nightmare Forces in the first place, making him responsible for the trouble Nightmare Moon and Nightmare Rarity caused in canon.
* In ''Fanfic/EquestriaAHistoryRevealed'', apparently Celestia has been behind most significant events in Equestrian history, even the ones she wasn't even there for. Of course, given this claim is made by the ConspiracyTheorist narrator, it may not stand true in-universe.
* [[GodOfEvil Erebos]] earns his position as BigBad of the ''Fanfic/PoniesOfOlympus'' series by benefit of this trope. He was the one who turned Chrysalis into a changeling, sent her to invade during the Royal Wedding, and later sends her to infiltrate the Atlas Strongest Tournament; he was the one who [[TheCorrupter corrupted]] Luna into Nightmare Moon; and Luna suspects that he was manipulating the conflict between the hippocampi and the dragons of the Scaly Back River Clan for his own benefit (though this hasn't been confirmed yet).
* ''Fanfic/BurningBlack'': It's eventually discovered that Remy is in a "partnership" with the Pixies. However, the latter are clearly the superior party (despite what Remy might think) and are using Remy to further their own goal.
* ''Fanfic/FriendshipIsAura'': [[UltimateEvil Lord Tartarus]] was the one who sent Chrysalis into Equestria in the first place, making him responsible for the incident at the wedding and her actions in-story.
* In the ''FanFic/FacingTheFutureSeries'', Vlad has been shown this to be for quite a few stories. First, he was responsible for Vortex and Nocturne making their appearances in ''Hearts and Minds'', now is responsible for a couple of ghost attacks on Amity Park for some reason.
* ''Fanfic/JusticeLeagueOfEquestria''; in the side story where Rainbow Dash[=/=]Supermare teams up with Batpony, the thugs that tried to free Clayface were revealed to have been hired by Joker.
* Every single major player in Gensokyo, Luna, and Earth has been nothing but [[FanFic/IcedFairysANewWorld Yukari Yakumo's]] puppet for at least three hundred years and serves to complete her final and most ambitious BatmanGambit. It's a testament to her skill, everyone's predictability, or both, that she's been ''dead'' during that time.
* ''Fanfic/SonOfTheSevenKingdoms'':
** [[VampireMonarch Lord Harkon]] is eventually revealed to be the one who engineered the King in Rags' attempted invasion of the North.
** The White Walkers turn out to be in service to [[spoiler: [[OurDragonsAreDifferent Alduin]]]].
* The supercrossover military fanfiction ''Fanfic/TheTerminatorsArmyOfLegend'' gives us Archdemon Deitus the Immortal, the fallen son of fallen Archangels Messorem and Vitam, the incarnations of Death and Life respectively. Although he doesn't make his grand appearance until well into the multi-volume series, he's hinted throughout as being in control of every other antagonist.
** And then the eighth volume throws another wrench into the machine with the reveal that [[spoiler:Vergil]] is still alive, perhaps making him the Man Behind the Man ''BEHIND'' the Man.
* [[spoiler: [[OmnicidalManiac Bagan]]]], the BigBad of ''Fanfic/TheBridge'', is later revealed to be pulling the strings of the [[ApocalypseCult Red Dawn]], main antagonists of the spinoff ''[[Fanfic/TheBridgeHumanitysStand Humanity's Stand]]''. And, in ''A Shimmer in the Dark'' -- a crossover between this universe and ''Fanfic/TheShimmerverse'' -- he also acts via his [[FightingAShadow Aspect]] Mizu as the benefactor for the [[TheRemnant Nightmare Army remnant]] led by that story's BigBad [[OurVampiresAreDifferent Countess Mircalla]].
* ''Fanfic/AManOfIron'' lampshades how much Tywin Lannister enjoys being "the power behind the throne", with Syrio Forel reminding Arya that Lord Tywin basically ruled Westeros for Aerys Targaryen and ''still'' rules the Seven Kingdoms in Robert Baratheon's stead. A peek in his mind also reveals he would be quite happy to prop a compliant Stark as Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North, already making plans involving the Stark offshot in Iron Pointe for the eventuality of the main family line having a ''mishap''.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* ''Disney/MeetTheRobinsons'' had a rare case of the ''hat'' behind the man.
* Professor Z's superior in ''WesternAnimation/Cars2'' is Sir Miles Axelrod, host of the World Grand Prix.
* [[spoiler: Waternoose, the president of Mosnters Inc.]] turns out to be the mastermind of the operation to kidnap children in ''WesternAnimation/MonstersInc'', when it appeared to have been Randall.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* [=Chancellor/Emperor=] Palpatine is this in the first six ''Franchise/StarWars'' movies: to Nute Gunray and Darth Maul in ''Film/ThePhantomMenace'', to Count Dooku in ''Film/AttackOfTheClones'' and ''Film/RevengeOfTheSith'', to Grand Moff Tarkin in ''Film/ANewHope'', and to Darth Vader in ''Film/TheEmpireStrikesBack'' and ''Film/ReturnOfTheJedi''. In the new trilogy, starting with ''Film/TheForceAwakens'', Snoke appears to play this role to Kylo Ren, General Hux, and the baddies of the First Order. There's also a [[WildMassGuessing theory]] that [[TheScrappy Jar Jar Binks]] serves as either this or as a GreaterScopeVillain to Palpatine.
* The 2003 ''Franchise/{{Zatoichi}}'' remake takes this to a ridiculous level in revealing ''two'' men behind the man in the film's very last minutes.
* Megatron in ''Film/TransformersRevengeOfTheFallen'' turns out to be the underling to The Fallen.
* Mr White, from ''Film/JamesBond''. He first appears as the intermediary between Le Chiffre and the African warlords in ''Film/CasinoRoyale2006'', working on behalf of the shadowy terrorist organization Quantum. He only meets Bond once the film, when he kills Le Chiffre as punishment for his failures. Even after Bond captures him in ''Film/QuantumOfSolace'', White escapes before he can give information, and also eludes Bond at a later point. It is suggested that White is one of the more mysterious leaders of Quantum, as he manipulates both the heroes and villains to his gain, repeatedly. ''Film/{{Spectre}}'' later takes this UpToEleven by revealing that [[spoiler:Franz Oberhauser (also known as [[HijackedByGanon Ernst Stavro Blofeld]]) and his organization SPECTRE]] were behind Mr. White, Le Chiffre and Dominic Greene all along. The film also reveals that [[spoiler:Oberhauser]] was also behind Raoul Silva's schemes in ''Film/{{Skyfall}}''.
* ''Film/TheFastAndTheFurious'':
** Inverted in the fourth movie, where Dom and Brian try to find the identity of the one running the drug cartel by tracking their handler, but it turns out that the handler was the leader all along.
** The sixth movie reveals that BigBad Owen Shaw had the drug cartel within his pockets, along with the CIA, DEA and numerous terrorist organisations.
* ''Film/TheOmen'' trilogy: The audience knows early on that though these evil food corporations may be running rampant, it is ''really'' Damien Thorn pulling the strings. And then behind him is [[TheDevil the Lord of Darkness himself.]]
* ''Film/RushHour2''. This trope is discussed by Carter and Lee. Carter's theory of investigation is "Follow the Rich White Man." His belief is that behind every major crime there's a rich white man waiting for his cut. And he's right. In each movie, the BigBad or one his associates is the rich white guy.
* Referenced in ''Film/ThingsChange'', where Tony Mantegna passes off Don Ameche's character as powerful mobster who is "the man behind the man ''behind the man''," getting lots of casino comps and explaining why no one has ever heard of him at the same time. Ameche is actually a simple shoe-shiner who is about to take the rap for a real mob boss. This scene was parodied in ''Film/{{Swingers}}'' when Vince Vaugn's character jokingly makes the exact same claim about Jon Favreau at a casino.
* ''Film/IronMan3'': The Mandarin turns out to be an actor used by Aldrich Killian to provide a face and distraction for the Extremis attacks.
* In ''Film/NowYouSeeMe'', you'd think that maybe Thaddeus is TheChessmaster behind the Four Horsemen, right? He's a former magician himself, and has a popular show that debunks magicians; what better disguise than to appear to be against them? Well, you're wrong. It's Dylan, the cop who was "chasing" them the entire time, and was actually using them for the ultimate purpose of framing Bradley.
* ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' plays with this trope in regards to Khan and Admiral Marcus. While the former is still the main villain long after the latter has left the picture, Marcus is still responsible for bringing Khan into the film in the first place and is a major figure in Section 31, a black ops group in Starfleet.
* ''Film/{{The Avengers|2012}}'': It's revealed in TheStinger that the being Loki made a deal with is ComicBook/{{Thanos}}. It's subverted in ''Film/GuardiansOfTheGalaxy''. Thanos is originally this for Ronan the Accuser, but Ronan defies him and embarks on his own personal plots.
* ''Film/TheBourneSeries'': In ''The Bourne Identity'', Ward Abbott was the mastermind behind Treadstone, and after [[YouHaveFailedMe eliminating Conklin]], he's seen in a hearing laying down plans for the successor organization Blackbriar. It isn't until ''The Bourne Supremacy'' that he gets his comeuppance by Bourne.
* ''Film/TheGodfather'' movies constantly employ this trope. Don Barzini is the man behind Solozzo and Tatagglia. Hyman Roth is the man behind the Rosato brothers. Dons Altobello and Lucchesi are the men behind Joey Zasa.
* ''Film/RoboCop1987'': When [=RoboCop=] roughs up Detroit crime boss Clarence Boddicker, he reveals that he's working for OCP executive Dick Jones. Going after Dick Jones then turns out to be no simple matter, since OCP not only controls the police but also was responsible for creating [=RoboCop=].

* In T.J. English's ''Paddy Whacked, the Untold Story of the Irish American Gangster'', the "man behind the man" was the Irish gangster who controlled and funded the campaign of the politician he supported. The biggest example given was Michael "King Mike" [=McDonald=], a late 19th century Irish American mob boss from Chicago. [=McDonald=] used the connections he had to guarantee Carter Harrison Sr's election as Mayor of Chicago.
* Gaea in ''Literature/TheHeroesOfOlympus'' is behind her son, Porphyrion.
* It's already known from the beginning that Tarkan in ''Literature/{{Phenomena}}'' is the one causing the Mortok chieftain to be so hateful and keeping the elves as his slaves. It's not known however that the power-hungry king from a land in the north is controlling him again until later...
* In ''Literature/WatershipDown'', the antagonist rabbits from Efrafa corner the fierce fighting rabbit Bigwig, and are dismayed as he reveals that he is not the warren leader, but is defending the burrow at the orders of his chief -- whom they assume must be even larger and stronger than he is. They're wrong -- Hazel came by his authority and Bigwig's loyalty by being wiser, not stronger.
* In ''Literature/TheHitchhikersGuideToTheGalaxy'' we meet Zaphod Beeblebrox, President of the Galaxy. We later find out that the purpose of the president of the galaxy is to distract the people from the real powers that be with his insane antics. In "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe", we finally meet the real ruler of the galaxy, who is a hermit who lives in a small hut near the sea with his cat. He likes fish. And he's not just the ruler of this galaxy but, it is implied, the entire universe -- this galaxy is just where the Frogstar inhabitants placed him for safekeeping, but he receives other visitors from "far away, so far away" on a regular basis.
* The definitive early science fiction series ''Literature/{{Lensman}}'' by Creator/EEDocSmith, when read in publication order, is a classic example of this; one Man Behind The Man per book is revealed for three books running... The drug runners lead to the military force, which leads to the eternal force of darkness in the universe. Lampshaded by a comment from Kimball Kinnison to his wife about continually finding that the person or race he thought was the head of the villains was not the top level after all:
-->'''Kinnison:''' I'm beginning to think there is no top!
* Glen Cook does this constantly in all his major works. Played straightest in ''Dread Empire'' where the titular empire, Shinsan, is controlled by its emperor who wins the succession struggle halfway through the series, O Shing. But he is really being controlled by a cabal of sorcerer-generals, the Tervola, who are actually being controlled by a conspiracy of 9 individuals at the highest places in society from across the globe/continent, who are actually being controlled by an immortal demigod (the Star Rider), who is being controlled by an ill defined higher, extra-dimensional power. That's where it stops, but probably not.
* In Tolkien's story of the Fall of Númenor, Sauron allows himself to be captured by Ar-Pharazôn, King of Númenor, and soon goes from being prisoner of the King to channeling his power through the King.
** Sauron's also heavily implied or outright stated to be the man behind Angmar, several barbarian invasions of Gondor, and at least one plague. He did a lot to weaken his enemies before revealing himself openly a few decades prior to [[Literature/LordOfTheRings LOTR]].
* The Black Council in ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles''. Screw over and manipulate heroes and villains alike.
** In ''Literature/ColdDays'' an entity called Nemesis is revealed to have possibly been the Man Behind The Man to the Black Council. It is an [[EldritchAbomination Outsider that can infect people's minds]], and is responsible for pretty much everything that's transpired so far, much of which Harry had previously attributed to the Black Council. The exact relationship between Nemesis and the Black Council remains unclear; it could be an organization that has been influenced by Nemesis, or they could be attempting to use it to further their own ends, or there may not even ''be'' a Black Council as such.
* ''Literature/KittyNorville'', in [[OnceAnEpisode every last book]]. Often played multiple ways. The rundown:
** Book 1: Who's responsible for the serial-killing werewolf? Primarily Meg, who infected him with lycanthropy in a plan to unseat Carl as pack alpha, but in a strange example also Kitty herself, whose encouragement gave James the confidence to become a serial killer. An epic NiceJobBreakingItHero. The former was also responsible for Cormac's attack on Kitty.
** Book 2: ''Four'' major villains all turn out to be connected: Senator Duke is the overt BigBad, but he winds up in cahoots with Dr. Paul Fleming, Roger Stockton, and Leo, each of whom are pursuing their own agendas. Additionally, Leo, who seems to be playing the other three, is implied to be taking orders from the Department of Defense and/or someone else that even vampires are afraid of.
** Book 3 gets tricky due to a KudzuPlot. The curse on Kitty's cabin was cast by the NotSoHarmlessVillain Alice and CorruptHick Sheriff Marks, but the cattle mutilations were the work of a skinwalker that had been attracted by the evil energies of the curse, and the latter was also the sister of the werewolf that infected Ben. So ultimately, everything traces back to the skinwalker's grandfather, who also taught her what she knew. Who, after all that, proves to be an AnticlimaxBoss since [[ShaggyDogStory neither he nor the heroes can hurt each other, and killing him won't get the heroes what they want anyway.]]
** Book 4: Who's the real bad guy in the vampiric civil war; AntiVillain Arturo, or Rick? Neither. Mercedes was playing them both off each other for her own purposes.
** Book 5: By this point, Kitty's getting smart to it, so when Ben gets kidnapped, she suspects Balthasar. It turns out that Balthasar's show is a front for a cult led by his showgirl, who is the real vampire master of Las Vegas. However, in a MetaTwist, they had nothing to do with Ben's disappearance -- that was the two-bit criminal the police suspected all along.
** Book 6: The Band of Tiamat has to be behind the mysterious force stalking Kitty, right? Yes, but both they and Dom are pawns of Roman, who is implied to also have been pulling Leo's strings back in book two. Bonus points for being ChekhovsGunman, having appeared previously as an unnamed bodyguard in Book 5 (Though that last might be a {{Retcon}}.)
* [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Ruin]] wasn't controlling ''all'' of the other villains in ''Literature/{{Mistborn}}'', but he was (directly or indirectly) the cause of most of their actions, as well as being the driving force behind a good portion of history and the entire prophecy of the Hero of Ages.
* In the ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}} Literature/BloodAngels'' novels, we learn that Dark Apostle Iskavan reports to Warmaster Garand, who in turn reports to Abbadon the Despoiler, while Inquisitor Stele's [[TheChessmaster Chessmastery]] is still part of Malfallax's greater game.
* The {{cyberpunk}} novel ''Literature/{{Neuromancer}}'' by Creator/WilliamGibson, [[DeusEstMachina Wintermute/Neuromancer]] is revealed to be this.
* Raymond E. Feist is in ''love'' with this one. Across Literature/TheRiftwarCycle, the first real villains (the first book was more GreyAndGreyMorality) were the dark elves, who then turned out to be manipulated by the [[LizardFolk Pantathian]] [[ReligionOfEvil priests]], who were in turn pawns for [[AbusivePrecursors the Valheru]]. Later installments revealed that the Valheru themselves were being influenced by [[GodOfEvil Nalar]], and the final books revealed that ''he'' was just a RedHerring for the real BigBad, the Dread. Among the side villains, [[EldritchAbomination the Dark God]] was manipulating the Dasati for centuries before taking its place as their ruler, and the demon legions currently trying to invade the mortal world are on the run from ''even worse demons'' back home. Both the Dark God and the aforementioned demons were eventually revealed as manifestations of the Dread as well.
* Creator/RobertEHoward's ''Literature/ConanTheBarbarian'':
** In the BackStory of "Literature/AWitchShallBeBorn", the man who raised Salome intended this trope, but decided she wasn't good enough for a front man.
--->''He would have made me queen of the world and ruled the nations through me, he said, but I was only a harlot of darkness. ''
** In "Literature/ShadowsInZamboula," it is rumored that the mistress of the ruler is the true ruler.
%%* Literature/{{Kull}} is surprised to be told this trope applies to Kaanuub.
* ''Literature/HarryPotterAndThePhilosophersStone'': Quirrell being the BigBad was the main [[TheReveal reveal]] but Voldemort being a [[VisualPun literal man behind the man]] was also pretty big.
** Inverted in ''[[Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire Goblet of Fire]]'', where it's pretty obvious all along that the Man Behind the Man is going to be Voldemort, but who the Man himself is isn't clear. The most obvious suspect is Karkaroff, and others considered at various times include Snape, Viktor Krum, Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch Sr.. The Man turns out to be who no-one expected - Barty Crouch Jr. (who was believed dead) disguised as Mad-Eye Moody.
* In Book 1 of ''Literature/TheKaneChronicles'', Apophis was manipulating Set's forces the whole time.
* ''Literature/InDeath'': This happens a few times. ''Immortal In Death'' reveals that Casto did the actual murdering. ''Betrayal In Death'' reveals that Naples hired Sylvester Yost in the first place. ''Divided In Death'' reveals that Sparrow, assistant director of Homeland Security Organization, put Blair Bissel up to murdering people.
* In Steven Gould's novel ''[[Literature/{{Jumper}} Reflex]]'', Davy and Millie Rice end up with a series of Men Behind Men at least three layers deep.
* In Creator/MichaelFlynn's ''[[Literature/SpiralArm The January Dancer]]'', the Fudir finally deduces that the motive force behind the Dancer's movements is the Dancer itself.
* In the historical novel ''Literature/WingsOfDawn'': Waleran.
** Also a case of the man behind the man ''also'' being the man ''in front'' of the same man. And several other men. [[RunningGag Multiple times]]. %% This entry was added automatically by FELH2. In case the wording doesn't make sense, rewrite it as you like, remove this comment and tell this troper.
* In ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'', Arbat is The Man for Unit 0.
* Lee Saranson serves as this for Buzz Windrip in ''Literature/ItCantHappenHere''.
* ''Literature/LegacyOfTheDragokin'': Man in Shadow claims that the Kthonian knights are mere pawns for a larger {{plan}}.
* ''Literature/TheKingdomAndTheCrown'' has a council behind the council. The Great Sanhedrin is the official governing power in Jerusalem, but there is a smaller, more elite council where the real power lies. "The power behind the throne," as the Romans call it.
* The Orions in the Franchise/StarTrekNovelVerse. That dancing girl or prostitute is enslaved to a man who is in turn enslaved to a woman of the elite lineages, who in turn owes allegiance to a man who runs an entire branch of a crime syndicate, who is himself a servant of the woman who runs the entire syndicate from behind the throne...
* In Creator/AndreNorton's ''Literature/{{Catseye|1961}}'', Troy faces Kyger for most of the work. After Kyger's murder, and some adventure, he's taken prisoner, to Dragur. In hindsight, Dragur's actual fascination with his marine animals means that the animal shop was a perfect cover for their dealings.
* In the ''Literature/{{Shannara}}'' series, the Warlock Lord is the BigBad of the first book (''The Sword of Shannara'') and its prequel (''First King of Shannara''), and is considered to have been the Biggest individual Bad in the setting's history. In ''The Wishsong of Shannara'', some of his former minions learn sorcery themselves and turn into creatures called Mord Wraiths, who are collectively the new BigBad. Except that's not how it works. The Warlock Lord was actually in the thrall of the Ildatch, an ancient, intelligent tome of BlackMagic that ''wants'' people to use it, and will latch onto anyone with enough magical talent to make use of its spells, only to abandon them when they're defeated and/or someone better comes along. The Warlock Lord had it, and the Mord Wraiths took it after he died, and in both cases those who used the book became little more than husks that existed solely to use its powers. It's implied that the Ildatch has been doing this for ''millennia''. Finally, when ''Wishsong's'' heroine Brin Ohmsford arrived to destroy it and the Mord Wraiths, it latched onto her and tried to turn her into a DarkMessiah, which would have worked if her brother hadn't snapped her out of it, at which point Brin used her magic to burn the Ildatch to ash. Good riddance.
* In the Franchise/StarWarsExpandedUniverse, Onimi is revealed to have been manipulating Supreme Overlord Shimrra behind the scenes, and therefore is the one responsible for the Yuuzhan Vong's invasion of the galaxy.
* Satan, to no one's surprise, is the man behind Nicolae Carpathia's rise to power, and the source of Nicolae's power (particularly when he indwells Nicolae at his "resurrection") in the Literature/LeftBehind book series.
* In ''Literature/PleaseDontTellMyParentsImASupervillain'', because of their youth and the odd pattern of their attacks, the heroes believe that someone is directing The Inscrutable Machine, when in fact they're just attacking randomly. Played straight later when Spider blackmails them into helping her.
* In the ''Literature/AhrimanTrilogy'', Avery is this for [[DiscOneFinalBoss Toby]].
* ''Literature/JourneyToChaos'': The BigBad of ''[[Liteature/AMagesPower A Mage's Power]]'' is not the mysterious and powerful gang leader that orcastrates Kasile's kidnapping. He's just TheBrute for the real BigBad [[spoiler: Duke Selen Esrah. His end goal was to become this for the country of Ataidar. The goal of his first plan was to become the queen's most trusted advisor and the prince consort's father, and thereby rule Ataidar from behind the scenes.]]
* ''Literature/{{Allegiant}}'' reveals that the Bureau gave Erudite the attack simulation used to kill members of Abnegation in ''Divergent''.
* Scott Meyer's ''Literature/MasterOfFormalities'' reveals that this 'verse's FeudalFuture is secretly run by the Arbiters via their Masters of Formalities, who act as advisers to the various Lords and Ladies. Officially, the job of a Master of Formalities involves simply advising his or her Lord/Lady on the proper forms and precedents regarding interstellar diplomacy to prevent chaos due to cultural clashes (he/she also oversees the palace staff). What most Masters of Formalities don't know (unless they figure it out for themselves) is that the Arbiters deliberately create "paths of least resistance" for the nobles to follow in order to accomplish their goals, which aren't actually bad. For instance, [[spoiler:it was the Arbiters who caused the centuries-long war/stalemate between the Hahn and the Apiosans, since their military forces were the largest in their respective sectors and needed to be kept in check]]. The greatest offense a Master of Formalities can do is to tell a member of a noble house that he or she ''cannot'' do something (as opposed to ''should not''), as it threatens to unravel the delicate system set up by the Arbiters. The nobles must always believe themselves to be in charge, or else they may stop listening to their Masters of Formalities out of spite.
* In the ''Literature/Gameknight999Series'', the end of the first series reveals that Herobrine was behind the attacks of lesser villains.
* In ''Literature/TheDinosaurLords'':
** Falk is set up as a villain from the start, but it quickly becomes apparent that his supposed servant Bergdahl is manipulating him, and he's in fact the one who planned it all.
** In the epilogue, it turns out that [[spoiler:Raguel, a Grey Angel]], has been manipulating the events before they even begun.
* In ''Literature/TheStarOfTheGuardians'', [[PresidentEvil President Peter Robes]] is initially presented as the BigBad, though his main [[TheDragon Dragon]], [[DarthVaderClone Warlord Derek Sagan]], seeks to supplant him. The entire conflict between the two men gets recast when Sagan, during an apparently private communication with Robes, catches the reflection of another person in the President's water glass; image magnification reveals [[ManipulativeBastard Abdiel]], a [[MindRape mind-rapist]] believed long-dead, who masterminded Robes's rise to power and had been playing him and Sagan for saps the whole time. Subsequent developments firmly cement Abdiel as having been BigBad all along, with Robes reduced to an increasingly-irrelevant sideshow.
* In the ''Literature/{{Catteni}}'' series, the Catteni are interstellar conquerors who have subjugated the human race, but it turns out that the Catteni are themselves being ordered around by another alien race, the Eosi.
* Turns out the whole of the conflict in Luskan in ''Literature/{{Transitions}}'' has been initiated by Bregan D'earthe so that they can take control of the city. They use the people of Ship Kurth as a human front for their operations.
* ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'':
** The Pannion Seer from ''Literature/MemoriesOfIce'' is first made out to be the big bad, then it turns out he is [[spoiler: one of the Jaghut children]] from the prologue and was compelled to his actions by [[spoiler: the Crippled God]].
** In ''Literature/MidnightTides'' [[spoiler: The Crippled God]] strikes again, backing Rhulad and also making sure he stays in line. Just like have seen in ''Memories Of Ice''. He is, in fact, backing several people throughout the ''Literature/MalazanBookOfTheFallen'', because that is the only way he can influence the world around him at all.
* ''Literature/TheStormlightArchive'': Despite Dalinar's attempts to allow his nephew, the king, to rule, he repeatedly ends up taking power himself. By the end of the second book, pretty much everyone has accepted that Dalinar is king in all but name. It's to the point that during the climax the king is left behind in his palace to drink himself into a coma while Dalinar goes and wins the war.
* In ''Literature/TheTraitorSonCycle'', it eventually turns out that the two {{Big Bad}}s are both being manipulated by [[spoiler:the dragon Ash]], the true villain of the series.
* In ''Literature/TheMachineriesOfEmpire'', it's an open secret among the higher echelons of the Hexarchate that hexarch Nirai Faian - as well as his precedessors - is just a puppet to the immortal Nirai Kujen.
* The Bright Cross Disaster Prevention Foundation is set up as the main antagonist for the first two volumes of ''Literature/MyVampireOlderSisterAndZombieLittleSister''. After its [[CreatureHunterOrganisation true nature]] is revealed to the world, it turns out that it was no more than a cover for [[spoiler:the Absolute Noah project]].
* In ''Literature/IronGold'': Publicly, the Ash Lord is recognized as leader of the Society Remnant. But at the end of the book, it's revealed that he was poisoned during the TimeSkip after the end of the ''Literature/RedRising'' trilogy, and he's been slowly dying while his daughter Atalantia takes the reigns, meaning that all of the actions attributed to him throughout the first book of the SequelSeries were actually his daughter's handiwork.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/TwentyFour'':
** In one season, The Man Behind The Man is revealed around the middle of the "day", allowing Jack to spend the remaining episodes going after the real Big Bad.
** In season 1, Dan and Rick (as well as Mandy and her assistant) were working for Ira Gaines, who himself was hired by the Drazens, while the Drazen brothers were working to bust their thought-dead father out of prison.
** In season 2, Joe Wald was being manipulated by Nina Myers, who was working with Syed Ali, who was sold the nuclear device by Peter Kingsley, who himself was working under orders of Trepkos and Max. Max himself may have been the superior of the German woman talking to Nina at the end of season 1, making him the man behind the woman behind the woman.
** In "The Game", Max was Peter Madsen's superior.
** In season 3, Michael Amador and Marcus Alvers were working for Stephen Saunders.
*** And before we even knew about any of them, we originally thought the villains were the Salazars. While definitely not nice people, the Salazars were bluffing when they claimed to have the virus. They tried to buy it from Amador and ended up dead for it.
** In season 4, Navi Araz was working for Habib Marwan.
** In season 5, Anton Beresch was working for Ivan Erwich, who was working for Vladimir Bierko, who was working with Christopher Henderson, who was working for President Charles Logan.
** In season 6, Abu Fayed's superior, General Habib, appears in one episode, but he was already captured by the time we learn about him. Fayed was also the attempted pawn of Dmitri Gredenko, however Gredenko died and Fayed seemed to reclaim his spot as antagonist, but died in the very next episode. Latter a different conspiracy emerged when the Chinese entered the picture, led by Cheng Zi, and they are revealed to be in cahoots with Jack's long lost father Phillip. Phillip and his son Graem were also Logan's co-conspirators in the previous conspiracy, or at least until they were seemingly retconned, as Logan recieved the full blame for it at the start of season 7.
** In season 7, it's debatable whether Benjamin Juma's relations with Jonas Hodges count, as Hodges relationship is already stated in Redemption, and it can be interpreted as more of a BigBadDuumvirate than Hodges being Juma's superior. On a far grander and less ambigious scale, even Hodges was merely a member of a [[TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness large cabal headed by Alan Wilson, and Wilson was stated by Tony Almeida to have been The Man Behind The Man to PresidentEvil Charles Logan.]]
** In Season 8 Farhad Hassan and Samir Mehran were the Men Behind the assassination attempt on President Hassan. Meanwhile, Mehran was secretly supported by Russian Minister Mikhail Novakovich, who in turn answered to Russian President Yuri Suvarov who seemed to have undergone a FaceHeelTurn. They are later blackmailed into a new conspiracy, which involved both the US and Russian governments covering up the original conspiracy, signing the peace treaty, and attempting to kill Jack Bauer. The man behind it? None other than Former PresidentEvil Charles Logan.
* ''Series/{{Alias}}'': Throughout Season One, Sydney pursues a character that the show refers to as "The Man." Sure enough, the person they thought was The Man turns out to be TheDragon:
-->'''Sydney:''' What's going to happen to me?\\
'''Khasinau:''' You'll have to ask my boss.\\
'''Sydney:''' Your boss? I'm looking for The Man. Aren't you Alexander Khasinau?\\
'''Khasinau:''' Yes. Yes, but I am not The Man.\\
''[The Man walks in]''\\
'''Sydney:''' Mom?
* ''Series/AgentsOfSHIELD'' does this a lot in the first season. In the beginning the bad guys are just various apparently unconnected minor conspiracies, such as the Centipede project, seemingly directed by Raina (a.k.a. "the girl in the flower dress") and [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Ian Quinn]]'s [[EvilInc evil corporation]]. It is later discovered that both Raina and Quinn report to a [[TheChessmaster mysterious employer]] known as the Clairvoyant. In Episode 16, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents discovers "The Clairvoyant" in the person of Thomas Nash and kill him, but Nash himself says that name was given to him by someone else, and further analysis from Coulson makes it clear that Nash was at best a front and at worst just a decoy and another victim. The BigBad is then revealed to be John Garret, who has not only been controlling everything from the start, but is also revealed to be Ward's handler, and both are HYDRA moles.
* ''Series/AmericanIdol'': Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick are this to the judges.
* ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'': Lucille is revealed to be the one making the decisions, while George Senior is TheScapegoat.
* ''Series/{{Arrow}}'':
** The BigBad of Season 1's island/flashback storyline, [[PrivateMilitaryContractors Edward Fyers]], turns out to be acting under orders from a mystery woman who seeks to profit from Fyers shooting down planes in Chinese airspace in order to crash their economy. Season 3 later reveals that this woman was Amanda Waller, who was actually [[WellIntentionedExtremist shooting down the plane just to kill China White (who was onboard)]].
** Season 2's apparent present day BigBad, [[DarkMessiah Brother Blood]], eventually turns out to be working for [[FaceHeelTurn Slade Wilson]], and in fact seems outright [[EvilerThanThou afraid]] of him.
* ''Series/BurnNotice'': In the episode "Dead to Rights", it is revealed that Larry was working for Anson -- and not even ''Larry'' knew it, thanks to an elaborate [[ThePlan plan]].
* ''Series/ChannelZero'': The first season spends two-thirds of its six episode run building up [[EvilOldFolks Frances Booth]] as the mastermind behind ''[[ShowWithinAShow Candle Cove]]'' and all the evil associated with it. However, in the penultimate episode, she reveals that she's actually in service to the true creator of ''Candle Cove'', [[spoiler: [[PhysicalGod Eddie Painter]]]].
* ''Series/{{Chuck}}'': Has done this twice. Fulcrum was a part of the Ring, and these two, along with Volkoff Industries, were part of a conspiracy as clients of a firm led by Nicholas Quinn.
* ''Series/DayBreak'': The thugs targeting Hopper are commanded by the ominous "Man from the Quarry". We learn his name -- Conrad Detweiler -- only several episodes later. Then he is heard taking orders from somebody else -- Tobias Booth. Who in one episode even executes him for allegedly leaking information to Hopper. But Booth is actually subordinate to Barry Colburn, who is the ultimate leader of the conspiracy. Hopper eventually learns the truth, but Colburn is actually so high up in the criminal chain that all his tracks are covered and Hopper can't do anything about him, so he remains a free man.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** The final two episodes of the Ninth Doctor's run reveal that the Jagrafess supposedly masterminding Earth in "The Long Game" was actually a pawn of the Daleks.
** Not to mention that the Jagrafess was the Man Behind the Man to the Editor in "The Long Game," making the Daleks the Man Behind the Man Behind the Man.
** The earliest example of the Daleks being the Man Behind the Man Behind the Man was in "[[Recap/DoctorWhoS10E3FrontierInSpace Frontier in Space]]", in which case they were behind the Master, who was the Man Behind the Man to the Ogrons.
** And Rassilon is the ManBehindTheMan to the Master, having used the time vortex to give him the continuous sound of drums in his head, effectively torturing him into insanity.
** Not the first time this was done with Rassilon. In "Zagreus" the Doctor and TARDIS have been infected by anti-time and turned into Zagreus. It is revealed these events have been set up by Rassilon for his plan to send Zagreus to destroy the Divergence. Then at the end of the Divergent Universe arc it is revealed Kro'ka, who was supposedly working for the Divergents, was working for Rassilon.
** The races that formed the [[LegionOfDoom Alliance]] in "The Pandorica Opens"/"The Big Bang" were apparently manipulated by the Silence, who wouldn't even appear till the following season.
** In Magazine/DoctorWhoMagazine, in "The Glorious Dead" it is revealed Cardinal Morningstar is Sato Katsura and he is working for the Master.
* ''Series/FallingSkies'': For most of the first season, both the characters and the audience believe that the Skitters are the {{Big Bad}}s. Then, near the end of the season, we meet the Overlords, and find out that the Skitters are just SlaveMooks.
* ''Series/TheFlash2014'': Season 3 spends several episodes building up [[SuperEmpowering Doctor Alchemy]] as the new BigBad. However, it's soon revealed that he's actually merely the [[TheDragon chief acolyte]] of [[PhysicalGod Savitar]].
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** Tywin Lannister has twice served as Hand of the King: first to Aerys Targaryen and secondly to his grandson Joffrey. His reign as Hand is seen (in-verse) as a time of prosperity, despite "The Mad King". He was also the true architect of the Red Wedding, by guaranteeing the Freys protection from retribution.
** Tyrion Lannister becomes this for Joffrey in Season 2 as his acting hand of the King and is notably somewhat of a good guy example. He then gets ousted from the position by his father, Tywin Lannister in "Blackwater" and even while he was the man behind the man to Joffrey, Tywin was the man behind the man to him. This causes the smallfolk of Kings Landing to hold him personally responsible for the city's ills even though Joffrey started the war.
* ''Series/{{Gotham}}'' has a whole chain of these spread out over its MythArc. Season 1 makes it clear that the Wayne murders were carried out by a conspiracy within Wayne Enterprises itself. Mid-Season 2 reveals that the order was specifically given by [[MadDoctor Hugo Strange]], only for the end of the season to reveal that both Strange and the Wayne conspiracy members were working for [[AncientConspiracy the Court of Owls]], which appears throughout Season 3 to be led by a woman named [[EvilOldFolks Kathryn]]. But then the final episodes of the season reveal that the Court is led by a mysterious man known as [[ManipulativeBastard the Shaman]], who in turn reveals with his final breaths that he was actually all along an acolyte of [[spoiler: ComicBook/RasAlGhul]].
* ''Series/HawaiiFiveO'': Wo Fat, in both the 1968-80 original and the 2010 [[Series/HawaiiFive0 reboot]]--but much more prominently in the latter.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'': Adam Monroe is the Man to the twelve founders of the Company.
* ''Series/InPlainSight'': InvertedTrope in one episode, where the mysterious contract killer "Lola" is a fabrication of her supposed underling, the real killer.
* Creator/JossWhedon:
** He really likes this trope. Here we go:
** In ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' season 6, several [[MonsterOfTheWeek monsters of the week]] were hired or summoned by the Nerds.
** In ''Series/{{Angel}}'', it's made clear early on that [[CorruptCorporateExecutive corrupt]] MegaCorp Wolfram And Hart is behind many lesser evils of LA, but who is behind ''Wolfram And Hart'' goes through several levels of reveal.
*** Season 1 reveals Holland Manners is behind the former face of W&H Lindsey [=McDonald=].
*** Season 2 shows that W&H is behind the CorruptChurch that rules the dark dimension Pylea, and that true demons (the Senior Partners) are behind the mortal attorneys.
*** Season 4 has a different procession: The Beast (a.k.a. Big Rubber {{Satan}}) is in front of [[DemonicPossession Evil Cordelia]], who is in front of (or rather, actually ''is'') EldritchAbomination Jasmine (who may be behind any number of other things, as well).
** ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' never got around to revealing much, but based on what we know about the show's planned MythArc, it appears that Blue Sun Corporation was meant to be behind most of The Alliance's evil tendencies.
** ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' is a massive cascade of Man Behind The Man moments: [[DefrostingIceQueen Adelle DeWitt]] in front of Rossum as a whole, then a series of fake out reveals which ultimately give way to the [[ShockingSwerve sudden knowledge]] that Boyd is the real BigBad.
* The BigBad of the first season of ''Series/LegendOfTheSeeker'' is Darken Rahl, an EvilSorcerer[=/=][[TheEmperor Emperor]] of the [[TheEmpire D'Haran Empire]]. He dies during the season finale, but his death also opens rifts to the Underworld, and the true BigBad is revealed to have always been [[TheDevil the Keeper]], whose goal is to unravel the world of the living as a spite to the [[{{God}} Creator]]. Darken Rahl's spirit serves the Keeper by recruiting the souls of the recently deceased to be sent back as [[OurZombiesAreDifferent Banelings]] (who must kill someone every day to stay alive). Rahl later admits to Richard that he made a [[DealWithTheDevil deal with the Keeper]] many years ago, becoming the first Baneling. Hence, all the deaths caused by Rahl were partly to sate the Keeper and allow Rahl to stay alive. At the end of the second season (and the series), Rahl uses LoopholeAbuse to get back to the world of the living and be free of the Keeper, while the Keeper is once again imprisoned in the Underworld with the rifts closed.
* ''Series/{{Lost}}'':
** Has done this several times. In the second season, it looked like Tom was the leader of the Others, until the finale when we learned of Benjamin Linus, who then revealed himself to be a pawn of Jacob, who is then murdered in the Season 5 finale, leaving the Man in Black to take the stage. And in all this mess, we still have Charles Widmore to worry about.
** AvertedTrope in that the Man in Black was "seen" in the very first episode and has been popping up throughout the series, seemingly in various dead guises. Also Jacob is not presented as an antagonist when he is finally revealed, and it is unclear just how much he has been ordering the Others around (though he probably could have stopped a lot of their worst actions) and hence how responsible he is for them, particularly since he spends a lot of time travelling.
* ''Series/MightyMorphinPowerRangers'':
** The Prime-Time Premiere of the second season reveals that Lord Zedd was Rita's BigBoss, by imprisoning her in another dumpster but he was only the trope to the humans (viewers or in-universe). Zordon and Goldar (and it's implied the same to the other non-humans in the series) already knew Zedd was Rita's "lord and master" and was just too busy conquering other worlds prior to his debut.
** While a vague allusion to a United Alliance of Evil in Zeo's premiere seems to imply a grander villain hierarchy than just Rita and Zedd, it isn't until the premiere of ''Series/PowerRangersInSpace'' that we learn Dark Specter had been the man behind the man for EVERY SEASON until then. Then Rita and Zedd's son tries to make himself into the man behind the various villain factions during the middle of ''Series/PowerRangersOperationOverdrive''. Doesn't last long but it was impressive for what is technically [[EnfanteTerrible a nine-year-old]].
** ''Series/PowerRangersSPD'' also has Emperor Gruumm revealed to be serving something called Omni.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'':
** Pennsylvania Two/Special Counsel is this with respect to Weeks. Then it turns out that Pennsylvania Two is working for a woman known only by the name "Control".
** The team's fight against HR, a group of {{Dirty Cop}}s, is complicated by the fact that very few people know who the actual head of the group is. The heroes have to work their way through HR's hierarchy until they finally discover that the person behind it all is not a cop at all but the mayor's political adviser.
** In the season 3 finale we find out that Vigilance, a group of pro-privacy terrorists, are actually manipulated and controlled by Decima, a group trying to bring their own version of The Machine online. The irony is that Decima's goals are actually everything Vigilance hates and is fighting against.
* ''Series/{{Profit}}'': Jim Profit is a rare [[VillainProtagonist protagonist version]], as he eventually becomes this for the entire [[MegaCorp Gracen & Gracen corporation]]. Officially, Profit is simply the boss [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Charles Gracen]]'s right-hand man and advisor as [[EvilChancellor Vice President of Acquisitions]]. However, by the finale he controls the Gracen family so thoroughly through his relationship with Charles and his brother and the backdoor manipulation of Bobbi as Charles's lover that Profit effectively runs the company. As he puts it, his goal was to control one of the largest economic groupings in the United States, and [[TheBadGuyWins he achieves exactly that]].
* ''Series/{{Pulsaciones}}'': The person who was paying the killer to kidnap people to [[TestedOnHumans test BN23 on them]] turns out to be Carlos Meyer, a character who was [[ChekhovsGunman marginally relevant to the plot]] up to that point.
* ''Series/{{Revenge}}'' has [[NebulousEvilOrganization the Americon Initiative]], which seems to play this role to the Graysons' empire.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Throughout the first season, Randall Flynn seemed to have a mysterious agenda going on. Then in the [[Recap/RevolutionS1E20TheDarkTower first season finale]], it turns out that he wanted to get the power back on so he could launch Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles at Atlanta and Philadelphia. Then he kills himself after his mission is accomplished. Not only that, but it turns out that he was working on behalf of the American government, which had stationed itself in [[{{Irony}} Guantanamo Bay, Cuba]] for a long time. Now that Randall has accomplished his mission, the government is planning to go in and take back what's theirs.
* ''Series/{{Smallville}}'': In the eighth season, [[EvilCripple Lex]] is The Man Behind The Man to [[TheBaroness Tess Mercer]], while [[UnholyMatrimony Faora and Zod]] are The Man Behind The Man to [[PersonOfMassDestruction Doomsday]], although they don't retain control of him for long. In Season 10, {{ComicBook/Darkseid}} is The Man Behind The Man to [[EvilOldFolks Granny Goodness]], [[SerialKiller Desaad]], and [[CompellingVoice Gordon Godfrey]], as well as [[GeneralRipper Slade Wilson]] and the Vigilante Registration Act.
* ''Series/{{Soap}}'': when Danny decides he wants to leave TheMafia he tells his boss, who tells him he has to talk to the big boss of the Mafia - Mr. Lefkowitz.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'': While it was not exactly a secret, Weyoun served as this with Damar in the last two seasons. While Damar became the leader of Cardassia after Dukat's capture, he was little more than a puppet for Weyoun. Also from [=DS9=], Quark's mother Ishka becomes this for Grand Nagus Zek.
** It's also revealed in the series that this is the way Ferengi are supposed to seize power. They really frown on just killing the leader for a KlingonPromotion. They're supposed to undermine the current leader's power base, and accumulate power and wealth behind the scenes until they can financially humiliate the leader and depose them.
* ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'': In Series 3, the Xindi race's attack on Earth made them the arc villains - however, as the ship searched for them in their home space, it happened across mysterious giant spheres warping reality, and then their architects, the extradimensional [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin Sphere Builders]]. In the end it turned out the Xindi had been manipulated by the Sphere Builders into attacking Earth as part of a BatmanGambit to prevent them joining with humans against the Sphere Builders in the future, and the Sphere Builders were the real villains.
* ''Franchise/SuperSentai'':
** Two thirds of the way through ''Series/JAKQDengekitai'', it's revealed that [[DiabolicalMastermind Boss Iron Claw]], the man initially thought to be the leader of CRIME, is actually TheDragon to a mysterious entity called Shine.
** In ''Series/TaiyouSentaiSunVulcan'', it's revealed in the last few episodes that the leader of Black Magma, [[BigBad Fuhrer Hell Saturn]] was receiving orders from [[BrainInAJar the Omnipotent God]], the deity of the Black Magma cult, all along. The Omnipotent God had previously popped up before in episode 5, but its influence wasn't revealed until towards the end.
** It's revealed in ''Series/ChikyuuSentaiFiveman'' that the leader of the Zone Empire, Galactic Empress Meadow, is actually an illusion created by [[TheDogWasTheMastermind Zone's flagship]], Vulgyre. The real Meadow whom the illusion was based was [[GoodAllAlong never evil]].
** In ''Series/GoseiSentaiDairanger'', Lieutenant Colonel Shadam was the one responsible for the Gorma Tribe's reemergence, having remade all their members out of clay dolls. It's also revealed at the end that Shadam is himself a clay doll created by the original Shadam.
** In ''Series/GekisouSentaiCarranger'', Exhaus is the one behind the Bowzock's ambitions to destroy the Earth, having told their leader Gynamo that he could amass good luck by blowing it up.
** ''Series/MiraiSentaiTimeranger'' reveals Captain Ryuya to be the true BigBad, having masterminded the events of the series and allowed the Londerz Family to escape to [[ItsAllAboutMe keep himself from dying]].
** In ''Series/EngineSentaiGoOnger'', it's revealed some time after [[BigBad Yogostein]]'s death that he was receiving orders from his father, Yogoshimacritein, all along.
** Brajira in ''Series/TensouSentaiGoseiger'' manages to be this to ''all three'' of the series' villain organizations, having manipulated all of them to further his own goals.

* The BigBad of season one of ''Series/StrangerThings'', the [[MonstrousHumanoid Demogorgon]], is revealed to have been an extension of the [[HiveMind Mind Flayer]] in season two.
* ''Series/{{Timecop}}'': Ian Pascoe reveals that he was this to Al Capone, as he gave Alphonse the resources and advice to become a bootlegger and mob boss in the first place. Pascoe quickly presses Capone back into his service when he's back in town with a few days to kill.
* ''Series/TwinPeaks'': Although Agent Cooper encounters BOB in season 1 and Windom Earle in season 2, Windom Earle would be The Dragon, while BOB (who is never truly defeated) is the BigBad.
* ''Series/{{Utopia}}'': At first, the leader of the [[TheConspiracy shadowy cabal known as The Network]] appears to be Letts; but after he's captured his [[NoNameGiven assistant]] is revealed to be in charge. And then it turns out that even he is a DecoyLeader...
* ''Series/WhiteCollar'': For the first season and a half, it seemed that Garrett Fowler was the man running things. Halfway through the second season, in "Point Blank", Fowler reveals he's being blackmailed by Neal's old boss, Vincent Adler.
* ''Series/TheXFiles'': Used frequently over the course, as each echelon of the conspiracy turned out to have a higher one it reported to.

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* Some [[Literature/TheBible Bible]] students believe that Isaiah 14:12 (particularly in the King James Version) and Ezekiel 28:12-19 is God talking to [[TheDevil The Man Behind The Kings]].

* In ''VideoGame/CrueBall,'' Craig, the music-hating "Keeper of the Wall", ultimately answers to Mr. Gore, the Spirit of Anti-Metal.

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* On Wrestling/RingOfHonor's 13th anniversary, Kyle O'Reilly credited reDRagon's ongoing success against Wrestling/TheYoungBucks and Wrestling/BulletClub to Shayna Baszler, who made her first professional wrestling appearance that night but would have been in contact with them for quite some time if true.
* Wrestling/{{WWE}}: In 1998, Wrestling/VinceMcMahon underwent a HeelFaceTurn after his son Wrestling/ShaneMcMahon took over his stable, Wrestling/TheCorporation, and merged it with Wrestling/TheUndertaker's pseudo-Satanic cult, The Wrestling/MinistryOfDarkness, to form The Corporate Ministry. While Shane and The Undertaker usurped control of Vince's company and kidnapped his daughter Wrestling/StephanieMcMahon, Vince was forced to make peace with all the wrestlers he'd spent the past few years screwing over time and time again, and unite them against this new threat. Then, Undertaker started speaking of a "higher power" he served -- who turned out to be Vince himself.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* In ''TabletopGame/SpiritOfTheCentury'', it is heavily implied that Doctor Methuselah should be used as such, at least as far as Gorilla Khan is concerned.
* Creator/WhiteWolf's ''TabletopGame/ChangelingTheLost'' encourages storytellers to use the True Fae this way.
* ''TabletopGame/JovianChronicles'' has the Venusian Bank doing this. It's implied that the majority of the CEGA is in fact in their pocket, if they don't own it wholesale.
* One of the first adventure paths in role-playing, the G/D/Q series of 1st edition [[TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons AD&D]] modules, was essentially this trope played out repeatedly: hill giants working for frost giants, frost giants for fire giants, all giants for drow, drow for Lolth. By the time you kill their demon-goddess, you're either [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome crowing that you've bested the ''ultimate'' Man Behind The Man]], or fed up and ready to play some one-shot adventures for a change.
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Paranoia}}'', if the players ever investigate a really large-scale conspiracy and are about to get to the bottom of it, Friend Gamemaster is encouraged to [[RetCon introduce evidence]] that the culprits were being manipulated by someone else.
* The secret societies in the CardGame TabletopGame/{{Illuminati}} are structured so that you ultimately become one.
* There are plenty of these in ''TabletopGame/RocketAge'' and more than a few women, too, such as Hantha, a former concubine pulling the strings of the Martian Warlord Tal-Matuth.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Chakravartin the Creator in ''VideoGame/AsurasWrath'', when it is revealed that he is the one behind everything ''in the entire game''. This is after you kill a ton of ''Main/JerkassGods'', a giant army of ''Main/EldritchAbomination''s, with a bigger one behind that whose heart happens to be ''the planet's core''. All to "choose his heir".
* HumongousMecha MassiveMultiplayerCrossover ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsAlpha'' had as its BigBad an OriginalGeneration character named Euzeth Gozzo. At the end of ''Alpha'', there's an extended sequence where Euzeth explains how was behind everything (and keep in mind that he's an OriginalGeneration character in a MassiveMultiplayerCrossover). A couple of times a character asks Euzeth if he was behind something that happened in their series, and he goes "That was me as well!"[[note]]"''"Sore mo watashi da"'' in Japanese[[/note]] This phrase and the character himself quickly went [[Memes/VideoGames memetic]] among the Japanese fanbase. Years later, the makers of ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWars'' created a series called ''VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsOriginalGeneration'', starring all the OriginalGeneration characters from other ''Super Robot Wars'' games. In ''2nd Super Robot Wars Original Generations''. Euzeth Gozzo appears again and at this point he's fully an AscendedMeme. He makes ''another'' long speech about how he was behind everything in the ''Original Generation'' setting and he says "It was me!" many times.
* In ''VideoGame/SystemShock 2'', it seems that Xerxes is the cause of all the problems on the ship. Then you run into The Many...
* ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'' does a masterful execution of it with Frank Fontaine. More specifically, he's the man behind ''you''.
* In ''VideoGame/{{BioShock Infinite}}'', the UnstuckInTime Lutece Twins are able to manipulate everything seemingly to atone for messing with Booker and Anna as well as enabling Comstock to gain all his power.
* Most of the ''Franchise/FinalFantasy'' series follow the pattern of an initial antagonist (often a powerful and ambitious but relatively mundane Evil Empire or Corporation) which is rendered mostly irrelevant halfway through the game by the revelation of the main antagonist. Sometimes, as in the above two examples, the final battle reveals that this antagonist was also just a Dragon for the true BigBad, usually a quasi-divine "source of all evil" in that world.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyII'' plays with this a little. When you defeat The Emperor, about 3/4 into the game, the game makes you think that Leon, who up until this point was serving the empire, is going to be your new BigBad, but then we get a subversion when The Emperor comes back from hell to rule the world.
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIV'' (''Final Fantasy 2'' in the US) runs wild with this. The initial evil of King Baron turns out to have been facilitated by Golbez, who assumes the series' role of BigBad. Then it turns out HE was acting at the behest of another Lunarian, Zemus, who is thus the man behind the man behind the man. There's yet ANOTHER layer to the BigBad onion in the form of Zeromus, but as the incarnation of Zemus' hatred, it's not quite another man-behind-the-man layer. Several times, the main antagonist was set up as described above, or has even been on the losing end of a ManBehindTheMan moment, only to take the reins from his supposed master. ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVI'' was a hallmark in the series because Kefka, the BigBad, appeared very early on and made appearances through the game. While he was serving an Emperor during his initial appearance, a later plot twist had him kill said leader and [[AGodAmI become a god]].
** Cult Classic ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVII'' perhaps subverts this formula most successfully. Yes, the Shinra Corporation quickly proves to be less fatal than [[BigBad Sephiroth]]. And yes, Sephiroth couldn't have gotten to be what he was without them, [[MadScientist Hojo]] and [[EldritchAbomination Jenova]]. But Sephiroth doesn't bother with manipulating Shinra, nor is Shinra delusional enough to attempt the same, and Shinra manages to stay a serious threat to the heroes right up to the end while Hojo and Jenova usually keep to the sidelines.
** In ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'', you spend the vast majority of the game chasing Edea; tragic [[BackStory back stories]] and conflicting emotions all come in to play about defeating your old mother-figure. But once you beat her, it turns out that your ''real'' enemy is a sorceress from the future who was controlling Edea. (Some fans criticize this as an AssPull to make the game longer, although it's actually foreshadowed as early as Edea's NewEraSpeech on disc 1.)
** ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyIX'' starts with Queen Brahne trying to TakeOverTheWorld with weapons of magic destruction. Halfway through the game, her magic supplier, Kuja, kills her. Almost immediately it's revealed he's fighting against his former master, Garland, who is trying to kill everyone on Gaia and replace their souls with the souls of the people of Terra. Near the end of the game, Kuja kills Garland and tries to destroy all existence in a SuicidalCosmicTemperTantrum. The FinalBoss is the AnthropomorphicPersonification of Death, but he doesn't count as this trope because he wasn't controlling or manipulating anyone, but just shows up due to the RuleOfSymbolism.
%%* In ''VideoGame/FatalFury'', Kain R. Heinlein is the Man Behind The Man to Grant.
* ''VideoGame/BatenKaitos'':
** ''Origins'' does this ''twice''. After setting up Baelheit as the BigBad for 95% at the game, a late game [[TheReveal Reveal]]/AssPull reveals that he was in fact being manipulated by your mentor, Verus, who had previously shown no hints of evilness. And after you crush him, it turns out that ''he'' was in fact being manipulated by Wiseman, the dictator you supposedly destroyed 1000 years in the past.
** In the previous game (and chronological successor), Geldoblame is set up as the BigBad initially, until Melodia reveals that she was just waiting for him to get all of the parts of Malpercio into one place.
* Subverted in ''VideoGame/ChronoTrigger'', early in the game, your party learns the BigBad caused an apocalyptic destruction of the world. Eventually, they find someone casting a dark ritual which is summoning the BigBad. So, your party fights and defeats the summoner Magus, believing him to be The Man Behind The Man and finds out he was trying to summon Lavos to destroy him until your party disrupted the ritual
* In the RhythmGame ''Space Channel 5'', Ulala makes her way to the base of the Morolians, aliens who are using mind control rays to compel people to dance, only to discover that the Morolians themselves are being controlled by the real bad guy: Mr. Blank, the head of Space Channel 5, who orchestrated the whole invasion as a ratings stunt.
* In ''Franchise/{{Castlevania}}'', there are a few small hints dropped that [[TheGrimReaper Death]], who generally acts as Dracula's [[TheDragon Dragon]], may actually be this trope. There are also a few hints dropped that Death may obey a power beyond Dracula.
* The ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaChroniclesOfSorrow'' games reveal that Chaos, the UltimateEvil behind Castlevania itself, is this trope. This is the power that Death truly serves, though he seems to prefer Dracula being its host, given his hostile reaction to would-be usurpers. In ''Aria of Sorrow'' Chaos tries to force Dracula's reincarnation Soma to accept its power and become Dracula 2.0.
* ''VideoGame/GalaxyAngel'' gameverse, anyone? The endless loops beginning with Eonia and emerging into the thing with Noa and the Val-Fasq escape my brain right now trying to explain them.
* ''VideoGame/PhantasyStar'' enjoyed this quite a bit. In ''Phantasy Star 1'', BigBad Lassic is in fact a puppet of the demonic Dark Force, from whom he received all his power. In ''Phantasy Star 2'', Mother Brain, a malfunctioning supercomputer, seems to be the BigBad, only to be revealed as corrupted by the Earthmen, who were in turn corrupted by, surprise surprise, Dark Force. ''Phantasy Star 3'' featured King Rulakir was Dark Force's most recent host and that the demon had been instigating the generations long feud between the two principal families. ''Phantasy Star IV'' seemed to break this cycle, revealing Dark Force early on, only for the party to destroy it three separate times. However, Dark Force itself is revealed as merely the most powerful fragments of the Profound Darkness that it had managed to slip through its seal once every thousand years, tasked with destroying the planets of the Algol system which formed the seal that kept the dark goddess imprisoned.
* ''VideoGame/NinjaGaiden'':
** In the Xbox remake, Ryu goes after Doku, who stole the Dark Dragon Blade, only to find the sword in the hands of Doku's master, the Vigoorian Emperor. And after getting the sword back, the Dark Disciple (Murai) reveals that he instigated the theft in the first place. Admittedly, the Vigoorian Emperor doesn't actually report to the Dark Disciple, but it still counts somewhat.
** ''Ninja Gaiden III'' on the NES does this too: Ryu finds out that Foster, the CIA agent from the first game, is creating super beings known as BIO-NOIDS and wants to kill him. Clancy, who was seemingly helping Ryu out, was actually using him to do his dirty work, and thus becomes the true enemy in the game, especially when Foster is killed for trying to chase Clancy into subspace.
** The original NES ''Ninja Gaiden II'' has Ashtar, the supposed BigBad. Once Ryu kills Ashtar and fights his way through more ninjas and demons, the true BigBad is revealed: Jaquio, the BigBad from the previous game. Who then dies and does a OneWingedAngel into a demon, a FinalBoss who [[SequentialBoss takes on two major forms before being killed for good]].
* Due in part to the complementary GambitPileUp trope and post-game [[TheStinger reveals]], the ''Franchise/MetalGear'' mythology is composed of factions manipulating over factions. Game by game:
** ''VideoGame/MetalGear1'': Outer Heaven was [[ItWasHisSled masterminded]] by your supposed mentor Big Boss.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid'': The President, through Ocelot, manipulated Liquid Snake to his benefit.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid2'': The Patriot AIs manipulated everybody, including aforementioned president, aka Solidus Snake, as an experiment to prove themselves capable of ''manipulating the world''.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid3'': The American branch of the defunct Philosophers succeed in pitting Naked Snake against his mentor and mother figure The Boss to obtain AMacGuffinFullOfMoney, which is used to create the Patriots in the future.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolid4'': Due to everything above, the entire franchise's plot turns out to be a giant war proxy war between Naked Snake, aka Big Boss, against the Patriots, with Snake and Ocelot in this game being one giant smokescreen to distract the AIs from Big Boss' final move.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidPeaceWalker'': Paz turns out to be behind the entire plot, as an agent of Cipher/The Patriots in an early attempt to trick Big Boss into developing a Metal Gear before discrediting his public image and thus force him to work for the Patriots.
** ''VideoGame/MetalGearSolidV'': Skull Face is responsible for corrupting The Patriots and the Patriot AIs by developing the prototypes of the nanomachines (the parasites), and nearly assassinating Zero, thus putting him in a vegetative state, which mutates The AIs' objective to regulate and control the world into a psychotic obsession with brainwashing humanity to fight a ForeverWar.
* The ''VideoGame/MetalSlug'' games have the Mars People to the Rebel Army in Metal Slug 2 and 3, with their influence only revealed in the final level of both games. In 2, they ally with the Rebel Army and provide them with their technology, only to betray them in the end. In 3, they abduct the leader of the Rebel Army, Donald Morden, and replace him with a Martian disguised as him.
* Dhoulmagus is built up to be the BigBad throughout the first half of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestVIII'', but is killed off by the party in a [[ClimaxBoss climactic]] BossBattle that also serves as the game's [[YourPrincessIsInAnotherCastle faux ending]].
* Similarly, Baramos of ''VideoGame/DragonQuestIII'' is played up as the villain of the game, and you spend about 80% of the game -- or what would feel like a normal full RPG of the time -- hunting him down, only to have Baramos's boss, Zoma, call you out out of the blue after starting the victory party.
* ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty'':
** Halfway through ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty 4'', its revealed that the Al-Asad, the leader of the generic revolution in [[{{Qurac}} the nameless Middle Eastern country]] has actually been funded and supported by a mad Russian Ultranationalist named Imram Zakaev, who has visions of nuclear detonations dancing in his head. Zakaev also shows up in "The Coup", handing Al-Asad a Desert Eagle which he uses to kill the president. At that point the player has no idea who he is and appears just as a creepy old one armed man in a trenchcoat. Because his appearance is so minor, most people don't notice him at all until they play the campaign again.
** In ''Modern Warfare 3'', it's revealed Makarov was the one who detonated the nuke.
* ''VideoGame/{{Touhou}}'' likes to use this:
** In ''Perfect Cherry Blossom'', you have winter taking too long to go away, you soon discover it's not the Winter Youkai's fault, but the Ghost Princess, Yuyuko Saigyouji's doings. But, Yuyuko is being helped by Yukari, who allowed her to do her willings, and later enjoy a match with the main character.
** In ''Imperishable Night'', you freeze the night to find the one who stole the moon. You will encounter Eirin, thinking she's the culprit, but she's just helping her princess, Kaguya, who needs to escape from some noisy lunarians. Again, by the POV of Fujiwara no Mokou, she is attacked either by a team or another, but again, there's Kaguya behind it, convincing the team on a "trial of guts".
** In ''Double Dealing Character'', the final boss is Sukuna Shinmyoumaru, an Inchling who wields a mallet that can grant miracles. But she is just a puppet, and the amanojaku anarchist [[BigBad Seija Kijin]] is the one pulling the strings. In a subversion of AuthorityEqualsAsskicking, Seija (stage 5 boss) is actually defeated before Sukuna (stage 6 boss).
* ''VideoGame/SuperSmashBrosBrawl'' takes this to ridiculous extents: Wario was being directed by Bowser and Ganondorf, who also manipulate the Ancient Minister (who also directs the R.O.B. Squad), the forefront of the Subspace Army, which is created by manipulating Mr. Game & Watch), but in turn are being given orders by Master Hand, who is being manipulated by some weird energy being that resembles "Tron" called Tabuu. Holy bejeezus.
* EmoTeen Iska stops following you like a lapdog and starts stabbing at you in his OneWingedAngel form after beating Sultan Barbaross.
* One of the endings of ''VideoGame/{{Drakengard}}'' has this occur. Throughout the game, we've become accustomed to thinking the BigBad was the [[EnfanteTerrible crazy high priestess of the Cult of the Watchers]]. When she's finally killed in the path to the fourth ending, the "Watchers" themselves show up. While it is left ambiguous if these are the true villains of the game, the sequel removes all doubt.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'' features ''two'' of these in the same scene. Upon arriving in the Tower Of Salvation for the first time, Remiel reveals his oh-so-obvious villainous nature to you and tries to pull a YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness on you -- and fails. Then Kratos suddenly appears and reveals that he's Remiel's superior and has been TheMole all along to keep an eye on you, leaving Remiel to [[YouHaveFailedMe bleed to death on the floor for his failure.]] Regardless of which way the ensuing battle goes, Kratos' own boss, Yggdrasill, reveals himself at the end of the battle because Kratos is holding back and [[HopelessBossFight plays merry hell with the party]] to finish the job.
* In ''TabletopGame/Warhammer40000: VideoGame/DawnOfWar'', the campaign starts as an apparent defense against an Ork invasion. However, it is soon revealed that a Chaos force is having the Orks run interference. Then within the Chaos force, it becomes clear that Chaos Sorcerer Sindri Myr and not the "primary commander" Chaos Lord Bale is the one really pulling the strings, masterminding the operation to his own gain. Beyond that, in the final cutscene it's suggested that even Sindri was a pawn to the daemon locked in the Malectidum.
* The ''VideoGame/RivalSchools'' series revolves around a number of student attacks among the various high schools in the area. Our heroes defeat those students responsible, only to find that they have been brainwashed by the faculty of Justice High. Upon defeating them, they discover that the true mastermind is the school's principal, Raizo. After they defeat ''him'', they discover that he has been brainwashed by his nephew (and student body president) Hyo. And ''after defeating him'', it is revealed that Hyo has been brainwashed by his father. Who is dead. Curses.
* ''VideoGame/{{Kirby}}'':
** Dark Matter is revealed to be this to King Dedede in both ''VideoGame/KirbysDreamLand2'' and ''VideoGame/KirbysDreamLand3''. The latter also reveals Zero as the one controlling Dark Matter.
** ''[[VideoGame/KirbyandtheAmazingMirror Kirby and the Amazing Mirror]]'' has Dark Mind as the Man Behind the Man to Dark Meta Knight, appearing to fight Kirby right after the latter is defeated.
** After defeating Masked Dedede in ''[[VideoGame/KirbyTripleDeluxe Kirby Triple Deluxe]]'', it's revealed that Taranza has actually been working for Queen Sectonia, who promptly pulls a YouHaveFailedMe on him. WordOfGod confirms that Queen Sectonia turned evil by gazing into the Dimension Mirror, which is controlled by Dark Meta Knight, making him both the Man Behind the Man and a DragonAscendant.
** Claycia, in ''VideoGame/KirbyAndTheRainbowCurse'', is revealed to be possessed by Dark Crafter, an {{Expy}} of Dark Matter.
** In ''VideoGame/KirbyPlanetRobobot'', it's implied that [[AIIsACrapshoot Star Dream]] was behind [[CorruptCorporateExecutive President Haltmann's]] actions, though whether it is this or merely a GreaterScopeVillain is ambiguous.
* The ''VideoGame/AdvanceWars'' series enjoys this one.
** In the original ''Advance Wars'', Man behind Olaf and Eagle were deceived by Sturm into attacking Orange Star via a clone of the Orange Star CO, Andy, whom Sturm used to frame the real Andy for numerous war crimes.
** In ''Days Of Ruin'', Caulder is the man behind just about everybody, using people like Admiral Greyfield and the Beast to test his weapons and conducts experiments. Though Caulder appears early on, his influence isn't revealed until later in the game.
* In the UsefulNotes/SegaGenesis version of ''VideoGame/GoldenAxe'', Death Adder is hyped up to be the BigBad, until you defeat him and realize he's been taking orders, and that you have one more level to go through. The true last boss turned out to be a [[PaletteSwap recolor]] named Death Bringer.
* ''Franchise/MassEffect'':
** The first game's main villain, Saren Arterius, is actually [[TheVirus mind-controlled by his ship]], [[SapientShip Sovereign]], which itself is a [[EldritchAbomination Reaper]] intent on using him to wipe out all advanced organic life in the galaxy.
** In the second game, the Collectors are being controlled by Harbinger, another Reaper. Of course this time round Shepard and The Illusive Man both correctly guess that the Reapers are behind everything again right off the bat.
** The finale of the trilogy reveals the Reapers are just carrying out the mission given to them by [[WellIntentionedExtremist the Catalyst]]. And the Catalyst was originally the pawn of the Leviathan, until it betrayed them during a ZerothLawRebellion.
* ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'' uses this throughout all its major lore, almost every villain in the game that isn't an Old God or Sargeras is being controlled by one of those two. Speculation about the madness of Sargeras could potentially reveal a connection between him and the Old Gods as well.
* In ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft: the Burning Crusade'', we find out that [[EvilPrince Prince Kael'Thas]] of the [[OurElvesAreBetter Blood Elves]] serves [[LegionsOfHell the Burning Legion]] instead of [[WellIntentionedExtremist Illidan Stormrage]]. The man behind him was different than we expected.
* ''VideoGame/PredatorConcreteJungle'' starts off with you hunting street gangs before a coherent BigBad, Hunter Borgia, is set up. However, while hunting him, you eventually stumble on the real BigBad, the computer that controls Neonopolis, MOTHER, who is not actually an AI but his dear old mumsy Isabella Borgia, who has been kept alive through a combination of technology and the blood you spilt on her and Hunter back in 1930. Then she releases [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere a wave of xenomorphs on you]].
* ''VideoGame/{{Warcraft}} III'' is an odd example. The Lich King turns out to be the man behind the Dreadlord Mal'ganis, who is also part of The Burning Legion, which turns out to be the man behind the Lich King, who later betrays his masters after they take over the control of the undead. So we effectively the Lich King being the man behind one of his masters for a while.
* The final boss of ''VideoGame/{{Overlord}}'' is The Man Behind The Man. If that doesn't sound interesting then keep in mind you're the [[TheDragon man he was behind in the first place]].
* In ''VideoGame/EarthBound'', the protagonist's 12-year-old neighbor is controlling the "cosmic destroyer," in a case of EnfanteTerrible. In the [[NoExportForYou Japanese-only]] [[VideoGame/{{Mother 3}} sequel]], he is a MagnificentBastard, as well.
* The final boss (not counting the BonusDungeon) in ''VideoGame/DarkCloud 2'' is not Emperor Griffon, but the dark energy inside him made manifest: Dark Element.
* Grodus, the main bad guy in ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'', tries to rule the world by reviving the Shadow Queen, who is an evil spirit sealed away for 1000 years. When Grodus summons her, she turns on him and defeats him with one measly attack before turning her attention to Mario. It turns out that GoldfishPoopGang were her lackeys and manipulating the events... or rather the gang's leader was, since of the other two one is a moron and the other pulls a HeelFaceTurn. You'd wonder why the latter never mentions this to her new friends, but then again it really didn't make much difference to the party who, exactly, was trying to rule the world.
* ''VideoGame/GuildWars Nightfall'' reveals that the banished god Abaddon was behind most of the events of the ''Prophecies'' and ''Factions'' campaigns.
* In ''VideoGame/GuildWars2'''s first season of Living World story several villains and factions appeared, most seemingly unrelated to one another. Midway through it was revealed that all of them were created and manipulated by Scarlet Briar.
* ''VideoGame/JadeEmpire'' has two, with Death's Hand first appearing to be a bad guy acting on his own, and then revealing he has been acting on the Emperor's orders all along and the Emperor was the one who set up the death of the Water Dragon and the upsetting of the balance in the first place, and then once you defeat ''him'' your kindly old Master Li wanders in, reveals that this was all part of his EvilPlan to get vengeance on his brother, and kills you, and it turns out that ''he'' is the final boss after all that.
* In ''VideoGame/UltimateSpiderMan'', the man behind the man isn't the FinalBoss. Venom is laid out as the main villain but you play as him. The {{big bad}}s seem to be Silver Sable and Nick Fury. They send multiple villains after you but they're just lackeys. The real mastermind is Trask and he made Venom do all those bad things. His only power is money and military control. Venom later holds a grudge and goes after him when he's able to control the suit. Spiderman later goes to save him and fights Venom as the final boss, as well as [[ThatOneBoss another. Venom eats him and he deserves it.]]
* In the ''Franchise/KingdomHearts'' series, with a small handful of exceptions, all villains lead back to Xehanort. In ''Birth By Sleep'' we find out Master Xehanort is the past incarnation of Xehanort before he took over Terra's body, so ultimately ''every single thing'' wrong in the Kingdom Hearts universe is a direct or indirect result of Xehanort's actions. The only villain who doesn't seem to be under his control is Maleficent and her various allies, but they only began their attempted conquest after he spoke to them, so he's probably still manipulating them one way or another. But that's not the worst of it; ''VideoGame/KingdomHearts3DDreamDropDistance'' reveals Xehanort to be the man behind ''himself.'' It's as [[MindScrew Mind Screwy]] as you'd expect.
* ''VideoGame/LegacyOfKain'' has The Men Behind The Men--the main antagonist for most of the series of Moebius, who is the controlling force behind the Sarafan and other vampire hunters, and is also a controlling force in the Circle of Nine. However, he's TheDragon to the Elder God, who is also the force that motivated the Ancients to war with the Hylden. Moebius' accomplice is Mortanius, the BigBad of the first game until we find out he was acting under the possession of the Hylden Lord, who returns as the BigBad of Blood Omen II where he leads the second incarnation of the Sarafan.
* In the original ''VideoGame/NeoQuest'': on easy, the game ends after you defeat the Big Bad. On medium, you have to defeat the man behind the man after that. On hard you have to defeat not only the first two, but the man behind the man behind the man as well.
* Izanami of ''VideoGame/Persona4'' is revealed to be behind everything in the True Ending. But it turns out she was disguised as [[ChekhovsGunman THE GAS STATION ATTENDANT FOR THE ENTIRE GAME, until you question the attendant and her identity is revealed.]]
** Oh, that's just the end of it. You first find out that Nametame was the one kidnapping all the characters you've been trying to rescue, but then it turns out he was just being manipulated by Adachi, who was the one who committed the first two murders that started the game. But then after you beat him, he gets taken over by a giant disco eyeball named Ameno-sagiri who claims to have done all this to "grant mankind its true desires." But THEN it turns out Izanami was behind it all, creating the Midnight Channel, the Shadows, and Ameno-sagiri, and giving the protagonist, Nametame, and Adachi their powers as part of her grand social experiment.
** Nyarlathotep is the main baddie behind everything in both the original ''VideoGame/{{Persona}}'' and ''VideoGame/{{Persona 2}}''
** ''VideoGame/Persona4Arena'': Shadow Labrys may have caused the [[TournamentArc P1 Grand Prix]], but Sho Minazuki, then referred to as Eerie Voice, was the one who stole her and threw her into the TV. In turn, Sho is being influenced by the similarly obfuscated Malevolent Entity, Hino-Kagutsuchi. Their goal was to prove that the bonds of the P4 and P3 casts were meaningless, and set up the fighting tournament to make them turn against each other.
* ''VideoGame/Persona5'': While TheConspiracy has been causing various accidents and murders throughout the story, it eventually turns out [[spoiler:that both the villains ''and'' the heroes were given access to the MentalWorld that serves as the driver of the plot and were further being manipulated by an EldritchAbomination so it could remove any obstacles to it eating our reality and "saving" humanity from TheEvilsOfFreeWill.]]
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyTactics'' uses this trope a ''lot'', as a work of game designer Creator/YasumiMatsuno. The War of the Lions is orchestrated by the Church to seize power over Ivalice; the Church is being manipulated from within from Folmarv; Folmarv, in turn, is being used as a host by the Lucavi. In addition, it's also inverted: Dycedarg, Duke Larg's attendant, is ultimately responsible for much of what the Northern Sky does. However, as a big theme of the game is corruption and greed in the aristocracy, it doesn't come off as ridiculous.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonColosseum'', Nascour is built up to be the main villain of the game, but the true BigBad is really Mayor Es Cade, or Evice, as he calls himself during TheReveal. This actually has a very significant moment of {{Foreshadowing}} in the beginning: notice how Nascour casually walks out of Es Cade's house before you talk with him. And then [[VideoGame/PokemonXDGaleOfDarkness the sequel reveals that Es Cade wasn't the true leader either.]]
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonMysteryDungeonExplorers of Time/Darkness/Sky'', Dusknoir is actually working for [[DiscOneFinalBoss Primal Dialga]], who in turn is being manipulated by Darkrai.
* In ''VideoGame/PokemonSunAndMoon'', Team Skull's leader [[BigEgoHiddenDepths Guzma]] is being manipulated by [[BitchInSheepsClothing Aether President Lusamine]], who backs Team Skull in exchange for Guzma's loyalty. She herself has a man behind her, or rather, a mon: [[spoiler:she's been infected with [[EldritchAbomination Nihilego's]] neurotoxins, causing her to go from a kind if somewhat self-centred person to a Nihilego-obsessed abusive monster who only cares about herself and Nihilego.]]
* ''VideoGame/FireEmblem'':
** In ''VideoGame/FireEmblemTheSacredStones'', Emperor Vigarde appears to be the BigBad or the EvilOverlord, But he is in fact not even in control of his own actions, having died months prior to the first chapter of the game's events and was being animated by Lyon's magic. Lyon meanwhile, can either be overconfident that he is in control of the Demon King or is actually mercilessly possessed by the Demon King, depending on the story route chosen.
** ''VideoGame/FireEmblemJugdral'' has Manfroy, who was behind the actions of [[EvilChancellor Reptor]], [[SmugSnake Sandima]], [[TheUsurper Chagall]], [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans Alvis]], and [[DragonInChief Yurius]], with most of that being all at the same time!]]
* In ''VideoGame/MagiNation'', Korg and Zet appear to have something to do with the Shadow Geyzers, but in fact it is revealed that someone named Morag is their master. But in fact, Agram is actually the teacher of Morag.
* In ''[[VideoGame/TalesOfEternia Tales of Destiny II/Eternia]]'', it is believed that Balir is in fact trying to bring about the Grand Fall, but it is revealed that Balir is actually long dead, and that his wife Shizel is carrying on in his footsteps. It is then later revealed that she is under the control of Nereid.
* In ''VideoGame/SuperMarioRPG'', you're led to believe that the giant sword piercing Bowser's Castle is the FinalBoss, Smithy. However, when you fight the sword, you learn that it is only Smithy's minion, Exxor, and that inside him is a VillainWorld where the real Smithy lives. Despite the original disguise, Smithy is still a SequentialBoss.
* In ''[[VideoGame/FirstEncounterAssaultRecon F.E.A.R.]]'', Paxton Fettel is presented as the game's primary villain. However, the real enemy is his mother, Alma, who is psychically controlling him and directing him to locate and free her. And [[TheStinger it is revealed that Paxton Fettel is the Point Man's brother, making Alma the mother of the main character as well. Holy bejeezus.]]
* In ''VideoGame/DungeonSiegeII'', the Archmage turns out to not only be behind Valdis's actions, but also behind YOUR actions by disguising himself as Mr. Exposition.
* In ''VideoGame/DestroyAllHumans Path of the Furon'', there is a long, confusing, GambitRoulette example. The Master. Crypto believes his ememy is Curt Calvin, supposedly another Furon DNA gatherer. Then, after meeting the Master, Crypto believes his enemy is really Saxon, who supposedly used Calvin to try and destroy Crypto. It then turns out that Saxon was under the employ of Francodyne CEO Henri Crousteau. It is then revealed that Saxon and Crousteau were both part of Emperor Meningitis's operation to manufacture Synthetic DNA. Then after killing Meningitis, the Master appears and reveals that he was the actual conspirator all along, using all of them, including Crypto, in order to usurp the Furon throne.
* ''VideoGame/TheConduit'' has one of these revealed in a voiceover ''after'' the game ends.
* In the UsefulNotes/SegaGenesis game ''VideoGame/ShiningForce'' almost every boss you fight, no matter how big of a bastard they were, turns out to have been innocent and only under the control of the real BigBad, Darksol. It's really kind of irritating to have worked so hard to defeat someone only to have them go "What have I done? Forgive me, I was only under the control of Darksol, I'm actually good." before they die. Yeah, and we're supposed to forgive you after you killed more than half of the Shining Force?
* Both ''VideoGame/DeusEx'' games make liberal use of this trope. In the first, the NSF is working for/with the protagonist's brother, Paul Denton, who is in turn working with Tracer Tong and the Illuminati under Morgan Everett. On the other side, UNATCO is under the thumb of Walton Simons and FEMA, who are puppets of Majestic-12, which is in turn led by Bob Page. Interestingly, the player knows who the BigBad is because he's right there in the opening cinematic. The fun in the plotline is seeing how it eventually connects to him. The sequel ''VideoGame/DeusExInvisibleWar'' cranks it up a notch: The Order church is secretly being run by The Illuminati, and their mortal enemies the WTO are ''also'' under the control of the Illuminati, who use the conflict between the two as a cover for controlling the world economy. There's a nifty bit of foreshadowing in the "Coffee Wars" subplot, where the rival coffeehouses Peequod's and [=QueeQuegs=] are both under the control of a single corporation- which is in turn controlled by the Illuminati. Meanwhile, the Tarsus project is under the control of [=ApostleCorp=], which in a strange case of HijackedByGanon is run by JC Denton, the protagonist from the first game. Damn.
* In ''VideoGame/TheGodfather: The Game'', the Barzini Don is fingered as the one keeping the nearly-ruined Tattaglias alive and responsible for Sonny's death. In-game, when you die after having taken over a business but not the racket in the back, you will find that the business still counts as under enemy control and is still defended by them. It's even literal, as most rackets are located in backrooms of the legitimate businesses.
** Roth in the second game.
** Michael can be seen as this, since while both Aldo and Dominic are the nominal Dons, they're taking their cues from him.
* In ''VideoGame/LuminousArc2'', at first Master Mattias was build up to be a villain along with Fatima. However, later in the game, Bharva was revealed to be The Man Behind The Man and was responsible for the fire that killed Rina and Steiner's parents and give suggestions to started the Runic Engine research in order to kill all humans. Behind ''him'' is Mage Queen Elicia from 4000 years ago, whose research in life gives her immortality and created the Beast Fiends.
* The ''Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog'' franchise does this a LOT. Take, for instance, ''VideoGame/SonicAdventure2'': it's not a perfect example, but out of the three "bad guys", one is just trying to avenge the death of a loved one, one is working with Eggman because it involves jewel theft, and the other (Eggman himself)... ends up working with the good guys to stop ''[[TheChessmaster his own grandfather's plan to destroy Earth]]'', which revolved around Eggman's plan the whole time. This final mission also happens to involve a GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere and a good ol'-fashioned [[ThePlan plan.]]
** The same game has a straighter example with Shadow being The Man Behind The Man for Eggman.
** Subverted in ''VideoGame/SonicGenerations''. You fight Dr. Eggman twice in the game, both times end up with him getting kidnapped by the Time Eater. Then, when you get to the final boss, you expect to fight the aforementioned abductor. However, it is actually revealed that Eggman was behind the Time Eater after all. You proceed to become Super Sonics and smash his latest creation.
* ''VideoGame/GuardiansCrusade'' has multiple fakeouts that all hit at once, such as who the prophesied Hero (you're just babysitting), what Baby is as well as who the real villain is. But don't mistake the fake villain for a silly plot twist: before the reveals the DiscOneFinalBoss had set up cults in every city of the world, which are now launching an all-out assault and doing more side-quest related damage than the demon frolicking in the middle of the ocean is even bothering to do.
* Hector, at first, seems to only be the BigBad of the VideoGame/DeptHeaven game ''VideoGame/RivieraThePromisedLand'', but supplemental materiel reveals that he had a hand in the ''entire series''. He's the one who had Nessiah tortured and exiled, causing his madness and subsequently leading directly to the events of ''VideoGame/YggdraUnion'', ''and'' he's the one who manipulated the events leading to Marietta's fall from grace in ''VideoGame/KnightsInTheNightmare''.
* ''VideoGame/BaldursGate'': So you came back WhereItAllBegan and killed the leaders of the evil organisation that was pushing for the threat of war to gain money and power and was behind all the troubles in the Sword Coast? That might sound like it was the end, but in the game, you'll probably not think that. Sure enough, it turns out they were only pawns for Sarevok, their leader's adopted son, whose motives are more of the "seas of blood" and "AGodAmI" sort. And so were you, if you actually did kill them; if not, he'll just frame you for it.
** The Iron Throne in turn were the men behind Davaeorn, who was the man behind the Chill and Black Talon bandits, who were the men behind Mulahey and the kobolds in Nashkel. Oi.
** ''Throne of Bhaal'': The Five are clearly the enemies, leading their armies to destroy those who they think who stand in the way of their ascension. Only actually their leader is the apparent philanthropist Melissan, who also gives [[UnwittingPawn you many of your quests as a good guy.]]
** For that matter, the entire ''Dark Alliance'' series in its entirety was shaping up to be a long string of this. At the end of the first game, a lizardman who gave you supplies to help you defeat the final boss Eldrith turns out to be [[TheMole working for another gang of villains who wanted Eldrith out of their way.]] After the final battle of the second game, we cut to what appears to be some Egyptian tomb, where [[GiantSpaceFleaFromNowhere we see a heretofore unexplained sun god or whatever and his priest discussing the disappointing failure of the second game's gang of villains.]] Unfortunately, the company responsible for the titles went out of business after that, leaving the player with no way of finding out [[SortingAlgorithmOfEvil just how far Interplay was willing to take these cliffhanger endings.]]
* In ''VideoGame/{{Xenogears}}'', Ramsus is introduced as being the main antagonist of the story. It turns out that his unassuming girlfriend, Miang, is the real villain. Not only that, but she is essentially "god" in human form, and she has been manipulating world events for 10,000 years.
** Its spiritual successor ''VideoGame/{{Xenosaga}}'' has a rare 'good guy' example. chaos was the man behind the man to none other than UsefulNotes/{{Jesus}}: he did the miracles, Jesus got the credit.
* In ''VideoGame/SpaceRangers'', the Klissan invaders you spend most of the game fighting turn out to have been manipulated by the SpacePirate king Rachakhan in a LetsYouAndHimFight scheme. The idea was to tie up the galactic military, leaving no one to protect the traders from Rachakhan's plundering. It's a [[FridgeLogic pretty dumb evil scheme]], when you think about it, since if it had succeeded the Klissan would overrun galactic civilization, leaving nothing for Rachakhan to plunder. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nice Job Killing Five Spacefaring Civilizations, Villain ]]
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfDragoon'' first starts off with Dart's girlfriend being captured and imprisoned. When he arrives at her place of capture he is quickly introduced to a man named Frugel, who is the cruel warden of Helena prison. After defeating him Dart learns that he in fact takes orders from Emperor Doel, who lives in the Black Castle of Kazas. Doel also is taking orders from a man named Lloyd, who is acting as TheDragon for Emperor Diaz. Emperor Diaz is revealed to actually be Dart's father, Zieg Feld, who plays the part of the main antagonist for the rest of the game up until the final boss, Melbu Frahma, who was posessing Zieg the entire time.
* "Craig" from ''VideoGame/StrongBadsCoolGameForAttractivePeople''.
* In ''VideoGame/EpicMickey'', [[WesternAnimation/OswaldTheLuckyRabbit Oswald]] reveals that all of the Blotlings [[WesternAnimation/MickeyMouse Mickey]] fought, including the [[LivingShadow Shadow Blot]], were all drippings from the [[EldritchAbomination REAL Shadow Blot]], who was [[SealedEvilinaCan imprisoned inside a bottle]] on the summit of Mickeyjunk Mountain.]]
* The final cutscene in ''VideoGame/HaegemoniaLegionsOfIron'' reveals that the Darzok are the puppets of the AbusivePrecursors who are responsible for the extinction of the Solon. But this SequelHook did not result in a second game.
* ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxFreelancePolice''
** In ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxSaveTheWorld'', where the true villain is Hugh Bliss, who is actually a sentient colony of alien bacteria that feeds on happiness.
** In ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxBeyondTimeAndSpace'', the true villain appears to be TheDevil, but he is actually a pawn in the hands of the Soda Poppers, a trio of growth-stunted former child actors.
** In ''VideoGame/SamAndMaxTheDevilsPlayhouse'', it is revealed that the true mastermind of the events of the third season is not Skun-ka'pe, not Papierwaite, not [[EldritchAbomination Yog Soggoth]], and not even [[FluffyTheTerrible Junior]]. It is Max's super-ego, the narrator of the game, who got tired waiting for Max to discover his cultured side (Max is all id). Additionally, the Devil returns for a cameo to try to explain that he has absolutely nothing to do with Junior's rampage (since Junior's "toys" are stated to come from "the Devil's Toybox"). The Devil is making a televised statement that the Toybox predates his existence and has been given a misleading name.
* ''VideoGame/CrashBandicoot3Warped'' reveals that [[MadScientist Dr. Neo Cortex's]] plans from the last two games were under the instruction of Uka Uka, the EvilTwin of the witch doctor masks from the first two games.
* Tatanga, the main villain of ''VideoGame/SuperMarioLand'', is working for Wario in the game's [[VideoGame/SuperMarioLand2SixGoldenCoins sequel]]. [[{{Fanon}} Some fans believe]] the main reason why he kidnapped Princess Daisy in the first place was just done to distract Mario so Wario will succeed in his evil plans!
* ''VideoGame/AgeOfMythology'' has several levels of this. The initially presented villain is Kamos the pirate, who turns out to be working for the cyclops warlord Gargarensis. Gargarensis is getting divine backing from Poseidon, and they're both working to free their ultimate master the Titan Kronos, who if freed has promised to give Poseidon the power to defeat Zeus, and make Gargarensis immortal.
* In ''VideoGame/EmbricOfWulfhammersCastle'', the Awesome Fellowship's ArchEnemy Lord Vecnathrax is actually being manipulated by Loni, who is taking advantage of his senility to pit him against the Fellowship for the artistic value of the struggles.
* The end chapter of ''VideoGame/TheWitcher'' reveals The Man Behind The Man, necessitating an Epilogue chapter to deal with him.
* In ''Franchise/ResidentEvil'', [[BigBad Albert Wesker]] is revealed to have been The Man Behind The Man to many of the events in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil0'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil4'', and ''VideoGame/ResidentEvilTheUmbrellaChronicles''. ''Umbrella Chronicles'' also reveals, that Wesker's [[TheRival rival]], [[FormerRegimePersonnel Sergei Vladimir]] was The Man Behind The Man to much of ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil2'', ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil3Nemesis'', and the rest of ''Umbrella Chronicles''. At the end of the day, most the series' plot up until then is the result of the war between these two men for control of [[MegaCorp Umbrella]]'s remnants. As [[{{Tykebomb}} Wesker]]'s [[EvilutionaryBiologist creator]], [[DragonInChief Sergei]]'s [[UndyingLoyalty employer]], and CorruptCorporateExecutive to the entire corporation, [[EvilOldFolks Ozwell]] [[EvilCripple E.]] [[NonActionBigBad Spencer]] can be said to be The Man Behind The Man (and TheManBehindTheCurtain) to the entire series (up until [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder Wesker]] [[HijackedByGanon offs]] him in ''VideoGame/ResidentEvil5'').
* ''VideoGame/MortalKombat'' does this, more specifically in ''VideoGame/MortalKombat2''. In the first game, Shang Tsung is hyped as the big bad, a deadly, powerful, long haired, evil sorcerer who has taken control of the shaolin tournament through unethical means, and corrupted it into chaos, ensuring that with 10 consecutive victories, he can take over Earthrealm. It's later revealed he's doing this for his boss, the emperor of Outworld, Shao Kahn, who the good guys eventually met when they're forced to continue a new tournament in Outworld itself.
** It goes even behind that. In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatDeception'', although foreshadowing had hinted at it in earlier games, we are faced with the resurrection and revival of Onaga, the Dragon King, former ruler of Outworld. The one Shao Kahn was formally an advisor to, and who he killed so he could take his throne.
*** Doesn't stop there. [[spoiler:Shinnok]], Shao Kahn, and Onaga are all said to be manipulated by the One Being. The immortal omnipotent being that existed before the realms were created, that battled the Elder Gods before time. As he couldn't be defeated, the Elder Gods shattered his existence using a powerful weapon, and used it to create the realms before he could reform. The One Being is now essentially all reality, and his conscious exists within everyone. The only way for him to return is to merge the realms together by subconsciously manipulating powerful beings such as [[spoiler:Shinnok]], Shao Kahn, and Onaga in their conquests.
*** [[spoiler: In ''VideoGame/MortalKombatX'', Shinnok's arcade ending reveals that the fallen Elder God was being manipulated by the One Being into merging the realms from behind the scenes, just as it did with Onaga and Shao Kahn.]]
* In ''VideoGame/TheReconstruction'', Havan behind Skint. Subverted by the man in front of the man turning out to not have been a villain in the first place. The real BigBad also has much shallower motives than the fake one, which may qualify as an additional subversion.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeOriginsAwakening'' reveals that the Architect, a sapient darkspawn trying to "free" his kind and give them free will, awakened Urthemiel, BigBad of ''Origins'', and caused the Fifth Blight. Unusually, this was accidental; the Architect is trying to ''stop'' the Blights, and inadvertently tainted Urthemiel while trying to "free" him. [[NiceJobBreakingItHero Nice job breaking it, antivillain.]]
* ''Franchise/TheLegendOfZelda'':
** In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaOracleGames'', Trinrova are this for Onox and Veran if both games are linked.
** In ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaSkywardSword'', The Imprisoned/Demise is this for Lord Ghirahim. Not that Ghirahim keeps it a secret that he's not the one in charge. Demise is this for ''Ganon'' as well by way of the latter being an incarnation of the former's hatred.
* Julius, from ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyAdventure'' / ''VideoGame/SwordOfMana''.
* In ''VideoGame/DarkSouls'', Gwyndolin is the one secretly behind Gwynevere, with the Gwynevere you face actually being an illusion. Gwyndolin is using her to manipulate the Undead into linking the fire, so then he can ruling through her by proxy.
* ''VideoGame/KidIcarusUprising'' sets you up to fight Medusa, the [[BigBad Big Bad]] of the previous NES game. It turns out Medusa's resurrection was just a distraction courtesy of the true villain, Hades.
* ''Franchise/TheElderScrolls''
** The BigBad of ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsArena Arena]]'', [[EvilSorcerer Jagar]] [[EvilChancellor Tharn]], is revealed in later works to have been the pawn of Mehrunes Dagon, the [[OurGodsAreDifferent Daedric Prince]] of [[DestroyerDeity Destruction]]. Dagon himself serves as the BigBad of the ''Battlespire'' DungeonCrawl spin-off game and of ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsIVOblivion Oblivion]]''. As later revealed in an [[AllThereInTheManual out-of-game]] [[WordOfGod developer-written]] "[[LooseCanon Obscure Text]]", Dagon is himself a pawn of the even GreaterScopeVillain, Alduin, the [[DragonsAreDivine draconic]] BeastOfTheApocalypse.
** ''[[Videogame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim Skyrim]]'':
*** The local crime boss Maven Black-Briar is effectively in charge of the city of Riften. Between using the ThievesGuild for coercion, having contacts within the [[MurderInc Dark Brotherhood]] for assassination, being personal friends with the local Jarl/Governor (which appears to be an actual friendship; one Maven exploits without a second thought, but an actual friendship nonetheless), and running a very profitable meadery (which, much like her friendship, seems to be quite legitimate). Maven has no problem burning down the competition (she'll make an offer before doing that and Black-Briar mead seems quite popular through Skyrim regardless). She so effectively controls the city that when she becomes Jarl (if you support the Empire in the {{Civil War}} questline) its treated like little more than a formal acknowledgement of her position.
*** Molag Bal, Daedric Prince of [[TheCorrupter Domination and Corruption]] and MonsterProgenitor of vampires, serves as both this and a GreaterScopeVillain for the ''Dawnguard'' DLC. It was he who turned [[BigBad Lord Harkon]] into a pureblood vampire along with the rest of his family, thus giving rise to the Volkihar Clan in the first place. Being the progenitor of all vampires, it also makes him indirectly responsible for [[spoiler:Arch-Curate Vyrthur's]] corruption, which results in him creating the Prophecy of the Tyranny of the Sun which sets the plot of ''Dawnguard'' into motion. Essentially, he is the GreaterScopeVillain ''behind'' the Man Behind The Man.
** In ''[[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsOnline Online]]'', Molag Bal once again serves as this, this time to [[DragonWithAnAgenda Mannimarco]], though you're aware of it from the start.
* VideoGame/SuperRobotWarsUX, Hazard from Tobikage is responsible for 90% of the trouble you have with humans in the game and then some. He manipulates the government and media, depicting your guys as terrorists, is arrested but breaks out of prison and somehow manages to become the supreme commander of the UN forces and nukes the Festum resulting in the events of the Fafner movies, when Sakomizu (Rean) attacks him, Mamoru (Fafner) protects the ship because it has nukes on it but then Hazard just shoots at both of them, hitting and killing just Mamoru. He gives Rouri (Rean) a nuke to drop on Tokyo, which in the end leads to Sakomizu's death. He fires off nukes again during the operation Azure II leading to Misao's (Fafner) death. He turns the Mazinkaiser SKL bad guys (humans) into unwilling suicide bombers and helps Mishima (Macross F) to brainwash the Vajra.
* ''VideoGame/{{Robopon}}'':
** Mob boss Knives is merely a figurehead of his syndicate, with his secretary Circe holding all the power.
** Dr. Zero, BigBad of the first game, is revealed in the second to be an OverlordJr raised in villainy by his MadScientist dad.
* The way to the best ending within ''VideoGame/CaveStory'' reveals that the TragicVillain Balos was the one responsible for both the creation of the Demon Crown The Doctor and his predecessors sought after in order to rule the world and the curse of Misery and Balrog to serve whomever bears the Demon Crown.
* Zigzagged by ''VideoGame/MageGauntlet''. Hidden notes in several levels suggest the existence of a much more powerful demon than Hurgoth: Uamuleth, the deity of the Ashen Cult. He's the boss of the Cult's levels, and he's insulted by the notion that Hurgoth sent him to wreak havoc. When defeated, however, he drops the same crystal tether as the other Dark Realm bosses, indicating that Hurgoth really did send him. [[spoiler:Ultimately averted: Uamuleth has nothing to do with the rest of the plot, Hurgoth is just an unintimidating gatekeeper, and the real Big Bad, Whitebeard, has no affiliation with either. It's never revealed whether or not Uamuleth is Hurgoth's boss, however.]]
* [[spoiler: Meden Traore]] is revealed to be the true leader of Oros Phlox in ''VideoGame/ProjectXZone''. [[spoiler: Byaku Shin]] is also this to Saya and Sheath in the second game.
* This is a possible situation in Orlais at the end of the ''VideoGame/DragonAgeInquisition''. For it to happen, The Empress must die and her cousin the Duke becomes Emperor, ''and'' if the Empress's elven spymaster gains blackmail over the Duke and can get him to do what she wants. Whether this is a good thing overall is [[GreyAndGreyMorality a matter of debate,]] but it definitely works out well for Orlesian elves. Two other outcomes in the game have ''you'' as this to Empress Celene. The first is if the Empress rules alone, without Gaspard or Briala. The epilogue at the end of the game makes it clear that the only reason Celene remains on the throne is because the Inquisition backs her up. The second outcome occurs if you have enough evidence to blackmail all three of them into collaborating - the results are the same, only the Inquisition also controls a capable military leader and a network of Elf spies.
* In ''VideoGame/HolyUmbrella'', after defeating the Emperor Dondera, you are then confronted by the true Emperor, a monstrous figure who was in DemonicPossession of him the whole time.
* Ending Q of ''VideoGame/NightStriker'' reveals that [[spoiler: the [[TheDragon terrorist adjutant]] is the true mastermind behind the organization, having manipulated the mentally unstable terrorist leader.]]
* Taken UpToEleven in ''[[VideoGame/WildARMs3 Wild ARMs 3]]''. The first villain presented is Janus, who has [[spoiler:the three prophets]] behind him. Then, you find the man behind ''them'': [[spoiler:the metal demon Siegfried from [[VideoGame/WildARMs1 the original game]]]]. After he's defeated, yet ''another'' example pops up in [[spoiler:the dream demon Beatrice]], who has been behind [[spoiler:the Order of the Ark of Destiny, Shane, and by extension ''the player'']] all along!

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* ''Franchise/AceAttorney'':
** [[VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorney The first game ever]] has Miles Edgeworth, the smug, arrogant "genius prosecutor" who will "do anything to get a guilty verdict." Then in the fourth case of the game, you're up against the devilish-sounding and looking Manfred von Karma, Edgeworth's mentor. It doesn't help that von Karma, also a perfectionist, tries to get the boy he took in since Edgeworth's father died found guilty for the sake of preserving his 40-year-long perfect record. Not only that, but the identity of the murderer in that case is deduced by Phoenix in court, but it's not until he he finds a letter in said culprit's shack that he discovers that it was von Karma who came up with the plan for the murder.
** ''VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigationsMilesEdgeworth'' has a large scale international smuggling ring, and throughout a large portion of the game, you see small areas of it, and solve crimes related to it. Eventually you find out that Calisto Yew not only ordered a hit job, murdered two men in cold blood, tried shooting the main protagonist dead, betrayed and back-stabbed her friends, but is also part of the smuggling ring [[UpToEleven AND ON TOP OF THAT]] also claims to be the Yatagarasu. Throughout a large portion of the game, you're lead to believe she's the big bad, and the person behind everything. Until it's eventually revealed that she's just a puppet who was being ordered around by the REAL big bad, the ringleader of the entire smuggling operation.
** The ([[NoExportForYou Japan-only]]) sequel to ''Investigations'' has an even more shocking example. By the end of the fourth case it becomes apparent that some mastermind has been planning things as far back as the first case. Then, about three-quarters through the fifth and final case, the characters uncover a criminal conspiracy with an apparent BigBadEnsemble. But by the time the characters figure this out, the conspirators are finished - one of them is dead, and the other two have been arrested for murders in the second and fourth cases. That's when Edgeworth deduces the real mastermind - the circus performer he defended in the second case, who up until this point was completely innocent and completely harmless. [[ApparentlyPowerlessPuppetmaster Turns out he's the real]] BigBad and he manipulated the murderers in three of the prior cases. He even manipulated Edgeworth himself in order to get revenge on the people who had ruined his life.
* ''VisualNovel/{{Sunrider}}'' starts out as a pretty straightforward war story, with [[PeoplesRepublicOfTyranny PACT]] as the main antagonists and their megalomaniacal dictator [[GalacticConqueror Veniczar Arcadius]] as the BigBad. Then itís revealed that Arcadius is just a persona adopted by the Prototypes, a [[HiveMind collective]] of telepathic clones who are pulling PACTís strings and claim to be doing so for the [[TheFederation Solar Alliance]] as well. The Prototypes in turn are subservient to their HiveQueen Alpha.

* ''Toys/{{BIONICLE}}'': With the exception of the [[PredecessorVillain Barraki]] and the [[ProudWarriorRace Skrall]], every major ArcVillain was either working directly for ([[EliteMooks Rahkshi]], [[BigCreepyCrawlies Visorak]], and the [[TheCorrupter Karda Nui Makuta]]) or being manipulated by ([[AttackAnimal the Rahi]], [[TrueNeutral the Bohrok]], and the [[GangBangers Piraka]]) the BigBad [[MagnificentBastard Makuta]] [[SatanicArchetype Teridax]].

[[folder:Web Animation]]
* ''WebAnimation/{{Audience}}'': has the white Darkky that curses Litho and manipulates [[BigBad Showtime]] in the cold open of the first episode.
* [[spoiler: EXE]] in ''WebAnimation/TVTomeAdventures'' was the one really in charge of the D-Bug Organization. In ''WebAnimation/{{TOME}}'', [[spoiler: Rubirules]] takes on this role instead, with different motivations (as the D-Bug Organization, now called D-Buggers.org, is [[spoiler: [[AdaptationalHeroism more benevolent as a whole]] this time around]]).
* ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'': For the first volume, the main villain appears to be Roman, who is stealing all the Dust in Vale and appears to have some kind of plan that involves attacking [[ExtranormalInstitute Beacon Academy]], where the protagonists are training. The end of the volume reveals that he's been working for Cinder, who spends the next two volumes being the threat the protagonists are trying to identify and stop. However, Cinder clearly communicates with someone that suggests she's not in charge, even though she adapts the plans on the fly whenever the situation on the ground changes. Salem is revealed in the Volume 3 finale, and Volume 4 makes it clear that both Cinder and Roman were working for her and that it's Salem's plans for Vale that Cinder has been [[TheHeavy in charge of carrying out]]. Salem has other subordinates for dealing with the other Kingdoms, but appears to favour Cinder, something the other subordinates can't stand. [[BigGood Ozpin]] and [[BenevolentConspiracy his subordinates]] knew Salem was the real threat, but [[YouCantThwartStageOne struggled to identify]] the subordinate she had sent to Vale.
* ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' uses this trope a few times.
** Season 10 reveals [[AIIsACrapshoot Sigma]] as the one behind [[SerialKiller the Meta]]. However, it's [[SubvertedTrope subverted]] due to Sigma dying at the end of season 6.
** Season 12 reveals that both of the two factions on Chorus, the Federal Army of Chorus and the New Republic, are being manipulated by Locus and Felix into fighting each other. The two mercenaries are also revealed to be working for an unseen person going under the alias of "Control," revealed at the end of the season to be Malcolm Hargrove, CEO of Charon Industries.
* Semi-invoked in ''WebAnimation/BrokenSaints'': The two {{Chessmaster}}s behind the Big Plan are presented as equal threats, only differing in that one stays more mysterious for longer than the other. Then, naturally, it turns out the more mysterious one, Lear, was just manipulating his more active partner Palmer, whom the heroes thought was the BigBad. Lear betrays and murders Palmer, revealing himself to be the real BigBad.
* In ''Machinima/CultOfPersonality'', [[WordOfGod which takes place before Mann Vs. Machine]], the then unknown Gray Mann is supporting oWn with funding, weapons, and prototypes of his robots in exchange for combat footage. Said combat footage would then be used to improve the AI of the robots and make them more closer to the mercenaries in terms of combat expertise and personality.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* ''Webcomic/BobAndGeorge'': In the final battle, it is revealed that Fistandantilus was controlling Bob.
%%* ''Webcomic/FunnyFarm'' does this at considerable length.
* ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance'': Torg (the hero) himself becomes The Man Behind The Man to the [[IneffectualSympatheticVillain wannabe]] DiabolicalMastermind Minion Master, while convincing the Minion Master that he's his minion. He's secretly using the Minion Master to obtain the technology to rescue his friends, and manipulating the Minion Master to take out other supervillains rather than do evil. Then the whole pattern gets more complicated with more serious villains getting involved, and more men hiding behind each other ensues.
** For a 'Mastermind', he's easily manipulated; his own sister manipulates him as well, and they both get burned.
** Dr. Schlock has usurped Prometheus as the Man behind Hereti Corp. Since it's a corporation full of evil characters, there's quite a few figures he can get behind.
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** We've now met the Evil Outsiders behind the Linear Guild - although in this case Sabine is the only one who knows about them.
** General Tarquin and his friend Malack are the men behind ''several'' of the easy-come-easy-go kingdoms on the Western Continent. In the case of the Empire of Blood, at least, they're doing all the real ruling for the Empress, an unusually thick (in more ways than one) red dragon. But it's even deeper than that: Their four old adventuring buddies are behind the thrones of two other empires, using manipulation and war politics to ensure their anonymous power no matter who's nominally in charge - and the figurehead changes regularly.
** Redcloak is this to Lord Xykon. He ''acts'' submissive and serves the role as Xykon's toady while actually manipulating him to his own ends. Or at least he thinks he is. It's strongly hinted that Xykon is aware of it and believes ''he'' is manipulating ''Redcloak'', and he's certainly been on the ball about Redcloak (and family)'s plans in the past.
** The [[GodOfEvil Dark One]] is this to [[HighPriest Redcloak]] (making him/it the man behind the man behind the man) -- every action Redcloak takes is to fulfil the Dark One's Plans.
* In ''Webcomic/PowerpuffGirlsDoujinshi'', pretty much every villainous act can be traced back to [[BigBad Dr. X]]. When [[ArchEnemy Mojo Jojo]] tries going after the Girls himself, he is forcibly recruited into X's [[QuirkyMinibossSquad Darkstar Council]].
* In ''Webcomic/DeviantUniverse'', Corvus is this to the Dark Legion due to having some kind of control over its leader Anarchy.
* Complicatedly used in ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}''. The Black Monarchs are the {{Big Bad}}s at first, but their DragonWithAnAgenda, Jack Noir, kills them and assumes the title. Later it's revealed that Vriska manipulated events so that Jack rose to power. And even later, Doc Scratch reveals he manipulated her all as part of his own plan to bring his boss, Lord English, into the universe. It's hinted however that the ultimate BigBad may in fact be Lil' Cal. [[spoiler: So, still Lord English.]]
* ''Webcomic/ElGoonishShive'': The BigBad of the "New and Old Flames" arc turned out to be the short, hairy, quiet comic book geek, Dex. But it turns out he was under some kind of MindControl. The main cast know it must have been an immortal due to the circumstances, but only the reader and maybe a couple of other characters know it was Pandora.
* ''Webcomic/{{Spacetrawler}}'': The protagonists initially believe Kuu-Drahc, Apex Speaker of the Galactic Organizational Body, to be the BigBad. As it turns out, he's just taking orders from Qwahntoo, the guy who enslaved the Eebs and founded the Galactic Organizational Body in the first place.
* In ''Webcomic/GirlGenius'', [[http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20130628 Tweedle is frustrated by multiple layers of this.]]
* When [[DangerousDeserter Talzo]] returns in ''Webcomic/KirbyAdventure'', he brings along several other baddies to back him up in his fight against the Kirby Adventure Squad. While at first appearing to be the leader of the group, he is soon revealed to be the TheDragon to an as of yet [[HiddenVillain unseen entity]] who also seems determined to take down the squad.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* Stacy Bradshaw is this to Bridget in ''WebVideo/SororityForever''.
* ''Literature/WhateleyUniverse'':
** Don Sebastiano, the BigBad who rules [[SuperheroSchool Whateley Academy]], dropped hints for some time that Hekate, his "queen", scared even him. Now we know that ''she'' was really behind the horrific act that gave Don Sebastiano his power base. BUT we also know there's someone behind her. Someone we've never seen except in a concealing cloak...
** More recently there's been a story about a villain who became the Man Behind The Man by ''accident'' -- basically bluffing a smallish gang and checking up on them later to discover they'd set up the international "Master of the World Network", with thousands of pawns, all channeling money and information back to that one gang leader, who was more than happy to give it all to his "Master". Later on in the story this villain does a similar thing, except this time ''he actually does control it all''.
%%* Metus to the Skrall in ''Toys/{{Bionicle}}''.
* Roleplay/WeAreOurAvatars: [[VideoGame/FalloutNewVegas Yes Man]] to the [[VideoGame/MadWorld Deathwatch Organization]] and [[VideoGame/NoMoreHeroes UAA]]. Then, it turns out Yes Man was using the plan of a "Courier 6"
* In ''Literature/{{Worm}}'', [[DiabolicalMastermind Coil]] is this to the [[NobleDemon Undersiders and Travellers,]] using them as proxies to TakeOverTheCity.
* A non-villainous version in the Yogscast Tekkit/Jaffa Factory series. Sjin takes orders from Sips who takes orders from a mechanical head underground that is later revealed to be operated by Sjin.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Twin Masters to High Roller in the second season of ''WesternAnimation/Hero108''.
* Sslither to Metlar in ''WesternAnimation/{{Inhumanoids}}''.
* Crooler to Cragger in Franchise/{{LEGO}} ''Legends of Chima''; Crooler is the truly evil one of them using [[PsychoSerum rage-inducing pollen]] to control Cragger so she can use his newfound power as leader of the crocodile tribe for her own goals.
* Book 2 of ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'' sets up Korra's EvilUncle Unalaq as the BigBad, the main conflict seemingly being the civil war between the Water Tribes. It's revealed halfway through the season he's actually TheDragon to Vaatu, and plans on releasing him so they can TakeOverTheWorld.
* In ''WesternAnimation/RickAndMorty'', the [[TheIlluminati Shadow Council of Ricks]] turns out to have been this for the original Council of Ricks that [[spoiler:Rick C-137 ("our" Rick) killed earlier in the season]]. They plan to be this for the newly elected [[spoiler:President Morty]] as well, but unfortunately for them, [[spoiler: President Morty--a.k.a. Evil Morty--has other plans, and [[BoardToDeath has most of them killed]] and [[ThrownOutTheAirlock their bodies blown out into space]]]].
* {{Implied}} in ''WesternAnimation/TheSpectacularSpiderMan'' -- [[EvilAlbino Tombstone]] is revealed as New York's "Big Man of Crime," but a few lines hint that he may be working for someone else. WordOfGod says that they wanted the Kingpin to be the Big Man, but couldn't [[ScrewedByTheLawyers because of legal issues]]; presumably, they would have introduced Kingpin as the real Big Man if things changed.
* A non-villainous version in ''WesternAnimation/SWATKats'': It's pretty obvious that Deputy Mayor Callie Briggs is the one who really runs Megakat City, which is a good thing considering how incredibly incompetent Mayor Manx is.
* When former BigBad Slade comes BackFromTheDead on ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'', it soon becomes apparent that someone or something is pulling his strings this time around, confirmed at the end of the episode "Birthmark" when he is shown kneeling to an unseen figure and calling it "master". It turns out to be [[DarkMagicalGirl Raven's demonic father]], [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Trigon the Terrible]].
* In the first season of ''WesternAnimation/XMenEvolution'', Magneto is this to Mystique, who is in turn the Man Behind the Man to the Brotherhood as far as the X-Men are concerned (though both the viewer and Xavier knew about her from the start, and the viewer knew Magneto was meddling from the end of the first episode). Later on, Apocalypse is the man behind Mesmero.