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Historical Rap Sheet

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"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.



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    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.
  • Doctor Zero clashes with Anubis, an immortal Plague Master who was worshipped as the Egyptian god. He's responsible for the Black Death sweeping across Europe.
  • 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 on 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 eradicate 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 Batman Begins, the League of Shadows claims to have sacked Rome and Constantinople, engineered (or at least spread) plagues, and caused the Great Fire of London. Whether there is any truth to these claims is never answered.
  • In Zoolander, brainwashed male models set in motion by an evil council of fashion designers have had a hand in every major assassination attempt, beginning with Lincoln and on up through JFK. It Makes Sense in Context. Kind of.
  • Captain America (1990) has the Nebulous Evil Organization that Red Skull works for being responsible for such things as the Kennedy and Martin Luther King assassinations.
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier features the resurrected HYDRA as having been responsible for pretty much most (if not every) major terrorist event done since World War II, as part of their "convince people to give up their freedoms" Evil Plan.
  • Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball implies that the Neo-Nazi Tremor family was the real perpetrator of the March 11, 2004 bomb attacks in Madrid, as part of a worldwide campaign of terror orchestrated by Big Bad "Hal Leuco".
  • In Near Dark, two vampires in a small pack roaming the Southwestern US committing bloody massacres, Jesse and Severen, reminisce how they started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
  • Men in Black: A small Hyper-Destructive Bouncing Ball located within MIB headquarters was the trigger of the 1977 New York blackout.
    K: A practical joke from the Great Attractor. He thought it was funny as hell.
  • Déjà Vu (2006) mentions that the last time that the Time Machine that is central to the plot was used to actually try to send something into the past instead of just viewing it, the power necessities accidentally caused the Northeast blackout of 2003.
  • Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell: During a course on Greek history, the immortal Jackass Genie (wearing the skin of a college professor) describes how the Trojan war and the destruction of the entire civilization was caused by the Djinn.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: M has a framed photograph displayed on his desk in his office where he's shown buddying up with Adolf Hitler, and another implying that he was behind the accident that killed Princess Diana.
  • Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance: Roarke is Satan in human form and he requires an host to walk on Earth. Among his previous hosts were Vlad the Impaler, Idi Amin, Josef Stalin, John Wayne Gacy... and Jerry Springer.
  • The Big Bad of A Good Day to Die Hard, Komarov, is revealed to be at least partially responsible for the Chernobyl disaster - he was using the plant to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium and his grand plan, in pure Die Hard style, is to swindle the CIA with false proof that his rival Chagarin was responsible for this so they wll release him so he can go back to the plant and steal the plutonium he stored there during the chaos of the meltdown to sell to terrorists.
  • James Bond:
    • In Dr. No, Bond does a Double Take when he sees Goya's "Portrait of the Duke of Wellington" in Dr. No's lair. In 1961, the portrait was stolen in a high-profile story and was still missing at the time the movie was produced, thus implying that the title villain was the culprit.
    • Thunderball opens with a meeting of SPECTRE operatives detailing their latest plots, with a British agent stating that the organization received £250,000 of the stolen loot from the Great Train Robbery of 1963 in the UK as a consultation fee.
    • Casino Royale (2006) attributes to primary villain Le Chiffre some of the financing of the 9/11 attacks. He's said to have made a pretty penny using al-Qa'ida funds to short-sell airline stocks in the days leading up to the attack.

  • 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 


    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 

    Western Animation