Villain Protagonist
Sometimes, a story will leave you Rooting for the Empire.

"HBO has proven that we will follow for years and years some pretty reprehensible characters as long as they're fascinating."
George R.R. Martin talking about The Sopranos

Where is it written that the bad guy can't be the main character? Nowhere.

An interesting twist on conventional storytelling is to make the The Protagonist a villain. Sometimes (but not always), this villainous main character will even get the Sympathetic P.O.V.. On the other hand, it is not necessary for a villain to be sympathetic for them to be this trope. They simply need to be a villain whose morally reprehensible actions (however well-intentioned) are in no way glossed over or justified within the context of the story. We are seeing the story from the villain's point of view.

A Villain Protagonist (especially in a comedy) is quite likely to go down in flames at the end. Whether this counts as a Downer Ending or not generally depends on how many dogs they kick along the way and/or how entertaining their Humiliation Conga or Karmic Death is. They may also do a Heel–Face Turn and become a Hero Protagonist. This doesn't necessarily mean they will lose or perform a Heel–Face Turn. In fact, their status as a main character just makes it more likely that the story will end with the villain winning than any other story would.

When this is done for one episode, it's a Villain Episode.

This trope very often overlaps with a Nominal Hero and/or Sociopathic Hero, and sometimes with the more extreme cases of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. A Villain Protagonist can deal with cases where he is the victim of some other villain rather than the aggressor and try to survive like anyone else would, but in order to be considered a Sociopathic Hero or a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as well, his struggle has to protect other victims of his enemy, it doesn't matter if he cares at all about them or if any good that comes out of it is purely coincidental since he is so self-centered. It can easily result in Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy if handled poorly, or if the Protagonist is too Villainous.

Not to be confused with the Byronic Hero, who is simply a deeply flawed person, heroic or not. Many Byronic Heroes tend to zone in and out of Villain Protagonist territory, though.

Contrast Hero Antagonist, both in terms of morality and role in the story. Compare and contrast Villain Antagonist and Hero Protagonist.


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    Films — Animation 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: House Lannister has gradually became the most prominent one in the story with Tyrion and Cersei ranking the first and the second in terms of speaking lines over the course of four seasons (and Jaime placing within the top 5), and despite the existence of it's more sympathetic members, like Tyrion, Tywin and Jaime, it still serves as the Big Bad of the families of Westeros, with even those characters technically supporting the villainous side. Until Tyrion's exile, anyway. Cersei Lannister is clearly the viewpoint character during the Faith in King's Landing storyline in Season 6.
  • Oz, being set in a prison, naturally revolves around the inmates, many of whom are guilty of murder, rape, drug dealing, etc.
  • The Sopranos: Considering that well over half the cast is in the Mob, this trope was bound to pop up. Even the nicer ones have no problem with murder, drug trafficking, and other unsavory, illegal activities. And chances are, if you're not in the mob, you're a huge Jerkass who just doesn't happen to be as morally bankrupt.
  • The title character of The Mary Whitehouse Story. (She was an overbearing Moral Guardian, and permanently upset by The BBC, by the way.)
  • Alan B'stard of The New Statesman. A corrupt politician abusing his power, all Played for Laughs.
  • Nancy Botwin and her Affably Evil associates from Weeds are drug dealers. Then again, almost every official and law officer is a corrupt hypocrite. She starts out in a Stepford Suburbia in a Crapsack World, and things go downhill from there.
  • Walter White of Breaking Bad slowly evolves toward this over the course of the first four seasons, especially under his "Heisenberg" alter-ego. Walter still remains an Anti-Hero, thus maintaining audience support, by always struggling against someone worse than him. By the fifth season, however, Walter has become a cold and cruel man, and his opposition is his own family, becoming the Big Bad in his own story.
  • There are a few episodes of iCarly where even Freddie and Carly end up going against Sam when she does something bad. Example, starting a child labour sweatshop.
  • Sylar of Heroes. In the first season he's the Big Bad, but in the second and subsequent seasons he's a protagonist and goes through a Heel–Face Revolving Door, spending some portions as a hero and more portions as a villain.
  • To the extent that they are protagonists, rather than Echo, the staff of the Dollhouse is this. Although their villainy lessens over time, especially in season 2 as a Greater Evil is uncovered.
  • All male members of the Blake's 7 crew flirt with this, even Blake when you consider that in the finale of season 2 it's made clear that he was fully willing to cause the deaths of millions of people (by computer failure) in order to take down the Federation.
  • Francis Urquhart in the BBC series House of Cards and its sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut. Urquhart is a Richard III-esque British MP who schemes his way up to being Prime Minister via various sneaky and some downright evil acts.
  • Frank Underwood in the House of Cards U.S. remake is a ruthless politician who will do anything for more power. In Shakespearean tradition, he frequently gives snide, sneering and self-satisfied asides to the audience, letting the viewer see inside his twisted mind. Also applies increasingly to his wife Claire as she gets more and more focus and power. They're both pretty damn evil, really.
  • Lex Luthor in Smallville. Although the show is supposed to be about Clark Kent, it focuses on Lex just as much and his descent into becoming the Arch-Enemy of Superman.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Don't hang out with those guys, or they'll crush your spirits and make you as vile as them.
  • Al Swearingen in the first season of Deadwood is a co-protagonist and the main villain, with Seth Bullock as the heroic co-protagonist. In the second and third season, the Hearst enterprises serve as the villain and Al becomes a more sympathetic Anti-Hero.
  • This is very often the case on Tales from the Crypt, where the protagonist is a murderer or some other sadistic criminal (who usually gets what's coming to him at the hands of someone who's even worse.)
  • Boardwalk Empire: By the end of the second season, nearly every major character qualifies. Hell, even the Hero Antagonist has turned into one.
  • Almost every episode of Columbo starts off from the villain's point-of-view as he or she carries out a supposedly perfect murder.
  • The Borgias: Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander Sextus, is this. He's Affably Evil, has four kids and an openly-known mistress, and has no problem with blackmail or bribery, and pimps his kids out to the highest bidder. Plus, there's all of the less-than-ethical executions he's considered, and the situations his children have had to endure—in what amounts to emotional abuse. His elder son, Cesare, is an even better example, what with the killing people, having a personal assassin as a best friend, and really loving his sister, though that's probably the least villainous part of his personality. If history has anything to say about it, he gets worse.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Moon herself is revealed to have been this all along toward the end of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. She's the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety.
  • Harry Montebello in The Straits has been known to kill people by feeding them to a variety of exotic wildlife. This is because he takes the security of his drug-smuggling business and his family extremely seriously.
  • 24 has a couple: in the penultimate season there was Tony Almeida who actually eclipsed Jack for a good chunk of the season by working with a group of terrorists and actually is the first to plan out an attack on a subway station all so he could work his way up try and kill their leader, and in the final season both Allison Taylor who protects the masterminds behind a successful assassination attempt on a foreign government official and Jack Bauer himself who attempts to assassinate said masterminds even though his doing so starts indirectly putting innocent people in danger, so much so that he ultimately nearly stars a world war trying to kill the one in charge.
  • Scandal: Olivia Pope and her team start out as traditional protagonists, but that changes at the start of season 2. For starters, Olivia and Supreme Court Justice Verna shut down Quinn's trial to save Quinn. David Rosen is unhappy about that, and he decides to dig for answers about Quinn. It turns out that Olivia, Verna, Cyrus, Mellie, and Hollis are working together in some sort of conspiracy. Olivia had an affair with President Fitz for a long time, despite the fact that Fitz is still married to Mellie. Also, Olivia participated in rigging the election so that Fitz would become President. She also sabotaged David's efforts to find answers. When you put it together, you have a group of protagonists who are actually villains and not heroes.
  • The Americans protagonists are deep-cover KGB sleeper agents in the United States in 1981. The main antagonist is the FBI agent who is trying to catch them. It's an American series, so it definitely qualifies for this trope (though beyond any nationalistic bias, the protagonists frequently commit acts that would be considered murder no matter where their loyalties lie).
  • Skins has Tony Stonem in Series 1, who is a manipulative, heartless bastard. He gets better.
  • Dexter: The main character is a serial killer who targets other murderers. Dexter is an Anti-Hero for most of the series, as although he is a murderer, the conflict comes from him opposing a more villainous Big Bad in each season. In the final season, however, Dexter's flaws finally catch up to him and he's portrayed as his own worst enemy, pushing him into becoming the villain of his own story.
  • Edmund Blackadder of the Blackadder series is a greedy, self-centred arse who enjoys insulting those around him and will happily betray, abuse and mis-treat those around him, especially his inferiors. Frankly, if he wasn't played by Rowan Atkinson he'd be almost completely unlovable. Averted - albeit temporarily - in "Blackadder's Christmas Carol", and in the final minutes of the final episode of Blackadder Goes Forth.
  • Henry VIII on The Tudors is a chronically-backstabbing, Control Freak Narcissist with a Hair-Trigger Temper who spends four straight seasons abusing his family, murdering his rivals (and sometimes their innocent family members), and manipulating national policy to flatter his own vanity.
  • Shameless: Frank Gallagher is an alcoholic, lying, dishonest, violent, neglectful parent, but he's still the main character.
  • Early seasons of Sons of Anarchy paint Jax Teller as the more idealistic (though far from innocent) alternative to his violent, crooked stepfather Clay Morrow. But near the end of Season 4, that all changes. A series of tragedies in Jax's personal life cause him to be sidetracked onto a path of revenge, and he becomes increasingly violent, manipulative, and generally controlled by evil. The show attempts to portray him favorably by putting SAMCRO up against some of the worst criminals imaginable, but his efforts to defeat them always wind up causing him and his club more mental anguish. By the start of Season 7, it's apparent that Jax has become the villain of his own story.
  • House of Saddam chronicles the rise and fall of Iraq's infamous former dictator.
  • Discussed in the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys episode "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hercules", where — behind the scenes — the lead actor Kevin Sorbo goes missing, forcing the writers to consider changing the show to account for Hercules' disappearance, and two of the staff members, a gun nut and an unhinged psychopath played by the actors who play Ares and Xena's nemesis Callisto, gleefully propose spinoff series about Ares and Callisto respectively.
    • Though a third writer, Alex Kurtzman, notes that without Hercules as Hero Antagonist, there'd be nothing for them to do. Cut to Ares and Callisto playing an overblown game of rock-paper-scissors.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil: To be expected in a biographical miniseries that focuses on Adolf Hitler. The main character is a racist demagogue who wants to institute a new dictatorial empire and annihilate the Jews.
  • Justified splits its screentime equally between U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens and Harlan County crime boss Boyd Crowder, the latter of whom, as a ruthless criminal trying to take control of the county, is a definite example of this.
  • The Vampire Diaries didn't start out this way, but as more of the Main Characters became vampires, and even "good" vampires like Stefan were revealed to have done horrific things, Villain Protagonists became the norm. By the end of the third season, Elena admits that killing all the vampires in the world, including her friends, would actually be the right thing to do, and that trying to keep them alive, at the expense of who-knows-how-many people they'll go on to kill, makes her the bad guy. To which she adds, "Fine, I'll be the bad guy."
  • After a certain point in season 1 of Homeland and throughout season 2, the audience is aware of POW turned terrorist Nicholas Brody having ill intentions of which the intelligence agent protagonists are unaware, and the audience's sympathies are split between wanting to see them stop him and seeing if/how he can overcome various obstacles in his way. In season 5, a significant amount of the plot involves a new character, Allison, who is a Double Agent for Russia. The regular cast members essentially play a Hero Antagonist role in relation to her, as she plays them against each other and later on, attempts to evade discovery and capture.
  • Supernatural: By the end of Season 10, it's clear that Sam and Dean Winchester are the biggest threats currently out there, and only barely any better than the things they hunt, if at all.
  • Doctor Who: The three-part finale of Series 9 ("Face the Raven"/"Heaven Sent"/"Hell Bent") sees the Doctor undergo a Protagonist Journey to Villain when he experiences a horrifying Trauma Conga Line of betrayal, torture, and above all the death of his companion/Morality Chain/sweetheart Clara Oswald. He thus spends most of "Hell Bent" as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds ready to risk the safety of the universe on the Tragic Dream of saving her from the grave, but ultimately has a Heel Realization and with the help of Laser-Guided Karma returns to his best self.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend has a Deconstruction. The protagonist Rebecca is not really a bad person, but she moved all the way to West Covina just to reunite with her ex-boyfriend, and has repeatedly done bizarre schemes to get together with him, even though he's with someone else. The ex-boyfriend's current girlfriend Valencia is portrayed as an Alpha Bitch who sees other women as "just jealous of her", but the show makes it on many occasions that Rebecca's actions to steal Josh away, however she may justify them to herself, are still wrong. Rebecca herself comes to think so, in her Heel Realization song "I'm The Villain In My Own Story".

  • Clockwork Quartet's 'The Watchmaker's Apprentice' is told from the perspective of a man who frames his boss for murder.
  • The narrator of the Wreckers song "Crazy People". There's a reason only crazy people fall in love with you, lady.
  • Pink, from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Though the album begins with a Start of Darkness and ends with a redemption of sorts.
  • The narrator of Warren Zevon's "Mr. Bad Example". He starts out stealing from a church fund for widows and orphans, and only gets worse. The Ax-Crazy "Excitable Boy" would be another example.
  • Hip-Hop artists like Jay-Z or 50 Cent were allegedly criminals before having music careers, and many of their songs deal with this topic from their perspective.
  • The viewpoint character of Voltaire's song "When You're Evil" is a Card-Carrying Villain. Also "Almost Human", and "The Chosen" and "Brains"... he kinda likes that one.
  • The Rake from The Decemberists' "The Rake's Song" sings, without so much as a hint of regret, about how he killed his three children in order to escape from the responsibilities of parenthood. It's quite good.
  • Nick Cave has a few songs about villain protagonists, most notably the entire album Murder Ballads.
  • The heavy metal band GWAR can be classified as this.
  • Then there's "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, which should qualify.
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is about a hero who travels to the future and witnesses The End of the World as We Know It, and when he travels back to the present, he is transformed into the title's villain who causes the future destruction in the first place.
  • Peter Gabriel's songs "Intruder" and "Family Snapshot" are told from the perspectives of a burglar and Lee Harvey Oswald, respectively.
  • The Primus song "My Name Is Mud" is sung from the perspective of a man who murdered his friend and is burying the body.
  • Everything that happens in a Monster Magnet song happens with a fistful of pills. Protagonists run the gamut from garden-variety drug abusers/dealers to comic-book-style supervillains and demonic agents. There are a lot of bombs getting planted, and things might get a little rape-y. Notable are the infanticidal couple of "See You in Hell", the drug-addled character in "Tractor", and various personifications of evil in "Kiss of the Scorpion", "Atomic Clock", and "Bummer".
    I drove out to the Meadowlands to throw our baby away. —"See You in Hell"
    If you wanna spank your demons and make them pay, well baby, I'm your man of the hour —"Bummer"
    Got a knife in my back, got a hole in my arm, I'm driving a tractor on a drug farm —"Tractor"
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is sung by a condemned murderer who is only sorry he didn't get away with it. Maybe. At the very least, we know Beelzebub has a devil put aside for him. For him. For hiiiiiiiiiiiim.
  • The Beatles had a few examples: the title characters in John's "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", Paul's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and George's "Taxman" (the last one is also the viewpoint character), the persona in John's "Run for Your Life", and John's persona in the second half of "Happiness is a Warm Gun".
  • Ziltoid from the Ziltoid the Omniscient album by Devin Townsend is definitely this. He destroys earth, because he didn't like the coffee they presented him, follows the escaping humans to another planet, unsuccessfully attempts to destroy that one, then he asks the Planet Smasher to destroy another planet, which is populated by sentient being, just to lift his mood.
  • The Nirvana song "Polly" is sung from the point of view of a rapist who holds his victim captive and tortures her with razors and a blowtorch. It was based on a true story.
  • Many, many Vocaloid songs. Notable examples include Mothy-P's Story of Evil and the numerous "yandere" songs like "Luka's Love Disease," "Miku's Rotten Girl," and "Grotesque Romance."
  • "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who is this with an Anti-Villain.
  • The narrators of Iron Maiden's "Sanctuary" (a man who killed a woman and is looking for a hideout), "Moonchild" (Lucifer himself), and "El Dorado" (a Corrupt Corporate Executive).
  • Metallica's "Jump in the Fire" is sung by the Devil.
  • Slayer's "Angel of Death," about Josef Mengele.
  • Elton John's "Ticking" has an initially unassuming protagonist going on to kill 14 people in a mass shooting before being gunned down by police.
  • The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" was written about Brenda Spencer, who killed two adults and injured nine children in a school shooting in San Diego in 1979.
  • U2's "Until the End of the World" is sung from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ.
  • Within Temptation uses these most significantly in their "Unforgiving" album (and supplemental arc videos), which revolves around a vigilante serial killer cult recruited from the souls of the damned.
  • The Eagles' 1973 album Desperado tells the story of real-life wild west outlaws Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton.
  • The main character from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral starts off as someone who indulges heavily in sex and drugs to try to feel something, but crosses the Moral Event Horizon when he eventually rapes someone.
    • Several songs on Year Zero are also from the villains' perspectives. "God Given" and "Capital G" are from the viewpoints of the corrupt church and state respectively, "The Great Destroyer" is most likely the viewpoint of a character known as "The Angry Sniper," and the last half of "The Warning" has the disembodied hand in the sky known as The Presence threaten to destroy mankind if they don't change their ways.
  • The band, Fear Factory's, earlier albums were based on a continues storyline about a futuristic war between man and machine; machines being the villains. Many of their songs at the time had the machine leader giving it's commentary on wanting to wipe out the human race.
  • Barnacle Bill the Sailor from the Bawdy Song of the same name is occasionally depicted as this, especially in the more vulgar versions of the song. If the fair young maiden asks what will happen if her parents see him, he will answer that he will "kill your pa and fuck your ma". When asked about what will happen if he goes to jail, Barnacle Bill will brag that he will escape. At the very least, the cleaner versions of the song make it clear that Barnacle Bill is not a pleasant fellow.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Iktomi in numerous Lakota fables. Despite being a member of the Wacan Sica, he is also the paradigm of human advancement, meaning that he will appear in these stories to teach the characters and readers valuable lessons (often indirectly).


  • Thomas in Old Harry's Game is the focus of most of the story lines he's in. He's also such a godawful person that Satan (himself an example of this trope) is shocked by how evil he is at times.

    Tabletop Games 
  • After two expansions to their Middle Earth CCG, Iron Crown Entertainment tried shaking things up by releasing a whole second basic set called "The Lidless Eye", casting the players as one of the nine Nazgul, working in the shadows to locate the Ringbearer and/or rally the monstrous races into an army. An interesting idea, but unfortunately, one which did nothing to stem fan complaints of "filler lore", and only ruffled more feathers by being largely incompatible with cards from the previous set.
  • TheWarhammer 40,000 RPG Black Crusade will cast the player characters as members of the Forces of Chaos, either Chaos Space Marines or human Heretics. A PC's story arc will have one of four endings: death, ascension as a Daemon Prince, leadership of a Black Crusade, or transformation into a Chaos Spawn.
  • The basic assumption when you play an Abyssal in Exalted. One chapter even has discussion about how to make the game more than one slaughterfest after another; they are that Baaad.
    • This is where you're assumed to start as a Green Sun Prince. Subverted, however, if you quickly catch on that the Yozis are (A) certifiably insane and (B) can't actually rope you in. You can become a Punch-Clock Villain looking for an escape, a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Hero using a loose interpretation of your orders to push an ultimately productive agenda, or just a plan ol' Noble Demon who just wants to be left alone, before you slip the leash entirely.
  • Many gamelines of the World of Darkness have the players as traditional "monsters", vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. But there are few where the player character actually has to be evil, Beast: The Primordial is one of those exceptions. Beasts have to inspire fear, often destructively, else their Soul runs rampant and does it anyway, with a chance of creating Heroes obsessed with slaying them. But even Beasts can feed their hunger without being destructive by watching other supernaturals feed.
  • Though not specific to any system in particular, it's very much the point to many campaigns. The "evil campaign" is often used to change things up where the PCs are the group of troublesome goblins, the terrorizing bandits or eclectic grouping of monsters. The goals tend to vary from pure destruction for the sake of destruction, sticking it to a certain group, actual goals of city/country/world domination or even a subversion of the genre.
  • By definition, Player Characters in Shadowrun are all criminals, and more often than not criminals performing not only illegal but also immoral acts on the behest of one Mega Corp. or Syndicate or another.
  • Bloody Inn has the players act as members of a villainous family of innkeepers who compete to see who can murder and rob more guests without being caught by the authorities.
  • Legendary Encounters: Predator has a variant where the players play as Predators who are hunting humans for trophies.
  • The SavageWorlds setting NecessaryEvil has the players make supervillain characters to combat an alien invasion.

  • Christopher Marlowe's plays:
    • Tamburlaine features as its protagonist a man who mutilates, kills, subjugates, and rapes at any opportunity he gets. He locks up the Ottoman Emperor in a cage and feeds him his wife; he kills one of his own sons for being unwilling to fight; he is driven around in a chariot drawn by deposed kings and emperors. In the end, he burns a Qor'an and dies suddenly.
    • The Jew of Malta goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that takes in a lot of innocent bystanders, including an entire convent full of nuns.
    • Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil for diabolical powers that he uses for selfish and often petty goals.
  • In the plays of William Shakespeare:
  • Medea from Greek Myth, at least as presented by Euripides in the play Medea. A straight reading of the facts of the myth makes Medea come across as an irredeemably evil multiple murderess (her victims included her younger brother and her sons), yet Euripides presents her as sympathetic, or at least understandable.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character kills everyone who comes into his barbershop and has them baked into meat pies to get rid of the bodies. Mrs. Lovett fits the trope as well.
  • In Used Cars, the salesman protagonists lie, cheat, and steal from essentially everyone they meet.
  • Volpone is a greedy and lecherous con man; the play's main plot is about him faking being on the edge of death to trick people into giving him gifts in the hopes that he'd name them as his heir.
  • Arnolphe, from The School for Wives (L'école des femmes), is a clear example, although he is usually seen as sympathetic because all his plans are easily thwarted and his villainy stems mostly from his desire to have a loving wife who will not be unfaithful to him.
  • Don Giovanni is a lecherous noble who has had sex with over two thousand women before callously abandoning them. The opera begins with him trying to rape a woman, then killing her father when he defends her honor.
  • While most of the cast of Great Britain are morally ambiguous at best, the main character, Paige Britain, is most definitely a villain, being a worker at a tabloid paper, who rapidly becomes more corrupt and goes to greater ends to try and further her career. She eventually crosses the Moral Event Horizon by allowing a Page Seven model to starve to death so she can have the exclusive rights to her death story.
  • No Exit: All three main characters have well earned being condemned to Hell together. Ines is a self-proclaimed sadist who murdered her own cousin to get with his wife, Garcin is a narcissistic Dirty Coward who emotionally abused and cheated on his wife, and Estelle is an unhinged psychopath who drowned her own baby and drove her lover to suicide in order to cover up an affair.

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    Visual Novels 
  • Atlach=Nacha, where the protagonist is a humanitarian Giant Spider who lusts after tender young schoolgirls.
  • Servant Avenger from Fate/hollow ataraxia is definitely a Villain Protagonist - he is supposed to Evil Incarnate, after all. His soul itself is twisted and Always Chaotic Evil, and he actively pursues murder and rape to pass the time. This does not prevent him from becoming a character you can sympathise with, especially after the flashback to his horrific Start of Darkness and some very poignant conversations with other characters. Despite hating humanity, he still shoulders the responsibility that was forced onto him - to bear every sin ever committed and will be committed by a human and forever serve as a twisted 'champion' of humanity. The ending is complete with a Tear Jerking Heroic Sacrifice.
    "Even if humanity is worthless, the history that has been laid down until now has meaning.
    (...) It is not a sin to exist."
  • Saya no Uta's protagonist and female lead are an insane, cannibalistic killer and an amoral Eldritch Abomination, respectively. Although one doesn't start out that way and they're both very, very sympathetic.
  • Umineko: When They Cry loves to play with this trope, at least in-universe. Namely, in the 5th Arc, Battler become the Endless Sorcerer while a Mary Sue of Bernkastel's creation takes up the 'protagonist' role. (That is, has a reliable perspective.) In reality, though, no face heels or heel faces occur. The 'protagonist' role simply gets taken over by the two most evil characters in the series while they force the good guys into the 'antagonist' role.
  • A number of "dark" visual novels of the H variety feature a protagonist who, from the beginning, intends nothing better than to rape and/or enslave as many targets as possible.
  • Towards the climax of Super Dangan Ronpa 2, it's revealed that all the quirky, but not exactly evil, students are actually dangerous terrorists put in a Lotus-Eater Machine in an attempt to be rehabilitated. In fact, Hajime Hinata, as his alter ego and Junko Enoshima's dragon, Izuru Kamukura, is responsible for not just the events of the game, but also the Tragedy that sparked the entire series. By the end, however, all the survivors choose to atone for their actions.

    Web Animation 
  • In the prequel segments of Red vs. Blue, the Freelancers fall in this category... but they're not portrayed as bad guys, just as guys being told the bad things they're doing are actually for good reasons.
  • The webseries Gotham Girls stars four of Batman's most prominent supporting ladies. One of them is the vigilante superhero Batgirl... and the other three are jewel thief Catwoman, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy and supporting henchgirl Harley Quinn. Their shenanigans can be entertaining, but they never let up with the thievery and crime.
  • GEOWeasel focuses on The Big Weas, whose goal is to take over the world, though he is not seen doing much to that end.
  • Llamas with Hats: Carl is an Axe-Crazy psychopath who slaughters crews ships, nukes cities, mutilates babies to steal their hands, and eventually goes on to end all life on Earth.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • While Lumpy is usually portrayed as well-meaning but extremely stupid, there are some episodes where he is instead portrayed as this, such as "We're Scrooged" where he murders Toothy for the sake of selling his body parts, "Banjo Frenzy" when he goes on a killing spree because nobody liked his song, and "All in Vein" when he's a vampire, and not the friendly kind.
    • Lifty and Shifty are the focus of most episodes where they appear. They also swindle and steal from the other characters on a regular basis, often knowingly killing the victim in the process.
    • While Splendid is usually just a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's this full-on in his one appearance in "Ka-Pow!" when he starts a fight with Splendont which destroys half the town and kills countless people just because Splendont wouldn't shake his hand.
    • While Flippy isn't a villain to start with (most of the time), his Superpowered Evil Side usually takes over midway through most episodes focusing on him.
  • Many Youtube Poop protagonists will murder, rape, and do all kinds of horrific things for little to no reason.
  • In two shows created by Mark Cope and Carlos Moss: Mackenzie Zales from The Most Popular Girls in School and Dr. Havoc from Dr. Havoc's Diary.

    Web Comics 
  • Life and Death while played for laughs, Steve takes his job as Death seriously and murders a lot of people as does his assistant Sally.
  • Bun Bun of Sluggy Freelance is a sociopathic, switchblade-wielding, possibly immortal madman (well, madrabbit) who cuts anything that annoys him, and he was actually the protagonist of a story arc.
  • In Zebra Girl, the eponymous character's transformation into a demon was initially Played for Laughs, but the long-running Cerebus Syndrome is turning her into a Villain Protagonist.
  • Arthur Yahtzee from Yahtzee Takes On The World (by Yahtzee) is a wannabe Evil Genius who's trying to take over the world.
  • Every character in Cry Havoc bar Hati is greedy, violent, sadistic, or manipulative. The only defining characteristic the protagonists share is a sense of group loyalty (that may or may not be innate).
  • Dr. Kinesis, and in fact, most of the main characters in Evil Plan. The webcomic is about supervillains, so this trope applies heavily.
  • The stunningly mis-named Angel of The Good Witch, who has a Freudian Excuse, but long since went over the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Jared features three main characters who are all varying shades of evil; Jared, Mary and Lilac, as well as some with questionable motives; corrupt police officer Carl and Hat Cat. The good guy is not introduced until the last page of the first arc.
  • Second Empire has the Daleks of the Second Dalek Empire going against the slightly more evil First Dalek Empire.
  • Bad Guy High, which is about a school for wannabe supervillains.
  • The Vampire Cheerleaders were meant to come across as group of comedic sociopaths, but wound up being perceived as this trope instead, due to the severity of some of their actions. They officially became villains during the "Vampire Cheerleaders Must Die!" crossover which cast the Paranormal Mystery Squad as heroic antagonists, who were out to save Bakertown High from Lori and her Coven of vampires. This created a huge split in the fanbase that caused many of them to drop the series.
  • Heist stars Geist, an Intangible Man master thief who makes the same mistake Icarus did.
  • The Grey and Grey Morality of Two Rooks complicates matters, but protagonist Dea O'Malley is a ruthless assassin working for a crime syndicate, and his opposite number, Serus Eden, is undeniably A Lighter Shade of Grey. But neither side is all that nice.
  • Voodoo Walrus ended their first year with a massive storyline focusing on baddies Mac and Shmeerm viciously taking down Big Bad Cyradwee and every last one of his underlings.
  • Minion Comics focuses on the lives of minions who sign up with an evil organization.
  • Goblins follows a band of goblins from a role-playing game, usually regarded as low-level adventurer fodder, leading you to expect it would be this. However, the goblins are actually pretty heroic. A couple of straight examples do occur in the series, though, particularly the character of K'Seliss. (K'Seliss is part of a party including a couple of more admirable characters, though; the truly evil characters in the setting are never really used as viewpoint characters.)
  • The eponymous characters of the Mega Crossover Roommates are Jareth the Goblin King, Erik, Javert, and Norrington.
  • Harry the Dagger is a fairly low-level example.
  • When She Was Bad focuses on Gail Swanson, a gang member who accidentally receives some superpowers meant for Amber Price, who is The Chosen One and also happens to be an Alpha Bitch who bullied her in high school. Rather than be a hero like Amber, Gail decides to use her powers to become a supervillain.
  • Asa and Rook of Hotblood!, who — when introduced to us, the audience — are hightailing it away from law inforcement. Rook notes he has a bounty of $800 on his head (a lot of money, for The Wild West).
  • Beyond The Veil is about a deposed Galactic Emperor resurrected in the stolen body of a hapless (female) explorer. Her plan to regain her throne seems to involve spreading misinformation and fear by unleashing a genetically engineered monster and a henchman who can't remember what order to Rape, Pillage, and Burn on a medieval planet.
  • True Villains is about a former Nominal Hero trying out the dark side of the alignment divide with a Card-Carrying Villain demon, an Ax-Crazy Necromancer, and a power-hungry mage. It doesn't take him too long to stop being put off by how fun his new boss finds villainy.
  • The main protagonist of Baskets of Guts is a three hundred years old lich, who wants to conquer the world with an army of undead. And though for the most of the story he may seem to be funny, reasonable and kind of passive, his intentions are genuine.
  • String Theory is about Dr. Schtein's descent into villainy.

    Web Original 
  • Destroy the Godmodder: In Be the Godmodders, you played as godmodders, trashing the last safe haven left.
  • The Blogfic Soon, I will Rule The World! has one of these. He's a Lich who has come to our world to take it over. He hasn't really crossed the Moral Event Horizon yet, and he's decent to his minions, but does collect protection money from a substantial chunk of the city and did try (and fail) to hypnotize some orphans to mess with his nemesis. Though it is implied (Albeit barely, though the author says that more on that is planned) that he does have a Freudian Excuse.
  • Unlike most superhero-based Shared Universe's. The Metaverse focuses primarily on the villains. And then, a lot of the heroes aren't all that heroic...
  • Doctor Horrible from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a self-proclaimed supervillain, and the story opens with him practicing his Evil Laugh. As a nerdy, Affably Evil, Well-Intentioned Extremist, he's contrasted starkly with Hero Antagonist Captain Hammer, who is closer to a Knight Templar Villain with Good Publicity than anything resembling an actual hero. Though this really counts as a Deconstruction: Billy/Dr. Horrible insists that Utopia Justifies the Means, but even he seems confused sometimes about his motives ("All the cash, all the fame—and social change!/Anarchy, that I run..."), in contrast to Penny's more traditional, charitable methods of improving the world. And, of course, there's the ending.
  • Dorf Quest's Beardbeard embodies this trope - cutting down forests, killing elves, attacking small children, and promoting Satan himself to godhood.
  • Muschio in Dive Quest's goal is to "become the Devil" and has no qualms about burning down peaceful villages and assassinating his rivals to get his way.
    Muschio: When I was very young, I asked my mother what I would have grown up to be, if I were not the Prince. She told me, "Muschio. Whatever you desire, that you shall have tenfold. If you want to be a soldier, you will become a general. If you want to be a monk, you shall become pope." I wanted to be a villain. *Beat* And I do not intend to stop until I have become the Devil.
  • The point of the entire series Cause of Death, where individual serial killers and psychos end up joining together and, in some cases, dueling against one another. It's up to the viewer to decide who to root for, because everyone in the show is going to Hell anyway.
  • That Guy with the Glasses:
    • The most blatant example on the site would be Diamanda Hagan, who is an actual supervillain.
    "Doctor Doom is a pussy!"
  • In Worm, not only is the protagonist a villain (well, sort of, at firstalthough she later becomes one for sort-of real) but most of the perspectives seen via Interludes are also villainous. Anti-villainy varies greatly.
  • Michael from The Salvation War. Though the humans are undoubtedly the real heroes of the story, Michael acts as our main viewpoint in Heaven, and has quite sympathetic motivations in wanting to limit the damage done to Heaven when the humans inevitably invade, even as he keeps crossing the Moral Event Horizon to accomplish this.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • The story "Mimeographic", featuring the supervillain Mimeo. He's not an amoral street thug. He's an amoral street thug with unstoppable superpowers.
    • Or "It's Good to be the Don", told from the viewpoint of Don Sebastiano.
    • Or the Jobe stories. Or "Razzle Dazzle", told by a supervillain who may have been, among other supervillains, the legendary Cerebrex. It's hard to be sure, since it clearly has an Unreliable Narrator.
  • Eric from Mall Fight. Originally he was Heroic Neutral, a Type IV Anti Hero at worst, but in the latest canon he rules over a Wretched Hive, keeping dozens of slave girls and a former classmate he's obsessed with as his queen against her will. He still tries to do good and wants to be a hero, he just doesn't care about what anyone else wants.
  • Iriana from Ilivais X gradually becomes this. At first, she's mostly freaked out, having narrowly escaped from an eternity of servitude to an empire that half-unwittingly tortured her for more than half of her life. As such, she spends her first week or so taking respite, learning to use the eponymous robot, defending herself, getting in close with Mille, and generally being moderately suspicious but even pitiable at times. But soon she realizes the infinitely destructive power of her robot, and her grudge against the Aztecs and the world in general begins to surface. She begins antagonizing the empires far more adamantly for little reason aside from wanting them destroyed, manipulates and forces people into serving her (especially Mille), and shows an unwillingness to accept things that aren't in her control- and if that doesn't change, she deigns to erase it from existence.
  • Psycho Gecko is a murderous, insane supervillain protagonist in the Web Serial Novel World Domination in Retrospect. Black Comedy and Bloody Hilarious violence abound.
  • SF Debris portrays Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager in this way — a power-crazed, murderous sadist who is deliberately spreading chaos throughout the Delta Quadrant and has set up a Xanatos Gambit to gain control of the Alpha Quadrant.
  • STO Forum: Versus thread (rp): artan42's character Romulan Spy Agent 007 starts out looking like a Sociopathic Hero, but graduates to this after, unprovoked, he vaporizes three members of a Bronze Age native village as an example and tells them to resupply him.
  • In The Iron Teeth, Blacknail frequently murders and steals, and does not even comprehend why any action that doesn't further his or his master's interests might be morally wrong.
  • The main character of Digimon World: Infamy is solely motivated by Revenge and killing the "heroes", not caring in the least bit about wiping out any number of random Digimon if it helps him achieve his goals.

    Western Animation 
  • Gumball Watterson of The Amazing World of Gumball sometimes crosses the line from Jerk with a Heart of Gold to what can only be described as "dangerous psychopath Played for Laughs": In "The Saint" he spends the entire episode harassing Alan, making all his friends and his girlfriend hate him, and sells his parents into slavery just because it annoys him that Alan is so perfect. In "The Spoiler" he goes crazy trying to avoid hearing any spoilers about a movie he's going to watch, even knocking someone out with a shovel and eating another student alive. In "The Laziest", he and Darwin deliberately ruin Lazy Larry's life just so that he'll help them win a bet.
  • American Dad!.
    • Roger. He started out as a sympathetic, vaguely hedonistic alien, but over time he has established himself as a volatile, dangerous sociopath.
    • Stan also counts. Like Roger, he started out as more sympathetic albeit a little extreme. But as time went on, the lows he would stoop to in order to get his own way or hide his hypocrisies from the rest of his family turned him into this in about half the episodes of any given season. Episodes like "The Scarlett Getter", "Seizure Suit Stanny" and "Father's Daze" just to name a few are prime examples of him playing this trope 100% straight (and most of them are ones where he's supposed to be seen as the hero by the end!).
  • The antagonists of Aqua Teen Hunger Force range anywhere from Harmless Villains to Nightmare Fuel Station Attendants. Master Shake, however, is disgustingly heinous and completely unrepentant with every last action, his ability to repel empathy outweighed only by his ability to attract poetic justice.
  • A weird in-universe example mixed with Deliberate Values Dissonance in an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Play Within A Show "The Boy In The Iceberg" stars actors playing the Gaang as protagonists, with Ozai as the main anatagonist. As all the characters are exaggerated parodies of the "real" people, the play version of Aang is a Wide-Eyed Idealist with Incorruptible Pure Pureness, whereas Ozai is a flamboyant Card-Carrying Villain; however, at the end of the play, when Ozai brutally kills Aang, the audience gives it a standing ovation. Although the viewers know that Aang is The Hero and Ozai is a monster, due to a century of propaganda and cultural conditioning, as far as the Fire Nation rank and file is concerned, Aang is the play's Villain Protagonist, despite not actually comitting any evil acts onstage.
  • One episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold completely redid the series as Joker: The Vile and the Villainous. The storyline was adapted from an issue of the seventies Joker comic.
  • Dan of Dan Vs., is short-tempered, paranoid, and violent, and each episode is about him seeking revenge for some slight, real or imagined.
  • Captain Hero from Drawn Together is a psychotic murder-rapist who wiped out the entire rest of his species out of spite. The entire cast qualifies for this, really, with the exceptions of Xandir, Foxxy, and sometimes Wooldoor.
  • Zordrak and the Urpneys of The Dreamstone usually act this, in that each episode starts and ends from their perspective and we generally spend more time following them than the heroes. Depending on the Writer however, Sympathetic P.O.V. is sometimes given to the actual heroes.
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy, while not as evil as some of the examples, is still a cynical con artist who will do every dirty trick in the book for money. Including stealing Christmas presents from children. He has his reasons, but still.
  • Hector Con Carne is the Card-Carrying Villain Protagonist of Evil Con Carne. (Just not a very good one.)
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy started out as this in early seasons(he still has his moments, but it's more general Comedic Sociopathy).
  • Killface of Frisky Dingo is a supervillain protagonist who built a doomsday device designed to launch Earth into the sun, and he's still way more sympathetic than Jerkass superhero Xander Crews.
  • Futurama: Bender is a greedy and amoral criminal who constantly lies, cheats, and steals from everyone. Although Bender really does like his best friend Fry, he is not above swindling him as well.
  • Golan the Insatiable. The title character is a demigod from another dimension who has no problems with killing anyone and causing mayhem, but he's also a Large Ham who still wets the bed and tries to hang out with high schoolers and become homecoming king by pretending to be a teenager. The show's other main character, Dylan, is a young goth-looking girl who also finds joy in pain and misery, but also thinks turtles are cute, finds a molted Golan to be adorable, and deep down just wants her mom to be proud of her (though she doesn't like to admit it).
  • Mandy of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is so evil that she makes Grim, the personification of death, look like a nice guy in comparison and so he ends up as a much more downplayed example than her.
  • Many episodes (but not all) of Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids center on horrible people, children specifically.
  • Zim of Invader Zim, an alien trying to Take Over the World. He is juxtaposed to Dib, a preteen paranormal investigator trying to stop him.
  • Task Force X are focused on during their mission to infiltrate Justice League headquarters and steal an invincible armor forged by the gods in the Justice League Unlimited episode named after them.
  • The titular League of Super Evil. Though calling them evil would be a bit of a misnomer.
  • Looney Tunes:
    • While Bugs Bunny was generally a sympathetic character, there have been several episodes where he became a straight up villain. Examples of this include Elmer's Candid Camera (he picks on Elmer unprovoked), "Elmer's Pet Rabbit" (where he heckles Elmer for no justifiable reason),(which admittedly are with Bugs Bunny prototype Happy Rabbit so they may not count), "Tortoise Beats Hare" and its follow ups "Tortoise Wins by a Hare" and "Rabbit Transit" (where Bugs is portrayed as an egomaniac who's willing to harm and cheat just to beat a turtle), "Wabbit Twouble" (again, picking on Elmer unprovoked), "The Wacky Wabbit (picking on an unprovoked Elmer again), "Buckaroo Bugs" (where he's a flat out thief and bully), and "Rebel Rabbit" (where he wreaks havoc on the US solely because the bounty for rabbits was so low, doing atrocities like filling up the grand canyon and sawing Florida off the mainland, breaking into congress during session and physically assaulting a senator, and by the end of the short gets so out of control that the military is called in to bring him down).
    • Daffy Duck also had several bouts of this trope, such as "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (where he causes trouble in a Hollywood studio for the heck of it) and "Boobs in the Woods" (where he heckles Porky Pig for the sake of causing trouble). This only intensified during his later meaner years where he evolved into a genuine villain, albeit still often with the primary spotlight (see above).
    • "Honey's Money" is the only Yosemite Sam short where Sam is the star, rather than playing antagonist to Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.
    • Wile E. Coyote is the main character of the "Coyote and Road Runner" shorts, where we follow his constant failures at catching the Road Runner.
  • Clay Puppington is this in the third season of Moral Orel, which focuses more on him than the other two seasons. Several episodes showcase his Villainous Breakdown.
  • The Title Character of Mr. Pickles is a satanic dog who kills and tortures many people and has a number of human slaves. Since he still saves the day a number of times, he can be considered a mix of this and Nominal Hero.
  • Wolf from Nu, Pogodi! is one. Much like the Coyote from Chuck Jones' "Coyote and Roadrunner" shorts, the Wolf drives the plot... except that his entire raison d'etre is to eat the Rabbit, who more often than not is minding his own business.
  • Brain and Pinky of Pinky and the Brain. One is a genius, the other's insane! To prove their mousy worth, they'll overthrow the Earth! However, the Brain genuinely believes the world will be better if he takes over, and Pinky doesn't even realize they are doing evil.
  • Cartman from South Park. He either serves as The Dragon for an even greater evil, or IS the Big Bad in most episodes. Occasionally though, he functions as a Nominal Hero.
  • Both Tom and Jerry can alternate between this role in any given theatrical short, a fact especially glaring if the former ends up being a Designated Villain and the latter turns into a Designated Hero.
  • Callie Maggotbone and Twayne Boneraper of Ugly Americans. As far as the series is concerned, demons from Hell aren't Always Chaotic Evil, but are incredibly apathetic towards all humans in general. Combined with varying degrees of outright psychopathy, and the eerie fact that they seem to be planning The End of the World as We Know It behind the scenes, it's a wonder the former is an Anti Anti Christ with standards, and the latter is an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain without a spine.
  • The Villainous shorts are centered around Black Hat, the wicked head of an evil company that produces inventions specifically meant to be used by villains.
  • Wacky Races designated villain Dick Dastardly became this when he got his own show a year later. Always noted as being devious and despicable but saddled with three charges who rank from inept to chronic backstabber, Dastardly would often wonder (in one episode) "what's a nice guy like me doing in a cooped-up outfit like this?"
  • Woody Woodpecker went in and out of being this and an Anti-Hero in the original cartoons. Sometimes, he just goes about breaking the rules or causing trouble for the mere thrill of it or just out of ignorance, and is clearly shown to be a selfish glutton who will mow down or manipulate anyone who gets in the way of his food. On the other hand, he did occasionally star in a sympathetic light (i.e. "The Hollywood Matador") and by the late 40's his Anti-Hero traits were played up more by director Dick Lundy, especially when Buzz Buzzard entered the series. By the 50's, Woody veered between being a straight up hero, a villain and an anti-hero, and by the mid-50's both of the former traits were dropped altogether in favor of making Woody a straight up hero character.