open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Shinichiro Josaki, the villain of the first piece of Digimon media, C'mon Digimon, makes a cameo appearance at the start of Digimon V-Tamer 01. Two of the three crossover monsters of V Tamer also have absolutely nothing to do with Lord Demon.
- Many pirates in One Piece could be considered this due to Protagonist-Centered Morality. Luffy consistently shows a willingness to befriend people who are more brutal than he and his crew have ever been, and without a clear track record of only brutalizing villains like the Straw Hats do. A few examples:
- Trafalgar Law, right now he's an ally of the main characters and has an almost protagonistic role, but he was part of Doflamingo's crew, is said to be a ruthless pirate in his own right, and during the time skip took out the hearts of 100 pirates (thanks to his powers, this is non-lethal, but still a pretty evil move) as a tribute to become a Warlord of the Sea. This was all to get revenge on Doflamingo, who more than deserved it, but Law was clearly willing to harm people unconnected to the Doflamingo Family in pursuit of that vengeance.
- Duval. He initially held a grudge against the Straw Hats because of a misunderstanding, but the Straw Hats fixed the problem (more or less) and now Duval is an ally. In his hometown he was an underground boss, and he still keeps his henchmen.
- In Hunter × Hunter, the main character Gon becomes friends with Killua, a kid that comes from a family of professional hitmen. While Killua is nice to Gon, at least at first he's way less moral. They even have to face people wanting to take revenge on him for the things that his family did.
- The Van of the Red Dragon syndicate in Cowboy Bebop are the overlords of one of the worst crime syndicates in the solar system, but they never directly threaten the main characters and frankly seem apathetic to their existence for nearly the entire series. Only after Vicious makes his move to assassinate and oust them do they send agents after Spike in a belated effort to tie up loose ends.
- The Decepticons who survived the conclusion of Transformers: Super-God Masterforce under the leadership of Overlord are these during the events of Transformers Victory. While the story follows Star Saber's battles with Deszaras in an area of space identified as Sector 1 (which includes Earth and its star system), Overlord and God Ginrai are having their own ferocious battles over in another sector of space (specifically Sector 2). While Overlord himself only makes cameos showing him in battle with Ginrai's forces, his repeated attacks actually have an effect in-story: Star Saber is occasionally forced to help out in Ginrai's Sector 2 simply because Ginrai is too busy fending off Overlord to properly handle problems that crop up.
- It's lampshaded in chapter 55 of Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai that Shirogane sounds like the condescending, amoral tyrant to Miko's idealistic, determined underdog. In any other setting, that would be true, but unfortunately this one has no need of a rebel like Miko.
- Annihilus and Lucifer during Marvel's Civil War. One's an alien man-bug leading an armada of spaceships with intent to wipe out all life in the Universe, the other is the Fallen Angel himself recently escaped from Hell and causing mischief with an army of resurrected dead. What's Marvel's main superhero plot line in the midst of these two threats? Paperwork over the death of six hundred people. Annihilus and Lucifer only get passing mentions in the "main" books. The Marvel Universe is very lucky they have some B- and C-list heroes who have A-list power.
- This is the usual role of Henri Ducard in Batman stories. He knows Batman's secret identity, and even occasionally helps the hero for his own purposes, but it's also always clear that Ducard is an amoral Professional Killer involved in a variety of shady things in his native Europe. (unlike the films, Ducard is not an alias of Ra's al Ghul in the comics.)
- Bad Future Crusaders: Silver Spoon seems to be this. Most of the allegedly evil things she has done happened prior to the story or are only mentioned in passing.
- Digimon Trinity: Lucemon briefly appears to try and steal the Hazard from Guilmon, before going off to carry out his canonical plot. Which, since the story focuses mostly on Tamers, happens entirely offscreen, with barely a mention or impact on the main story.
Film — Animated
- Lord Portley-Rind in The Boxtrolls. Let's make a list. He wastes taxpayer's money and time just sitting around eating rare cheese, completely ignores his daughter to focus more on his hat and cheese, spends charity money for a children's hospital on a large wheel of cheese that most likely only he and his other White Hats would have eaten, completely ignores Eggs' public confession, tries to get out of his deal with Snatcher, when it is revealed the Boxtrolls are alive he flat out rubs the fact into Snatcher's face that he will never get what he wants, and even when his daughter was caught by Snatcher and he had to trade his hat to save her he tries to negotiate with him for something else. If Snatcher wasn't such a monster Lord Portley-Rind could have easily been the villain of this story.
- ParaNorman: The Judge and the Puritans who hanged the so called witch, are this coupled with Predecessor Villain as they had a Heel–Face Turn after their death. They were not in any way threatening Norman and just wished to rest in peace. The current citizens of Blithe Hollow on the other hand..
Film — Live-Action
- In Kill Bill, both the Bride's Evil Mentor Pai Mei and Retired Monster Esteban Vihaio are very evil people by most standards, but they only exist in the film as part of Bill's sinister background. Both actually aid the Bride in going after Bill. To drive the trope home, the film's version of Pai Mei is directly modeled on Pai Mei's Historical Villain Upgrade appearances as the Big Bad of Executioners from Shaolin—that's where the story of the temple massacre comes from—and as a minor villain in Clan of the White Lotus, making him quite literally the villain of another story.
- In the Pierce Brosnan James Bond films Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough, Valentin Zhukovsky plays this role. He's a ruthless Russian gangster and former KGB agent who clashed with Bond in the past, but he ends up helping his old enemy against even worse threats in both films.
- Radio and television newscasts heard throughout the horror film Neighbor repeatedly mention an escaped serial killer named Shawn Gracy. At the very end, the unnamed Villain Protagonist, a serial killer herself, hears a bit-parter mention that Gracy was just captured.
- The murderous hillbillies in the flashbacks of Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil would have made this a more straight slasher movie had they been the antagonists, but they exist only to show that their crimes still haunt the place and especially the villain who is clearly like father, like son
- In a disturbingly similar way, a deranged maniac in Phenomena caused the story's bloodshed by raping the woman who gave birth to the freaky killer.
- Ned Pepper is this in all versions of True Grit. Infamous outlaw? Check. Leader of a gang? Check. History with Rooster Cogburn? Check. Is he the villain of the movie? Nope, it's his henchman Tom Chaney who got drunk and killed Mattie's father. He's actually pissed at Tom for dragging him into the events of True Grit to begin with.
- Captain Teague in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End along with the other Pirate Lords are this as they play no antagonistic role in the film's narrative.
- Lone Wolf McQuade: McQuade briefly wrestles with Falcon, the crippled dwarf boss of an arms smuggling operation. He's not the main villain or the target of McQuade's revenge; that role belongs to Falcon's rival Rawley Wilkes (David Carradine's character), another Arms Dealer who both tried to murder McQuade's daughter after she was witness to a major arms deal and has a hold over Wilkes's Love Interest Lola. McQuade still leaves Falcon behind for the Mexican Federales.
- Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron. While he does play a small role in the movie (namely providing smuggled Vibranium to Ultron, it has been established that he has had some history in Wakanda. Of course, this appearance is to set up Klaue as the Big Bad of Black Panther.
- Darth Vader plays this role in Rogue One. He's only got two scenes and never meets the protagonists, but it's very clear to the characters what kind of monster they're dealing with.
- Hannibal Lecter of Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs, a captured cannibal serial killer who, in both stories, is consulted on how to catch another cannibal serial killer. However, Red Dragon also subverts this since Lecter does become an active threat to Graham late in the book and film by giving Dolarhyde his home address and corresponding with him in secret.
- Thoth-Amon serves this role in the original Conan the Barbarian stories. He is a powerful, evil wizard but he and Conan never directly clash, nor is Thoth-Amon specifically targeting Conan at any point. Most adaptations promote Thoth-Amon to Big Bad, though.
- In The Hobbit, Gandalf talks about a Necromancer who lives south of Mirkwood. It's later revealed that the Necromancer is in fact Sauron, the Big Bad of The Lord of the Rings.
- In the Redwall novel Mossflower, Martin the Warrior arrives at the mountain of Salamandastron just in time to bear witness to the final battle between Badger Lord Boar the Fighter and searat king Ripfang. Boar's comments beforehand indicate that this conflict has been building to a head for a long, long time, making Ripfang the Big Bad of Another Story.
- Krios from Percy Jackson and the Olympians doesn't do much in that series despite being a powerful Titan. During his limited screentime he's also shown to be the butt of a few jokes, and Percy and co. never fight him. In The Heroes of Olympus, however, it's revealed that he'd been off being the primary antagonist to the Romans instead of the Greeks.
- In The Death Gate Cycle, Emperor Agah'rahn is the corrupt and tyrannical ruler of the Tribus elves, who is fighting a world war on Arianus to conquer both the humans (led by King Stephen and King Anne) and rebels of his own people (led by his Defector from Decadence son, Prince Reesh'ahn). However, since the main narrative of the series operates on a rather more cosmic scale, he's really only important to the plot on the occasions his empire intersects with it; the Emperor himself only has one scene, and his final comeuppance is entirely off-page with no main characters directly involved. His aforementioned opponents are also Heroes of Another Story.
- Pocket in the Sea: the heroes are all from the naval prison system and it is very deliberately pointed out in the text that some of them are innocent and some aren't. This means that some of the characters were the Villain of Another Story.
- An unusual version in The Stand. The original (shorter) version of the novel featured Stu and the others finding a dead man they called The Wolf Man, dead from a wolf attack. Stu wonders what happened. This is the only hint of a sociopathic character called The Kid, who reappears in the extended version. The Kid picked up Trash and took him on a crazy, villainous ride.
- Varamyr Sixskins, a wildling skinchanger in A Song of Ice and Fire is merely another Mook Lieutenant in the main narrative, but his backstory hints at him being a monstrous, dragon-like figure to the local populace;
Before Mance, Varamyr Sixskins had been a lord of sorts. He lived alone in a hall of moss and mud and hewn logs that had once been Haggon’s, attended by his beasts. A dozen villages did him homage in bread and salt and cider, offering him fruit from their orchards and vegetables from their gardens. His meat he got himself. Whenever he desired a woman he sent his shadowcat to stalk her, and whatever girl he’d cast his eye upon would follow meekly to his bed. Some came weeping, aye, but still they came. Varamyr gave them his seed, took a hank of their hair to remember them by, and sent them back. From time to time, some village hero would come with spear in hand to slay the beastling and save a sister or a lover or a daughter. Those he killed, but he never harmed the women.
- A Frozen Heart, a tie-in novel set in the world of Frozen, shows the life that Prince Hans lives in the Southern Isles, where his father, the king, is a textbook Evil Overlord. He's an emotionally abusive father who turned almost all of his sons into equally cruel and violent brutes who are loyal only to him, treats his wife with indifference and rules the Southern Isles with an iron fist. If Hans were the main character, the story would be about how he's The Hero set to stop and overthrow his Archnemesis Dad and Big Brother Bullies. Sadly, Hans became so desperate to finally be accepted by his father he ended becoming the villain in Anna and Elsa's story.
Live Action TV
- Justified has Memphis marijuana kingpin Rodney "Hot-Rod" Dunham, a recurring antagonist who occasionally clashes with Raylan Givens and Boyd Crowder. His final episode in Season 5 introduces his Friendly Enemy, DEA Agent Alex Miller, with whom he had a relationship very similar to the one between Raylan and Boyd, and reveals some of their shared past, making Miller and Hot-Rod the Hero and Villain of Another Story, respectively.
- During Season 6, while Sam and Dean were fighting the mother of all monsters down on Earth, up in Heaven, Castiel was trying to prevent the Archangel Raphael from taking over and restarting the Apocalypse.
- "Defending Your Life" has an unnamed serial killer whose crimes are ignored because Sam and Dean are busy fighting the god Osiris.
- How I Met Your Mother:
- Dracula himself appeared in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, aptly titled, "Buffy vs. Dracula". (Writer Marti Noxon says the villain in the story was going to be "just another vampire who rode a horse and was all cool", and that "I kept saying, 'Like Dracula'" - until Joss Whedon said, "Why not Dracula? He's public domain.")
- A common gag for wrestling promotions is to take a well known figure from somewhere else, and give him an easily noticeable but largely harmless role on their own shows, such as heel managers Jim Cornette, Bobby Heenan and Dave Prazak serving as commentators for LPWA, Women Of Wrestling and ROH\SHIMMER, CIMA's Dragon Gate minion Austin Aries serving as a referee in Wrestlicious or Chris Hero serving as a jobber for TNA (with his own trading card)
- Fire Emblem On Forums: Yhe, Vlade and Bladr. An odd case that applies more to their cult than individually, which is responsible for
- Sarius's poisoning
- The ritual that Chris believed removed his soul
- and Mia being exorcised into Ami
- Despite this, they have no involvement in the main plotline, and the majority of the cult was massacred offscreen by Chris.
- The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui:
- Arturo Ui's rise takes place at the same time as, and is very obviously based off of, the rise of Adolf Hitler, and each scene ends with a news headline showing the point in Hitler's rise which the scene is supposed to mirror. However, Hitler has no direct involvement in the plot.
- Al Capone is also mentioned in passing.
- This trope crops up frequently in Magic: The Gathering, which has numerous villainous characters who only ever show up in flavor text or on a single card without making any notable appearances in the main storyline. Tibalt in Avacyn Restored and Vraska in Return to Ravnica are especially prominent examples, as villainous planeswalkers who never actually show up in the plot.
- In The Walking Dead, The Stranger is an Anti-Villain and only a villain at all because Lee's group were the villains of his story: their theft of his supplies caused his remaining family to leave him and subsequently die, and he came after revenge.
- ARMA: In Take On Helicopters it's implied that the "coverup" ending of PMC was canonical, as Brian Frost has become head of operations for ION, so after a supply flight by Larkin Aviation on behalf of ION's parent corporation goes sour, the Larkin brothers pick up Frost and give him "a shaky ride" until he talks.
- Heroes Must Die: Lucarzi Lamorra, the head of the gothic city mafia. Also Storm and the rest of Lord Murder's dark council are this. subverted with storm who joins the Warborn to take down Murder.
- Culex from Super Mario RPG. His master ordered him to invade Mario's world, and he gladly would have but it was uninhabitable for him, so he instead serves as a Bonus Boss to fight Mario before he goes home. Which story does Culex hail from? We never find out. (Although the elemental crystals and distinctive theme music makes it clear he's meant to be a homage to the Final Fantasy games).
- Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal goes all the way with this with Watcher's Keep, a Bonus Dungeon which can culminate in the player taking on Demogorgon, the Prince of Demons. A huge villain within the Forgotten Realms setting for sure, but ultimately he has nothing to do with the main plot of the game.
- In The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky, Campanella the Fool spent the entirety of FC causing problems in Erebonia so that Cassius Bright would be stuck trying to resolve those so that he wouldn't be able to interfere with Ouroboros' plans in Liberl. As such, he doesn't appear onscreen until the sequel.
- Trails of Cold Steel has Baron Bleublanc, a.k.a Phantom Thief B. He's unmasked in a series of mandatory quests and is a known Enforcer of Ouroboros who appeared in earlier games, but as Ouroboros don't get involved in this game's plot until the Sequel Hook, he doesn't directly confront the main characters. (Except in a Drama CD) In the sequel though, he's a major Recurring Boss.
- All the villains who've reared their ugly heads so far in The Young Protectors are this.
- The Order of the Stick: The dwarf and the shadowdancer that are trying to kill the King of Nowhere (but accidentally target Roy) are this. Their motives are never explained and they leave the narrative to pursue their goal with no further interaction with the Order.
- In Red vs. Blue, the Covenant count as this. The series is mentioned to take place after the war with the Covenant, and Project Freelancer is said to have been made to fight off the Covenant. But the Covenant never appear in the series, only mentioned, and they have virtually no role in the series, whether good or bad.
- In Noob: La Quête Légendaire, Sparadrap's father Abraham, a Nun Too Holy mafia higher up covering as a priest. The spoilered out detail would make him a Laughably Evil villain or Anti-Villain in most settings. However, the story is mostly set in the fictional MMORPG that Sparadrap has been playing avidly and that Abraham just recently joined.
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, there's every member of the Evil League of Evil except for Bad Horse. The actual story is about the conflict between Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Doctor Horrible and Sociopathic Hero Captain Hammer. Bad Horse functions as a Greater-Scope Villain and prompts the situation to escalate by pushing Doctor Horrible into gradually more extreme acts of villainy. All the other members of the Evil League of Evil are just kind of... there. They show up onscreen in exactly one scene, for a few seconds, in which they do nothing and aren't even named. There's also Johnny Snow, Doctor Horrible's offscreen rival who apparently builds death rays and ice beams and keeps challenging Doctor Horrible to duels in a public park full of children.
- In Code Lyoko, Project Carthage was a government project used to block enemy communication. It is the reason why Franz Hopper made the super-computer, Lyoko, and XANA in the first place, so he could fight it. However, the Lyoko Warriors never fight it as Project Carthage never actually shows up in the series, and the Lyoko Warriors are focused on fighting the now-evil XANA.
- Hank Scorpio in The Simpsons episode You Only Move Twice is a bizarre example of this trope. Despite being an explicit on-screen James Bond-style super villain, he is always super nice towards the Simpsons, offering Homer a job at his company Globex Corporation, treating him as a friend rather than a subordinate, and being understanding but saddened when Homer has to quit for his family's sake. He's the page image of The Bad Guy Wins, but he never once antagonizes the Simpsons (the closest he comes is when he buys Homer a football team as a farewell gift, but gives him the Denver Broncos rather than the Dallas Cowboys as he wanted, and even then he acknowledges that it's not what Homer wanted). Scorpio was almost the Big Bad of The Simpsons Movie, but instead the writers went with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute with the same voice actor.
- Transformers Animated: Most of Team Chaar qualify. They only have cameos, from minor roles in the comics to the Transwarped opening fight, but their backstory establishes them as some of the most influential Decepticons. Strika was one of the Highest Commanding officer, and leads many of Megatron's spread out troops as well as the mission to get him back. Blackout was the most powerful Decepticon in the war, having destroyed several Omega Sentinels before being brought down in the Con's last stand. Oil Slick was responsible for the Cosmic Rust epidemic that killed soldiers on both sides and featured as the Big Bad in Ratchet's backstory "Bots of Science." Finally theres Cyclonus, who never speaks and nobody knows where he came from. The medic, Scalpel, theorizes that he may be from the Future and his existence foreshadows the emergence of Galvatron and the possible coming of Unicron.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Ahuizotl is a cunning, physically powerful villain who seeks to cause an eternal summer over a particular valley. In a world full of magical world-conquering villains like Nightmare Moon, King Sombra and Queen Chrysalis, he doesn't seem all that impressive, primarily because his power is mostly physical while the others tend to be reality warpers or powerful magic users or lead entire armies. However, he himself is aware of this, and is apparently having fights with Daring Do over powerful magical items while the Mane Cast and their villains are busy having their own fights for the fate of the world. Apparently, the fact he lacks high level magical powers of his own helps him get under Celestia and Luna's radar, explaining why the Princesses hadn't done anything against Ahuizotl themselves.
- Fitting for a show with a frequent Villain Protagonist, The Venture Bros. originally had Sergeant Hatred as the Villain of Another Story. He started as a catch-all for any time the writers needed to reference a villain for the Monarch's henchmen to steal from, or someone else that the Venture twins had encountered in the past. He eventually joined the show as a regular. A similar situation occurred with Captain Sunshine, a supposed hero. He does appear later on.
- Likewise, whenever Kim Possible mentioned her exploits thwarting a different villain to the one she was this episode, it would always be Professor Dementor, who was originally He Who Must Not Be Seen, but was developed into Always Someone Better for Dr Drakken.
- In Darkwing Duck, Dr. Slug is Public Enemy #1, yet we've never really seen him.
- Archer: Algernop Krieger is a Mad Scientist who tapes bum fights, frequently experiments on people without their consent, steals bodies for experiments, was eager in one episode to pump nerve gas into the ISIS ventilation system, insists he's not a serial killer, repeatedly sells ISIS weapons to gangs and criminals to fund his operations, sells important ISIS secrets to the KGB, tried to sell uranium to North Korea, is heavily implied to have raped his pet pig, and may or may not be a clone of Adolf Hitler. Despite all this, he's yet to have a single antagonistic role.
- Futurama: "Attack of the Killer App" has Mom attempting to Take Over the World by creating an army of zombies. The actual plot of the episode is a falling-out between Fry and Leela.
- Courage the Cowardly Dog: Courage may have fought more than his fair share of villains, but there are hints than in an unhappy world such as Nowhere, there are always more out there and an eternal bane. Like Eustace's older brother Horst who did plenty of unpleasant stuff to animals being a Egomaniac Hunter but he is dead by the time of the series and he may also qualify for Predecessor Villain given that his taunting led Eustace to prove that he was as good and successful a hunter as him. Also in at least one episode one tentacled monster appears and contributes nothing to the plot other than show that danger lurks in every corner and people like Eustace still do not notice.
- Rick and Morty: Coach Feratu from "Big Trouble In Little Sanchez", Morty and Summer's vampire gym teacher whom Morty mentions killed a lunch lady prior to the episode. He never actually appears and is killed offscreen by Tiny Rick, Morty, and Summer five minutes into the episode.
- DuckTales (1987) has the episode Superdoo. The main story revolves around Doofus, who uses an alien crystal that gives him superpowers that he uses to adopt the name "Superdoo," save the day from several disasters, and also to gain merit badges. The subplot reveals that the crystal was stolen by two alien criminals who wanted to use it to take over the galaxy, and that the disasters were inadvertently caused by the aliens who wanted the crystal back.
- Dungeons & Dragons has two prominent examples:
- Tiamat is a five-headed dragon who presumably is doing evil things...elsewhere. She never actively sets out to conquer the Realm, destroy the kids or doing anything evil on screen. The current state of the world is Venger's doing and in fact, she is more of an enemy to him than the kids, as she represents the one obstacle of total domination of the Realm and he requires their magical weapons to defeat her.
- An even bigger example than Tiamat is Venger's master, also known as the Nameless One, an highly powerful entity responsible for corrupting the Evil Overlord in the first place and granting him his magical powers. He appears for only one episode to threaten the Realm and requires everyone to stand together to drive him out. According to the Dungeon Master, the Nameless One has terrorized other worlds beyond the Realm and after being defeated (which is considered only a temporary setback), he will be off to torment them next.