The Sociopath

"I see no difference between things and people."
Seishiro Sakurazuka, Tokyo Babylon

The Sociopath is far from your ordinary criminal or villain. Combine a willingness to cross the Moral Event Horizon without a shred of guilt, a keen sense of other people's mental and emotional fault lines and a Lack of Empathy and you have the consummate evildoer.

The Sociopath displays these following qualities:

  1. Lack of Empathy and Imperviousness to Shame: Utterly ruthless doesn't begin to describe them: except for when trying to appear normal, they will disregard any social norms and semblance of morality in pursuit of their own selfish desires. The Sociopath will do whatever it takes: lie, cheat, steal, extort, manipulate, or use outright violence without the slightest hesitation, disgust or remorse, and for as little as Pleasure or The Evulz. Murder and violence have no more emotional weight than eating Chinese takeout or some other mundane activity, and they have no concern for the direct or collateral damage they do to other people, being unable to understand why anyone should. Techniques for learning moral behaviour, such as reason, therapy, rehabilitation and behavioral reward/punishment, will not work on them or tend to only make their behavior even worse by making it easier for them to fake it.
  2. Consummate Liar and Manipulator: In the event they are ever targets of suspicion in crime dramas and thrillers, sociopaths are able to fool any Living Lie Detectors in the cast, pass polygraphs effortlessly, and fool even you, the audience, into believing they are genuinely kind and caring people who are victims of a "big misunderstanding" (assuming they are not so smugly confident of their own invincibility that they feel no need to hide their unsavory personality). Moreover, despite their lack of empathy, sociopaths are capable of using their knowledge of others' desires, emotions and insecurities to manipulate them for their own personal gain. Because of this, many of them are Faux Affably Evil. This is related to their lack of empathy and shame - they don't feel the slightest discomfort about lying or exploiting others so they do so with the same ease in which normal people perform mundane activities.
  3. Need for Stimulation: The Sociopath's raison d'etre (i.e.: an overriding goal which serves as one's "reason for existence"). Due to their inability to empathize or even care for those around them, sociopaths largely view their existence as boring and/or meaningless and therefore feel compelled to engage in "thrill-seeking" activities to alleviate their restlessness. How this manifests depends largely on the sociopath's personality. It can be as relatively benign as binging on video games, compulsively gambling, or leading highly promiscuous lifestyles. Far more dangerous examples are prone to satiate their lust for thrills by partaking in criminal enterprises, becoming serial rapists and/or killers, or (with regards to unusually high-functioning cases) accumulating vast wealth and/or influence for the sole purpose of dominating as many people as they can for their own amusement. By the same token, sociopaths have a very low tolerance for inconvenience or irritation which they often display through a pronounced lack of impulse control. Because of that many of them are Ax-Crazy and/or have a Hair-Trigger Temper and/or are Mood Swingers.
  4. A Grandiose Sense of Self-Worth: If there's a skill that exists, you can bet they believe they can master it in no time at all. From their perspective, they are the most handsome, intelligent and powerful individual that is and ever will be. Unlike the Narcissist whose self-esteem is vulnerable to others' perceptions, a sociopath's grandiosity about their self-worth remains constant regardless of how people view him/her. Even when their actions result in crushing failure, a sociopath feels no need to conform their conduct with others' views or standards. Conversely, in pursuit of their insatiable desire for stimulation, they will continue to push the envelope as much as they can do so without suffering the consequences (a self-destructive lifestyle which endangers not only themselves but everyone around them). Likewise, sociopaths are incapable of acknowledging personal responsibility for ANY of the failures or disappointments they encounter (i.e: events which they automatically attribute to those out to "keep them down" or unfortunate twists of fate entirely beyond their control).
  5. Shallow Affect: Their defining trait. A Sociopath is literally incapable of experiencing a deep emotional attachment towards others but - being a Consummate Liar - learns early in life how to fake them. They never truly understand the feelings of others on anything more than an intellectual level, and may even believe that everybody else is faking it too. As many Real Life criminal psychologists put it: "They know the words but not the music." This shallow emotional life means that the Sociopath is unable to form sincere long-term relationships with anything or anyone, but will feign feelings of love and affection if they feel it serves their purposes. Most of the true feelings a sociopath harbors towards others, positive or negative, are rooted in an insatiable desire to dominate or control them. While narcissists would prefer to be loved or at least respected by those around them, sociopaths don't care whether others view them positively as long as they don't stand in the way of their own self-centered gratification. In the rare event that a Sociopath actually does form an "attachment" to another person, it normally rises no further than that between an owner and a possession and/or a valuable resource for advancing their goals. Thus, once such "friends" cease to be a source of entertainment or otherwise outlive their usefulness, they abandon or kill them without ANY hesitation or regret unless (in the case of more high-functioning examples) they feel doing so would potentially jeopardize their own self-interest.

Many of these traits are shared with other disorders, but it's the combination of them all that creates the Sociopath. And, like many other disorders, sociopathy falls on a spectrum. Some sociopaths are just unusually self-absorbed. On the other end of the scale are the ruthless, remorseless monsters. Sociopaths also have varying personalities, levels of intelligence, and interests, which influences how their disorder manifests in everyday life.

The high-functioning Sociopath will usually have better-than-average impulse control for someone with their condition, and may actually appear perfectly normal. They know murder is bad because they're told it's bad — and know murderers who are caught will get in trouble — but the action has no more emotional weight to them than brushing their teeth. They emulate the moral behaviour of society because a failure to do so has negative consequences, and not because Good Feels Good. What You Are in the Dark exposes them for who they are, and they do not consider something wrong if they do not get caught. If killing advances their goals and they can get away with it, they will often do so. And they will often seek positions of respectability within their communities in order to maintain the façade of being just like everybody else.

Alternatively, they may simply possess goals that do not require murder or other criminal activities to achieve; this does not mean they won't strive to achieve those goals at the expense of the happiness of other people. And even if their goals would be more easily achieved with murder, they might still refrain - but that's because they fear getting caught, not the feelings of others. They might go their whole lives appearing almost normal... but there will always be something a little 'off' about them; something cold and distant and fake. And they won't even care. This type can make a terrifying Knight Templar, liable to belive that Utopia Justifies the Means- some sociopathic serial killers claim they are simply a Necessary Evil removing undesirable elements from society or making a political statement. They may understand intellectually that their actions are undesirable in society at large, but feel that they should be rewarded, not punished, for acting to solve a perceived problem.

The low-functioning version is defined mostly by their impulse control being particularly shoddy, or having a personality type that predisposes them to violent behavior. For them, maintaining the façade of "fitting in" is simply impossible, as their violent outbursts make them highly visible. But even a low-functioning Sociopath can be glib and charming, allowing them to accrue loyal followers who perceive their behavior as revolutionary and secretly having a higher purpose. The sociopath will see these followers as useful pawns at best, however, and will not return any of their loyalty in kind. Though they may pretend to when it suits them.

If the Sociopath happens to be a ruler, and is automatically above the law, then expect them to be The Caligula.

If the Sociopath has standards, there's a good chance those standards are either carefully calculated to manipulate others, or incidental to the sociopath's personality type. Often, their lack of emotional investment in any kind of moral code or ideology can strike a person with more typical psychological makeup as Blue and Orange Morality.

The canonical alignment for many Sociopaths is Chaotic Evil of the Type 4 variety, though some Neutral Evil examples exist under the Type 3 variety. Lawful Evil Sociopaths are possible.

The trope is named following an old edition of the DSM which used the term to refer to what is now classed as Antisocial personality disorder. Though the terms sociopathy and psychopathy are still recognized in some circles, they have no official standing. See Analysis and Lack of Empathy for more detailed information.

Compare Sociopathic Hero, Comedic Sociopathy, Moral Sociopathy. Contrast the Narcissist, who has the grandiose ego and Lack of Empathy, but experiences the full range and intensity of human emotion, and is capable of love — even if it's a very one-sided, selfish kind of love. If a character qualifies as a Complete Monster, there's a very good chance that this trope applies to them.

Note: Very few fictional sociopaths — even the ones identified as such by the work itself — would be considered as such by a real-life psychiatrist. This is because, as Robert Hare points out in his book Without Conscience, sociopaths by definition are two-dimensional characters, lacking an ability to have anything resembling Character Development. (And also because people who have the full range of human emotions may find it near impossible to conceive of a human being that truly lives without them.) The biggest indication that a fictional character may score high on the psychopath checklist is antisocial behavior (whether violent or nonviolent) coupled with their loyalty or affection to other characters being dubious at best. So if a character has a Morality Pet, Morality Chain, or a deep attachment to a family member or leader that goes beyond simple practicality, it's a good bet this trope doesn't apply to the character.


    open/close all folders 

    Fan Works 
  • Checker Monarch from Getting Back on Your Hooves. She's been confirmed by Word of God to have been based off of real life sociopaths.
  • It's debatable if Theodore Nott is an example or not in To the Continuation, though, one character does explicitly label him as such, and he seems to agree. However, aside from one murder, which he had a somewhat sympathetic motive for, he doesn't really do anything concretely bad during the story.
  • In Fate's Favourite and it's prequel Tom Riddle regularly refers to himself as "a clinical psychopath" as a Jerk Justification whenever one of his "friends" (mostly Harry) seems to forget he's not a nice guy.
  • In Perfection Is Overrated, Hitomi Kirihara, a Deconstruction of a Jerk Sue, has this as her personality. She sees nothing wrong with using her Mind Control powers to rob and later murder people, and cares for no one other than herself to the point at which when her Child is destroyed, which would normally result in the death of the person she valued most, Hitomi herself dies.
  • Lampshaded in No Hoper when one of the vampyre students dies in front of Light and he shows no emotion over her death. The other students whine and scream at him and call him a sociopath. Light only agrees and tells them that they're probably right.
  • Uxie from Poké Wars shows all the signs. Utterly incapable of feeling remorse. Treats everyone around him as little more than disposable lab equipment. He casually orders genocide with the ease that someone would order a pizza.
  • Tsali the Ultimate Weapon from Sonic X: Dark Chaos is a Deconstruction of this. Several systems in his artificial brain were secretly modified to completely suppress his empathy and sense of mercy so he would never feel remorse for his crimes. However, when those systems are accidentally damaged...
  • The Friendship is Witchcraft version of Twilight Sparkle, hands down. Devoid of empathy, especially for poor Spike? Check. Completely unshakable belief that she is the center of the universe? Check. Master manipulator? Check. Impulsive? Oh, that's a big check.
  • Misunderstandings: Big Top. Torturing animals (both wild and sentient) in his sideshow for fun and profit is a dead give away. He also extremely manipulative, blackmailing a griffin into entering his exhibit, and torturing her into acting vicious. And he lied to her about her father being dead for several months and threaten to break her completely, like he had done to a minotaur, all with a huge grin on his face.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • Hokuto Kaneshiro is depicted as such here. During his screen time, he effortlessly manipulates Tsukune and his group, fooling them into believing he's on their side until he reveals that he personally orchestrated Kuyou's attack on Yokai Academy as a distraction so he could steal an Artifact of Doom from the school; in the final chapter of Act III, he shows little to no reaction when Kiria, whom he had a Villainous Friendship with, is killed, stating that this simply proves that he was right and Kiria's plan was doomed from the start. On top of it all, the entire extent of his plan is to bring back Alucard and then just sit back and watch as Alucard destroys the planet because he's convinced that all life, human and monster alike, is an evil and meaningless plague that needs to be wiped out.
    • The original Falla Cii has shades of this. Intelligent and manipulative? Check; she managed to easily manipulate Kyouko and ultimately trick Tsukune's group, who know from what Falla's good sister Luna told them that Falla is a heartless bitch, into thinking she wants to be come a good person? Complete Lack of Empathy and moral conscience? Check; Falla went so far as to send her own little sister Complica to her death For the Evulz, and later outright admitted to Luna and their mother that she viewed Complica as a disgrace to their species and she's happy that her younger sister is dead. On top of it all, she comes right out and says that nothing matters to her more than herself and power, not even her own family, and goes so far as to mock Tsukune and co. for ever believing that she would "choose family over power."
  • In Nightblade Nick claims to be one. Whether or not he is, he has many traits of being a sociopath, including the lack of moral compass and empathy.
  • Cedric from Voodoo's Disciple is considered to be one in the the story. Despite this he thinks that psychopathy fits him better.

    Films — Animated 
  • The DC Animated Movies have some notable sociopaths.
    • Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox has Eobard Thawne, the Reverse Flash. Batman describes Thawne as a textbook sociopath, and he's driven to make the Flash's life miserable. The movie even opens with him conspiring to blow up a good chunk of Central city, kill hundreds of civilians, the Rogues and Flash himself all to discredit him, when Flash traps him so he can't escape the explosion, Thawne's completely fine as long as the Flash dies. While he doesn't have anything to do with creating the bad alternate timeline (which was the result of Barry going back in time, saving his mother and causing temporal ripples), he makes it a point to kill people to draw the Flash's attention, and is willing to let the world be destroyed (with him on it) as long as the Flash dies.
    • Both incarnations of The Joker are depicted as textbook sociopaths.
      • The Joker in Batman: Under the Red Hood is the direct cause for all the misery that happens in the movie. The film opens with him brutally beating Jason Todd with a crowbar, then killing him by blowing up the warehouse. When Black Mask reluctantly frees him from Arkham, Joker repays him by attempting to burn him and his employees alive to lure the Red Hood out. Even when it's revealed that Red Hood is actually Jason Todd revived by a Lazarus Pit, Joker displays no remorse for causing Jason's descent into villainy.
      • The Joker in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns shows that age is neither a requirement nor a detriment to pure evil. Having been in a decades-long catatonic state due to Batman going into retirement, Batman's resurgence causes Joker to snap out of his catatonia and back into his murderous ways. After being asked to appear on a talk show, the Joker kills the doctor treating him by slitting his throat with a broken coffee mug and kills the audience with Joker Toxin. He then sells poisoned cotton candy to boy scouts at an amusement park and later goes on a shooting rampage, killing everyone he comes across to escape Batman, all to make the Dark Knight lose control and break his one rule And when that doesn't work he snaps his own neck to spite Batman.
  • From the Disney Animated Canon, where Vile Villain, Saccharine Show tends to be in effect:
    • Lady Tremaine from Cinderella. You could argue she cares about her daughters, but look closer and you will see she only cares about her daughters' social standing, thus inarguably her own. She is an abusive parent to Cinderella, Drizella and Anastasia alike. Even worse in the direct-to-video sequel Cinderella III: A Twist in Time, where she makes Anastasia into her new Butt Monkey.
    • Percival C. McLeach from The Rescuers Down Under fits this trope, although he is a lot less intelligent than most examples. He is still ruthless, cunning, guiltless, self-centered and anti-social, on top of being a very Bad Boss to poor Joanna the Goanna.
    • Jafar from Aladdin was described as "Senor Psychopath" by the Genie, and with good reason too.
    • The Lion King: Scar has zero qualms over planning the deaths of his family and pretending to be racked with grief.
    • Professor Ratigan is a pretty dark example. He's a sophisticated rodent with a charming demeanor and a heart as black as coal. He has drowned orphans and widows, been responsible for most of London's troubles, and has a pet cat, which he uses to kill anyone he wants. During his Villain Song, he had one of his own henchmen killed because he called him a rat. The scary thing about this is he wasn't concerned at all. Well, you couldn't have expected anything less from a kid friendly version of Professor Moriarty.
    • Judge Claude Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame cares for nothing or no one but himself, and the only times he expresses any regret for his actions stem completely from a self-serving fear that he'll be sent to Hell, rather than any genuine remorse.
    • Tangled gives us Mother Gothel, perhaps one of the more disturbing animated examples of this trope. So vain and self-centered it drives her to commit the most heinous acts without ever feeling guilty for it, she plays the role of an emotionally abusive parent to Rapunzel shockingly well. Always painting herself as the victim, always guilt-tripping Rapunzel into obedience.. but still resorting to violence to get what she wants. And she has superficial charm all over.
    • Wreck-It Ralph's King Candy, who manipulates and constructs reasonable arguments for people to listen to him. Also, doesn't care about who he hurts if it means getting what he wants. As Turbo, he got two games unplugged because of his insane jealousy and tried to delete Vanellope out of her game. When this wouldn't work, he redesigns her into a glitch and has her shamed and outcast by the other characters in Sugar Rush after erasing everyone's memories.
    • Frozen has an example of this trope in Prince Hans. He, for most of the movie, is shown being a nice person who is always willing to help. It's not until Anna needs his love and they are alone that the reveal is made, and it's just as shocking to the audience as it is to Anna. Hans has from the beginning been trying to gain the throne of Arendelle and is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way (namely Elsa and Anna) while looking like a gentle and noble person to characters and audience.
    • Big Hero 6 has a more tragic example in the form of Yokai, AKA Callaghan. He was once a kind and caring scientist who genuinely loved his daughter Abigail. However, when an accident with an experimental transporter created by Krei seemingly killed her, the event drove him mad with grief and made him don the villainous alias Yokai in an attempt to take revenge on Krei. His thirst for revenge so twisted his mind that it drove him to repeatedly attempt to murder the titular heroes (who are not only children, but his own students) and nearly destroy the city all with no remorse. However, this is ultimately subverted at the end when his daughter is revealed to still be alive. Upon hearing this revelation, he expresses genuine remorse for his crimes.
  • Free Birds has Reggie. He constantly gets abused by many of the film's antagonist and blames his faults on the only characters who was nice to him.
  • The titled character from Igor is a huge Jerk Ass to the only people who were nice to him, because the antagonist kept abusing him.
  • From The Incredibles, we have Syndrome. His vengeful hatred towards Mr. Incredible notwithstanding, he has zero qualms about destroying entire cities and killing innocent people (even children) for the sake of power and personal gain. In one scene, we even witness him excitedly watching various clips of people all over the world getting slaughtered and killed. Sounds like a pretty typical sociopath.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho: Patrick Bateman. A perfect example. On the article about the most believable sociopaths in film, Bateman scored higher on the APD/sociopathy checklist than Hannibal Lecter and the Joker.
  • Kit from Badlands, who goes on a cross-country murder spree, and his vacuous girlfriend Holly. Kit is obvious, given the casual and untroubled way he goes about murdering people. But one of the more interesting things about the film is the suggestion that Holly is just as bad a sociopath as Kit is, and maybe worse. There's her narration, which throughout the film casts their story as a fairy-tale romance while Kit is going around murdering people. She shows nothing but Dull Surprise as Kit's body count mounts, except for one time when she slaps him after he kills her father. She has an idle and pointless conversation with Cato while a gutshot Cato bleeds to death. And while Kit at least has an emotional connection to her, she doesn't seem to love him that much at all, and she eventually casts him off when she gets bored. As they are living a quiet existence in the woods for a few days following her father's murder, Holly says of Kit:
    "At times I wished he'd fall in the river and drown, so I could watch."
  • Catherine Tramell of the Basic Instinct series is a rare example of a female sociopath in popular culture. A charismatic, seductive, narcissistic author, Femme Fatale, pathological liar and Serial Killer, she manipulates and causes the deaths of nearly everyone in the story, including many of her lovers and her own parents, largely for her own personal gain, amusement and to inspire her novels with no real remorse whatsoever. She is even described as such by multiple characters in the films.
  • Vincent from Collateral. He's even described as such, in story.
  • In Conspiracy, Nazis official Reinhard Heydrich shows all of the classic traits: Superficial charm, glibness, personal manipulation, compulsive recklessness ("the secret to enjoying life is to live dangerously," he says), and an utter lack of empathy. Kenneth Branagh came away from the role convinced that inside the man, there was no principle, no passion, and no emotion except for a desire to dominate others. He went so far as to say that Heydrich didn't even seem especially anti-Semitic: The man simply lusted after power, and the fact that said power meant the murders of six million Jews was incidental.
  • The Joker from The Dark Knight has shades of this: when he's introduced, after tricking his henchmen into murdering each other, he kills the last one, leading to this exchange:
    Mob Bank Owner: WHADDAYA BELIEVE IN?!
    The Joker: I believe that whatever doesn't kill you, simply makes you *removes mask* stranger.
    • He then spends the whole movie running circles around Gordon and Batman, terrorizing Gotham, killing his own minions, killing basically anyone he wants, and smiling all the way. It's telling that, when recruiting for his gang, he first puts a smile on Gambol's face, then throws his men a broken pool cue. The scene cuts away before we can see what happens, though.
  • Ajax from Deadpool. Even Deadpool calls him a psychopath and for good reason.
  • Agent Kruger from Elysium is explicitly described as a human rights violator, with multiple accounts of murder and rape, whom he gleefully lives up to in the film itself. He really gets his jollies out of messing with people in the most horrible of ways and when he finds out that Max has the codes to overturn the system on the station itself, Kruger intends on stealing them and turning Elysium into his own private little hell.
  • Escape Plan: Hobbes, while nominally on the side of "The Law", fits into this like a comfortable pair of slippers. He displays an utter lack of concern for basic human dignity, or indeed the lives of prisoners and guards alike who he views as possessions rather than people, indulges in no real emotions except for taking a cold and analytic pleasure in absolute control and causing suffering (symbolized by his meticulously maintained and lifelessly-beautiful taxidermy butterfly collection), and is so disconnected from basic human feeling that he showed the same calm, almost amused, indifference to not only his hired men, but towards his own imminent fiery death at the film's end.
  • Nathan from Ex Machina lacks empathy and seems to crave stimulation and control over other people.
  • Geaer Grimsrud from the film Fargo. A mute, nearly emotionless man with a love of pancakes, he reveals his true colors when he murders a police officer and several innocent people nonchalantly, and later kills an innocent woman for simply making too much noise and shoves his partner into a wood chipper for mouthing off to him. He does all of this without changing his emotionless demeanor whatsoever.
  • Amy from Gone Girl is a film study of this. She has all the traits: Superficial Charm, Lack of Empathy, Manipulating, Impulsive Disorder, and she won't hesitate to commit murder to further her goals. Her narration during the mid film Plot Twist has her all but admit this. Her husband Nick realized this about her and tries to divorce her, but Amy makes sure it never happens.
  • In Jurassic Park, the Velociraptors almost always come off as evil megalomaniacs, especially in the first film. Unlike the other dinosaurs, who are all Non-Malicious Monsters that only hunt when hungry or threatened, The Big One and her brethren are all Super-Persistent Predators who enjoy slaughtering other animals. This is Justified in the novels, which state that the raptors grew up in isolated captivity and never developed social skills that they would've usually learned from their parents, leaving them all effectively sociopaths who just kill everything around them. Jurassic World later contrasts this with Owen Grady's imprinted raptors, who are far more well-adjusted and behave more like their prehistoric counterparts, simply due to them being raised by a Parental Substitute who provided a large enclosure, enrichment, social interaction, and constant attention to them.
  • The Last Seduction: Bridget shows pretty much all of the classic traits. She lies, manipulates, and discards others for her own gain, expresses no remorse for any of her actions-including at least one murder and ruining another man's life-requires stimulation by mentally toying with people out of boredom or rather shamelessly using them to get off, and the only time she ever discusses morality she seems to regard it as some alien concept.
  • In the Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns films, ANY Big Bad of any of his films: Ramon Rojo, El Indio, Angel Eyes, Frank and the col. Reza. Oh, well, all these villains have lack of empathy, guilt or remorse, even some of them make atrocities For the Evulz.
  • Little Sweetheart: Thelma, a nine year old girl who is willing to blackmail, steal, spy and murder her best friend to get her way.
  • Butch Cavendish from The Lone Ranger, who's primary motivation is to fulfill his own selfish desires and murders anyone who so much as annoys him.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road: Immortan Joe exhibits the traits of one. He's highly charismatic, having built up a cult around himself and convinced hundreds of people to martyr themselves for him. He also treats everyone around him as resources and objects; he forces people with O-negative blood to serve as donors and beautiful, healthy women to be his Wives. While he's distraught when Angharad, his favorite Wife, is mortally wounded, he clearly cared about her as a valued possession rather than a human being, seeing as he imprisoned and raped her, and doesn't bat an eye when she and her unborn child finally succumb to their wounds. His aforementioned outburst is also quite brief, and he's otherwise driven solely by wounded pride.
  • Stefan is portrayed as this in Maleficent. Years after befriending the titular fairy, he learns whoever will kill her will be made king, Stefan lures her away, and cuts off her wings. He spent years in fear of Maleficent's retaliation, and when it does arrive, and his daughter Aurora has to go into hiding, Stefan only gets worse from there, becoming more obsessed with his need to kill Maleficent to be concerned with his dying wife and the safety of his own men. When Aurora is finally reunited with Stefan, he has her locked up, while preparing an elaborate trap to torture and kill Maleficent.
    • He's even more evil in the novelisation of the film, which shows him manipulating Maleficent from the start, letting her think he was giving her a jewel he had when he had another in his pocket. There is also a scene in the novel, where after taking Maleficent's wings, the king laughs that Stefan for thinking he had a shot to be king - so Stefan suffocates him and coerces the other nobles into going along with it, daring them to deny him the crown when they all heard the king promise the throne to the man who killed Maleficent. He also claims to feel remorse over what he done to Maleficent, but during the final fight, he subverts this by stating he regrets not killing her when he had the chance.
  • Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. He seems to view people much like cattle, and shows absolutely no remorse or consideration for any of the horrible deeds he performs throughout the movie.
    "What's this guy supposed to be, the ultimate badass?"
    "I don't think that's how I'd describe him."
    "Well, how would you describe him?"
    "I guess I'd say he...doesn't have a sense of humor."
  • Daniel Lugo has exactly zero redeeming characteristics in Pain and Gain, and feels no remorse for any of his actions.
  • Professor Moriarty is portrayed as such in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. People are just pawns to him, employment termination involves life termination ("No loose ends"), he has a ginormous ego, has superficial charm, and is completely ruthless. Holmes lampshades this by diagnosing him with "moral insanity", a dated term for ASPD.
  • Smiley gives us a group of them. It turns out "Smiley" was a group of students trying to spread the urban legend of the titular killer by pranking the protagonist, Ashley. When they think the drove her to suicide, the celebrate and congratulate themselves for a job well done. One of them does briefly question the morality of their actions, before getting killed by the real Smiley.
  • Star Wars:
    • Emperor Palpatine certainly qualifies. Lack of Empathy? Check. Manipulates people like chesspieces and only emitting shallow emotions? Check. Experiences extreme rage and is uplifted when hurting enemies? Check. That's just in the movies. The expanded universe has him being a sociopath even when he was a kid (including murdering his parents and siblings), and is incapable of feeling regret when committing heinous actions and various misdemeanors (including manslaughter when driving like a maniac). His cloning attempts only make his sociopathy even worse.
    • Grand Moff Tarkin is a ruthless Imperial officer, and one of the Emperor's top agents. While in command of the Death Star, Tarkin had Princess Leia tortured and threatened to destroy Alderaan, Leia's homeworld, if she didn't give him the location of a Rebel base. When Leia gave him the information he wanted, Tarkin destroyed Alderaan anyway, killing billions of innocent people, solely to demonstrate the Death Star's power, then ordered Leia's execution. After discovering the location of the Rebel base, Tarkin attempted to destroy that planet as well. Unfortunately for Tarkin, he put too much faith in the Death Star's defenses, and furthermore failed to realize that the head gunner for the superlaser was not a sociopath, and was so full of remorse over Alderaan that he stalled for time at Yavin.
  • Stoker: Uncle Charlie is one of these in the screenplay, superficially glib, manipulative and charming, but he seems to have a seriously low threshold for physical aggression and beats several people to death with his bare hands or whatever's handy. He also seems to be incapable of leading a functional adult life independently of others. His affection for his niece is more as an extension of himself than anything else. India seems to be likewise, but she's more of the Hollywood, unnaturally-cool-and-collected variety.
  • Loki in Thor and The Avengers (2012). Despite what Leather Pantsing fans might lead you to believe, Loki is almost a textbook example of a sociopath, fitting every one of the above examples to a T. Being the God of Lies certainly helps him to be deceptive in this regard towards interpersonal connections, but the fact that he let the Frost Giants into Asgard to ruin Thor's coronation even before his Sanity Slippage certainly seems to cement that his connections to Thor and Odin are built on lies.
  • The Warriors Luthor from the Rouges kills the gang leader Cyrus, and blames it on the Warriors, all because he felt like doing it.
  • Christine Vole from Witness for the Prosecution. She has no reaction to her husband Leonard's arrest for murder (then a capital crime in England), does not visit him, and has no sympathy for his plight while he is clearly relying on her for support. She brushes off any suggestion that she should offer any; the most sentiment she has is that she's grateful he married her so she could get out of postwar Germany. She also carried on an affair and plotted to testify against him so she could run way with her lover (whom she manipulated into attacking his ex; said ex sells this information to barrister Sir Wilfred). So she'd have you believe. In reality it's all a plot to get Leonard acquitted for the murder he really did commit. He turns out to be quite the sociopath: an admitted drifter with an unsuccessful invention who let a lonely, wealthy widow fawn over him before convincing her to put him in his will and then murdering her. Then, he discards Christine even though she loves him enough to cover up his murder and perjure herself without question—for a woman that he ran into outside a travel agency. He casually brushes off Sir Wilfred and Christine's horrified reactions when he reveals all this. No wonder Christine stabs him.
  • X-Men: Victor Creed/Sabretooth. It's clear that he enjoys making people suffer. He does however have a genuine connection to his little brother Logan until it fell apart later on.
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer gives us the titular serial killer, Henry. As if his "hobby" alone wasn't enough of a clue, he displays an extremely limited emotional capacity, and unlike many of the examples above, is completely uncharismatic and fairly unintelligent; he's clever enough to kill people without getting caught, but even in that regard he's more of an idiot savant.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In Trinity, this is the dirty secret of the main branch of the vitakinetic order. Their powers make them intimately aware of the physical and mental health of people in close proximity to them. Quite a few of these healers find being surrounded by so much pain and decay so overwhelming that they voluntarily undergo a process that turns them into sociopaths, just so they can get on with their jobs without being constantly crippled by empathy with their patients.

    Web Comics 
  • Snadhy'rune, the closest thing Drowtales has to a Big Bad, fits a lot of the criteria for sociopathy/psychopathy. Her defining character traits consist of the list mentioned at the top of the page, and one person on the forum ran her through the Hare Psychopathy Checklist and found she hit nearly every point on the list, with the main ones she missed either covering periods of her life we haven't seen or that don't apply in context (i.e. drow do not get married so the "many short-term marital relationships" doesn't apply). She's effectively manipulated her lover Mel'arnach Val'Sarghress to be totally emotionally dependent on her to the point that when Mel's daughter is in a life threatening situation she freezes completely and can only say out loud that Snadhya will fix it, and it's strongly implied Snadhya views her as pet more than an equal. She keeps up a pretty effective Mask of Sanity for the public, but over the course of chapter 46 she gradually drops it until the absolutely cold-blooded way she murders her own daughter Kalki clinches it. Zhor also says that Snadhya's mother knew "the sickness in her daughter" which also heavily suggests that it's pathological.
    • Also Yuh'le, one of the Nidraa'chal, is explicitly referred to as a sociopath, but unlike Snadhya'rune it's much more obvious in her case, with her possessing a flat affect, severe Lack of Empathy and a habit of using her Blood Magic to make small animals explode for fun when she can't use it on other people, and was thrown out of her clan for a murder that it's implied she committed for fun. Contrasted with Snadhya she is a good example of a low-functioning sociopath compared to Snadhya's high-functioning. Also of note is how the Kyorl'solenurn Seers (who are basically The Empath and can sense the intent of others) are completely unable to sense anything from her and are enormously unsettled by this.
  • In Erfworld, Olive Branch fits this trope to a tee. She comes as close as the largely Grey and Gray Morality of Erfworld gets to being truly evil. Olive Branch is a charming Manipulative Bitch who inevitably betrays and destroys everyone around her. She is also a narcissist, having brought ruin to many sides and even the casters of her own side just to prove the superiority of her magic. According to Wanda, she is literally incapable of empathy or remorse and cares only about herself.
  • In Freefall, the first attempt at Uplifted Animals, chimpanzees, turned out like this; their frontal lobes were not developed enough to let them think through what they were doing before they did it. Dr. Bowman gets around this by being intelligent and self aware enough to realize this, and take precautions in advance to ensure he doesn't hurt people.
  • Angel, the Villain Protagonist of The Good Witch, remorselessly torments and ruins the lives of her friends, family, and anybody unfortunate enough to cross her path with her newfound magic powers. There are hints she is a "made sociopath," not originally being so cruel and self-centered but gradually cracking under an intense amount of bullying, but any sympathy that might have been gifted to her has long since passed; for God's sake, she turns people into articles of clothing, which her unwitting mother then sells in her store, and keeps them sentient so that they can desperately try to find anyone to help them and eternally despair over their predicament!
  • Some fans of Ménage ŕ 3 have referred to international lingerie model Senna as a borderline sociopath. She's certainly a narcissist, being vain, self-centered, and delusional; she also shows few signs of empathy, lies on a whim, possesses casual charm, and pursues all sorts of thrills. Given the nature of the comic, she's a fairless harmless comedy version at worst, though, and she does show flashes of some kind of fondness for Gary, along with deep and long-lasting feelings towards Sandra (though admittedly the feeling there is poorly-concealed hatred).
  • The Order of the Stick features some sociopathic villains:
    • Tarquin is quite the sociopath — while his fans like to paint him as a leather pants-wearing Noble Demon, that doesn't change the fact that the lives of others mean very little to him. He "convinces" his wives to marry him, or how he forced Gannji and Enor to fight to the death because he thought Elan would enjoy it simply because they had captured him and brought him to the former after mistaking him for Nale (and seemed confused when Elan wasn't thrilled with the idea). He's also got Lack of Empathy down, as he told Malack (his supposed friend) to stop whining about his dead "children" actually, it turns out, vampire minions and ordered him to work with Nale (who killed said children). And then he stabbed Nale, who was also his son, to death afterwards. It's quite evident that he sees everyone around him as plot devices, nothing more, nothing less. Which said, he apparently felt some kind of real friendship with Malack, he feels some kind of compulsion to bring order to the world, and he pales beside...
    • Xykon, the comic's Big Bad. At no point does Xykon show any feeling for another being that isn't merely practical (and sometimes not even then). He has little if any desire to control his impulses, possibly because unlike Tarquin he has the raw magical power to cow anyone into obedience or kill those who would oppose him, and is well-aware of it, so he never really needed to rely so much on manipulation. His motivation for committing evil can largely be summed up with "Why not?". He's easily bored and destroying the lives of others is his only method of alleviating the boredom. He's been like this since he was a child, when his pet dog died and he first awakened his magical power by raising it as an undead, then used it to torture and kill animals. As a teenager, he murdered his family in cold blood, simply because he knew he could. He is also far more cunning and manipulative than one might think; when sufficiently motivated, he can play others like a fiddle, such as when he tricked Redcloak into killing his brother. To top it all off, he is very charming and funny, as even Redcloak admits.

    Web Original 
  • Imaginee from The Autistic World of the Autist has been described as such. His routine consists of doing atrocious things such as stomping around in his Humongous Mecha, torturing people on Tuesdays and on Halloween bringing up trauma from Leon's past and convincing Brian that Leon will replace him with Mona, all with a smile on his face.
    • Mona as well, considering that she loves making Brian's life hell and is more than willing to give both Leon and herself diarrhoea just to get Brian's goat (still, at least her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard).
    • Surprisingly, Leon is one, which adds some serious Fridge Horror considering who he's based off. He's also shown to be extremely narcissistic in his youth, wanting to be a superhero and gets angry at his Mum and Dad when they were arguing (and about to be divorced) because they were interrupting his sleep. Did I mention he's extremely charming. Downplayed because it's a mild case and he isn't that villainous.
  • Don't Hug Me, I'm Scared:
    • Tony the Talking Clock in the second. The sadistic smile on his face as he rots the puppets alive to prove a point says it all. He uses the same trick on a sentient apple earlier in the video For the Evulz.
    • Collin in the fourth is narcissistic, violent, and completely indifferent to the suffering of others. He punishes Red Guy for touching his keyboard by trapping him and his friends in a digital world where they can't do anything except open one of three doors over and over again. It's hinted that he also literally made Red Guy's head explode.
    • The Healthy Band in the fifth put on a friendly, playful demeanour, but it's heavily implied that they tricked Yellow Guy into eating his only remaining friend alive.
  • Fear, Loathing and Gumbo on the Campaign Trail '72:
    • The Lesser Mao. He does anything to maintain power, including massive purges that kill millions, and even dropping an atomic bomb on a rebelling city. He cares about nobody except himself, believes himself to be smarter than everyone around him, regularly uses drugs near the end of his rule, turns his country into a Khmer Rogue style hellhole, and turns China into a massive producer of heroin largely to spite the West and for his own monetary gain.
    • Donald Rumsfeld. He obviously doesn't care about ruining the environment, and forcing working people to work for starvation wages if he can create a "free" economy. Or locking up his own allies if they don't agree with his whim. And he doesn't care about giving soldiers substandard equipment and killing them if he can save money.
  • Game Theory (Web Show) has a couple videos about Mario being one.
  • Llamas with Hats: Carl is a self-proclaimed "dangerous psychopath with a long history of violence" and, in Paul's words, "all [he does] is kill people." Subverted in the final episode, which shows that he genuinely loved Paul and valued their friendship, and when he found out he had killed Paul by accident, he felt so guilty that he jumped off a bridge and killed himself.
  • IN the MSF High Forums, Seram Rosenbyme is meant to be one. Whether or not she can stay written as one of these, when she is engaged, is an interesting conflict for the player, and is likely to cause severe character drama in the future.
    • She does not possess the lack of long-term planning, but DEFINITELY lacks empathy.
  • The Nostalgia Chick, especially with the "not understanding boundaries" thing. What's wrong with installing cameras in your friend's bedroom?
    • A much darker example on the site would be the yandere family in Demo Reel. They hold Donnie captive with muscle relaxants under the pretense that they're helping him get better, have No Sense of Personal Space with him (not even the daughter), force him to watch the movies he made when he was little, and worst of all, refuse to believe him when he tells them that his mother killed herself while he was shooting a film.
  • Red vs. Blue gives us an almost textbook with Knight of Cerebus Felix in Season 12, although very subtle hints had been dropped in the previous season. He eventually makes it clear that he doesn't care about his allies, and acknowledges that others usually do. After the reveal, turns out Felix is completely okay with slaughtering an entire colony's population for a paycheck. He's also a checklist of sociopathic traits. He takes the time to toy with his prey before finishing them in explaining what was really going on. He's very good at feigning emotions and motives. Everything he does is in line with what will benefit him, even allying with someone he hates (Locus). He appears to lack regard for human suffering, flippantly saying he'd nuke the planet from orbit as if it was deciding to buy pizza, and says how if the inhabitants killed each other, "well, that's just a tragedy" as if it's a joke. In addition, he blatantly admits and displays that he does not care for the lives of others.
  • Survival of the Fittest villains can quite frequently be sociopaths, with characters like J.R. Rizzolo and Jacob Starr being prominent examples of these traits. In spin-off The Program, Brigadier General David Adams has all the hallmarks of being one, given he doesn't seem to care at all about the imminent deaths of the students.
  • Jobe Wilkins of the Whateley Universe. At age fourteen, he's already a threat to everyone who gets in his way. He views his family as opponents. He discovered a new cure for dysentery by experimenting on unwilling prisoners. He provided a way for his father to have mine workers by developing a serum that turned people into big green Ork-like creatures. He has all the empathy of a tarantula. Fortunately, he's not a Karma Houdini.
  • HABIT from Everyman HYBRID is one, having killed and tortured several people sadistically, all out of a twisted sense of entertainment.
  • Regent of Worm falls under this, as apparently do most of his siblings. It's implied that this is partially the result of his father's method of punishing unruly children: Flooding their mind with an overdose of terror or similar emotions. Regent does eventually develop an odd relationship with Aisha, enough that he sacrificed himself to save her.
    • Bitch is assumed by most people to be a low-functioning sociopath, having no regard for social customs and acting out violently. Lisa and Taylor suss out that her power overwrote her social knowledge with that of dogs. As a result she can't read human body language or differentiate between tones; this makes interacting with people confusing and she tends to fall back on violence in response.

    Real Life 
(NOTE: Must be actually professionally diagnosed with sociopathy.)
  • Ted Bundy raped, tortured, and murdered women for several years, including two 12-year-old girls, while appearing to lead an exemplary life. Yes, this sadistic Serial Killer was a member of the Crime Prevention Council, a political staffer, and a volunteer at a suicide hotline — all likely chosen to make himself appear honest, law-abiding, and caring to the public at large. The main reason he was so successful as a serial killer and the reason he was able to elude the authorities (other than his ability to disguise himself) for so long was that he, like most sociopaths, was very charming. It also didn't hurt that he was handsome and had a 100-watt smile. He used to get fan mail from women while he was in prison. Bundy actually was a low-functioning sociopath, in the sense that he couldn't hold down jobs and had difficulty sticking to his law-school studies, due to his overwhelming need to murder. But he was still able to fake being a handsome, charming young man.
  • Hermann Göring, the Reich Marshal of Nazi Germany and the initial second-in-command to Adolf Hitler. Also the founder of the Gestapo. He was diagnosed as a narcissistic sociopath, and found to have the highest IQ among the Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials. Cruel, corrupt, and self-indulgent, he amassed enormous wealth at the expense of his country, during wartime. Neither did he give two shits about any National Socialist ideals — when they asked him why he joined the Nazi movement in the first place, his explanation boiled down to "It Amused Me" — i.e. he did it only to indulge in a decadent lifestyle. When his sentence was proclaimed said he had no regrets... he lived like king for over 10 years and that's all that mattered to him. His only real complaint was that he was sentenced to hang, he lobbied the Judges to go before a firing squad instead, since he saw hanging as a fate only fit for "common criminals". When they refused, he committed suicide to spite them.

    And yet Goring also rescued several Jews and Jewish families from the Nazis, making sure they were able to get out of Germany, mostly because they'd showed him some kindness when he was poor or otherwise in a bad way. And by all accounts he really did love his daughter. His brother was an opponent of the Nazis who used Hermann's name to smuggle Jews out of Germany — Hermann knew about this, and turned a blind eye. He also deeply loved his first wife Karin — enough that he maintained a shrine in her honor after she died.
  • More than 2,000 years before Göring, history gives us Alcibiades of Athens. The nephew of Pericles, intellectually brilliant, personally charming, and stunningly handsome, Alcibiades excelled at virtually everything he applied himself to, from soldiery to statecraft to seducing women (and men, this being Ancient Greece). He was also inconstant, fickle, capricious, and felt lasting affection for few people, if any at all — except, perhaps, for his surprising purported friendship with/lust for Socrates. He was as good at making bitter enemies as he was at making superficial friends, and for this reason he changed sides a dizzying number of times during The Peloponnesian War; a war that he had helped to reignite, for no other reason (according to Plato) than to further his political career. In The Mask of Sanity, psychiatrist Hervey M. Cleckley decides that Alcibiades "had the gift of every talent except that of using them consistently to achieve any sensible aim or in behalf of any discernible cause."
  • Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler's deputy and SS governor of Bohemia and Moravia, is almost universally seen as this by historians. The man planned the Holocaust with ruthless efficiency (what's more, before the age of 40), was a skilled manipulator, and practically ran a private spy agency to better blackmail political opponents. Kenneth Branagh, who played him in Conspiracy, said he felt that Heydrich wasn't even particularly anti-Semitic: if he had been ordered instead to exterminate tennis players or Eskimos, he would have done so with just as much enthusiasm. One episode from his personal life alone pushes him over the edge here. As a young naval officer, he impregnated his fiancee and then left her. His reason? Any woman who gave herself away so freely was beneath him. It backfired when Admiral Erich Raeder dismissed him for refusing to marry her, only for him to (quickly) withdraw under the protective wing of Heinrich Himmler. He despised everything, his bosses included, and cared only for power.
  • M. E. Thomas is a clinically diagnosed sociopath who wrote a memoir called Confessions of a Sociopath and also has a blog. Predictably, she's a lawyer.
  • H. H. Holmes, often regarded as America's first (or at least first well-known) Serial Killer fit almost all of Hare's criteria before Hare was even born. Most notably the "glib and superficial charm" aspect that allowed him to dupe many many people. One trick he pulled off multiple times was with creditors he had taken money from and then not repaid, so whenever the creditors came to him looking for blood he talked them into sympathizing with him and giving him more time. On one occasion he pulled this off on an entire room full of creditors who had gotten together in order to trap him and managed to get away before any of them realized they had been given the slip. He also fits the "many short term marital relationships" criteria due to his habit of enchanting a young woman, making her grandiose promises and acting the part of a lover until he became bored with her and killed her in the elaborate hotel/dungeon he built while keeping the builders in the dark as to its real purpose. He also pulled all this off while technically still being married to his first wife who he had callously abandoned back in Vermont and had the balls to file for divorce claiming she had been unfaithful to him (and yet he never bothered to get the divorce finalized), and later pulled this off a second time by abandoning another wife and child who were unaware that they were actually his Secret Other Family in favor of a third woman who was similarly unaware of his two previous marriages.
  • Eric Harris, one of he two Columbine shooters, was diagnosed as a psychopath after his death at the Columbine High School Massacre. While many psychologists are hesitant to diagnose someone after death, Harris is notable as one of the best documented mass shooters in history due to the infamous "basement tapes" that laid out his thought process in his own words. His fellow shooter Dylan Klebold, on the other hand, is widely agreed by professionals to have not been this and would likely have never come up with such a plan on his own without Harris' influence, and better fit the criteria for some manner of depressive disorder instead, which unfortunately made him vulnerable to the manipulation from Harris. The two are often used as a case study of how people with sociopathic characteristics can lead non-sociopaths into displaying similar behavior under their influence.

Alternative Title(s): Sociopath