Follow TV Tropes


Historical Rap Sheet

Go To

"The League of Shadows has been a check against human corruption for thousands of years. We sacked Rome, loaded trade ships with plague rats, burned London to the ground. Every time a civilization reaches the pinnacle of its decadence, we return to restore the balance."

The crimes of the villain(s) date back long before our grandfathers were born. Historical events that hurt many people are attributed to a single organization or person, usually more than one. Even if there isn't technically a law against causing earthquakes or eruptions, the events are used to show how dangerous the criminal is by placing wars, economic struggles, assassinations, and other pivotal events in their past. Stock Unsolved Mysteries are particularly useful for this.


These crimes can be committed by a group, like the Ancient Conspiracy, or a single person, like We Didn't Start the Führer. Those tropes cover the actual villains, this trope is about the "crimes". Therefore, it can involve Reminiscing About Your Victims.

Note that this doesn't necessarily have to apply to a villain: an Idiot Hero Reality Warper or Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds could have caused a natural disaster through clumsiness.

Subtrope of Historical In-Joke and Real Event, Fictional Cause, and essentially the evil twin of Been There, Shaped History. Compare Beethoven Was an Alien Spy, Julius Beethoven da Vinci and Historical Villain Upgrade. Often a form of List of Transgressions or Offstage Villainy.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Played for Laughs in Black Butler's anime, where before being tortured, Sebastian says in a light-hearted manner, "I admit it, I started the Black Plague." Considering his age and what he is, he probably wasn't kidding.
    • The Titanic was sunk by zombies attacking the crew and a grim reaper slicing the ship in half with his sythe.
  • It's implied in Hanappe Bazooka that Nero had Dance and Bazooka start the Great Fire of Rome.

    Comic Books 
  • In Superman Family #165 we learn that Superman's dog Krypto accidentally caused the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. You can read it here.
  • The DCU's Immortal criminal Vandal Savage claims to have been many historical figures including Genghis Khan, Vlad the Impaler, Blackbeard and Jack the Ripper. He was also an advisor to many famous conquering, and may have either been Julius Caesar or participated in Caesar's murder, depending on which version of the story you believe. He is known to make some of it up, but being around before the discovery of fire he has a pretty big rap sheet.
  • Batman villain KGBeast, a Soviet super-assassin, has been described by the CIA as a participant in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Orlando has a long history of causing massive problems through his/her stupidity, starting with telling other Trojans they should drag that giant wooden horse inside the city walls to get a better look at it.
  • The Ultimates
    • Red Skull assassinated John F. Kennedy, took part in the Vietnam War, worked for two of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century (Pol Pot of Cambodia and Idi Amin of Uganda), worked for the Russians in Afghanistan and has trained and fought alongside terrorist groups across the entire globe.
    • Nick Fury is giving a debrief to the Ultimates, that contains top-secret information. There are 11 alien species living in the planet (at least, that SHIELD knows of). One of those species are the Chitauri, shape-shifter aliens that arrived in 1977. They infiltrated Germany in the 1920s, helping National Socialism and Hitler. WWII was actually a war meant to erradicate those aliens, and it ended with the destruction of their training camps in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck: It turns out that Bombie the Zombie is responsible for sinking the Titanic. Back in 1909, Scrooge ran into Bombie at the North Pole, who then fell into an ice crevasse. Three years later, Foola Zoola's curse draws Bombie back to Scrooge during one of his travels across the North Atlantic, dragging the iceberg with him.

    Fan Works 
  • Day of the Barney Trilogy has Barney responsible for, among others, the extinction of the dinosaurs, Caligula's depravity, the Black Death, the rise of Hitler and betraying Anne Frank.
  • Reimagined Enterprise repurposes several real-world wars of the 1990s as the Eugenics Wars. For example, Khan Noonien Singh's people were the real reason the UN sent a military expedition into Somalia in 1992.
  • In The New Adventures of Invader Zim, Norlock has acted as an Evil Mentor to most of history's most famous warlords, conquerors, dictators, and criminals.
  • A Good Compromise: According to Lord Protector Julyeen, Kilana (possibly an earlier incarnation of her) originally gave the order to deploy the Teplan blight.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • In The Pariah by Graham Masterton the death of the Toltecs, the atrocities of Caligula, the Black Death and the Salem witch trials are all attributed to the demonic antagonist.
  • For Love of Evil: Satan engineered the Black Plague by tricking Gaia. He later regretted how far it went, and the experience taught him his responsibility as the Incarnation of Evil. Inverted later as he tricks Chronos into averting the holocaust and World War II as a favor to YHWH, though this costs him his friendship with subsequent Incarnations of Time, who till then were the only ones friendly to him.
  • Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon short story "Unnatural Causes". A team of alien Krundai are responsible for many harmful acts in Earth's history, including: starting riots, wars and revolutions, causing the downfall of the Roman Empire, assassinations, promoting drug use and the Holocaust. Their ultimate aim is to cause humanity to destroy itself so they can feast on our bodies.
  • A Running Gag in Good Omens involves Crowley, the demon who was responsible for the original Temptation in the Garden of Eden, frequently receiving the congratulations of Hell whenever they notice something like the Spanish Inquisition has popped up in the human world. They inevitably leap to the conclusion that Crowley was responsible for getting it started. He frequently protests to the sympathetic Angel Aziraphale that he had nothing to do with it whatsoever: the human race thought of new ideas to be beastly to each other all on their own.
    "Neither claimed any responsibility for Milton Keynes, but both reported it as a success."
  • Croup and Vandemar have one in Neverwhere that isn't particularly specific but apparently includes assassinating kings, heroes and gods.
  • In The Dresden Files, the Fallen Angels Anduriel and Imariel (and their hosts, husband and wife Nicodemus Archleone and Polonius Lartessa) have only collaborated a few times in history. The last time they did, they caused the Black Plague. Tessa is also stated to have caused the Rwanda Genocide and Killing Fields of Cambodia (as well as the War of the Roses and the Drug Cartels of Columbia) essentially for shits and giggles.

    Live-Action TV 
  • At the start of season two of Utopia, it is revealed that The Network is behind the assassinations of Aldo Moro, Mino Pecorelli, Richard Sykes, Airey Neave and the bombing of TWA Flight 841.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. In "Wolf in the Fold" it is discovered that Redjac is a noncorporeal lifeform which has been a serial killer on several planets, including Earth where it was Jack the Ripper as well as a few other unnamed killers (in China in 1952 and Kiev in 1974).
  • In the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, the Master attributes an invented historical rap sheet to the Doctor while recruiting Chang Lee. The Doctor himself has been responsible for inspiring the Great Fire of Rome and starting the Great Fire of London (both accidents) as well as bringing about the destruction of Pompeii (by stopping it and then triggering it again as a crossing of the Godzilla Threshold), among other historical encounters.
  • The X-Files: According to the Day in the Limelight episode "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man", the CSM was personally responsible for the assassinations of JFK and MLK, and made sure that the Buffalo Bills never won the Super Bowl.
  • Supernatural:
    • The demon lord and Torture Technician Alastair implies that he had a hand in the concentration camps, noting how he hasn't been on Earth since "Poland, '43".
    • In "No Exit", the ghost that Sam, Dean, and Jo are hunting turns out to be H. H. Holmes.
    • The Horsemen War claims that he has been responsible for most of the conflicts throughout human history, specifically citing both World Wars, the Middle East, and the Sudan for the past century.
  • Babylon 5: Sebastian, a Vorlon "inquisitor"-slash-Torture Technician sent to test the resolve of Delenn and Sheridan mentions that he was abducted back in the Victorian age... and it's revealed at the end that he was Jack the Ripper.
  • Bewitched: Bumbling Aunt Clara causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 when she tries to use magic on some candles.
  • Quantum Leap: In one of the show's Kisses with History, Sam causes the Northeast Blackout of 1965 during an attempt to leap home.
  • Grimm: One of the Grimm diaries reveals that the burning of Rome was accidental, caused by Emperor Nero sending an Excandesco to burn the homes of the Christians.
  • Timecop: Ian Pascoe is said to have caused the Chernobyl, Titanic, and Hindenburg disasters, but we don't see it in the show outside of historical records.
  • Blackadder Back & Forth had Baldrick kill all the dinosaurs with his dirty underwear.
  • During a Time Travel trip, Professor Bobo from Mystery Science Theater 3000 burnt down Ancient Rome when he accidentally knocked over a candle trying to steal a cheese wheel.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Anya was responsible for the 1905 Bloody Sunday Massacre in St Petersburg, which was a precursor to the Russian Revolution.
    • In "Once More, With Feeling", Sweet sings "Something's cooking, I'm at the griddle/I gave Nero his very first fiddle!"
  • Millennium: In "Maranatha", the bad guy is introduced when he causes the Chernobyl disaster before the episode flashes to the present.
  • Legends of Tomorrow has Vandal Savage, similar to his comic book counterpart.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Howling Man", Brother Jerome tells David Ellington that the Devil is responsible for the great wars, the overwhelming pestilences and the wholesale sinning that is regularly inflicted on the world. After Ellington releases him, he causes World War II, The Korean War and the development of atomic weapons.


    Tabletop Games 
  • Old World of Darkness averted this in one specific instance. Anything else was free to be a vampire/werewolf/mage plot, but the Holocaust was required to remain a purely human atrocity.

    Video Games 

    Web Original 
  • In Everyman HYBRID, HABIT, a malevolent entity who possesses people, claims to have a very long historical rap sheet including the likes of Josef Mengele and Jack the Ripper. This leads to some Fridge Horror when you start wondering just how many of them were actually good people who had been forced to watch as their own bodies committed horrible crimes. Knowing HABIT, that may have even been the entire purpose of the crimes.
  • Hardly Working: Over the course of the show, the Phantom of the Office has taken responsibility for the Black Plague, the extinction of the dodo bird, and most shockingly, the death of Jesus Christ.
  • The Time... Guys: Doc assassinated Julius Caesar, and it's heavily implied that he was the one who convinced John Wilkes Booth to kill Abraham Lincoln.
  • SCP Foundation:
    • A rare anti-heroic example: One tale has the Foundation putting Hitler into power to eliminate a disease that mysteriously only affects Jews, homosexuals, and Slavs.
    • One SCP is heavily implied to be the nuclear bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

    Western Animation 


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: