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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 behavioural reward/punishment, will not work on them or tend to only make their behavior even worse by making it easier for him 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. 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.
  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 his/her 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. 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 fašade 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. 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 fašade 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 UsefulNotes.Lack Of Empathy for more detailed information.

Compare Sociopathic Hero, Comedic Sociopathy and Villain Sue. 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 is considered 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.

Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • The DC Universe has Kid Karnevil, an adolescent Torture Technician first introduced in Shadowpact. He claims to emulate the Joker and ultimately wants to kill him. Old Greenhair is unimpressed.
    • To wit though, it's rumored that the Kid actually died at some point and was sent to Hell. However, he was kicked out some time later, apparently because he was scaring the employees.
  • Max in Sam & Max: Freelance Police is described repeatedly in story as a sociopath, but Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse Retcons him into having a conscience (who is highly repressed and suicidal).
    • Even before that, his behavior doesn't quite fit; he's more like a violent psychotic with psychopathic tendencies.
  • Todd Ingram of Scott Pilgrim. He thinks he's better than everyone because he's a rock star and a vegan, he punches a young girl in the face just because she annoyed him, and he cheats on his girlfriend just because he feels like it, yet feels entitled to get in the way of Scott and Ramona's relationship.
    • Let's not forget that, in the comics at least, he also knowingly violates his vegan code, the very thing he gets his sense of superiority from.
  • Alfie O'Meagan from Nth Man: The Ultimate Ninja is a textbook example: he tortures small animals, shamelessly lies and shifts the blame to others, has sudden outbursts of anger and arrogance, and lacks any sympathy or empathy for others. Problem is, he's also a Reality Warper and the most powerful being on Earth.
  • Sin City has Senator Roark and his Serial Killer son as probably the best examples of sociopaths. There are plenty of crazy people but they show at least some remorse or have emotional attachments here or there.
  • The Transmetropolitan Myth Arc features the protagonist squaring off against a sociopath who got himself elected President of the United States just so he could exercise his every sadistic whim unimpeded.
  • Lucifer, to no-one's surprise, would be considered a sociopath by human standards. He isn't one (human that is), and neither are many of the comic's other sociopathic characters.
  • The Juggernaut has killed countless people and caused untold destruction. And he will tell you all about it over a beer.
  • Next to Juggernaut is Sabertooth, who wants nothing more than to get revenge on Wolverine, and kill as many people along the way with glee.
  • Lex Luthor is often described as being a sociopath, and he has done many heinous things without remorse. Some of those things being killing his father for startup capital (granted he was a textbook abusive father, too), curing his sister's disease then giving it back to her just because he could, strangling a black belt just because she had the gall to beat him in training, and (implied) letting a biochemist-turned-superhero die to give Superman a Heroic BSOD. Also, his (Post-Crisis) motivation for hating Superman? Because he exists, and Luthor doesn't want someone more powerful than himself around.
  • As we find out from Watchmen, The Comedian. Although, interestingly enough, the Comedian is ultimately capable of realizing that what he did was wrong - he admits to doing "bad things" during his Villainous Breakdown to Moloch. Rorschach on the other hand is a Sociopathic Hero.
  • This is one of the defining traits of Hush from Batman. Unlike Bruce, Thomas had a poor relationship with his parents, to the point that he murdered them both. He thinks Bruce is lucky that someone else killed his parents, and doesn't understand why someone might prefer having parents to having a lot of money. In addition, he knows that Bruce is Batman, and thinks that he does it for fun.
  • Marvels Daredevil villain Bullseye, who lives solely to kill people.
    • Somehow ever farther into this territory within the Marvel Universe is Carnage, who feels absolutely no empathy for anyone or anything. And to top it off he's an extremely insane psychopath who takes delight in murder. The "Minimum Carnage" story arc reveals that the symbiote he's bonded with is even worse, but appears to have a soft spot for its host as it kept Kassidy alive after the Sentry ripped him in half and left him in space.
  • Terra (the first one from the 1980s) from Teen Titans fits this trope to a T. She absolutely hated the Teen Titans, and gladly betrayed them in a story-arc which is still famous today, known as the "Judas Contract."
  • The Joker is often considered as the best Batman villain. He's also the most monstrous and dangerous of the lot. Aside from committing almost every villainous act that a human can pull off either to prove a sadistic point or For the Evulz, The Joker is also known for having no redeemable qualities whatsoever. He once severely beat Jason Todd's Robin with a crow bar even though he didn't need to, and permanently disabled Barbara Gordon just to make the Commissioner crack. He tried to kill Harley Quinn once because he was starting to remember what it was like to care and didn't like it, he only failed because Poison Ivy found her and nursed her back to health.
    • But that's not all, The Joker is so egocentric and uncaring that when he finds out that Harley Quinn (the only woman who genuinely loves and cares for him, mind you) has captured and is about to kill Batman, he beats her, keeps towering over her until she next to a window where he then slaps her with a swordfish, knocking her out of the window, doesn't go down there to see if she's ok, and then proceeds to release Batman from Harley's trap. And all of that happened simply because his ego was too big to let anyone else (even his own lover) kill Bats.
  • Dr. Zander Rice, the surgical head and lead scientist on the Facility's attempt to recreate Weapon X. He tortures and abuses the preteen X-23 with beatings, treating her as if she were just a thing or animal, exposure to lethal doses of radiation to jump-start her healing factor, by performing the surgery to bond her claws with adamantium a few weeks later by refusing her anasthesia, subjecting her to brutal Training from Hell, and using electric shock and waterboarding to condition her to the trigger scent. Rice is shown to be sleeping with his boss's, Martin Suuter's, wife, even though Sutter practically raised him after Wolverine killed his father, and eventually fathered a child with her. He tests the trigger scent on X-23's martial arts instructor, one of the only people who treated her like an actual human being, precisely for that reason. After a botched attempt to have X-23 killed, he manipulates Sutter to gain control of the program for himself, and then has him and have his inconvenient mistress killed when she threatens to confess to their affair, by sending X-23 to kill Sutter, his wife, and their son (even though he knows the boy is his own child). And then he arranges to have X-23's creator and mother killed by tainting her with the trigger scent to wrap up the last loose end on the project. And throughout the entire project, Rice has Sutter wrapped so tightly around his finger by playing the loving foster son that Sutter is completely blinded to what Rice really is. He kicks one dog after another, to the point even Wolverine killing his father isn't enough to make him sympathetic.
  • Wolverine's son Daken; he hates his father and cares for no one but himself, and compared to X-23 he believes in using his powers to get what he wants, and kill off anyone who gets in his way.
  • Scott Lang accused Doctor Doom of being one during his "The Reason You Suck" Speech in FF. It's hard to argue, given that Doom fits every single one of the criteria listed at the top of the page. Even his attachment to Valeria Richards is simply because she is living proof of one of the few times Doom accomplished something that Reed Richards couldn't.
  • Overlord in the IDW Continuity of Transformers. He was a specially born bot with the ability to undergo procedures to make him powerful. Inspired by the Gladiators of the growing Decepticon movement, he joins up and has his body upgraded to near invincibility; his first act is to crush the head of the scientist in charge of the procedure and go on to become one of the most feared Decepticons. He has two main goals in life, kill things (get some genocide done) and to defeat Megatron. He starts up a death camp at an Autobot prison, and when the heroes come to rescue them, he has all the captured Autobots executed. He has a great need for stimulation, and when he learns of Megatron's (seeming) demise, he gives up immediately, wanting someone to kill him as he sees no purpose in his life anymore and is taken into custody. The minute he learns that Megatron is alive, he decides to go on a killing spree onboard an unsuspecting ship, and casually stomps to death a bot who accidentally bumped into him.

    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 PokÚ Wars shows all the signs. Utterly incapable of feeling remorse. Treats everyone around him as little more than disposable lab equipment. Hell, 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.

    Films — Animated 
  • 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 to a T, 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: The two main villains, Scar and Zira, qualify. They also show great contrast between High Functioning and Low Functioning sociopathy, with the more calculating Scar being the more high-functioning and the deranged Zira being more low-functioning.
    • 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 more from a kid friendly version of Professor Moriarty.
    • 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 a very good, if not perfect, 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.
  • 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 future, he makes it a point to kill people to draw the Flash's attention, and even 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • American Psycho: Patrick Bateman. A perfect example. On the starpulse.com article about the most believable sociopaths in film, Bateman scored higher on the APD/sociopathy checklist than Hannibal Lecter and the Joker.
  • Vincent from Collateral. He's even described as such, in story.
  • Hans Gruber from Die Hard. He is a sociopath and a Diabolical Mastermind. He used to be the leader of the german terrorist group. If you went to the party in the tall building in the Nakatomi Plaza he just might kill you or worst of all he will throw you down the building and you will die.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars 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.
  • 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.
  • The Warriors Luthor from the Rouges kills the gang leader Cyrus, and blames it on the Warriors, all because he felt like doing it.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Daniel Lugo has exactly zero redeeming characteristics in Pain and Gain, and feels no remorse for any of his actions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • Several songs from the Hip Hop group Gravediggaz are known for their lyrics describing people mentally unstable, or complete sociopathic murderers.

    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 
  • 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!
  • 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. Note how 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 even 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.
  • Some fans of MÚnage Ó 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).
  • 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. The first one to actually appear in the comic fulfills the description nicely.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Caaaarrrrlll.... That kiiillls peeoople!

    Real Life 
(NOTE: Must be actually professionally diagnosed with sociopathy.)
  • Ted Bundy. He 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.
  • Hermann G÷ring, 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.
  • 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.
  • Robert Hare estimates that around 1% of the population is made up of psychopaths. Other Psychologists have gone even higher, some going as high as 5% of the population (1 in 20 people). Those percentages mostly account for 'functioning sociopaths', meaning people such as grifters, con artists, and shady used car dealers because they're unempathic enough to not be bothered by swindling people but are still affected by stronger social/moral conventions like 'murder is bad', and those who never actively take the opportunity to indulge in criminal activities but still lack empathy, generally emulating the more acceptable behaviour of those around them because on the whole it seems to be the easiest way to achieve their current goals. Moreover, most functioning sociopaths are capable of a type of empathy, which is just more restricted to close friends and family than the ordinary person; theirs is simply the usual sense of emotional detachment that people feel for strangers and people they have never met taken into overdrive. Violent sociopaths, like Bundy and Dahmer, are much more rare, sitting at perhaps 0.5% of the population.
    • Paranoia Fuel when you consider that if 1 in 100 of those psychopaths/sociopaths has strong impulse control and high intelligence, that person's lack of ethics or emotions would make obtaining wealth and power both possible and desirable. In other words, it's quite likely that a nontrivial number of CEOs, politicians, and others really are evil people who do not care at all about anyone else.
    • Jon Ronson, author of the book on which The Men Who Stare at Goats was based, has a book called The Psychopath Test in which he takes a course on diagnosing psychopathic behaviour, and then goes to interview various people who he suspects might be sociopathic to some degree. His ultimate conclusion, summarised in this short talk, is that the situation is probably nowhere near as bad as the above statistics would suggest, that the fear of sociopaths and psychopaths is out of all proportion to the actual risk, and that said fear likely does more harm than all the sociopaths and psychopaths of the world could ever hope to inflict.
      • Unfortunately, this point is somewhat undermined because he hinges the talk on the example of Tony as a "Grey-area psychopath." However, according to a comment by someone claiming to have worked at Broadmoor, Tony was one of the most phenomenally violent and manipulative of all the inmates and likely used Jon and others to force his own release.
  • 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.


Reluctant PsychoMadness TropesSociopathic Hero
Straw NihilistSliding Scale of Antagonist VilenessThe Hedonist
PyromaniacViolence TropesSociopathic Soldier
Socially-Awkward HeroCharacter Flaw IndexSore Loser
The Social DarwinistVillainsSoft-Spoken Sadist
Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!The Jerk IndexComedic Sociopathy

alternative title(s): Sociopath
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