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Big Bad
aka: The Big Bad

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Everything that has transpired in this trope has done so according to my design.

"I've learned that, in every story, there is a big, bad something. An evil force that, no matter the size, corrupts the world of the story, and tries its best to destroy the hero."
Lullaby
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The cause of all bad happenings in a story. A Big Bad could be a character with Evil Plans or it could be an omnipresent situation, such as a comet heading towards the Earth. In a serial story, the Big Bad exerts an effect across a number of episodes, even an entire season.

This trope is not a catch-all term for the biggest, ugliest villain of any given story. In fact, it doesn't have to be a villain at all, as we just said. If it is a villain, though, it should be identified correctly; the badass leader of the outlaw gang that causes the most personal trouble is not the Big Bad. The railroad tycoon who is using the gang as muscle is the Big Bad. The Man Behind the Man is very common for this trope, leaving the reveal of the big bad as The Chessmaster behind it all and proving themselves far more clever and resourceful than the Villain of the Week. Sometimes the Big Bad is the grand enemy of an entire franchise as an Overarching Villain. At other times, the Big Bad is an Arc Villain who causes trouble for a period of time only to be replaced by another Big Bad.

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When you look at a season-long story or a major Story Arc and you can identify one problem being the cause of everything, that is the Big Bad. In its most general form, a Big Bad will be at the center of the Myth Arc rather than just any Story Arc.

The term "Big Bad" was popularized in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was characteristic of Buffy's Big Bads for their identity or nature, or even the fact that they are the Big Bad at all, to remain unclear for a considerable time. Occasionally, characters would even refer to themselves as "the Big Bad" — whether they were a true Big Bad or just a Big Bad Wannabe is another matter. The structure of Buffy placed the Big Bad as being crucial to the Half-Arc Season, half the episodes are filler dealing with unrelated enemies while the other half involved the ongoing Myth Arc with the Big Bad. Each season can easily be defined by who the Big Bad was.

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If a show has a series of Big Bad jeopardies, they can function like a series of Monsters of the Week that take more than one week to finish off. If there is a Legion of Doom, you can expect the Big Bad to be involved somehow. They're probably sorted by power, with the strongest for last, following the Sorting Algorithm of Evil.

Evil Overlord, Diabolical Mastermind, The Chessmaster, Arch-Enemy, The Man Behind the Man, and often Manipulative Bastard are specific types of villains who are liable to show up as Big Bads. If they're a Magnificent Bastard or Hero Killer, the good guys are in big trouble. The heroic counterpart of this character is the Big Good, who will very often be the focus of this character's attention over The Hero at the beginning of a series. If a work of fiction is conspicuously lacking a Big Bad, it may be a case of No Antagonist.

See also Big Bad Duumvirate for two (or more) Big Bads working together. Sometimes a Big Bad will get their start as a servant to another villain — if that's the case, they're a Dragon Ascendant. If the character who fills the role of Big Bad in most meaningful ways is nominally subordinate to someone else (someone significantly less menacing by comparison), they are a Dragon-in-Chief. If the story has many Big Bads at once who don't work together, see Big Bad Ensemble. The Big Bad Shuffle occurs when there are multiple candidates for the Big Bad position. If the Big Bad doesn't start out as bad but develops over the course of the story, it's Big Bad Slippage. If the Big Bad of one section of a work doesn't die on being defeated and stays around as a character in a different plot role (reformed or not), that's Ex-Big Bad.

The Big Bad of a story is not always the most powerful or oldest existing evil force. Perhaps an evil presence along the lines of an Eldritch Abomination overshadows the work's setting, but is mainly divorced from the story's events — that would be the Greater-Scope Villain.

It is one of the most well-known tropes on the TV Tropes community, being the first to have over fifty thousand wicks, and is currently the most wicked trope on the site. This is probably because it's incredibly common.


Examples

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    Asian Animation 
  • The main antagonist of Motu Patlu is John the Don, who always tries (and fails) to harm Motu and Patlu. John is assisted by two minions named Number One and Number Two.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf features Wolffy, the main antagonist of the entire show. His goal is to successfully catch and eat the goats. He often works with his wife Wolnie and the other wolves.
  • ViR: The Robot Boy features Mad Max, who always tries to capture and destroy Vir with the help of his minion Timbaktoon.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible:
    • The Pharaoh in the Book of Exodus, enslaving the Israelites and doing everything he can to defy the will of God, even after accepting defeat. Serving as the greatest opposition to Moses and God outside of the personal flaws of the people of Israel, the horrid Pharaoh serves as the Ur-Example of the Big Bad, predating most examples of the trope by centuries or millennia. The age shows, as the Pharaoh is killed long before the end of Exodus, which details the travels of the Israelites from the Red Sea and God's revelation of the Mosaic Law, as opposed to more contemporary Big Bads who tend to provide conflict for the entire work.
    • Haman in the Book of Esther, who tries to convince the Persian Emperor to wipe out the Jews.
    • Satan in the Book of Job and the Book of Revelation. In the former, Satan attempts to get Job to denounce his faith and strips away all his fortune from him. In the latter, Satan (as the dragon with seven crowns) corrupts the world with the Whore of Babylon, attempts to get people to worship the Beast from the sea, is revealed to be the Serpent from Genesis and ultimately, battles the armies of Heaven until he is thrown into the Lake of Fire.
    • The Pharisees in The Four Gospels, who try to challenge Jesus at every turn and are the only people who Jesus gets mad at throughout his travels. Notably averted with Satan, who is a background character with minimal involvement in what happens.

    Pinball 
  • The titular Black Knight serves as the main antagonist in every game in the series. While the first game has essentially zero narrative, 2000 at least sets him up as the player's opponent through its theme song ("Beat the Black Knight!"), and Sword of Rage has an Excuse Plot explaining that he's invading your lands with the help of his many allies.
  • Cirqus Voltaire has the lead Ringmaster, Voltaire, who serves as the final obstacle in the player's journey to join the titular circus.
  • Craig, the "Keeper of the Wall" from Crüe Ball, who stymies Alister Fiend from playing loud music at night. By the end, it transpires that The Man Behind the Man - and by proxy the actual Big Bad - is Mr. Gore, the Spirit of Anti-Metal.
  • Dialed In! has Dialed In Electronics, the manufacturer of the super-powerful phone that the protagonist accidentally comes into ownership of. The Wizard Mode consists of them directly doing battle with the player.
  • Junk Yard has Crazy Bob, the owner of the titular junk yard, who repeatedly attempts to stop the player from sneaking in and causing havoc.
  • The Kingpin in Capcom's unreleased Kingpin is the head of the Big City's mob and primary opponent for the player character ("the Kid", a newbie criminal).
  • Mafiasaurus Rex from Police Force is the last criminal the player must deal with, awarding a Jackpot when jailed.

    Podcasts 
  • Sequinox has the Sky/Night Queen, who rules the stars and has exterminated all other life in the galaxy. She sends her stars and constellations out across the galaxy to do so, and when they arrive on Earth, they meet resistance in the form of the titular Magical Girl Warrior team, Sequinox.
  • In The Hidden People, the big villain of the first season is The Magister, an eternally old Faerie king who had lorded over the Unseelie Court and humanity for millennia uncontested after killing the Hidden People's actual god.

    Roleplay 
  • Destroy the Godmodder has a fairly obvious one. The Godmodder. This isn't completely the case in the second one, where some of the screwiness seems to have a little grounding outside of the Godmodder's influence, but everything in the first game was at least indirectly the Godmodder's fault.
  • Outpost Defenders has Clark, the leader of Cordis Die. Almost all of the events in the story are about taking him or one of his major minions down.
  • Pokémon: Rise of the Rockets started out with Sleight, the ultimate ruler of Team Rocket, as the primary Big Bad. As time has gone on, however, it has shifted to the point where John Ford can be considered the Big Bad of the entire conflict. That being said, there is almost always more than one Big Bad operating at a time, creating a continuous Big Bad Ensemble across the story.
  • In Roll To Dodge: Savral, the Witch Cathy, the in-game persona of the game master, acts as the ultimate villain, given that she destroyed the previous game master's world and de-powered all the other player characters. In Savral's past, she turned the northern half of the world into a barren wasteland, sicced a horde of man-eating elves on the rest of the world, and caused mass-genocide. She's also responsible for creating the game's demonic, trolling unicorns, which cause never-ending problems for the player characters and wreak havoc on the world as a whole.

    Theatre 
  • Annie: Daniel "Rooster" Hannigan and Lily St. Regis
  • The Crucible: Abigail Williams manipulates the girls of Salem into obeying her and gets them all to help accuse others of witchcraft, condemning innocent men and women to imprisonment and death in order to escape punishment for her own evils.
  • Faust: Mephistopheles
  • Gypsy: "Mama" Rose Hovick
  • Into the Woods: Subverted, as there is no official main villain in the show. The Witch might come off as the villain at first, but as the show progresses, we learn that her actions are very much justifiable, and eventually, she becomes extremely sympathetic ( mainly after Rapunzel's death). The Giantess, while being a major antagonistic force, simply wanted justice for the death of her husband, and the chaos and death that she had caused are often portrayed as accidents (considering that she was near sighted and had lost her glasses). The only character to be truly evil and despicable is the Wolf, and even he's given a hint of sympathetic light ("Ask a wolf's mother!").
  • Les Misérables: Inspector Javert. Being one of the only lawful characters in the entire show, he naturally opposes and antagonizes every main character: he tries to arrest Valjean multiple times, he defends Fantine's rapist by having her arrested instead, he threatens Eponine and the Thenardiers with arrest (and is presumably already familiar with the latters' antics), and spies on and directly opposes Marius and Enjolras's revolution. Curiously, despite being the main villain, he is not the most evil character in the show: that honor goes to the Thenardiers, who are full-blown Chaotic Evil compared to Javert's Lawful Neutral, and worst of all, get away with it all.
  • William Shakespeare has various antagonists in his plays. The comedies tend to lack them though; if a major antagonist is present in a comedy, they will rarely be legitimately evil. note 
    • Hamlet: Claudius usurped the throne that rightfully belongs to Prince Hamlet, who spends the play plotting to kill Claudius.
    • Othello: Iago misleads every character in the play so he can ruin the life of the title character.
    • Macbeth: The title character himself kills the good king Duncan and ruins Scotland with his corrupt reign, acting as the main villain despite being the protagonist of the story.
    • The Taming of the Shrew: Baptista Minola, whose ruling that Katherina must marry before Bianca is the cause of the play's conflict.
    • Titus Andronicus: Aaron the Moor is the one who tips the various revenge schemes over the edge by instigating a rape and murder, framing innocent parties and causing their execution, and manipulating just about everyone in the play out of a desire to do evil in his life.
    • Romeo and Juliet: The heads of the Montague and Capulet families, whose feud is what causes Romeo and Juliet to hide their relationship, though Tybalt is the most antagonistic, pursuing vendettas against the younger Montagues and challenging Romeo to a duel which is what precipitates the final tragedy. He dies about halfway through, though.

    Toys 
  • BIONICLE has Makuta Teridax, the arch-enemy of the Big Good, Mata Nui, and he's about as much of a Chessmaster as Palpatine or Voldemort. It's worth noting that he actually wins and usurps the "god" of the world and gains control of the universe.
    "Little Toa, you have not yet begun to see even the barest outlines of my plans. I have schemes within schemes that would boggle your feeble mind. You may counter one, but there are a thousand more of which you know nothing. Even my ... setbacks ... are planned for, and so I shall win in the end."

    Web Animation 
  • Bunnykill had a different Big Bad for each installment. (each takes place in an alternate continuity, you see.)
    • Smoke in Bunny Kill 1.
    • Dust in Bunny Kill 2.
    • Professor Sludge in Bunny Kill 3.
    • Flint in Bunny Kill 4.
    • Smoke again in Bunny Kill 5.
  • Chadam has the evil Viceroy, whose experiments directly led to the Pallids, while he killed many innocent people for his own gain. The day isn't saved until Chadam defeats him personally.
  • DSBT InsaniT: Eel, although he isn't introduced until episode 7. He once built a machine that manufactured Spell Balls, which turn whatever they hit Brainwashed and Crazy. The machine was destroyed, scattering the Spell Balls across the land. Many other villains strive to collect them, but Eel is the only one who can outright control ones that are nearby.
  • Gaming All Stars: The Ultimate Crossover has one between Dr. Eggman, G-Man, and Dr. Neo Cortext, though the latter doesn't have much influence on the plot until near the end. Remastered, on the other hand, changes the lineup to Eggman (Who has more screentime and more overall impact on the plot) and Colonel Mael Radec, who appears far less often in-series but is given more promotion by the series trailer and ultimately outlives Eggman, only being ousted by the Greater-Scope Villain once he thinks everything is going swimmingly for him.
    • In 2, there's Zinyak, who forms alliances with other aliens to form the largest threat seen in the series, and to a lesser extent, Shinnok, who only appears once but leads the forces of Netherrealm against the Earthlings on a scale almost as large as Zinyak's invasion.
  • Glitchtale has Chara in Season 1 after Frisk's Heel–Face Turn in the first episode (although W.D. Gaster briefly serves as an Interim Villain) and Bête Noire in Season 2 after Jessica Grey is revealed to be a Big Bad Wannabe in the first episode. In both seasons, the supposed Big Bad becomes a Disc-One Final Boss and the role goes to HATE, the Greater-Scope Villain and Overarching Villain for the entire series.
  • HTF +: Evil Pinkie Pie.
  • Madness Combat had the Sheriff as its first Big Bad, who got killed relatively quickly, followed by Jebus and eventually Tricky. Then the Auditor showed up and things really hit the fan.
  • In Mario Brothers, King Koopa is this with his army of troops. He personally kills Luigi and plans to kill the Princess and Mario.
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Ridiculously Epic, who destroys the moon AND the sun in the series trailer alone.
  • The Most Popular Girls in School:
    • Season 1 has Shay Van Buren, who competes with Mackenzie for Prom Queen title, and both fight to have Deandra on their side.
    • Season 2 has Tanya Berkowitz, the leader of the opposing cheer team and an old enemy of Deandra. her cheer squad and Mackenzie's compete for the territorial rights of the local mall when the mall of their turf is burned down.
    • In season 3, Jenna Darabond, who is revealed to have sparked off all the events from Seasons One and Two in a very long, very complex plan to take revenge on all members of the Cheer Squad. She takes the final step of her plan in this season as she tries to make the cheerleaders uncool by overrunning the town with hipsters.
    • Season 5 has the French Modeling Team, who are the main enemies of the USA team, and the ones to have kidnapped the first USA team.
  • In the My Little Pony Meets, in The Joker Meets My Little Pony, Zod and Chrysalis in Superman Meets My Little Pony, Slenderman in ??? Meets My Little Pony.
  • RWBY: Volume 1 introduces petty villain Roman Torchwick who has begun stealing Dust from the city for unknown reasons, although he is the initial villain that Team RWBY clashes with, he is being controlled by Cinder Fall, who is introduced properly in Volume 2. The first three volumes consist of the heroes trying to uncover what the villains are up to but being thoroughly unprepared for the truth. When Beacon Academy is destroyed in the Volume 3, climax, the Big Bad of the show is introduced as Salem, a woman who controls and even shares the inhuman appearance of the world's Creatures of Grimm and who has a very personal grudge against Beacon Academy's headmaster, Professor Ozpin. It's not until Volume 4 that the heroes learn Salem even exists and Volume 5 is when they learn about a Secret War that Salem and Ozpin have been engaged in for thousands of years; she is trying to obtain four ancient Relics that the Gods left in the world and which are being protected by the four Academies. Only in Volume 6, after confronting Ozpin about the secrets he's keeping, do the heroes learn the Awful Truth about why Salem and Ozpin are enemies, why they're both immortal... and that Salem is impossible to kill.
  • Xionic Madness has XV in episodes 1, 1.5 and 2, The Overseer in episode 3, and Kary-08 in episode 4.

Here's some comfort.

Alternative Title(s): The Big Bad

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Clockwerk

Clockwerk is the leader of the Fiendish Five, immortal enemy of the Cooper Clan and the Final Boss of the first Sly Cooper game.

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