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Malevolent Masked Men

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"Masks make men cruel."
Adrian Veidt, Watchmen (2019)

A group of people wearing masks is never a good sign. Maybe it's the anonymity, the obvious Uncanny Valley, or decades of horror movies ingraining a deep sense of distrust about someone wearing a mask outside of a Masquerade Ball (or even in one, if it's sufficiently creepy). It's because of this dehumanizing aspect that masks are often used by villains, their Gas Mask Mooks, and other Faceless Goons.

This varies by mask:

  • Cowls and Hoods: Not exactly a mask, but used commonly enough to merit mention. A simple bag or cloth over the head, may be a creepy Sackhead Slasher getup or may be worn by an altogether nice Super Hero.
  • A Domino Mask, one that covers only the eyes, is a traditionally heroic mask. The Ghost Who Walks and The Spirit being two classic examples. However, it may also be worn by comedy criminals, such as the Beagle Boys.
  • Ski masks: If worn anywhere other than on the slopes in winter, often associated with criminals or terrorists. Masks that cover everything except the eyes are also associated with Ninjas and can be either good or evil.
  • If the mask covers the top half of the face, it emphasizes the mouth, aka gluttony: Never a good sign. Unless of course, it's to show a Lantern Jaw of Justice instead. Or the character wearing the mask is a Char Clone.
  • If it covers a symmetric side of the face (left or right) then it's fairly neutral... except for the part where it is likely hiding a decidedly nasty scar. See The Phantom of the Opera (well, its adaptations). The same thing can be done by Hiding Behind Your Bangs.
  • Masks that cover the lower half of the face are likelier to be worn by the cannibalistic, or someone whose lower face is likely very damaged (as in, no jaw). They're also frequently worn by bandits in the Old West (possibly to keep out dust), as well as by ninjas who don't do full masks, and Gangbangers to conceal their identities and/or broadcast what gang they're with.

A full face mask is perhaps the most ominous of the lot, varying by type:

  • Abstract Mask: Similar to the Uncanny Valley mask below, the abstract mask is a haunting, unidentifiable mess meant solely to frighten and distract the victim from their oncoming demise. See Scream.
  • Animal Mask: The kind you would see at a kid's birthday party. When worn by an adult (or several of them) it brings to mind not animal cuteness, but savagery.
  • Clown Mask: As pictured above, nothing says "evil" like a clown, add in the faux cheerful mask and it gets ratcheted to another level.
  • Mardi Gras/Venetian: Nothing says "you're going to die violently" quite like the festive and cheery masks worn in Mardi Gras or a Venetian carnival.
  • The Executioner: Totally concealing, made of leather or sackcloth, probably black as the robes of a Hanging Judge. Someone has decided you deserve to die for your sins, and if this masked figure is after you it intends to carry out that sentence.
  • Monster face: Usually used by the Cult and members of the Secret Circle of Secrets, in homage to their dark masters.
  • Plain and featureless: A blank, featureless (such as White Mask of Doom) mask emphasizes the anonymity it grants the wearer... which usually means they mean to do harm, do not want you to know who they are, and want you to freak out because you do not know.
  • Rage Helm: Designed to make a soldier or warrior look more fearsome. The soldier actually wearing the helm may or may not be as mean as the helmet makes him look.
  • Uncanny Valley: Almost human masks are usually worn by criminals, be they kidnappers or Serial Killers. It may be to establish a Stepford Smiler like connection to "personality as a mask". See The Strangers.
  • Last but not least... the Nixon Mask! Almost exclusively associated with bank robbers out to make a political statement. Expect a witty pun along the lines of "I am not a crook!"

See also Faceless Goons, Gas Mask Mooks, Scary Shiny Glasses, and Henohenomoheji. White Mask of Doom is a common subtrope. Compare Cool Mask and Coat, Hat, Mask. When combined with the classic Black Cloak, it's the uniform of a Secret Circle of Secrets. When the mask itself is malevolent, that's Evil Mask. See also Makeup Is Evil.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Friend from 20th Century Boys has his signature eye-finger symbol mask, but earlier wore a cartoony monkey mask. And it made him no less awesome.
  • Masquerade from Bakugan Battle Brawlers and his Expy Spectra from Bakugan: New Vestroia.
  • Boris from Beyblade. Ironically, Kai only recognizes him with his mask on.
  • Black Bullet's Hiruko Kagetane fits this to a T. He wears a white mask that covers his face and has black wide lines to represent the eyes and mouth, and he is a Troll dedicated to causing chaos.
  • Bleach:
    • Hollow masks
    • A group of people Vandenreich members, to be exact, invaded Yamamoto's office. They were so heavily masked and clothed it was impossible to tell even gender. They definitely weren't there to discuss tea ceremony lessons.
  • Case Closed
    • Mixed with Bandaged Face in one case, where a man who kept his HEAVILY scarred face under bandages commits suicide... and his Smug Snake brother in law uses it to fuel his Evil Plan.
    • Also, the Villain Protagonist in Yusaku Kudo's books is the Night Baron, a high-class thief with a mask. More than once, someone has dressed up as the Night Baron. And once, with fatal consequences.
  • Shirley's nightmare in Code Geass has everyone wearing masks, laughing creepily. Also the mask worn by the Anti-Hero Zero.
  • Hei, from Darker than Black, wears an Uncanny Valley White Mask of Doom which looks like the child of V's mask and Jigsaw's. While we know him as an Anti-Hero, most of the rest of the cast would see him as at worst a terrorist and assassin and at best very scary.
  • In Dorohedoro there's a whole city of them (Everyone get their mask as part of a contract with daemons). Most of them are malevolent, or worse, but with the Black-and-Grey Morality of the setting, you can never be really sure.
  • Turkey from Hetalia: Axis Powers is a subversion, and more often than not Played for Laughs. Yes, he was VERY unpleasant in the past to many nations (young Greece, young Hungary, the Italies, Spain), but after having gone from the personification of the Ottoman Empire to the one of the Republic of Turkey, he's portrayed as a Hot-Blooded Jerk with a Heart of Gold who's actually rather fun to hang out with. Unless you're the now grown-up Greece.
  • In High-Rise Invasion, the main villains are a group of individuals wearing white masks who seek to drive the protagonists to commit suicide, or failing that, just kill them outright.
  • The intro of Higurashi: When They Cry had Rika wearing a Kitsune mask.
  • In Holyland, Ryuu puts a mask on after his first fight with Yuu, for no obvious reason though.
  • Lupin III:
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's has the villainous Mysterious Protector.
  • Char Aznable of Mobile Suit Gundam. Probably the most famous masked villain in anime.
  • Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water: Lord Gargoyle and Neo Atlan members wear these at all times. Besides slight resemblance to his voice actor, Lord Gargoyle's face is completely unremarkable.
  • A few characters in Naruto wore masks, including Tobi and Kakuzu. Orochimaru sometimes pulled off the face he wore like it was just a second skin to reveal a different face behind it. Sometimes, the second skin actually was someone's skin...
    • Recent chapters have revealed the probable reason for Tobi's mask. He's not Madara like he claimed, just the person to inherit Madara's plan.
    • The Leaf's ANBU wear animal-themed masks that completely cover their faces. Mist ANBU and hunter-nin wear white masks with patterns resembling flowing water painted on them.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has Kagetarou wearing an abstract mask. In addition, several of Fate's minions seem to wear masks.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion had the Angel Sachiel wearing something that looked a lot like a mask. Arguably, Lilith also qualifies.
  • The Knights of Paris in Noir.
  • CP9 in One Piece before The Reveal of their identities.
  • The Iron Mask Marauder from Pokémon 4Ever.
  • The Mask of Ice and his underlings in the Gold/Silver/Crystal arc of Pokémon Adventures.
  • Remina: The black cloak and hood-wearing cultists who want to sacrifice Remina.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, one of Aoshi's Elite Mooks, code-named hannya, wears the eponymous mask as his mask (his unmasked face isn't that much more pleasant looking).
    • Gein wears a black and white cloth with an abstract skull on it over his face.
  • The members of the Arachnophobia organisation in Soul Eater all wear a White Mask of Doom usually worn over a black hood and cloak. Some of them wear their masks over normal clothing, but with the clothes pulled up over the neck so none of their head can be seen.
  • The Abyss Knights from Tales of Wedding Rings wear sinister masks which cover the upper half of the face. They command the demonic armies of the Abyss King.
  • Several minor criminals in Tiger & Bunny tend to wear one. In a more comedic version, Karina, Antonio, Nathan and Keith pretend to be burglars to surprise Barnaby for his birthday. The former three were wearing black ski masks while the latter was In the Hood with Sunglasses at Night.
  • In Tokyo Ghoul, masks are an important aspect of life for ghouls. They take numerous steps to conceal their identities when hunting or fighting, favoring hoodies or cloaks and custom-made personal masks. Gangs often adopt a theme for their outfits, with groups like the dog-masked Black Dobers and the Clowns. Masks not only help prevent the CCG from discovering their faces, but help with intimidating others and establishing a reputation. As such, running into a person wearing a Cool Mask is generally a sign you're about to be eaten....
  • Darcia from Wolf's Rain has two. The first is a blank mask with a built-in Eyepatch of Power, but the second is a smiling White Mask of Doom with an eye hole to expose his wolf's eye.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!'s Battle City arc has villains of the week Luna and Umbra.
    • This was significant as it marked an "upgrade" of sorts from the first time they had appeared in the show. The masks (which where the half-faced variety, hiding their left and right side respectively) also hid the microphones and earpieces they were using to communicate with one another.

    Comic Books 
  • Both the protagonist and villain in a 28 Days Later comic book use a riot mask and a hockey mask, respectively.
  • The eponymous Order of Beasts wear full face animal masks in the Batman Elseworlds book Batman: The Order of Beasts.
  • Burlap: Two members of Cottontail's gang, Bones and Cottontail himself, wear masks.
  • The Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E. in Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol wear abstract insectoid masks.
  • The Mask, natch. In Real Life, people wearing masks often report feeling uninhibited. In its original form, this work takes this to its logical extreme with the complete suppression of the inhibitions of the wearer, essentially a possession by the Id. The titular Mask is also a Mask of Power. The result is an ultraviolent Anti-Hero.
  • In The Movement, those who side with the Movement wear abstract metallic masks that hide their entire face.
  • The Global Peace Agency, of Jack Kirby's O.M.A.C., are a rare subversion: though they have one of the creepiest varieties of mask, they're a peacekeeping group, as the name suggests (though they can be a bit cold at times). In their case, their uniform and mask is so that the agent's identity and ethnicity cannot be determined, implying solidarity across the group's multinational membership.
  • Oxymoron: Oxymoron's white mask, hiding his true identity. Later, people start to follow his example, dressing as him and going on killing sprees. There's an unmasking scene at the end, but it remains The Unreveal.
  • Mazikeen the demon from The Sandman (1989) wears a half-mask to cover the left side of her face, which is missing the skin, cheek, and part of the jaw.
  • Spider-Man has a full-face mask. He's not actually malevolent, but it has been occasionally suggested that the full mask is one of the reasons why he has such a bad public image. People think that this applies to him. Many of his enemies, including Green Goblin, Hobgoblin,Scorpion, Mysterio, Jackal, Shocker,and Venom play this straight, with far more threatening masks.
  • Teen Titans: Deathstroke wears an orange and blue mask with a hole for his one good eye.
  • V from V for Vendetta wears a grinning Guy Fawkes mask and self-identifies as a villain.
  • In Watchmen, Rorschach has the abstract/featureless version.
    • As does Hooded Justice. Both he and Rorschach are very protective of their "real" identities; the Comedian also has a full-face mask but seems to have adopted it to hide his facial disfigurement rather than to protect his face from view.
      • Also, like a Mardi Gras mask, the hedonistic overtones of a gimp mask promise ultraviolence. It also matches his belief that "the joke" is that people aren't better than animals and lets him shove that in people's faces by looking like a violent pervert in service of the government.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The only members of the blackmailing murderous "International Spies, Inc." to be seen without a mask is their leader, Countess Draska Nishki.
  • The Beagle Boys in the Disney Ducks Comic Universe play this for laughs (most of the time). There is, in fact, a tabboo among disney artists against depicting the gang without their Domino Masks, frequently turning it into a Running Gag. When they were shown before getting their masks in The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, their faces were always framed in shadows, just of-panel, hidden by scenery, or, in one case, their eyes were perfectly visible, while the rest of their face was covered in muck. The few cases of their eyes being shown without the masks can mostly be chalked up to inexperienced artists not being familiar with the taboo.

    Fan Works 
  • Asylum (Daemon of Decay) has the "plague doctor", a sinister-looking creature that appears in the shadows and can only be seen by Twilight. Though whether or not he's real or just in Twilight's head, is hard to say and the creator has teased with the idea, that he may not be evil.
  • Bird features the appropriately named 'Masked Man'. A horrifying juggernaut that stalks the halls of Alchemilla wearing what looks like the cross between a neck brace and a torture implement of some sort. In canon he was a Flat Character called Hatchetface, but his appearance, role, and mannerisms in Bird are all shout-outs to Pyramid Head.
  • The End of Ends has Count Logan, who wears a chromed silver version of Slade's mask and wearing a top hat and a greenish jumpsuit. The mask's plain and featureless detail definitely makes Logan anonymous, as he is secretly the Superpowered Evil Side of Beast Boy.
  • The Masqueraders in Iron Touch are a group of Stand users that only become aggressive when they see another person's Stand. A select few of them also stole the Requiem arrow from Giorno, kickstarting the plot.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: Near the end of Season 1, when Zim starts to organize his rebellion against the Tallest, he creates a new persona called "Miz" to serve as a figurehead. In order to conceal his identity, he wears a disguise composed of a cloak and a red mask in the shape of a stylized Irken face. Season 2 shows that his newfound followers start copying the look when carrying out attacks.

    Films — Animation 
  • The villain of Big Hero 6, Yokai, hides their identity behind a kabuki mask and while their ultimate goal is unknown, they still manage to look creepy as hell. Their lack of dialogue does not help.
  • Screenslaver, a major antagonist of Incredibles 2, has a full mask that covers their entire head with no exposed skin. This is unusual, as no other character hero or villain thus far has a mask covering their entire face.
  • Subverted in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The three shady trick-or-treaters, Lock, Shock, and Barrel, wear masks all the time, but in their introductory scene they take them off, revealing faces that look exactly the same.

  • Martin Lake, a character in Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris collection City of Saints and Madmen, is invited to a very grim event and met there by three men. One wears a raven mask, one a heron, and the last an owl. Lake is afraid of birds to begin with. He's also dressed as a frog, who could be eaten by any one of them.
  • In The Belgariad, the Grolim priesthood wears steel masks when they want to be intimidating, such as in combat or when attending their religious duties. They wear these in imitation of their god, whose mask covers his maimed face.
  • The cultists in Diario de un Zombi wear formless wax masks. These actually serve a purpose as they confuse zombies and makes recognizing them as humans difficult for them.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts series, the Blood Pack, (a Khornate Chaos cult) wear hideous metal masks, often with exaggerated hooked noses or chins. The masks of the rank and file are typically black while the officers wear more elaborate masks of gold or silver.
  • Go to Sleep (A Jeff the Killer Rewrite): Jeff wears a costume which includes a Jason goalie mask all day for Halloween, and he still has it on when Liu finds him after he's killed their parents and carved a smile onto his face underneath it.
  • Death Eaters in Harry Potter. hey are a terrorist group of wizards and witches, led by the dark wizard Lord Voldemort, who seek to purify the wizarding community by eliminating wizards and witches born to non-magical parents. Their typical attire includes black hooded robes and masks.
  • In Michael Moorcock's Hawkmoon saga, the evil and deranged people of Granbretan wear elaborate animal masks all the time, and would rather be seen naked than unmasked.
  • Claquesous from Les Misérables only addresses his accomplices in the most absolute darkness, and with his back turned to them. If a candle is brought, he puts on a mask. Most adaptations forget this, though.
  • One of the main differences between Paradise Lost's angelic army is that the rebellious angels are described with rigid helmets that dehumanize them into a blood-thirsty crowd, while the angels are described with no such collectivizing armor. The narrative also emphasizes Satan's full-face crest, which is the first thing in history ever to be attacked.
  • The Origin of Laughing Jack: Isaac Grossman crafts himself a white wooden mask, alike to one from a Venetian masquerade ball, with a long troll-like nose and eyeholes, to strike fear into his torture victims.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: a deformed conjurer also referred to as the Angel of Music and the Opera Ghost. He tutors and eventually becomes obsessed with Christine Daaé. He has no nose, and his eyes are sunken so deep in his skull that all that is seen are two eye sockets, except when his yellow eyes glow in the dark. His skin is yellowed and tightly stretched across his bones, and only a few wisps of dark brown hair are behind his ears and on his forehead. He wears a full face mask to hide his deformity.
  • The Watraii in Star Trek: Vulcan's Soul. They're introduced as a band of masked aggressors threatening Romulan colonies; their masks are noted as making them particularly sinister. This isn't why they wear them (the actual reason is more to do with their own feelings than instilling fear in others), but their blatantly threatening manner and concealment of identity are clearly linked.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 12 Monkeys: The Witness wears a plague doctor outfit, complete with a creepy bird-like mask. Starting with the end of Season 2, his minions in the Army of the Twelve Monkeys start wearing them too.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark?:
    • The episode called "The Tale Of The Twisted Claw" had a group of older kids wearing masks of some kind and bullying these two trick-or-treaters.
    • "The Tale Of The Many Faces" was all about people wearing masks, and asked the question "Is it our masks (faces) that define who we are?" The villain in the episode stole girls' faces and wore them to keep herself young. The girls' faces she stole were left with fish lips and white eyes, so they were given masks to cover up their ugliness.
  • Iron Mask in BIMA Satria Garuda, one of the main villains.
  • In Chinese Paladin, the Lunar Sect Cult devotees wear full-face masks with a subtle animal motif to emphasize their brainwashed, dehumanized position.
  • Sqweegel on CSI — not only a mask but a whole body suit.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Season 1's "Rain" had clown masks being used in a bank vault robbery. An explosion caused an outline of a mask to get seared into one guy's face.
    • Season 9's "Civilized Lies" had three guys mugging an off-duty cop. They all wore identical masks of their mentor's face to avoid identification.
  • Doctor Who:
    • A group of clockwork robots who try to pose as eighteenth-century French humans by wearing creepy white masks.
    • "The Empty Child" had a boy wearing a gas mask who infected people — who end up with faces like gas masks.
  • In Flash Forward, mooks working for the show's big conspiracy wear clown masks.
  • Game of Thrones universe:
    • Game of Thrones:
      • The Sons of the Harpy wear scary, golden masks and they basically fight to bring slavery back in Meereen.
      • The Mountain becomes this after Qyburn reanimates him. As the name suggests, and combined with his lust for killing, the Mountain is essentially one step away from joining the ranks of Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers.
    • House of the Dragon: Craghas Drahar aka "The Crabfeeder" feeds the unfortunate sailors he captures to hungry crabs, and he wears a golden mask not unlike those of the aforementioned Sons of the Harpy in Game of Thrones.
  • The pilot episode of Ghost Writer had as its antagonists a group of backpack-snatching kids in goblins masks.
  • In the Heat of the Night: The Season 2 finale "Missing" sees acting police chief Tom Dugan note  and the officers investigating a series of race-related murders near Sparta. In the final scene, Dugan, working undercover for the FBI to solve the murders, is lured to a secluded forest area on a false tip and is ambushed and killed (shot repeatedly) by two men wearing pig masks.
  • Luther has Cameron Pell, who commits brutal murders while wearing a Punch mask, in order to create a striking and memorable image as well as hiding his identity.
  • The Prisoner (1967) final episode "Fall Out". The rows of Village members wearing white/black masks as well as Number One wearing a white/black mask ''and'' a gorilla mask. And maybe, maybe not, a Number Six mask.
  • Squid Game has the staff of the titular deadly contest, who take great pains to ensure their anonymity and thereby keep the games as much of a secret as possible.
    • The Guards are dressed in pink jumpsuits and wear masks with different shapes according to their rank.
      • Workers (being the low-ranked of the three) wear masks with a circle.
      • Soldiers (the middle-ranked) wear masks with a triangle.
      • Managers (the high-ranked) wear masks with a square.
    • Their leader, the Front Man, wears a 3D geometric mask along with a black suit and Badass Longcoat.
    • The VIPs who come to watch the last two games appear wearing shiny, gold-colored helmets with animal motifs.
    • Similarly, the Host sports a gold-colored mask with the animal motif of an owl (symbolizing his intelligence).
    • The waiters serving the VIPs sport black masks with only their eyes showing.
  • Torchwood: Miracle Day has a cult, all wearing white masks and marching in the streets. Since they were never even slightly relevant to the plot in any way at all ever, it's likely that this trope was invoked just to have an epic freaky cult marching in the streets for the trailers.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "The Masks," involved a dying old man wearing a death mask and forcing his greedy family to wear masks that reflected their personalities. Unfortunately, when the old man finally dies, the family members' faces change to resemble their masks.
  • Van Helsing (2016): They're not "men", but this trope still applies to the vampire faction known as the Sisterhood, who all wear creepy skull face masks.
  • Willow: The Bone Reavers, a Bandit Clan, wear skulls for masks. Downplayed however as they are more anti villains, it's revealed, and this is largely just for intimidation.
  • Wynonna Earp: The demonic minions of Bulshar (Season 3 Big Bad and Greater-Scope Villain of the series) are all dressed up in concealing outfits that resemble beekeeper uniforms.

  • Invoked by the costumes that the members of Slipknot wear. Each member wears grim-looking masks with different designs or concepts, which they change with each album, while performing, usually alongside a Limited Wardrobe of jumpsuits, although each member did also have a costume of their own around the release of All Hope Is Gone.

  • Appropriately enough, Malevolent gives us white, featureless masks worn by members of a Cult, and is first seen worn by a mysterious gunman who attacks Arthur in the first episode. Said cult turns out to be for the King in Yellow, and they have a base hidden under a hotel. Arthur ends up taking one, and it turns out said mask grants the wearer the ability to see things normally invisible to mortal eyes.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • In keeping with the plural name of this trope, heel masked tag teams have been very successful over several decades and numerous federations: examples include DOOM, The Executioners, The Assassins, and The Super Destroyers.
  • A masked brute named some variation of "Super" or "Machine" is a Stock Character in professional wrestling. In addition to the Super Destroyers, Big Van Vader became "Super Vader" in the Universal Wrestling Federation due to New Japan Pro-Wrestling trademarking the name. The legendary trainer of the original Rey Misterio, Atila, had a Masked Luchador gimmick known as "Black Machine" before he and Atila were revealed to be one in the same towards the end of his career in 1995.
  • Kane debuted as a Malevolent Masked Man, though he did briefly remove the mask.
  • In 2004, Prince Nana introduced two weapons of MASK destruction to Ring of Honor for the purpose of defeating Jay Lethal, though they both failed. A third MASK was used when he was low on wrestlers for the trios tournament in 2005. He also had Abyss in his Embassy.
  • After its transition to being a women's company, WSU had a problem with a masked assailant, who turned out to be Mercedes Martinez taking out her frustrations since she wasn't medically cleared to wrestle.
  • Erick Rowan of The Wyatt Family wears a Sheep Mask.
  • Progress Wrestling had The Faceless, up until they unmasked and revealed themselves as The Origin. El Ligero still qualifies in The Origin however, as he is a Masked Luchador
    • Jimmy Havoc sometimes uses these as part of his entrance. Jimmy himself wears a mask that covers his mouth, resembling a surgeon's mask covered in spikes.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, the Dark Dragon grabs a surgical mask from the nurse's office after he blows it up and marks it with an evil grin. The fashion passes down to the villainous Dark Dragon group in the future, whose members wear half-masks to mark them as a member.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Totenkopfs wear masks that resemble human skulls and aim to bring about the end of the world.
  • Ruby Quest's Ace always wears a beak/Plague Doctor-like mask that covers his whole face. Erm, or should we say the mass of tentacles that replaces his face.
  • Survival of the Fittest has Blood Boy, who wears a smiley face mask to hide his mutilated face.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the BattleTech universe, Clan warriors are issued full face animal masks reflecting their Clan's totem to wear for ceremonial purposes. Further, the mercenary known as The Bounty Hunter is also only ever seen masked
  • The Fiend Folio, another Monster Manual of the 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons, introduces the Ethergaunts, coldly rational and atheistic aberrations from the Ethereal Plane who are color-coded for your convenience and also sport featureless masks over their faces... which is fortunate since their faces are truly horrifying.
    • In the Forgotten Realms setting, Rashemen witches cover their faces with masks at least in public. It's more of a subversion since at least in 3.5 cannot be of evil alignment.
  • Games Workshop games:
    • Warhammer:
      • Balthasar Gelt, Supreme Patriarch of the Imperial Colleges of Magic, wears a Greek-style gold facemask at all times. As a master of the Lore of Metal it's a reasonable enough affectation to adopt for him, but since he also wears thick robes, gloves and boots at all times, speculation is rife as to what exactly it is he's using the mask to conceal.
      • Many Dark Elves wear daemon masks to present a horrific aspect to their fellows and enemies, especially the gladiatorial Sisters of Slaughter and some Doomfire Warlock horsemen.
      • Elf scouts of all kinds — High Elf Shadow Warriors, Dark Elf Shades and Dark Riders and Wood Elf Waywatchers — tend to favour the lower-face cloth mask, occasionally tending towards full ninja-mask territory.
      • The Orc Shaman Wurrzag ud ura Zahubu wears a very large wooden witch-doctor mask as a symbol of office (and because it shoots green fire out of the eyes!)
      • The Masque of Slaanesh, a daemonic dancer who has fallen from its patron's favour, carries a pair of reversible theatrical masks on a stick — one for Tragedy, one for Comedy — as part of its trappings.
      • Many of the Tomb Kings of Khemri and their undead servants go to battle wearing the elaborate golden death masks they were buried with. As does the Slann relic-priest Venerable Lord Kroak. A few other lizardmen, such as the skink Tiqtaq'to, emulate this look with their own all-enclosing gold masks.
      • Asuryan, king of the Elven gods, is usually depicted wearing a faceless mask divided laterally into white and black halves. This represents his role as keeper of balance and order.
    • In Mordheim, the Carnival of Chaos warband uses grotesque carnival masks to conceal its hideous mutations and get close to citizens of the Empire to spread its plagues for Father Nurgle.
    • In Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, the Kairic Acolytes wear twisted masks resembling the daemonic servants of their god that these mad cultists believe that these masks represent their true face.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • The Blood Angel captain Erasmus Tycho wears a phantom of the opera-style part-mask to conceal the permanent rictus grin he is disfigured with. The Sanguinary Guard of the Blood Angels sometimes wear full sculpted death-masks to acknowledge the sacrifice of their primarch Sanguinius.
      • Eldar Harlequins wear a variety of carnivalesque, abstract, horrifying, blank, and uncanny masks to express their characters in the great masque that is their calling. Of particular note is the Shadowseer, playing Fate, whose mask is featureless, mirror-like, and reflects the destiny of whoever looks into it.
      • The helmets of Eldar aspect warriors function as ritual masks, allowing an Eldar to don and cast aside his or her war aspect and keep it separate from daily life.
    • In Necromunda, the Redemptionists and House Cawdor all wear masks of one kind or another for religious reasons — a combination of promoting humility, intimidating rivals, and not wanting to be identified. The Cawdors tend to favour simpler domino masks and strips of cloth, while the Redemptionists have far more elaborate Venetian carnival-style masks, grinning skulls and KKK-style pointed hoods.
  • The Guardians of the Veil, of Mage: The Awakening, are often viewed as at least creepy and people you shouldn't get involved with (if not viewed as outright malevolent), and much of their symbology revolves around masks such as these. In particular, the Interfector (read: executioner) wears a blank mask with only eyeslits, and bloodstained gloves, whenever appearing in the capacity of Interfector.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
  • Pathfinder has the Gray Gardeners, hooded executioners and enforcers operating in Galt, a country in constant revolution. They maintain the Final Blades, guillotines that claim the souls of their victims (originally to keep their first victims' souls out of the hands of the devils they served but conveniently it also prevents resurrection). In addition to wearing hoods, they cover their faces with gray, silken veils to hide their identities.
    • The country of Cheliax also has the Hellknights, several orders of warriors who emulate the tactics of devils on the battlefield. They're known for being covered in black or gray spiky full plate with terrifying helmets and are brutal enforcers of order and peace. There are also the Gray Maidens, similar enforcers for the Cheliax-founded city-state of Korvosa. The Gray Maidens were an elite, all-female bodyguard systematically tortured into being ruthless enforcers of Queen Ileosa's laws, but their armor also includes a signature face-concealing mask.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • The Seascum Pirates in Knights of All Realms are lead by Patchface the Pirate, a vicious captain who wears a full face patchwork mask to hide his beautiful face, his personal shame.


    Web Videos 
  • Pretty much any member of the System in the Cave of Shadows universe. The fact that they stalk and kidnap a blogger just for talking about the organisation brings up their malevolent disposition. For a less threatening but still creepy example from the same universe, see ns0mnby.
  • The Fear Mythos has the Plague Doctor, and many portrayals of the Archangel fall under this trope as well.
  • Lazarus of the Lazarus Mirage projectnote  always wears a mask which is an abstract drawing of a schematic human face. Subverted, as the character isn't supposed to be malevolent at all, although he looks a bit creepy.
  • Marble Hornets:
    • It has a mysterious figure in a simplistic but creepy black-and-white mask who acts as the secondary antagonist (after the Operator) of the first season. In later seasons, it's revealed that Masky is actually Tim under the Operator's influence, and that he doesn't even remember being his alter-ego after the fact.
    • In Season 2, we are introduced to another mysterious figure, this time wearing a hood and with their face covered by a black cloth with a red frowny face on it.
  • Mission Code High School:
    • the CDU in human form. In episode seven it has a silver mask with green eyes, while Afterwards has it wear a featureless charcoal-grey mask.
    • Chuck the mole who wears a bandana and sunglasses.
    • Inverted with Spike's father Leo, who wears a plain white mask but is a good guy.
  • One Hundred Yard Stare has one mysterious masked man. His gas mask is rather intimidating. Season 2 adds some more.
  • In Positively Dreadful, host Sideburns is held at gunpoint by the War Father, a villain wearing a green Iron Man mask. He is also the first villain on the show not to be completely played for comedy.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Koh the Face Stealer had a centipede body and was able to steal people's faces if they showed any type of emotion on their face when they were around him. If he stole their faces he would wear any of them at his choosing like they were merely masks. Several of these faces were based on traditional Noh masks.
    • Zuko's Blue Spirit mask.
    • Many of the Fire Nation soldiers, especially in the first season, have helmets that double as masks.
  • Belphegor, from the series of the same name, wears a gold-coloured plain and featureless variety, combined with a hood and a black cloak, making his appearance somewhat similar to the Grim Reaper. His mooks all wear the cloth mask variety, with two eye holes but without a mouth hole. Except his two most trusted underlings who surprisingly are unmasked and unnamed.
  • Captain Laserhawk: A Blood Dragon Remix: The dystopian corporate state of Eden is ruled by the mysterious Board of Directors, whose members wear faceless masks emblazoned with the red cross of the Knights Templar. The design of their masks foreshadows the eventual revelation that they are the show's incarnation of the villainous Templar Order from the Assassin's Creed series..
  • The Equalists from The Legend of Korra:
  • Averted and played straight by, well, M.A.S.K.; M.A.S.K. itself is heroic, VENOM is villainous. Also, the "Masks" are more like helmets; and more emphasis is placed on the converting vehicles.
  • Hawk Moth, Big Bad of Miraculous Ladybug, wears a metal mask that covers his entire face save his eyes and mouth.
  • Scooby-Doo. Every episode. Subverted, inverted, played straight, whatever you can think of.
    Fred: Why are you two so scared? You know it's a fake monster.
    Shaggy: And that's supposed to make me less scared? Who goes running around in a suit of armor?
  • Skull Island (2023): An Iwi wearing a mask ends up looking quite scary when they stalk Charlie from a distance, but they don't really mean him any harm, saluting him when he's about to be taken unharmed to Kong's temple.
  • Teen Titans (2003) has Slade and Red-X.

    Real Life 
  • Some militaries who use gas masks can look like this to the enemy.
  • The Ku Klux Klan, who infamously wore white pointy face-concealing hoods when engaging in cross-burnings and other acts of political terrorism.note 
  • Cuirassiers (armoured heavy cavalry) of the early 1600s wore helmets with intimidating faces to rattle their opponents and gain confidence.
  • The band Slipknot may or may not be malevolent, but their masks are definitely menacing.
  • Averted with Hollywood Undead. Their masks are not at all menacing, and their Wangsty, Emo/Pretty Fly for a White Guy songs are even less so.
  • The men in the Nick Berg video and other beheading videos. The executioners wear balaclavas and kaffiyeh, so we do not know their real identities.
  • The identical "X Face" masks worn by the band Mushroomhead.
  • Australian industrial death-grind band, The Berserker fits this trope. However, they have recently begun playing without the masks. They're even uglier without them.
  • The teacher in the video for The Birthday Massacre's song Looking Glass was a Malevolent Masked Man.
  • Project chanology of Anonymous protest the actions of The Church of Scientology wearing Guy Fawkes masks to protect themselves from lawsuits and the Church's goons (not that kind), and actually make a point of having a lot of fun in the process. That being said, they are only a tiny fraction of Anonymous' real bulk, most of which seem to treat the Chanology protesters like a drunken cousin dragged around town, singing obnoxiously. 7chan in particular now bans anyone referring to the Chanology incidents and treats them like pariahs. This said, 7chan has possibly one of the most toxic group dynamics known to mankind (assuming that heading even applies anymore) and it tends to crash more often than Polish Presidential flights.
  • For centuries, nearly the entire population of Venice wore masks nine months of the year, like people of other nations wore hats. Only during the hottest summer months they left them home. During the Carnival, they dug out the extra-special decorated masks so popular today. According to foreign visitors, they felt either themselves completely surrounded people of this trope or being in a city of ghosts.
  • GWAR's full-face monster masks, bristling with teeth and Spikes of Villainy. Subverted by stage acts so over-the-top with menace that it wraps around to Campiness.
  • Uncaught serial killers the Zodiac and the Phantom both wore creepy homemade masks during some of their attacks.
  • The Visors on some ceremonial cavalry helmets used by troopers in the Roman army certainly had an intimidating effect. Even if they were more for competition/"tournament" use than field use.
  • Dance group The Jabbawockeez, wear full-face, white masks that also shadow their eyes, hats, and hoodies, and dance with relatively dark lighting. Why? In their own words, they're meant to be 'A figment of your imagination' (as well as to avoid any one dancer standing out above the rest in a performance). And with their choreography and occasionally ghostly performances, it really does look pretty cool.
  • In NPHC Greek fraternity and sorority probates, new members tend to conceal their identity with masks. New fraternity/sorority members only unmask themselves when they are introduced.
  • In Death Plus Ten Years, Roger Cooper describes his Iranian Secret Police interrogator wearing a white form-fitting mask which he says still gives him nightmares. His interrogator eventually tired of wearing it and had Cooper face the wall instead, warning him that if he saw his face, deliberately or otherwise, he'd push a pen through Cooper's right ear and out the other. Other interrogators never bothered with this, so it's likely the mask was due to paranoia (he was convinced Cooper was a British spy) rather than just to scare him.
  • The clown sightings of 2016, which involved numerous accounts of people in clown costumes and masks, typically standing near forests or stalking around public areas across the world but primarily in the United States. While many of the reports were dubious, there were no accounts of any actual murder or assault. Even so, most cases involved suspects in creepy, demonic, or otherwise deliberately menacing rubber clown masks, indicating a clear attempt to unnerve or frighten witnesses.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Malevolent Masked Man, Malevolent Masked Women, Malevolent Masked Woman


The Demons

The Demons are a masked gang of Chinese terrorists led by Martin Li/Mr. Negative.

How well does it match the trope?

4.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / MalevolentMaskedMen

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