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Villain Protagonist

"The biggest problem in the series is something that no amount of editing can get around: The series compels viewers to empathize with a serial killer, to root for him to prevail, to hope he doesn't get discovered."

An interesting twist on conventional storytelling is to make the Big Bad the plot's protagonist. 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 Big Bad's point of view. Since the mid-2000s, this has been a very popular trope with made-for-cable TV series, such as The Shield, Deadwood, Breaking Bad, Weeds, and Dexter being but a few examples.

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.

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

This trope often overlaps with a Nominal Hero and/or Sociopathic Hero, and sometimes with the more extreme cases of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist.

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.


Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Light Yagami in Death Note, who kills people for his Knight Templar dreams of a better world and godhood. He consistently sees himself as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and doesn't seem to realise that he's crossing Moral Event Horizons. During his Motive Rant, he still legitimately seems to believe that he's doing the right thing.
  • Lucy from Elfen Lied is a cold-blooded killer. She has killed armed men and innocent children, for reasons ranging from "trying to kill me" to "You killed my dog" to "I envy your happy, normal life, and I need a place to crash." She kicks people quite sadistically when they are down. She hears voices and tries to infest humans with her diclonius genes, which will lead to the extinction of mankind. No effort is spared to let the viewer feel sympathy for her plight. In the end, she sacrifices herself to save the one guy who was nice to her. And then you look in the fridge and realize that by the time the series started, years after her most horrific deeds, she never explicitly killed anyone who was unarguably innocent, and got Mayu, whom she'd never met before, out of harm's way when fighting another diclonius...
  • Haruko Haraharu is very much the face of FLCL, acting as one of the premier Manic Pixie Dream Girls in all of media. Energetic, spontaneous and hammy as hell, but manipulative, selfish and ruthless, to the point where there's a distinct Lack of Empathy. She cements it by trying to feed Naota into the Terminal Core and endangering the Earth's existence out of her desire to absorb Amtosk's infinite power. By the end, however, she's mellowed out considerably.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion, as a sort of Grand Finale to the Puella series, elevates Akemi Homura into the position of a God of Evil, due to her belief that Utopia Justifies the Means partly due to her love for her friends. She's also the most proactive character in the movie and the one with the most focus. As Puella is well-known for its deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre, Homura's promotion to protagonist... unfortunately means that she actually succeeds in her goal and has to brainwash her friends to get it to work. Even she's not happy over it, even though she fully believes it was justified and necessary.
  • MD Geist is revealed to be a Villain Protagonist (or Sociopathic Hero) when it turns out he's such a Blood Knight that he's willing to start the Robot War he was sent to prevent, just to ensured he'll always have strong opponents to fight. The second OAV gives strong implications he's still following orders from the Earth Government, who have decided to wipe out the colonists on Jerra and start over.
  • Mireille Bouquet and Chloe from Noir. The latter never questions her job of killing people and the former is a contract killer and has no moral qualms about the job and its functions. The former gets better.
  • The very end of Katanagatari shows that Togame always intended to sacrifice people, swords, friends, even her own feelings in a mindless pursuit for revenge. Period, end of story. She still genuinely loves Shichika, and she has a very good reason for her behavior, but she never managed to let go of her desire for Revenge Before Reason, to the point where she often goes against her very nature in order to achieve it.
  • Mirai Nikki is interesting as the true protagonist is reasonably moral (though not truly heroic), but all of his allies seem to have rather questionable morals. One is a terrorist who thinks nothing of blowing up a school while it's occupied, while his closest ally and potential girlfriend is dangerous. Over the course of the series, he does eventually become more immoral and becomes as nutty as his girlfriend. Many characters call him out on his villainous behaviour as he gets worse and worse.
  • Tanaka Punie of Dai Mahou Touge is definitely not as good as her "princess of Magical Land" persona makes her appear to be. Her incantation says it all: "Lyrical Tokarev, kill them all!"
  • Yuuhi and Sami, the main duo of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer. Sami has vowed to destroy the Earth herself after saving it from the eponymous hammer, and Yuuhi is extremely loyal to her for that end. The other Knights besides Yuuhi don't know about Sami's intention; Yuuhi and Sami plot to turn against them as soon as the world is saved. After much Character Development for both of them, they get better. Yuuhi eventually 'defeats' Sami, who didn't really want to destroy the Earth at that point, and the two go on to live Happily Ever After.
  • The protagonist, Ryo Narushima, in Shamo is one of the most hate-able main characters in comic/manga history. He murders his parents in the first 3 pages of the book, and throughout the series commits (or at least attempts to commit) multiple acts of murder and rape.
  • Mayo Sasaki in Fushigi Yuugi: Eikoden. While she's not truly evil, she is extremely selfish and unsympathetic, and her obsession with stealing Miaka's beloved husband Taka/Tamahome, coupled with her irresponsible behavior, causes a lot of trouble for the warriors of Suzaku.
  • Yoshitaka, the male lead of He Is My Master is a sociopathic pervert with little to no redeeming qualities.
  • Gundam SEED Stargazer does this with the pilot of the Strike Noir, Sven Cal Vayan. He is the character with the most focus and the only one that (due to the length of the story) got any degree of backstory. He's also shown to be extremely cold, more than willing to gun down entire crowds of refugees on the off-chance that one is a terrorist, and shows no trace of remorse or grief when a wingman gets killed. He does eventually get better, but not before getting into a Chained Heat situation with the Hero Antagonist of the series and the pilot of the Stargazer.
  • InuYasha can be considered this at beginning of the series. He whines about having to help other people, used Kagome as a bloodhound for the Shikon Jewel for his own selfish purposes, and makes his debut by blowing up a shrine to retrieve said jewel. After Kagome puts the Restraining Bolt on him he stops being this.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo aka Edmond Dantes from Gankutsuou. Especially when the title monster is in control of him.
  • Alucard from Hellsing . The first anime leans towards Anti-Hero, but the manga and OVA series depict him as more of a monster.
    • At the same time, the Character Development he had in the manga and OVA was cut from the TV anime, which ended before his more sympathetic characteristics could even occur.
  • Ookami no Kuchi: Wolfsmund is a series of tragic stories only connected by the presence of Wolfram and the eponymous border pass that he oversees. As of the first volume, no one has gotten past Wolfsmund alive or unscathed thanks to him.
  • Sheila of Superior wants to achieve a future where humans will never again slaughter demons. However, she believes that the war will never end so long as both humans and demons continue to exist. Naturally, her solution is a bit . . . final. (Exa's near-absolute pacifism provides the jolt she needs to stop killing, at least temporarily, but matters aren't helped by the fact that she's the one person Exa wants to kill, as vengeance for slaughtering his entire village.)
  • Tentai Senshi Sunred focuses mainly on day-to-day life of the title character's Arch-Enemy Vamp of Florsheim and all his Evil Minions. Vamp is a Harmless Villain (and his minions moreso) and obeys Contractual Genre Blindness, and the whole thing is one long string of Villains Out Shopping. It's very much Played for Laughs.
  • The Rise of Scourge focuses on bloodthirsty murderer Scourge, as he commits murder, murderously.
  • Ling Xiaoyu from Tekken: Blood Vengeance is probably the most heroic example of this trope ever, seeing that she was only in it because her target is a hottie. After her opponent goes out of her way to save her life following a showdown, she pulls a Heel-Face Turn and allies herself with her so they can get to the bottom of what their superiors are really up to.
  • Excel♥Saga is a humorous take on this that can be argued to be an outright parody. The eponymous Excel willingly serves Il Palazzo and his "ideological" organization ACROSS, whose express goal is to Take Over the World, but is in ACROSS because of Il Palazzo. Excel's services to ACROSS are marked by her Genki Girl status mixing with her cheerful and often loud proclamations that ACROSS will subjugate the ignorant masses under their will, alongside her incompetence usually preventing ACROSS from achieving anything substantial towards reaching their goal, all the while showcasing its incredibly quirky humor consisting of attempting to fit in Il Palazzo's plans amidst her and her partner Hyatt's part-time jobs due to living in Perpetual Poverty. The humor is, however, toned down quite a lot during the last episodes of the anime, and is in lower quantity in general in the manga (compared to the anime, which is even titled 'Quack Experimental Anime: Excel Saga'). In the anime, however, it's more the fact that Excel was kicked out of ACROSS without her knowing then shot by Il Palazzo, then lost her memory than her becoming truly evil. It doesn't stop Excel from totting a large blade down the middle of a street in plain sight in the night while cheerfully singing about murdering the author.
  • Natsuo of Teppu definitely qualifies. The realistic high school setting of the manga means that she's probably not going to be murdering anyone, but she has demonstrated herself to be ruthless, selfish, arrogant and frequently sadistic. For example, she initiates a fight with her future rival just because she's bored, and her rival's cheerfulness and self-confidence pisses her off. Natsuo has gotten a little less arrogant over the course of the series so far, but otherwise she's still just as much of a bitch as she was at the start.
  • In Black Lagoon almost all the main characters are villainous, and some arcs (like the first arc, and the initial Roberta arc) sees them take the actual villain's role by doing stuff like kidnapping, or doing stuff like supporting Balalaika, who is the Big Bad of the Yakuza arc (with the Washimine clan and Yukio being the closest thing to 'the hero', up until the point where The Bad Guy Wins).
  • In Canaan the main character Canaan is a gun-for-hire that kills mercilessly, even when her innocent soul mate Maria lays witness to her line of work. Albeit her cold personality is softened in Maria's presence.
  • Iason Mink of Ai no Kusabi while the Deuteragonist, is the initial villain of the story because of his kidnapping and brutal abuse of Riki but is ultimately an Anti-Villain with Tragic Villain traits.
  • Michio Yuki from MW. He is the main focus on the manga as he spends his time committing murder, not to mention collecting ransom money on his victims. He also crossdress women in his plot. His goal is to find MW and use it to end the world in vengeance for his own mortality.
  • My Bride Is a Mermaid: It's quite easy to forget that Sun and the rest of her family are Yakuza, albeit Yakuza who aren't seen doing any villainy aside from trying to ruin Nagasumi's life.
  • Yes she's adorable, but Ika Musume from Shinryaku! Ika Musume is trying to conquer the surface world. She's just really, really bad at it.
  • Chimera Ant King Meryem from Hunter × Hunter receives so much Character Development and focus during the Chimera Ant Arc that he ends up being this and the Big Bad at the same time.
  • Though a fairly brutal Well-Intentioned Extremist, Oriko Mikuni of Puella Magi Oriko Magica gets by far the most focus and development of any character, is involved in a conflict where Grey and Grey Morality is the order of the day, and eventually wins. She's considered the villain due largely to being a Canon Foreigner who opposes the original characters. Spinoff Symmetry Diamond drops the "Villain" part.
    • 'Wins' is a very generous interpretation of events given Homura's Save Scumming. The best case scenario is that this single timeline is safe, providing it continues to exist after Homura hits the reset, but Fridge Horror sets in when you start to wonder why Oriko doesn't appear in any of the other timelines. Given that 'save Madoka' is Homura's entire reason for continuing to exist, once she is fully aware that Oriko's goal is to kill Madoka, the answer becomes clear. Homura assassinates Oriko in every future timeline, ending the threat before it starts.
  • Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z is this during the Frieza Saga until his Heel-Face Turn.
  • The main protagonists in the WWII comedy Hetalia Axis Powers are Germany, Italy, and Japan.
  • While Kurosu in Ana Satsujin may not be a perfect example of this, he does count solely because of who his girlfriend is: Miyaichi, a not only unrepentant, but proud serial killer, who definitely does count. He counts because he finds this out before he decides to start dating her, and while not agreeing with her activities, doesn't do much to stop her and sticks with her after she starts roping him into helping her with her kills.
  • Two of the protagonists in ZankyouNoTerror are terrorists who are planting bombs all over Tokyo. Granted they aren't trying to actually kill anyone .

    Comic Books 
  • The protagonist of the eponymous Bomb Queen is a supervillainess-turned-EvilOverlord. There are no apparent efforts to justify a Sympathetic P.O.V. In the beginning it showed her character in a more humorous light, but now there is no doubt that she is a monster (she crushes Obama's nuts just for fun in the latest volume, murders all of her "friends", and rapes George Bush. Her actions would make Johan Liebert blush)
  • The Tomb of Dracula and its Spin-Off Dracula Lives have stories focusing on the Count, and all the evil deeds he commits.
  • Mark Millar's Wanted, clearly, since nearly all of the main characters are stand-ins for DC and Marvel supervillains. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, most of those guys (including the protagonist) were too busy accelerating past the Moral Event Horizon to take notice of how they crossed it years ago. And they're still going faster.
  • A lot of DC villains get this treatment.
    • The Joker had his own short-lived series back in the '70s in which he cheerfully offed various other characters.
    • Lex Luthor had his own graphic novel, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, in which he presents himself as a brave man trying to let humanity take its own course by freeing us from the influence of that meddling alien, Superman. He was also the star of Paul Cornell's "Black Ring" story arc in Action Comics (concurrent with Brightest Day), which further explored his motivations.
    • Eclipso, a B-squad villain upgraded in a Crisis Crossover to the God of Vengeance, was the narrator and main villain in said crossover, "The Darkness Within", after which he was given his own series which lasted nearly two years.
    • Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and naturally, Lobo, have starred in their own titles too.
  • Around the time of the 1970s Joker comic, DC also broached the trope (depending on your point of view) by launching Blitzkreig, a WWII comic featuring a group of Nazi soldiers as sympathetic protagonists.
  • The seven issue miniseries Empire centers around a Doctor Doom-esque protagonist finalizing his conquest of the Earth, and dealing with the question "what next?"
  • Etrigan, the titular Demon of DC comics, manages at least in his own series to have you rooting for him despite being Exactly What It Says on the Tin. He remains a sympathetic protagonist mainly by frequently allying himself with more, y'know, heroic heroes against demons who are either even worse than Etrigan, or who at least have more immediate actively evil plans in motion.
  • In the original comic book version of The Mask, the central character (who is called "Bighead", because most people don't know he's wearing a mask) is a sociopathic serial murderer, akin to The Joker given powers (which got even scarier in the Joker Mask miniseries, where this actually happened). Let's just say that in the comics, the early scene in the movie where the Mask shoved mufflers up the asses of the mechanics who ripped him off would have involved a lot of red ink being used in the coloring process. Very often, the actual people wearing the mask are treated as little more than hosts whose bodies are being used to commit Bighead's comedic killing sprees... and they'll still gladly kill each other for the chance to wear it.
    • One wearer of the mask was a little girl (in 5th grade or something) who was bullied at school, and so when she puts the mask on (a dream come true for her) she goes to a school party and burns the school down.
    • This aspect of the comic series may have been referenced in the animated series, when a 4000 year old sociopathic fey who claims to have known all of the Mask's previous hosts (who included the likes of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan) returns to Earth to team up with the latest Mask, but soon realizes he's "not like the others."
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer with touches of the Sociopathic Hero. In his more collected moments, he's all too aware of it, once even breaking the fourth wall to remind readers that he is the villain in the story.
  • Teknophage, a short-lived comic by forgotten mid-90's publisher Tekno Comix, was a story about a 65 million year old, reptilian, Steam Punk Dimension Lord / Magnificent Bastard who fed strife, misery, and tyranny merely to enjoy the chance to eat the souls of those with the killer instinct to struggle against him. Nominally, the comics were about the people trying to stop him, but everyone knew who to root for.
  • The eponymous Lord Havok and the Extremists are all deadly supervillains bent on dominating the world that denied them... and are in fact portrayed much more sympathetically than the "heroic" Americommando, who is inarguably a danger to all around him. Lord Havok in particular is given a heartbreaking Start of Darkness.
  • Hunter Rose, the original Grendel, was an assassin/crimelord who did a lot of bad stuff for kicks and giggles. The later Grendels were more Anti Heroes, fighting against even worse individuals, particularly Japanese Kabuki Vampire Tujiro XIV.
  • Deadpool, the lovable Fourth Wall-breaking psychotic killer. Same goes for many other mercenary- or hitman-based comics, such as Scud The Disposable Assassin.
  • According to Word of God, the Legion of 3 Worlds miniseries is focused on its main villain Superboy-Prime.
  • Diabolik, the eponymous hero of the long-running Italian comic series. He is a ruthlessly violent jewel-thief who indifferently kidnaps, tortures, brainwashes and kills the innocent and guilty alike. His lover/partner-in-crime Eva Kant happily assists with all of the above, and throws obsessive sexual jealousy into the mix.
  • Incognito's main character, Zack, is an ex-super villain who got put into a witness protection program. He does do some heroic acts in secret, but only for selfish reasons.
  • Secret Six: It has Bane, the man who broke the Bat, Scandal Savage, the psychotic daughter of the first murderer, and Ragdoll, who is just freaky. Add to that Catman (an honorable but crazy hired killer), Deadshot (a sociopathic hitman) and an actual freakin' Banshee and you know this is not a team of nice people. Nice to look at, sure, but not nice. Definitely not nice.
  • Conan the Barbarian's nemesis Thoth-Amon had a comic.
  • The DCU villain Kobra, the Mad Scientist leader of a Religion of Evil, was originally introduced in an eponymous comic series that followed his efforts to Take Over the World, which were invariably foiled by his good twin brother. The series was cancelled after just seven issues (but Kobra would return).
  • RISE, KRAKEN! is a comic about a Cobra / SPECTRE-like global organization "with the stated goal of raising a giant sea creature that will rule the world by iron fist and slimy tentacle", and what kind of person joins up to build lasers on the Moon and get beaten up by the heroes. The protagonist discovers that most of the people involved aren't in it For the Evulz, but to advance their own possibly more reasonable agendas.
  • The Punisher, when written by Garth Ennis.
    • When not written by Ennis there's a chance that an author will write him as a cool but gritty person who does what needs to be done.
  • Marvel Zombies focuses on the eponymous superhero zombies. A few are portrayed sympathetically, while others aren't.
  • Suicide Squad: DC's comic about supervillains offered a pardon in exchange for completing missions that are... rather difficult.
  • Marvel Comics loves this Trope. Villains who've had their own mini-series include Venom, Loki, Sabertooth, Mystique, Baron Zemo, Magneto, Norman Osborn, and especially Doctor Doom, who's had many starring roles over the years.
  • There was a Marvel mini-series called Deadly Foes of Spider-Man was that was like this. The series focused on the Sinister Syndicate (a villain team made up of guys usually thought of as Ineffectual Sympathetic Villains and actually gave them complex personalities, motivations, and in one case, a love interest. Spider-Man was a Hero Antagonist through the whole thing. Unfortunately, the story ended up with the villains splitting into two factions and an Enemy Civil War breaking out, where ultimately, the only real winner was the Kingpin, the guy who had been funding them.
    • They had a sequel called Lethal Foes of Spider Man, but while it still fit the Trope, all it really did this time was show how incompetent the villains were. It started with a gang of them (some from the previous series) stealing a powerful weapon, then progressed to two gangs of them fighting over it, and finally to an every-man-for-himself fight over it with Spidey caught in the middle. At the end, Spidey was the last one standing, looking at the dozen super-villains who had pummeled themselves unconscious (wrecking the whole neighborhood in the process) and wondering just what the Hell the whole point of the whole thing had been.
    • The Superior Foes of Spider-Man is a more comedic take on this, starring an iteration of the Sinister Six composed of five C-Listers as they simply try to make it through their lives while still trying to get paid/not get killed.
  • Daken in his own ongoing. It's made pretty clear he is not a good person (He kills people for kicks after all), but he is charismatic though.
  • Most iterations of the Thunderbolts, although how villainous they are depends on the iteration and the villains involved.
  • Chaos! Comics, a horror comics company whose heyday was in the '90s, specialized in villain protagonists. Their most successful "hero" and a downright extreme example of this trope was Lady Death, who in her first story won over a boy who had suffered severe child abuse with promises of love and then coaxed him into going on a killing spree. After seizing the opportunity to turn him into the "super-zombie" Evil Ernie, she encouraged him to wipe out the entire human race, all just to free her from a curse that kept her from returning to Earth. Over the course of his various mini-series Evil Ernie did indeed succeed in wiping out millions through hijacked nuclear bombs and his own zombie plague. Unsurprisingly, Lady Death softened up quite a bit even before Chaos! went under and more when she was licensed out to other companies; at least there was no more goading abuse victims into committing genocide.
    • Although he was given a sympathetic backstory, Evil Ernie remained a classic example of this all through the Chaos! days. Most of his mini-series began with him brutally slaughtering the populace of an entire city (one story started off just after he had killed the people of Manhattan single-handedly over the period of several months), and then having to ward off attacks from his Rogues Gallery, people who would be considered the protagonists in your typical Zombie Apocalypse story, or from someone who was the villain by default. One mini-series, War of the Dead, was about his attempts to wipe out humanity by hijacking the United States' nuclear arsenal.
  • Atrocitus in the Green Lantern books walks the line between this, Anti-Villain, and Anti-Hero (-ic Sociopath). He's an eternally wrathful berserker on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge (and willing to visit Disproportionate Retribution on other criminals he comes across), but his rage was sparked by a very serious injustice and makes it a point to punish only the guilty. In the 2011 DC reboot, he and his Red Lanterns received their own series.
    • As of June 2013, Larfleeze is likewise getting his own series.
  • Paperinik (a Donald Duck alter-ego created in Italy) had no problem committing thefts and fighting the police to get revenge on who wronged him in his early stories. He however evolved into a much more heroic character with time, especially in Paperinik New Adventures.
  • Iznogoud has Iznogoud as your stereotypical Evil Chancellor. Virtually all his adventures are about him trying the craziest schemes to replace the Caliph of a mythological Baghdad, each time failing hilariously. He Iz no goud.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • Dredd himself can be like this, although it's a case of Depending on the Writer. Some of the antagonists can be downright heroic compared to Dredd, such as the Democracy Now! storyline, but he does often go up against villains such as the Dark Judges and P.J.Maybe.
    • Some stories feature Judge Death (one of the above-mentioned Dark Judges) as the protagonist, as he goes around murdering everything in sight on his quest to destroy the human race.
  • The following Sin City stories. The other stories typically feature very dark anti-heroes.
    • The "Blue Eyes" stories, in which the protagonist is a Professional Killer pursuing her marks.
    • "The Salesman Is Always Right", in which the Salesman is revealed at the end to have come to murder the woman he strikes up a conversation with.
    • "Rats" centers on an escaped Nazi war criminal who is living incognito in the United States, and reminisces about all the people he murdered during the war.
  • Max from the Eagle Comic Strip 'The Thirteenth Floor'. Admittedly he straddled the line between Anti-Hero and Villain Protagonist, a computer AI designed to protect and care for the tenants of the block of flats he was installed in, punishing (and several times accidentally killing) those who would harm them. He was often portrayed as a straight hero but was initially given several moments where his actions backfired horribly (once getting one of his favorite tenants accused of a murder Max had committed), and was opposed by several openly heroic characters. Later on however he started to get into more action based scenarios and became a straight Guile Hero, with the whole 'multiple homicide' thing brushed under the carpet.
  • Terror, Inc. was a Marvel Comic centered around a hitman who could copy the abilities of others by ripping off their limbs and grafting them to his own body. Yes.
  • The title character from Nemesis.

    Fan Fic 

    Films — Animated 
  • Despicable Me: Its protagonist is Gru. He's a villain, but he isn't the best in the world.
  • Kuzco from The Emperor's New Groove. He's very mean and arrogant, and everyone hates him, but his Evil Chancellor Yzma is way eviler than him, and the film revolves around him going on an odyssey that helps him become a better person.
  • Megamind counts. (Well, if you consider him a villain at all...)
  • The eponymous Wreck-It Ralph stars an oldschool arcade villain who's tired of being ostracized for being the bad guy. He goes on a quest to prove that he can be just as heroic as his good-guy rival, Fix-It Felix Jr.
    • Ralph is actually a bit of a subversion, since he's the villain in name only. He's actually just as much of a hero as Felix, but because it's his job to be the bad guy, the NPCs are assholes to him until the end of the film, when they grow to respect him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Darth Vader himself, from the Star Wars franchise. According to George Lucas, the film franchise is fundamentally about Anakin and his progression from innocence to a force of good, his fall to evil, and subsequent redemption.
  • The Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Western films has two examples:
  • Martin Scorsese's films are always accompanied by a great cynicism. Here are his examples of this trope:
    • Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle came in 30th on AFI's most iconic villains. He comes off as a hero at the end, but it's ironic. Had things gone slightly different, he would have been an attempted assassin instead.
    • In Good Fellas: Henry Hill, Jimmy Conway and Tommy DeVito.
    • In Casino: Sam "Ace" Rothstein and Nicky Santoro.
    • In The Wolf of Wall Street: Jordan Belfort.
  • The Godfather has the Corleone Family as the main protagonists, more specifically: Vito and Michael Corleone.
  • All four of the main characters are of Little Sweetheart various forms of criminals, with the one with the most screentime being the worse.
  • The subtext of the Starship Troopers trilogy is that the humans are the evil invading aliens. On the surface, however, you're still supposed to be rooting for the humans.
  • Most gangster films, from The Public Enemy (1931) to Public Enemies (2009).
  • Yuri Orlov in Lord of War is a gunrunner who sells weapons to anybody, including violent dictators and human rights violators. We're shown what a disaster his love life and family relationships are in such a way that you have to stop and feel sorry for him.
  • A Shock To The System follows an average joe (played by Michael Caine) who, after accidentally killing a hobo, decides to also ingeniously murder his wife and boss, seduce his secretary, and get that job he's always wanted. And he gets away with it all, too.
  • Deathtrap: Michael Caine as a man who murders his wife and seduces his secretary.
  • Reservoir Dogs follows several thieves after a heist. Although one of them is actually a cop, they are all more or less equal in screen time.
  • Natural Born Killers, though the film muddies things by making the law enforcement officers creeps and murderers as well.
  • Big Jim Mc Lain features a "hero" who works for Senator Joseph McCarthy (yes, that McCarthy), and beats the living snot out of liberals in Hawaii. Made worse by the fact that this "hero" is played by John Wayne. To be fair he is targeting "communists", but the definition seems to be more than a little... general.
  • The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers' final film, is an Affectionate Parody (with roots in The Goon Show) that makes Fu Manchu charming and a bit sympathetic in his unrepentant wickedness. Having been thwarted so many times by the British, and on the brink of death, the whole plot hinges on him creating a youth elixir to save himself.
  • Nick Naylor of Thank You For Smoking is the "Sultan of Spin" and chief spokesperson for the tobacco industry. His Crowning Moment Of Awesome comes when he testifies before a Congressional hearing that when his son, possibly the only other sympathetic character, turned eighteen and wanted a cigarette, he would buy him his first pack. The story softens his character considerably by making plain that he realizes the fact that many people see him as a villain, and good-naturedly takes this in stride.
  • Diabolik, Italian comic book "hero" and main character of the film Danger: Diabolik (spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000's final episode) is definitely a Villain Protagonist. At first rub, Diabolik may come off as a Gentleman Thief, but throughout the film he indulges in purely selfish acts, stealing millions and killing indiscriminately just to satisfy his girlfriend Eva's tastes or his own whims. He doesn't even have the caveat of fighting a greater evil; he's simply indulging himself with every act in the film. Let it not be said that he doesn't behave like he did in the first comics.
    Crow: Well I'm sorry if you're offended by my random killings.
    Servo: Once again they triumph in the name of sex!
    Mike: (fake joviality) So more innocent people killed because of Diabolik's whims!
    • Actually, Ginko is supposed to be the protagonist. Unfortunately, the movie makes its allegiances unclear because it revels in Diabolik's evildoings, and Ginko himself tends to come across as a Hero Antagonist with his support of a draconian death penalty law.
  • Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) in Ace in the Hole (1951). He's a washed-up, amusingly cynical, charismatic, and brilliantly manipulative newspaper writer who dooms a man to death in a collapsed cave by prolonging and milking the rescue attempt - he's confident the man will make it through several days in there - just so he can report on it and restore his career. He regrets what he does in the end, but it's doesn't much matter because it's a World Half Empty where most of the characters don't care about the life at stake, and instead take his lead and encouragement to profit off of the literal media carnival that springs up in its wake of this "Human Interest Story".
  • Hard Candy. You can choose either one or both of protagonists. Word of God is that it's both. Jeff is a predatory hebephile, and Hayley is a fledgling Serial Killer.
  • Peyton, the Yandere from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
  • The League of Gentlemen - ex British Army officers turned bank robbers.
  • Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, although it's more of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge at that stage.
  • The main character from Woody Allen's Match Point gets married to a rich woman mostly for her money while having an affair with his brother-in-law's girlfriend. Ultimately he gets the mistress pregnant, so to cover it up he kills her and her neighbor to make it look like a botched robbery.
  • Both the protagonists from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, probably. Both were assassins, but there was really no clue as to just who their employers reported to or whether either organization was good or evil, or just what overall goals they had. (Jane did mention something to one target about "selling big guns to bad people" before she killed him, but there's no way of knowing if that was in any way typical of her hits.) Seeing as each of them seemed pretty decent to anyone who wasn't on his or her list, you might call them "Punch Clock Villain Protagonists".
  • Woody Allen loves the Trope, as Judah of Crimes & Misdemeanors follows a similar path to the protagonist of Match Point. Judah wrings his hands a lot, but he's still evil.
  • Babs Johnson, the main character of Pink Flamingos. She's a serial killer, robber, thief among other things, but you just have to love her.
  • Henry, the eponymous character from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Unlike other examples of this trope, though, he's not Affably Evil or an Anti-Villain in the slightest. In fact, he's so cold and emotionless that he comes across as barely human, and routinely commits some of the most horrific murders in film history.
  • In the Norwegian film Insomnia, the protagonist Engström begins as a moderately corrupt detective (though he's highly regarded by his peers). By the end, he's descended into pure evil, partially caused by the madness of working in 24-hour sunlight above the Arctic Circle but mostly due to his own inner lack of humanity. The final shot of his dead, haunted eyes is one of the creepier endings in film.
    • Al Pacino's character in the American remake is portrayed as having more of a I Did What I Had to Do motivation, though he still performs some very selfish and morally questionable acts over the course of the film.
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille kills women in order to create the perfect perfume.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets: The protagonist's mother, the daughter of a duke, is disowned by her family after eloping with an opera singer. In revenge, the protagonist plots to murder every relative standing between himself and the dukedom. While simultaneously leading on both Betty and Veronica. And it's all played for laughs.
  • Frank Abagnale Jr., the protagonist of Catch Me If You Can, is an adrift and young counterfeiter and con man who uses his natural cleverness to make some money, and his antagonist, Hanratty, is an FBI agent trying to, well, Catch Him if He Can. In the end Frank with Hanratty's support eventually goes straight.
  • The Producers (either version) is about two guys who spend the whole movie not only scamming old ladies assembling a Batman Gambit that bites them in the ass, and is also the Trope Namer for Springtime for Hitler, and it is hinted that after they got their (much deserved) sentence, they intended to scam the police in prison with a theatrical play.
  • Cecil B. Demented and his Sprocket Holes. One of them is a satanist!
  • Theo, the protagonist of Der Freie Wille, is a serial rapist.
  • The eponymous character of Charley Varrick is a career bank robber, who we first see robbing a bank. However, given that the movie is about him trying to escape the consequences when the bank he hits turns out to be a money laundry for the Mob, he played entirely fair with his fellow gang members until they tried to screw him over (at which point he unhesitatingly arranged for them to fall into the hands of the antagonists), avoided killing innocent bystanders (again unlike the antagonists), tragically lost his (fellow bank robber) wife in the opening scene, and faced off against a Mafia hitman, he's easy to root for.
  • Otis, which features a deranged serial killer who targets young women in order to relive his high school memories (or more accurately, his brother's). However, he apparently doesn't rape them.
  • King Of New York is the heartwarming saga of a couple of violent drug dealers (played by Christopher Walken and Laurence Fishburne) who just want to sell drugs, kill people that cross them, and build a few hospitals for poor people.
  • In American Psycho you follow the psychopathic killer Patrick Bateman.
  • Shattered Glass follows Stephen Glass, a rising journalist who makes up half of what he writes.
  • Benoit, from the mockumentary about a serial killer, Man Bites Dog.
  • Title character Leslie Vernon of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon spends much of the movie preparing for a killing spree and demonstrating how the killers in slasher flicks do what they do.
  • The Australian psychological thriller Restraint has a female example in Teresa Palmer's character Dale, a stripper on a crime spree with her murderous boyfriend. She remains sympathetic due to a kind streak.
  • The "father/daughter" con-artist team of Paper Moon.
  • Tony Wendice in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder and Steven Taylor in the pseudo-remake A Perfect Murder. Both discover that their wives (who are each independently wealthy) are cheating on them and, not wanting to divorce them and lose out on the money, cook up elaborate schemes to murder them instead.
  • The Usual Suspects revolves around a group of criminals, trying to get out from under the finger of the villain, Keyser Soze. It turns out that the protagonist, Verbal Kint, was the villain all along.
  • Jodie Foster's character from The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. An interesting case, because her killing is more of a survival tactic than a true villainy, but her actions are a little too extreme to describe as "antihero". Plus, it's not (usually) so much a matter of physical survival, but of preserving what amounts to a set of hippie values. Which is subversive in all kinds of great ways.
  • Four Lions: a comedy about aspiring jihadist suicide bombers.
  • The eponymous main character of Mini's First Time is an utterly remorseless parricide. She is probably as close to soulless as a person could be, which is precisely what makes her so compelling to watch.
  • The protagonist of The Bad and the Beautiful is a ruthless movie producer who scruples not to lie, cheat, steal, seduce, and con to get his movies made. The film is narrated by three of the people whom he chewed up and spat out on his way to the top.
  • Bridget Gregory of The Last Seduction, a Con Artist who steals $700,000 from her equally crooked (but much less clever) husband and spends the rest of the movie scheming to bump him off and get away with it. She succeeds, and her Unwitting Pawn goes to prison in her place.
  • Tony Curtis's Sidney Falco of Sweet Smell of Success. He screws over and uses everyone he meets in the film, with the exception of his master, J.J. Hunsecker (as portrayed by Burt Lancaster).
  • Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) of Mr. Brooks, a caring family man and philanthropist with a secret addiction to serial murder. Unlike a lot of examples, the good sides of his persona are real and not just a mask, making him highly sympathetic. Despite that, he's still a monster.
  • Matsu from the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is, not too surprisingly, a prisoner. Put away for attempted murder, she goes on to kill and cause to be killed many more times before the series ends, her victims including the prison warden at least two detectives and several other policemen. The facts that one of the detectives, the man she tried and failed to kill, seduced her and arranged her rape purely to allow him to arrest the rapists and corruptly take over their business, that the prison warden tortured her, locked her underground in chains for a year, had her raped and ultimately tried to stage her death, and that she never kills senselessly, only makes her less villainous relatively speaking.
  • The trio of the protagonists in Fassbinder's Film Noir Love Is Colder Than Death. The first of them is a pimp and rapist, the second is a violent killer-for-hire working for Mob, and seemingly the least evil of them is a prostitute, but she also doesn't disdain of murdering people, including Innocent Bystanders.
  • Maindrian Pace in Gone in Sixty Seconds (1974) steals cars for a living, though he makes sure that the cars are insured. The remake averts the trope. Although the protagonist is also a car thief, he's being blackmailed into performing the heist by the real villains.
  • The Bling Ring from Sofia Coppola's biopic is most definitely this. What makes Nicki stand out is that she's portrayed by Emma Watson.
  • Subverted by A Clockwork Orange. The first act of the film has Alex DeLarge, our protagonist, as a blatant villain. In the rest of the film, however, he's a helpless victim. In the film version of the story, the real villain turns out to be the government, who try to play God with a man's mind, screw up, and ultimately sweep it under the rug and make a deal with a psychopath.
  • The protagonist of I Stand Alone is a violent ex-butcher who pummels his pregnant girlfriend into a miscarriage, plans to murder random people who cross him, and molests his daughter.
  • Sue Shiomi as Yumi Higaki from Sonny Chiba's Dragon Princess is a killing machine with violent revenge the one thing on her agenda. She also fits into the Type III Anti-Villain category and gets a Bittersweet Ending in that while she suffers the same fate as her father in avenging the loss of his arm, she survives and is able to live a more normal life.
  • The title character from Caligula, which depicts the reign of the Ax-Crazy Roman emperor.
  • O-Dog in Menace II Society. Unlike some other examples of villains protagonists, he is not sympathic or nice, has no redeeming qualities, and has very few traits of Affably Evil. Rather he is a sadistic Ax-Crazy who does not hesitate to kill.
  • Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen in The Dictator, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. He's a racist, sexist, antisemitic terrorist-supporting autocratic oppressor of a fictional third world nation. He wins in the end by defeating his equally evil treacherous advisor, while little has changed about his behavior.
  • Ryunosuke in The Swordof Doom is an amoral samurai who's cruelty earns him the hatred of almost everyone around him.
  • Neil McCauley (played by Robert De Niro) in Heat is a ruthless bank robber, but he has an equal role in the story as Vincent Hanna (played by Al Pacino), the cop trying to catch him.
  • Frank Morris in Escape from Alcatraz, who is a robber and a multiple prison escapee.
  • Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me is an accomplished serial killer and domestic abuser masquerading as an honest cop, and genuinely enjoys all the murders he commits.
  • All the protagonists and antagonists in the Spanish movie Acción Mutante are villains, fighting each other for selfish reasons like money, sex or spite - not even because the other villain's kind of evil is worse. Even the minor characters are unsympathetic (e.g. the misogynist hillbilly miners; the ridiculously-posh, biased TV journalists).
  • Chad from In the Company of Men is a rude sexist Jerkass who gets a woman to fall in love with him just so he can break her heart later on for his own amusement. He runs a business and treats his employees like dirt. He later betrays his "friend" Howard, getting him demoted at work and driving him and his girlfriend to depression.
  • While her quirkiness does make her endearing at certain points, Mavis Gary from Young Adult spends most of the film doing everything she can to break up a happy, wholesome marriage (with a newborn girl, no less). Not to mention she is absolutely horrible and demeaning to most people who are unfortunate enough to come across her.
  • Terrence McDonaugh in The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He's a Rabid Cop who also a drug and gambling addict, steals from other cops and suspects, tortures people he interrogates, and blackmails female suspects to have sex with him. The only redeeming qualities he has is that he still loves his family and girlfriend, and draws the line at point blank murder. By the time the film's ending comes around, he still hasn't changed his drug-inducing habits one little bit and goes largely unpunished for all his crimes.
  • Paul from The Manhattan Project, when he's not bullying the school nerd with chemical explosives, he's building nuclear weapons that he then uses to hold the military hostage until he gets his way.
  • The Horsemen, and Dylan Rhodes in Now You See Me.
  • The Firefly Family are the villains of House of 1000 Corpses, but the sequel, The Devil's Rejects, makes them the protagonists of the movie. They're utterly depraved and valueless serial killers, but the audience is able to relate to their deep emotional ties as a family. To spice things up, the movie has a particularly crazy Knight Templar hero who is himself quite compelling.
  • Riddick is a much darker character in Pitch Black than in subsequent movies (where he's more of an Anti-Hero), partly because this film is the story of his redemption. While the first half treats him more as an antagonist, Riddick's opening monologue and the increasing focus on him for the latter half make it quite clear that it's as much his story as Carolyn's. He's introduced as a murderous criminal, and does little to dispell it. He's utterly opportunistic throughout the story, sociopathically indifferent to all the death around him, and is fully ready to leave the other survivors behind on the alien planet when they're no longer of use to him. He even tries to corrupt Carolyn to make the selfish choice to join him and forget about the others, threatening to leave her to die if she doesn't. It's Carolyn's quest to ultimately be a better person that motivates his Heel-Face Turn by the end.
  • Daniel from Pain and Gain. The interesting thing is the survivors and family accused the filmmakers of portraying Lugo and his co-horts as "antiheroes who just made a few mistakes," which is about as far as the trailers got. In reality the film doesn't make them out to be good people in the least, and instead shows that they are stupid, selfish people who torture and kill others for their money (Paul is an exception, who is a devout Christian dragged into this scheme, also being a combination of two other characters).
  • Alonzo the Armless is the central character in The Unknown. He is a murderous and obsessive knife-thrower who leaves a trail of bodies in his wake and has his arms amputated in an attempt to possess the woman he loves.
  • Cactus Jack Slade in the Western parody The Villain, though he's a thoroughly inept and bungling one.
  • Cabin By The Lake centers around horror movie writer Stanley Cauldwell, who's knowingly and obviously evil as a depraved serial killer of women.
  • The protagonists of The Eagle Has Landed are a group of German commandos trying to assassinate Winston Churchill under orders from Heinrich Himmler. The film does establish that the commandos themselves are honorable men concerned only with their mission and are disgusted by the war crimes they witness, even if their bosses might be mass murderers.
  • Every character in Conspiracy (which features an Ensemble Cast) is a high-ranking official of a totalitarian regime engaging in wars of conquest and extermination, while their objective is to organize a continental genocide.
  • The Psychlo leader Terl from Battlefield Earth. He gets a larger role in the film than in the book because the character was played by John Travolta, who also produced and financed the movie, which was something of a pet project for him.
  • William "D-FENS" Foster from Falling Down. He's dangerously insane and becomes increasingly violent, but at the same time he's also clearly a victim of powers beyond his control, and the audience is encouraged to feel catharsis through his actions even as the movie condemns them.
  • Subverted in Godzilla (2014). This version of Godzilla is The Hero (nominally) rather than a villain the trailers made him out to be.
  • Magneto in X-Men: First Class.
  • Frank Weld of Robot And Frank is a mild example; he's a former burglar and convicted felon who's living his sunset years fighting off boredom and the onset of Alzheimer's.
  • American Me: The main character Montoya Santana is a leading member of the Mexican Mafia.

    Literature 
  • Michael Moorcock created Colonel Pyatt - a cocaine-addicted, self-aggrandising, violently anti-semitic Jewish engineer who worships Fascism and may or may not be a rapist. He's also the narrator of his series of novels, despite being an outrageous liar.
  • In Kim Newman's The Hound of the D'Urbervilles, Colonel Moran and Professor Moriarty are the main characters, with Moran being the narrator. Moran is a thief, misanthrope, cheat, thrill-junkie who kills animals for sport and men for pay. As a protagonist, he's somewhat sympathetic due to being kind of funny, and even though he's very capable, Moriarty often manipulates him for his own reasons. Likewise, Moriarty is shown as taking joy in solving problems (either scientific ones or seemingly impossible crimes), but he has very little in the way of positive emotions or impulses. Both have Freudian Excuses, Moran had a mean angry dad so he became a mean angry man, and Moriarty's father was even worse.
  • Barry Lyndon. The title character is based on a real-life cad, and William Makepeace Thackaray hides no joy in having his villain protagonist gets what's coming to him, including a Karmic Death. Stanley Kubrick's adaptation makes Barry far more sympathetic (though still a jerk).
  • The abominable Protagonists, from the novel Hell's Children, by Andrew Boland, are this.
  • Thornhill is one of these by the end of The Secret River, having facilitated a genocide in order to avoid having to sell a hundred acres.
  • Lucius Cornelius Sulla from Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series is a pretty mean guy. He brings about the deaths of his stepmother, her nephew and his stepmother's lover in order to inherit their fortune (and kills another man to frame the deaths on him), treats his wife harshly to the point of driving her to suicide, and travels up north to spy on a group of Germans where he meets and impregnates a woman, he later arranges for his German family to be protected and leaves them. And that's all in the first book.
  • Doctor Impossible from Soon I Will Be Invincible is pretty comfortable with being the Evil Mad Scientist, albeit with a sort of flamboyant Silver Age kind of villainy. But even if he turns out to be a fairly nice and somewhat misunderstood guy, he is breaking out of jail for the thirteenth time to launch yet another Evil Plan to destroy or Take Over the World, and that's not even counting ones where he got away.
  • Subverted by Alex from A Clockwork Orange. He spends the first part of the book as an obvious villain, but once he's given the Ludivico Treatment, he becomes a helpless victim at the mercy of others. Ultimately it turns out that the government was the villain for trying to rob him of moral choice. Alex ultimately reforms himself at the end of the book.
  • Humbert Humbert from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Altogether a charming, well-spoken and eloquent young historian of French literature, liked by the reader and nearly anyone who meets him. Too bad he is also a pedophile who marries a woman in order to abuse her daughter, then proceeds to lie to said daughter about the death of her mother while taking her on a not-quite-consensual road trip, on which he tries to drug and then have intercourse with her.
  • Artemis Fowl is in the first book. A greedy, Magnificent Bastard Chessmaster.
  • Lord Soth of Dargaard Keep, a death knight, was originally a villain in the Dragonlance novels. Three novels were later released starring Soth as the main character: Knight of the Black Rose and Spectre of the Black Rose by James Lowder and Voronica Whitney Robinson, and the eponymous Lord Soth by Edo van Belkom.
  • Paradise Lost. Half of the story follows the War in Heaven, in which Satan is the protagonist. Putting Satan center stage and allowing him to work his diabolical charisma on the reader is a major source of the poem's appeal.
  • R. A. Salvatore's Sellswords series follow the adventures of Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle, both of whom are recurring antagonists in his previous novels. While Jarlaxle is really more of a neutral, power-hungry Magnificent Bastard than an outright villain and Entreri's backstory gives him a Freudian Excuse for being a heartless-murderer-with-morals, neither character can really ever be seen in a positive light. It's also worth noting that Entreri has improved a great deal from his first murderous appearance.
    • Similarly, the antagonists Jarlaxle and Entreri face are all much worse than them.
  • Forgotten Realms' War of the Spider Queen series. All characters walking along the plot are fit in range from casual backstabbers to neighbour-sacrificing Lloth priestesses, and violent half-demons. Which does not prevent some of them from being charming and all of them from having more or less good points.
  • Ravenloft's I, Strahd, is a novel about the history of - who else? - Strahd, a vampire overlord who was cursed after killing his brother to take his bride, forcing the woman into suicide to escape him.
  • This is usually the case in The Vampire Chronicles. Some protagonists are sympathetic characters, some have a few good qualities, but most are villains, at least in the traditional sense.
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho is a deliciously Ax-Crazy Serial Killer who tortures and murders a wide variety of innocent people in the story, simply because he likes the feeling. But even if he's just imagining that, he's still an unlikable, self-centered, elitist, racist, shallow bastard.
  • The Eagle Has Landed follows a group of Nazi agents attempting to assassinate Winston Churchill. You'll still likely find yourself rooting for them at a few points.
  • Donald E. Westlake:
    • Parker, the central protagonist of a series of novels by Westlake wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark. Several of these have been filmed (most famously as Point Blank starring Lee Marvin, and Payback starring Mel Gibson), although the central character is never named Parker in these adaptations due to the author's request. Parker has no moral hang ups about killing, stealing, or torturing to get what he wants, and what he wants is usually money or revenge for not getting money.
    • Westlake also wrote a series of novels under his real name about John Dortmunder, a professional burglar. The books are much Lighter and Softer than the Parker series, and generally Played for Laughs. Several of these have also been turned into movies, including The Hot Rock.
  • Wyatt is the thief protagonist of a series of novels (starting with Kickback) by Australian author Garry Disher. You will end up barracking for Wyatt as his schemes bring him into conflict with worse criminals who lack even Wyatt's basic sense of honour and ethics.
  • Mary Gentle's Grunts! tells the story of a group of orcs just trying to make their way in the world. After they loot a dragon's hoard that has weapons from assorted universes, including some from the US Marines and assorted literature (including Das Kapital, which turns one female orc into a Communist Commissar). The book is an acid-tipped parody of Lord of the Rings, and none of the characters are heroes in the traditional sense.
  • A number of the books by Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked) feature villains from well-known stories as the protagonist. For example, the queen from Snow White (in Mirror, Mirror), and one of the stepsisters from Cinderella (in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister).
  • Grendel by John Gardner is a Twice Told Tale, retelling Beowulf with Grendel as the protagonist.
  • The Hitman from Thomas Perry's first novel The Butcher's Boy. He is a sociopathic, amoral killer of considerable ability who has to evade both government agents and Mafia thugs when a Mafia boss tries to have him killed after a successful hit on a U.S. Senator that can be traced back to the latter.
  • Mercedes Lackey, in one of her stories featuring fantasy elves in the real world, had a cold-hearted, ruthless bitch of an antagonist who was quite willing to kill children if the job required it. The only problem was that she was going after a family that were protected by those same, very powerful, elves acting in secret to protect them. The shear magnitude of her hapless floundering around as she was constantly thwarted in one long Humiliation Conga would make you feel sorry for her if you didn't remind yourself that she was a murderous sociopath.
  • Strahd von Zarovich, the sociopathic vampire in I, Strahd (and TSR's Ravenloft campaign world).
  • Soltan Gris, narrator of L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth, is also the series antagonist (although you can't really call him sympathetic) who is secretly trying to stop the mission of his incorruptible, heroic Marty Stu counterpart Jettero Heller.
  • Hester Shaw, from Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines quartet (really, she's only the protagonist of the second book "Predator's Gold;" the first focuses on her husband and the third and fourth on her daughter), hovers between this and anti-hero. On the one hand, she is completely and incontrovertibly evil (she sells a city into slavery or death just to get rid of her rival for her husband-to-be, and actively enjoys killing people); on the other, one somehow can't help sympathising with her regardless, and because of her genuine love for Tom, her interests generally coincide with those of the other (not so evil) protagonists.
  • The narrator of The Debt to Pleasure, although his villainy is only gradually revealed over the course of the book.
  • The Cleaner by Paul Cleave is written from the first person perspective of a psychotic serial killer who considers killing, mutilating, and raping women "just a hobby."
  • Horace Dorrington from the short stories by Arthur Morrison is a corrupt detective who won't hesitate to cut deals with the villains or even kill his own clients, if he can profit from it.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe
    • Death Star focuses on the various people on the first Death Star. Most of them are Punch Clock Villains, really, who either think that The Empire is flawed but good or don't think they can join the Rebellion, either because they are stuck or they think it would just be curb stomped (they are on the Death Star). The cast includes the gunner who pulled the trigger to destroy Alderaan, a pilot who shot down enough X-Wings to become an Ace Pilot, a Force-Sensitive cultured stormtrooper, a surgeon who'd been stuck in service since the start of the Clone Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader. The survivors all either join the Rebellion (it blew up the Death Star! Maybe there's a chance!), flee to somewhere far away, or are Darth Vader. The Rebels aren't seen much - they're out there, but they don't show up for long. Leia's in the novel long enough to impress and guilt the surgeon who's treating her for torture, but the others don't get voices or faces, let alone names.
    • The Darth Bane trilogy follows the exploits of Darth Bane, a dark lord of the Sith. It is interesting in that it follows the mythical hero's journey, as made famous by the films, but with a negative character.
    • Darth Plagueis follows both Plagueis himself and (even more so, ironically considering the title) the rise of his apprentice, Palpatine.
    • Tarkin follows the rise of Wilhuff Tarkin through the Empire's ranks.
  • Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and its sequels. His most significant acts include murder for the purposes of identity theft, art forgery, and taking revenge on a random guy who pissed him off by tricking him into thinking that he's dying of cancer, then persuading him to become a hitman. The Ripley books were Highsmith's only series, but the central characters of her books are almost always either Villain Protagonists or pathetic losers who suffer horribly.
  • Steerpike is the protagonist of the first Gormenghast novel, while he either manipulates or assassinates the Groan family and their associates.
  • To at least one other protagonist's surprise, Clem's motives for assembling the Hand of Mercy are only a part the problem- as a Fallen angel, he's the villain by default. To a lesser extent, Nana Sophie and Salve aren't loyalists either, so it could be argued that most of the main characters are, at the very least, officially morally grubby.
  • Baron Harkonen from Dune during his POV segments. You so want him dead for his crimes and perversions, but while waiting for his comeuppance, you can't help but admire his brilliant political maneuvering and epic-level Magnificent Bastardry.
    • Subverted in Book 4, where Leto II says that the Baron wasn't really evil at all, just a very excessive individual. And Leto II knows evil better than anyone, since he has most of humanity living in his head.
    • A popular Alternative Character Interpretation is that Paul and Leto themselves are villains, or as David Brin put it "everyone in Dune deserves to die". Paul starts a religion and unleashes the bloodiest holy war in human history for revenge, even if he later starts preaching against the faith when he loses control of it. While Leto II oppresses humanity for 3,500 years in order to make them conform to his prophecies.
  • Catherine de' Medici is the protagonist of Jean Plaidy's trilogy Madame Serpent, The Italian Woman, and Queen Jezebel. Plaidy paints her as a monster who has her brother-in-law and one of her own sons murdered, and orders courtiers to sexually abuse another son to "turn him gay" and ensure that her favourite would reach the throne. She also shows the abuse Catherine endured as a child - in one scene, a 6-year old Catherine is forced to watch her beloved dog die in agony because her aunt disapproved of her crying over her other dog's death (all Truth in Television, sadly).
  • For most of the book The Woad to Wuin, the normally cowardly Anti-Hero Sir Apropos of Nothing descends into this. And fully enjoys it.
  • Gerald Tarrant of the Coldfire Trilogy is the true embodiment of a villain hero. From the beginning of the first book he is foreshadowed as the boogieman of a country. He is what parents threaten their children with to get them to go to their beds on time, and it is completely justified. The only reason he is a protagonist is because the thing that is threatening the world just happens to be a threat to him as well. He is a Magnificent Bastard who feeds on suffering and fear. But he also has an amusing side, in a state of near exhaustion in a land where he might be attacked at any moment, he still uses a part of his magic to fix his clothes and hair to look dashing.
  • A.E. van Vogt's classic sci-fi novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle opens with his previously published story "Black Destroyer", recounting the powerful, feline predator Coeurl's battle of wits against the crew of human space explorers who arrive on his planet. Partly because the story's told largely through Coeurl's eyes, and partly because the human characters' Expo Speak dialogue makes them seem bland and uninteresting in comparison, his eventual defeat almost comes across as a Downer Ending. In the end, though, perhaps Coeurl had the last laugh: the Space Beagle's crew has passed on into obscurity, while he's gotten a Shout-Out as an enemy in practically every Final Fantasy game.
  • In the second book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel becomes one of these as part of his Character Development, especially unfortunate seeing as how he had previously been disgusted with the behavior of magicians who acted similarly to how he started to in the book.
  • Brendan Stokes in Edmund Power's The Last Chapter starts out as an "aspiring novelist", i.e. a pathetic, conceited, talentless hack. He finds a manuscript while looting his dead neighbor's apartment, promptly steals and plagiarizes it, lies his way to success, and on the way expands his repertoire with adultery, blackmail, and eventually, double homicide.
  • In the second book in the Night Watch series, Day Watch, part of the story is narrated by Alysa, who is the series protagonist Anton's opposite number/Evil Counterpart in the forces of darkness (They start at the same level of power; while the Big Good is Anton's mentor, the Big Bad was Alysa's lover), and she is one of the protagonists of the book.
  • The Eye Of The Needle has a villain co-protagonist, since it spends far more pages following the spy's progress across England than it spends with the heroine who eventually brings him down.
  • Most Gothic horror fiction features a Villain Protagonist:
    • Ambrosio, the villainous priest of Matthew G. Lewis's The Monk, who gives in to his desire for his pupil Matilda, a woman disguised as a monk, and then is overcome by lust for the innocent Antonia. With Matilda's sorcerous help, Ambrosio seduces her, then later rapes and murders her. He is delivered into the hands of the Inquisition and makes a Deal with the Devil to avoid the death sentence that awaits him. Only after getting tortured to death does he learn that Antonia was actually his sister.
    • The title character of Les Chants De Maldoror by Lautréamont, a figure of absolute evil who is opposed to God and humanity, and has renounced conventional morality and decency.
    • Edward Montague's Demon Of Sicily, who promises two holy people fulfillment of their wanton sexual urges in exchange for their souls.
    • Manfred, the lord of The Castle of Otranto, who tries to forcibly marry his own son's fiancee in order to avert the destruction of his line.
    • Byronic Hero Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. His life ambition is to wreak vengeance on all who have (in his opinion) stood between him and his would-be lover Cathy Earnshaw. He achieves this by mentally and physically abusing them, and embezzling their property. He extends his revenge to the children of his enemies.
    • The unnamed protagonist of Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye, which is full of squick.
  • While some would argue that every Warhammer 40,000 novel has a Villain Protagonist by default, the Chaos Space Marine viewpoint characters of Graham McNeill's Storm of Iron and Anthony Reynolds' Word Bearers trilogy definitely qualify.
    • As do Andy Chambers' books, Path of the Renegade and Path of the Incubus, which feature the Dark Eldar as protagonists.
  • Lady Susan Vernon of Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan. Despite being the novel's central, most prominent figure, she is an unscrupulous, manipulative Vamp engaged in a sort of pre-affair with a married man while at the same time trying to snare the man her daughter is in love with as she struggles to force said daughter to marry a man against her will. Unlike Austen's Emma, Lady Susan does not change at all over the curse of her story. Her daughter Frederica is the more sympathetic heroine.
  • The Chronicles of Narnia: Edmund Pevensie for the first half of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He intended to commit something vile against his siblings, even before the witch persuaded him into doing it. Fortunately, he does a Heel-Face Turn and becomes an Anti-Hero later.
  • Simon Darcourt from A Snowball in Hell spends an awful lot of time narrating his crimes to the reader with glee.
  • Lysander in the last Apprentice Adept book, Phaze Doubt. Much of the book is spent trying to lure Lysander over to Phaze/Photon's cause (doubling as distracting him from his "real" mission as The Mole). Even though he's essential in the good guys' eventual triumph, he never actually switches sides.
  • Umberto Eco's novel The Prague Cemetery stars a racist, misogynistic forger whose only redeeming feature is his love of good food. The book starts with him penning down why he hates Germans, Italians, French, women, Jews, Catholics, Freemasons and many others, and ends with him penning The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as his magnum opus.
  • Jill from Blubber has no qualms in bullying an Actual Pacifist classmate. She never seems to think of her as a sensitive human being.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Ao Aeon points at Phaethon's behavior and assures him he is obviously the villain of the piece. In The Golden Transcendence, Phaethon cites this to explain his behavior to Daphne, who is obviously, he explains, the heroine.
  • We spend so much time experiencing The Liveship Traders through Captain Kennit's POV that it sometimes becomes hard to remember that he really is the villain of the piece. Just an extremely charismatic, sympathetic villain who tends to overshadow his more heroic fellow-protagonists.
  • Haplo of The Death Gate Cycle begins as one of these. In addition to being the main character, he is also a member of the Patryn race, which seeks to subjugate all the worlds under Patryn rule. Later, he becomes less of a villain.
    • Specifically, his progression goes thusly- in the first two books, he's the flat-out Dragon to Lord Xar, and though his backstory makes him sympathetic, there's no real doubt that he's a bad guy. Then, in books 3 and 4, he starts getting pitted against people much worse than he is, moving to more of a Type V Anti-Hero. From the fifth book onward, Haplo has reevaluated his purpose and place in the universe, and though he never loses his ruthlessness or hard edges, he softens up enough to settle in as a Type III Anti-Hero.
  • The Private series Spin-Off Privilege is from the point of view of Ariana Osgood, the villain of one of the books in the series.
  • Most of the protagonists in Tales of 1001 Nights are thieves.
  • Thérèse Raquin is all about a woman who murdered her husband to be with her lover.
  • In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian Gray is corrupted by Lord Henry's ideas of hedonism and becomes a cruel man who does whatever he wants, regardless of the consequences, and ends up causing pain and death to several people. His portrait reflects Dorian's inner soul (and ages for him as well) and becomes uglier and uglier with each evil act he commits until it becomes monstrous.
  • Thought we don't find out until halfway through Within Ruin Virgil is the reason behind nearly every awful thing that has happened throughout the novel, including the plague.
  • The central character of Alberto Moravia's The Conformist, is a member of Fascist Italy's Secret Police.
  • Aside from the boatman and the epilogue's police, every character in And Then There Were None is culpable in someone's death, ranging from negligent homicide to premeditated murder. The one who seems most sympathetic and protagonist-like within the ensemble (Vera) turns out to be the most culpable. Subverted in most adaptations.
  • Neil Gaiman's "A Study in Emerald" sets up Moran and Moriarty as the heroes in a Twist Ending. Throughout most of the story the reader thought Moran was Watson and Moriarty was Holmes.
  • Robert Reed's short story, The Hoplite has the protagonist being a thoroughly brutal warrior of Alexander the Great's army, who was Resurrected for a Job - subjugating rebellious countries through use of massive firepower and a suit of Powered Armor. The protagonist murders several innocent people and children in revenge for being betrayed.
  • The monstrous sorcerer Yasunori Kato is generally labeled as the protagonist of Hiroshi Aramata's epic fantasy/alternate history novel Teito Monogatari (Tale of the Imperial Capital), although the story does focus on the perspectives of many other characters including a disillusioned Yukio Mishima.
  • Kaizan Nakazato's classic literary work Dai-bosatsu Tōge (The Great Bodhisattva Pass), generally considered one of the longest works ever written in world literature, revolves around the exploits of Tsukue Ryonosuke, a psychopathic samurai who commits several evil deeds.
  • In House of Chains, the fourth book in Malazan Book of the Fallen, the first quarter of the book is, atypically, spent following the single Point of View of Karsa Orlong, a careful Deconstruction of the "barbarian fantasy". Karsa comes from a society that glorifies violence, rape and bullying, but even his closest friends find him to be almost too aggressive for them.
  • John Barnes' "Kaleidescope Century'' is told from the fractured viewpoint of jashua Ali Quare, a mercenary in an alternate future who works for what used to be the KGB before it took over bothe The Mafia and The Mafiya.
  • Because O. Henry spent time in jail, many of his stories, like The Ransom of Red Chief, focus on (relatively low-time) criminals.
  • The protagonists of James Ellroy's Underworld USA trilogy. While most of Ellroy's main characters are simply dark Anti Heroes who Pay Evil unto Evil, Kemper Boyd, Ward Littell, Wayne Tedrow Jr., Dwight Holly, and Pete Bondurant are a motley crew of extortionists, drug peddlers, mercenaries, con men, and assassins who are out for nothing but their own enrichment.
  • In the Parker novels by Richard Stark, Parker is a ruthless career criminal with almost no traditional redeeming qualities, aside from efficiency and professionalism. Parker is cold, methodical, and perfectly willing to commit murder to get what he wants.
  • The Twits are a variation, as they are introduced before Muggle-Wump and get a lot more of the focus in the first half of the book. The position of protagonist is later given to Muggle-Wump.
  • The Liar series written by a Polish author Jakub Ćwiek take place in modern time Earth where all of the main religions of the past and present are real - there are Greek, Hindu, African gods and many mythological creatures that were either very powerful at some point or still live in the hearts of men (for instance, Santa Claus and his Slavic counterpart). The protagonist of the story is the Norse god Loki, who was imprisoned by his father out of fear of making Ragnarok come true. Unknown to Odin, Asgard was about to be attacked by the army of Heaven after God disappeared without a word and left angels in charge. They allied themselves with Loki and thanks to his treason easily wiped out the Norse. The series follows Loki's footsteps as an assassin for hire, hunting various deities and beings who are deemed by angels to be pagan and offensive to their plans. Depending on reader's viewpoint, not only Loki is an evil protagonist, who betrayed his people in exchange for his life and a job, but angels themselves are seen as bloodthirsty monsters who want to exterminate all other pantheons.
  • While The Gap Cycle has plenty of protagonists, most of whom are villainous to some extent, it's strongly dominated by Angus Thermopyle, a man who starts the story as a pirate, murderer, and rapist. He does get a bit less horrible over the course of the story, but even at the end he's a Noble Demon at best. Stephen R Donaldson has stated that he hesitated to publish the first book in the series, because he didn't like what it said about him that he found it so easy to write Angus.
  • In Please Don't Tell My Parents I'm A Supervillain, Penny and her friends accidentally end up as supervillains rather than superheroes due to a run in with a particularly bitchy apprentice hero. Penny tries desperately to correct misconceptions and become a hero, but her friends clearly enjoy being villains. After they continuously foil villainous plots and rescue innocents and are still seen as villains, she pretty much just gives up and rolls with it.
  • An interesting Biblical example is the prophet Jonah (although he can also be seen as a very unpleasant sort of Anti-Hero). God has a plan to push the entire city of Ninevah into a Heel-Face Turn and he wants Jonah's help, but Jonah refuses. Eventually God convinces him to play along and the city does indeed get saved - but Jonah is explicitly noted to be "angry enough to die" about it. He wanted the city to remain evil. In particular, he appears to have been hoping that they would remain evil and dangerous enough for God to have no choice but to destroy them, which kinda implies the prophet was a closeted Blood Knight. While not the only Biblical protagonist to start off by opposing God, he is the only one who doesn't seem to learn the error of his ways. The narrative ends with God giving him a What the Hell, Hero? speech before apparently leaving him alone.
  • While The Quest of the Unaligned is not actually written this way, the author suggests that you should always try for a villain who you could do this for if you wanted, as it's an excellent way to avoid cliché storytelling.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 traficking 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, but remains an Anti-Hero by always struggling against someone worse. By the fifth season, however, Walter has become a cold and cruel man, and his opposition is his own family. He's become the Big Bad in his own story.
  • Hustle is about a group of con artists, though they tend to remain sympathetic due to their incredible charm and their code of only scamming people who are dishonest, greedy, and otherwise presented to the audience as unsympathetic.
  • There 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.
  • 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.)
  • Rod Serling wrote three stories in which the main character is a Nazi who receives a supernatural punishment: The Twilight Zone episodes "Judgment Night" and "Death's-Head Revisited", and a segment of the Night Gallery pilot film titled "The Escape Route".
    • Other Twilight Zone episodes that feature Villain Protagonists:
      • A Thing About Machines
      • A Most Unusual Camera
      • The Whole Truth
      • The Mirror
      • The Jungle
      • One More Pallbearer
      • A Piano in the House
      • The Little People
      • Four O'Clock
      • Jess-Belle
      • Of Late I Think of Cliffordville
      • The Last Night of a Jockey
      • Living Doll
      • You Drive
      • A Short Drink From a Certain Fountain
      • Queen of the Nile
      • Sounds and Silences
      • Caesar and Me
      • The Brain Center at Whipple's
  • 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 started off from the villain's point-of-view as he or she carried 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.
  • Skins has Tony Stonem in Series 1, who is a manipulative, heartless bastard. He gets better.
  • Dexter Morgan in Dexter. The protagonist is a serial killer; he murders people as his hobby. Several steps are taken to make the audience sympathize with him: he only kills bad guys, he has a bad past and lots of reasons, and so on, but the fact remains that he's a serial-murdering sociopath. The series flirts with drawing him as a hero, especially in season 2, but he never quite makes it. He makes some less-researched, more impulsive kills as the series progresses. Later, especially at the end of the seventh season, Dexter begins to appear more and more evil, as his psychosis starts to catch up to him and the people he loves.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Kiera Cameron is the protagonist in the series Continuum and objectively would be considered a villain on the basis of her background and goals. She is a former soldier and police officer from a police state that has enslaved a large part of humanity and her primary goal is to protect that future so that she can return home to her family. This means stopping the freedom fighters who are trying to prevent that police state from coming into existence. She is a bit lighter than most true villains though and should probably be considered a type III Anti-Villain.
  • House Of Saddam chronicles the rise and fall of Iraq's infamous former dictator.

    Music 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and Miku's Rotten Girl, 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.
  • WithinTemptation 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 villians' 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.

    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.
  • The forthcoming Warhammer 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.
    • In the main 40k game, playing as any of the "evil" factions will automatically lead to this, even the fluff in the book is less sympathetic. This is most notable with the aforementioned chaos space marines and Tyranids, the latter of which usually has fluff written in an Apocalyptic Log style. This is more true during global campaigns, where the victories of "evil" factions will slowly edge the plot towards a downer ending, and the player base will still cheer for it.
  • 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, in the assumption is that you'll quickly catch on that the Yozis are (A) certifiably insane and (B) can't actually rope you in, so you'll either 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 producitive agenda, or just a plan ol' Noble Demon who just wants to be left alone, before you slip the leash entirely.
  • 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.

    Theater 
  • Christopher Marlowe's play, Tamburlaine the Great, 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.
    • Marlowe liked villain protagonists; The Jew of Malta is another example, as is Doctor Faustus.
  • 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 of 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 of 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.

    Video Games 
  • Dr. X and TOM from AVirusNamedTOM qualify, as they're infecting the entire city with a computer virus.
  • Walker of Spec Ops: The Line. Though he thinks he's the hero, he's the one who's firebombing fellow soldiers and innocent people with white phosphorus and opening fire on an unarmed crowd. Late in the game, it's even spelled out for Walker why he's the bad guy, as part of a long Villainous Breakdown. How sympathetic he is in spite of the monstrous things he does is a matter of no small amount of debate, and indeed the game's Multiple Endings essentially allow the player to choose how redeemable they believe he is as a character.
  • All RTSs with playable factions, a clear good faction and evil faction, and a full compliment of Campaigns have this, especially ones with intertwined campaigns: At some point, you can or will be given the option to play the story's Big Bad. Exceptions fall under No Campaign for the Wicked.
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent is an odd example. The backstory, which is slowly revealed over the course of the game, shows that the protagonist was once a normal man who sunk to shockingly low depths in order to save his own life.
    • The sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, the big twist is Mandus is responsible for the machine's creation and his sons' deaths. A part of his soul is part of the machine and it was trying to purify the world based on his creator's intention. The ending does fix this.
  • Armored Core For Answer is mostly Grey and Gray Morality, but one of the endings has you and a psychopathic cohort go on an Axe Crazy murder spree that leaves millions dead in the span of a few hours. The final mission involves the two of you fighting everyone left standing that can oppose you, including your own com operator, all at once. They managed to kill your cohort, but fail to kill you. It's hinted your unchecked rampage sends humanity right back to the dark ages.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer bears mention, because there is no other clear villain in the story unless the player takes it upon him or herself to be one. It is hard to consider The Founder a villain, despite what she did, and the only other character who bears any blame has been dead (for certain values of dead) for centuries.
  • Longtime Big Bad Bowser from Super Mario Bros. is the central character in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, though he functions more as an unwitting Anti-Hero secretly aided by the Mario Brothers rather than a villain. In other Mario RPGs, he's more of a Token Evil Teammate when playable.
    • Mario was originally one of these. Read the supplementary material and you'll find out that Donkey Kong(Now Cranky Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. is the current Donky Kong) was his pet that he treated horribly, escaped, and kidnapped his girlfriend out of revenge.
  • The Chaos Path in Der Langrisser has the protagonist Elwin become this. The other three paths (Light, Imperial and Independent) are considerably more morally grey.
  • Overlord, although you're allowed to choose between being really evil and just self-proclaimed evil. Plus, given that all the "good" characters are corrupt, choosing the latter option makes you the most sympathetic character in the game with this depiction being decidedly canon (the Overlord at least saves the Elves and Rose is the mother of his child). In the sequel you are 100% evil and you fight some genuinely Good foes, though your main enemies are still the anti-magic Glorious Empire bent on the destruction of all magic. Lord Gromgard of the Wii prequel Dark Legend is portrayed as a Villain with Good Publicity who is at the least well-liked amongst his servants for not letting them starve.
  • Everyone in Team Fortress 2. The Pyro is a pyromaniac Psychopathic Manchild; The Scout treats killing like a sport; The Soldier is so Ax-Crazy he was killing Germans on his own little campaign until four years after the end of World War 2; The Demoman is a Mad Bomber who is disturbingly casual about his job from what we've seen through the glimpses at his home life; The Heavy is insane enough that he talks to his guns while using them to mow down endless opponents; The Engineer finds mechanically induced death both hilarious and apparently fascinating, and a great thing to do around campfires; The Sniper, while he claims to be a morally upright professional, loves childish insults and the sounds of exploding skulls far too much to be considered one; The Medic has a morbid fascination with pain, diseases, injuries, and general human suffering; finally, the Spy is an actual professional soldier, but his sadistic nature ensures he is still this trope.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series stars mass-murderering criminals who conquer other crime bosses. The different games have gone back-and forth with this trope:
    • In Grand Theft Auto III, the protagonist was not even named, and appeared to be doing what he did solely to survive (the game starts with him being busted out of a prison transport). Only at the very end does a revenge motive appear.
    • The most clear-cut Villain Protagonist of the series is Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Unlike the other protagonists, Tommy is not above dealing drugs, and the game's plot mostly revolves around Tommy seizing control of Vice City from the criminals who previously controlled it. Also unlike other protagonists in the series, he shows little to no remorse for any of his crimes and is only committing them to benefit himself as opposed to protecting those he cares about.
    • By Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the first Anti-Hero protagonist appeared, Carl Johnson. In cutscenes CJ is present as an honourable, even admirable character, and his motivation for most of the game is simple survival as well as keeping his family safe. Notably, CJ is opposed to dealing drugs of any nature, the only protagonist in the series that does so. Out of cutscenes he's just as willing to murder, steal, and destroy as any of the other protagonists.
    • Downplayed in the 3 Grand Theft Auto IV stories. The 3 protagonists are more of Anti-Heroes than outright villains. Despite Niko, Johnny and Luis committing crimes and horrible things, they're quite sympathetic and have rather good qualities. They are shown to care a lot for their friends and families, help strangers from time to time, and unlike the normal GTA protagonist, their motivations aren't power and greed. Also, when they are killing, it's usually criminals or corrupt people.
    • Again downplayed in Grand Theft Auto V, at least for Franklin and Michael. They're both shown as somewhat sympathetic and are more like Anti-Villains than outright Villain Protagonists. The insane Trevor, however, is a completely straight example of this.
  • Destroy All Humans!, at least in the first game (the second casts the protagonist as more of an Anti-Hero by circumstance and the third has him become an Unwitting Pawn).
  • The Bad Guy, a famous demo game in the Hispanic RPG Maker scene, chronicles the rise of Omaen, an aspiring villain, while parodying every RPG trope. Omaen is presented as downright evil but the Only Sane Man in comparison with both the idiotic "heroes" and the other Slave to PR Card Carrying Villains who fear more the strike of the Weird Trade Union of monsters and minions than anything the heroic characters can do.
  • Warcraft III has a linear storyline that puts the player in control of different commanders from different sides of the war depending on the point of time in the story. The human campaign features Prince Arthas, an idealistic young man fighting a horrific undead army. As the war carries on, Arthas must resort to increasingly reprehensible tactics, starting with the slaughter of a sleeping town when he learns they've received shipments of food from a village secretly contaminated by the undead plague. Out of desperation to save the human population, he acquires, at the cost of his soul, a magic sword powerful enough to defeat his undead nemesis. The player is still in control of Arthas during the next campaign, but now he's a soulless Death Knight leading the undead in their war against the living.
    • Similarly, StarCraft has one campaign for each of the three factions, all of which form a cohesive story. During the Zerg campaign, you're an evil giant brain-slug monster, commanding your evil Big Creepy-Crawlies into killing the good(ish) guys. Likewise in Brood War, the Terran Campaign has you play as the UED, who are pretty bad, although they rarely fight any good guys.
  • In Star Trek Armada, the second to last campaign is the Borg campaign. In the final mission, you successfully assimilate Earth, killing Worf in the process. This is undone via Time Travel in the subsequent hidden campaign, in which the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans join forces to defeat the Borg.
  • Kratos from the God of War series is a berserker whose primary motivation is revenge on anyone who has spurned him. Which eventually expands to everyone who crosses his path or tries to stop him doing whatever he's doing. Also a fair few people whose deaths would be convenient for him.
  • Subverted with Laharl (Disgaea: Hour of Darkness) and newcomer Mao (Disgaea 3) from the Disgaea series— but they are really Noble Demons.
  • Zetta from Makai Kingdom is another Noble Demon example of this trope.
  • Revya during the Demon Path of Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. Unlike other Nippon Ichi games listed here, definitely not a Noble Demon.
  • The Brotherhood of Nod in general, and Kane in particular, of the Command & Conquer series, especially in Tiberium Wars where a large part of the Brotherhood's basic motivation stems from economic woes, health problems, and perceived oppression and marginalization by the Global Defense Initiative.
    • Taken up to eleven in Kane's Wrath, where you learn that a previous mission you played in Wars, where you were defending as the bad-guy Nod and were attacked by a rogue group of Nod traitors supposedly led by Killian, where you learn the truth of the treachery. However the perpetrator did it in belief that she would be helping Nod rid themselves of an unbeliever, but unintentionally (however it was planned by Kane) triggering the arrival of the Scrin. What makes this a villain protagonist is that you are now in command of the traitor army. It's hard to understand exactly who she ended up helping in the end, but she's definitely a villain to all factions.
    • The vast majority of Real-Time Strategy games have campaigns for both sides. Except when there is No Campaign for the Wicked.
  • Tie Fighter. You play on the side of The Empire, and have Darth Vader as your wingman. Note that while you do spend quite a bit of time fighting the Rebels, the Empire is portrayed as quite a bit less ruthlessly evil than in the films and other media. The result is more like an Anti-Villain Protagonist.
  • The Force Unleashed features Starkiller, a Dark Jedi who was raised by Darth Vader and has a disturbing talent for killing his enemies in outlandish, yet surprisingly amusing ways. Justified to an extent as he was raised from childhood to believe in Vader's cause and eventually turns against him anyway (canonically). The non-canon add-on missions included in Ultimate Sith Edition take it further, complete with Starkiller informing a captain "You Have Failed Me For The Last Time."
  • Star Wars Battlefront II's Campaign mode. You play as the Republic's 501st Legion, who quite obviously become the bad guys just before the halfway point.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic, if you go with the dark side on The Empire side. Sith warriors who follow this path will stun many a Jedi with their vicious brutality. Then you have the Psycho for Hire bounty hunters, inquisitors with force lightning as way of greeting people, and Imperial agents who take the protocol of Leave No Witnesses to heart.
  • American Mc Gees Grimm features a dwarf named Grimm who despises the Disneyfication of fairy tales and whose goal is to return them into the dark stories that they were. His Catch Phrase in the ads is:
    Grimm: Happily ever after ends NOW!
  • The critically acclaimed freeware game Emily Enough revolves around a little girl who has slaughtered her entire family and who proceeds to kill several innocent people over the course of the game.
  • Saints Row 2 has the player becoming this, with the goal of the game being 'take over the city over the corpses of rivals gang, cops and any innocent civilians that get in the way'. The only reason the Saints look sympathetic is via the even worse antics of their enemies and the Undying Loyalty the Saints develop to each other. This continues into the next game, though much more downplayed in favour of chaos and stunts than outright villainy.
  • The Misadventures Of Tron Bonne has you play as Goldfish Poop Gang member from Mega Man Legends, Tron Bonne in her quest to steal one million zenny worth of goods to save her kidnapped air pirate family.
  • In No More Heroes, Travis Touchdown creates the line in the sand for a character who either just barely counts as a Villain Protagonist (he has very few, if any, likable qualities, and kills people for a living) or is not quite evil enough to be a Villain Protagonist (the people he kills are, for the most part, even more sick and twisted than he is, or at the very least other assassins). Which side he is actually on is up for debate. He veers completely away from this in the sequel, however.
  • 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."
  • In Threads of Fate, you can choose to play as either Rue, the hero, or Mint, the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
  • The unreleased arcade game Chimera Beast is about ruthless and mindless Horde of Alien Locusts who reabsorb the DNA of what they eat to become stronger... and you play as one of them, digging your way through the food chain of your homeplanet starting from bacteria. If you win against the final boss you end up blowing up the planet and going through a killing spree across the universe, eventually reaching Earth... Even the game mocks you for this. To get the "good" ending, you must lose to the final boss and opt not to continue.
  • Firebrand of Demon's Crest is, for starters, a Red Arremer from Ghouls 'n Ghosts (the original Demonic Spider). The game starts with him as a prisoner of the demon Phalanax, who interrupted his attempt to take over the world and stole the Crests he was using to do so. Once he breaks out, the rest of the game concerns him reclaiming his stolen property and kill Phanalax so that he can Take Over the World as previously planned.
  • In Prototype, the main character, Alex Mercer is quite unrepentant about the horrible things he does throughout the game. Unlike inFAMOUS, a game with a roughly similar premise, Prototype has no Karma Meter, and automatically assumes the player will choose to behave the way players ''always'' behave in a Wide Open Sandbox game.
  • Wylfred of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is one of these on the C path, if you use the Plume to sacrifice more than a certain number of your teammates. Otherwise, he's either a Byronic Hero, or an Anti-Hero.
  • Atlach Nacha, where the protagonist is a humanitarian Giant Spider who lusts after tender young schoolgirls.
  • In the Silent Hill series, which ending you get often determines whether your main character is a tortured hero or this trope. Silent Hill 4 takes it one step further by having the plot revolve entirely around the Big Bad Implacable Man antagonist instead of the borderline Featureless Protagonist Henry Townshend.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni 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.
  • In the Rampage games you score points by destroying as much property as possible and eating people, and most of the people haven't done anything to you or are just soldiers doing their job. You can also kick them to death or knock them off building/tear off parachutes and watch them splat.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has the Dark Brotherhood quest line, in which the player takes the role of an assassin. It mixes in clearly deserving targets (The very first one is lightly implied to be either a rapist or a murderer) with somewhat-deserving ones (A pirate, who's clearly killed people 'on the job' before) with clearly innocent people. You also get to kill your entire 'family' of assassins, which may or may not qualify for the Moral Event Horizon. Several of the Daedric quests in the game are also pretty villainous, ranging from gleeful sociopathy to diabolic evil: In Molag Bal's Daedric quest, the player is asked to goad a Reluctant Warrior into murder. Obviously, being a sandbox game it also features Video Game Cruelty Potential aplenty.
  • Evil Genius. You play a typical supervillain, sending out henchmen from your lair in a hollowed-out volcano (or somewhere like that) to commit evil deeds, working towards the culmination of Evil Plan, setting off your Doomsday Device or taking over the world.
  • Dungeon Keeper: Build your sprawling dungeon, employ creatures of darkness, spread your dark influence over the land. Don't forget to deal with those adventuring heroes who want to slay your army and steal your treasure. If the imps or the traps don't kill the them, have them tortured.
  • Caleb, the main character in the Blood series, is a psychotic undead cowboy killing his way through his former cult so he can get revenge on their god, Tchernobog. What pushes Caleb into true villainy is just how much he loves his Roaring Rampage of Revenge; when he isn't wisecracking or snarking, he's cackling like a madman while chucking dynamite at anything that gets in his way. And then, in the second game, his disuse of Tchernobog's powers begins to unravel the very stability of the universe; he's quite happy to let the totality of existence collapse out of boredom.
  • In the flash game Armed With Wings, you play as the exiled king Vandheer Lorde, the main villain of the series, who is undeniably Badass.
  • Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition adds the ability to play through the story as Dante's Evil Twin, Vergil. However, this is solely a gameplay feature as aside from a new intro cutscene Vergil doesn't have a special story mode and simply goes through Dante's missions as usual, with the only difference being that the Vergil boss battles have a Palette Swap.
  • Centipede: The comic book adaptation has the playable character (a wizard) in the role of the bad guy, with a boy trying to stop him.
  • Sands of Destruction has us follow the adventures of the World Destruction Committee. Although only one is actively seeking the destruction of the world, the other is tagging along because he likes our crazed lady protagonist, and the third is going with to protect him.
  • Okage's main character is a slave of the evil king Stan, and through the game, you're trying to take the power of the other evil kings that showed up while Stan was in a jar, so he can take over the world. It's not very prominent though, what with Stan being a Harmless Villain who spends more time fighting evil than causing it.
  • The title character in Legacy of Kain is quite the nasty piece of work. The series starts with him becoming a vampire so he can avenge his death. He then decides to destroy the town he was murdered in. And then he gets a list of people to kill, and just settles for slaughtering every man, woman, and child he sees. And right as he's finished, he ruins the whole point of the quest and just decides to rule over Nosgoth's dying remains. In Blood Omen 2, he mind controls bystanders to their deaths, kills every human he sees, and murders his Love Interest when she realizes what a monster he is, all in the name of regaining his empire. It takes Nosgoth itself dying in the Soul Reaver series for him to simmer down, and then, he's a Manipulative Bastard to his vampire offspring Raziel, and is only out to save himself.
  • Scott Shelby in Heavy Rain especially when it is revealed that he is the Origami Killer masquerading as a private investigator.
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron has a campaign where you play as the Decepticons, and control Megatron for most of the levels.
  • The Descent 3: Mercenary Expansion Pack casts you on the side of the Big Bad Corrupt Corporate Executive Dravis, as the leader of his Black Pyro squadron.
  • This happens in BlazBlue when you play as Hazama in story mode, he's the story's Villain Protagonist, with no past or reasons to justify his villainy. Also the same goes to Relius Clover.
  • Wizardry IV is an atypical entry in the series: it has the player take control of Werdna, the Evil Sorcerer of the first episode, now resurrected and thirsty for revenge... If he manages to just leave the dungeon where he was buried first, which is not an easy task.
  • PAYDAY: The Heist has you as crook taking part in various heists, complete with taking hostages and shooting a whole lot of cops.
  • Jinkuro, the malevolent ghost possessing Momohime's body, in Muramasa The Demon Blade. He's outright only into the whole ordeal to get his chosen weapon back and find a better target in his Grand Theft Me scheme to live forever, and does a lot of villainous actions (such as invading Heaven) in order to find alternate routes to immortality.
  • Escape Velocity:
    • The Voinian campaign in Escape Velocity: Override is about as unambiguously evil as they come. The Voinians are a race of vicious alien warlords bent on conquering the galaxy and enslaving everything in their path. The player has the option to help the Voinians break their stalemate with the human United Earthnote , and crippling the attempts of a previously conquered race to rebel against their overlords. Rewards for doing so include access to a variety of powerful Voinian military vessels and the unsettling satisfaction of committing genocide against your own race.
    • All Escape Velocity games have at least one storyline where the player character can be called a villain: in Classic, working for the Confederation and trying to bring the Rebels back to heel, in Override, the Voinian and the two Renegade storylines, and in Nova, the Federation storyline (after a certain point of no return).
  • Brice, a UFO-obsessed ghost and one of the playable characters in the adventure game, Amber Journeys Beyond. After you complete his level he is sent to Hell in a particularly horrifying way - granted, he did murder at least 3 people in the game's backstory.
  • Demitri Maximoff from Darkstalkers. He wants to Take Over the World, and yet was advertised as the lead originally. Unfortunately, this led to Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy, as his foe was Pyron, another world-conqueror.
  • In Disciples 2, the Elves are initially on the side of the "good" guys. In Rise of the Elves, their god Gallean, driven mad by his resurrection and the Trauma Conga Line inflicted upon him by the vengeful Mortis, commands them to be brutal warmongers. Gallean is sick of the Elves always getting shafted by their so-called allies and has them taking what he believes is rightfully theirs by force. The "Villain" part is established in the first scenario, where the goal is to slaughter a town of innocent humans. A few Elves question these orders, but their doubts don't last. Ironically, the only Elf who continues to have reservations about this is the Oracle who relays Gallean's will to his people.
  • In DEFCON, each player takes up the role of a General Ripper during a global thermonuclear war. Each player's goal is to ensure that the capitalist/communists/whatever die in a nuclear fire. The "Genocide" mode elevates this - the only way to gain points is to nuke population centers.
  • The Lord of the Rings Online has a monster-play feature which lets you be an orc, goblin, warg, or other baddie minion, and play in a PvP dungeon against hero players.
  • Crusader Kings calls them "successful rulers".
  • A staple in Heroes of Might and Magic, due to aversion of No Canon for the Wicked. Examples would be Xeron in 3 and Tawni in 4. Heck, even Tawni's most loyal subordinate who is her real father calls her out for her genocide of the Merfolks!. And she's not even the worst of them all.
  • No. 47 in the Hitman series. Granted, he is for the most part killing people much nastier than himself (arms dealers, terrorists, mobsters etc.) and might even qualify as a Hitman with a Heart depending on one's interpretation, but that doesn't really dull the force of playing as a Professional Killer who's not above utilizing some pretty unpleasant methods to get the job done.
  • In Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 you control the series longtime Big Bad Dracula as he seeks vengeance against God, Satan, the Brotherhood of Light, and just about everyone else who ruined his life.
  • This is what happens to Nepgear in Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2, particularly the infamous Conquest Ending.
  • This can happen in any Fighting Game that has the villains as playable characters.
  • The entire point of Deception. Taking over a mansion/castle just to lure adventurers or heroes to messy deaths within does not leave wiggle room for heroics. The character has the opportunity to pull a Heel-Face Turn at the end, but it's by no means obligatory.
  • Tekken always ends up becoming this. The whole story is centered around the Mishima bloodline, and the conflict between it's generations within it. As one protagonist takes down another antagonist, they end up becoming more of a jerkass than the previous antagonist in the next game, where as the previous antagonist then tries take them down for being worse than they were before. It can get confusing.
    • Tekken 1 had Kazuya being presented as a Ryu expy hero, with his father Heihachi as the Big Bad and owner of the powerful and oppressive Mishima Zaibatsu Corporation, who Kazuya wanted to take down.
    • Tekken 2 switched it around. Kazuya took over Heihachi's empire, and became even worse than he was (doning a rather pimp purple suit, and using the Zaibatsu for far more chaotic and malicious things where as Heihachi just used it for order). Ironically leading to Heihachi becoming a sort of Anti-Hero, to take Kazuya down, and the previous villain actually doing the world a good service when taking his company back and restoring the world to controlled peace.
    • Tekken 3 led to Kazuya's son, Jin, arising as a new Mishima, far more honourable and nicer than any of his family, and for seemly the first time, we believed that he would finally become a moral compass for the family.
    • Tekken 4 dealt with a three way clash between all three. Jin, former protagonist, hiding in the shadows after the previous game, emerged as somewhat of a Wildcard. While still rebelling against his family roots because of their evil, he started to become too confused, single minded, and spurred on by hate and anger, to really be seen as noble and righteous as he once was. Kazuya and Heihachi were jerkasses, but they weren't even trying to hide it. But the story, at least until the climax, generally focuses on Kazuya wanting revenge, and is somewhat shown from his perspective.
    • And now with the climax of Tekken 5 leading to Tekken 6, Jin has followed in his father's footsteps and took over the Zaibatsu for himself, and the once believed more heroic than the rest of his family, has become even MORE of a menace than either Kazuya or Heihachi ever have, plunging the entire globe into world war so that chaos is all there is. Thus far, Lars is the only Mishima inroduced, that hasn't become destructive and malicious yet, but only time will tell.
  • Card-Carrying Villain Overlord Badman in What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord?. He's also kind of a Designated Villain since he rarely does anything even mildly unpleasant and seems to have a lot of genuine love for his monsters even if he does remind you that they have to be culled every now and again, while the Heroes are at best hapless and at worst ridiculously nasty.
  • In KZ Manager you play a Nazi camp director.
  • In Quest Fantasy, S O U L tries to portray HERO as one. It's open to interpretation whether he really is, though. Later on, however, played more straight with Guy, who is subjected to the same 'you killed this innocent man' guilt trips the other protagonists are subject to and doesn't even care. He would grow up to become The Dragon.
  • All three main characters of the Mental Series are effectively this. They rack up a massive body count over all five games, with them killing anyone in their way in order to escape. Fred in The Journey even sets a building on fire and crosses a gap by jumping off one of the inhabitants as they try to leap to safety! All the killings become a plot point in the fifth and final game, Murder Most Foul, where the amount of bodies racked up by the trio makes them the most wanted criminals in the country. Oops.
  • Despite the title, subverted in Bully, in which the protagonist is an Anti-Hero.
  • Possible in Baldur's Gate, depending on which alignment the player chooses.
  • Ellen and the Cocoon organization from Pale Blue are made as villains by the developers in order to provide a perspective flip to the usual heroism tales such as Power Rangers, Kamenrider and Ultraman.
  • Assassin's Creed: Rogue has you playing as Assassin turned Templar Shay Cormac as he participates in the purge of the Colonial Assassins.
  • Bass from the Mega Man (Classic) skirts the line between this and Anti-Hero whenever he's playable. He never stops working for Dr. Wily and trying to kill Mega Man, but his desire to prove himself as the world's strongest robot can cause him to save the day by accident. His sole reason for turning on Wily in the Power Battles games is to get him to acknowledge that he's his greatest creation and that he doesn't need to create other Robot Masters to take down Mega Man, and when King declares himself king of the robots in Mega Man & Bass, Bass goes after him to prove that he's more worthy of the title instead.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    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.
  • Chopping Block. Hard to get more Villain than a serial killer protagonist.
  • 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.
  • In Snowflame, Snowflame powered by Cocaine gets the starring role.
  • 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. 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.
  • Overlord of Ravenfell features a character who intends on becoming an Evil Overlord.
  • 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.

    Web Original 
  • 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...
  • In Sailor Moon Abridged, Raye/Sailor Mars is very much this, being a Satan-worshipper (Human Sacrifice included) who was more than happy to take Molly up on her offer of "Kill me first!" when she defended Nephlyte. All of it is played for laughs.
  • Doctor Horrible from Doctor 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 example: 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.
  • 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.
  • As of episode 8, Twilight Sparkle becomes this in the parody series Friendship is Witchcraft. Twilight's characterization has always been self-centered and apathetic but no real threat since the series began, until she ruins Cadence's wedding, leaving her in a cave to die so that Twilight could marry her brother Francis.
  • Psycho Gecko is a murderous, insane supervillain protagonist in the Web Serial Novel World Domination In Retrospect. Black Comedy and Bloody Hilarious violence abound.
  • The Joker Blogs: Lampshaded by patient 4479 himself in episode 17. "You want to hear something funny? Right now, they are all rooting for me.''"
  • 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 entire Alpha Quadrant.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes:
    • While Bugs Bunny was generally a defensive character, there have been several episodes where he became a straight up villain. Examples of this include "Elmer's Candid Camera" (with a Bugs prototype where he picks on Elmer unprovoked), "Elmer's Pet Rabbit" (where he heckles Elmer for no justifiable reason), "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), "Hare Ribbin'" (where he picks on a dog who just happened to encounter him, unlike his encounter with a similar dog in "The Heckling Hare", and assists the dog in suicidenote ), "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).
    • "Honeys Money" is the only Yosemite Sam short where Sam is the star, rather than playing antagonist to Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.
  • 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.
  • Brain and Pinky of Pinky and the Brain. The first is a Diabolical Mastermind out for world conquest — Once per Episode, because Failure Is the Only Option, and the other is his Dragon.
  • 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. One could argue that the issue becomes confused for this show, however; while the majority of episodes focus on Zim, there are so many Villain Episodes that some fans would argue that Dib and Zim could both be seen as the protagonists, and that the show has one Villain Protagonist and one traditional hero.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Mandy of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy.
  • 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.
  • Several episodes of Samurai Jack used this trope, with the episode focusing solely on the villain, and Jack having little - or no - role in the actual story, making only a cameo appearance. Notable examples are "The Princess and the Bounty Hunters" and "Tale of X-9". In "Aku's Fairy Tales", Jack did not appear in person at all, with Aku being the main character.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy started out as a diabolical Villain Protagonist (he still has his moments, but it's more general Comedic Sociopathy).
  • Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants became one during the Seasonal Rot, though around the start of the seventh season he pulls a Heel-Face Turn. As a more conventional example, a good few later episodes focus more on Plankton and his schemes.
  • Resident Alien Roger from American Dad!. He started out as a sympathetic, vaguely hedonistic alien, but over time he has established himself as a volatile, dangerous sociopath.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Downplayed example: Eustace Bagge, the Token Evil Teammate of Courage the Cowardly Dog. A greedy, mean old farmer who abuses his dog for little to no reason. Most episodes simply make him a Jerkass, but some make him a flat out antagonist. In "Hunchback Of Nowhere", he bullies the hunchback for being ugly. In "The Transplant" he turns into a giant kangaroo monster, kidnaps Muriel, and goes on a rampage. In "The Magic Tree Of Nowhere" he tries to cut down a tree before it can grow a cure for Muriel's illness. In "The Curtain Of Cruelty" he tries to capture Courage with a net. His most villainous role was in "Ball Of Revenge" where he teamed up with some of Courage's enemies to try and kill him.
  • Dan of Dan Vs., is short-tempered, paranoid, and violent, and each episode is about him seeking revenge for some slight, real or imagined.

Unreliable NarratorLit. Class Tropes    
Game BreakerOverdosed TropesPunny Name
Vanilla EditionThe Millennium Age of Animation    
A Villain Named ZrgVillainsVillain Song
OverlordImageSource/Video GamesPac-Man

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