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Police Force

     The Cops as a Duo 
  • Dirty Cop: While not as bad as many examples of the trope, Somerset and Mills do resort to some slightly underhanded methods in their pursuit of Doe, such as illegally tracking Doe's reading habits (the film was made before The War on Terror made invasions of privacy like this the rule rather than the exception) or bribing a homeless woman to provide false witness in order to secure a warrant to search Doe's apartment.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: They never interrogate anyone jointly, but Somerset is very patient and soft-spoken, in contrast to Mills's more aggressive, volatile demeanour. This is particularly evident when they are driving John Doe to the site of the last two victims.
  • Old Cop, Young Cop: This trope was once called Somerset And Mills.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Mills and Somerset. The Blue is a fatherly mentor trying to harden the Red's heart to the harsh realities of life, and the young and emotional Red loses EVERYTHING to John Doe.
  • Salt and Pepper: Somerset (black) and Mills (white).


Det. Lt. William Somerset
"This isn't going to have a happy ending."
Played By: Morgan Freeman

"Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part."

  • Admiring the Abomination: Somerset doesn't quite 'admire' the killer, but he does recognize him as a Worthy Opponent who is not to be underestimated and ought to be treated with cautious respect.
  • Badass Bookworm: Proves this when he looks up anything covering the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • By-the-Book Cop: More inclined to think about the legal aspects than Mills.
  • Crapsack World: How Somerset sees the world around him. There isn't much in the way of evidence to prove him wrong.
  • Cultured Badass: Somerset is well-versed in the works of Dante and other renowned authors. Needless to say, he enjoys reading and prefers drinking wine.
  • Cultured Badass: Somerset is Doe's equal in his knowledge of literature (e.g. being well-versed in the works of Dante) and religious philosophy, and managing to be a good cop for as long as he has in that city surely qualifies him as a kind of badass, even if he never actually demonstrates it on-screen. Needless to say, he enjoys reading and prefers drinking wine.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: A retroactive example. Somerset explains to Mills that his whole life in the city gave him a pretty dark, pessimistic view on the world.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: From the starting of his pessimistic views of the world to how he convinced the woman carrying their child to get an abortion because he didn't want the child to grow up in a Crapsack World.
  • Deadpan Snarker: In a more subtle, dry, and restrained way than Mills.
  • Determined Defeatist: Where he is at the end of the film, deciding that the world being beyond saving is not an excuse to stop fighting for it.
  • Foil: To Mills who is a Hot-Blooded Manchild. Somerset is a calm professional who thinks before acting.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Played with in his backstory. He made his girlfriend get an abortion and remains a very moral character - but he also deeply regrets his choice.
  • Ironic Nickname: "Smiley" Somerset hardly ever does so.
  • I Work Alone: Justified; Somerset is days from retirement, so really doesn't have the inclination to work with an inexperienced homicide detective whose personality is so different from his own.
  • Knight in Sour Armour: Somerset is a pessimist but still a good man. Delivers the last line in the movie:
    Ernest Hemingway once wrote, "The world is a fine place, and worth fighting for." I agree with the second part.
  • Mysterious Past: How did he get such good connections to the FBI that he found out about the bureau using the library system to keep track of any potential criminal?
  • Nice Guy: He's a pessimist, but still a good man underneath it all.
  • Not So Different: From the killer. Both of them are intelligent, well-educated, and cultured, and are both intimately aware of just how much of a Crapsack World they live in. Where they differ is in their respective approaches to trying to improve the world.
  • Tuckerization: William Somerset is named after W. Somerset Maugham, as he was screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker's favourite author. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is mentioned in the movie.
  • Worthy Opponent: Somerset recognizes the killer as an intellectual equal, and the killer seems to think the same.


Det. David Mills
"Who knows? So many freaks out there doin' their little evil deeds they don't wanna do... 'The voices made me do it. My dog made me do it. Jodie Foster told me to do it.'"
Played By: Brad Pitt

"You want me to agree with you and you want me to say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're right, it's all fucked up, it's a fucking mess, we should all go live in a fuckin' log cabin." But I won't. I won't say that. I don't agree with you. I do not. I can't."

  • Blood Knight: Mills wants to be this way, which is why he got reassigned to the city. While he does become it by killing John Doe, it's poisonous and completely destroys him.
  • Book Dumb: Desperately needs Cliff's Notes to comprehend Dante.
  • Cowboy Cop: He breaks down Doe's door and bribes a woman to say she reported suspicious noises from inside the apartment. Deconstructed by the end: his aggression and impulsiveness leads to him playing straight into the villain's hands and ruining his life in the process.
  • Deadpan Snarker: And not that subtle about it, either.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Mills spends the majority of the film as a Wide-Eyed Idealist, only to lose it all when John Doe reveals to him that he has killed Mills's wife and unborn child.
  • Deuteragonist: He gets the second amount of screentime after Somerset.
  • Downer Ending: He becomes the seventh and final victim of John Doe for the sin of Wrath. He has lost his wife and his unborn child, and, with them, his hope for the future, and while the outcome of his trial is uncertain (the Captain assures Somerset that the department will do its best to protect him), his career is without a doubt over, even if only by choice.
  • Fatal Flaw: His Hair-Trigger Temper proves to be his undoing when John Doe kills Tracy in order to provoke Mills into wrath. It works.
  • Fate Worse than Death: John Doe seems to regard his ending as this. He's the only victim not killed by Doe.
  • Foil: To Somerset, who is a calm professional who thinks before acting. Mills is a Hot-Blooded Manchild.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Mills is very quick to anger and takes most things to heart which John Doe uses to manipulate him.
  • Hates Being Touched: By Somerset, anyway, during a really tense situation.
  • Henpecked Husband: His wife invites Somerset to dinner without asking him.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Owns two dogs he affectionately calls "the kids".
  • High-School Sweethearts: He was already in love with Tracy in high school.
  • Hot-Blooded: Which leads to his Hair-Trigger Temper.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As easily angered and snarky as he is, David is a good man at heart.
    • After bribing a homeless person to lie about calling the police about seeing suspicious behavior, he makes a point (while handing her the money) that she uses the cash to eat.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: David may be a hot-blooded, immature Cowboy Cop, but he correctly points out that Somerset's cynical attitude isn't much better than the apathetic attitude of the city that Somerset decries. He also shoots down John Doe's claims that Doe's actions will change the world, saying (probably correctly) Doe will end up "a T-shirt, a Movie of the Week, at best," and that Doe has delusions of grandeur.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Tends to rush into situations.
  • Manchild: Mills acts like a teenager's idea of a cop, being an angry swearing Leeroy Jenkins eager to pull his gun.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Mills may be a dedicated cop but he's also shown to be homophobic.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The inexperienced, short-tempered Red Oni to Somerset's wiser, cool-headed Blue Oni .
  • Salt and Pepper: The salt to Somerset's pepper.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Every other word is a curse, lending to his image as a Manchild and making him a good foil for Somerset.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: In the car at the end.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: He tends to believe that the world isn't as crappy as Somerset believes. He most definitely isn't by the end of the film.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: He thinks he's a fierce, moral cop who will eventually triumph over evil. Most of this is right, but evil destroys him rather than the other way around.
  • Wrath: Invoked by John Doe. At the end of the film, John Doe kills Tracy in order to provoke him into becoming a victim of this sin.

     Police Captain 

Police Captain
"Wake up, Glimmer Twins- we got a winner!"
Played By: R. Lee Ermey



Played By: John C. McGinley

  • Blood Knight: As Somerset notes, he and the rest of the SWAT team love their job.
  • Heroic BSoD: Witnesses the entire confrontation between Doe, Mills, and Somerset from a helicopter and is audibly horrified after Mills shoots Doe.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Says Victor, a paedarest and a drug dealer, deserved what he got in as many words.
  • Large Ham: He's all barking orders and yelling.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: While he doesn't swear quite as often as Mills, he curses heavily in most of his screen time.


John Doe

     John Doe 

John Doe

Click here to see John Doe's identity. 
"It's more comfortable for you to label me as insane."
Played By: Kevin Spacey

"We see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed...forever."

  • Ax-Crazy: Violent behaviour combined with a calm demeanor to create a very disturbing man.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Everything that happens goes according to plan, and he gets exactly what he wants without any karma biting back at him. Even his violent death is exactly what he wanted.
  • Bald of Evil: Has a shaved head and is an utterly loathsome monster.
  • Batman Gambit: Doe's entire goal is to kill based upon the seven deadly sins, and his entire plan hinges on proving himself guilty of the sin of envy by killing Mills's wife and unborn child, thus intending to make himself the sixth victim at the hands of a vengeful Mills. Somerset rightfully points out that Doe's plan is only successful if Mills kills him.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: John seems to have genuinely convinced himself that he's a noble crusader for morality instead of the twisted sadist he really is.
  • Berserk Button: Mills' suggestion that his victims count as "innocent" immediately sends the Soft-Spoken Sadist into a loud Motive Rant.
  • Big Bad: Of the entire film, of course.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: Arguably. The film, however, does go out of its way to point out that John Doe isn't completely insane - which is in some ways even more frightening than if he was.
  • The Chessmaster: Seriously. This guy can give Jigsaw and Hannibal Lecter a run for their money in this department.
  • The Chosen One: He believes he was chosen by God to carry out his killings to help cleanse the world of sin.
  • Creepy Monotone: Tends to speak in this manner most of the time. It's seriously unnerving.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Took Mills wife's head as a souvenir.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The murders he commits are all this.
  • The Cynic: He has a pretty dim view of humanity to say the least.
  • Deadpan Snarker: As befits a character played by Kevin Spacey. However, Doe's snark is much crueler and even nightmarish at times.
    Mills: I seem to remember us knocking on your door.
    John Doe: Oh, that's right. And I seem to remember breaking your face. You're only alive because I didn't kill you.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Tying in with his Creepy Monotone.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Is on a self-appointed Mission from God to torture and kill people he has decided aren't worthy of life to protest his misanthropic view of humanity. He also uses false modesty and claims he is unimportant immediately before proclaiming that his work will be studied and remembered forever.
  • Envy: Towards the end he admits that Envy is his own deadly sin, since he is jealous of Detective Mills' life, saying it is perfect, a life Doe could only dream of having. So he kills Mills' wife so Mills can become Wrath, the only remaining sin.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He attempts to invoke the Villain Has a Point trope by discussing how horrible his victims were but it falls flat as most of their supposed crimes (being overweight, being vain, working as a prostitute) are hardly the awful sins he makes them out to be and Doe is several magnitudes worse than any of them.
  • Evil Counterpart: For Somerset; the two are very well-read and believe that the world is an evil place, but have conflicting views on how to deal with it.
  • Evil Genius: He's very well-read in a variety of subjects, an exceptional planner and he's smart enough to evade capture right up until he turns himself in as well as keep all traces of his identity a secret.
  • Evil Gloating: He brags about taking Tracy's "pretty head".
  • Evil Sounds Deep: A demonic serial murderer with a deep and cold voice. Being played by Kevin Spacey, this shouldn't be a surprise.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Upon sensing that Mills is about to shoot him, Doe calmly closes his eyes before getting shot repeatedly by Mills, which is exactly what he planned for.
  • Faux Affably Evil: John is a very polite fellow despite being a Serial Killer, yet his civility is shallow and all it does is highlight how utterly creepy he is. He retains this tone all while gloating to Mills about the murder of Tracy and her unborn child.
  • Freudian Excuse: Averted in the film; John Doe's actions are not attributed to a past since he never gives one.
    • Played straight in the (non-canonical) comic books.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: He was just an average man with little to make him stand out before he embarked upon his killings.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: At the end of the film, he admits that he is jealous of Mills's average life. This leads him to murder Mills's wife, and this, in his eyes, makes him guilty of the sin of Envy. Of course, given his agenda, he may have exaggerated his envy just for that purpose.
  • Hannibal Lecture: "It's more comfortable for you to label me insane."
  • Hypocrite:
    • Let's see. He forces the Gluttony victim to eat to death, meaning he's partially responsible for the sin itself. The Greed victim is allegedly an Amoral Attorney, yet he employs one that actually comes across as smug and overstepping his legal boundaries. He also forces someone else to horrifically rape a woman to death, kills a completely innocent woman, and he sets himself up as the Envy victim in order to drive Mills to kill him. Meaning, even by his own logic, if we can call it that, he's damned to hell (not like he doesn't deserve it considering his atrocities, though).
    • When he justifies his murder of the Greed victim by saying he helped get rapists and murderers back on the streets, Mills points out he is a murderer himself but Doe is so wiled up in his monologue that he rolls right past it, seemingly oblivious. There's also the implication that he raped Tracy Mills, going by his "tried to play husband" statement.
    • He mutilates Pride's face just for taking some value in her own beauty. But given the nature of his notebooks wherein he rants about how pathetic the rest of humanity is in comparison to himself, even vomiting on a random pedestrian just for annoying him with small talk, and bragging to the detectives that his murders will be "puzzled over and studied and followed forever", he proves that his vanity exceeds any that he perceives in others.
    • His very status as a sadistic serial killer “punishing” those he has distaste for shows he is a very wrathful man.
  • Hate Sink: His horrifically disturbing crimes, delusional ideology and lack of redeeming qualities are meant to drive home what a loathsome, vile, and repulsive lowlife he is.
  • Insane Troll Logic: He has an...interesting sense of morality. He views the world as a rotten cesspool of sin that needs to be cleansed. To accomplish this task, he brutally and sadistically murders people for "crimes" ranging from being a drug dealernote  to simply being obese and he claims to only care about his work and message, obscuring all traces of his true identity, yet openly brags about how his work will be studied and copied for years to come, altering the world. He also murders a defense attorney whom he claims put murderers and rapists back on the street, yet uses one just as amoral to negotiate his sentence, and he ignores the fact that he himself is a murderer, forcing a man to rape a woman to death, and that he brutally murdered Tracy, who was completely innocent. It's fair to say that John's mindset is pretty twisted.
  • Institutional Apparel: He's wearing a bright orange prison suit for the final act.
  • I Reject Your Reality: Leading to his insane "sinners must be punished" mentality.
  • Karmic Death: Gets shot to death by Mills for murdering his wife and unborn child. However, this is exactly what Doe planned for in order for Mills to become the seventh and final sin Wrath.
  • Kick the Dog: What he does to Tracy, an innocent young woman. That's low, even for him.
    • He literally kicks the Gluttony victim in his grossly distended stomach, causing him to internally hemorrhage and die (whilst throwing up as a result of the blow).
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: He certainly seems to believe this is the case for his crimes, that his cruelty is acceptable because his targets were deserving. But it's clear he's just trying to justify his actions to himself.
  • Knight Templar: Somerset doesn't doubt he believed in all his 'preaching'.
  • Lack of Empathy: He never express an even slight amount of remorse for what he's done. The fact that he claims that his victims were bad people is just an excuse.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: His removal of fingerprints by shaving the skin off his fingertips. Shows up at the police station near the end of the film with his hands covered in his own blood.
    • Just imagine John Doe fingerprinting "HELP ME" with Victor's severed hand.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He manipulates everything and everyone in the last act of the film perfectly.
  • Meaningful Rename: He takes on the name "John Doe" to fit his obscured identity as he wants all the focus to be on his actions. "John" is also a Biblical name that means "graced by God".
  • Misanthrope Supreme: He clearly despises humanity, believing the only way someone could honestly say his victims were even remotely innocent despite their deadly sins was if the world was really that shitty.
    Somerset (reading one of John Doe's journals): "What sick ridiculous puppets we are and what gross little stage we dance on. What fun we have dancing and fucking. Not a care in the world. Not knowing that we are nothing. We are not what was intended."
  • Mission from God:
    Doe: Don't ask me to pity those people. I don't mourn them any more than I do the thousands that died at Sodom and Gomorrah.
    Somerset: Is that to say, John, that what you were doing was God's good work?
    Doe: The Lord works in mysterious ways.
    • Somerset points out that John Doe enjoys his work too much to have been 'forced' by God to do it.
  • Mr. Smith: Obscures all traces of his real identity and uses the name "John Doe" as it's his message that's supposed to be important, not himself.
  • Motive Rant: He launches into a truly epic one when Mills says that his victims were innocent:
    Doe: Innocent? Is that supposed to be funny? An obese man, a disgusting man who could barely stand up, a man who if you saw him on the street, you'd point him out to your friends so that they could join you in mocking him, a man, who if you saw him while you were eating, you wouldn't be able to finish your meal. After him, I picked the lawyer, and I know you both must have been secretly thanking me for that one. This is a man who dedicated his life to making money by lying with every breath that he could muster to keeping murderers and rapists on the streets!...A woman, so ugly on the inside she couldn't bear to go on living if she couldn't be beautiful on the outside. A drug dealer, a drug-dealing pederast, actually! And let's not forget the disease-spreading whore! Only in a world this shitty could you even try to say these were innocent people and keep a straight face. But that's the point: we see a deadly sin on every street corner, in every home, and we tolerate it. We tolerate it because it's common, it's trivial. We tolerate it morning, noon, and night. Well, not anymore. I'm setting the example. What I've done is going to be puzzled over and studied and followed… forever.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: His own death is a part of his plan, and comprises one of the seven sins. He is confident that his killings will inspire a great deal of fascination, study, and, ultimately, a following, and that his influence will change the world. Mills counters, more plausibly, that John Doe's killings will only inspire a TV movie and a T-shirt logo, a la Charles Manson.
  • Narcissist: He has an absurdly inflated opinion about himself, believing himself to be leagues above everybody who crosses his path.
  • Necessarily Evil: Thinks his actions are this.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: An unnaturally calm, soft-spoken man whose demeanor doesn't even hide the deeply hateful murderer underneath, John Doe is one of the most disturbing serial killers in film.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: All his talk about cleansing the world of sin is just an excuse he gives himself. He does what he does because he's a sadistic monster.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: None of his crimes are ever shown on screen, only the aftermath. Probably for the best.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: Exactly how Doe survives, let alone funds his killings, is a mystery given the extent he has gone to bury his past. He has no issue renting out multiple apartments, filling his home with equipment for his killings, buying hundreds of journals, bribing cops for information and paying five-hundred dollars to a delivery driver. The Captain notes he must be independently wealthy but there's never any explanation in the film as to how since there are no employment records.
  • Ominous Mundanity: The name John Doe.
  • Poetic Serial Killer: Chooses victims he views as guilty of one of the Seven Deadly Sins, then kills them in a manner that he thinks punishes the particular sin of which each is guilty.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Implicitly targets Gould for his Jewishness (hence the "pound of flesh" comment on the murder site) and rapes (by proxy) a woman to death for being a "disease-spreading whore."
  • Psychotic Smirk: In the comic adaptations, an example of this appears on his face when Eli Gould is (reluctantly) going through with cutting into himself to fulfill the "pound of flesh" 'penance' for his greed.
  • Red Is Violent: Spends most of his runtime in an dark orange jumpsuit.
  • Ridiculously Average Guy: There's nothing about John's appearance to hint at what a monster he is.
  • Room Full of Crazy: His apartment is filled with instruments of murder, religious imagery hanging everywhere (including a neon cross over his bed), and shelves of journals containing his unfiltered thoughts.
  • Sadist: It's very clear this is his main motivation for what he does, regardless of how much he claims otherwise. He himself admits that "there was nothing wrong with a man taking pleasure in his work." He also seems to be a fan of the trope namer.
  • The Scourge of God: What he believes himself to be. Doesn't stop him from enjoying it, however.
  • Serial Killer: Well, clearly. Technically, he directly murders Gluttony and Tracy Mills, murders Greed and Lust by proxy, and tortures Sloth unto the very brink of death. He also mutilates Pride, spurring her to kill herself, and is responsible for his own murder.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Played Up to Eleven in the comic book prequels.
  • Shrouded in Myth: Everything about Doe is a complete mystery.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Kevin Spacey deliberately avoided doing promotion for the film, and his name was left out of the opening credits and his voice even replaced in trailers and promotions in order to keep John Doe’s identity a secret until he is revealed.
  • Slasher Smile: He displays some truly unnerving grins after turning himself in.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: As noted above, he has a very high opinion of what he imagines his legacy will be. This is despite the fact that he's a low-level killer working in a nondescript city and whose crimes, while certainly shocking and brutal, hardly took much in the way of intelligence or cunning. John imagines he's a revolutionary rather than the sadist he is.
  • The Sociopath: Has an Old Testament outlook on humanity with zero compassion for his victims. He believes himself to be the start of a revolution rather than a depraved, delusional sadist who decided to get creative. And he manipulates people either by his Criminal Mind Games or by threats of force.
  • Soft-Spoken Sadist: He has a calm, unassuming voice but as Somerset notes, he enjoys hurting people.
  • The Spook: We learn almost nothing about him. Not his backstory, not even his real name, just his message.
  • Straw Nihilist: Being a Misanthrope Supreme whose final gambit is a Strike Me Down with All of Your Hatred! makes him this by default. Also, one of the journals in his apartment perfectly illustrates his pessimism.
    Somerset: What sick ridiculous puppets we are and what gross little stage we dance on. What fun we have dancing and fucking. Not a care in the world. Not knowing that we are nothing. We are not what was intended.
  • Suddenly SHOUTING!: When he turns himself in.
    Doe: Detective.
    Somerset: After this I'm gone.
    Doe: Detective.
    Mills: No big surprise.
  • Suicide by Cop: He successfully manipulates Mills into murdering him.
  • Tautological Templar: He thinks he's a man fighting for a better world when he's really just a sadist trying to justify his actions.
  • Technical Pacifist: Apart from 'Envy' (and possibly 'Gluttony'), John Doe does not actually *kill* any of the victims himself. He makes them take their own lives, leaves them for dead, or forces someone else to do the killing. Even 'Wrath' was his own death at the hands of Mills.
    • Averted with Pride, since he did mutilate her. Nor does he object to his some of his other murders being described as torture.
  • Thanatos Gambit: His own death is the finale of his plan, comprising the last two sins. He himself becomes the Envy victim, being shot to death by Mills for murdering Mills's wife out of jealousy. Consequently, Mills, lashing out in righteous vengeance, has lost his wife, broken the law, and will be sent to prison, thus becoming the Wrath victim.
    Somerset: David. If you kill him, he will win.
  • Theme Serial Killer: His crimes are based on invoking and "punishing" the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: He's an average-looking guy whom you wouldn't think twice about if you passed him in the street, yet he's also a truly monstrous serial killer.
  • Villain Protagonist: Is this in the comics.
  • Walking Spoiler: His appearance in the film’s climax—both the actor portraying him and his actions while on-screen—make him this.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: In his own mind, at least. He's completely prepared to die for his dreadful plan to succeed in full.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's an avid reader of Dante, Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Aquinas and the Marquis de Sade and uses them as inspiration for his crimes. However, his understanding of them is surface-level at best, and despite (supposedly) being motivated by religious fanaticism, he only cites the most well-known Old Testament passages, such as Sodom and Gomorrah. For once, Mills wasn't entirely wrong about him.
    Mills: He's a nut-bag! Just because the fucker's got a library card doesn't make him Yoda!
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Completely averted in the film, but played straight in the graphic novel, where his early life is very much what you'd expect from a serial killer.
  • Worthy Opponent: He seems to regard Mills and Somerset as this, telling them on multiple occasions how much he admires them. The effect comes across as creepy more than anything else.
  • Would You Like to Hear How They Died?: He taunts Mills about how he killed Tracy by beheading her and thus also killing her unborn child. It's also implied, given his statement that he "tried to play husband", that he raped her first.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: Mills and Somerset turning up at his apartment is unexpected and forces him to change his plans, but he adapts quickly and even incorporates both detectives into his Evil Plan.


     In General 
  • Asshole Victim: According to the villain. His victims are chosen based on what he considers to be their (unforgivably) negative traits, although their "sins" range from being morbidly obese to being a drug-dealing pederast. The movie does not contain any indication that the victims for gluttony, lust, and pride were bad people in any way, unless you take the villain's "From a Certain Point of View" for gospel — or share his hatred of lawyers, obese people, sex-workers, and vain women. The Sloth victim in particular is a known drug dealer and child molester. His punishment is so horrifying, however, that it's hard to say he deserved it.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Many of John Doe's victims. There's the obese man forced to eat until he's so full that his stomach fatally ruptures when kicked, the lawyer forced to carve off a pound of his own flesh and bleed out, the drug dealing child molester tied to a bed for an entire year whose mind and body have withered away to the point that the only thing separating him from a corpse is a pulse, the model forced to choose between a drug overdose or calling for medical help after her nose is cut off, and the prostitute forced to have sex with a man with a knife attached to a strap-on.
  • Malevolent Mutilation: John Doe seems to delight in invoking this with his murders.
    • The Gluttony victim is forced to eat spaghetti at gunpoint until he's so full that one swift kick to his abdomen causes his stomach to rupture, killing him almost instantly.
    • The Sloth victim is tied to his bed for an entire year, during which his body and mind atrophy beyond repair, but he is given just enough medical attention to keep him physically alive, and his hand is amputated for use in leaving a clue that links him to the Greed murder. By the time he is discovered, he has long since chewed off his own tongue.
    • The Pride victim has her nose cut off (to spite her face) and has a bottle of sleeping pills glued to one hand and a phone to the other, giving her a choice between committing suicide by overdose or calling for medical attention but living with a permanent and obvious disfigurement. She chooses the former.
    • The Lust victim is forced to have sex with a terrified man wearing a strap-on with a knife attached to it, mutilating her genitalia beyond all recognition before she dies from massive blood loss.
    • Just imagine John Doe fingerprinting "HELP ME" with Victor's severed hand.
  • Sadistic Choice: The beautiful woman gets this: death or disfigurement. Many of the other victims are similarly forced to do horrible things at gunpoint.
  • Seven Deadly Sins: The central theme of Doe's choices of victims and how he "punishes" them.
    • Gluttony: A man whose sole crime was being morbidly obese. Doe forces him to eat a massive amount of spaghetti before kicking him in the abdomen, causing his stomach to burst.
    • Greed: A lawyer who got criminals acquitted for profit. Doe forces him to cut a "pound of flesh" off of himself. He slices off one of his lovehandles and bleeds to death.
    • Sloth: A man who squandered his potential by engaging in drug dealing and pedophilia. Doe chains him to a bed for an entire year, taking care of him and his affairs just enough that he doesn't die or get discovered. He becomes skeletal, deformed, and insane, and dies of shock in the hospital.
    • Lust: A woman who happened to be a sex worker.note  Doe forces a man to rape her to death with a bladed strap-on.
    • Pride: A beautiful model. Doe severs her nose and then leaves her with a phone and a bottle of sleeping pills, giving her the choice to call for help and live disfigured or commit suicide. She chooses the latter.
    • Envy: John Doe himself, who murdered Tracy Mills because he was jealous of her husband's normal life. As part of his plan, he is shot to death by Detective Mills.
    • Wrath: Detective Mills, who was quick to anger and killed John Doe, an unarmed prisoner, in a rage for killing his wife. Having already lost his wife and unborn child, he will likely lose his job and be traumatized for the rest of his life. Given the circumstances, he's not likely to go to prison, but there's no guarantee.



Played By: Bob Mack

  • Balloon Belly: Played for Horror. The victim is forced to eat spaghetti at gunpoint until he can't take it anymore. Then the killer kicks him and his stomach ruptures.
  • Belly Mouth: The cover of the Comic-Book Adaptation's first issue features him with a massive fanged maw running across his stomach.
  • Character Death: One of Doe's victims.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: What Doe put him through was horrific, and all the more so given how long it went on for: as if force-feeding the poor bastard to the point of physical exhaustion wasn't bad enough, Doe ran out of ingredients halfway through the fatal feast, and actually went to the store to pick up more supplies just so he could continue torturing him.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Doe keeps several empty cans of spaghetti sauce to memorialize the man's torture.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: He dies by having his stomach burst open from the inside.
  • Death by Gluttony: Enforced by Doe. He is forced at gunpoint to eat spaghetti until he passes out, at which point the killer kicks his stomach and it ruptures on the inside.
  • Fan Disservice: The morbidly-obese victim is naked on the autopsy table.
  • Fatal Flaw: The comic reveals that the victim couldn't turn away food. John Doe exploited this to trick him into eating a laced pizza.
  • Fat Bastard: Invoked by John Doe but ultimately averted. There is no indication that he was a bad person. The Comic-Book Adaptation reveals that he was a quiet man with major self-esteem issues - one who genuinely wanted to turn his life around but didn't know how.
  • Force Feeding: The crux of his torture at the hands of Doe, being forced to scarf down plate after plate of spaghetti - hands free - until he starts passing out. The comic expands on this treatment by showing that Doe also went so far as to shove a few forkfuls into the victim's mouth... complete with a stray cockroach.
  • Gag Penis: It's easy to miss since it's never pointed out. Fincher said in a commentary track that he felt bad for the guy who had to wear all the hot, heavy Gluttony prosthetics, so he figured they could at least give him a huge package.
  • No Dead Body Poops: Averted. According to the police officers who found him, he'd been sitting in his own piss and shit for several hours by the time Mills arrived - their first good clue that the victim was dead.
  • No Name Given: Only in additional materials he is given a name. Two, actually: Peter Eubanks in the Novelization, and Peter Eugene in the Graphic Novel.
  • Posthumous Character: While none of Doe's victims are actually seen in the process of being killed, Gluttony was dead before the film begins.
  • The Shut-In: Judging by the state of his home, Somerset speculates he was a bit of a shut-in.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: The comic reveals that Doe was able to subdue him by pretending to be a lost pizza deliveryman, trusting that the victim wouldn't be able to resist the chance to take the pizza off his hands; unfortunately for him, the pizza was laced with sedatives.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: In the comic book adaption, a huge plume of vomit shoots out of his mouth when Doe fatally kicks him.
  • Weight Woe: Played for drama. According to the comics, he was a deeply depressed individual who had seen several family members die from obesity-related disorders and hated himself for not being able to change his ways, lamenting the fact that no matter how much he ate, he still felt empty.


Greed (Eli Gould)

Played By: Gene Borkan

  • Amoral Attorney: According to John Doe, anyway; we know little about him as a person. The comic books elaborate further on this by demonstrating that Gould is indeed a greedy, self-absorbed scumbag with no interest in anyone who couldn't line his pockets immediately. Doe himself actually went so far as to test this tendency by posing as a potential client, only to be turned away as soon as the words "payment plan" were used.
    • It's never actually shown if Gould was this trope or not. Doe says that he thinks Mills and Somerset were secretly happy he was dead, but that could just be him assuming that two cops would hate any defense attorney.
  • Asshole Victim: Left ambiguous in the film, confirmed in the comic books - in which he was captured by Doe some time after presiding over the defense of a rapist.
  • Character Death: One of John Doe's victims.
  • Creepy Souvenir: A set of Gould's bloodstained legal textbooks are found in Doe's apartment alongside other trophies from his victims.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: As the comics demonstrate, Gould might be a heartless defender of rapists and slumlords, but even he seems disgusted by having to deal with Theodore "Victor" Allen. At one point during their meeting in "Sloth," Victor asks what a pederast is; Gould wearily replies "It's what you are, Mr. Allen," and exits - leaving his client with the bar tab.
  • Greedy Jew: The Greed victim is an amoral defence attorney named Eli Gould, an unambiguously Jewish name. However, his ethnicity is never explicitly pointed out. Our only clue to John Doe's implied anti-Semitism is the "One pound of flesh, no more, no less..." note left at the crime scene, a reference to Shylock's punishment for Antonio in The Merchant of Venice.
  • Ironic Hell: During the "Sloth" issue, Victor hallucinates Gould in hell, forced to push a massive boulder alongside other boulder-wielding sinners - the classic ironic punishment for the greedy as envisioned by Dante.
  • Lack of Empathy: In the comic book adaptation anyway. At one point, he's confronted by an impoverished woman being thrown out of her apartment by his current client, demanding to know where her children are supposed to sleep; Gould's only reply is a dead-eyed stare and a mutter of "Remove your hand from my coat."
  • Sadistic Choice: He was forced at gunpoint to extract a pound of flesh from his body, and eventually chose one of his love handles. As a result, he bled to death.


Sloth (Theodore 'Victor' Allen)

Played By: Michael Reid MacKay

  • Addled Addict: The comic books demonstrate that Victor was headed in this direction by the time Doe got a hold of him; already subtly pockmarked by years of barely-functional drug use, he was too spaced-out to recognize that taking a strange man home with him might be a bad idea...
  • An Arm and a Leg: John Doe chopped off Victor's hand at the wrist and used it to plant fingerprints on a wall in Eli Gould's office.
  • And I Must Scream: Spends an entire year strapped to a bed, drugged into semi-consciousness and unable to speak; though Doe's photographs show Victor with his mouth gaping open as if to scream, no complaints over noise are ever issued by the landlord, meaning that he couldn't even call for help. Eventually, he's able to let out a cough and gasps for air, but by then, the damage to his brain and body is irreversible.
  • Asshole Victim: Downplayed. While the other victims are debatable at best, Victor was indeed a drug-dealing pederast who'd also dabbled in armed robbery and assault. Nobody mourned his death, least of all the cops who found him, though they still found what happened to him to be completely horrific, even for someone like him. And to their horror, he wasn't quite dead yet.
  • Auto Cannibalism: Over the course of the torture he was subjected to, Victor apparently chewed off and swallowed his own tongue - due to muscle spasms, because he was desperate for solid food after months of intravenous sustenance, or simply as an attempt to commit suicide.
  • Body Horror: Victor could be the poster boy for this trope; horrifically emaciated after a full year of paralysis, he's covered in bedsores and wallowing in his own filth... and yet he's somehow still alive. Worse still, photographs left at the scene demonstrate Victor's gradual deterioration over the course of the year, his features visibly withering as drugs, starvation, and bedsores gradually eat away at him.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: Played for horror. In keeping with the 'sloth' punishment, Victor was not allowed to leave his bed for any reason, and was thus forced to simply soil himself - and lie there in it. Suffice to say, thanks to the smells of excrement and putrefaction, Victor smelled absolutely putrid by the time his year of hell came to an end, to the point that Doe had to cover the apartment in air fresheners just so he wouldn't arouse suspicion; when California finally whips the bed sheet off him, the stench is so horrendous that even Mills and Somerset are disgusted.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: After a year at the mercy of John Doe, Hell would probably be a welcome escape. A good part of this was drug-inflicted... except for the part when Doe started severing limbs.
  • Creepy Souvenir: His severed hand is found in a jar of formaldehyde at John Doe's apartment, as part of a collection of trophies. As Doe spends the rest of the movie fleeing the police, this is the last souvenir he's able to collect and keep.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: He goes through absolute agony on his way to the afterlife.
  • Cruel Mercy: Doe did everything in his power to keep Victor from dying until the very end, even dosing him with antibiotics to prevent his bedsores from getting infected. He's not even dead when the police find him.
  • Disease Bleach: Prior to his capture, Victor was dark-haired. Following a year of torture, what little hair he still possesses is now tinged a sickly yellowish-white.
  • Driven to Suicide: Chewed off his own tongue, likely in an effort to commit suicide.
  • Empty Shell: After a full year spent being regularly drugged, bound to a bed, and wasting away into a husk of a person, Victor is barely capable of screaming in agony; his doctor claims that his brain has been reduced to "mush," and that he wouldn't be able to speak even if he hadn't chewed off his own tongue.
  • Fate Worse than Death: He goes through an entire year of paralyzed suffering (e.g., numerous bedsores forming, his body atrophying into a corpse-like state), various drugs being injected as sustenance, and amputation, and doesn't even get the relief of death. The novelization mentions that he died a couple of days after being admitted to a hospital.
  • Faux Death: Just as the detectives are starting to relax, he wakes up and scares everyone to death.
  • Frame-Up: He's finally discovered when his fingerprints are found at the scene of the Greed murder, briefly including him on the list of possible suspects. It's not until the police actually find Victor's body, minus one hand, and realize that Doe was just stringing them along.
  • Getting High on Their Own Supply: A drug-dealer by trade, the comics demonstrate that Victor definitely isn't above using his own product, to the point that Doe is able to recognize four distinctive signs of long-term addiction just by looking at him - including the pockmarks from crystal meth, speed-induced deterioration of bone mass, the erosion of nasal cartilage due to cocaine, and the needle scars from heroin use. For good measure, crime scene photographs reveal that Victor's apartment is cluttered with what have to be several months worth of drug paraphernalia, from crackpipes to used syringes.
  • Mushroom Samba: According to the comics, Victor was subjected to this when Doe gave him a spiked heroin injection, sending him on a hallucinogenic journey to hell. By all appearances, he spent the remainder of his life in this state.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: The state John Doe leaves him in; he's so gaunt and ravaged with bedsores that the police initially mistake him for a corpse. It's not until Victor lets out a cough and several gasps for air that they realize that he's still alive.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Averted. Just before Victor awakens, SWAT team leader California says that he 'got what he deserved'. Even Dr. Beardsley says he "still has Hell to look forward to."
  • Orgy of Evidence: Doe went out of his way to take samples of Victor's hair, fingernails, urine and stool, along with photographs of the victim's horrific deterioration, just so the police could have enough evidence of what happened and how long it went on for. However, this isn't a prelude to a setup, but - as Mills puts it - a sign that Doe is toying with them.
  • Slime Ball: The comic book adaptation shows that, in life, Victor was an oily, ingratiating scumbag that few people could stand to be around for any length of time. Even his lawyer seemed genuinely irritated with him.
  • Technically a Smile: Photos discovered at the scene of the crime reveal that, three days prior, Victor's torture had left his face frozen in a particularly agonized-looking grin. Thanks to all the drugs in his system, it's doubtful he was even able to control his facial muscles, and it only looks all the more disturbing given that his gums have started to recede, making his teeth look longer.
  • Tongue Trauma: He chewed off his tongue long ago.
  • Younger Than They Look: Is actually somewhere in his twenties or thirties, but after all the torture he's been forced to endure, he resembles a feeble old man.



Played By: Cat Mueller

  • Cruel and Unusual Death: She's given possibly the most gruesome death in the whole film.
  • Death by Sex: Invoked. There is a blade and a sex toy and... well, best not to dwell on it.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: John Doe seems to have chosen her at random solely because she was a prostitute.
  • Groin Attack: Victim of a fatal one.
  • No Name Given: We never find out her name.
  • Out with a Bang: Because her killer is forced to wear a strap-on blade while raping her, resulting in her organs being mutilated to the point of her bleeding out.
  • Rape by Proxy: Doe forces one of her clients to have sex with her at gunpoint.


Pride (Rachel Shade)

Played By: Heidi Schantz

  • Asshole Victim: In the comics, she was definitely a nasty piece of work, neglecting her daughter and treating her underlings like shit.
  • Bandaged Face: Found in this condition, having been brutally mutilated by Doe.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Definitely Doe's perspective. In the comics, she's revealed to have been a beautiful model who was determined to make the lives of everyone around her into a living hell, relying on her looks and the status she earned as a result of them to escape repercussions.
  • Character Death: One of Doe's victims, of course.
  • Death by Disfigurement: Invoked with the victim, who killed herself.
    Dr. O'Neill: He cut off her nose.
    Somerset: To spite her face.
  • Driven to Suicide: John Doe cuts off her nose and glues a phone to one hand and sleeping pills to the other, offering her the Sadistic Choice of calling for help (but having to live with her disfigurement) or killing herself. As proof of her vanity, she chooses the latter.
  • Empathy Doll Shot: Found lying in bed with a teddy bear by her side. The comics reveal that it actually belonged to her daughter.
  • Facial Horror: Nose severed by John Doe, before being bandaged up and given the option of death or life spent in ugliness.
  • Fatal Flaw: Her vanity proved to be her undoing.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Invoked. The victim prefers committing suicide than having to live disfigured without her nose.
  • Nasal Trauma: Nose cut off by John Doe.
  • No Name Given: Subverted. While her name is never spoken in the film, the bottle of medications she used to commit suicide with has her name Rachel Shade written on it.
  • Parental Neglect: In the comics, she barely gives enough of of a damn to dismiss her daughter from her presence.
  • Red Shirt: She receives considerably less focus than Gluttony, Greed, Sloth and Lust, and her scene is quickly overshadowed by the Envy/Wrath climax of the film.
  • Suicidal Sadistic Choice: Doe disfigures a beautiful but vain woman, then gives her the choice: sleeping pills to kill herself or a phone to call for an ambulance. We figure out what choice she made as the police are examining her corpse.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Has her face mutilated and nose cut off by John Doe.



Theresa 'Tracy' Mills
"I hate this city."
Played By: Gwyneth Paltrow

"I can't be a burden- especially now. I know I'll get used to things. I guess I wanted to know what someone who lives here thinks."

  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: She begs John Doe to spare her and her unborn child. It doesn't work.
  • Decapitation Presentation: Averted. Her head is cut off, but only Somerset sees it. The viewers don't.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Tracy considers getting a secret abortion because she doesn't want her child to grow in a Crapsack World. She probably decided to keep it as she begs for her unborn child's life when John Doe is about to kill her.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: She's blonde and a fairly likable character in the film.
  • High-School Sweethearts: She was already in love with Mills in high school.
  • Killed Offscreen: By John Doe, right before he turned himself into the police, in fact.
  • Morality Chain: Tracy is one of the few people Mills isn't a jerk to. When he finds out that John Doe killed her, Mills shoots him.
  • Nice Girl: One of the most decent, polite characters in the film. Despite a minor moment of insensitiveness (asking Somerset why isn't he married soon after meeting him and inviting him to dinner without asking Mills), she's a friendly person overall.
  • Off with His Head!: Gets decapitated by Doe in order to goad Mills into shooting him to death.
  • Stepford Smiler: She plays up the optimistic housewife role when her husband is around, because she knows how stressful and demoralizing his job can be. But she later meets with Somerset at a diner and confesses to hating the city, and is unsure if she wants to bring a baby into such a Crapsack World.
  • Stuffed into the Fridge: Gets killed by John Doe in order to torment Mills.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Probably the kindest character in the movie, she dies a brutal and horrifying death at John Doe's hands.


District Attorney Martin Talbot
"This will be the very definition of swift justice."

  • Deadpan Snarker: He has some of the best lines despite his minimal appearances.
  • Deal with the Devil: At least in his view, that's what agreeing to John Doe's demands (via his lawyer) amounts to. But he and the police do so in order to discover the location of the last two victims.

     Man in Massage Parlor Booth
"But that's life."
Played By: Michael Massee

  • Being Evil Sucks: He hates life as a pimp and the atrocities he witnesses, but he doesn't see any way out of it.
  • Guttural Growler: Speaks in a very gravelly voice.
  • No Name Given: He is never identified, and the credits only identify him as 'Man in Massage Parlor Booth'.

     Crazed Man in Massage Parlor 

Crazed Man in Massage Parlor
"He had a gun! He made me do it!"
Played By: Leland Orser

The john who was forced to kill Lust.

  • Heroic BSoD: After John Doe forces him (at gunpoint) to rape the Lust victim to death, he is left traumatized and descends into deranged rambling at the end of his interrogation.
  • Madness Mantra: Has a couple.
    Please help me ... please help me ... please help me ...
  • No Name Given: In the exact same manner as the Man in Massage Parlor Booth.


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