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Face of a Thug

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"I'm the bald white guy who, even in broad daylight, looks like he's about to step out of a dark alley and shank you. I promise, I'm really friendly, my face just does that."

This is where a character is shown to have a very scary, thuggish face — mostly for comedic purposes. The expression will often include a Kubrick Stare, where the face tilts down but the eyes look up. The face of a thug is so scary that normal people are shown to be easily scared off just by looking at them, and can make even tough brutes feel uneasy.

The catch here is that that the character with the face of a delinquent is anything but. Some of them are genuinely nice, even exceptionally so; others are actually cowards surviving solely based on their looks. Generally, though, they are normal people who would rather just have a normal life.

Things aren't that easy, though. Since everyone assumes them to be a badass of the highest degree, other people will either avoid them for fear of getting involved, or try to rope them into fights far beyond their actual ability. Their actions will usually revolve around trying to make normal people acknowledge their true self, while avoiding that the thugs around them learn the truth about the same.


This can often result in a delinquent who doesn't act like a delinquent. Such a character may even have actual skill at fighting and street survival, not by choice but by simple necessity. Since it was forced on them, they had to pick up those skills simply to survive. They may even reluctantly become a thug because everyone assumes they are one already. Very frequently overlaps with Dark Is Not Evil, since darkness and fear factor are synonymous in aesthetics.

Please note that it doesn't necessarily mean "ugly", even though most of the examples below are. It's more about looking threatening than actually looking bad, and it's possible to look both handsome and fearsome. In modern-day usage, especially on the internet, the phrase "resting bitch face" has become a popular term for this phenomenon.


Compare Death Glare, Frozen Face, Gentle Giant, The Grotesque, Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold, Hero with Bad Publicity. Subtrope of Paper Tiger. A frequent subversion of Scary Black Man. When an actor has this, they'll often be type-cast as thugs.

The opposite of this trope is Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon, which is when someone looks friendly on the outside but is evil on the inside. When that trope and this one are brought together, it can result in Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain, though as mentioned above, the trope isn't always about attractiveness exactly.

Examples with their own pages:

Examples without their own pages:

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  • In the 1980s, a famous American Express print ad touted cards with the holder's photo on the front: "This is you" (picture of scary biker). "This is the jerk who stole your credit card" (dorky-looking guy with horn-rimmed glasses).

  • Woo-Soo Choi of Quantum Mistake is a studious boy who has swapped bodies with Kang Too-Jee, a delinquent who spent most of his time getting into fights. Woo-Soo Choi, relying on Kang Too-Jee's reflexes, is capable of putting up a fight, but most of the time, just wants to talk it out with the other guy. (This pretty much never works.)

    Comic Books 
  • Marv from Sin City was so ugly, they had to resort to Special Effects to recreate his looks on Mickey Rourke. He made a Kubrick Stare or two throughout the movie as well. While he is indeed a Sociopathic Hero toward his enemies, he is an otherwise decent guy driven to avenge the death of a woman by the hands of a Serial Killer.
  • Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man, when outside his armor, is one of the few Superheroes to wear a mustache and a goatee, making him look more like a traditional villain than a good guy. However, while he can be a Jerkass and has poor communication skills, he struggles hard to be a good person in spite of his innate flaws.
  • MMA fighter "Mistress" Ayane in Gold Digger would love to be a Face; unfortunately, she has the coldest, cruelest eyes on the planet and a wicked smile to boot. It's hard to be a hero to children when they run screaming whenever you look at them. It's so bad that even all-powerful sorcerers and dragons wince when they meet her gaze. In fact, when she met a guy who could look her in eyes and not flinch, she was desperate to win his heart so she could finally be with someone who wasn't terrified of looking at her. It's even implied that her unnaturally cold and fearsome stare might be because she's actually not human.
  • In the Marvel Universe, there are a handful of Skrulls who have for one reason or another ended up on Earth and decided that they want to be heroes. They have all found it necessary to adopt more human guises, as their natural forms tend to freak people out.

    Fan Works 
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Power Girl crossover fic Origin Story, Sanchez and Francisco are a pair of twin brothers who work as agents for porn actresses. They are described as looking like walking stereotypes and "feel slimy" when Alex Harris first meets them. It turns out that they are two honestly nice guys who give Alex some helpful advice after realizing she's underage.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic build your wings on the way down Aviv Seif, Catherine Armstrong/Gabby's boyfriend, looks rather intimidating due to his height and burn scars on his face, which make him look like he's always scowling. He's actually rather down-to-earth and very sweet.
  • In the Reaching for a Dream series, after ascending to godhood Naruto certainly looks incredibly intimidating given that he's two meters tall, has horns, fangs, fiery orange eyes, claws, and black markings on his face. But as noted in one of the sequels, he's like a large dog; he looks intimidating but the worst he'll do is drool on you. Though that doesn't apply to enemies.
  • In Live a Hero, Izuku is eerily pale-skinned, frightfully thin, Covered in Scars, and has a habit of playing with and sharpening knives in plain sight. Despite it all, he wants to be a Hero.
  • In Risk It All, Ren is a Perpetual Frowner whose face makes him look old enough to pass for an adult despite being only sixteen. Despite this, he's a well-meaning kid who loves his parents and tries to stop Black Mask to prevent him from hurting others rather than any sense of revenge.
  • In Unlimited, Izuku's teacher Kurobayashi has the head of a shark, which tends to make others instinctively afraid of him. He's actually a very nice man and enjoys helping others.
  • In Something Always Remains, Spring Bonnie, after falling into the decrepit state of Springtrap, is this. It's even more poignant when it's revealed that it's haunted by Jeremy Fitzgerald, a man who could never harm a fly in life. Averted when the other ghost takes over, though.
  • In Such a Doting Father, Endeavor is ranked in the top 10 heroes who look like villains, but (in this fic's AU at least) he's a massive softie and Amazingly Embarrassing Parent.

    Films — Animated 
  • Finding Nemo: The shark trio of Bruce, Chum and Anchor seem like they'd be fish-eating monsters - trailers played up Bruce as the Big Bad, in fact. Turns out they're pretty nice guys who have sworn off eating fish... Except for stinkin' dolphins. Just don't let any of them catch a whiff of blood. Oddly, out of the shark trio, Chum, being a shortfin mako, and Anchor, being a greater hammerhead, are the ones most likely to subsist on a diet of fish at their size. A great white of Bruce's size would mostly eat marine mammals... Like dolphins.
  • Shrek is an ogre whom humans are scared of because of his monstrous appearance, but in reality he's a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who doesn't hurt people without provocation, and at one point he laments to Donkey that people judge him before they get to know him.
  • Isle of Dogs: One of the cannibal dogs, Gondo, is pretty freaky-looking. He's got huge fangs, the fur on half of his face had been torn away, and he's always got a fierce expression on his face. However, he turns out to be a friendly and gentle dog. It also turns out that he and his fellow "cannibal" dogs were very ashamed to have eaten another dog, when they could do nothing else to help him.
  • Tigress of the Kung Fu Panda series arguably qualifies as such in later installments. While not hideous, she is designed with a much fiercer look befitting her species compared to the more cartoony designs of the other Furious Five members, with a scowl often her default expression. However, after having Took a Level in Kindness following the first film (as well as a study of Hidden Depths in Expanded Universe material) Tigress is often conveyed as very loyal and sympathetic, if still rather aloof and blunt.
  • Taken Up to Eleven in Toy Story: all of Sid's toys are disfigured and creepy looking in some way. Both Woody and Buzz think they're cannibals after they carry away two toys who Sid performed "surgery" on. Then they fix Buzz's arm as he goes through a Heroic BSoD and reveal that they weren't eating the first two toys; they fixed them too.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Day My Kid Went Punk is an 80s film about a guy who gets into punk music and fashion. His peers are skeptical about this massive change. When he applies to work as a daycare worker over the summer he is almost denied due to his unconventional looks, and he later gets a mother mad that they're allowing someone dressed like him to take care of little kids.
  • Glen from Seed of Chucky. Despite being depicted as an ugly doll, and at the beginning of the film, being seen killing a girl's parents, we find out that Glen was having a nightmare and that he's really sensitive and despises violence, unlike the rest of his family.
  • Revenge of the Sith: The Pau'an as a whole Looks Like Orlok, with gray skin, sunken red-rimmed eyes, long gnarled fingers and limbs, and a mouth full of razor-sharp fangs. Despite their ghastly appearances, they're capable of being perfectly friendly, as shown with Tion Medon, who greets Obi-Wan and is happy to help him track down General Grievous despite worrying about the potential battle that could break out in the city.
  • Lampshaded and played with in Six Degrees of Celebration. A police officer tells a recently-caught thief that just from looking at his face, one can tell he’s a thug. Later on, the officer himself gets mistaken for a bandit – and a fierce-looking granny tells him he clearly has the face of a thief.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gorou Yura, a supporting character in Kamen Rider Ryuki, is a perpetually scowling, rough-looking man who's both butler and bodyguard to the corrupt lawyer Kitaoka Shuuichi. He's also significantly less of an asshole than his employer, at one point going out of his way to compliment the protagonist Shinji for having a "good whistle" and later asking him for his gyoza recipe.
    • Ren Akiyama / Kamen Rider Knight usually gives people a bad first impression with his dour expression, rough attitude and fondness for black clothes, but is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold trying hard not to let it show.
  • Gentaro Kisaragi, the protagonist of Kamen Rider Fourze, dresses as a Delinquent with slicked-back hair. However, he's actually an affable goof who quite literally wants to be Friend to All Living Things (who can still kick ass if needed).
  • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Geiz Myokoin can make people run away in fear just with his sour face and doesn't even realize why. Granted, if that doesn't work, his Hair-Trigger Temper will probably do the trick anyway. Social grace of a sledge hammer nonwithstanding, he has Undying Loyalty to Tsukuyomi and fights to avert a Bad Future.
  • Kamen Rider Saber: Yuri, Sword of Light, has a fierce looking face that seems locked in a perpetual frown, befiting his Comically Serious reactions, but not so much his easily distracted Cloud Cuckoolander persona.
  • Vulcans in Star Trek. The first alien species to appear on the show (and, as later movies confirmed, the one to initiate First Contact with Earth), and one of the most popular. With pointed ears, upswept eyebrows and an overall cold demeanor,not to mention the ability to read minds, they have a genuinely demonic appearance (which was a problem -initially - for the producers of the Original Series worried about audience response and in-universe for the crew due to his more than once getting mistaken for a demon by one humanoid alien race or the other). Turns out that these guys are supersmart, logical, vegetarian pacifists who have completely forsworn violence and are quite willing to play the protective big brother to younger species.
  • An episode of My Name Is Earl dealt with this trope.
  • The Monster of the Week in the Supernatural episode "Yellow Fever" is the ghost of a man who was murdered as a result of this trope.
  • NCIS has, of course, the ever-lovable and normally harmless forensic scientist Abby.
    • It's not so much that Abby's really all that scary-looking, so much as it is that she is a caffeinated workaholic who dresses in a Goth fashion (even at work).
  • Drake & Josh has the infamous "Theater Thug" episode.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race will sometimes feature Drag Queens serving the female equivalent of the thug face, known as "resting bitch-face". Season 7's Pearl and Season 9's Trinity Taylor are two prime examples of queens who just paint their faces to look very cold and harsh even when they are perfectly content.
  • Breaking Bad: Jesse's assumptions about this regarding a random stranger causes his relationship with Walt to permanently sour in season 5. They've both retired from the drug business at this point but Jesse is working with the DEA to bring Walt down, whom he suspects is trying to have him killed to tie up loose ends. They agree to meet in a public space, but Jesse notices a man dressed like a Neo-Nazi skinhead standing close to Walt. He assumes this man to be a hitman and calls off the meeting, but it turns out the guy was just there to pick up his daughter.
  • The Carol & Company episode "Myna and the Messenger" has Myna, a devout Christian woman, approached by an angel (Howie Mandel) who urges her to get to Vegas to win money to save her church. Myna is soon hooked on the gambling as she ignores a rough and tumble biker. She puts all her money on a huge bet...which loses. When she moans on what went wrong, her "angel" smirks "Oh, I think everything went great" and removes his hat to reveal a pair of horns. A downcast Myna is approached by that biker and gives him her last quarter out of pity. He uses it to win a huge slot jackpot which he says belongs to Myna as it was her coin. When she thanks him, he just smiles he's "doing my job" as he lifts his biker cap to show a halo over his head.
  • Morso from Aasi, Morso ja Mouru. Morso is a mouse who looks like he came out of a puppet hater's worst nightmare, and Aasi the donkey is known for being scared to death of mice. However, Morso serves to be The Heart of the trio in comparison to Aasi's Cowardly Lion and Mouru's Jerk with a Heart of Gold, and he's determined to help Aasi get over his fear of mice.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night:
    • Berserker zigzags this trope, as while he IS a terrifying juggernaut of pure physical power to anyone even remotely threatening towards his master Illya, around her and when not burdened by absolute batshit insanity, he is a very compassionate and heroic individual. Most of his most impressive moments are his going above and beyond the limit to keep Illya safe.
    • In the Heaven’s Feel route, it is revealed that Rider bears this trope, as pretty much all of her actions are designed to protect her real master, Sakura.
  • In the Prologue of Grisaia in The Eden of Grisaia Amane shows up riding a custom low rider motorcycle, a leather jacket and towering over the students and teachers alike. Chizuru is terrified until realizing that Amane hasn't the faintest idea what kind of impression she gives off and is actually very friendly and domestic.
  • Kazuichi Souda in Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair sports a pretty outrageous Slasher Smile accentuated even further by his filed down shark-like teeth. He is actually quite timidly and cowardly, and gets called on it within the game.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • While not overly thuggish, Viola Cadaverini from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney looks creepy as Hell, but discounting her relationship with Furio Tigre she's really not that bad (though Investigations shows that she's keeping Tender Lender running just as ruthless as ever in Furio's absence).
    • Will Powers is a Gentle Giant with a face that scares small children. Kind of a handicap for an actor in children's shows, so he takes roles that involve wearing masks. He even refuses to be seen out of costume, because he's afraid of crushing his fans' expectations.
    • From Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Wocky Kitaki's father. He used to be the head of the local Yakuza, and has an extremely intimidating face. But by the end of the case, it's shown that he's a loving father who brought the family out of the mob business so that his children, especially Wocky, wouldn't have to put their lives in danger.
    • From the Investigations games, Detective Badd is an imposing, gruff figure, but he's practically a second father figure to Kay. He gives her Swiss Rolls and distracts her with 'important detective assistance' to keep her mind off her father's death.
    • Justine Courtney from Investigations 2 practically screams Obviously Evil: A Cold Ham Hanging Judge proclaiming herself to be a divine avatar of the law itself, with an ever-present Leitmotif of sinister church music, constantly gets in Edgeworth's way, and tries to strip him of his badge. She was actually on his side all along, and her antagonism was mostly an act to get in the good graces of Blaise Debeste so that she could more easily take him down.
    • From Dual Destinies, Mayor Tenma, who is vilified for his scary looks and because he wants to or rather was being blackmailed into merge Tenma Town and Nine Tales Vale. He is really a kind man, loving father and popular pro-wrestler of the "face" variety.

  • Rocko Sasquatch in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!.
  • In Axe Cop, all mermaids are good but have mean-looking faces, apparently because they thought scowls indicated happiness and smiles indicated anger. Axe Cop, unaware of this, murders one by accident. After learning that mermaids are all good and that this is the first time he ever killed a good guy, he immediately breaks down in tears.
  • Jaws from Demon Fist has the face of a gremlin and the smile of a shark (plus he's a demon), but he's a genuinely cheerful and caring person.
  • Mieruko-chan: Chapter 4 involves Miko and Hana trying to find a good home for a stray kitten they find. Miko turns down a seemingly harmless fellow who's surrounded by ominous spirits, but convinces Hana to give the cat to Gozuka, a thuggish man covered in scars and tattoos. Not only is Gozuka surrounded by nekomata-like spirits who happen to be much more pleasant-looking than the spirits Miko usually sees, he turns out to be a Kindhearted Cat Lover.
  • In One-Punch Man, King's intense looks, coupled with the mysterious King Engine, have led many supervillains to flee in terror rather than fight him. It's convenient for King, since he can't fight at all and is frightened to death of battling some city-destroying monster. Also, the King Engine is his own beating heart going into overdrive from fear.
  • Pixie and Brutus: Brutus' face is proof that the boy has seen some... stuff, but he is very calm and patient with his hyperactive new little sister.
  • In Scalie Schoolie, Violet's menacing appearance leads many people to believe she is a bully, but she's truly one of the nicest characters in the comic. Part of this is due to her mother, who was bullied herself, forcing her to look the part.
    Violet: Why does everyone keep offering me their lunch money... Do I look poor?
  • In the Team Fortress 2 comics, when the Sniper accuses the Medic of being a traitor, referencing the Slasher Smile the Medic made upon seeing the Sniper earlier, the Medic responds that he was simply happy to see the Sniper again; apparently, a psychotic grin is his default genuine smile. Granted, the Medic at the time was working with a team out to kill his previous teammates, but not for the sake of betrayal; rather, he had run out of test subjects and, to continue his research, had signed on with a new team, which, as it turns out, was contracted to kill the old team by Gray Mann.
  • Alfie: Downplayed with Ozge. While Voch'khari features tend to be more inhuman than those of Elves or Havlin (the horns do not help), and they do not have the best reputation among settled peoples outside the Red Wood; her usual shyness would likely come off as more taciturn than menacing if she were a couple of feet shorter.

    Western Animation 
  • Popeye has a face that could perhaps be best characterised as ugly, odd and cartoony and fits with his rough around the edges attitude but also has a rather altruistic and chivalrous personality treating everyone especially kids fairly.
  • Steven Universe: The Topazes, a pair of big hulking minions with intimidating builds and scary faces, turn out to be Gentle Giants.
  • In The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh episode "The Great Honey Pot Robbery", honey robbers Stan and Heff bring in their gargantuan Woozle, Wooster, to mug the Hundred Acre Wood of all their honey. Pooh steps in and naively and sweetly asks if they could just be friends and then share the honey peacefully. Stan and Heff scoff at this suggestion. Wooster's response?
  • The Penguins of Madagascar: Roger is a sewer gator that looks as fearsome as any alligator does, yet he's probably the kindest animal you'll ever see in Central Park, with a penchant for baking and choir.


Video Example(s):



While his expression would be more befitting of an evil mask, he's actually benevolent.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FaceOfAThug

Media sources:

Main / FaceOfAThug