Traditional villains are evil in thought, word, and deed. They Kick the Dog every day, just because they think it's funny, they can't sympathize with the pain of others, and/or they think suffering is justified when it serves their cause. Alternatively, they may simply be too inscrutable and/or inhuman to inspire anything but dread.
Then there's these guys. There's nothing separating Alice from an ordinary nice person (except that she wants to use an infant's soul to power her Doomsday Machine so she can Take Over the World). And you'd never know it, because you only see her when she invites all the neighbors over for a barbecue in her backyard. A less-developed villain would be the Stepford Smiler or the Bitch in Sheep's Clothing — but she's not: Alice's good humor is a genuine part of her personality. She's the very opposite of Charlie: she's so thoroughly dedicated to Evil that she can be pleasant and kind in her daily life without any risk of slipping to the other side. Alice would Kick the Dog she just petted if it got her closer to her goals, but she won't do evil just for evil's sake. She's devoted to her family, fair to her employees, and she enjoys a good reputation in the community, because being anti-society doesn't mean you have to be anti-social.
If this trope gets exaggerated, Alice will invite Bob the hero out for an afternoon on the lake, offer him a favorite dish, talk to him like he's an old friend, try to appeal to Bob's better nature and convince him that her plan for the world is a cause worth joining. Of course, a villain is still a villain, and Alice has no use for Bob if he won't change his mind. It may or may not involve a Death Trap, depending on how nice she really is when crossed. And Bob would have every reason to be nervous if she invites his mother over for tea instead...
Whether an Affably Evil villain is less scary than the traditional type depends on how the work wants to play it. They can be more relatable and sympathetic than a traditional monster (especially if the work has a 'real' villain as well), and are often used in works intended for children to provide an antagonist without having them be too evil or scary. Conversely, they can be much worse: there's something inherently terrifying about an ordinary, even decent person with a pleasant personality doing horrible things. They are usually Wicked Cultured, charismatic Chessmasters. They are sometimes comedic or a Well-Intentioned Extremist who really believes that they are right. More often than not, they are a form of Anti-Villain because a straight villain wouldn't easily be so genuinely good-natured. Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor is not true for them, and their affability even makes them easy to "compliment" with an Insult Backfire. Captives of an affably evil villain won't be kept in dungeons, but in a Gilded Cage. Even an outright psychopath can be charismatic and funny enough to fit this trope, or at least to convincingly waver between true and false friendliness, since the contrast is explained by their mental instability.
In the event an Affably Evil villain does undergo a Villainous Breakdown, the very traits that make them so pleasant often serve to make their breakdown extremely creepy or outright scary. A kind, friendly man suddenly going into a psychotic rage is so much more frightening than a man who was cackling from the start. If they keep their inviting personality while going Ax-Crazy, they may cross into Faux Affably Evil territory with only skin-deep manners, which is a much more frequent behaviour than a truly kind criminal.
- Adaptational Nice Guy: A Jerkass villain can become Affably Evil in an adaptation.
- Ambiguously Evil: Can such a nice person really be a bad person? (Yes.)
- Anti-Villain: An antagonist that is in a moral grey area can be nice in addition to her other not-particularly-evil qualities.
- Benevolent Boss: A villain who treats his minions kindly and actually means it.
- Beware the Nice Ones: As with good characters, a genuinely nice villain is terrifying when they take the gloves off.
- Churchgoing Villain: A villain who doesn't see any reason being a criminal should stop them from being religious (unless they're The Fundamentalist, take part in a Religion of Evil, or attend the Church of Happyology, in which case, they're Faux).
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: A villain who doesn't favor one race/gender over the others. That's just not polite.
- Even Evil Has Standards: A villain who will not cross certain boundaries, and is disgusted or appalled by those who do.
- Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Villains with a relationship of mutual trust and support.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: They may be evil, but they certainly don't want to create a Villainous Lineage.
- Evil Virtues: Villains often have genuine good qualities like courage, perseverance, and the ability to plan for many possible outcomes.
- Fair-Play Villain: When the villain invokes Bond Villain Stupidity simply because it's traditional.
- Family-Values Villain: A villain who holds to good old fashioned down-home family values, because Even Evil Has Standards.
- Friendly Enemy: When the main villain of the work is the protagonist's actual friend.
- Gentleman Thief: Steals things, yes — but only from those who can afford to lose it, and never fails to be polite and classy about it.
- Go-Karting with Bowser: The villain and the hero play a game or spend some quality time with each other.
- A Hero to His Hometown: Some villains (or heroes) are beloved by the locals, no matter what their reputation might be elsewhere.
- Jerkass to One: A character, not necessarily villainous, who is a Nice Guy except to certain people.
- Laughably Evil: A villain who is meant to come across as funny will usually be nice (though some may be faux).
- Lawful Evil: A nice villain respects certain rules and never deviates from a particular code - the law, tradition, his own personal Code of Honor or something else. His code may be what leads him to do evil, but he's going to hold to his standard.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: In an Evil Versus Evil situation, the nicer villain is usually the lesser of two evils.
- Lovable Rogue: Technically not good, but a likeable-enough scoundrel will usually be promoted to an Anti-Hero.
- Never Hurt an Innocent: They are never willing to hurt innocent people.
- No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: The villain captures the hero and treats them to a fancy formal dinner.
- Noble Demon: A villain with standards. She may do evil things, but she'll never cross the line and become irredeemable.
- Obliviously Evil: A villain who doesn't realize that they're a villain.
- Opponent Instruction: An opponent who tries to coach the hero, even while they're fighting.
- Perky Female Minion: An upbeat and likable girl who works for a villain.
- Politically Correct Villain: The villain doesn't discriminate against any group of people (and may be the Foil to a villain who does).
- Pragmatic Villainy: Sometimes. A villain who does evil deeds just to serve his agenda has no need to be evil himself. He might be genuinely nice.
- Punch-Clock Villain: The villain for whom evil is just a day job certainly can be a nice person... depending, of course, on the particulars of his 9-to-5.
- Southern Gentleman: Southern villains have a genteel manner which is at least Faux Affably Evil and may be the genuine article.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: These villains don't dress to intimidate. If everyone's in business-casual, they will be too.
- Token Good Teammate: One member of the Rogues Gallery isn't as malicious as the rest.
- Too Funny to Be Evil: The villain's good sense of humor makes people think they couldn't possibly be a bad guy.
- Villain Respect: They consider the hero a respected rival and Worthy Opponent. Sometimes they'll even join the hero in the fight against Eviler than Thou villains.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Nice villains don't fake politeness to get by in society; they earn a good reputation through fairness and public largesse.
- Villains Out Shopping: A glimpse of genuine humanity in an otherwise evil person. Often a trait of a Card-Carrying Villain, especially in the more ironic portrayals.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: A person who does evil in the service of (what they believe to be) a worthy cause will often be pleasant, calm, and reasonable.
- Baddie Flattery: The villain says nice things to the hero, but it's only to confuse them or throw them off guard.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Mean characters who seem nice until they reveal their true colors. Affably Evil characters are never concealing a rude or petty nature (just an evil one).
- Complete Monster: A character with no redeeming qualities. They cannot be nice, though they may be able to fake it.
- Enemy Mine: The villain cooperates with a rival to achieve a common goal, but they feel no need to be nice about it.
- Evil Is Petty: A villain who is evil at even the smallest level — he'll blow up the world and dock his secretary's pay.
- Faux Affably Evil: An evil character who merely acts nice. The Affably Evil character will often serve as The Dragon, Evil Minion, or Foil to this type of villain.
- Good is Not Nice: A character who is cold, rude, and even occasionally cruel without ceasing to be a good person.
- Good Is Not Soft: A good (and nice) person who is ruthless to those who deserve it.
- Harmless Villain: The villain isn't scary because he's toothless, not because he's nice.
- Hate Sink: A character put in specifically to draw the audience's ire. Affably Evil characters are not supposed to be hated.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: A character with no corrupting qualities. They cannot be evil, even if the setting and general characterization leads the audience to believe that 'nice' people are probably hiding something.
- Lovable Traitor: Clearly untrustworthy, but still someone you'd have a beer with.
- Minion with an F in Evil: A person who tries to be evil but is just too nice to pull it off.
- Nice Guy: A genuinely nice person who is also a good person. Affably Evil subverts this trope.
- Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Looks evil but isn't, as opposed to an Affably Evil character who is evil but doesn't look it.
- Not Me This Time: Is a villain most of the time, just not in this particular instance.
- Terms of Endangerment: Kind words as a sign that the villain is about to do something especially terrible.
- Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: The hero is dismayed to be seen as the kind of person the villain would respect.
Good is Not Nice is the Inverted Trope, and such good guys are particularly good at giving the Affably Evil a proverbial punch in the nose. When both Good is Not Nice and Affably Evil are used, you may end up with Polite Villains, Rude Heroes, but if done poorly, you might get a case of Jerks Are Worse Than Villains, where the audience hates the heroes for being jerks more than the villain. I'm Not Hungry is often dealing with this villain. A villain will sometimes engage in Too Funny to Be Evil to achieve this effect. No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine is a subtrope in many instances.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Films — Animated
- Films — Live-Action
- Live-Action TV
- New Media
- Professional Wrestling
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Western Animation
- Other Media