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Greater Scope Villain / Live-Action Films

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  • Star Wars:
    • The Dark Side is the most powerful evil in the setting, but is a metaphysical force of evil rather than a character. The Emperor is the Big Bad of the original trilogy and the prequels as a whole, and Darth Vader is The Dragon. (The key phrase here is as a whole, as some of the movies have their own Big Bads — see below.) See the Big Bad page for a (largely) complete listing of Expanded Universe Big Bads. However, its existence does mean that the Sith Order keeps rising out of the ashes even after every Sith has been wiped out.
    • In many Expanded Universe stories that take place between or concurrently with the movies, the Emperor serves as a Greater Scope Villain. He also serves as a Greater Scope Villain in A New Hope (which features Tarkin as the Big Bad), Rogue One (which has Tarkin as the Big Bad and Krennic as a Big Bad Wannabe), and The Empire Strikes Back (which features Vader as the Big Bad).
    • Supreme Leader Snoke, who makes his debut in The Force Awakens, is implied in the film's novelization to have been around since the time of the previous trilogies and was even aware of Vader's true identity, making him an evil far greater than Emperor Palpatine.
    • Dryden Vos is the head of the Crimson Dawn cell we're following throughout most of Solo, but he's merely the subordinate to the real top dog of Crimson Dawn, Darth Maul.
    • This goes for the smaller-time baddies too, especially in EU stories in which either villains or morally neutral characters we saw only briefly in the films are the protagonists. In the first tale from Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina, for example, various criminals attend the wedding of female crime boss Lady Valarian. A nameless thug approaches the prospective groom (a bounty hunter of Valarian's species, the Whiphids, who obviously hasn't been on Tatooine very long) and informs him that out in the desert there's another crime boss in need of bounty hunters, so powerful that Valarian pays him protection money - and, of course, it's clear from the context that this gangster is Jabba the Hutt.
    • Speaking of the expanded universe (AKA "Star Wars Legends"), we have a rare redeemed example named Ajunta Pall. Ajunta Pall is a fallen jedi master who lived thousands of years before the events of the original trilogy. He was one of the first jedi to fall to the dark side and after losing a war against their light side counterparts, Ajunta and his followers (wich included other greater-scope villains, such as Master Xoxaan, the fallen jedi who later became the master/teacher of Darth Krayt, the main villain of Star Wars: Legacy and Karness Muur, the creator of the Rakghoul plague) fled the jedi order and established themselves on Korriban. The natives treated them like gods and the fallen jedi masters taught them everything that they knew about the dark side of the force. Ajunta Pall became the first Dark Lord Of The Sith, wich by extension not only makes him the creator of the Sith in general, but it chronologically also makes him the first Sith Lord to have ever existed. This would've also made him a greater scope villain for the entire Star wars franchise as a whole, if the expanded universe was still canon. However, long after his death, his force ghost spoke to the jedi master Revan and confessed that he felt immense guilt for having created the sith and caused the death of millions. Revan helped him find peace and redemption via the light side and he became one with the force.
  • Alien:
  • The Matrix:
    • The Architect was seen as this since he created the Matrix and Agent Smith.
    • The Deus Ex Machina who led the Machines into war.
  • In James Bond, this crops up a few times, usually in the early films but it's returned for the Craig movies. Generally the Greater Scope Villain is either a Nebulous Evil Organization like SPECTRE (e.g. Thunderball) or Quantum (e.g. Casino Royale (2006)) or some unnamed client country that is generally implied to be Red China (e.g. Goldfinger). Dr. No has both, as No works for SPECTRE but it's implied they were hired by China. You Only Live Twice has SPECTRE and its chief Blofeld acting as the Big Bad while working for this Greater Scope Villain (though, as he blatantly extorts money from them at one point under their protest, this might be more of a Big Bad Duumvirate, and Blofeld makes it bluntly and crystal clear who is Eviler Than Thou in several ways).
  • The Jason Bourne Series:
    • Though the Big Bad of The Bourne Supremacy, Ward Abbott could be considered this for Identity as Alexander Conklin answered to him, but he's probably not because it's implied that much of what Conklin has done is not on his orders or behalf and in the end of the movie, orders Conklin's death because he went too far off the rails and started to draw more attention rather than divert it away.
    • The Bourne Ultimatum has two possibles in Ezra Kramer (who keeps suspicion on Bourne to divert attention away from Blackbriar despite Landy's reservations) and Dr. Albert Hirsh (who recruited Bourne into Treadstone and ran the facility where all the program's agents were trained).
    • The series' over-arching one would be Eric Byer from The Bourne Legacy as Treadstone, Blackbriar and Outcome all were created by him and everything that's happened ever since is because of him in the first place.
    • The fifth movie gives us Robert Dewey. While Byer made have created Treadstone, Dewey killed Bourne's father in a False Flag Operation in order to protect the program's secrecy, which led to Bourne joining up in the first place. Without him, the events of the series never would have happened.
  • The Tyrell Corporation and their founder, Doctor Eldon Tyrell of Blade Runner, which created the replicants and the resulting social hierarchy between them and humans.
  • Sky High (2005): The powerful supervillain Baron Battle. He's presently serving a quadruple-life sentence and never gets out at any point in the film, but he greatly influences the backstory and is strongly implied to be far more evil than Royal Pain. Word of God says that had the planned sequels actually been made, he would've put in a personal appearance.
  • Big Game has Herbert and the Vice President, who turn out to have been masterminding the entire operation of killing the president to restart the War on Terror.
  • Norman Osborn in The Amazing Spider-Man. He is Curt Connors' boss, who is said to be dying and wants Connors' experiments to save his life, and he is never seen on screen and speaks through his assistant. It's also heavily implied he was involved in the deaths of Peter Parker's parents. With the character's (apparent) death in the sequel, it looked like Gustav Fiers/The Gentleman was going to be the Greater Scope Villain from this point on.
  • Krona in Green Lantern, posthumously. He is the Guardian who absorbed the yellow energy of fear, with Parallax as the result.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thanos is one of the universe as a whole. So far, he has (indirectly) served as The Man Behind the Man to three different Big Bads in three separate movies: Being the true commander of the Chitauri army in The Avengers, Ronan the Accuser's benefactor in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Scepter that he gave to Loki being used to create Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. The heroes never even get to meet him face-to-face in either film. Being a genocidal galactic emperor with vast armies at his command, he may well be the most powerful villain so far unveiled in the series.
      • Thanos finally faces off against the Avengers (as well as literally everyone else in the MCU) in Avengers: Infinity War, which really hammers home just how powerful he is. In the film Thanos's power is astronomical as he curbs stomps The Hulk in the opening scene, wipes out the Xandar and Knowhere off screen. And then he gives Iron Man, Dr Strange, Spider-Man and the Guardians of The Galaxy fight of their lives on Titan, he even drops a moon on them. To makes things more dire the space-gang nearly defeat him but ultimately fail, and Captain America and Black Panther's forces in Wakanda are a cakewalk after that. To put things in perspective Thanos is so omnipotent, in the 14 million different futures Dr Strange foresaw the heroes only won 1 outcome. Thanos is also the only villain beside Zemo employ the The Bad Guy Wins trope.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier has Arnim Zola, who is revealed to be the instigator of Hydra's infiltration into SHIELD. In addition, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who is revealed in the mid-credits scene to be one of the current leaders of the modern-day Hydra, although he is mentioned to be on the same level as the Big Bad Alexander Pierce. Due to Hydra's involvement, Strucker's influence also extends to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 2.
    • The Mandarin in the Iron Man films. He is the leader of the Ten Rings, the terrorist organization who held Tony Stark hostage in Iron Man, and he personally appears as the Big Bad in Iron Man 3. In actuality, 3's Mandarin is just an actor named Trevor Slattery who was drugged and hired by the real Big Bad of the movie, Aldrich Killian, as a cover for his failed Extremis experiments. Killian stole the mantle of the Mandarin for himself, and he refers to himself as such near the end of the film. All Hail the King reveals the existence of the true Mandarin, on whom Trevor's (and Killian's) portrayal was loosely based. It is still unknown if the Mandarin is a Legacy Character or Really 700 Years Old.
    • In Ant-Man, Mitchell Carson acts as the investor for Darren Cross to sell the Yellowjacket suit and the Pym Particles to HYDRA.
  • In John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness Satan, the Big Bad in this dimension, turns out to be just The Dragon for his father: the Anti-God, who is in a mirror-universe waiting to be summoned.
  • In Die Hard 2, the Big Bad Colonel Stuart is trying to release Ramon Esperanza, a deposed The Generalissimo who is being extradited. A Good Day to Die Hard has Yuri Komarov as the hidden Greater-Scope Villain with his daughter Irina being the Big Bad and final antagonist.
  • Horror franchises sometimes have Greater Scope Villains.
    • In Scream 3, the Big Bad, Roman Bridger, is revealed to have told Billy Loomis, the Big Bad of the first movie, about his fathers affair with Laureen Prescott, and is thus indirectly responsible for the events of the first movie, and even more indirectly, the Roaring Rampage of Revenge of Mrs. Loomis in the second one. Billy Loomis himself is the Greater Scope Villain of the rest of the movies, posthumously.
    • The dream demons in A Nightmare on Elm Street, who gave Freddy Krueger his powers. They do make an appearance by way of flashback in Freddy's Dead, but they are never directly involved in the plot.
    • In the Hellraiser films, there is Leviathan, the god of hell. The films' Big Bad Pinhead is the leader of the Cenobites, who are Leviathan's foot soldiers, but Leviathan itself only appears in the second movie. It has a slightly more active role in the comic spin-offs.
    • In Friday the 13th, Pamela's killing spree and subsequent death in the first film is what drove her son, Jason Voorhees, to become a Serial Killer for the remainder of the series.
    • Halloween has the man in black, who is really Dr. Terrence Wynn the leader of the cult of Thorne, who placed the curse on Michael in the first place. They wish to aid or possibly control Michael. He is only directly involved in the fifth and sixth film.
    • Cube Zero has Jax, a Faux Affably Evil member of the shady government group responsible for the construction of the cube. He acts as The Heavy and is the highest ranking member we see. He is not the leader of the group though, and receives a call from his own higher ups telling him to get on with his work. The unseen higher ups could be considered the Greater Scope Villains.
  • In the Starship Troopers films, Behemecoatyl is retroactively the Greater Scope Villain of the first two films when it's introduced in Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. It is the absolute leader of the Bugs, but is never seen in the previous ones, in which the humans only fought its minions.
  • Skynet and the Machines in The Terminator. They're the ones who sent the film's direct antagonist, the Terminator, back in time to kill Sarah Connor, but they aren't confronted directly due to existing in the Bad Future.
  • The unseen King George III in The Patriot, ruler of the British Empire. He's only ever referred to in passing, but Cornwallis and the other Generals ultimately answer to him. And Tavington is such a central figure Cornwallis himself might count as this.
  • In The Never Ending Story the Nothing is the actual Big Bad; that is, the one threatening the world. G'mork acts as The Heavy but hints that there is a Greater Scope Villain.
    G'mork: I am the servant of the power behind the Nothing.
  • The main villain in Ghost Ship implies he is working for Satan, or at least Hell. He says he needs to find enough souls to make "management" happy, and he needs the current salvage crew to fix the Graza for him to accomplish that mission.
  • President Patel, the leader of Elysium. While he personally disapproves of Delacourt's methods for enforcing the status quo, he sits at the very top of a tyrannical system that can only be sustained through the continuous exploitation of Earth's inhabitants.
  • Daryll Lee Callum is this in Copycat. Peter Foley, the actual copycat of the title, is a fan of serial killer Callum who is committing his killings in an attempt to impress the imprisoned Callum.
  • The Fallen is revealed to have been one to Megatron in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, being the true founder of the Decepticons.
  • Lockdown's employers in Transformers: Age of Extinction. They're the ones who sent Lockdown to hunt down Optimus Prime and it's revealed that they were the creators of the Transformers.
  • In Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, Master Pain (later "Master Betty") is the delegate of the mysterious Evil Council, who seem to be set up as one side of a larger conflict. ("Behold, the symbols: One... over here. The other... over there.") All the audience knows about them by the end, including their long-term goals, is that they're aliens... and French. It makes just enough sense to be weird that we don't learn more and seem like material for a sequel.
  • The Purge: The New Founding Fathers are responsible for the annual purge's existence, along with the millions of people murdered as a result of it and what the main characters go through, yet none are shown or directly confronted in the film or its sequel.
  • Home Alone 3 has the Korean terrorist who orders the criminals to look for the chip.
  • In The Westerns Utu, Mad Dog Morgan, Ned Kelly, The Outlaw Michael Howe, and Van Diemen's Land, the Evil Brit colonialist officials commit atrocities in the name of the British monarch.
  • Throughout Sherlock Holmes (2009), our Sherlock and Watson work to stop the evil plot of Lord Henry Blackwood, except that Holmes realizes that a few details just don't add up. At the end of the film, he finally learns that Irene Adler is working for a more powerful villain with loftier goals: Moriarty.
  • Félix Reyes Torreno from Collateral. He hired Vincent for the sake of killing everyone involved (lawyers, witnesses) in the investigation of his persona.
  • The main antagonist of Ghost, Carl Bruner, turns out to be a money launderer for a larger drug-dealing organization. We never hear much about them, but it's clear that he's terrified of what'll happen to him if he can't come up with the money they're expecting from him.
  • In Blacula, as well as its sequel, Scream Blacula Scream, Count Dracula is and remains the vampire who turned Prince Manuwalde into a vampire and named him "Blacula" as a bad joke.
  • The Corleone family in The Godfather. Vito and Michael are implied, at their respective peaks, to be the most powerful criminals in New York, but as the films are told from their perspectives, they are not the main sources of conflict (though one could debate whether Michael steps down to Big Bad in The Godfather Part II.
  • The main conflict of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension is centred around Lord John Whorfin's attempts to return to the 8th Dimension and become despot again. Banzai's Arch-Enemy, however, is Diabolical Mastermind Hanoi Xan, leader of the World Crime League. He's only mentioned in supplementary materials, but he is responsible for Banzai's wife's death.
  • The main antagonists of Wicked Little Things are a bunch of zombie kids. The kids are only undead because Edmond Carlton ordered the mine they were working in to be blown up.
  • Stitches (2001): The main threat is the manipulations of Mrs. Albright. Near the end, it is revealed that she's doing all this because the Devil challenged her to.
  • The entire reason for the murders in Don't Open Till Christmas are happening is because the killer watched his father murder his mother while wearing a Santa suit.
  • In Gangs of New York, Boss Tweed is this trope to Bill Cutting. Bill Cutting is the target of Amsterdam Vallon's personal vendetta and a powerful crime lord in charge of the Five Points, but even he is working as enforcer for Boss Tweed, who is the most powerful politician in New York. Tweed is willing to work with both Cutting and Amsterdam for personal gain, even trying to eliminate Cutting when proves to be a liability. As a result, Cutting severs his alliance with Tweed, and is subsequently killed by Amsterdam in a duel. The film ends with Tweed still in power, since Amsterdam fulfilled his personal goal of killing Cutting, and has no desire to dethrone the man who helped him achieve his revenge.
  • In The Mask of Zorro, Big Bad Don Rafael Montero is funding Mexican dictator Santa Anna with gold for the Mexican War in exchange for California. However, Montero is ripping Santa Anna off by mining the gold from Santa Anna's land. When Zorro exposes Montero's scheme, Montero is so terrified of Santa Anna's wrath that he is (reluctantly) willing to cross the Moral Event Horizon in order to cover his tracks.
  • In Demolition Man, Doctor Raymond Cocteau is the man who set Serial Killer Simon Phoenix free to wreak havoc in the ultra-peaceful society of 2032, in order to assassinate on of Cocteaus's enemies. Furthormore, Cocteau is the creator and leader of the Crapsaccharine World that is San Angeles.
  • Dodgson in Jurassic Park is the one who hires Nedry to steal the dinosaur embryos for Biosyn, InGen's main competition. Because of this, he's inadvertently responsible for the disaster at the park.
  • In Training Day, the Three Wise Men are this to Detective Alonzo Harris. Alonzo thinks he's above the law because he works for the Three Wise Men, who are corrupt cops in high-ranking positions. It's through them that Alonzo gets permission to rob and kill his long time drug contact. However, the alternate ending revealed that it was the Three Wise Men who sent Hoyt to make sure Alonzo didn't pay off the Russians. The Russian Mafia arguably qualify as well, because even Alonzo is so terrified of them that he spends the entire film trying to get the money to appease them, and is eventually killed by them when he fails.
  • In Air Force One, General Radek is this to Ivan Korshunov, who is trying to free him. A borderline case since he not only appears in a few scenes, he actually is killed off, but he fills enough of the criteria.
  • In Ghostbusters (1984), Ivo Shandor serves as this to Gozer. Even though Shandor is a follower of Gozer, and a Posthumous Character to boot, it was Shandor's machinations that made it possible for Gozer to return in the first place.
  • In Animal House, Mayor Carmine DePasto extorts money from the university that Dean Vernon Wormer runs, threatens him with physical harm when he complains about this, and pressures Wormer into taking more drastic actions against Delta.
  • In Legend (1985), the unseen Father is implied to be this to his son, Darkness. We don't see him, but we hear what is implied to be him giving instructions to Darkness.
  • In The Departed, the FBI are this to Frank Costello, who keep him around as an informant at the expense of the Massechusetts State Police.
  • In Chronicle, Richard Detmer's abuse is what led his son Andrew to a Protagonist Journey to Villain. While a little more direct than most examples, it could also double subvert him as an unknowing Big Bad Wannabe who only wanted to torture his son.
  • In Back to the Future, Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen's lifestyle of bullying to get whatever he wanted set an example that his descendants, including Biff, followed closely. Biff proved to be the most nefarious of them all, however, since he proved savvy enough to set up a parallel universe in which he had achieved all of his villainous goals and then some - and could only be foiled by more time-traveling.
  • Drug lord Fransisco Cindino to his henchman Cyrus Grissom in Con Air. Cyrus put together the whole hijacking to get away from prison, but Cindino is the one who employed him to do so.
  • The Mayan Emperor in Apocalypto to Zero Wolf, the slaver who destroyed Jaguar Paw's village and relentlessly attempted to hunt down Jaguar Paw.
  • In The Manchurian Candidate, Eleanor Iselin is the Big Bad running the evil plan to turn the United States into a dictatorship, but she's being bankrolled by Communist China, who she intends to nuke back to the Stone Age once in power for selecting her son to be their brainwashed agent.
  • Wizards of the Demon Sword: The conflict is driven by Lord Khouta trying to obtain the Blade of Aktar, but the only reason that the blade exists is that it was made to defeat an ancient demon named Aktar.
  • The Shawshank Redemption:The main conflicts are all related to Andy's imprisonment in Shawshank. The only reason he's even in prison is because Elmo Blanch killed his wife and her lover, but he's never encountered in the film itself.
  • 100 Tears: The entire reason that the Teardrop Killer kills is because he was falsely accused of rape by a fellow carny named Roxanne. She becomes his first victim.
  • The Neighbor: Troy and his family of kidnappers are only one part of a massive organization that will be targeting John now that he's disrupted one of their operation.
  • Lincoln: The President's main opponents to passing the Amendment abolishing slavery are the Copperhead Democrats of the House, but the background menace is the Confederate rebellion. There is only a single onscreen battle, but they loom over the Amendment due to many undecided voters' fear that abolishing slavery will escalate the war. Not until the end of the film does Lincoln meet their leadership, represented primarily by Vice President Alexander Stephens. President Jefferson Davis doesn't appear in the film at all.
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel has the Zigzag Party, a Fascist organization that seeks to take over Zubrowka during the 1930s. Big Bad Dmitri Desgoffe-und-Taxis is a supporter, but his Evil Plan proper is unconnected to them; even so, their rise provides a foreboding backdrop throughout the film. Which pays off when they come to the foreground at the end and cause the film's shocking and tragic ending by cold-bloodedly murdering Gustave.
  • Miami Vice has Arcangel de Jesus Montoya, the drug lord who's behind the neo-Nazis in Miami as well as Yero, who is the Big Bad.
  • Wild Wind has Hitler himself as the unseen Big Bad.
  • In Get Out, Roman Armitage was the creator of the brain transplant procedure that his descendants capture Chris Washington for, but being long dead he only appears on a video recording explaining, with copious Dissonant Serenity, the procedure to its unwilling participant. In the film's final twist, though, it turns out he is still around, having had his own brain transferred into the body of the family groundskeeper.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, we see that there is a French king who ruled his kingdom with an iron fist. Following his beloved wife's death, the king took his sweet son and raised him to be as arrogant and selfish through abuse, an act which eventually paid off when a curse struck a castle after the prince rudely denied shelter for a visiting enchantress, resulting the prince to become a beast and his servants to become household objects for the next couple of years. Needless to say, the king's personality reflects to that of Gaston (the Big Bad of the film).
  • Fate And The Furiousnote  has Cipher, an anarchist and hacker who is revealed to be directly behind the Big Bads of the 6th and 7th movie and indirectly behind the main antagonist of the fourth movie, plus the one inadvertently responsible for Deckard Shaw's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in the 7th. (Deckard also believes she was The Corrupter that lead his brother on the path he took.) But, she is never seen until this installment.
  • The first Sleepaway Camp film centers around a serial killer who only ended up as one because the killer's demented Aunt Martha forced Peter to live as his deceased sister Angela because she 'always wanted a daughter', soon after losing her and their father in a boating accident.
  • The Mummy Trilogy has Anubis saddled with this trope in the second movie. In the backstory, the Akkadian warrior known as the Scorpion King made a deal with Anubis for an unbeatable army that he could use to destroy his enemies in exchange of his soul. When he achieved just that, Anubis came knocking to collect the Scorpion King's soul and turned him into his servant. With this, the newly resurrected Imhotep seeks to destroy the Scorpion King so he could gain control of the Army of Anubis.
  • The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior had the evil goddess Astarte, who was worshiped by the main villain Sargon and provided him with his magical powers. Despite being far more powerful and dangerous than him, its Sargon who is the real target of Mathayus' revenge for his father and brother's murder.
  • The German movie La Colonia tells the story of a young woman who willingly joins "Colonia Dignidad" (Dinity Colony) in order to rescue her boyfriend who's held in the compound set up in a remote area of the Chilean Andes. The Big Bad is Paul "Pious" Schaefer, the leader of the Cult who preaches that the love between a man and a woman is wicked and sinful, but the love between man and child is Godly and pure. Schaefer is able to get away with his actions because his compound is also used for detaining disappeared political enemies of the Augusto Pinochet regime, making guns for the Chiliean military, and apparently testing chemical weapons.
  • The Devil's Double: Saddam Hussein, the dictator of Iraq, is treated this way. His Ax-Crazy son Uday is the real villain, but Saddam is making Uday's activities possible. In his few appearances he's always The Dreaded, including to Uday.
  • The Cabin in the Woods: The Director is the immediate Big Bad, and the Nebulous Evil Organization to which she belongs is implied to be the Greater Scope Villain to every other horror movie Big Bad ever; however, she only kills or tries to kill the main characters in order to placate The Ancient Ones, who will cause The End of the World as We Know It otherwise.
  • War for the Planet of the Apes: Though killed at the end of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Koba still casts a dark shadow over the film. The entire war between humans and apes that is occurring is all his doing. In addition, he is referenced numerous times as Caesar edges on the slippery slope himself. Caesar has visions at a few points in the film of Koba taunting him and his faltering moral high ground.


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