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Disc-One Final Boss

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Another boss? After my final boss?! It's more likely than you think.
"There's all sorts of stories where you think you've beaten the final boss, but then it just moves up to the next level!"

The heroes seemed to have defeated the Big Bad/Final Boss, but then the player realizes that they're on the first disc of a multi-disc RPG (or the audience realizes that the show is only in midseason). They’re not the final boss; they might look like it, but are defeated long before the story ends. They are the driving force in this early part, but they are not the ultimate threat.

There are many ways this can be pulled off. Perhaps they’re merely a subordinate, and the real villain, The Man Behind the Man, will show up later. Or maybe The Starscream/Dragon Ascendant will seize control and become the new threat. Or a Greater-Scope Villain may become directly involved in the plot (such as a Sealed Evil in a Can that turns against the Disc One Final Boss for freeing it). Or the defeated villain will take a break to get your guard down, then come back and go all One-Winged Angel on you pitiful, mortal fools. Or, perhaps, they were a lesser villain or even a good guy fighting against a greater evil; in which case it may even turn out that a Treacherous Advisor manipulated the heroes into believing that someone else was the villain. Or a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere shows up and takes out the villain, becoming a surprise final boss.

A cross between a Red Herring and The Dragon, with a little bit of Your Princess Is in Another Castle! thrown in. It takes its name from the video game trope of a Final Boss,note  not a management figurehead - as much fun as it'd be to find your boss's boss is bringing about the Apocalypse. See also Disc-One Final Dungeon, wherein this character is likely to reside. Compare Decoy Protagonist and Sacrificial Lion. Likely to also be a Climax Boss. If the real final boss is a previously defeated villain, this may lead to the plot being Hijacked by Ganon. This can also demonstrate that You Can't Thwart Stage One.

They can be considered an Arc Villain, and if they're of the initial part of the story then they can also be considered a Starter Villain. If this happens several times, then the story is doing The Big Bad Shuffle. Conversely, if it's known all along that the villain is a side-quest antagonist, that's Villain of the Detour. Not to be confused with the Pre-Final Boss, who is faced immediately before the Final Boss as opposed to halfway through the story.

If said boss is presented but not even fought, it's a Bait-and-Switch Boss.

Spoilers abound, obviously.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Angel Beats!, Angel is initially set up as the main (and only) enemy of the SSS; later on, it is revealed that she is simply another human soul like the rest of them and only wanted to help them move on from purgatory. She becomes their friend and ally in the fight against the Shadows. The really big twist, however, is the fact that she turns out to be the main Heroine and Otanashi's Love Interest.
  • In Attack on Titan, the Colossal, Armored, and Female Titans all turn out to be this. Bertolt, Reiner, and Annie are merely Child Soldiers sent by the nation of Marley. Their superior, the Beast Titan/Zeke Yeager, proves to be far more dangerous and a major player as a result of his royal blood and being Eren's half-brother. Defeating them in a climatic battle simply leads to the Survey Corps learning the true nature of the threat their people face: the entire world wants the Eldians dead, with Marley simply being the most immediate threat. In the final chapters, Eren himself becomes the Final Boss after unleashing the Rumbling and reducing Marley to rubbles, as the Survey Corps and the Warriors assemble to stop his genocidal plans.
  • Black Clover:
    • Zagred, the Devil responsible for the elves' massacre and the Man Behind the Man to "Licht", aka Patry, and the Eye of the Midnight Sun, cements his role as the main villain of the first arc after successfully restoring his body, but is taken out before he can cause mass chaos like he wanted. Despite his demise, there is more to come after him, and he turns out to not be the only devil the Black Bulls have to face.
    • The second saga has Lucifero, the King of Devils, as the main antagonist for the majority of the plot. Stopping his manifestation into the human world becomes primary focus of the second saga, and while the fight against him certainly has trappings of a Final Boss, he is taken out before the final Story Arc begins. It is revealed that Lucifero's defeat was planned by Lucius Zogratis, the eldest of the Zogratis siblings and the other soul inhabiting the body of the Wizard King Julius Novachrono, who becomes the primary antagonist from that point onward.
  • Bleach has Sosuke Aizen. He was behind numerous events in the backstories of half the cast and manipulated all to his liking, but by the time Ichigo defeats him, the artist had already announced that the manga was only half finished.
  • Chainsaw Man:
    • The Gun Devil, the embodiment of the fear of firearms. It wiped out several thousand people all over the world in seconds, and various arcs serve to get closer to it. It's then revealed by Makima that the Gun Devil is mostly contained, and uses her power as the Control Devil to bring the rest of it out, damage it enough that it runs into the body of Aki, so that Denji can kill it inside his best friend's body. After Denji succumbs to the despair of killing Aki, he chooses to be subservient to Makima, only for her to kill his other best friend Power and basically break him through talking, fully setting in that Makima is the true Big Bad.
    • Then, in a literal example, Makima herself is defeated by Denji and consumed over several weeks, marking the end of Part 1. However, she was only the first of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, leaving Denji to contend with the rest of her Big Bad Ensemble.
    • Part 2 sets up the Justice Devil as the new Big Bad, and similarly to the Gun Devil it fights Denji and the new deuteragonist Asa through proxies. It's soon revealed that the real Justice Devil was in Hell the whole time before being killed by the Falling Devil, and the entity using its name was the Fire Devil who was working as a pawn of the Horseman of Famine.
  • Code Geass:
    • While Emperor Charles zi Britannia was always more of a Greater-Scope Villain, he gets several episodes that somewhat heighten his threat level to Lelouch. As the target of Lelouch's rage, Charles dies five episodes before the finale, leaving Schneizel as the Final Boss. On the other hand, Schneizel was always a more direct and frustrating opponent to Lelouch than Charles ever was.
    • In Suzaku of the Counterattack, this happens twice. The viewer expects Lelouch to be the villain, but Emperor Charles Zi Britannia is soon introduced as a potential Big Bad, only for Schneizel to assassinate him.
  • L, the Hero Antagonist in Death Note. Near, Mello, and Matsuda are the ones who ultimately bring about Light's downfall.
  • Delicious in Dungeon has the Red Dragon. Just because Team Touden have tracked down and killed it doesn't mean their adventure is close to being over, as its master, the Lunatic Magician, shows up and makes the rescue mission even harder.
  • Quite common throughout the various Digimon anime universes:
    • Starts out fairly low-key in Digimon Adventure with Devimon, the Big Bad for the first quarter of the season. When he's defeated, he reveals that there are other, more powerful enemies out there, and gloats at how the heroes only barely defeated him.
    • Reaches ridiculous heights in Digimon Adventure 02. The Digimon Kaiser is the Disc One Final Boss under Archnemon... who turns out to be reporting to Oikawa... who then gets Hijacked By BelialVamdemon. Oh, and then there was the Dark Ocean master and this guy called Daemon thrown in there somewhere, although they never received any plot resolution.
    • Digimon Tamers initially has Yamaki, who gets outsmarted by the Devas, whose leader is ultimately a Well-Intentioned Extremist fighting against the real enemy, D-Reaper.
    • Digimon Frontier has Cherubimon acting as the main antagonist for the majority of the series, but once he's defeated, the Royal Knights show up, aiming to resurrect their master Lucemon.
    • Digimon Data Squad has Mercurymon, who gets overshadowed by his psychotic lieutenant Gotsumon and another Ultimatee-level Digimon, SabreLeomon, both of whom are replaced by Kurata, who later makes a Big Bad Duumvirate with one of the Demon Lord Digimon, Belphemon. Once they were killed, Yggdrasil appears...
    • Averted with Digimon Fusion, where Bagramon is introduced as the villain early on and stays the main threat through the first two arcs. (The third arc comes after a Time Skip with less focus on an ongoing plot and no main villain until near the very end.)
  • Dragon Ball Z has had a few cases of this.
    • This happens twice in the Android Saga. At first, the main threat is Dr. Gero, a roboticist formerly affiliated with the Red Ribbon Army who wants revenge on Goku. He ends up being killed by two of his own creations, Androids 17 and 18, who supplant him as the main villains... up until the arrival of the real main villain, a genetically engineered monster named Cell.
    • Something similar happens during the Buu Saga. The first main villain of the Saga is Babidi, an alien sorcerer who seeks to release his father Bibidi's creation Majin Buu so that he can use him for his own purposes. Not long after Buu's release, though, Buu turns on Babidi and murders him, then strikes out on his own. For the rest of the Saga, the main threat is some variation of Buu, up until Majin Buu makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Durarara!! has an interesting variant; Namie Yagiri, a Corrupt Corporate Executive who is plotting some sort of evil scheme involving the protagonist Celty Sturluson and Namie's brother Seiji (who's in love with Celty's detached head and whom Namie herself is in love with), is originally hoisted as the mastermind of the series and this continues all the way up to episode 11...which ends with her being defeated effortlessly by a 14 year old boy with a cellphone (it's more awesome in context). The reason this example is so interesting is because the series' real Big Bad was already present since episode 1, we just didn't realize it because he seemed more into messing with people for laughs than actually scheming or plotting large scale acts of evil. It was Izaya Orihara, whom Namie ends up being forced to serve for the rest of the series.
  • Fairy Tail: Despite not being the Big Bad, Hades of the dark guild Grimoire Heart had a hand in many of the earlier arcs through his dragon Ultear's manipulations and he's by far the most powerful enemy Fairy Tail has ever faced before the first Time Skip, as well as the personal connections he has to the guild as a former Master. With his defeat, the true Big Bad Ensemble makes itself known with Zeref finally deciding to get involved in events (starting by killing him), and Acnologia making his first onscreen appearance at all due to being drawn to the fighting between Fairy Tail and Grimoire Heart.
  • Fist of the North Star:
    • Shin. He's set up to be the antagonist until episode 22, where he gets killed in a somewhat anti-climatic duel between him and Kenshiro. It isn't until episode 44 that the actual antagonist of Raoh is revealed.
    • The original manga take it a step further: Jagi (good-for-nothing black sheep turned unhinged psycho killer), Amiba (good-for-nothing Toki wannabe who murders countless victims in his experiments), and Uigur (sadistic petty tyrant) all are shown to be great threats before Raoh enters the picture. Shin actually gets it even worse; he's eventually revealed to have been manipulated by Jagi.
  • In Haikyuu!!'s beginning chapters, Kageyama is set up as The Rival to protagonist Hinata. Flash forward to both of them showing up for volleyball practice in their new high school Karasuno.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Dio Brando can be seen as the Big Bad of the entire series, he's defeated and killed by Jotaro at the end of Stardust Crusaders, and while his influence can be felt throughout the later Parts, the rest of the series focuses on new protagonists facing different Big Bads who have no relation to him (with the exception of Enrico Pucci).
    • Battle Tendency: Santana is initially believed to be the creator of the Stone Masks and Big Bad of the Part. However, he's defeated early on by Joseph, and it's revealed he's actually a minion for Kars, the true creator of the Stone Masks and real Big Bad of the Part.
    • Diamond is Unbreakable has two of these. The Part initially focuses on tracking down a Stand-granting arrow. This leads the heroes into conflict with the current owner of the arrow, Keicho Nijimura, whose use of the arrow results in the creation of a large number of Stand Users in the Part's first half. However, he's defeated by Josuke early on and killed soon afterwards by the Stand, Red Hot Chili Pepper, who then steals the arrow. This leads to a hunt against the User of Red Hot Chili Pepper, Akira Otoishi. Once he is introduced, he is defeated rather quickly, leading the heroes to later learn of Yoshikage Kira.
    • Golden Wind: La Squadra are made out to be the main antagonistic faction of the Part, but once most of them are defeated, the true main antagonist is revealed in the form of Diavolo, The Don of Passione.
    • JoJolion: Tamaki Damo is the leader of the Rokakaka smuggling ring and cause behind Kira and Josefumi's deaths, but he's actually a small part of a larger network that's led by Toru, the true leader of the Rock Humans.
  • Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch uses this in both its seasons; in fact, in the second season, it was effectively used three times, where the viewer thinks that Michel is the villain, then it's Fuku, then it's the fire spirit known as "him", then it's Fuku again, who is controlling Michel to be the final boss.
  • Naruto: Orochimaru, the Big Bad for the longest time, suffers through Villain Decay after the Time Skip, due to the long-term side effects of his battle with Hiruzen Sarutobi. While he remained a major player for a while, Tobi and the Akatsuki dominated the spotlight, with Danzo Shimura as a distant third in the Big Bad Ensemble. After Orochimaru is defeated (along with Danzo later on), Kabuto replaces Orochimaru as the main threat to Konoha, particularly once he allies with Tobi. As soon as Kabuto is out of the way, Sasuke revives Orochimaru, but the former Big Bad decides to sit back and do whatever Sasuke tells him to do.
  • In what is probably an instance of playing with this trope, the jaw-droppingly powerful vampire/sorceress Evangeline A.K. McDowell in Negima! Magister Negi Magi likens herself to both intermediate and final bosses from a video game, and refuses to say exactly which she is. Also, Haruna uses this as a metaphor (also quoted above) for the fact that Nagi had multiple, progressively stronger enemies.
  • One Piece:
    • After dealing with Foxy during the Davy Back Fight, the Straw Hats get ready for their next adventure, until they meet with Marine Admiral Aokiji, who easily wipes the floor with most of them and sets the stage for the next arcs, Water 7 and Enies Lobby.
    • Fleet Admiral Sengoku is the one calling the shots in the Marineford War, but near the end both Admiral Akainu and Blackbeard become more direct and personal antagonists.
    • Charlotte Katakuri for Whole Cake Island. While Big Mom is indeed the biggest threat in the arc, it is instead her son Katakuri who steps up and becomes Luffy's main opponent. Once Luffy defeats Katakuri in a long and exhaustive battle, the focus returns to the Straw Hats trying to escape the Big Mom pirates and Big Mom herself.
    • Kaido and Big Mom, two of the Four Emperors, are this for the entire story as a whole. They have both been longstanding Greater-Scope Villains throughout the series, pre and post Time Skip, with multiple villains and major characters connected to them in some way. Their influence is felt throughout the series as prime representatives and physical embodiments of the status quo; old veterans who desperately clinging to power and refuse to step aside when the new generation starts making waves. Once they're both finally defeated at Wano, only then does the series begin its final saga; their loss marks the End of an Age and the corresponding Dawn of an Era where younger pirates finally can reach the mountaintop.
  • In Rave Master, King is the initial Big Bad as leader of Demon Card, but he's taken out less than a quarter of the way through, which paves the way for his son to step up and fulfill his father's role for the remainder of the plot.
  • In Sailor Moon R, Rubeus appears to be the Big Bad, but it turns out midway that he was answering to Prince Diamond, who was being used by Wiseman who was the true Big Bad of the season and had been there since the start of the story arc. Also, Galaxia turns out to be this in the manga as it is outright stated (but only implied in the anime) that Chaos is the the evil behind all evils of the entire SERIES and sent every villain Sailor Moon had fought up until that point. Funny thing is, Chaos cannot be defeated as he/she/it is the root of all evil.
  • In Saki, Koromo Amae is built up as a fearsome mahjong opponent, and the greatest obstacle the protagonists will have to overcome if they want to win the prefectural tournament and advance to the nationals. The first anime series concludes not long after the main characters win the tournament, and Koromo's teammates mention that they were eliminated early on in the tournament, giving some indication of how difficult things will get for the protagonists.
  • Shimeji Simulation: Both The Gardener and Big Sis are initially set up as part of the Big Bad Duumvirate, due to their differing but hostile goals for West Yomogi: The Gardener who wants absolute order of her world at the cost of plucking death, while Big Sis wants to destroy the town's illusion through her inventions as means of freedom, at the expense of driving their world into a state of World of Chaos. But they are demoted to this trope when the true Big Bad, the Evil Doppelgänger of Big Sis, shows up in Chapter 38, who wants to drive the world into chaotic insanity through feedback loop by using the Mosasa Dogs to broadcast the code to allow humanity into changing themselves. And destroy West Yomogi and kill its people as a part of her goal.
  • The Big Bad of Slayers' first season seems to be Rezo/Shabranigo, but it's actually Rezo's clone.
    • In the second season, Gaav is the Disc One Final Boss, who gets executed by the true Big Bad, Hellmaster Fibrizo.
    • Subverted in the third season with Valgaav, who seemingly gets killed off partway through. Just when it looks like Dark Star is the Big Bad, it turns out Valgaav merged with Dark Star and returns to become the real Big Bad after all.
    • Zuuma in the fifth season.
    • And in the fourth season, Gioconda is the Disc One Final Boss to Zanaffar.
  • In Star Driver, Head was built up to be the Big Bad, but his defeat at the hands of Takuto only halfway through the series hints at the fact that someone else is going to take up that role. This is subverted, as Head ends up being the Big Bad anyway.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: Lordgenome is the initial Big Bad of the story until The Reveal that he was focusing on ensuring the planet's survival once the Anti-Spirals show up.
  • Texhnolyze: Yoshii seems to be the main antagonist of the story, but then Kano enters the picture.
  • In season 1 of I'm Gonna Be an Angel!, Dispell seems to be the Big Bad. It turns out, however, that he is a puppet of his "sidekick", Silky.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • One can actually make a case for Kaiba being this in the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga. His second appearance (his first is as just a Monster of the Week) has him a far greater threat than any opponent Yugi and his friends had faced so far — previous enemies were (with some exceptions) just school bullies, while Kaiba actually tries to kill Yugi and his friends, and for an incredibly petty reason to boot. His climactic showdown with Yugi has a ton of buildup, the heroes get some Character Development for the first time, and at the end, Yugi learns of the existence of his other self, at a point in the story where nothing suggests that said other self is anything more than a Split Personality. Millenium Items other than the Puzzle had been revealed before this point, but not how many there are or any hint that Yugi must eventually acquire them all. The arc has enough of a denouement that a reader completely unfamiliar with the franchise could probably believe that Death-T is the final arc... only to discover that the series lasted for another 33 volumes.
    • In the Dark Signer of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, the leader Rudger Godwin is defeated before the two female members. The True Final Boss is his younger brother Rex Godwin.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Zeru acts as the leader for Team Rokuyokai during the Dark Tournament. When Hiei kills him, Team Urameshi thinks they have the round in the bag, until the real leader shows up, killing two of the team's fodder in the process: Chu, who appears to be a joke of a fighter, but is in reality every bit as powerful, if not moreso, than Zeru.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory has Gato and the Delaz Fleet ultimately being this with the masterminds behind the Titans taking advantage of Operation Stardust to assume more direct power, setting the stage for Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. And with none the wiser.
  • The Maoh King and Parome in Genma Wars are built up as the source of the leads' woes and suffering but they are disposed of halfway in the series, where its revealed they are merely puppets to a higher power, the Great Genma King.
  • All For One from My Hero Academia. Interestingly, he is by far the most powerful villain in the story so far and is the Big Good's Arch-Enemy, but he is defeated and imprisoned not even 100 chapters into the story. That's because he wants his protege, Shigaraki, to take over in his stead. His defeat also has big ramifications on the story from that point onward, namely the revelation that Shigaraki is the grandson of All Might's late mentor, and defeating All For One cost All Might the remainder of his powers, which effectively writes him out as an active part of the story and the world has to deal with the absence of its biggest symbol. Subverted when All For One later breaks out of prison and reassumes the Big Bad position. While Shigaraki is now even stronger than his mentor, he gets implanted with a copy of All For One's mind, and largely acts as a secondary body for the main villain.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:re has the One-Eyed Owl, Eto Yoshimura, the Big Bad of the original series. While the leader of Aogiri Tree, The Owl is neither the One-Eyed King, nor the final enemy of the series (with those roles belonging to Arima and Furuta respectively).

    Comic Books 
  • Bar-Kooda in a Boba Fett miniseries released in 1998 (later collected in TPB format as Death, Lies, and Treachery). The real villain is his older brother, Ry-Kooda.
  • Big Tomato in Gear. Emperor Pago, who initially appeared, at best, as an unimportant dupe in Big Tomato's plans, turns out to be the real Big Bad.
  • In the Our Worlds at War DCU miniseries event, Imperiex gets upstaged by Brainiac 13 in the middle of the series.
  • "The Doctor" (a.k.a. Dr. Fu-Manchu) in the original volume of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Moriarty is the real Final Boss.
  • The Big Fat Kill, a Sin City miniseries, features Jerkass Jackie-Boy and his Mooks harassing Dwight McCarthy's girlfriend and then escaping to Old Town to cause more trouble. By the end of the first issue, you're left wondering what sort of craziness is going to go down once Dwight ends up between Jackie-Boy and the girls of Old Town. What follows is a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown as Miho takes Jack apart in sadistic fashion. The conflict comes from the fact that Jackie-Boy was a hero cop, which leads to the real Big Bad, Manute, stepping in with Wallenquist's enforcers.
  • Dr. Robotnik was the Big Bad for quite awhile in Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics), only to then be Killed Off for Real in issue 50. Various villains all went around and took his place as the Big Bad, only for his alternate dimension counterpart Robo-Robotnik {Who would later go by the classic alias Dr. Eggman} to finally become the overall main antagonist for the book.
  • Subverted in Legacy. Darth Krayt is set up as the Big Bad, only to be killed by his previously loyal Dragon Darth Wyyrlok after Krayt goes into a Villainous Breakdown and starts endangering his own vision. But it turns out Krayt figured out how to come Back from the Dead, and he Came Back Strong to boot. Wyyrlok's tenure as Big Bad is cut unceremoniously short, and Krayt ends up as the final villain after all.
  • During the Inferno (1988), Spider-Man's first "contribution" to the crossover was a battle with Mysterio, who Spidey thought was the one responsible for all the weird things happening. Of course, Mysterio had nothing to do with them, as Spidey figured out when an air vent attacked him after he threw the villain in jail.
  • Kismet: Man of Fate: In Bomber Comics #1, the plot at first seems to be the assassination of Colonel Freydrich, a Nazi official who's so evil that he's been nicknamed "the Headsman." Freydrich is taken out halfway through the story, and the rest focuses on Herr Schering, a Gestapo agent sent to destroy the village the assassination happened in as Disproportionate Retribution.
  • K-Bar Kate: Western Crime Busters #4 has as its seeming Big Bad Mr. Slade, a rancher who tries to murder Mr. Slocum to get the K-Bar. However, the climax reveals that his foreman is 3-Finger Jake, a wanted bank robber who ends up killing him and becoming the true threat.
  • Yellowjacket: In Yellowjacket Comics #9, it seems that Monte Woods was responsible for the apartment complex collapse out hero is investigating. However, the investigation reveals that he did it on the orders of the property owner, Guy Wentworth.
  • The Wraith: In Mystery Men Comics #27, the Wraith goes after Silky Weaver and his gang. However, Weaver is the first to be taken down, after which Dragon Ascendant Slug Collins take over.
  • Ace McCoy: The focus of Sure-Fire Comics #2 seems to be on Ace and Regan thwarting an airplane hijacking carried out by a Nazi spy named Scholz, but about halfway through it's revealed that this was all part of a larger sabotage scheme led by seemingly helpful military man Major Maxim.
  • The Black Spider:
    • Super-Mystery Comics v1 #3 has an interesting example, as the Big Bad is known to be mob boss Sol Risko the whole time, but he remains unsought due to being in a jail cell the whole issue, but The Heavy is in question. The scheme to steal the evidence against Risko seems to be masterminded by fellow criminal Harrigan, but it's revealed halfway through that he was hired by Risko's lieutenant, Pete Macklin.
    • Super-Mystery Comics v1 #5 centers around an insurance murder ring initially led by Spike Bolger. However, the rest of the gang, led by a henchman named Benny, figure out that his idiosyncratic choice of dress gave his identity away, so they kill him and operate on their own.
  • The Masked Marvel: Gunsmoke #4 has the Marvel going after a group of Apaches who are racing cattle. He eventually leads the locals into gunning the raiders down, before going after the men who hired him, ranch hands Monte Durrow and Charlie Briggs.
  • Stillwater (Image Comics): The Judge is introduced as the tryannical ruler of the titular town and as the principal threat of the story, which he remains until Galen shows his true colors, organizes a coup of the town and has The Judge executed outside of Stillwater's protective boundary.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has the main heroines destroy the griffin superweapon in chapter 10. It was certainly an outstanding victory for the ponies. But, as pointed out by the Princesses and Firefly, The War Has Just Begun.
  • Avengers: Infinite Wars: Ultron. For over 2 seasons and 64 chapters (not counting the cameos he made before his official debut) Ultron was the most devastating force in the Galaxy Far Far Away, forcing all sides of the conflict into a truce until he is finally destroyed in the season 4 premiere. But even with his end, the troubles only seem to be getting started, as The Son and his True Sith faction are setting themselves as the next rising threat to the both heroes and other villains, not to mention Maul and Crimson Dawn, all of which setting the stage for Thanos.
  • In the Azula Trilogy, General Azun is the first Big Bad, and is a very credible threat, a fanatic with a growing army of Fire Nation imperialists determined to restore the Fire Nation to its conquering ways. However, he is defeated at the climax of the first story, and the rest of the trilogy make it clear that he was just one Unwitting Pawn of many of the true Big Bad, Zhan Zheng.
  • Checkmate (Anla'Shok): President Alchys, the ruthless creator of the Hunger Games, is the target of Mags' scheming and plotting for about half of the story, spanning a period of about thirty-five years. Alchys' eventual assassination raises the possibility that the Capitol's evil subjugation of the district can be ended without outright war under the guidance of Alchys' successor, Zephyr. However, despite the Rebels trying to identify and eliminate the ambitious psychos who might overthrow Zephyr, they miss Coriolanus Snow, who poisons his way to the presidency and spends the next 25 years and approximately forty chapters subjecting the districts to worse mistreatment than ever before.
  • Code Prime, has Megatron. As the leader of the Decepticons and true power behind Emperor Charles zi Britannia, Megatron presented himself as the most powerful and feared threat for the first two parts of the story before meeting his demise at the hands of Lelouch in R2 finale, One Shall Fall. Of course, his death and the fall of the Decepticon Empire opens a way for the other villains for the final season, such as the Kingdom of Zilkhistan, Predaking, and finally, Unicron.
  • The titular team from Dangerous Losers spend the majority of the story fighting the corrupt corporation Matou Industries. But once they capture Zouken Matou, he is killed by Gilgamesh, Saber's former mentor, who then steals Matou's Od serum to purge the unworthy, forcing a final confirmation between his team and the Losers in London.
  • A Dark Knight over Sin City starts with Batman tracking down the Yellow Bastard. Once he catches up to him, he finds out the Yellow Bastard has been killed by John Hartigan. It's soon clear that The Joker is the final boss.
  • Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious in The Desert Storm series. Nearly everything bad that happens in the story can ultimately be traced back to him. The fanfic's entire premise is about how a post-Revenge of the Sith Obi-Wan Kenobi travels back in time to 6 years before The Phantom Menace in an attempt to undo Palpatine's canonical victory. By the time the series reaches the end of Act I, Palpatine seems ready to take his proper place as the Big Bad again. Or at least he would have if Ben hadn't abruptly gone Off the Rails and, after a truly vicious duel, decapitated him with his lightsaber in the middle of Padmé's coronation. Immediately after Palpatine's death, Darth Plagueis steps in and replaces his apprentice as the true main antagonist of the series.
  • Earth and Sky: Diamond Tiara starts out looking like the Big Bad, using the Flim-Flam brothers to try and ruin Harmony Aeronautics, but by the time the Pegalathon starts, has lost complete control of them and is stuck pulling what strings she can for her benefit. And then she gets kidnapped by the changelings and replaced by Chrysalis, beginning her road to a Heel Realization and a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Empathy starts out as basically just Big Hero 6 with Riley and Tip tagging along for the ride, so Yokai is still the apparent Big Bad. However, he ultimately turns out to be a forcibly recruited minion of the true main antagonist, the Gorg.
  • The Game of Thrones fanfic An Empire of Ice and Fire has the Villain Team-Up of Ramsay Bolton and Viserys Targaryen. They are the first major antagonists that Jon and Daenerys face, but they’re defeated in Chapter 26 of what's ultimately a more than 100 chapter story, while the rest of the story deals with their conflicts with Joffrey and the Night King.
  • Equestria Girls: A Fairly Odd Friendship: Crocker is set up as the main antagonist, as he continually tries to get ahold of Timmy's fairies. But once the Dazzlings show up, they quickly take center stage.
  • Friendship Is Aura: Chrysalis turns out to be a more serious threat than Razorfang, but was still subservient to Lord Tartarus.
  • from porcelain to ivory to steel: J. Geil is the primary Arch-Enemy of Sherry Polnareff after he attempted to rape her and killed her brother Jean-Pierre, while she took out his eye with her inherited Stand Silver Chariot. In chapter 19, Sherry finally kills J. Geil in a last duel, and now focus her efforts to defeat DIO with the rest of the Joestar group. The author even describes the events as the end of the first half of Sherry's journey.
  • Invader Zim: The Series: Relationship Sue (and yes, that is her name) is the Big Bad of the story's first major Story Arc, but after her defeat at said arc's climax, she disappears. By the time she returns, the Rogues Gallery has grown so large that she's just one antagonist among many, and eventually ends up Demoted to Dragon for Tallest Spork, who establishes himself as the new Big Bad when he gathers most of the other antagonists into a Legion of Doom during the latter end of the story. And then during the final chapters, Spork himself ends up playing Disc One Final Boss to Sarong, who uses him in his plans to wipe out the Irkens once and for all.
  • Justice League of Equestria: General Zod in Mare of Steel, who's defeated at the end of the first arc, leaving room for Brainiac and Alexander Silversmith in the second (and last) arc.
  • LadyBugOut: For all of the trouble Lila Rossi caused, she ends up effectively neutralizing herself courtesy of her obsession with always being the center of attention. Once her lies about being involved with the blog blow up in her face and her classmates realize just how much she's deceived them, all of her former influence evaporates, and subsequent attempts to reestablish herself just end up digging her deeper into the hole.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Dawn begins with three Big Bads, Deadlock, Empress Tyrania, and Boss Kaze, with Deadlock as the true main antagonist, but Tyrania and Kaze serve as the main villains for most of the first half, at which point they're killed off and Deadlock returns to being The Heavy. After she's defeated and performs a Heel–Face Turn, she turns out to be a Disc-One Final Boss herself and her Dragon with an Agenda General Grendel is the real Big Bad who was The Man Behind the Man for all three of the other Big Bads, forcing the group to have a Final Battle with him and the Eldritch Abomination he awakens before all is said and done.
  • In Marionettes, Cover Story and Gear Shift are The Heavies of the story, chasing Trixie Implacable Man style, but it's made clear they're agents in a bigger organization with superiors to report to. So while their defeat is an important part of the story, there's still their organization as a whole that will need dealt with, particularly their leader, Director Masquerade. Word of God even refers to the fight with them as this trope.
  • Metroid: Kamen Rider Generations has Tsukasa Kadoya as the Unknown Rival to Samus, and then there's Ridley, who is encountered at least five times throughout the story.
  • Miraculous City: The Butterfly villain Chrysalis, a result of Paris's Miraculous Bang, initially takes over as the Big Bad in the second part of the story from Monarch, with Bunnyx warning the present heroes that if they aren't stop in the Miracle Bang. But in the mass fight between Team Miraculous and the Disaster Team, Hawkmoth makes his return and turns Chrysalis into his brainwashed Akuma, returning as the primary threat to both Paris and the world at large.
  • In Total Drama fanfic Monster Chronicles, Alejandro retains his hold on the game he had in canon for the first few chapters, but is no match for Cedric's supernatural powers.
  • The Zootopia fanfic A New Dawn seems to be setting up a plot about a recently-escaped Dawn Bellwether traveling to Bunnyburrow to seek revenge on the cops that arrested her. However, Bellwether's plan is not very well thought out, and she is caught and put back in jail roughly a third of the way into the story. The fanfic then becomes about her slow path to redemption. This trope is directly lampshaded by Judy and Nick after the arrest happens.
    Judy: Well, that was... easy.
    Nick: I dare even call it anticlimactic.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Olga is the second belligerent of the centuries-old war that has caused untold suffering to Eostia's people. She is built up as the archetypal Evil Overlord, the person Kyril must defeat in order to end the war and bring her back to Eostia so she can face justice. Olga is defeated in the first Story Arc, but the resources and personnel she leaves behind give Vault the means of turning against the Seven Shields and cementing his status as the main threat.
    • Unlike the original version, where Vault dethrones Olga and becomes the Big Bad, Vault in the remastered version is killed by Kyril in Chapter 6 as soon as his ambitions to build a Sex Empire become known. No "ultimate threat" is present as of now, but the remastered version of the story is incomplete.
  • The Nuptialverse:
    • Families: Garble and his gang are a major threat in the first portion of the story, but are quickly reduced to Olive Branch's Unwitting Pawns, after which they are summarily defeated by Twilight and company.
    • Direction: Trixie is the first major antagonist in the story, but is defeated fairly early on.
  • The Pony POV Series begins with the Discorded Series, which like the series proper has Discord as the Big Bad. In the main timeline, he's defeated and sealed just like in the show, leading to the Reharmonizing Series, where who the main antagonist is gets a bit... trickier. Loneliness, Trixie's Enemy Within, serves as the Big Bad of the story arc to save Trixie, eventually being destroyed by Trixie herself. Then Fluttercruel ends up accidentally doing a Break the Cutie on Fluttershy which "Discords" her for real, causing Fluttershy to transform into a Superpowered Evil Side called Princess Gaia, a Well-Intentioned Extremist who begins trying to draw everypony into her Lotus-Eater Machine and serves as the second Big Bad. However, Discord has already been confirmed to escape sometime in the future to be the True Final Boss.
    • "Origins": Discord's parents Havoc and Entropy serve as joint-Unseen Evil for the first half of the arc, but after the Alicorn/Draconqeui War they disappear from the story, allowing Discord to take center stage.
    • Dark World starts off with Discord as the Big Bad, but it eventually becomes a Big Bad Ensemble when the Nameless Passenger (the entity manipulating Twilight and her friends) turns out to be evil. Then, Discord is betrayed and mortally wounded by Rancor, and upon his death the Passenger reveals herself to be Nightmare Paradox, Twilight's potential Nightmare self; not only is she the Final Boss, but it turns out she'd been enforcing a "Groundhog Day" Loop on Dark World in order to perpetually torment Discord, making her the Greater-Scope Villain of the timeline from the start.
    • The Shining Armor Arc: Makarov and the Wolf are the greatest threats to Shining's continued existence, but the Wolf is also a threat to Makarov as well, for all the damage he's caused to the timeline. Ultimately, it erases him, before turning out to still be after Shining as well, since he's not supposed to exist either.
    • In the Finale Arc: Nyarlathotrot shares the Big Bad status with Discord for most of the arc, with his magic being vital for Discord's endgame. Late in the arc, however, he's banished and defeated by a newly ascended Alicorn Applejack, leaving Discord as the remaining villain.
  • Power Rangers Cosmic Defenders kills off the Big Bad Lord Gingaku in chapter 33, leading to The Dragon Dark Soul taking up the role. Subverted when Gingaku returns 3 chapters later and reduces Dark Soul to nothing.
  • In The Prayer Warriors Threat of Satanic Commonism, John Lennon is killed about 3/5 of the way through that installment, and the remaining chapters deal with the effort to defeat Stalin.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness: In Acts II and III, it's believed that Kiria was the leader of Fairy Tale, and that with his demise, Fairy Tale was finished. Come Act VI, it's revealed that Fairy Tale still exists, and that Kiria was merely a figurehead for their real leader, Gyokuro Shuzen.
  • Star Kits Prophecy tries to set up TiggerStraw as its Big Bad, with HolyLeaf as his dragon. Then HolyLeaf kills him and TugerKit becomes the real Big Bad.
  • Star Wars: Paranormalities: Maesterus is made out to be the main villain and the leader of the Valkoran Empire throughout Episode I. Even when the Forceless Collective enters the story, he's still the most active villain. By the end of Episode I, it is revealed that he was really being controlled by Valkor, and upon realizing how truly evil Valkor and the Forceless Collective are, he performs a subverted Heroic Sacrifice by throwing Forceless Archfiend Belluzub into Krantisi's sun.
  • The Biggest Bad from Super Milestone Wars 2. He get's replaced by the King Dyce. Then King Dyce get's replaced, ala Hijacked by Ganon, by Princess Jody, the Big Bad of Super Milestone Wars.
  • Superwomen of Eva: Treacherous Web: The first thing that Ritsuko Akagi decides to do once she manages to control the powers of Spider-Woman that she was infused with is to assassinate Gendo Ikari (in strict defiance of The Stations of the Canon, In-Universe and out). A Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs as Gendo (a regular middle-aged man with no preparation whatsoever) ends up in close-quarters combat with a superhuman driven to kill; he gets a horrifying pummeling as a result, and thus dies within the first three chapters of the fic, leaving SEELE with the road open to take over as the actual Big Bad.
  • Doumon in Theory of Chaos. While the readers know from the beginning that she's working for someone else, it's quite a shock when Takato's Superpowered Evil Side comes out halfway through, casually offs her, and then nearly kills the other Tamers. Doumon's master, Daemon, doesn't take the stage until the very last scene and serves as Big Bad for the final story instead.
  • Time Lords and Terror: Matron Hydia is The Heavy for most of the story, carrying out a plot to release the S'Muz and conquer The Multiverse... unfortunately for her, the S'Muz is an Omnicidal Maniac to the extreme, and it proves itself worse than Hydia by rendering her Deader than Dead before becoming the True Final Boss.
  • Tomica Hero Rescue Pups has Darth Longinus, leader of the Neo Terror remnant the PAW Patrol fights. He's stated to die in Episode 30 and be succeeded by an even worse commander.
  • In Total Drama Battlegrounds, when Sandra was introduced, everyone thought she would be an even worse manipulative, Alpha Bitch than Heather and then she was the first one to be voted off.
  • Total Drama: Some Stars has Mike, who has taken several levels in jerkass, and it's more than implied that this is because Mal, the Superpowered Evil Side Big Bad of All Stars, had much more of an effect on the Split-Personality Merge in the finale of that season than Mike would care to admit. This, combined with the canonical nature of this merge, makes him into an absolute force to be reckoned with... And then he's eliminated first by his all-too-Genre Savvy teammates, at Duncan's behest.
  • In With Strings Attached, Jeft is revealed to be the Big Bad behind most of what happened to the four through the Second and Third Movements. However, after their indirect and unknowing defeat of him, he flees. All seems rosy, except that there's one more Movement to go, and Brox steps in to make things difficult for the four — proving to be worse in many ways, too. Unusual in that the two are in no way related, or even have any awareness of each other.

    Films — Animated 
  • In 9, 7 kills the Cat Beast right when 5 and 9 go after it to save 2. However, the true Big Bad turns out to be the Fabrication Machine, which 9 activated after placing the Talisman in it.
  • DC Universe Animated Original Movies:
    • Superman: Doomsday: Superman destroys Doomsday during the first half, then the villain becomes Lex Luthor's rogue Superman clone.
    • Green Lantern: First Flight: At first it seems like the main antagonist is Cuch, the space criminal who killed Abin Sur. However, he's captured a half hour into the film and revealed to be working for Kanjar Ro, a warlord after the only power that can stop the Green Lantern Corps. However, ten minutes later, Ro is revealed to be working for traitorous Lantern Sinestro.
    • Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths: At first it seems like the League will be battling the Crime Syndicate led by Ultraman, who have taken over the Earth, but that threat is overshadowed by Owlman's scheme to destroy reality.
    • Superman vs. the Elite: The film initially seems to have a Big Bad Ensemble of rampaging supervillain the Atomic Skull and the warring dictators of Bialya and Pokolistan, but new supers the Elite kill all three and prove to be far more dangerous.
    • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns: Batman starts out fighting the Mutants, a gang of thugs out to take over Gotham. He defeats their leader at the end of Part I. Part II opens with The Joker awakening from a catatonic state and going on a rampage, dying halfway through. After that, Superman, the Hero Antagonist, becomes the True Final Boss after being sent by the government to defeat Batman.
  • The Hydra in Hercules (Pure Magic). Hercules' initial goal is to kill him to stop the prophecy that otherwise guarantees Deianira's death, but after winning the battle, he learns that Deianira has been taken away, leading to the true final battle on Mount Olympus.
  • Verushka in Hoodwinked! Too! Hood vs Evil, as Hansel and Gretel are the true villains of the story.
  • Pixar
    • Toy Story: Woody, Buzz, and the rest of Sid's mutilated toys successfully scare the heck out of Sid Phillips by revealing their sentience. However, Sid's dog, Scud, becomes the main obstacle in their attempt to catch up with the moving truck.
    • Monsters, Inc.:
      • Monsters, Inc.: Randall Boggs is the film's most active antagonist, being Mike and Sulley's rival who would go through terrifying lengths just to prove himself as superior. He's revealed to be working alongside Monsters Inc. CEO, Henry J. Waternoose III, and as such, the latter is still kicking as a threat after Mike, Sulley, and Boo defeat the former.
      • Monsters University: Much of the film hypes up the inevitable Scare Stimulator final showdown between Oozma Kappa and Roar Omega Roar, particularly the face-off between rivals Mike Wazowski and Johnny Worthington. Mike scores the game-winning scare to grant Oozma Kappa the championship, so there should be a happy ending already right? Except Mike discovers that Sulley tampered with the settings to his advantage, still believing that Mike doesn't have the natural ability to scare. This leads to a betrayed Mike entering in the human world to prove himself.
    • The dentist and his niece Darla from Finding Nemo. After Nemo successfully escapes the dentist's office with the help of Gill and the Tank Gang, the fishermen who accidentally catch Dory when it's time for Nemo, Marlin, and Dory to begin to return home become the final opponents the heroes must face.
    • The marketing of Incredibles 2 appears to set up the supervillain Screenslaver as the main antagonist, but he is fought much earlier in the film by Elastigirl, who then realizes too late that he was only merely a decoy set up by the film's real antagonist: the super-hating Evelyn Deavor who brainwashes the supers with mind-control goggles to sabotage their efforts in regaining the public's trust!
  • The Prince of Egypt: In tune with The Bible, it seems like Seti I will be the pharaoh Moses must step up against to free the Hebrews. However, he dies offscreen halfway through the film and his son Rameses inherits the throne.
  • Puss in Boots: The Last Wish: Puss' final confrontation with the Wolf is this. Shortly after he yields to Puss and leaves the scene, Jack Horner (who was seemingly dispatched off earlier) resurfaces one last time to battle the heroes, cementing his role as the film's Big Bad.
  • South Park: Post Covid: The Return of Covid: Eric Cartman starts out as the main antagonist, but he makes a Heel–Face Turn about three-quarters of the way through the movie, leaving his erstwhile minion Clyde Donovan to occupy his now-vacant role.
  • Sabor in Tarzan. Since Sabor killed Tarzan's parents and Kala & Kerchak's son, the movie seems to be building her up to be the main antagonist. However, Tarzan kills her before the halfway point, and Clayton ends up filling in the role of the Big Bad. She was a very significant threat, it's just that more important things happened to Tarzan's life a short time afterwards.
  • In Ultimate Avengers, even though the Avengers force the Chitauri to go running with their tails between their legs, they now have to deal with an out-of-control Hulk afterward.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Electro is defeated before the final Goblin fight.
  • Android Cop: At first it seems like the main threat will be drug boss Dexts Madison, but he's killed 15 minutes in and the plot moves on to a genocidal Government Conspiracy led by Mayor Jacobs.
  • Army of Frankensteins: The Frankensteins seem to be the main threat for the first half of the movie, but it turns out they were only rampaging because they were terrified from all the dimension jumping, and are eventually calmed down and turned against the Confederate States of America to free the slaves.
  • The Battleship Potemkin: At first the film focuses on the mutiny against the Potemkin's officers, led by Captain Golikov. After they're all thrown overboard to drown a third of the way in, the Odessa police become the bigger threat.
  • Black Butler: At first it seems like corporate scumbag Shinpen Kubo is the mastermind behind the murders, until he's shown answering to a hooded figure who guns him down to take the Necrosis formula. Said figure is later revealed to be Lady Hanae Wakatsuki.
  • Blood Red Sky: Berg, the leader of the hijackers, is killed by Nadja halfway through the movie. Eightball, a particularly psychotic member of the group, assumes the role of Big Bad.
  • Brotherhood of Blades: Wei Zhongian, who has been plotting to overthrow the government throughout the film, is killed with twenty minutes left. It is then revealed that his godson, Zhou Jhingzhong, had been manipulating events to take power the whole time.
  • Bullet in the Head: Ringo, a small-time gangster harassing our protagonists, initially seems like the Big Bad, but is killed fifteen minutes in, after which we're thrown into a giant Big Bad Ensemble with Paul being the True Final Boss.
  • In tune with the book, both film iterations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has Mike Teavee as the last of the Four Bratty Kids succumbing to his flaws and eliminated from Willy Wonka's tour, solidifying Charlie Bucket as the winner of the competition. However, the films take it up a notch by adding one final obstacle for Charlie to overcome before decisively winning the grand prize.
    • In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory after Mike is eliminated from the tour, Wonka initially refuses to give Charlie and Grandpa Joe the grand prize since they violated the contract by stealing the Fizzy Lifting Drinks. Charlie gives in to his loss by honorifically offering the Everlasting Gobstopper given to him by Arthur Slugsworth; this is revealed to be a secret test of character from Wonka that only Charlie passed, granting him the company as the grand prize.
    • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka grants Charlie the Chocolate Factory immediately after Mike is eliminated from the tour under the condition that the latter leaves everything behind — including his family (due to Wonka's nihilistic view on family given his Dark and Troubled Past relationship with his father). Charlie refuses given his value of family, leaving Wonka with no winner. However, Charlie and Wonka coincidentally meet up with Charlie taking Wonka to see his father, culminating in a grand and happy reunion that convinces Wonka to finally allow Charlie and his family to live in the factory.
  • The Cottage: Muk Li San and Chun Yo Fu seem to be the Big Bad Duumvirate of the film, being the two hitmen Arnie sent to fetch his daughter, but the farmer makes short work of them halfway through the film, causing the film to take a Genre Shift from crime comedy to Slasher Movie.
  • The Crow: T-Bird looks like the Big Bad, since he's the gang leader who kills Eric and Shelley, but he's revealed to be working for a crime boss named Top Dollar halfway through the film.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • Batman Begins: Carmine Falcone seems to be the root of Gotham's problems, as The Don of the Gotham Mob, but he's really just a patsy for the League of Shadows, via the Scarecrow. He's captured and driven insane while his bosses continue their schemes.
    • The Dark Knight: For the first part of the film, it seems like Salvatore Maroni, new head of the Falcone Family and de facto head of Gotham's organized crime, is gonna be the Big Bad trying to end Batman's influence on the city. Then he hires the Joker, who takes over and plunges the city into utter chaos.
    • The Dark Knight Rises: At first it seems like Bane is the mastermind of the plot to destroy Gotham, but he's secretly working with Talia al-Ghul, who wants to avenge her father's demise in Batman Begins.
  • Dune climaxes with Paul being forced to kill Jamis in a Duel to the Death. While he's not part of the Harkonnens, Paul meeting Jamis was one of many of his visions and it not only concludes the first half of the story, but also brings Paul one step closer to embracing his new life as Muad'dib in Dune: Part Two.
  • Dolemite: The film's first hour is driven by Dolemite's feud with Willie Green, but Green gets killed with about half an hour left to go. The Greater-Scope Villain mayor then takes the reins, but is himself killed by a secondary character. With only a few minutes of screen time remaining, we're introduced to group of assassins hired by the late mayor.
  • Subverted in Elysium. At first, Kruger seems like this, but then is revived and kills Delacourt, making her the true Disc One Final Boss.
  • Yusuf Kama is portrayed as being an antagonist for about the first half of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald in his hunt to kill Credence. It's later revealed that he literally has to kill Credence (or so he thinks) because of an unbreakable vow he made with his father to avenge his mother or he will die. He thinks Creedence is Corvus Lestrange V under a fake name. Corvus's father raped his mother who then died giving birth to his (Yusuf's) half-sister, Leta. His father made him vow to get revenge on the one person Leta's father loved, Corvus. Once Leta tells him that Corvus is long dead and therefore the vow is null and void, he joins the good guys in fighting Grindelwald. He doesn't even feel any ill will toward Leta.
  • Fist of Legend: Chen is originally seeking revenge on Akutegawa for killing his master, but it's revealed that Akutegawa is working for General Fujita, who kills him soon after.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn: At first it seems like the Gecko Brothers only gotta deal with the Texas police as they Run for the Border, being Villain Protagonists who themselves drive the conflict. Then they escape the US halfway through the film and the vampires led by Santanico Pandemonium take over the conflict. Even then, Santanico is killed early in the fight and the leaderless horde end up being the collective True Final Boss.
  • Game Over, Man! (2018) has Conrad, the leader of the hostage-takers. Midway through the film, it turns out that Mr. Admad, the principle hostage's butler, is leading the villains.
  • In GI Joe The Rise Of Cobra, James McCullen (played by Christopher Eccleston) is most definitely this. Because of the heavily publicized fact that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (a more recognizable Hollywood name than Eccleston) was playing the villain, even those who were unfamiliar with Joe mythology couldn't help but understand that McCullen was just a placeholder until the Big Bad revealed himself.
  • The Godfather has two. There's Solozzo, who engineers the attempt on Vito Corleone's life and seems to be driving the plot. Then Michael kills him halfway through the film. Tattaglia seems to be the Big Bad in the second half, until it's later revealed that both of them were Co-Dragons for the real Big Bad, Emilio Barzini, who was behind the conspiracy to chip away at Vito Corleone's power in any way possible, whether by turning Vito's allies against him, or secretly trying to shake him down at the peace summit to end the Five Families War.
  • Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell: For the first twenty minutes, our heroes have to deal with a plane hijacking committed by terrorist Hirofumi Teranka. As soon as they land, body-jumping space vampire the Gokemidoro takes Teranka's body and Big Bad status.
  • In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the gremlin Mohawk is teased as the reincarnation of Stripe, the previous film's Big Bad. However, it's the Brain Gremlin who assumes leadership of the Gremlins, and Mohawk gets killed midway through the film.
  • Heathers seems to start out as a typical teen drama with Alpha Bitch Heather Chandler as the main antagonist, not least because the movie's sort of named after her. Then JD shows up and starts killing people.
  • Hercules (2014): Hercules is initially contracted to put down a rebellion started by Rhesus. Rhesus is captured an hour in, after which it's revealed that he's Good All Along and Cotys is the true threat.
  • The first half of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is mainly about Kevin trying to make sure the hotel staff doesn't wise up to the fact that he's staying in the hotel alone, but after they discover what he's up to and he escapes from the hotel, the rest of the movie involves his conflict with Harry and Marv.
  • In Jurassic Park, the T. Rex causes the first human death and sends Grant and the kids running. However, while she pops up several times after her breakout, the Raptors become the bigger threat to the cast once they break free when the plan to reboot the park's computers ends up cutting power to their paddock's fences; after their escape the focus of the film is the casts' attempts to avoid them.
  • Kill Bill has O-Ren Ishii as the last boss of "disc 1" (volume 1). In true ironic Tarantino scene order, she's actually the first of the main victims of the Bride in the storyline.
  • Betty in Kung Pow! Enter the Fist, with The Evil Council as the real Big Bad. Or at least they would, if the second film was ever made.
  • The Big Bad in Last Action Hero appears to be the mob boss, with Benedict as his dragon. As the far more competent Benedict starts to figure out what's going on, he shoots his boss and becomes the real threat himself.
  • The Lost Boys: At first the Big Bad seems to be David, a vampire pack leader trying to corrupt the main character into joining him, but it's revealed at the end that he answers to Max, who wants the protagonist's entire family turned.
  • Lovely But Deadly: At first it seems like the mastermind of the drug operation is football star Mantis Managian, but it's revealed 40 minutes in that he's just a field operative for the real drug lord, "Honest" Charley Gilmarten.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: It seems like the main antagonists will be the Ten Rings terrorist organization, led by Raza, but it's revealed that they're working for Obadiah Stane, who wants control of the company and needs Tony removed.
    • Thor begins with the Frost Giants invading Asgard. Thor goes to their king, Laufey, believing he was behind the attacks. It is soon revealed that there is a traitor in Asgard and that Laufey was in cahoots with him. The rest of the movie deals with Loki as the Big Bad while Laufey disappears for much of the action. He makes a return toward the end of the film and is promptly killed off by the real Big Bad without ever having fought the main character.
    • Iron Man 3: The trailers imply the Mandarin as being the Big Bad. He's not; he's simply a washed-up actor posing as a decoy.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: At first it seems like the mastermind of the conspiracy is Arnim Zola, having survived in a computer since the 1970's, but he's killed mere minutes after being re-introduced and Alexander Pierce takes over.
    • Doctor Strange (2016): Master Kaecilius seems to be the main baddie for the first half of the film, until it's revealed that he serves as The Dragon to Dormammu .
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Ayesha, the Sovereign High Priestess, was portrayed as the Big Bad by the trailers. While Rocket pisses her off in the beginning by stealing valuable batteries from her and she sends her Sovereign fleet and hires the more antagonistic Ravagers to hunt the Guardians down, Ego is ultimately a much greater threat than she is, making her come off as a Big Bad Wannabe in comparison. During the climax, she finally catches up to the Guardians with her remote-controlled fleet and engages them in a dogfight inside of Ego, until all of her fighters are obliterated by a sudden laser attack from the opposing ship, leaving her helpless to stop them and cementing Ego as the Final Boss. It is strongly implied, however, that she will no longer be a Big Bad Wannabe, given her creation of Adam Warlock in a mid-credits scene and her plans to unleash him on her enemies.
    • Black Panther (2018) sets up a Big Bad Duumvirate with Erik "Killmonger" Stevens and Ulysses Klaue, a returning villain. Klaue gets taken out by Erik himself roughly halfway through the movie, which Killmonger had been planning right from the beginning.
    • Avengers: Endgame has the present day Thanos act as this to his past self. The heroes track him down and try to undo the effects of the Snap, only to discover that Thanos had already destroyed the Infinity Stones with another snap to ensure that can't happen, an act that almost kills him and leaves him in no condition to fight back just before Thor decapitates him. Once the Thanos of 2014 discovers the heroes have time traveled to collect the stones and use them to undo his future self's success, he becomes the Big Bad for the rest of the film.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home initially has Spider-Man team up with a new superhero named Mysterio to stop the Elementals from the destroying Earth. It turns out the whole thing was a set-up by the real villain, Mysterio, having created the Elementals as projections and special effects to make himself look like a hero, endangering people's lives in the process, as well as to manipulate Peter into giving him the E.D.I.T.H technology. When Peter learns the truth, Mysterio targets him and his friends to keep his secret safe.
  • Miami Connection has two: the rival band manager begins the conflict with the band over a dispute to be the house band at a local club. He ultimately joins forces with Jeff, a drug lord, who also holds a grudge against the band for its member dating his sister. Both are defeated before the climax, in which the band faces the drug gang leader and his remaining ninjas.
  • Especially tricky because the movie is almost over when he's finally taken down: Veck is not the Big Bad of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Commander Kent, the SWAT guy that took over the hostage negotiations and was chasing after Veck with Paul, was actually working with Veck all along. The new villain then gets taken down almost instantly.
  • Predator: The mission is undertaken to rescue some men from South American guerrillas. Soon after their camp is destroyed, the people-hunting alien shows up.
  • The Princess Bride - Vizzini kidnaps Buttercup in an attempt to kill her and start a war between two countries. He's fatally poisoned about midway through the movie, and it's later revealed he was hired by Prince Humperdinck, the true mastermind of the plan.
  • Sawney: Flesh of Man: It seems like Sawney is the head of the cannibalism operation, but it turns out he's just managing it to sate his ravenous mother, who kills him and becomes the True Final Boss after escaping her basement.
  • Star Wars:
    • The Phantom Menace ends with Yoda and Mace Windu wondering whether the Sith that Obi-Wan slew was the Big Bad or just a Disc One Final Boss. (The audience, having seen him taking orders from a man he calls "master" earlier in the film, knows the answer...and those that hadn't probably could've puzzled it out from the "Episode I" aspect.) However, the in-universe possibility they consider is that they had killed the Big Bad, meaning that the former Disc One Final Boss was now the new Big Bad.
    • Jango Fett in Attack of the Clones, who faces off against Obi-Wan several times, but ultimately turns out to be just one of Count Dooku's minions, and gets unceremoniously killed off early in the climax.
    • Count Dooku and General Grievous are this for the first half of Revenge of the Sith, with the former being killed in the first 20 minutes.
    • Tarkin is the first major bad guy killed in the classic trilogy. Darth Vader (the other half of the Co-Dragons) becomes the main threat for the next two movies.
    • Return of the Jedi: Jabba the Hutt serves as the antagonist during the first third of the movie, being the one who originally ordered Han's capture and eventually order his (and the other characters') execution in the desert of Tatooine. Neither Darth Vader nor the Emperor make their moves (nor do the good guys think of them yet due to the bigger urgency they have at hand) until after Jabba is gotten rid of.
    • In a genuinely shocking Bait-and-Switch, Supreme Leader Snoke is not the Big Bad of The Last Jedi. Instead, he's killed and usurped towards the end of the second act by Kylo Ren, using Anakin's lightsaber to telekinetically bisect him with a good helping of ambiguity to completely sidestep the telepathy that Snoke thinks makes him invincible.
  • Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss: The film starts with the Stray Cats battling a rival gang led by Toshio, but she's knocked out 30 minutes in, after which her boyfriend is revealed to be working for a bigger gang led by Hanada who become the main threat. Toshio herself basically becomes Katsuya's pleading girlfriend near the end.
  • Strike Commando: Jakoda presents himself as the leader of the Russian officers, but it's revealed an hour in that Radek, Ransom's commanding officer, is the true mastermind.
  • Tenebre: Christiano Berti is the killer at first, but is killed by protagonist Peter Neal about halfway through. Neal takes over as the killer afterwards.
  • Tigers Are Not Afraid: Estrella and the other children are initially tormented by Caco, a member of the Huascas who intends to kidnap them all. However, Estrella finds his body twenty minutes in, setting the rest of the Huascas after them, culminating in a confrontation with their leader El Chino.
  • Tokyo Gore Police: The Key Man looks like he should be the Big Bad, as the creator of the Engineers, but he's killed about an hour and twenty minutes in just after he reveals the Chief of Police as the true threat.
  • Underworld (2003): At first it seems like Lucian, the Lycan leader, is the instigator of the war, out to exterminate all vampires. As it turns out, he's only after Viktor, who killed his wife and made the war genocidal.
  • The Witches Hammer: The mastermind behind the film's events seems to be Hugo Renoir, until he's revealed to be working for his mother.
  • In The Wolverine, Shingen is responsible for the yakuza thugs and Logan fights him to end this plot thread and become "the wolverine" again, but there's a bigger villain in play.
  • Zombie Wars: A zombie in a red flannel appears to run the people farm, but it is revealed halfway through that he is working for George.

  • Toby Homolka of the Ahriman Trilogy appears to be the one behind everything, as he was commanding the massacre of the Bell family. As it turns out, he has a master with bigger plans, plans that he managed to screw up by being overzealous and lucky.
  • The Ashes Series: Carl Adams, a right-wing fanatic who even the main characters view as a madman, engineers the nuclear war that causes The End of the World as We Know It and the subsequent rise of new governments such as Ben's secessionist movement, kicking off a forty book series. However, Adams is killed in the fifth chapter of the first book, making way for more (mostly liberal) antagonists.
  • Bazil Broketail: The Doom is only the first of many, many powerful foes Bazil and Relkin are going to face in the series — and one of the least dangerous ones to boot.
  • Beowulf: Beowulf goes to Hrothgar's kingdom to slay Grendel, the monster terrorizing everybody. He dies early on. Then his mother shows up, but she's the disc two final boss to the dragon.
  • Codex Alera:
    • Atsurak, the main antagonist of Furies of Calderon, was taking his orders from Fidelias' boss High Lord Aquitaine.
    • Ultimately, it turns out that most of the villains of the series could be considered this, as the true Big Bad is the Vord Queen.
  • Divergent: Jeanine is murdered by Tori at the end of Insurgent, before The Bureau makes its entrance in Allegiant.
  • The first book of the Dragonlance Ergoth Trilogy introduces the reader almost immediately to Spannuth Grane, a Magic Knight and Dragon-in-Chief to the Pakin Pretender, with every indication that he'll be the main villain of the series. Tol proceeds to defeat and kill him halfway through the book. This act, however, brings Tol to the attention of the Emperor's court, where he meets his real enemies — the Big Bad Ensemble of Prince Nazramin and Mandes.
  • Duncton Wood has Mandrake, a tyrannical dictator who rules the system of Duncton Wood with an iron paw. Or so it seems. He is introduced as a murderous monster but we later discover his hidden depths, giving him a more sympathetic edge; his obsessions with his daughter Rebecca being a prime example of it, and his susceptibility to emotional breakdowns following the loss of his mate, all of which eventually lead him to going insane and disappearing part way through after he vanishes into the tunnels of the Ancient System. It is gradually revealed that Rune and his deceit and cunning are ultimately what earns him the true title of main antagonist of the book, especially after he takes advantage of Mandrake's madness as means of taking over the system to service his own wicked ends. He also becomes the face of ultimate antagonist for the entire Duncton Chronicles in being the Master of the Word, which is also shown through his daughter Henbane in its sequel Duncton Quest and his grandson Lucerne in Duncton Found.
  • The first book of Dread Empire introduces and hypes up the Princes Thaumaturge, Yo Hsi and Nu Li Hsi, twin brothers who have jointly ruled the titular empire for centuries and have designs on the rest of the world - and kills them off at the end. The ensuing Evil Power Vacuum drives much of the plot of the rest of the series just as the actual Big Bad intended.
  • The first twelve books of The Dresden Files revolve around the war between the White Council wizards and the Red Court vampires, with the amorphous Black Council serving as the ostensible Greater-Scope Villain. As of the end of Changes, the Red Court has been wiped off the face of the earth, leaving the series in need of a new major threat that is ultimately provided by The Outsiders and Nemesis, the latter of which is either a tool of the Black Council or the weapon that created it to begin with.
  • In Sukhinov's Emerald City Decalogy, Corina is this. She gets a lot of development early on (even being Villain Protagonist for a while), and then is deposed in book 2. For a while, it looks like she may return to a threat status, but she is quickly killed off, and the actual Big Bad takes over.
  • The Emperor's Gift: The Daemon Primarch Angron is one of the most powerful servants of the War God, and is connected to the backstory for the entire setting, yet he is defeated two thirds of the way through the book. The rest of the novel deals with the the Months of Shame, the aftermath of the First Armageddon War, and the conflict between the Space Wolves and the Inquisition led by Inquisitor Kysnaros.
  • The Haruhi Suzumiya novels don't usually use Story Arcs, but this trope has happened at least twice:
    • The very first novel is self-contained, and could easily be considered a standalone work, so Haruhi herself could be considered this when she almost recreates the world at the climax.
    • The Anti-SOS Brigade in general, and Fujiwara in particular. Their plot is the focus of three novels and is foreshadowed even earlier. Fujiwara and Kuyou's attempted deicide makes them the first real threat in the series. They're this trope because the climactic battle fooled so many readers into thinking this was the end of the series that Word of God had to step in and state otherwise.
  • Enobaria in The Hunger Games, the leader of the Careers. And given Katniss destroys the arena just as they're attacking, doesn't offer much of a fight before all focus shifts to the war.
  • In Inheritance Cycle, the Big Bad Galbatorix doesn't show up until the final few chapters of the final book. Before then, Eragon concerns himself with hunting down the Ra'zac, the henchmen who killed his uncle.
  • All the plotlines of Kitty Takes a Holiday seemed to be wrapped up after the apparent Big Bad is killed. But Surprisingly Realistic Outcome occurs when Cormac — who pulled the trigger on the Big Bad — is arrested for murder, sending Kitty and Ben off on a Clear My Name plot that takes up the last third of the book.
  • In the Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb, this is ultimately Kyle Haven's role, as he is responsible for much of the conflicts of the first book - he becomes the captain of Vivacia instead of Althea, who was promised the ship as a girl by her father, prompting Althea to storm off, with the intent of leaving Bingtown to earn proof of her sailing capabilities to make Kyle recognise she is a legitimate choice instead of it being Nepotism, and it is also Kyle who forces his oldest son Wintrow to leave the monastery he grew up in to live aboard the ship (as Kyle is technically not blood family to Vivacia and therefore can't properly form a mental link with her), despite Wintrow's objections as he wanted to become a priest and Kyle grows more abusive towards Wintrow as time goes on, and he leaves his wife Keffria woefully unprepared to manage the household while he's on his sea voyage as he never let her make any decisions during their marriage. However, after Kennit manages to wrest Vivacia away from him in the second book, Kyle ends up thrown into the hold where he was keeping slaves and, seeing Kyle was doing nothing but causing agony for Wintrow and sowing dissent among the former slaves, dumps a chained, starved and beaten Kyle off on an island somewhere and takes over as the lead antagonist for the remainder of the trilogy. When Althea is reunited by Kyle by coincidence, she's stunned at the shell of a man he has become and he's promptly killed off with very little fanfare, the only person still concerned for his welfare being his daughter, Malta, who was oblivious to the abuse he put his older brother Wintrow through.
  • The Pannion Seer in the Malazan Book of the Fallen. The Seer is a distant character in the first two books, but his existence and the threat of his rapidly expanding empire provides the impetus for parts of the first and second books, and then he takes center stage as the main villain in the third, Memories of Ice. Then at the end of the book he's defeated and turns out to have been a pawn all along for the real Big Bad, the Crippled God, something even the Seer himself was unaware of. Of course, even the Crippled God himself has elements of this trope too, as the Abusive Precursors called the Forkrul Assail edge him out as the main threat in the last two books.
  • Mistborn combines this one with Well-Intentioned Extremist and Big Good. The Evil Overlord the protagonists spend the first book overthrowing was a tyrant, sure, but he was also the only thing standing between humanity and the real Big Bad. His death at the end of the first book leaves things wide open for The End of the World as We Know It.
    • Depending on how the Alloy of Law era books go, seeing as Ruin has been replaced by Sazed as part of Harmony, the final Big Bad may end up being that of the overarching Cosmere, Odium.
  • Phenomena features an odd one. According to the prophecy Phenomena does, the chosen children have to kill Tarkan on the Gredom Fields. But in the 2nd book, it turns out that Tarkan is merely The Dragon, and King Sherpa, the king from the country in the north, is the Big Bad they have to defeat there, since he's the one behind Tarkan. Gets even more complicated when King Veha defeats Tarkan on the Gredom Fields, and Alk kills Sherpa with his bare hands. If this wasn't confusing enough, the story does not end there, as it's still ongoing into "Phenomena: The Dark Chronicle".
  • Paranoia: Adam Cassidy, forced by blackmail by Nick Wyatt to infiltrate Trion Industries, has his first boss be Nora Sommers. Nora looks for reasons to humiliate him in front of his coworkers, tries to get him to say something discouraging or worth firing over, and when he shows her up as a meeting in front of her boss, she tries to reassigned to North Carolina where his career would be over. By luck of making such a good impression with the boss, he is made personal assistant, and Nora spends the rest of the book being as sweet as possible to him.
  • Salamander initially sets up Maridon and his pawn Coelus as the villains. By a third of the way through, Maridon is dead and Coelus has gone from Reluctant Mad Scientist to The Lancer.
  • Shannara:
  • Thought Tywin Lannister was going to be the main antagonist of A Song of Ice and Fire? Nope! It's actually shaping up to be Littlefinger.
  • Star Wars Legends:
  • Wizards First Rule, the first book of the Sword of Truth series, ends with the the defeat of Darken Rahl, the worst guy anybody knows. Then come 10 more books that gradually reveal and portray Richard's struggle against a much worse enemy: socialism!
  • Unsong initially looks like it's going to be about the heroic singers fighting against the oppressive bureaucracy of UNSONG and its Ambiguously Human leader Malia Ngo. The fact that the story is literally named after it doesn't do anything to offset that impression. However, after the first quarter or so of the story, the stakes rise considerably higher than intellectual property rights and UNSONG fades into the background, to be replaced by the likes of Thamiel, the Other King and the Drug Lord. And in the end, UNSONG turns out to be Necessarily Evil and run by a Noble Demon.
  • Warrior Cats:
    • Brokenstar at first seems to be the Big Bad, but then Ravenpaw reveals Tigerclaw is evil and Brokenstar is less of a danger than he. Later, Tigerclaw becomes Tigerstar (Brokenstar gets Demoted to Dragon) and Firestar sets out to defeat him. The stakes are set for an epic battle at Fourtrees... Wait, who's Scourge? And why did he just kill Tigerstar?...
    • In Power of Three, at first it seems Tigerstar's ghost is going to be the Big Bad this time. However, in Eclipse, a new villain named Sol appears and takes over ShadowClan. He's on the cover of Long Shadows and the blurb only talks about him. Also, in the prologue, the original leaders show up to talk about much of a threat he is. But then, he's defeated less than halfway through Long Shadows. Then he gets hijacked by Ashfur? Wait no, Ashfur's dead and his killer must be caught. So then Hollyleaf says that the killer is Sol. So the heroes spend Sunrise on a journey to capture Sol. But then Midnight says that Sol didn't kill Ashfur. And finally, we find out the final real not fake this time big bad. Who is it? Would you believe it's Hollyleaf?
    • Except Hollyleaf is in fact far from the Big Bad of the entire series and far from the Final Boss. Here We Go Again!. In the final chronological series, Omen of the Stars, it's revealed that the Dark Forest cats (essentially the vengeful physical souls of villains who'd previously died) are the masterminds, but this time they are led by Brokenstar and not Tigerstar (who is seemingly Demoted to Dragon ironically by his own former Dragon) - and then Brokenstar dies before the battle's end and Tigerstar steps up one final time as the true Big Bad and Final Boss of the entire series, culminating in one final showdown between him and series' protagonist Firestar where Tigerstar is erased entirely and Firestar passes from his wounds but moves on to the afterlife.
  • The first book of The Wheel of Time introduces the reader to an enigmatic, powerful figure who goes by Ba'alzamon, one of the lesser-known names of the Dark One, with every implication that he's the Big Bad. At the end of the third book (of fourteen) he's killed off, and it's revealed that he's not and never was the Dark One but rather his Dragon Ishamael, who'd been using one of his boss's names to rally his followers and hunt down his enemies. The real, far more powerful, Dark One is still out there, and as of the second half of the series Ishamael is Back from the Dead too in a new body, now going by Moridin — but no longer presenting himself as Big Bad.
    • After Ba'alzamon's death, the series gets a second Disc One Final Boss (Disc Two Final Boss?) in the form of Sammael, one of the Forsaken who uses trickery to get himself set up as de facto ruler of a powerful nation, allowing him to take over the role of the most visible villain. He holds the title for several books, but gets defeated by the midpoint of the series.

    Multiple Media 
  • Done on occasion in various BIONICLE stories:
    • The Morbuzakh plant is the main villain in the first half of the 2004 Metru Nui story, and the Starter Villain for the Toa Metru team. Turns out it was just a pawn of the Makuta. Then the Dark Hunters Nidhiki and Krekka are introduced as the new immediate antagonists before the Toa find out about the Makuta — the movie Legends of Metru Nui mixes things up by starting with the Dark Hunters and skipping over the Morbuzakh arc. The Makuta kills them to gain strength and become the main villain.
    • The Toa Metru confront and beat the Rahi Nui beast midway into the book (and Game Boy Advance adaptation) Maze of Shadows. It poisoning Nokama leads to the introduction of the villainous Karzahni plant, who in exchange for an antidote sends the Toa to face the Energized Protodermis Entity, who is the actual main villain. In something of a twist, the Karzahni thought it was going to be the ultimate evil but in the end is taken out without a fight.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Book of Exodus, the initial villain is the pharaoh who enslaves the Israelites and orders the drowning of all their infant boys. He dies while Moses is living in Midian, however, and his successor becomes the new villain when Moses returns to Egypt to demand that the Israelites be freed.

  • While she's the subject of Perseus's quest and the reason he goes on his adventure in Live From Mount Olympus, Medusa is killed halfway through the story. The final monster Perseus battles is Cetus.

  • Hamilton: King George III is the Greater-Scope Villain for most of the first act. Once America wins its independence, however, he's demoted to Greek Chorus status while Hamilton and his friends deal with a series of far more personal antagonists, such as his political opponents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, his blackmailer James Reynolds, and his eventual killer Aaron Burr.
  • Romeo and Juliet: Juliet's hot-tempered and violent cousin Tybalt is initially the closest thing the play has to a main villain. Then Romeo kills him in Act III, at which point his uncle (and Juliet's father) Lord Capulet takes on the primary antagonistic role.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth sets up Case 5 as though you are going after The Yatagarasu, which in and of itself features several game-ending-worthy reveals, but count your evidence: there's more to go and there will be a very long, standing-room-only conversation in a hallway before this game is over.
    • In the fourth case of the first Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game, you manage to expose the true murderer of Robert Hammond, Yanni Yogi, and when everything seems to be over, Edgeworth claims responsibility for the DL-6 incident, on the last day before the Statute of Limitations expires, and you have to find the true murderer from that incident. The port also adds a fifth case. But not until after rolling the credits as normal at the end of case 4.
    • The last case of the third game has recurring villain Dahlia Hawthorne set up as the villain again as The Heavy to Morgan Fey. However, while the two are responsible for the events of the case, they weren't able to kill their target. Instead, after Dahlia is beaten, the case continues as the true killer is revealed to be Prosecutor Godot.
    • The final case of the sixth game has two. Paul Atishon is the obvious antagonist of the first half of the case, suing your client over the ownership of the game's central Macguffin and even, as it turns out, having killed someone over it. But it's very obvious he's only a small fry in the grand scheme of things, being ordered to get the Orb for his mysterious benefactor, and the case moves to Khura'in where the plot really gets going. The second is Amara Sigatar Khura'in, a character everyone thought was dead who turns out to have been disguised as a minor character all along. She gets a dramatic transformation, ominous new theme music, and puts up a fight in court, all hallmarks of a final case culprit. She even confesses to the crime. Then it turns out she was covering for the real culprit, her sister the current Queen.
  • Danganronpa:
  • When They Cry:
  • Due to the branching storypaths, most villains in the Nasuverse will fall under this.
    • Tsukihime: In the near-side routes, Nrvnqsr plays this role before Roa takes the stage, while in the far-Side routes it’s Sacchin. SHIKI is quietly killed off and replaced by Akiha in Kohaku's route, which is the last one.
    • Fate/Zero quietly shoves Tokiomi Tohsaka, Rin's father and the guy everyone expected to be a very serious contender, to the side and Kotomine takes his Servant.
    • Fate/stay night: In the Fate route, Berserker is this, and in Unlimited Blade Works, Caster is the disc one while Archer is the disc two. In both routes, Gilgamesh is the True Final Boss, and in Heaven's Feel Zouken makes it to the end, at which point Sakura effortlessly destroys him and True Assassin. She also ate Gilgamesh about halfway through. Nom nom nom. The two big fights are against Sakura herself, the love interest, and Kotomine, who really ought to be dead. Obviously, he isn't because that wouldn't be interesting enough.
    • Played with in The Garden of Sinners, where Souren Araya really was the Big Bad, and was killed off in Movie 5. The two remaining movies explore loose plot threads and places Lio Shirazumi as Araya's final pawn and the last threat to Shiki.

    Web Animation 
  • Fallen Kingdom: In spite of being the Big Bad, Herobrine serves as this when he's defeated and slain at the end of "Take Back the Night", avenging the fallen kingdom… but now, there's a Nether invasion to deal with left in his wake.
  • Glitchtale: Chara is merely being controlled and having his negative emotions amplified by HATE. Season 1 ends with Asriel purifying him of HATE, causing the latter to disappear. Season 2 then has Bête Noire end up being obliterated in the penultimate episode, with HATE pulling a Hijacked by Ganon and absorbing her magic for itself in order to gain physical form.
  • In Madness Combat, following the Sheriff's death, Jebus looks to be the primary opponent only for Tricky to kill him off and begin pursuing Hank on his own. Tricky eventually gets brought down, at which point the Auditor comes onto the scene and reveals his hand in the madness.
  • Meta Runner: For the first two seasons, the overarching goal of the protagonists is to expose the corrupt dealings of Lucks and TASCorp. Then the Season 2 finale, “Fatal Error”, turns this on its head. MD-5 ultimately manages to expose Lucks and are about to leave him to the authorities... but Dr. Sheridan (whose actions ended up kicking off the entire plot of the series) has other plans and has Lucks shot point-blank in the head, framing Masa in the process and forcing MD-5 on the run.

  • Homestuck:
    • In the original comic, Jack Noir is the primary villain for most of the series. John in particular thought he was the Big Bad. He is pretty shocked when Vriska tells him that there's a far more powerful and evil villain out there — the time-traveling nigh-omnipotent cherub Caliborn, AKA Lord English — who is responsible for starting the entire mess they are facing. She even says that Jack isn't really evil enough to be the Big Bad. He's "just" a murderous asshole.
    • The Meat path of The Homestuck Epilogues builds up a final battle between John and Lord English, as well as completing a Stable Time Loop seen in Act 6 Act 6 Act 5. This does in fact happen. But Lord English is taken out roughly one third of the way in to the path. Shortly after Davepetasprite^2 pulls him in to the Paradox Space black hole (and he's killed by Muse Calliope offscreen in the Candy timeline), Dirk takes over the narrative and establishes himself as the main antagonist of Meat from that point onward.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: "Sleipnope" ended up being this, by virtue of being the Arc Villain for the first arc of a story that started its second one with "Sleipnope" long-defeated.
  • In Super Brothers what Mario and Luigi think is Bowser in chapter 5 turns out to be a Goomba disguised as him.

    Web Original 
  • In To Welcome Oblivion, Grallman and Dr. Lilith Madison spend the first half of the story as the primary antagonists. Then Noah T. Trepaly, who is actually Nyarlathotep, overthrows both of them and turns out to be the story's primary villain.
  • In Smirvlak's Stone, which is the first story in the Smirvlak Trilogy, Lorko Maeliss is built up as being the primary villain for the entire story. He's suddenly killed off in chapter 14, almost immediately before it's revealed that Gnekvizz Corveel is the true Big Bad of the entire trilogy.
  • You confront The Empty Turnabout's guiltiest-looking character in Chapter 2 out of 3, but Apollo pulls a fast one on the suspect and the audience by revealing that he never intended to indict this person of the crime. You then accuse someone you already cross-examined earlier, who is the Final Boss. And this person still didn't commit the crime, which is why you don't have any evidence to prove her guilt and lose the trial altogether.
  • Caesar is set up to be the Big Bad in Courier's Mind: Rise of New Vegas, and functionally, he is, however The Courier and his team kill him and his Praetorian Guard in the Season 8 finale, which the creator stated is only the series' halfway point. Season 9's first episode has Boone point out that Caesar's Legion still has a solid line of succession and that they still have to worry about Legate Lanius.
  • Some More News (a strongly left-leaning show, keep in mind) consider Donald Trump this. Getting him out of office is a good start, but it does nothing to solve the spread of American fascism, or the issue of the Republican party slowly moving further right and enabling power-hungry conmen like Trump. At worst, the next Trump will be far more subtle and insidious.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia:
    • Captain Grime was the primary antagonist of Season 1, alongside Sasha being his second-in-command. Season 2 features King Andrias, who acts as a False Friend to the heroes and only reveals himself to be Evil All Along in the season finale. Zigzagged by Andrias himself, as he's quickly revealed to be The Dragon to the Core, but is still the primary villain for season 3, and is only defeated in the series' penultimate episode. While the heroes take down the Core at the same time, it survives to become the True Final Boss in the series finale.
    • The Cloak-Bot in the final season, serving as the first enemy Anne must defeat before facing King Andrias back in Amphibia.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Captain (later Admiral) Zhao is the most major active villain of Season 1, culminating in him leading the Fire Nation attack on the North Pole. But then he gets taken to the Spirit World by the Ocean Spirit, leaving the Fire Nation royal family to take his place. Actually, defeating him was necessary to make the hero important enough to make the Big Bad focus on him.
    • Prince Zuko was the main enemy to the group. Zhao just turned out to be even worse. After Zhao's defeat, the far more dangerous Princess Azula took his place, but the True Final Boss was always Fire Lord Ozai, no matter who he sent after the group. Somewhat downplayed, though, since the final fight with Azula takes place at the same time as the final fight with Ozai and she's considered to be a threat comparable to the man himself.
  • Alvin the Treacherous in Dragons: Riders of Berk acts as a recurring antagonist in season 1 and looks like he'll be a larger threat in Defenders of Berk, then in the second half of "A View to a Skrill" he's attacked and nearly killed by Hiccup's Evil Counterpart Dagur the Deranged, who then takes control of the Outcasts in Alvin's stead and looks like he'll be the main villain from then on. Meanwhile, Alvin returns to Berk in the finale and allies with Hiccup and company to defeat Dagur.
  • Gravity Falls: Gideon Gleeful was the primary antagonist for the first season, but was succeeded by Bill Cipher, a demon who watches over the town and becomes the true antagonist for the whole show.
  • Kid Cosmic: For the first half of the first season, Stuck Chuck is The Heavy of the show who desires to bring his Great Leader to Earth so he can have the Stones of Power. Eventually it turns out that the Great Leader is a coward who would rather run back to his ship and leave Chuck to rot. Chuck eventually joins the side of the heroes after his leader's betrayal, and the Biker in Black becomes the Arc Villain of Season 1.
  • In Legion of Super Heroes (2006), Imperiex is the Big Bad for most of the second season. In a possible nod to the Our Worlds At War storyline, in the comics he is usurped by Brainiac 5 under the control by the original Brainiac.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Queen Chrysalis is this for Season 8, appearing in the midseason finale to carry out her revenge on Starlight as promised in the finale of Season 6, yet the Mane 6 and Starlight never face her nor do they get to even see her. Her appearance sets up the actual Arc Villain for the season: Cozy Glow.
    • King Sombra for the two-part final season opener "The Beginning of the End". He's the first villain the Mane 6 face before they meet the series' Final Boss for the three-part Grand Finale... which has another one of these, as Grogar is revealed to have been Discord all along making Chrysalis, Tirek and Cozy Glow the real Final Boss.
  • The Owl House: Lilith Clawthorne was the primary antagonist for the first season before getting succeeded by Emperor Belos, who seeks to destroy all wild magic forever through his Day of Unity scheme, becoming the series' true Big Bad. Until The Collector is freed at the end of season two and easily gets rid of him... until Belos returns in season three and distracts the Collector while furthering his own plans, making the Collector the actual disc-one final boss.
  • Sofia the First:
    • In Season 1's "The Floating Palace", Cedric starts out as the Big Bad when he takes on the form of a sea monster and kidnaps Sofia's mermaid friend Oona for her comb; this leads to Sofia fighting him for the first time, albeit she never recognizes him. After saving Oona, Cedric leaves and Queen Emmaline becomes the true Big Bad as she prepares to sink the Floating Palace which threatens Sofia's family.
    • In the final season opener "Day of the Sorcerers", Cedric was initally this after his true nature was revealed to Sofia, but was eventually taken over by Grimtrix the Good; said sorcerer served as the first major villain Sofia had to face prior to meeting Prisma in "The Mystic Isles".
  • Star Wars Rebels:
    • The Season 3 Mandalore arc has Viceroy Gar Saxon. After buildup, he's killed off in his second appearance.
    • The Grand Inquisitor is the Big Bad for most of season one, until Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader arrive to outrank him. He perished in battle against Kanan in the season finale so the Ghost Crew could go on to face greater threats.
  • In the classic Rankin/Bass Christmas special Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, the Winter Warlock is hyped up as a terribly powerful, evil being and set up as the villain. However, he is convinced into a Heel–Face Turn by Santa mid-film, and the dictator who had appeared toward the start of the film, Burgermeister Meisterburger, becomes the movie's Big Bad.
    • The Easter sequel/remake The Easter Bunny Is Comin' To Town does much the same with the giant grizzly Gadzooks. He's introduced early on terrorizing Kidville and ransacking all their holiday and birthday celebrations, setting him up as the main villain. But like the Winter Warlock, he has a Heel–Face Turn in mid-film, and the true Big Bad turns out to be the Dowager Duchess Lily Longtooth.
  • Total Drama:
    • In Season 2 (Action), Justin is positioned as the manipulative main antagonist, only to be defeated/replaced by Courtney in "The Princess Pride".
    • In Season 4 (Revenge of the Island), Scott is positioned as the weaselly main antagonist, only to be eliminated in "Eat, Puke, and Be Wary". Lightning, after he Took a Level in Jerkass upon accidentaly giving Cameron the win in said episode, becomes the main antagonist in the finale, and wins against him in the alternate ending.
    • In Season 5.2 (Pahkitew Island), Amy, while not the Big Bad, served as the Starter Villain, only to be quickly eliminated after being Out-Gambitted by her sister, later, Scarlett is revealed to be the true main antagonist in "Scarlett Fever"; unfortunately, she gets eliminated along with Max in the same episode. Sugar then replaces her, but she gets eliminated in the final three. Dave then replaces her in the finale, after learning that Sky already has a boyfriend, upon which his Sanity Slippage gets worse.
  • Winx Club:
    • Countess Cassandra was the first villain the Winx face in Season 3, prior to taking on Valtor.
    • Nebula is this for Season 4.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Toffee was the main villain for the first two seasons as well as the Season 3 premiere, but was defeated in the premiere allowing Heinous/Meteora to be the main villain in Season 3. And at the end of season 4, Star's mom, Moon, outs herself as a villain, but when Star calling her out causes her to change her mind, Mina and her group of magically empowered Super Soldiers backstab Moon and become the Final Boss of the series.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender: Zigzagged. Emperor Zarkon was viewed as the main villain of the series but was presumably killed in the Season 2 finale. However, he was revived in the Season 3 finale but met his defeat in the season 5 premiere.
  • Voltron Force had Lotor as this in the penultimate episode, leaving his minion as the final boss.
  • The Lion Guard: Scar is this for the series as he was the Big Bad in Season 2 and the Season 3 premiere, but was defeated by Janja and Makucha took over as the main villain for the rest of the series.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Fake Boss, Disk One Final Boss, Decoy Antagonist, Little Bad


Banba falls, Despar Army rises

After fighting Emperor Banba to the death, Goro Watari finds he has a new foe in the Despar Army.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiscOneFinalBoss

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