Follow TV Tropes


Evil Cannot Comprehend Good / Live-Action Films

Go To

    open/close all folders 

     James Bond 
James Bond: This is a recurring problem for many Bond villains in the movies — because they're criminally insane megalomaniacs and psychopaths who think they're Well Intentioned Extremists and Knight Templars, so when they do a Motive Rant about their Evil Plan, it quickly becomes clear that they're just talking about themselves and their selfishness. They're using Psychological Projection to justify themselves and their causes to 007 while mocking Bond, only for 007 to make a sarcastic but highly accurate remark about their insanity, angering them. For example:
  • Dr. No: Dr. No explains his motive to join SPECTRE, claiming that it's led by geniuses, rudely dismissing 007 as a "stupid policeman", only for Bond to correct him that SPECTRE is actually led by "criminal brains."
  • The Man with the Golden Gun: Francisco Scaramanga attempts to invoke the Not So Different card on Bond, sardonically mocking that he only works for "peanuts, a hearty well-done from Her Majesty the Queen, and a pittance of a pension," only for 007 to shut him down by telling that he's full of a certain "four-letter word."
  • Live and Let Die: When asked by Solitare about Kananga/Mr. Big's death, 007 quips that he had an over-inflated opinion of himself.
  • For Your Eyes Only: In the opening, Ernst Stavro Blofeld pathetically tries to offer Bond a delicatessen in stainless steel in an attempt to be let go, but 007 won't have any and drops him down a smokestack, killing him for good.
  • GoldenEye: When Alec Trevelyan/Janus rants how he plans to steal from the Bank of England and cover it up with an EMP blast from his Kill Sat as part of his revenge against the British government for having his parents killed, Bond simply states that it still doesn't justify his crimes by calling him a "common thief", which does infuriate Trevelyan.
  • Die Another Day: Colonel Tan-Sun Moon/Gustav Graves attempts to explain his Evil Plan to his father General Moon, telling how the Kill Sat he obtained could be used to destroy the Korean Demilitarized Zone, allowing renegade North Korean soldiers to invade and occupy South Korea. But his father, who had hopes of having a peaceful reunion of the two Koreas and hoped his son would act as a bridge between North Korea and the West, simply disowns him by telling that his son died the day he plunged into the waterfall, having realized the monster his son has now become. This causes Graves/Moon to kill him out of anger.
  • Spectre:

     DC Universe 
  • Batman:
  • Green Lantern: What ultimately brings Parallax down. Because he feeds off fear, he believes courage means having no fear whatsoever. He assumes Hal Jordan will fall because he has fear in him. But real courage is about not letting fear take control, which is why Parallax underestimates Hal and is unable to feed off him.
  • Superman:
    • In Superman II, General Zod and Ursa assume Supes is protecting the humans because they are his pets.
    • As in the comics, Lex Luthor has this going on twice:
      • In Superman: The Movie, when Ms. Teschmacher asked if he thinks that Superman is the real deal, Luthor replies that if he is, he's not from Earth. Granted, Superman is a Human Alien, but it does show that Luthor doesn't believe anyone on Earth could be as selfless as Superman.
      • This is his whole reason for his hatred of Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice: he was abused as a child, and prayed to God for it to stop, only for it to continue, leading him to conclude that either God Is Evil or doesn't exist. Naturally, he views Superman's mere existence as an affront to his worldview.
  • Ares from Wonder Woman (2017) is adamant that Humans Are the Real Monsters and only sees them as an Always Chaotic Evil race. His absolute refusal to see any good in humanity goes so far that he killed the other gods for not siding with him, and ultimately snaps and attempts to kill Diana as well when he fails to convince her. He even twists Steve Trevor's Heroic Sacrifice by saying that Steve abandoned her, even though it was to save countless lives. When she points out that Humans Are Flawed but try to do better, he has no argument other than to call her a liar and press his attack.

     Star Wars 
  • Star Wars:
    • Attack of the Clones: The Evilutionary Biologist Kaminoans cannot understand why Jango would want an unaltered son to raise.
    • A New Hope: Alderaan gets destroyed by Grand Moff Tarkin as a warning to star systems thinking of opposing the Empire or sympathizing with the Rebel Alliance. It has the opposite effect, making many systems more sympathetic to the Rebellion, and in the expanded universe, it even sparked a mass defection by Alderaan-born Imperial officers. Leia even told him "The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers..." Of course, he wasn't expecting the Death Star, whose power he was using Alderaan as a demonstration for, to be destroyed shortly afterward.
    • Return of the Jedi:
      • Emperor Palpatine's arrogance and relentless self-centeredness blind him to the idea that Luke would show mercy and redeem his father instead of co-ruling the Galaxy — with someone he is destined to overthrow in due time, no less — causing his carefully-laid plans to fail. The idea that Darth Vader would turn on him rather than watch his son be murdered presumably never entered his mind either.
      • This is foreshadowed earlier, when Vader senses Luke aboard a captured Imperial shuttle headed for Endor. Palpatine comments that he cannot sense anything — presumably because he's turned so completely to The Dark Side that he simply doesn't recognize the rest of the Force. It also explains why he isn't more careful about provoking Vader's Heel–Face Turn: he could only sense the evil side of him.
      • For Luke specifically, his main error was in not realizing that Luke didn't really seek power, to the point that some in the expanded universe speculate on whether he even really understood the idea of wanting it. While rage against Vader and the Emperor was a temptation to the Dark Side, he really had no reason to side with them.
    • The Force Awakens
      • Kylo Ren has this so bad it actually becomes Bad is Good and Good is Bad. He seems genuinely confused as to why Rey hates and fears him, and again seems confused during their climactic fight as to she overpowered him so completely by tapping into the Light Side of the Force.
    • The Last Jedi
      • Supreme Leader Snoke fails to understand the severe emotional trauma that murdering his own father inflicted on Kylo Ren, chastising him for being a weak and incompetent apprentice. It ultimately gets him killed.
      • Admiral Hux dismisses Holdo's maneuvering of her otherwise empty ship as a hollow gesture to try feigning them off their attack on the transports, until she points the ship directly in the path of their vessel and they realize too late what she has in mind.
    • In The Rise of Skywalker, Pryde is dumbfounded when thousands of ships across the galaxy arrive to aid the Resistance, unable to understand why scores of people would band together against a common foe despite the odds.
    Pryde: Where did they get all this fighter craft? They have no navy!
    Aide: It's not a navy, sir, it's just...people.
    • Solo
      • When the crew learn that the Cloud-Riders are actually Freedom Fighters, who need the Coaxium to help their campaign against both the Empire & Crimson Dawn. Han is sympathetic to the cause, but Beckett, whose life philosophy is based on expecting everyone to betray him, tells Dryden about their plan. Fortunately, Good Is Not Dumb, and Han expected Beckett to do this, and out right tells Beckett that this trope is biggest weakness.
    Han: You Know what your problem is? You think everybody’s like you!

  • Avengers: Endgame: After Thanos accomplishes his goal of destroying half the universe with the Infinity Stones, he retires to a planet with no security. Naturally, once the remaining Avengers attack him, he dismisses their insurrection against him as being ungrateful, clearly failing to understand that the casualties of his Badass Fingersnap included their friends, allies and loved ones.
  • Boiler Room: Greg Feinstein, Seth's boss in the movie, cannot understand what his ex-girlfriend Abby saw in Seth or why she chose to start dating Seth over him. Not being snobbish and condescending towards others don't register in his head.
  • In The Changeling when John Russell tries to tell Senator Carmichael that he is an orphan used to replace the real Carmichael, who was drowned as a child by his own father, Carmichael immediately concludes that Russell is trying to blackmail him, something Russell never even considered, and sends a Dirty Cop to harass him. It takes Russell actually giving him the evidence for Carmichael to ease up.
  • In Daredevil, after the titular superhero has soundly defeated the Kingpin and has a chance to Finish Him!, Kingpin is dumbfounded by Daredevil's refusal to do so.
    Kingpin: I... I don't understand. Why?
    Daredevil: Because I'm not the bad guy.
  • The Devil's Advocate: John Milton aka Satan succeeds in the beginning because he is expert in manipulating Kevin's vanity and ego. He also thought Kevin would forget that he raped his wife and would lust after his demon half-sister. Ultimately Kevin loved his wife more and was selfless enough to kill himself rather than create the Anti-Christ, which literally makes Milton explode. And when Kevin is brought back to life, Milton sees Kevin's new moral stance as just another form of vanity he can manipulate.
  • Downfall has Heinrich Himmler, the leader of the Nazi Praetorian Guard and the man responsible for the concentration camps, surrender to the Allies — specifically the advancing British army — on the assumption that the UK and the US would prop up the Nazi regime in Germany to prevent the Communist Soviets from taking over. It seems to escape him that after all the horrendous atrocities they have committed, any human of normal moral code wouldn't consider cooperating with them for a second.note 
    • A concept a lot of the great powers didn't understand at the time. Until the dust had settled, the US had no interest in playing the postwar geopolitical "game" and intended to go back home when it was over.
  • Munroe the Big Bad of The Expendables somehow doesn't realize that even if his operation is making General Garza rich, the latter will still likely turn on him, after he abducted and tortured his partner's daughter (who is a CIA informant), even after Garza made it very clear that he would not stand for that.
    Garza: You don't kill your familia.
    Munroe: Come around my house during the holidays, pal.
    • Later, during Munroe's confrontation with Barney Ross, after he has taken his now dead partner's daughter hostage, he tells him that they are Not So Different and he asks why Barney would have come for him, when he could have offered him all the money he wants. Barney's response:
    Barney: I didn't come for you dipshit! I came for her! (Fills Munro full of lead)
  • In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Graves (who’s really Grindelwald) wants to know why Dumbledore likes protagonist Newt so much. He can’t comprehend why the greatest wizard in the world would consider a Fluffy Tamer, socially awkward man to be worthy of his time.
  • Cipher from Fate of the Furious (the eighth Fast and Furious film) mocks Dom for showing kindness to a cheating driver he defeated at the beginning of the film, to which Dom informs her by letting bygones be bygones, he earned the man's respect and a new ally who plays a part in his scheme to turn the tables on her, something Cypher dismisses. This comes back to bite her in the end; after Dom makes peace with his former enemies, the Shaw brothers, he gains an edge on Cipher that she never saw coming.
  • Falling Down: Nick, a crazed, homophobic Neo-Nazi, hears about D-Fens' antics and assumes that he is a crazed racist like him, rather than a man having a nervous breakdown. He flips out when D-Fens tells him off.
  • In the end, the Big Bad of Ghost Ship tries to tempt the Final Girl into his trap by turning into the crew mate that he just killed. He attempts to use the crewman's love to trick her, but fails horribly because he believes the material items he offers will win her over. Shows up after his ruse is uncovered when he tries to trade her life for keeping the ship afloat and can't seem to understand that she doesn't care that she may die if she can destroy the ship and free all the trapped souls.
  • In the climax of Hocus Pocus, Winifred doesn't understand why Max was willing to put his life on the line for his sister, unable to understand the love that siblings share.
  • Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Throughout the movie, she can’t understand that Indy doesn’t want to find the grail for the same reasons as her. She insists that she “believes in the grail, not the Swastika”, but Indy retorts that she “stood up to be counted with the enemy of everything the Grail stands for.” In the end, she refuses to believe that the grail isn’t meant for her to keep. As she heads for the exit, she crosses the Great Seal and triggers the temple’s collapse. She almost falls into a chasm but Indy catches her. Instead of letting him save her, she pulls a hand free to reach the grail that she dropped. She comes so close, but her glove slips off the hand Indiana was holding and she loses her life. Henry Sr. later comments that Elsa thought the grail was “a prize” and she didn’t understand the spiritual meaning behind it.
  • Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life goes through the entire movie without picking up so much as a clue as to what makes Peter, George, or indeed any of the Bedford Falls townspeople tick. Potter's expectations that George will hand the Building and Loan over to him in exchange for a job or that the townspeople will quickly turn against George at the first opportunity are disappointed throughout the movie. It never dawns on him there's something about his fellow men that he just doesn't get.note 
    • One notable instance of this is when George comes begging Potter for money because "I misplaced $8,000." Potter (who hid that very money after watching George's Uncle Billy lose it) replies in shock, "You misplaced $8,000?" (emphasis his) — evidently, although Potter expected the loss of the money to cause a lot of problems for his rival, George taking the blame and risking going to jail himself wasn't one of them. Honestly, does anyone who considers a fellow human being "worth more dead than alive" understand good?
  • King Ralph: Lord Graves, in an attempt to discredit Ralph, pays Miranda, a showgirl that Ralph fallen for to seduce him. When Miranda genuinely falls for Ralph and calls the deal off, Graves naturally assumes that she just wants more money.
  • In Knives Out, the point at which the murderer's plan starts to unravel is when his intended patsy, the film's heroine Marta, stays behind and tries to save the life of the killer's second victim, rather than running from the scene in a panic and thereby incriminating herself as the killer predicted she would.
    • In general, the Thrombeys all made assumptions that Marta must have "got her claws" into Harlan and slept with him because they simply cannot imagine (or don't want to accept) that Harlan generally liked her company and friendship compared to the rest of his family because Marta is a good, kind-hearted person.
  • In The Last Samurai, Nathan Algren is greatly haunted by the atrocities he committed in the past as a soldier. His fellow soldier Bagley sees his own atrocities as duty and barely remembers them. Bagley cannot understand why Algren is so bothered by them.
    • Likewise, Big Bad Omura is doesn't understand Katsumoto's determination to die fighting the good fight, apparently having counted on Katsumoto to commit Seppuku and avoid the shame of defeat if the battle became unwinnable for Katsumoto.
  • In The Last Stand, Cortez seems completely baffled that Roy won't accept a bribe of millions of dollars (escalating with each offer) to let him cross the border and escape to Mexico.
    Roy: My honor's not for sale.
    Cortez: Fuck your honor!
  • In Little Shop of Horrors, Orin Scrivello, D.D.S., doesn't understand why Seymour Krelborn would want to kill him, because Scrivello had never done anything to Seymour. He never imagines that anyone would want to protect Audrey, of all people.
    Scrivello: What did I ever do to you?
    Seymour: Nothing. It's what you did to her.
    Scrivello: Her who?
    Seymour: ...
    Scrivello: Oh. Her.
  • In The Magnificent Seven, Callvera's last words to Chris were "You came back... for a place like this... Why? A man like you... Why?" The reason he let them go in the first place was because he thought they were all on the same terms, and thus they would never come back to save a bunch of farmers.
  • Played straight in The Matrix Revolutions—Neo's refusal to give up, no matter how badly he's beaten, allows him to push Smith into a Villainous Breakdown without saying a word. Tying directly into this, The Oracle states bluntly that "We can never see past the choices we don't understand." When Smith assimilates her, he gains her knowledge of the future... up to the point that Neo allows Smith to assimilate him. Smith is completely surprised that Neo would do such a thing, and is even more surprised when, his purpose fulfilled, he is wiped out of existence.
  • Midnight Run: Serrano is aggravated by the idea that someone like Jack would give up his family and career rather than become a Dirty Cop on his payroll. He also never expected that Jack would work the FBI to bring him down, instead of getting Marudukas back, which is what Jack had been focused on since the beginning of the film.
  • In the original Miracle on 34th Street, Dr. Sawyer is about the closest thing thing we have to a legitimate villain. He openly believes that the only reason Alfred likes playing Santa, or that Kris claims to be Santa, is because they are both delusional. As far as he's concerned, anyone who's that nice has be harboring a severe guilt complex.
  • Oh, God! You Devil features George Burns as both God and the Devil. When the Devil has manipulated a man into attempting suicide, he and God have a poker showdown for the soul. God raises the stakes, offering to cease protecting a great many of people at risk if he loses, but that the Devil will cease interfering if God wins. When the Devil considers the offer, he decides there's no way God would do this without being certain of victory, since one man wasn't worth it. To Him, one man was. It's played for a strange form of PG-rated Black Comedy.
  • At the end of Paths of Glory, General Broulard is so impressed by Colonel Dax's efforts in his battle against General Mireau to save his men from public execution that he's going to offer him Mireau's place. When Dax refuses because he wasn't doing it to have a promotion, Mireau is completely dumbfounded that anyone would try to save lives without something to gain from it, and threatens to have Dax arrested.
  • The Tag Line to Pan's Labyrinth is "Innocence has a power evil cannot comprehend", which explains a lot of Cpt. Vidal's actions, as well as his inability to see the Faun at the end. Case in point: he's left utterly bewildered when Dr. Ferreiro chooses to Mercy Kill a captured rebel to spare him more Cold-Blooded Torture at Vidal's hands, despite knowing that Vidal would undoubtedly kill him for doing so.
    Dr. Ferreiro: To obey — just like that — for obedience's sake... Without questioning... That is something only men like you can do, Captain.
  • In Patton, one German points out that Patton, who they believe will lead the invasion of Europe, is facing a public backlash after slapping a soldier and may be court-martialed. He gets the reply "Don't believe their newspapers! They would never keep their best general out of the war just for slapping a soldier." That's exactly what they do (albeit as part of a Batman Gambit). This is an interesting case, as in the harsh reality of war, overlooking personal failings — even major personal crimes — of a great general might really be the "good" thing to do, not just the expedient thing. Keeping your best leaders in the field saves soldier's lives. note  Patton's commander, Eisenhower, thought the man was Ax-Crazy and liable to screw up the Alliance with his rivalry with Montgomery and his open hostility towards the Soviet Union. Putting him in charge of the decoy invasion served two purposes for Ike: it convinced the Germans that the decoy was actually real, and it kept Patton out of the front lines (and the headlines).
  • In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, while beating him up, Nizam remarks to Dastan his dislike of the King adopting the homeless boy and making him Prince. Earlier, the King did explain that Dastan is brave and noble, so he judged him worthy of becoming Prince.
    Nizam: I never understood why my brother brought trash into our house! Enjoy the gutter, Dastan! It's where you will stay under my rule!
  • Ready Player One: When Parzival makes his big announcement over the OASIS, inviting players to join the big battle at Castle Anorak against the Sixters, Sorrento scoffs at the idea, apparently thinking it as misplaced idealism. As it takes a few minutes afterward for the players to react and assemble, Sorrento seems convinced that none will show up, and he's utterly shocked when a huge army of avatars is trampling toward his forces. This shows how completely disconnected Sorrento is from the common mindset of the OASIS users: such a call would be absolutely irresistible for many players, with a promise of a huge battle, the prize of the Easter Egg in sight, keeping OASIS as they like it, and the opportunity to bring down IOI, which most users certainly hate with a passion.
  • In Richie Rich, Laurence Van Dough spends the movie trying to break into the Rich family vault which he naturally assumes is packed with mountains of gold, jewels, and money. When he finally does enter, all he finds is various family artifacts and memories of key moments in the Riches' lives. Van Dough is stunned, unable to accept the idea that anyone would waste a vault on such "junk", not getting that to the Riches, these are true treasures. The Riches don't even bother hiding how they think Van Dough is an idiot for assuming that the richest family in the world would keep their wealth hidden around rather than investing it in stocks.
    Van Dough: I don't get it. Where's the money?
    Mr. Rich: In banks. Where else?
  • Ripley's Game ends with an act of selflessness from Jonathan as he takes a bullet for Ripley. Ripley is puzzled as to why anyone would do such a thing.
  • In Schindler's List, Amon Goeth often can't understand Schindler's actions of compassion towards his Jewish workers. In particular, he acts thoroughly confused when Oskar wants to buy all of them before they go to Auschwitz, trying to figure out how Oskar will make money off this. It never once occurs to him that Oskar might simply want to save a thousand people from genocide.
  • Used and subverted early in Serenity. Someone from the Academy says that Simon Tam "must be crazy" to have run such risks and gone to such lengths to save River. The Operative, true to his Well-Intentioned Extremist nature, recognizes love for what it is: something much more dangerous.
    Operative: Madness? Have you looked at these tapes? At his face? It's love, in point of fact. Something far more dangerous.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, both Holmes and Moriarty employ a Sherlock Scan to predict the outcome of their final confrontation, and both come to the same conclusion: that due to Holmes' injured shoulder, he can't win. However, Moriarty—self-interested to the point of outright sociopathy—couldn't comprehend that Holmes was willing to sacrifice his own life to defeat him.
  • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Big Bad Quentin "Mysterio" Beck demonstrates that he is pathologically incapable of understanding the concept of heroism as anything more than a PR stunt. For example, even after Iron Man sacrificed himself to save the universe in the previous movie, Beck still doesn't understand why everyone sees Tony Stark as a hero. He also thinks that putting people in danger just so he can rescue them makes him a good person, and that killing innocents to maintain his facade is totally justified because he's "the good guy." Furthermore, he mocks Peter's virtuous qualities as a sign of naivety and weakness.
  • In the remake of The Stepford Wives this is the undoing of those behind Stepford. It never occurs to them that, given the choice between a wife who's a brainless robot who caters to his every whim or one who's strong, independent and more successful, a husband would chose the latter instead of the former.
  • Transformers Film Series:
    • Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: Megatron and two other Decepticons gang up on Optimus Prime. The battle revolves mostly around why Prime thinks Sam Witwicky is so darn important.
      Megatron: Is the future of our race not worth a single human life?
      Optimus Prime: You'll never stop at one! I'LL TAKE YOU ALL ON!
    • Occurs again in the third film. Sentinel Prime has decided to cooperate with the Decepticons to enslave humanity as a work force to rebuild Cybertron. He makes it clear that he wants to ensure that the Cybertronian race doesn't die out and believes his authority as a Prime puts him above coexisting peacefully with humans. So it becomes a huge case of frustration for him when Optimus Prime, his former student, chooses to defend the freedom of mankind over the possibility of having his home restored. Optimus simply responds by saying that it was Sentinel who taught him that "freedom was everyone's right."
    • In Age of Extinction, Harold Attinger and the rest of Cemetery Wind are incapable of realizing that there are good and bad aliens and their actions are just as evil and extreme as the Decepticons.
  • Wall Street: When Gordon Gekko invokes a Not So Different speech to Darien in an earlier draft of the movie script, she responds that he's incapable of understanding that money can't buy everything, especially love or happiness. Gekko thinks that she's leaving him to become on her own, but doesn't realize that she's actually leaving him for Bud Fox. It takes a great deal of understanding for him to realize this in the sequel.
  • Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled: The thing that keeps the Djinn from doing anything for a good chunk of the film: Lisa wishes to be able to 'love him as he truly is'. While he's aware who he really is (namely a demon trying to bring about Hell on Earth) will stop any chance of that happening but the wish not being one he's technically unable to grant, he tries to understand love to grant it. He fails pretty badly and ultimately resorts to a Lotus-Eater Machine and offers of We Can Rule Together. Noteworthy that he is still trying to make her happy, as true love would require. There's a tragic implication here: if the Djinn has genuinely come to love her as a human would, he would also know that the world being overrun with demons would not make her happy (indeed, he's offering her several ways to not live in that world, or gain a benefit from it). He would be forced to remain a villain accordingly, so as to keep the third wish from being granted; in short, it is possible he did genuinely love her, but due to the wish, he would have to guide her towards killing him so she could be happy.
  • In Zig Zag (2002), ZigZag's father is baffled and when Singer tells him he cares about ZigZag, as he doesn't understand how anyone could love someone like that.

Alternative Title(s): Film


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: