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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 this trope doesn't necessarily mean "ugly", even though most of the examples below are. It's more about looking threatening than actually looking unattractive, and it's possible to look both handsome and fearsome. Indeed, there are situations where the scary-looking character is found attractive as a result of being scary-looking (e.g. All Girls Want Bad Boys), which can in turn lead to the infatuated party being disappointed by how non-scary the crush really is underneath.


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, and The Un-Smile. Subtrope of Paper Tiger (except in those cases where kind-but-scary-looking characters suddenly become truly as scary as they look). 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:

    open/close all folders 

  • 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.
  • Thanks to his powers turning his body into living iridium Mettle from Avengers Academy has a metallic red skull for a face. Yes, in the same universe as that other chap prominently known for the same. He's not very comfortable with it, especially given that he's Jewish.
  • 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.
  • "Just Another Night at Freddy's" has pretty much any animatronic fit the bill, with Foxy perhaps being the best out of all of them. He is a Friend to All Children and will emotionally break down if he is forced to scare or harass any. But his disrepair has done no good for his looks and most people's reaction is generally fear. His occasional hairpin temper and hatred of being touched doesn't help either.
  • 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.
  • In A Slice of Smash, Dharkon looks like a terrifying Eldritch Abomination. He acts like a Keet Nice Guy.
  • Like in canon, Munehisa Iwai in the Persona 5 Adult Confidant AU is a case of this. He's a rather intimidating guy who can't give a proper smile to save his life, but is overall a decent person and a member of the AU's Phantom Thieves.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Little Miss Sunshine: At the pageant Richard ends up sitting near an intimidating-looking man in biker clothes who brushes off Richard's attempt to introduce himself. After Olive's big dance number the biker ends up being one of the few people in the crowd who actually cheers for her. Word of God is that the man is the father of one of the other contestants who got dragged to the pageant and cheered for Olive because she did something new and interesting.
  • 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. While there are some evil Pau'an in later works like Star Wars Legends (Darth Desolous from The Force Unleashed) and The Grand Inquisitor from Star Wars Rebels (who used to play this trope straight when he was a Jedi), they're rare exceptions to the rule.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The titular Tucker and Dale of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil are stereotypical rednecks who initially come off as creepy horror villains towards the group of college kids. In actuality they're perfectly friendly people but prone to severe cases of miscommunication that make them come off worse than they intend.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Drake & Josh has the infamous "Theater Thug" episode.
  • 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.
  • An episode of My Name Is Earl dealt with 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Visual Novels 
  • 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.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney, it's immediately clear why Barok van Zieks is known the Reaper of the Old Bailey. He's towering, dressed like Dracula; and though he's clearly very handsome despite the Rugged Scar between the eyes, he seems incapable of expressions other than icy-eyed Death Glares and menacing Kubrick Stares. Even after he proves Dark Is Not Evil, Ryunosuke is still terrified to make eye contact with the man he's dubbed the "'Least Approachable Man in the World' winner, ten years in a row."
      Ryunosuke: He really does look fully prepared to dispatch his next victim to the underworld.
  • 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.
  • Moe Mortelli Daughter for Dessert has a scary, often creepy-looking face, but he's a cop who (at least mostly) follows the laws that he is paid to enforce.
  • In Double Homework, Morgan's uncle, Tommy, has an intimidating appearance, but is a caring father figure toward his niece, at once trying to keep her on the straight and narrow and looking after her happiness.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Minotaur Hotel: Robert, considering how he scared the unsuspecting delivery man when his charm briefly malfunctioned. Storm is also this before he gets his charm while Asterion says most people find him scary.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cursed Princess Club: The Pastel King's children are depicted as almost stereotypically pure and attractive fairy tale princesses (and a prince) who all adore each other and their doting father and get along with cute woodland animals. So when youngest daughter Gwendolyn is introduced with her sallow skin, messy green hair, carnivorous-looking Scary Teeth, beady black irises (in contrast to her siblings' cute Tareme Eyes), dour expression, ominous-looking room full of creepy creatures like spiders and rats, and overall goblin-like and witch-like vibe, it initially seems like she's being set up as the evil Black Sheep of the family. Yet she's probably even more of a Nice Girl than the rest of her already kind family, as she's a warm-hearted Girly Girl, a good cook who loves making meals for her family, Nice to the Waiter, and could have easily been a Princess Classic like her sisters if not for how she looks. The main story arc is set off when she gets upset overhearing her arranged fiancé call her ugly after they meet for the first time — but even then, her first instinct is to blame herself for not being a worthy bride instead of getting angry at him for being shallow.
  • 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.
  • Rocko Sasquatch in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!.
  • 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.
  • Mob Psycho 100 has the various members of the Body Improvement Club, all of whom look like some kind of delinquent: Gouda has Hot Blooded Sideburns, Jun's head is shaved, Hiroshi sports a mohawk, and Ryohei has a gigantic pointed pompadour. All of them are incredibly beefy and exceptionally muscular for teenagers. They have to be Japanese Delinquents who look down on scrawny, awkward runts like Mob right? Wrong. They are kind, pacifistic, good-natured guys who are 100% supportive of each other, and upon seeing that Mob genuinely wants to improve himself, they instantly accept him as one of their own and encourage him to do better each time. No mockery behind his back, no hazing, just acceptance and encouragement to exercise; they are every bit as honest and upright as they declare themselves to be. Of course, being pacifistic good guys doesn't mean they're not willing to act, as the various people who have tried to hurt Mob found out, the hard way.
  • 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?
  • The Strongest Florist: Jaeho has a brutish face and the physique to match, but he desires to open a flower shop in the virtual reality game New World. His face terrifies gangsters in the real world and leads everyone in the virtual world—including NPCs—to think he's a monster early on.
  • 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.
  • Your Smile Is A Trap: Lily Cha has a resting scowl on her face, and her classmates think she's a bully because of it. She takes after her father, who runs a flower shop but is thought to be a gang member. At first, Kiyu Ahn is the only classmate who sees her for the kind girl she is.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


Smug und Evil

It's just how he looks when he smiles.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / FaceOfAThug

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