"For all you aspiring villains, remember: When victory is just a push of a button away, you are required to complicate the matter in the most ridiculous way possible."
— Cracked.com, "The 5 Most Needlessly Evil Super Villain Strategies"
Evil sows the seeds of its own destruction. At least that's what every Aesop and fortune cookie says, anyway. There seems to be some truth to it, at least in fiction. Regardless of how Genre Savvy they might otherwise be, villains tend to inherently draw heroic attention to themselves that leads to their demise, or at least the demise of their Evil Plan. Even if their success is seemingly assured, they can't seem to help but do something, anything, that serves no purpose other than giving The Hero the extra motivation and opportunity to wreck everything, and he will.
Basically, they're saddled with carrying their own version of the Idiot Ball: the Villain Ball.
Sure signs that the Villain Ball is in play is when the villain adds needless complications to their plan for the sake of tormenting others. They may claim this is all for the sake of averting attention, but it tends to have the opposite effect. Frequently (often due to Pride) they insist on taking care of things personally when there's no reason an expendable mook couldn't do it, or the preference for a grisly and complicated Death Trap over more pragmatic hero-disposal solutions. This is also what seems to motivate them to frequently take one of the hero's love interests hostage in exchange for the MacGuffin and immediately go back on the deal, ignoring that a vengeful hero is likely a greater threat than a merely pissed-off one. It seems they just can't help themselves, they are compelled to stop in their tracks to threaten innocent puppies just to show that they really are the Villains, no really!
Inevitably, it's their own inherent Fatal Flaws that lead to their downfall, possibly even an apropos Karmic Death or Cool and Unusual Punishment.
When a previously composed and unflappable villain picks up the Villain Ball and runs with it as soon as his plans start going awry (which, naturally, only hastens his downfall), it's a Villainous Breakdown.
Light in Death Note does this a disproportionately high amount of times for someone who is also Genre Savvy.
He kills "L" out of spite for calling him a criminal, leading to L knowing exactly where he is
He kills the FBI agent Raye Penber, unknown that the agent already came to believe that Light was innocent.
He admits he is Kira to Misora, when he's written down her name in the notebook in front of her, in broad daylight on a city street. Had Aizawa been paying slightly more attention before he walked out of earshot, or had he not been using an umbrella due to the providencial rain, Light would've been caught.
Again, when he believes that he killed the task force. Leading to his complete reveal that he is Kira when they didn't die.
Sasuke Uchiha during the Five Kages Arc in Naruto. Instead of, you know, acting like a shinobi and keeping himself hidden, he decides to meet the investigating Samurai head on. And kills most of them brutally. When the Raikage and his bodyguards C and Darui arrive, he doesn't try to hide. Again, meeting three powerful ninjas head on alone. He gets soaked and electrocuted by Darui for his troubles. Any other ninja would start trying to cut their losses. Not Sasuke. He gets himself caught in C's blinding genjutsu, but even though he can see through it A and Darui nearly blitz him and Suigetsu and Jugo have to save him. Rise, rinse, repeat for the rest of the arc. The biggest ball he grabbed as when Karin was taken hostage by Danzo. Instead of going for a headshot...he decides to impale both of them with his Chidori Spear, because having been taken hostage somehow translates in Sasuke-logic to having outlived her usefulness.
Well, Sasuke is pretty much nuts at this point and don't really seen to mind if he or anyone gets killed.
Orochimaru had a tendency to do things that were counterproductive towards his goals for no real reason other than that he likes being a dick. The best example is probably when he killed the Kazekage... after the Kazekage had agreed to attack Konoha. So Orochimaru killed off a powerful ally, pretty much just because he could.
Same goes for Tobi when he released the Kyuubi upon the Leaf Village. Granted, he didn't expect the Fourth Hokage to seal away his control over the Kyuubi, then seal it inside the newborn Naruto.
Yu-Gi-Oh!: Given Yugi's Duel Monsters track record, just shooting him sure would be an easier way of killing him than challenging him to a duel every time! They would also accomplish any other goals like destroying/ taking over the world much faster if they didn't let it all rest on a one-on-one duel with him, a tradition Saiou/Sartorius finally breaks in GX.
The series do what they can in terms of justifying it; most of the MacGuffin collections can only change hands in a duel and so forth. Then there was that time one of the "Player Killers" in the Duelist Kingdom arc decided to protest his defeat by Yugi... using a pair of flamethrowers. It didn't work. Yami's Mind Crush on the other hand worked just fine.
This is how Saiou breaks the tradition. He pretends to be playing along with this, and then while the hero is bound in the fight, he sets off The Plan. Because all he needs to do is press a button, he can do it during the match. Judai/Jaden and his duel spirits can't leave the match. Of course, he started to break it when Judai first challenged him to the duel and Saiou's reaction was, paraphrased, "No. I've got what I need. I don't need to duel you." The only reason he did duel Judai was because Neos manifested to keep Saiou from getting the keys to the SORA satellite. *THEN* he used the duel in order to weaken Neos, which allowed him to steal the satellite keys and give them to his nearest brainwashed flunky, who could and did run off to get the satellite going while Judai was tied up in the duel. Saiou (or more precisely, the Light of Ruin/Destruction) didn't count on Kenzan/Hassleberry and Mizuchi/Serena, Saiou's own sister, teaming up to put a halt to things.
In Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, all Jean has to do to defeat Yusei after a long and extensive duel is end his turn since Yusei has no cards left in his deck and would automatically lose once his turn began, however he gets caught up in the thrill of the duel and attacks Yusei who defends with a card in his hand and depletes Jean's life points.
Ojamajo Doremi: Incumbent Tamaki and Masaharu are contesting the class election. This divides the class into two. Masaharu can't stand it, and decides to concede the election to Tamaki. In response she says, "How can a candidate back out? We need to have a righteous contest, right? I'd rather you do that." Her (main) reasoning comes across as even more idiotic: "My pride won't allow a win without a fight", rather than "No one will vote for someone who wants us to clean the room 3 times a daynote not when my policy is to clean once every 3 days". It's supposedly awesome that Tamaki's attempt to whitewash Masaharu in the election ends up backfiring, but then he announces his intention to have a neighborhood cleanup, and that has everyone freaking.
Garlic Jr. holds one of these in the movie Dead Zone. He obtains the Dragonballs and succesfully uses them to wish for immortality, allowing him to utterly dominate the heroes in combat since they can't kill him. Instead of just killing them like this, Garlic Jr. opens a portal to the Dead Zone, hoping to suck the heroes in. Of course, the heroes instead knock him into the portal, trapping him forever. At least untill an anime filler arc where he escapes...and makes the exact same mistake again, this time removing any hope of return.
In hindsight, Frieza held one too. He had the service of an entire army of super-soldiers, the saiyans. Given their ability to increase in strength after every near-death experience in battle, and the fact that he was having them do what they enjoy doing most. The legends between Saiyans tell of a Super Saiyan that can call upon unimaginable power. Frieza worries that this might be true, and that a super saiyan would rise against him, so he destroys their planet. You know, the home planet of the soldiers that are regularly sent to other planets to do his dirty work. He could have played nice and perhaps have an army of Super Saiyans within a few years time. But that would make too much sense. Long story short, a couple of rogue Saiyans beat his ass about twenty some odd years later.
One of which he himself spared on purpose, due to his own "attachment": then-preteen Prince Vegeta, then the most powerful (known) Saiyan alive and thus the best candidate to realize Frieza's fears (though in the event, Goku and Trunks beat him to it). Seriously?
Both, Daimao Piccolo and the currrent Piccolo flied to the sky and wanted to kill Goku with a dramatic attack. Both times, Goku got the time to prepare the final blow or to escape. Then he won.
The antagonists of Ookami Kakushi have a tendency to incapacitate their victims in a manner that would guarantee death within minutes, then leave them alive long enough to warn someone else of their plans. Ironically, it's what one, Sakaki, does to the other, Kasai. Aferwards, it is now Sakaki's turn to carry the Villain Ball around like a child carries a lollipop. From the aforementioned leaving his victim alive long enough to warn someone of his plan, to leaving the control station unguarded right after doing what he came to do, to his sudden inability to shoot anyone while also gaining the ability to rant and rave and just stand there...
Byaku at the end of the Kekkaishi anime. Yoshimori had willingly come to the Kokoboro and was demanding they bring him Kaguro. Byaku had never shown any particular loyalty to his lieutenants thus far, and had particular reason not to be attached to Kaguro. But instead of trying to make a deal with Yoshimori, he orders Shion to try to break Yoshimori's spirit and weaken his powers.
Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny Djibril just had to send the Destroy Gundam to attack Europe to make an example of anyone who dares to defy Blue Cosmos. Durandal later exposes Blue Cosmos attack and the rest of their crimes to the world, which made the nations of the Earth to turn against and turning the war to Durandals favor.
Code Geass's Lelouch tends to juggle a lot of balls. As a result, every once in a while, he grabs his villain ball and behaves in an excessively evil manner.
In the last arc of the series, Lelouch makes himself look a like a villain and kidnaps the heads of the UFN. In truth, this is to use himself as a human shield, while everyone tries to fight him. The real point is to convince the actual villain, Schneizel, to grab his own villain ball, help out the people trying to kill Lelouch, and fire his super-weapons at the battlefield. What this does is open a big hole in his invincible, space-worthy, battlefortress. If he didn't do that, he would have been able to move into orbit, well outside of the reach of anyone else, able to bombard the world at will, which was his goal all along. He changes it just to get a shot against Lelouch, which, as you can guess, resulted in Lelouch's forces developing a countermeasure, boarding the battlecruiser, taking control of it, and capturing Schneizel.
In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, after Jade becomes evil once more, she juggles the Villain Ball by sometimes gloating and overestimating her own abilities, but she is ALSO Dangerously Genre Savvy, and attempts to learn from both her own mistakes and the mistakes of previous Big Bads, like not going for a World Domination plot, remembering how Shendu and siblings got sealed away, and having a special prison constructed to contain the good guys if they are captured.
Film — Animation
In Aladdin, everything would have worked out fine for Jafar if he'd simply tossed Aladdin a few coins and sent him on his way rather than double-crossing him after Aladdin retrieved the lamp.
In the end Jafar was already the most powerful sorcerer on Earth, he was more than strong enough to defeat Aladdin. Instead he had to be the most powerful creature and wished to be a genie, with all that entails.
Lord Shen of Kung Fu Panda 2 is generally pretty good about averting this, but he firmly grabs onto it during the climax. Victory is pretty much his at this point and all he has to do is finish off Po. He tries to blow him up with his cannon and when that doesn't work he...keeps doing it anyway until his entire fleet is destroyed. Things might have worked out better for him if he just had his wolves Zerg Rush the guy instead.
In Child's Play Chucky has the perfect disguise (the form of a doll) yet goes around killing random people in the most obvious ways to the point that people actually start to believe he's behind all of it (which is true). Apparently, he doesn't understand that he should just transfer his soul as quickly as possible.
In Revenge of the Sith, this is exactly what happens to Anakin after being warned by Obi Wan that he can't win because of the higher ground, and (though he leaves this unsaid) through his own experience, knows (how) not to waste this advangate, like Darth Maul did.
Also, don't jump right at him, Anakin. There's a whole shore at your disposal. WTF.
Khan in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan escaped exile, stole a starship, and marooned its crew in his place. As his right hand man points out, they can do anything they want. But Khan is determined to have his revenge on Kirk, an agenda which of course leads to his own death.
In Dream House, Jack Patterson clutches the villain ball during the climax. First, he shoots his accomplice Boyce without making sure that he was dead. Second, he ties up Ann instead of killing her. Not only does Peter Ward rescue Ann, Boyce pours a flammable liquid onto Jack's escape path, resulting in Jack getting burned.
Willy Bank and Terry Benedict in Ocean's Thirteen. The former's outright betrayal of Reuben leading to Ocean and co. seeking justice is the impetus for the plot; knowing full well their reputation as capable of beating the odds. The latter in his insistence to betray them and get several diamonds.
It does not always happen to the Big Bad: In the James Bond film Thunderball (1965), Count Lippe alias "sub-operator G", was handed the ball and attacked an unsuspecting off-duty Bond, tipping him off about what was happening in the fitness center. As a result, he was properly dealt with by his boss.
The novel version, at least, has Count Lippe trying to kill Bond because he (mistakenly) believed that Bond had penetrated his cover and was there to take him out. However, like the movie version, he fails and is "properly dealt with" for his failure. Ironically, Bond never figures out that Lippe was working for SPECTRE at all, although Felix Leiter eventually puts the pieces together.
In another Bond film, Octopussy, Bond finds himself trapped in a Knife Outline by Grishka, the remaining half of a pair of knife-throwing twins, whose brother Mishka had been killed by Bond earlier. Grishka has one knife remaining, so what does he do? He tells Bond "And this is for my brother!", and charges towards Bond! Bond manages to take one of the knives out of the outline and throws it at Grishka, adding "And that's for 009!" note the Double-0 agent killed at the start of the movie.
The only reason Han Solo couldshoot first in Star Wars was because Greedo took the time to gloat instead of shooting when he had the chance.
In the third movie, Palpatine almost got hit by one of the senate platforms during his battle with Yoda because he was busy laughing maniacally.
The plot of each of The Transporter films basically doesn't kick-off until someone higher in the criminal food-chain than the Protagonist grabs the Villain Ball and doesn't let go until they've done something horribly cliche'd.
In The Untouchables, Mafia hitman Frank Nitti murders Jimmy Malone by writing his apartment address on a matchbook. Unfortunately for him, he forgets to dispose of it after his hit. When he bumps into Eliot Ness, he offers the matchbook to light his cigarette with. Ness sees the address, and putting two and two together, chases Nitti and pushes him off a roof into a car.
Nitti also can't leave well enough alone! Ness pulls him up to the roof after considering shooting him when he's hanging by a rope but then Nitti starts gloating about killing Malone, saying that he "died screaming like a stuck up pig" which is what finally makes Ness throw him off the roof.
In George of the Jungle 2, Beatrice and Lyle's plan probably would have worked if they thought of hypnotizing Junior too.
In Drillbit Taylor, Filkins finally got caught only because he attempted to murder the protagonists with a samurai sword right in front of the police.
In the film adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, James' aunts attempt to take him back by pretending to be kind guardians, but it doesn't take them long to drop the act and attempt to kill James with axes right in front of a large crowd, including at least one cop.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit: Judge Doom had a perfect chance to stab incapacitated Eddie with his Sword Cane, but he just had to go for the slower and more gruesome road roller option, which gave Eddie time to escape.
The Reveal regarding Doom should tell you exactly why he went for the more Looney Tunes-esque manner of taking him out as opposed to the quick way.
In Hancock, every character who refers to the title superhero as an "asshole":
When Hancock voluntarily admits himself to prison, he's surrounded by most of the inmates he helped bring in. All of these people know firsthand what he's capable of, and yet two of them persist in impeding him when he threatens to shove an inmate's head up the ass of another. Why were the other inmates surprised, anyway?
The French boy, Michel (who continually bullies Ray's son), has already seen Hancock demonstrate his powers on several occasions when he lands in front of Ray's home. When Michel keeps calling Hancock an asshole, he gets thrown miles up into the sky for his trouble. (In his defense, Michel probably thought that Hancock Would Not Hurt A Child.)
The bank robber who attempts to threaten Hancock with a dead man's switch detonator connected to C4 placed on all the hostages. He plainly sees Hancock taking off the metal shade off a lamp and turning it into a makeshift sawblade while he's calling the guy sent to stop him an asshole. Is it any wonder that he got his hand lopped off after ignoring repeated warnings?
Even worse considering that he's just witnessed Hancock take out his fellow bankrobbers one at a time, by flying in and grabbing them at high-speed before exiting out of the opposite window!
The Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger had Captain America and the world on the ropes. If Skull just let the Tessaract alone when it was exposed (or, better, thrown it at Captain America), he would have scored a near-victory when his superbomber got close enough into the United States to either crash land and activate its weapons, even if he and Cap were still fighting when it happened. In this case, the Skull literally picked up the Tesseract, the one thing that doomed his plans, and apparently destroyed himself.
At the last minute, an insult from Cap made Red Skull turn the bombing personal, by flying the Valkyrie to New York first rather than all his other targets in Europe. Had he controlled his temper, he would have succeeded in bombing several capitals before Cap would have reached the cockpit.
Blackjack and his band of outlaws in Purgatory. They ride into a weird little town whose pacifistic, religious inhabitants give them food and drink including alcohol, stable their horses, put them up in the hotel, and doctor their wounds all without payment. Said inhabitants really don't want trouble, to the point of not doing anything when the outlaws steal ammunition. The outlaws could just take the hospitality and go, stealing stuff on the way out. Was it really necessary to keep trying to kill people, wreck stuff, and rape the women, to the point where the townsfolk, who are actually dead famous outlaws, finally decide it's enough?
In The Running Man, Killian convinces Richards to go on the show by offering to spare his rebel friends. When Richards agrees, Killian backstabs him and sends them into the arena anyway. However, without the rebels Ben Richards could never have found the hidden base and escaped the arena, and without Richards the rebels would have been immediately killed. All of them together were able to ultimately bring down the show and (it is implied) the entire government.
Zod's inability to compromise on his personal, genocidal vision for reviving Krypton ends up dooming his entire plan in Man of Steel.
In Conan the Barbarian (2011), Conan hangs helplessly from a bridge while the heroine Tamara is transforming into an evil sorceress. All Khalar Zym has to do, is keep his distance from Conan for about 30 seconds to win everything, and be unstoppable forever. So why exactly does he walk along the bridge, and get in Conan's face?
The protagonist of Pain and Gain are fucking morons. If you were to make a drinking game out of every mistake they make, you'd die of alcohol poisoning by the end of the movie.
The entire plot of Beverly Hills Cop depends on the fact that Victor Maitland is an idiot. If he had just played dumb and told Axel that he had no idea who would want to kill Michael Tandino, that, yes, he uses bearer bonds in his business all the time, which is completely normal in the art world, and no, he has no idea why Michael would have brought bearer bonds with him to Detroit, that would have been the end of the movie, as Axel at that point had no real basis of suspicion against him. Instead, he calls in a group of thugs to his office to have Axel thrown out, as in literally thrown through a plate glass window, at which point Axel is certain that Maitland is behind it all. Then there's the fact that when Maitland catches Axel and Jenny in one of his warehouses, having discovered a crate of cocaine, instead of having them both killed then and there, when he has them completely at his mercy, he kidnaps Jenny, taking her back to his house, while leaving Axel there not to be killed, at least not right away, but first to be beaten up by two thugs. That of course leaves enough time for Billy to rescue Axel, and for Axel, Billy, and Sgt. Taggart to rescue Jenny. If Maitland had had a triple-digit IQ, the movie would have been much shorter.
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tyrion Lannister tells Tywin that if he uses a certain word, he will shoot him. Of course the word is uttered. Given Tywin's utter contempt for his son it is quite likely he used the word on purpose, never thinking Tyrion would actually shoot him especially while on the privy and is quite in character. In A Dance with Dragons, Janos Slynt insults Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, in front of the entire Night's Watch, and flat-out refuses to obey his orders. So Snow chops off his head. It's even more satisfying to the readers because Snow doesn't know how Slynt's betrayal contributed to his father's death. It's probably one of the most satisfying Karmic Deaths in the entire series.
Alt-history novelist Robbie Taylor came up with a wonderful subversion of this idea: at the moment of defeat, the Antichrist accepts Jesus as his personal savior and therefore qualifies for admission to Heaven.
Lampshaded in Much Fall of Blood. The Evil Sorcerer plans to trap and sacrifice the heroes in a location where magic doesn't work. Of course, this means the Evil Sorcerer has no access to magic either, and the heroes are better in a physical melee.
Lord Voldemort, amusingly enough, suffered from being more evil than needed and less evil than he could've been at the same time. If he'd just killed Lily Potter without offering her a chance to step aside or if he'd deigned to toss her aside when she refused, instead of killing her, he would've won. But in doing things that exact way he provided the conditions for her Heroic Sacrifice, which eventually led to his doom.
Dolores Umbridge also holds the Villain Ball. In the fifth book, her answer to everything is to pass a decree, this actually gives students and teachers more ways to rebel. She goes as far as to ban the Quibbler, which had an interview with Harry, and having any student caught reading it expelled. As Hermione points out to Harry, banning it is a sure way to ensure everyone reads it!
In the Everworld series, Senna Wales was a Magnificent Bastard up until the series was to be cancelled. At this point in the story, she had become allies with a whole pantheon, killed or weakened several gods, arranged the downfall of an entire nation, removed the one species that was a serious threat to her from Everworld, built a small army for her personal use, was still successfully blackmailing and manipulating the other main characters despite them wising up to what she was doing, outmaneuvered Merlin twice and laid a trap for him, become so powerful that no man could bring himself to lay a hand on her, had plans laid down to build her position that went entire years in advance, and needed only one more object in order to complete her master plan and become the absolute, godlikeDimension Lord of Everworld. How can this high-threat, universe-threatening witch be defeated in a quick, cheap manner? Give her the Villain Ball of course!
K. A. Applegate likes saddling her truly formidable villains with this: Senna is an Expy of Animorphs's David, who is also manhandled into carrying the Villain Ball to facilitate a quick defeat. At the point in the story he starts to carry it David has defeated four of the six Animorphs in a single night (almost killing two of them), acquired an Animorph for impersonation, made the team's resident Blood Knightafraid for her life, and strongarmed the Animorphs into a position where they have no choice but to give him the Morphing Cube. So how does the team effectively defeat David in the span of a few short chapters? Why, the Villain Ball, dear boy.
Visser Three, first by being a total dick to the Taxxons and denying them access to the morphing cube when he got it, and by refusing to promote Tom's Yeerk.
Not to mention killing Elfangor in the first book, when he could have infested him and then the Yeerk could have morphed the injuries away.
And Chapman, who inadvertently caused his own infestation thirty years in advance.
Lestat passes off the Villain Ball between books in The Vampire Chronicles; he retcons into Yet Another Good Vampire when he takes on the mantle of narrator.
In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Jonathan's father Lawrence strange was a sure-handed holder. The narration mentions that he let petty maliciousness overcome his long term benefit, and suffered a Karmic Death when he opened a window on a cold night to further torment a fevered servant who had annoyed him - forgetting that he was much less healthy than the other man. He was found to have frozen to death during the night.
Graham Coates in Anansi Boys gleefully picks up the Villain Ball and runs with it starting in his own backstory. He's been embezzling money from his clients for years, and he fires most of his employees after a year or so, both to avoid having to pay too much in raises and to make sure that none of them have time to cotton on to what he's doing. This bites him in the ass when someone finds him out-he rearranges accounts to make it look like Fat Charlie, his most senior employee by a full year, was the one doing it, but the person he's trying to convince knows that it's been happening for much longer than Fat Charlie's two-year tenure. This ultimately leads to a murder, some attempted murders, and also slicing his own femoral artery with a poorly-chosen place to hold a knife. Of course, he may or may not have been possessed along the way.
In the Duneprequel trilogy Legends Of Dune, Erasmus spreads dissent among the human slave population to win a bet with Omnius that even the most loyal humans are inherently untrustworthy. While all of this would've probably resulted in an easily-crushed revolt, he then goes ahead and kills a helpless child right in front of his mother and thousands of riled slaves. Cue the Butlerian Jihad - a century-long conflict that results in the destruction of all Synchronized Worlds. To top it off, he then raises a human child to be a human with the mind of a machine, who later betrays his "father" and joins the humans to found the Mentat school, giving humans living computers.
Omnius isn't much better. His attempts to finish off the hrethgir (free human) once and for all leaves him open to attack by determined humans, leaving him with one world out of hundreds in a matter of weeks.
In the Dale Brown book Plan of Attack, Russian president Gryzlov would have avoided death if he had not used nukes against the ABF-taken Russian airbase and prompted an Even Evil Has StandardsRedemption Equals Death moment. In Edge of Battle Comandante Veracruz would not have been stopped either if he did not double-cross Zakharov and cause him to carry out Enemy Mine.
In The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil owned more than 80 dalmatian puppies. Owned, as in had legally bought and paid for. There were no police, human owners, or frantic canine parents looking for these puppies. One would think that would have been plenty to start her dalmatian fur farm. If not, she could have waited until there was another litter for sale and just bought more puppies. Instead, she kidnapped the Dearly puppies (paying far more to the dog thieves than she had for any litter), thereby bringing the police, human reward-seekers, and Pongo and Missus down on her head, permanently putting a stop to her plans.
Everything the Capitol does in The Hunger Games seems to be based on how evil it is than whether or not it would be beneficial. Shooting an old man in a crowd just for singing a song, reducing District 12 into utter poverty to the point the protagonist wanted to rebel, rounding up a chunk of the victors of the games (people the public cherish and revere as heroes) into another game with the intent to kill, elminating any good will between Katniss by brutally killing Cinna in front of her, eliminating the good will of pretty much any major character by brutally firebombing District 12 and killing civilians on TV. Combined with the Hunger Games itself, it makes you wonder how the nation lasted for 75 years without any form of outward rebellion which the districts are too happy to do in the span of a few months.
Aside from the central extravagance of the hunger games (and even that is in some ways an inspired form of repression in that it forces people to become complicit in it through starvation, quite stalinesque actually) the tactics the capital uses to repress the districts are actually a fairly realistic representation of the terror methods that Real Life regimes use, and just like in Real Life but unlike in most stories: They work, to a point. In 75 years of power the capital had almost certainly weathered minor uprisings that it had been able to quell through force, control of information, and playing districts off against each other. What tips the scale in the period of the plot is: military support from district 13, inter-district organizational and information support from district 13 and rebels in the capital, and a unifying symbol for all the districts in the form of Katniss and Peeta that had already been helpfully broadcast through the capital's own propaganda machine.
In Harry Turtledove's World War series, US President Earl Warren grabs it hard when he orders a nuclear missle launched at the Race's colonization fleet, at literally no possible gain for himself (it only kills enough of the Race to seriously piss them off) and everything to lose if he's found out. May not count in that the ship is the one containing almost all administrative personnel, regardless of how people may feel about bureaucracy the Race thrived on it. The Colonization attempt being disorganized may have lead to the Race being forced to learn to adapt however and it is unsaid whether the American intelligence apparatus could have known which ship to target (though it is likely).
Drake from Gone seems to be aware that hurting Diana would be pushing a Berserk Button of the Big Bad, Caine, and, while he openly hates her, he saves most of his taunting of her for when Caine isn't around, even though she often provokes him. But then in Hunger, he picks her up with his whip-hand and bashes her head open against a rock because she yelled at him, all in front of Caine. This does not go over well. Of course, he's not exactly mentally stable, so...
Live Action TV
Ba'al, from Stargate SG-1 should get a mention here. He can't seem to make up his mind if he wants to have the Villain Ball or not. Half the time he's charging around like an idiot coming up with ridiculously complex and stupid plans to DESTROY THE UNIVERSE or somesuch nonsense, and then the other half of the time he's acting as the CEO for a major company and fully intends to just live on earth peacefully. It then gets even more ridiculous when SG-1 force him to take action and the entire thing dissolves into a massive I-don't-know-what-the-fuck-is-happening with the end result revealing Baal actually really likes the Tau'ri and would probably quite happily be a fairly good ally, if we'd just stop shooting him. Then when the SGC realises this and attempts to join forces with Ba'al, he backstabs them. I've never seen a villain juggle the Villain Ball quite so obsessively as Baal does. Half the time I was thinking he was one of the best genre savvy villains I've ever seen, the other half of the time I was wondering who'd been hitting him with the idiot stick lately.
Scary thing is, compared to the other System Lords, Ba'al is the smart one.
In general, Goa'uld communication orbs double as villain balls. Since only the bad guys use them, they are an easy way to make distinctions. Once a spy in Tok'Ra was uncovered because Jack O'Neil had seen him with such an orb.
In Stargate Continuum, Baal plans to alter the timeline and use his foreknowledge in order to conquer the rival System Lords and the rest of the galaxy. This plan works out wonderfully, but instead of conquering Earth like his underlings want, he decides to pull out a cell phone he brought with him from the other timeline and call the US President to arrange for lunch. His underlings don't take too kindly to him wearing a villain ball and kill him to deal with the humans the ol' fashioned way.
Every villain on Supernatural. All of them. Except Crowley who, in his own words, is the only one to not "Underestimate those denim wrapped nightmares!" And is therefore the only one thus far still walking around unharmed.
Gossip Girl: Bart Bass is shocked that his evil plan to have a plane with his son Chuck explode failed. So he ends up in a roof-top argument that eventually ends with Bart falling off the roof. Instead of just faking Chuck dying from an overdose of the many many drugs that he takes or just getting a minion to shoot him.
The Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future episode "The Mirror in Darkness" has Dread using a fake Power to trick survivors into unwitting digitization. The first time we see him, it's convincing to us. But the second time, we know the plot, and the real Power is waiting for him. The fake then suddenly yells his head off, and generally acts like a dick, before the real Power shows up.
Peter Fleming (AKA Chess) hires a duo of assassins to kill The Cape. They fail but find out his Secret Identity. When one of them meets with Fleming, he is about to give him a flash-drive with their research, when Fleming loses his temper and fires them. Being a professional, the assassin is no longer obligated to help Fleming, so he gives the flash-drive to the Cape. All Fleming had to do was wait 2 seconds, and he would've had the Cape by the balls.
Brennen of Burn Notice is generally quite Dangerously Genre Savvy, except that he can never quite figure out that leaving Michael unattended for any length of time is a bad idea.
Larry however seemed to have learned from this, even lampshading in the new episode that he wasn't letting Michael out of his sight because he knew he would do something to sabotage his plan.
In 90210 Jeremy catches Annie breaking into his house to steal a necklace he bought after she had had to pawn it (the necklace is a key part of the contested inheritance Jeremy's grandmother left to Annie in her will and she needs it to prove she deserves the money). Rather than simply call the cops and have Annie arrested there and then (he hadn't broken any laws while she definitely had) Jeremy locks her in his bedroom and indulges in Evil Gloating about how he hated his grandmother allowing Annie to record him on her Blackberry and send the message to her lawyers.
This crowning jewel from Merlin. Morgana and Morgause's plan in The Eye of the Phoenix is to give Arthur a bracelet that will suck out his life force. What's so stupid about this? Nothing, only that it doesn't have some sort of magical release timer, it needs Morgana to light an effigy of Arthur, which she chooses to do in her unlocked bedroom at the exact hour of the night her maid Guinevere would come in to tidy up. When said maid finds her, she acts very suspiciously, and the next day, tries to make up for it by giving her the night off and making her more suspicious, thus leading to Gwen hiding in her room and discovering her in the act.
In Lois and Clark: Lord Kal-El became the ruler of New Krypton to prevent Lord Nor from doing so. Lord Nor charged Kal-El with treason and a Kangaroo Court held under Kryptonian Law sentenced him to death. Right after Kal-El is led off, a Kryptonian bursts in and tells Nor that Metropolis refuses to surrender. Nor responds by vaporizing him with heat vision and ordering his men to destroy Metropolis. All of that is done in front of the chief prosecutor, leading him to a a massive Heroic BSOD. Then, another person comes to the prosecutor and points out the Trial by Combat law is still technically in the books...
Once Upon a Time: Heroic Neutral Emma was perfectly willing to leave her son Henry with his adoptive mother Regina (The Evil Queen), but Regina shows off her Genre Blind, her inability to simply keep her mouth shut, and this trope to convince Emma to stay. Emma ends up The Chosen One that can break the curse that gave Regina her power in the first place.
Regina holds the ball several times during the first season. She believes Rumplestiltskin won't remember the deal he made with her to enact the curse, despite the fact that he created the curse so could easily make a loophole. She also attempts to frame Mary Margaret with his help, after he suggests something "tragic" should happen to Kathryn Nolan, and uses those Exact Words to simply have her disappear for a while than reappear at the last minute, and all the evidence leads to her
She holds it again in the penultimate episode and season finale, when she attempts to put Emma under the sleeping curse and gloats about how she won. However, this backfires when Henry eats the turnover meant for Emma, and the chain of events results in the curse being broken. Bear in mind that at the point Regina gave Emma the poisoned turnover, Emma had just finished telling Regina that she was planning to leave town because she'd come to the conclusion that her presence and the constant fighting between her and Regina was doing Henry more harm than good. All Regina has to do is let Emma go, and she wins. Say it with me.
In the third season of The Walking Dead, the Governor has already grabbed hold of the villain ball after Glenn and Maggie are captured by Merle, he's fully prepared to prepared to go into the prison and wipe out Rick's group because...? However, then Rick and co. break into Woodbury and rescue them with Michonne's help, who then goes off on her own, kills the Governor's zombified daughter and stabs out his eye, meaning It's Personal and he grabs the ball so hard.
In one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the "Centipede" organisation is looking to experiment on a pyrokinetic in order to improve their Extremis formula so that their future soldiers wont explode. They start by kidnapping him which ends up getting Shield's attention. Then they do convince him to work with them, but when they find out it's his platelets that makes him fireproof, they render him unconscious and take them by force leading to his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
This is more jarring as they had already paid a hacker a million dollars for a list of superhumans. Couldn't they just have told Chan the truth about the experiments and paid him for the trouble?
In BattleTech. When the Draconis Combine were conquering the Federated Suns territory, they reach the planet Kentares, the New Coordinator ordered the killing of the planets population in an act of vengeance for assassinating his father the previous Coordinator. When ComStar broadcast this to the rest of the Inner Sphere, this demoralized the Draconians, and enraged the Federated Suns to lead a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the Combine, effectively retaking every world conquered by the Combine. Plus, there is the fact even from a Pragmatic Villain point of view, with the small size of the Battletech armies, diversion of a sufficient force (a good portion of which eventually said Screw This, I'm Outta Here rather than continue the genocide) was quite unwise on its own.
Just about every thwarted invasion of Orks/Chaos/Dark Eldar in Warhammer 40K is due to this. Orks will destroy and loot highly advanced weaponry for parts so they can make their primitive shootas and vehicles (admittedly, they wouldn't know how to use them anyway), Chaos armies tend to fall apart due to second-in-command betrayal/costly sacrifices/religious differences resolved by chainaxe to the face, and Dark Eldar will happily take out their own leaders to take their place (while Klingon Promotion very strongly applies to the other two, the Dark Eldar turn it into a lifestyle). The Eldar's long-term plans rely heavily on misdirection and getting other armies to fight for them, but even when they're facing a common enemy like Necrons or Chaos they don't tell their allies/pawns everything they should know, and suffer for it.
The Wicked Witch of the West passes off the Villain Ball in Wicked to The Wizard. Of course he's always been a Nazi! And Dorothy was his unwitting dupe! At least until HE gets to narrate and pass the Ball...
It is BIONICLE's Grand Finale, and the Big Bad Makuta Teridax is standing right above Mata Nui, in the Humongous Mecha body that he stole from him. Mata Nui's weaker robot body is falling apart, malfunctioning, and barely has any power left. Makuta's body is, on the other hand, fully powered and quite capable of finishing off the only being who could ever hope to stand in his way. Even if he just stood there, Mata Nui would have fallen apart eventually. Instead, he of course has to make a show, so he uses his gravity power to fold the planet into itself, just to make sure Mata Nui would witness the end of his allies. Seemingly having forgotten about those two moons orbiting at head-level, and that using this power requires him to lift up his arms, giving Mata Nui the opening he needed.
In Eternal Sonata, your party is forced to surrender party member (and MacGuffin Girl) Polka to Card-Carrying Villain Count Waltz. Waltz successfully convinces Polka that if she surrenders peacefully then no harm will come to the party or her, and he will call off his army. Polka (in turn) successfully convinces the rest of the party to allow her to go with Waltz and sacrifice her freedom for the greater good. Waltz's plan would have worked perfectly... if he hadn't decided to punctuate his victory by slapping Polka in clear view of everyone, proving he was a lying prick and prompting Polka (and the rest of the party) to attack.
Arthas in Wrath of the Lich King. So hard. Any dumb thing that the evil guy can do just to prove his credentials, he does. Like telling the most important part of his army (who, by a strange coincidence, are one of about three parts of his army who have free will) that they were BAIT for a guy who was supposed to mow them down in seconds, but didn't even show up for said fight until they already lost. Did we mention he laughed at them, too? Oh, and he delivered the weapon that can beat him to said guy in this ploy. OH, and it turns out that after betraying and alienating his officer corps, he's having a tough time finding commanders. Whoops! And that's just one example.
There's also his tendency of finding his few surviving commanders in mortal danger and deciding that if they can't survive the battle then too bad. You'd think after losing every single known lieutenant he has he'd stop throwing their lives away.
Well, he is the Lich King. It's not like when they die he can't just bring them back anyway. But really, why waste the time? Kill the snots that are screwing with you and just be done with it already.
Face it, with the kind of power Arthas can throw around, if he hadn't swallowed the Villain Ball there's no way in hell anyone would ever be able to even slow him down.
And then subverted magnificently when it turns out this was an Evil Plan on his part-he actually wanted to find a group of heroes capable of standing up to him, at which point he could kill them and reanimate them as his Co-Dragons of a new, more powerful army (because, hey, they're undead. Just kill a few dozen people and you're on your way). He nearly won too, were it not for unforeseeable circumstance.
Deathwing was even worse in Cataclysm. In the Dragon Soul raid, after Thrall shoots him with the titular object, Deathwing flies back to the Maelstrom and tries to cause another Cataclysm. He apparently could have done this at any time, yet inexplicably waited until his enemies had killed all of his lieutenants, united the other Dragon Aspects, retrieved one of the few weapons powerful enough to kill him, and attacked him with it a couple times to try. At least Arthas had the somewhat flimsy excuse of wanting to make the player characters his champions, with Deathwing the writers didn't even try to justify it.
Everything about Garrosh; his personality, his goals, his methods, his actions... It's all a result of and contributing to the biggest Villain Ball in World of Warcraft history, which will lead to his becoming the end boss of the Mists of Pandaria expansion. While killing the Horde warchief is obviously an endgame goal for the Alliance, everything he's doing in using the Horde as his personal war machine to dominate the world is turning more and more of the Horde against him as well. Hell, the expansion wasn't even released yet and some of the leaders were already conspiring against him.
I'm sorry, but nearly EVERY end raid boss that was based in some sort of lore apparently selected the ball crafting profession and specced "villain ball". Only a few bosses don't seem that out of place.
The artifact Illidan stole in Frozen Throne although named "The Eye of Sargeras" was in fact a Villain Ball of titanic proportions. See for yourself: he wants to use the said ball to destroy the Frozen Throne - the seat of the Lich King and thus eliminate the Undead army that threatens the world. Unfortunately, the side effects of the ball's operation include severe earth tremors hence Illidan's brother Malfurion jumps to conclusion that Illidan is up to destroying the world and sets forth to stop him. Does Illidan bother to clarify the situation and explain his plan which would without doubt be backed by Malfurion? He does, but only AFTER Malfurion destroyes the Eye. That is a prime example of what happens when a Villain Ball collides with a Hero Ball.
Not really. While Illidan can be blamed for not explaining what he was doing, the reason Malfurion was trying to stop him is because the Eye was tearing the world apart. Not much point in stopping the bad guy if you break the world in the process, huh?
On the other hand Illidan was doing it for Kil'Jaeden had he succeded, we can quite imagine what he might have rewarded Illidan had he finished the deed.
In the game NBC Oogie's Revenge, if Oogie had not left Jack a trail of breadcrumbs to follow and skipped to cutting Halloween off from the Hinterlands and killing Santa he would have succeeded. Heck, if he didn't make his presence so well known to Jack he might have been able to lull him into a false sense of victory and captured him (he even already had a cell for him), making room for him as the Seven Holidays King in the absense of all the other leaders.
In Castlevania64, Dracula spends most of the game disguised as a kid named Malus. This is not none to the player or the game's characters, though there is this bizarre moment where you come across Malus and suddenly appears evil, but you character ignores that the next time they see him, depending on the ending. In the bad ending, Dracula will actually have a clever plan for a change and not reveal himself, though both endings give some that Malus is really him, his eyes turn red, and in Carrie's he gets her to promise to marry him, and mutters that now they have a binding contract. Either way, he had a good plan going. Stay disguised and kill the hero when he least suspects it in one, or in the other apparently using some curse to force her to one day marry you. In the good ending, however, he throws that out the window and just reveals himself and reveals in his supposed invincibility, forgetting that he's been defeated, oh I've lost count how many times in the past, leading to his temporary death ( Dracula has more extra lives then you do).
In the good ending he does have a moment of cleverness after being defeated the first time. He reverts to his child form and tries to pretend to be an ordinary kid who was possessed. Right when your character reaches out to him, Vincent the vampire hunter (who only survives in the good ending) saves you by exposing the ruse with holy water. Cue Final Boss fight.
Fate/stay night example: Gilgamesh. If you just stopped playing around with the heroes and just Babylowned them to death then you wouldn't keep dying. This happens in both the Fate and the Unlimited Blade Works routes: in Fate, he gives Shirou the time he needed to project Avalon by using a charge attack when he can bladespam anyone to death in an instant. In UBW, he insists on dueling Shirou one-on-one sans armour while in Shirou's Reality Marble rather than just equiping his Nigh Invulnerable armour or using Ea right off the bat. This results in a very literal disarmament and being shoved into a space-time rift. Then again, if he didn't have the constant Pride Villain Ball he would be completely unstoppable.
Not completely. He could still potentially be taken out by a particularly well-executed ambush. Like the one Sakura pulls in Heaven's Feel. Though you could argue that not immediately going out and unleashing his full power at the very beginning of the war is already holding the Villain Ball, since he could probably easily win in an hour or less if he were smart enough to try that.
It's grown to such a point that fans are starting to joke that one of Gilgamesh's Noble Phantasms in the Gate Of Babylon is either a Villain Ball or an Idiot Ball. That, or he has a hidden Passive Phantasm.
In the more recent Sonic games, Dr. Eggman has (on numerous occasions) either unleashed or sought to unleash a creature of extreme power (threegods and one prototype of the ultimate lifeform for starters). For a while, his plans go great, and he usually is a step or two ahead of his nemesis, Sonic. However, just when his plans are at their highest, everything goes horribly wrong. The god reaches its highest potential, and then Eggman realizes that he made a huge mistake and ends up having to work with Sonic to get rid of his own mess. The villain ball part comes when you realize something: Given his past experiences, why in the hell would he continue this pattern just to be embarrassed and defeated? Also, he constantly blabs about his schemes to the one guy who always defeats him, even going so far as to have a worldwide broadcast about his plan when Sonic and his gang didn't have an idea of it before then. The only thing you can't accuse Eggman of is not trying to kill Sonic with his godlike creatures, because that is just something he naturally fails at, but is in no control of whatsoever.
Bowser, archfoe of Mario, just can't stop kidnapping Princess Peach, even when doing so is actually a hindrance to his plan. This is most blatant in Super Mario Galaxy, where Bowser's plan is to steal all the power stars in space, then use them to power a huge machine at the center of the universe that will give him control of every galaxy there is. When the game opens, he seems to be pretty far into his plans, and Mario has no idea they're even happening. The only reason Mario finds out is because Bowser decides to kidnap Peach right in front of Mario, setting the plumber on his trail with just enough time to stop his schemes.
Bowser also does this in Super Mario Bros. 3 where his plan is actually pretty clever: have his kids turn the seven kings of the Mushroom Worlds into animals, forcing Mario and Luigi to travel far and wide to help them. While they're distracted, Bowser kidnaps Peach. This one worked like a charm — until Bowser sends Mario a taunting letter telling him exactly where to find the Princess.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution: Wake Up Call Boss Barrett tells you the exact address of his co-conspirators (right down to the specific apartment) for no reason before he attempts to kill the both of you. This was, in fact, Jensen's only lead to Shanghai to continue the plot, otherwise the villains' plan would have gone off without a hitch.
Lampshaded by a Team Plasma grunt in Pokémon Black and White, in N's Castle. He states that the reason why other villain teams (Rocket and Galactic being mentioned in particular) failed was because they made themselves and their plans public. Plasma on the other hand had been secretly building and preparing for their ultimate plan while masquerading as PETA-esque Pokemon liberators.
Osmund Saddler's evil plan in Resident Evil 4 would have stood a much better chance of succeeding if he hadn't decided to monologue about it in front of Leon Kennedy and inject him with the parasite while he was conscious. Then there's the fact that he keeps around a machine that can kill the parasite without harming the host, without any previous experience at using it or the need of a password or other lock-out mechanism
Matt Engarde in the final case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice For All would have been able to get away scot-free if he didn't betray the assassin he hires simply because he doesn't trust other people and believes that not even assassins are above blackmails. Said action allows the titular character to trap him into a Morton's Fork situation.
In StarCraft, Arcturus Mengsk decides to not send Kerrigan the requested dropship when the Zerg overrun Tarsonis for apparently no reason at all. She's been his most important lieutenant who had never shown any sign of not being completely loyal to him, and there seems to be no reason at all why saving her would have been impossible. The result of this is that Kerrigan gets captured alive and turned into a general and eventually supreme commander of the Zerg and Raynor deserting him, both becoming his most dangerous enemies. Up until that point, there has been no indication that he would have wanted to get rid of her or that she even contemplated turning against him. All it does is create two powerful armies that want to kill him.
Justified by the sequel and the novel I, Mengsk. It was revenge: Kerrigan was the Ghost that assassinated Mengsk's family, so the moment She Outlived Her Usefulness as a soldier, he left her for dead. However that justification gives the Hero Ball to Kerrigan: she probably shouldn't have ever trusted the son of a man she decapitated.
Ghosts are frequently mind-wiped, so it's likely that Kerrigan couldn't remember what she had done to Mengsk's family.
In Mass Effect 3, the Reapers could have wrapped up the entire war within days of reaching Earth simply by making a beeline to the Citadel and shutting down the Relay Network like they did in every other cycle before this one. They could even have shut down the relays when they actually did capture the Citadel near the end of the game for other reasons, but they fail to do so, even though this would have guaranteed their victory by stranding Shepard, the Allied Fleet, and the Crucible.
Though one can imagine they recognise that this would not stop Shepard from finding some way to come after them.
It's worth noting however that due to the Prothean's tampering, they cannot simply activate the Citadel at will anymore, nor seize control of the Relay Network, hence why Sovereign was forced to use Saren to physically attempt to take control. While it is strange the Reapers have not sent any Indoctrinated Agents to do so, it's possible that after Sovereign blew up literally on top of the Citadel Tower, the system was damaged by all of the debris that came crashing through the window. We know in the second game that even with the Keepers help, it's going to take at least another five years to fully repair the station. Since the Protheans modified the Keepers to intentionally ignore this system and it's rather non-essential, it's either very low on their list of priorities to fix, if it is even at all.
In Mass Effect 2 Nassana Dantius, upon learning that there's an assassin coming for her responds... by ordering her mercenaries to run around the building shooting every worker. The best explanation for this is that she realized she needed to do something horrific enough to make Thane's assassination of her justified.
In Call of Duty: Black Ops, Mason is able to decode the location of the transmitter because Reznov included it in the broadcast itself. But he at least encoded it in a series of numbers... which he also brainwashed Mason to be able to understand. Without this clue, his plan would have succeeded wildly.
From The King of Fighters XIII: Sure Saiki, one of your strongest minions who has nothing but loyalty for you offers to fight in your stead, which would really help if you needed to duck into the door to the past in a hurry... and your response is to kill him for no reason other than that he spoke up to you. Yeah, that's REALLY going to help. Specially when you follow it via taking over the body of your own descendant despite knowing clearly that he is NOT to be trusted.
Hereti Corps carries the Villain Ball less idiotically now that Dr. Schlock has taken over. But in that instance at least, Riff was 'one of her friends' who wanted kill her, so if anything, they should've been alert to the possibility of attacks from him.
In Bob and George, Bob seemed like your perfectly reasonable villain, driven to extremes by the world he was forced into. Then he decided to go kidnap the world's creator... who let himself be captured for the sake of a minor bet with the REAL Big Bad. Bob never did get beat down, though... or so it seems.
Fans!: The Order of the Dragon first appear as a group of near omnipotent individuals with supernatural powers and represent the greatest threat AEGIS has encountered so far. Members include Robert, a cunning illusionist and conman, or Keith, Rikk's former nemesis. Then there's this guy. And you can rest assured that the others are no better. The fact that their plan involved literally KILLING the alphabet and eliminating all written forms of comunication doesn't help.
In the comic Pearls of Mer. The more senior agent of the Evil Organization tells the new comer to sit back and watch Arra the mermaid until they get word from High Ups. So what does the guy do? He runs out, tries to kidnap her and ends up shooting her human boyfriend. Things did end well from her wrath.
In Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths Batman strands Owlman on an Earth without any life, with a bomb about to explode in front of him. He is presented with the option to abort the countdown or get out of the dimension thanks to a spare portal device, but instead says "It doesn't matter" and waits for it to blow him up. In this case it's because of his belief that an infinite number of universes make all choice meaningless, because no matter what he does, the other him will make a different choice.
The Evil Chancellor Long Feng in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Had he simply directed them to the nearest general outside the city after explaining the whole "No talking about the war here" thing and sent them on their way, they would have been out of his hair right there and he'd still be The Man Behind the Man. But instead, he tried to play Big Brother and threaten them about Appa, and thus made an enemy out of Aang, eventually leading to his arrest, then losing even the Dai Li to Azula in an attempt to break out and take over. Made even worse in that he's still Earth Kingdom and therefore would want to not lose the war to the Fire Nation. It's pretty senseless that he'd want to tangle the Avatar, the main hope in wining the war, in red tape and wild geese hunts. Especially when the Drill attack is clear evidence that things aren't going smoothly.
In the episode "The Deserter", if Zhao hadn't gotten so angry at Aang's taunting, he wouldn't have burnt his entire fleet down to cinders. And then, he kills the moon spirit in the season finale. If he HADN'T done that, he wouldn't have been killed by Koizilla, and might have actually succeeded in conquering the Northern Water Tribe.
This Trope seems to be lampshaded in the episode of The Powerpuff Girls "Monkey See, Doggy Two". As the name of the episode suggests, Mojo Jojo is not only trying the same plan that he tried (which failed) in his first appearance (episode-wise) but he spends half the episode explaining to the Girls the steps he's taken to correct the flaws that made it fail the first time. They patiently listen, and then simply beat the crud out of him, causing the plan to fail even worse than it did before.
Then there is Seńor Senior Senior, who literally read the book on how to carry the Villain Ball, because he's obscenely rich and only commits villainous acts out of boredom. It's more fun for him to do it like a Bond villain.
The supervillains (or "antagonists" as they prefer) in The Venture Bros. that work for the Guild of Calamitous Intent carry the ball as part of the Guild's strict regulations for "Controlled Costumed Aggression", in effect literalContractual Genre Blindness. Low level troublemakers use tranq guns, whereas hand guns and the like are reserved for more threatening opponents. Likewise, "protagonists" need to carry the Idiot Ball because, to borrow a quote:
Brock Samson: Hey, no disrespect Jonas, but it isn't so easy. These guys like their system; it's what they do. You take that away, and you are dealing with a bunch of pissed off nutbags with rayguns and giant, I don't know, a giant octopus/tank with laser eyes.
Slade in Teen Titans would be a full-time Magnificent Bastard if he'd just learn not to give in to his sadistic impulses unnecessarily. As it is, this has gotten in the way of his plans by providing an out for one minion and turning another against him (which got him lava fried). Of course, this does mean that for a Smug Snake, he's still very effective and creepy, but he could be so much more...
The Archmage of Gargoyles grasps the Villain Ball hard due to his hatred of Goliath. He makes two big mistakes: he doesn't wait until sunrise when the gargoyles are all helpless before starting the attack, and he opts to torture Goliath for amusement rather than simply killing him instantly with his incredible power. This leads directly to his defeat and rather nasty death.
In fact, Word of God explicitly notes this as his undoing- for all his power, at heart he's a walking (though effective) cliche and cannot escape genre conventions.
Winx Club: The 4K dub provides an example of a Dub-Induced Villain Ball in the S1 finale, which has Icy telling the other Trix, "Give me your share of the Dragonfire, I need it to take care of this uppity pixie (Bloom). Don't worry, you won't need more than your regular powers to take on those four poseurs (the other Winx)." She doesn't tell them this in the original, but the result is the same anyway.
The Trix's other two seasons each have a major non-Dub-Induced Villain Ball: S2 sees them burying the Winx and the Specialists' plane under snow and an icy deathtrap... and then simply leaving, so they're not there to shoot them down again when they escape. S3 has Icy de-powering Bloom in a one-on-one (the other fairies are away in a crystal labyrinth, while the other Trix are taking on the Specialists) and not making her history immediately, allowing the other Winx to return in time to take the Trix out.
In Samurai Jack, Aku grabs the Villain Ball big-time in "Jack and the Zombies". While Jack is busy fighting off a horde of zombies, Aku manages to steal Jack's sword, which is the only thing in the world that can harm him. He then proceeds to do some Evil Gloating, which is acceptable, given how Jack is absolutely powerless at this point. But then, he announces that he'll destroy the sword to become completely unstoppable after he kills Jack with it, to give him a "fitting" death by the hands of his own sword. Of course, after an epic but one-sided battle, an Ass Pull comes in at the last second to prevent Aku from succeeding, thereby allowing Jack to reclaim his sword, forcing Aku to retreat. Had Aku just destroyed the sword first, BEFORE going after Jack, he would've won.
Pretty much anytime Aku gets the upper hand, he pulls one of these. Gets a MacGuffin? Gloats about it to Jack's face before it's secured. Captures Jack? Places him in a very slow running torture device so he can watch him suffer. Hires some minions to do his bidding? Mistreats or double crosses them enough to provoke their betrayal. Granted the guy is literaly Made of Evil so it is sort of in his nature not to forgo sadistic fun over tactics (or even temporarily hold it till the plan is actually over).
Dr. Doofenschirmtz from Phineas and Ferb is one of the worst examples, as illustrated in the episode "Candace Gets Busted" where a building is blocking his view of the theater. He remarks that he could just move his chair, but decides to build a machine to zap the building out of the way.
If the True Colors of Smile Away are a secret from parents, why would you show the victimized kids getting tortured beyond compare on a daytime TV show?
The Sonic Satam episode "Game Guy" is basically one giant Villain Ball for Robotnik. He captures a Freedom Fighter squad and offers the leader their release if he captures Sonic. He succeeds, however not only does Robotnik forgo Snively's idea of just killing Sonic in favor of a complex death trap, he reveals his double cross to Ari midway through, in addition to gloating long enough for Sally and Dulcy to plot a rescue, allowing Ari to rescue Sonic in time.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the two-episode story "A Canterlot Wedding", Twilight Sparkle is the only one who suspects the character of Princess Cadance, who's marrying Twilight's brother, though she doesn't guess that she's actually a shape-changing doppelganger having taken Cadance's place. At the end of the first part, Cadance manages to convince everyone, including Twilight herself, that Twilight is being a horrible person and only accusing her because she's possessive of her brother. That would have neutralised the only threat to her plans, but it's just not evil enough, so she has to go and imprison her in the same place she's put the real Cadance, apparently trying to make Twilight kill her — only to lead to her eventual defeat after Twilight doesn't and they flee together to stop the wedding. Oh, it's a bit more complicated than that, with a bit of a Bug War in there and whatnot, but the way the good guys win in the end would not have been possible if the real Cadance had not been freed. Or with Twilight moping alone somewhere after being told not to even attend the wedding.
Then again, Cadance's only real obstacle that she had difficulty with was a large boulder blocking the minecart. She may have been late, but a second Cadance would stand a very good chance of appearing on set early enough to potentially break through to Shining Armour before the end of the episode.
In "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", the Flim-Flam Brothers could have agreed to a 50/50 share of the cider profit with Sweet Apple Acres, but no, they had to be greedy as all hell, wanting to put Sweet Apple Acres out of business and be the sole supplier of apple cider in Ponyville.
UnderdogsArch-EnemySimon Bar Sinister (who, ironically, usually avoided this) got a bad case of it in one episode, when his plan to Take Over the World involved using a device called the Big Dipper to steal the Earth's water; it could drain the water from lakes, rivers, and even oceans, storing each in a small jar, which he planned to use to starve the world into submission. The first part worked, but when Underdog showed up to challenge him, he threatened to smash Lake Michigan on the ground if the hero didn't keep his distance. Underdog called his bluff, so the evil scientist threw it in the air, forcing him to catch it. So Simon threw Lake Superior too. Then he got carried away, and thought seeing Underdog scramble to catch them was fun, so he threw more and more of them. Unfortunately for him, Underdog didn't fail to catch even one, and eventually, Simon had thrown them all. By the time the villain realized he had no more "hostages", it was too late, and the hero was able to clock him.
Nazi Germany fortunately held on to the villain ball through much of WWII. Their Chronic Backstabbing Disorder put them at war against the Atlantic world at once, forcing natural enemies like the Soviets and the Western allies to unite against them. Their racist ideology caused them to mistreat or ignore potential allies, like the Ukrainians and other Slavs who hated Stalin. They invested absolute power in a Fascist, but Inefficientdictator who turned out not to be a very good military leader, (at least not when facing an enemy who wasn't easily cowed - his understanding of the military psychology of Continental Western Europe was flawless). They engaged in atrocities to such an extreme degree that there was no way left for them to negotiate their way out of the war when it turned against them, and, indeed, by the end were just spending resources committing atrocities that could otherwise have been used to prevent complete annihilation.
Not to mention that if they had curbed their ambitions and stopped right after the Munich Agreement, Adolf Hitler may have been more fondly remembered in Germany.
This is unlikely, since a major motivation for Germany's war of conquest was that Hitler's powerbase was built on a higher standard of living for common workers than in any other European nation at the time, and this in turn was entirely built on the wealth stolen from the minorities, not on any sound economic system. They needed to conquer more territories, enslave more "subhumans" and steal more resources to keep this up.
It wasn't so much "stealing from minorities" that kept the standard of living up for the normal German - there wasn't nearly enough money. They stole from minorities out of malice and out of racism - they could have made a lot more revenue by befriending the Jews (who owned a lot of shops and banks) and helping them grow the economy. It was re-armament (in 1935, the Army couldn't spend it's budget) and socialized work programs that drove employment up - except they borrowed like crazy to fund it. So they either had to cut or go to war. They went to war.
The Nazi economic model has been described as a "conquest" or "looter" economy because of that. Its cartelization of businesses along with making them attain the government bureaucrats' approval for every step of production, coupled with price controls that severely disrupted things, made it extremely inefficient.
Josef Stalin, to a much lesser degree. He had a doctor who told him to take some time off arrested and tortured. So when he had a massive and undignified stroke, nobody wanted to diagnose him. Even his fellow Politburo members were terrified of calling help in case he recovered and had them shot. His guards were also afraid to go in to help him or call a doctor. It doesn't help that he also had recently killed many supposedly for being in a "Doctor's Plot" against him. So, rather than survive to retire or even continue to lead, he died on the floor of his bedroom, soaked in his own urine. There are certain theories which say he was poisoned too, which is not surprising if true.
How about his elimination of most of his military officer corps? Three of five marshals were removed, 13 of 15 army commanders, eight of nine admirals, 50 of 57 army corps commanders, 154 out of 186 division commanders, 16 of 16 army commissars, and 25 of 28 army corps commissars. And that was just the 1937 purge. Another in 1941 was also damaging, and with the vacuum in Soviet high command being filled by less experienced/gifted officers, it's small wonder that the Red Army preformed so poorly in the early stages of the war.
Well, the statistics are somewhat debated (they also include plenty NKVD men and people of disputable talent), but it can hardly be debated that a lot of the defeats were due to the commanders simply being too scared to take initiative.
The Hutu Power forces responsible for the Rwandan Genocide were in many ways even worse than the above. They and the mainstream Rwandan government they had large amounts of influence in had been fighting a war against a group of Tutsi rebels more or less successfully for *years* beforehand right up until the ceasefire of 1993, even managing to enlist the support of France in fighting against the rebels and ensuring that they would retainthe Presidency and several other positions in a powersharing agreement. However, when someone assassinated their President and the Burundian one and blew up the ceasefire, what do they do? Promptly went Axe Crazy and proceed to try and murder every Tutsi and every Hutu who was not so fond of the idea of murdering every Tutsi! This and the incredibly, barbaric ways they did it- and boasted about it- made them so toxic that foreign sympathy evaporated overnight- even from nations that had aligned to them- and made international aid unthinkable. However, it was compounded by the fact that huge numbers of their ranks were horrendously corrupt and inefficient, and open to being bribed. However, the *real clincher* is that they devoted so many men to trying to commit genocide against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus that when the same RPF that they had stalemated came roaring in, they had so many men and supplies tied down committing the genocide that they didn't have enough to beat back the invasion. Which promptly defeated them and ended a four year long war in 100 days, ushering the RPF into control of the government and morphed into a bog standard but relatively clear sighted and effective dictatorship dominated by Tutsis but with Hutu participation. Where they remain to this day, and are mainly tolerated because 'they were better than what came before'. Had the genocidaires committed the genocide in the first place, they would not have failed as badly as they did. Goes even moreso if they- rather than the RPF or someone else- were responsible for the assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian (Hutu) presidents, and the effective decapitation of their own long running leadership.