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From Nobody To Nightmare / Film

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"Do you know who I was? Nobody. Except on the day after. I was still alive. This nobody had a chance to be somebody."

Films — Animated

  • Toy Story 3: Lotso was once a soft-spoken, gentle, lovable teddy bear who first started out as a Christmas present for Daisy, a young kind-hearted girl who immediately became overjoyed the moment she unwrapped him. Along with her other two toys, Big Baby and Chuckles the Clown, she had so much fun playing with them, as she loved all three of them equally. But, according to Chuckles, Lotso was unique to her most of all. Things suddenly take a dramatic turn when on a family trip, as Daisy happily played with her toys including her very special Lotso, she fell asleep after lunch, accidentally leaving her toys behind. Lotso and his friends decided to go back home afterwards, but by the time they got there, it turned out Daisy bought another Lotso to compensate for the original one she lost during the trip. Right when Lotso saw this, something snapped inside him that day... which cumulated in him turning the daycare into his own prison. It should be noted, that Daisy only bought another Lotso because he symbolized how much she truly loved her original. As pointed out by Woody, it was Lotso who abandoned Daisy to begin with.
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  • Randall Boggs started out as a nerdy college student before he fell in with a bad crowd. His Start of Darkness is only hinted at in the prequel Monsters University but by the time Monsters, Inc. rolls around he's become bitter and violent.
  • Megamind:
    • Megamind himself is an alien who is sent to live on Earth by his parents. But he was raised in prison, unlike Metro Man, who live in a mansion with a happy family. This jealously eventually leads to him becoming a supervillain after all attempts to be good goes wrong for him.
    • Hal Stewart started off as a socially awkward cameraman with a crush on Roxanne Ritchi, but obtained superpowers via Megamind and became the supervillain Titan, an Omnicidal Maniac who is willing to obliterate an entire city just because Roxanne won't give into his even more disturbing advances.
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  • Constance from Monster House was a large obese woman who was part of a circus group and was always ridicule for her appearance. Once she met Mr. Nebbercracker, the two got married and were prepared to live happily together, until she accidentally fell to her death to the basement of her own home when trying to scare some teenagers away. Her spirit takes over the entirety of her house, becoming a monster who attacks anyone that comes near her.
  • Buddy Pine from The Incredibles was just an annoying little Fanboy who refused to leave Mr. Incredible alone, then he had one little misunderstanding with the hero. When Mr. Incredible sees him again in years, he's become the supervillain Syndrome and has already murdered a large number of Supers. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
  • Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: Simone and Lena were simple Louisiana colonists until their village was destroyed and their friends murdered by Morgan Moonscar. This drove them to become cat demons to get their revenge, only to be permanently cursed and required to drain the life force of visitors every harvest moon to preserve their immortality.
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  • Agatha, from ParaNorman, had some powers during her lifetime but these didn't appear to extend beyond speaking to the dead before she was executed as a witch.
  • Douche from Sausage Party was originally an ordinary feminine hygiene product who fell out of a shopping cart and got his nozzle broken. Furious at losing his chance to get bought and used (and aware that, unlike the food characters, he wouldn't be eaten when he was bought) he took out his anger on the foods, eventually declaring himself a "god" as he began eating them.
  • Tyler from Heavy Metal 2000 was a simple miner before he had the misfortune of discovering the Loc-Nar. All he did was touch it, and it immediately drove him insane, turning him into a bloodthirsty psychopath who seeks the sealed of source of immortality-granting water and rule over the universe.

Films — Live-Action

  • Godzilla's origins vary based on the film, but they all agree that he was some sort of reptile on a small island near Japan that was hit by nuclear fallout and turned into a colossal, radioactive killing machine.
    • Godzilla's nemesis King Ghidorah also has this trope applied to its origin story in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah where Western Terrorists from the future who seek to make the West dominate the world and crush Japanese influence created King Ghidorah by leaving 3 harmless critters called Dorats on an island that was doomed to a nuclear explosion.
  • TRON: The MCP went from a simple chess program to a program designed to oversee the company's computer network and eventually plotted to take over the computer systems of both the Pentagon and the Kremlin.
  • TRON: Legacy: Clu has gone from an ineffectual program that falls off a cliff a few minutes into the original film to the Big Bad of the sequel.
  • Iron Man 3: Aldrich Killian started out as a sort of sad and nerdy scientist with a physical disability, but 13 years after being stood up by Tony Stark, he had become the ruthless and homicidal true alter-ego of The Mandarin, and the creator of the Extremis virus.
  • The Amazing Spider-Man: The Lizard is the Superpowered Evil Side of Dr. Curt Connors, a good-natured scientist dedicated to trying to solve major health problems by introducing animal DNA into human systems, including the regeneration of his own missing arm, while paying his dues for -- it's implied -- causing the death of an old friend through inaction by running a mentorship program in his lab. The film plays with the trope, however, by comparing his dependence on the lizard serum as something of a drug addiction, and by the end it's very clear that when he's in control of himself he'd much rather be a nobody than a nightmare.
  • The Amazing Spider Man 2: Maxwill Dillon was a nerdy electrician whom everybody picked on or ignored, who then deluded himself into thinking he was Spider-Man's sidekick after the hero saved him and showed him compassion. After gaining electrical powers, he decides he doesn't want to be ignored anymore, becoming a very powerful supervillain.
  • The A Nightmare on Elm Street sequel Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare attempts to humanize Freddy by showing him in flashbacks as a somewhat creepy young boy driven into bludgeoning a school hamster to death by taunting classmates, and then as a quiet, unassuming family man with an unhealthy obsession with serial killers, who actually becomes a serial killer himself for a vaguely sympathetic reason. Not only that, but he was also taken in by an alcoholic asshole. That's all offered in contrast to the present day, where, after a Deal with the Devil made while he was dying, he's turned into a prophesied nightmare king who's left his hometown in ruins, its surviving inhabitants insane, and now has designs on the whole world. The disturbed but comparatively sympathetic man he used to be reappears briefly near the end of the film in what seems to be a Fighting from the Inside moment, but it was a trick to briefly lull the heroes into letting their guard down.
    • Well, it's hard to imagine that Freddy was ever truly normal. Supposedly, he was born after his mother was raped by hundreds of inmates in an insane asylum (causing him to be called the "Son of a Thousand Maniacs" frequently. If there was any way that a child's conception could make him turn out bad, this would be the way.
  • Friday the 13th: Jason Voorhees began life as a bullied kid with hydrocephaly... until he supposedly drowned at Camp Crystal Lake at age 11. Upon reaching adulthood, he becomes a dangerous Serial Killer, and eventually a Nigh Invulnerable zombie, to the extent that in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday, the FBI sets up an elaborate sting operation to take him down.
  • In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker started out as a slave on Tatooine. That's about as low as you can get in a galaxy far, far away. Through the will of the Force he was found and raised by the Jedi to be the Chosen One destined to destroy the Sith. Through the will of Palpatine he destroyed the Jedi first. And then he ruled the galaxy with an iron fist, as The Emperor's right hand man and destroyed an entire planet, culminating in him killing The Emperor with his own hands. Revenge of the Sith strongly hints that Anakin was the product of Darth Plagueis's twisted attempts at "creating life" through the power of the dark side, though the person claiming this is a Manipulative Bastard.
  • In Star Trek (2009), Nero was just an ordinary captain of a mining ship when his home planet was destroyed and he got sucked into an alternate timeline. In the past, his mining ship can outfight any other vessel, and he has the capability to destroy planets and alter the timeline.
    • This applies to the Narada as well, at least according to The Countdown comic series. In its original time setting, it was a simple Romulan mining ship as Nero said. Later however, it's upgraded with reverse engineered Borg technology from the Tal Shiar, turning it into an Eldritch Starship, (even by the standards of the original timeline).
  • There Will Be Blood. Though it occurs in a microcosm of a small mining community, the overarching theme of the whole film is this trope, happening in slow motion.
  • Happens to the nebbish protagonist of 976-EVIL, a film whose main claim to fame is that it was the first film directed by Robert Englund.
  • The Crow is a heroic example, where a murdered goth-rocker is resurrected as a superpowerful avenging angel.
  • Sebastian Caine in Hollow Man is a Smug Snake, but when the invisibility experiment succeeds he seizes the chance to move on to molestation, rape and murder.
  • Batman Returns
    • The Penguin is a deformed former freak show dumpster baby who becomes a charismatic gang leader bent on dominating Gotham City.
    • Catwoman was a nebbish secretary with no backbone and no personal life who gets murdered and resurrected as a sexy catburglar vigilante.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, there is Bane. Just another inmate of the worst prison in the world, who goes on to become an intimidating, charismatic terrorist who leads Gotham's disaffected and disgruntled in nearly destroying both Batman and Gotham City. As he puts it:
    Bane: Nobody cared who I was until I put on the mask.
  • Benjamin Barker was a happy, ordinary London man, with just an exceptional talent at barbery. Then he was jailed on trumped up charges and sent away for ten years to Australia. He came back to find his wife had poisoned herself, and the man who did this to him had taken his daughter. Thus was born Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
  • Saw: John Kramer the Jigsaw Killer was once just a mild-mannered engineer. Then his pregnant wife had a miscarriage, and shortly after that he found out he had incurable cancer. He then attempted to commit suicide, and when that failed, he decided to dedicate the rest of his life to "teaching" people to appreciate their lives. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Big Bad from The Postman movie, who before the war which turned the States into a Crapsack World, was... a copy-machine salesman.
    General Bethlehem: What do you think that l did before the war?
  • In Blindness, the King of Ward 3 is seen, early on in the movie, as just a normal bartender who works at the luxury hotel and chats to the girl with dark glasses. Next we see him he has become a monstrous antagonist.
  • In Chronicle, Andrew Detmer gets exposed to some weird artifact/mineral/thing and develops telekinetic powers. Over the course of the movie, he goes from nobody (abused, bullied teenage outcast) pulling pranks and experimenting with his new found abilities, to nightmare (psychotic with delusions of godhood).
  • The Assassination of Richard Nixon is based on the real life person Samuel Byck, whose sanity is being worn out from being a loser and feeling that he is ignored by society. Eventually he tries to hijack a plane with the intention of crashing it into the White House. His mission ultimately fails, but he ends up killing a number of innocent civilians in the process.
  • In Limitless, a simple street loan shark is turned into a criminal mastermind when he gets hooked on the new drug that increases your mental output.
  • In Looper, Joseph Simmons travels back in time to prevent the rise of the Rainmaker, a mysterious individual who singlehandedly took over international crime syndicates. Eventually, he finds Cid, a boy living with his mother on a farm. Initially sweet, he will kill anyone who threatens his mother, with telekinetic powers equal in power to a small nuke. While it is implied that he became the Rainmaker in the original timeline, it is left unclear for the present one.
  • In the French film A Prophet, Malik starts the film as a 19-year-old illiterate loser who gets his shoes stolen from him on his first day in prison. By the end of the film, he's the boss of the prison.
  • In Transcendence, RIFT is mentioned as having grown from a relatively harmless group that protested the effect of cell phones on socialization. Now they're full-blown terrorists.
  • Played straight in the UK crime thriller Blitz. Berry starts off as a common street punk who got into it with some guys at a night club. When the police showed up, he insults the wrong one, resulting in him taking a severe beat down. Obsessed with revenge, Berry starts killing all the cops that arrested him in the past, while at the same time undermining the whole department by trying to become infamous in the media.
  • Silent Hill has Alessa Gillespie, a small girl (9 in the original, 11 in the sequel) who is burned alive by a cult, either because they believe that she's a witch or because they want to impregnate her with the cult's god. Prior to that, she may have had some psychic powers, but nothing too dramatic (an early deleted scene had her demonstrating her powers by making butterflies move in an unusual pattern, and in the film, she may have snapped a chain). Afterward, the cultists literally only survive for as long as they do because she wants them to be absolutely broken before she kills them.
  • Falling Down: "D-Fens" started his day driving to his no longer existing job. By the end of the day, he's become the most violent menace in Los Angeles, attacking gangs, Nazis, and unhelpful clerks.
  • Concussion has a heroic example in Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian-born Pittsburgh pathologist who became a major threat to the NFL through his discovery and relentless research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy caused by repetitive head trauma in athletes.
  • The Hunger Games: Katniss Everdeen was a nobody from District 12 who volunteered as tribute and was not initially expected to survive. From there on, she blasts through the Hunger Games, kills numerous people, becomes one of the most well-known people in the world (with the sole exclusion of President Snow) and becomes the face of a revolution intent on toppling the government. Not bad for a young girl who only wanted to save her sister.
  • The Godfather Part II: Don Vito Corleone started out as an orphaned kid stuck in an unknown country. Over the course of the movie, he rises to become the most powerful criminal in New York.
  • The Big Bad of Captain America: Civil War not only starts out with no powers, he never gains any, but becomes the most effective MCU villain to date and the first one listed under The Bad Guy Wins. He's "just" a former special forces soldier with no personal connection to the protagonists until his father, wife, and son were killed in Sokovia in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but uses experience, patience, and The Power of Hate to cause repeated fights between the heroes, paralyze Rhodey, get everyone on the Anti-Accords side jailed, and ultimately break up the Avengers in a way they might never heal from.
  • At the beginning of Mr. Right, Martha is an Adorkable Cloud Cuckoolander who likes dragons and dinosaurs, is somewhat irresponsible, and who has terrible taste in men. After meeting the titular character (a goofy former hitman who now uses his ability to see in Bullet Time and his ridiculous reflexes to kill anyone who tries to hire him or force him to become a hitman again, while wearing a red clown nose), she discovers that she has similar abilities to him, and ends the movie being essentially just as deadly as he is, complete with her own goofy accessory (cat ears in her case).
  • From Dusk Till Dawn: While the movie doesn't elaborate on Santanico Pandemonium's origins, the third movie The Hangman's Daughter is a prequel revealing her story: she is the half-breed daughter of a vampire priestess and a hangman, who took her away and raised her personally, albeit he turned abusive later on. She grew up to be a relatively normal Girl Next Door that would have led a likely uneventful life had one day an outlaw hadn't kidnapped her and inadvertently returned her to her mother, who awakened her true nature. Centuries after, she became the cruel and sadistic vampire queen we see in the first movie.
  • The Toxic Avenger was originally a mere frail, socially-awkward nerd who worked as a janitor, until some delinquents decided to pull a humiliating prank on him. Said prank ended in him falling into radioactive waste, causing him to turn into a hideous, but powerful mutant superhero who cleans Tromaville of vile criminals.
  • Shot Caller: During his time in prison, Jacob transforms from a frightened fresh inmate into one of the leading members of a powerful prison gang. This is especially obvious in his interactions with Shotgun; when they first met, Shotgun spoke down to him, but after they meet again on the outside ten years later, Shotgun is flat-out terrified of him.
  • Rampage (2018): George, Ralph and Lizzie were all just ordinary wild or tame animals but after being mutated by CRISPR, they become instant gigantic rage-driven titans who devour and kill humans, being powerful enough to overwhelm the United States Army.
  • In Milk Dan White goes from being an average citizen to a mentally unhinged assassin.
  • In the James Bond franchise, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, 007's biggest Arch-Enemy and the notorious leader of SPECTRE, started out as a man of humble origins from eastern Europe, but eventually rose to the top of the criminal food chain by becoming the head of a terrifying criminal empire that's capable of plotting geopolitical events for its gain and holding the entire world at gunpoint if its leader doesn't get what he wants.
    • The version of Blofeld in Spectre started out as the son of an Austrian climber and an estranged foster brother of James Bond, but eventually became the head of the titular worldwide crime syndicate.
  • In Little (2019), Jordan Saunders went from being a nerdy, bullied teenager to a tyrannical, bullying boss as an adult.
  • In SHAZAM! Thaddeus Sivana starts as a meek little boy who is constantly belittled by his father, and pushed around by his older brother. After being rejected by the wizard Shazam to be his successor since he was tempted by the Seven Deadly Sins, he gets into an argument with his brother and father, which causes the latter to crash the car they're in and it's heavily implied that the abuse got worse. Decades later, using his father's company's assets to conduct a secret search for the wizard Shazam, he goes to confront him and allows the Seven Deadly Sins to enter his body. Sivana then uses the demons' powers to murder his older brother and father in cold blood, as well as the board of directors, and hunts down the new Shazam in order to steal the power for himself, and is willing to kill anyone standing in his way.
  • In Joker (2019), Arthur Fleck starts as a shy mentally ill man, who gets ignored, or downright abused, by people who don't understand his nervous fits of laughter. However, after getting fired from his job as a party clown, told that he won't receive psychiatric help due to budget cuts, gets mocked for his disastrous stand up act, and finding out that his adopted mother lied about being the son of Thomas Wayne, he descends deeper into madness until he becomes Gotham City's most infamous criminal and one of Batman's greatest Arch-Enemy.


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