"Hey it's that one Peter jerk again. And this time, he's accompanied by another Peter, Pete Postlethwaite and his killer cheekbones."Look around the room you're in. Notice anyone with particularly prominent, exaggerated, or high cheekbones? Yes? Chances are, he or she is the one out to get you. Villains seem to have a tendency toward quite noticeable cheekbones. It's far more common in animated works, as facial features are often exaggerated. This trope is quite often seen on The Baroness or the Dragon Lady. It's perhaps because sharper cheekbones lend a face a sharper, more angular look, which can convey intense emotion more easily sometimes, or (as with Lean and Mean) because of the unsettlingly skeletal, deathly appearance it can give you. It's also the opposite of the kind of smoother, softer face known as "baby-faced"—and since a baby-faced person looks like an innocent child, it follows that the prominent bone structure will look like the opposite of this. Compare Lean and Mean and Evil Is Sexy, if you so desire. Sister Trope to Sinister Schnoz and Thin Chin of Sin. Contrast with the Lantern Jaw of Justice, for the good guys.
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Anime & Manga
- Kycilia Zabi and M'quve in Mobile Suit Gundam. Kycilia's especially, since her cheekbones are so sharp and more pronounced.
- Sebastian Michealis in Black Butler.
- Prandine/Fallow in Deltora Quest.
- All of The Big Five in the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime save Otaki\Crump, who is more chubby-cheeked. Extra points go to Daimon\Leichter, whose cheekbones could probably score sheet metal.
- Yoshikage Kira from Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure Diamond Is Unbreakable sports a prominent set and is an unrepentant serial killer with a bizarre hand fetish. He also has them after switching faces with Kosaku Kawajiri, probably due to sheer coincidence.
Films — Animated
- Very common for Disney villains, many of whom also have the Lean and Mean trope going. These include:
- Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove.
- Cruella de Vil of 101 Dalmatians.
- Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Jafar from Aladdin
- Chernabog from Fantasia.
- Chef Skinner and Anton Ego from Ratatouille. Ego is a subversion though, as he's less a villain than a jaded Caustic Critic, and when something actually is good he steps up as a friend of it. And he has a truly heartwarming flashback.
- Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty
- Ursula from The Little Mermaid—she may have a rotund face, but her cheeks could jab out your eyeballs.
- Thrax from Osmosis Jones has dangerously pointy cheekbones. Then again, being a virus, he doesn't really have cheekbones so much as a capsid.
- The Joker from Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Perhaps the most so in Under the Red Hood.
Films — Live-Action
- Jareth from Labyrinth. Inevitable when you're played by David Bowie, and it's appropriate that the villain in a child's fantasy would have such a classically evil-looking trait.
- Jackson Rippner in Red Eye has cheekbones made more prominent by shadows and lighting effects.
- Cillian Murphy and his cheekbones also make an excellent Scarecrow in Batman Begins.
- Pirates of the Caribbean:
- Grand Moff Tarkin of A New Hope first appears in a position of authority over Darth Vader, so his villainous credentials would be pretty clear already, but he's still got this trope going in spades. Happily averted with Peter Cushing himself.
- Played straight all the other times Cushing played the villain, but averted with many of his roles in the Hammer Horror series; he would often play the hero, opposite Christopher Lee's villain.
- Discussed in Unbreakable, where Elijah notes the fact that comic-book villains tend to have sharp and pointy feature, and heroes are lantern-jawed.
- The Red Skull from Captain America: The First Avenger, especially after he loses his Latex Perfection. He looks like a skull so it's not all that surprising that he lacks much flesh to smooth them.
- Harry Potter:
- Pansy Parkinson sports them in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, courtesy of her lovely actress Scarlett Byrne.
- Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort's number two, who is played by Perky Goth Helena Bonham-Carter. It is mentioned in the books that she has the look of someone who used to be very beautiful before she got too emaciated, so sharp cheekbones can be expected.
- In Star Trek Into Darkness, the villain is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
- In Sam Raimi's first Spider-Man film, the Green Goblin is played by Willem Dafoe, who is able to pull off some truly disturbing leers in no small part because of this trope.
- Joseph Goebbels in Downfall. He's one of Hitler's closest associates - need we say more?
- Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Tom Hiddleston's already prominent cheekbones are further emphasized with makeup, leading his face to go from "friendly and lanky" to "skull-like".
- The T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day makes good use of Robert Patrick's cheekbones to make him look sinister.
- In X-Men: First Class, both Sebastian Shaw and Erik Lehnsherr have defined and hard facial features compared to Charles Xavier's soft baby face.
- Angelina Jolie as the title character in Maleficent. Subverted in that she's not really a villain for the most part, just really pissed off.
- Cate Blanchett and her epic cheekbones as the villainesses in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Hanna, Cinderella and Thor: Ragnarok.
- The sinister Slugworth in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has visible cheekbones, emphasized by a prominent scar on his cheek to boot — though we eventually find out that the guy we thought was Slugworth was actually an actor hired by Wonka.
- All illustrations of Lord Vetinari, the not quite benevolent ruler of Ankh-Morpork, portray him with very sharp features, including these.
- Some of the elves from Lords and Ladies made themselves appear to have high cheekbones.
- Crowley from Good Omens. But he's only technically evil, and given his position in the universe's moral spectrum, lacking a certain villainous appearance would be unbecoming. Not that it's stopped him being considered Mr. Fanservice by many fans.
- Averted by Duck the Great Western Engine. He has high cheekbones, but he's in no way shape or form evil.
- Averted in Galaxy of Fear. Hoole has a gaunt face, and while he acts highly suspect in the first few books he's really The Atoner. The Big Bad, who is of the same species as Hoole, has a noticeably rounder, softer face.
- Doctor Who:
- Kate O'Mara as the Rani in old-school Who.
- The Weeping Angels, from the new series, have faces that look like traditional angel statues when they're relaxed, but their features become sharper and more savage when they attack.
- Missy, aka the Mistress from the 2014 series, as played by Michelle Gomez.
- Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (although he makes a Heel–Face Turn). Most of the characters that James Marsters plays are villainous, and his cheekbones are very, very sharp.
- Thomas from Downton Abbey.
- NBC's Hannibal:
- Any villainous character played by Noel Fielding on The Mighty Boosh, such as the Hitcher, Old Gregg and the Spirit of Jazz.
- The Devil in Devil's Dare has these.
- Zed Provhezor from Dino Attack RPG.
- Cirque du Soleil examples, often accomplished with the help of makeup or masks, include Fleur and some of the Nostalgic Old Birds in Alegría and the Counselor and his equally wicked son in KA. However, in Cirque prominent cheekbones are not exclusively for the evil, but sometimes used for Tricksters (KOOZA) or similarly mysterious-but-good characters (the Great Chamberlain in Nouvelle Experience).
- Voldemort in A Very Potter Musical, via lots of makeup.
- Lady Macbeth in the 2010 television version of Macbeth.
- Klogg from The Neverhood, the Big Bad who imprisoned the god-like ruler and creator of the game world.
- Diablo, full stop◊
- BioShock 2: Sofia Lamb. Not cartoonishly exaggerated, but hers are by far the most prominent of the entire cast. All of Rapture hangs off those cheekbones.
- The G-Man from the Half-Life series. He is an enigmatic man in a black suit who follows you around and watches you from obscure vantage points, making finding him a kind of dark Easter Egg hunt. From what the player can puzzle out from his sparse interactions with him, and from what other characters say, it is likely that he is neither human nor benevolent.
- Count Veger from Jak 3 is very thin in general, so naturally he has very gaunt features.
- Cyrus, the Big Bad of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, has prominent cheekbones. They're one of his most noticeable features and emphasize his gaunt appearance.
- When the evil sorceress Mizrabel from Castle of Illusion gets her beauty back, she has cheekbones like knife blades.
- Star Wars: The Old Republic has this as a facial option for most species, and gets a lot of mileage out of it in terms of Imperial soldiers and politicians; this is of course a direct reference to Tarkin, above.
- Humanoid vampires in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion default to having high cheekbones when they're starving and their monstrous nature is especially clear, since it uses a pre-set face for them. This is especially clear with the Dark Brotherhood's Vicente Valtieri, who always looks that way.
- Grim Trigger: Valamar, to the point that he looks like a skeleton. Proxy also has these to a lesser extent.
- Xaphrael from Misfile has gaunt cheeks, eye-scar, spiky antennae-like hair, and a range of facial expressions that range from cold disdain to amused detachment. He hasn't actually been "revealed" as a villain yet, but c'mon... just LOOK at him!
- Dex of El Goonish Shive, has huge cheekbones, sunken eyes and Big Ol' Eyebrows. He hasn't been explicitly confirmed as a villain but even if he isn't he seems to be being controlled by one.
- N. Buffalo and Vodka Gorbalski from Every Button Hurts the Other Guy are both part of world conquest syndicate the Evil Eye and both have conspicuous, jutting cheekbones.
- Megatron from Transformers Animated seems to have this going on. They even manage to stand out in a series where the good guys are also robots so have very angular features.
- Norman Osborn in The Spectacular Spider-Man. Tombstone also has them, in keeping with his generally cadaverous face, and making the contrast with his extremely bulky body more pronounced.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
- The Joker, as in virtually all of his appearances. The fact that he manages to have visible cheekbones even when the flesh of his cheeks has been stretched into his trademark smile is quite impressive.
- Mr. Freeze as well, especially after the show's revamp.
- During his introduction, Jeremiah Surd of Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures had ridiculously exaggerated cheekbones that made him look almost goofy. During later appearances, he became gradually more realistic (and more menacing).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- Ozai has some impressive cheekbones. Both his children have high cheekbones, but they're the somewhat softer kind of classical prettiness, while Ozai's are much sharper.
- Amon in the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra wears a mask that has these carved into it. And Tarrlok, Unalaq, Zaheer, Ming-Hua, and Ghazan all come by the trait naturally.
- Oroku Saki in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003).
- The Duke from Gawayn
- Thrawn from Star Wars Rebels
- Perhaps unsurprisingly for a Disney villain, Colonel Staquait from The Legend of Tarzan could probably put someone's eye out with his cheekbones.