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Non-Action Big Bad

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On the right: the Ultimate Life Form wearing a Hover Tank. On the left: its master, a blind guy in a wheelchair.

"You see, I never had the chance to serve in battle, nor did fate provide me the opportunity to sacrifice myself for humanity as it did for so many others in the Great War."
The Director, Red vs. Blue

The Big Bad, as everybody knows, is the source of conflict in a work of fiction, with their defeat being the main goal of The Hero which brings an end to that Story Arc. But, what exactly makes them such a threatening villain? Is it because Asskicking Leads to Leadership (and Rank Scales with Asskicking)? If the protagonist is an Action Hero, he must be up against an unbeatable Action Villain, right? Well, not always. They could be extremely cunning, and able to manipulate others to do their bidding. They might be simply eviler than anybody else, willing to go to lengths others shy away from.

However, this villain has zero fighting ability. They might be elderly, disabled, or they fight well for a human but they're against a superpowered hero. Or they just think fighting is beneath them; that's what the hired help is for. In any case, what they lack in physical prowess they make up for in resources, cunning, and/or good PR. In the event they do encounter the hero one-on-one, they usually try to trick them into not attacking, just run for it, or they have the fight stacked in their favor by empowering themselves and/or weakening the hero.

If encountered in a video game, this character will either act as a deliberate Anti-Climax Boss, an outright Zero-Effort Boss, or even be The Unfought, unless they become empowered over the course of the game and go all One-Winged Angel.

Often overlaps with Evil Cripple and Dark Lord on Life Support, where the villain doesn't fight because they physically can't. Often leads to a case of Weak Boss, Strong Underlings. An Evil Sorcerer or Mad Scientist who’s weak because they spent their time developing their mind is probably a Squishy Wizard. Also compare The Man Behind the Curtain and Dragon-in-Chief; in both cases, the Big Bad is only nominally in charge while someone else is calling the shots. If The Dragon knows they’re the one truly in charge and decides to do something about it, he may become The Starscream. For Big Bads who have power but act like this until the climax, see Orcus on His Throne, where the Big Bad doesn't carry out any plans beyond sitting around being generally evil. This trope may result in It's Personal with the Dragon, as The Dragon doing all the heavy lifting may become the hero's personal Arch-Enemy.

While we can't name examples this is partly Truth in Television, as commanders are usually more well known for being a Magnificent Bastard, and even real-life badasses aren't the One-Man Army that fiction tends to suggest.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Code Geass: Schneizel el Britannia is a purely political figure, but he more than does the job with his silver tongue and has the protection of the Knights of the Round, and late in the series, FLEIJA and Damocles.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note. He only kills by writing names in the "Death Note" and has a single physical fight in the entire series.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • "Emperor" Pilaf was the closest thing to a main antagonist the series had during its early years... and was basically a tiny little Psychopathic Manchild, who relied entirely on his duo of ineffective goons to do all the leg work.
    • Commander Red in the Red Ribbon Army saga is such a weakling that, when his subordinate decides he wants to be in charge, he kills Red easily.
    • The Crane Hermit is the main antagonistic force in the 22nd Tenkaichi Tournament arc. He's actually quite strong, but he leaves the fighting to his pupils, hoping they'll crush his old enemy's own pupils; when he lashes out at them for turning against him, Roshi sends him flying.
    • Babidi in the Buu saga of Dragon Ball Z is a powerful magic user but is absolutely no match for the planet-splitting main heroes, relying on his minions to do the fighting. He's eventually killed when Buu realizes that being bossed around by someone so much weaker than him who has nothing to offer doesn't make sense, and reacts accordingly. It didn't help that Babidi was a massive dick to Buu either. Hint to aspiring villains, when commanding a minion vastly superior to you in power, treat them with respect.
  • Mayo Sakaki in the 3rd OVA to Fushigi Yuugi. She gets sucked into the book, where she is hoping to find happiness, and winds up with Miaka's wedding ring and 12-week-old fetus. Because she is pregnant, Boushin will not allow her to go with Tamahome to find the other Seishi, as the Priestess would usually do. And so Mayo remains at the palace. She vomits up a magical orb that allows her to spy on Tamahome, and she prays to a demon posing as Suzaku for the destruction of Konan.
  • Godha in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex never fights or even has any weapons, and his mooks rarely use any violent means. Which doesn't stop Aramaki to have him riddled with exploding bullets when he refuses to be taken into custody.
  • Gundam:
  • The Major from Hellsing. For an Omnicidal Maniac enamored of war and carnage, he noticeably lacks any combat involvement and limits himself to inspirational speeches. Hilariously, he can't even shoot a disobedient soldier standing right in front of him, despite emptying a clip of ammo at him. Eventually, he just has his more loyal Mooks do the killing for him.
  • Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S. Being a Mad Scientist with Super Intelligence and a lot of resources, he was one of the biggest threats to the TSAB itself in the franchise and came the closest to taking The Federation down even though he himself has little to no fighting abilities. The battle against him was pretty much over once all of the Combat Cyborgs guarding his base were neutralized and Fate finally got around the Capturing Threads set up in his lab.
  • In the Mazingerverse:
    • Dr. Hell of Mazinger Z is a certified genius... and a seventy-year-old man who isn't physically fit at all. He always sends his henchmen, minions and war machines off into battle because he can't fight his enemies face-to-face.
    • The Great Emperor of Darkness of Great Mazinger. Despite of being a very powerful, god-like being, he never fought the heroes directly.
    • King Vega from Ufo Robo Grendizer. He would appear throughout the series giving orders to Blaki and Gandal until the destruction of Planet Vega. While hardly ever seen in battle, King Vega commands the King of Vega spaceship that can fight in space.
  • Nagi dai Artai in My-Otome, albeit largely because males can't become Otomes. The manga also has True Mashiro, who manipulates everything (except Sergey) while in a wheelchair.
  • Gato in the first arc of Naruto, which ended up being his undoing after he tried to dispose of Zabuza for failing to defeat Kakashi, only for Zabuza to return the favor by killing Gato himself. After that, every other Big Bad in the series has fully embodied Rank Scales with Asskicking.
  • One Piece:
    • Spandam is the leader of the Cipher Pol 9, an elite group of government assassins. He's also physically weaker than a single common fodder soldier. He does have a Cool Sword - The Elephant Sword - but the problem is that he can hardly use it properly. When he unleashes it on Franky, Franky convinces the Elephant to squish SPANDAM.
    • The World Government are the ones ordering the marines, including the Fleet Admiral. Several of the members of the Five Elder Stars have what look to be battle scars, and one even carries a sword, so it's very possible that they're retired fighters, but none of them have been seen fighting. And Imu, the man in command of them, is not allowed to go out and fight either, because him being in charge of the World Government goes against its very tenets that no one man could rule the entire world; him trying anything in person would risk blowing a civilization-shattering secret wide open.
    • Shogun Kurozumi Orochi is not a fighter in any capacity despite possessing a Mythical Zoan Devil Fruit. When Zoro and Oden attack him, he just stands there and pisses his pants in fear, and probably would have died without someone else saving his ass. This is emphasized when Kaido decapitates him in an instant, setting the stage for himself and Big Mom to serve as the Final Boss for the arc.
  • Marder from Panzer World Galient, who is completely defenseless in an actual battle and got almost killed at least once when Hy Shaltat wasn't around.
  • Every single antagonist on the Pokémon series, since it's the Pokemon who do all the fighting for them, while the main antagonist are not shown to have any fighting ability whatsoever. The Pokemon themselves are said to never be evil, while the theatrical legendary Pokemon are merely troubled, confused, or highly protective, and are Easily Forgiven at the end.
  • The Big Bad of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kyubey, may be an amoral Manipulative Bastard, but doesn't really have any sort of battle ability; in fact, Kyubey gets killed pretty easily. Multiple times.
  • Desparaiah from Yes! Pretty Cure 5. While her Dragon-in-Chief Kawarino is the most difficult villain the girls have to face in this season, the only things Desparaia does during the Grand Finale is summoning Mooks, blocking the attacks with a barrier... and undergoing a High-Heel–Face Turn! Weirdly she is the most powerful being in this season, the only reason why Kawarino is so damn loyal to her.
  • Sakyo of YuYu Hakusho is one of the primary antagonists in the Dark Tournament Saga, even if Toguro overshadows him in plot importance. He also knows he can't fight, despite being the fifth member of Team Toguro, so he says that the outcome of Toguro's match will decide the outcome of his, thus enabling whoever wins it to win the tournament.

    Board Games 
  • Chess: The king is barely superior to a simple pawn, and spends as much time as possible hiding and fleeing (especially since it usually can't attack another piece without moving into check first).

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City baddies tend to qualify. The Roarks, Ava Lord, Wallenquist, and the Colonel never get their hands dirty and are likely incapable of doing so. Instead, they send dirty cops, mooks, hitmen, and assassins to do their jobs who tend to be more physically capable. Manute, for instance, was Ava Lord's dragon. Ava was only dangerous if you were a man who didn't know she was untrustworthy. Manute, on the other hand, is so dangerous that he has been a recurring villain in the series... a rarity.
  • Contest of Champions (2015) has The Collector. Justified, as without the Iso-8 Sphere, he's a somewhat fragile immortal. He has to resort to threats, bluffs, and the aforementioned sphere to keep everyone doing what he says.
  • Superman:
    • Lex Luthor most of the time. He does have a battlesuit, but he tends to get in fistfights a lot less than he uses his Manipulative Bastard and Corrupt Corporate Executive aspects.
    • Superman: Up, Up and Away!: After Superman has been depowered, Luthor declares he will kill the alien with his bare hands. Superman, who is still larger and brawnier than Lex, punches him out rather easily.
    • Lesla-Lar is a brilliant mad scientist, a cunning schemer and a subtle manipulator, but she has zero fighting skills. In The Unknown Supergirl, Lesla gets easily caught by ordinary cops, and the only time she fights Supergirl hand to hand, she loses badly.
    • The Killers of Krypton: Empress Gandelo spends most of the story plotting, scheming and expecting her underlings to do her work for her. When she finally confronts Kara, she fails to be a serious physical threat.
    • Day of the Dollmaker: The titular main villain is a pudgy runt. Without his army of killer dolls or bomb-strapped hostages Dollmaker cannot protect himself and is knocked out in one single punch by Catherine Grant, who has no fighting skills whatsoever.
  • The Incredible Hulk: The Leader. He may be a mutate, but his only power is Super Intelligence, and he's got the physique of a string bean.
  • Batman:
    • In most forms of media The Joker is this - he's generally portrayed as scrawny, and occasionally it will only take one punch from Batman to bring him down. He makes up for it by being a Manipulative Bastard and stacking the odds. In a number of stories, the tension isn't on Batman beating him in a fight, but trying to catch him before he murders more innocent people. That said, it's also not uncommon for him to be a wily, experienced, and dangerously unpredictable street-fighter who can actually go to-to-toe with the Bat, even if he's more of a Fragile Speedster than a Lightning Bruiser like his Arch-Enemy.
    • This usually goes for most of Bats' Rogues Gallery, to various degrees. Guys like The Riddler or The Scarecrow are more masterminds than fighters. Two-Face or the Black Mask are gangster types who are capable of using a gun or fighting, but don't have the physique or skill needed to take Bats on in a straight fight.
  • In the pages of Iron Man and The Avengers, we have seen guys like the Roxxon Oil heads, Justin Hammer, and the leaders of the Maggia who were corrupt business men or mafia bosses who could not go up against the heroes one-on-one and often employed super villains. Obadiah Stane and Count Nefaria also started off this way but both men either gained powers later or eventually wore a suit of Powered Armor.
  • Star Wars (Marvel 1977): Darth Vader, of all people, ended up this way. The reasoning behind this was that Lucas Arts did not want to have Vader and Luke fighting too often, lest it conflict with the movies, which the comics were supposed to coincide with.
  • Also in the Marvel Universe, when the Elders of the Universe plot some evil scheme, the Astronomer usually orchestrates the plot and acts as leader. While many of the Elders have incredible superhuman powers and/or incredible technology at their disposal, the Astronomer does not seem to have any powers that are useful in a fight, and always teleports away if trouble starts.
  • The Yellow Bastard in Sin City. Sure he's a rapist and murderer (of children, no less) with enough influence to get the muscle to help along, but in combat, he's a Dirty Coward and is eventually killed pretty easily.
    • Honestly, every villain in Sin City tend to fold like a wet towel in a straight-up fight, even built-up badasses like Manute and The Colonel. The only real exception is Kevin.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Mad Scientist and underworld supplier the Tinkerer is an old man with no fighting skills. The same can be said for Jonas Harrow, who's a Dirty Coward on top of it. (Ironically, Harrow was a one-time suspect for the Hobgoblin's identity.)
    • The Kingpin is interesting in that he is a very strong and skilled fighter, but he is usually in the mob boss role. In his earliest appearances, he had legitimate Super Strength and could fight guys like Spider-Man and even overpower him. Once he became a Daredevil villain, he was brought down a peg or two and less likely to fight Spider-Man. Instead, when he shows up in Spidey's books now, he is usually employing supervillains.
    • Fortunado is a crime boss who, at one time, filled the Evil Power Vacuum left by the Kingpin. While portrayed as a fighter in his youth, he's an old man at present whose physical skills have degenerated.
    • Silvermane is this when not a cyborg; usually he's running his criminal organization from a wheelchair, being half-crippled. In one storyline he was even running his organization while bedridden.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Spider-Man:
      • Bolivar Trask, the man who may be responsible for the deaths of the Parkers, as well as the Brocks, and the main villain of the Symbiote Wars arc. Justified because he's a middle-aged businessman, without any superpowers whatsoever.
      • Kingpin again. Not that he isn't strong, he just prefers to sit back and stay incredibly rich, rather than get his hands dirty. Well, dirtier.
    • The Ultimates: Loki. Justified, because if he uses his powers Odin will know where his is. The most he can do is mess with people's perceptions. Eventually he decides he doesn't care, and lets loose.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: During the Saturnian Empire arc pretty much every Saturnian Wonder Woman, Steve Trevor and Etta Candy face off against is a manipulative dangerous fighter while the Emperor sits on his throne. Once Diana gets into the throne room itself the Emperor decides to sign a treaty with the United States rather than fight himself.
  • Vandal Savage: Most iterations of the character outside of the comics are much more schemers than fighters. Comics Savage, on the other hand, is always up for a brawl.

    Fan Works 
  • In An Emerald Unearthed, Randall Silva is a ruthless Loan Shark who usually leaves the physical work to his grunts. He does personally shoot people's loved ones when they fail to pay up, but that's the most action he gets. When he gets held hostage by Emerald, he is utterly helpless.
  • Angel of the Bat: Lipov doesn't have much fight in him and prefers to leave the dirty work to the Odmience.
  • A New World: Lord Tenshou is a particularly poor military leader. He'd prefer to be an advisor to a more competent Big Bad, but his powerset all but ensures he's handed the position of main tactician anyway. Yukari uses this trait to utterly screw him over.
  • From Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics:
    • Last Child of Krypton: Gendo is a Manipulative Bastard, but when Shinji attacked him, there was nothing he could do to stop his son. If he did not have kryptonite, his life would be over.
    • In Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide, Gendo and the SEELE members are manipulative bastards and schemers but no one of them can fight the heroes or the alien monsters directly. The latter instead relies on their Dragon, the shadowy official, Musashi Kluge, to do the heavy lifting.
    • In Once More with Feeling Gendo and SEELE are good working in the shadows, plotting, scheming and moving their minions like chess pieces, but neither of them is a physical menace.
    • In The Second Try, Gendo was the Big Bad, Manipulative Bastard and The Chessmaster who turned everyone into his unwitting pawns. Asuka almost killed him with her bare hands. Yes, he was nearly strangled to death by an angry teenager.
    • Thousand Shinji: Gendo and SEELE are schemers and manipulative bastards, but they have absolutely no fighting skills whatsoever. They're unable to do anything other than cringing when the main characters act directly against them, and Shinji actually mocks them for being helpless when their plots go awry and their puppets refuse to obey.
  • Ruby and Nora:
    • Ruby's Birthday: Admah Keter downplays it. He's a Serial Killer who prefers to kill his own prey, but he only does it when he can ambush them. He stands no chance in a straight-up fight as Pyrrha and Yang prove.
    • Weiss and Pyrrha: Nurse Abigail Lemon is an Angel of Death Serial Killer and only kills with hospital drugs and her EMP Semblance. She avoids a straight-up fight with Pyrrha and only kills from the shadows during the final confrontation. When Pyrrha starts deflecting bullets with her magnetism Semblance, Abby panics since she has no fighting ability whatsoever.
    • Cold: As Jacques Schnee takes center stage as Big Bad, he doesn't actually fight the heroes. He mostly has the military doing his work.
  • Queen of Shadows: The various Queens of the Shadowkhan are all inherently physically weak, being really only meant to rule and create new males, to whom the task of fighting is left.
  • Loved and Lost: Prince Jewelius is highly cunning and a Manipulative Bastard, but he's just an average unicorn as well as a Dirty Coward who lets his more powerful allies/pawns fight for him. The most physical things he does are telekinetically throwing a guard out of the throne room's window for making a wrong question as well as trying to decapitate his subdued aunt Princess Celestia during the final battle.
  • A Prize for Three Empires: The Supreme Intelligence is the ruler of the Kree Empire and one of the most intelligent beings in the galaxy. Nonetheless, he abandons his ongoing scheme and teleports away as soon as the Earth's heroes storm his base to rescue Carol Danvers.
  • Here There Be Monsters: Dr. Sivana is a brilliant Mad Scientist and a good strategist, but he is not a fighter, which is why he runs away when the Marvel Family manage to break out of their shackles and begin trashing his allies.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Duke of Weselton from Frozen (2013) isn't capable of fighting, let alone being able to overpower someone who has ice powers like Elsa. Instead he sends his bodyguards to kill her but even then, Elsa easily repelled them off. Similarly, while Hans does show his sword-fighting skills against Marshmallow, he is still no match for Elsa's unstable ice powers and relies on manipulations to mentally break the queen before finishing her off and later on, Anna was able to successfully knock him out of the boat with a single punch.
  • Subverted by Scar from The Lion King (1994). He complains early on about lacking Mufasa's strength, relies on his hyena minions for most of the physical work, and doesn't try to directly kill anybody unless he thinks they can't escape or defend themselves. However, at the climax, he proves he can fight, and gives a legitimately epic Last Villain Stand.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games: Principal Abacus Cinch of Crystal Prep Academy has no magic or physical skills of her own. Instead, she mentally and emotionally manipulates the human Twilight Sparkle into being her Dragon, and the real threat of the film.
  • Robin Hood (1973): Prince John makes the plans to capture and kill Robin Hood, but relies on the Sheriff of Nottingham to do his dirty work. When Prince John gets involved in the fighting, he proves to be a Dirty Coward who immediately runs away in fear if he doesn't have an advantage.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Assassin's Creed (2016):
    • Alan Rikkin is an administrator and a speech giver; not a fighter. When the Assassins start a prison riot he immediately leaves.
    • Tomás de Torquemada has no fighting skills. Ojeda is his sole rampart when Aguilar and Maria ambush him inside the Alhambra chamber where Muhammad XII kept the Apple of Eden.
  • Much like in the comics, Lex Luthor from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice never fights Superman or Batman directly, but he's very cunning and uses that to his advantage.
  • Every Big Bad in The Bourne Series counts.
    • Alexander Conklin from The Bourne Identity spends the film sending agents after Bourne from the safety of his control room. When Bourne confronts Conklin in person, Conklin makes sure to surround himself with bodyguards. When Bourne defeats Conklin's bodyguards, he is about to knock out Conklin effortlessly. Conklin survives, but is then unceremoniously shot on the orders of his superiors.
    • Ward Abbott from The Bourne Supremacy forges evidence against Bourne and manipulates the authorities into going after Bourne. Although Abbott does kill an unsuspecting underling himself, when Bourne confronts Abbott in person, Abbot doesn't even attempt to fight back.
    • Noah Vosen from The Bourne Ultimatum spends most of the film either spying on Bourne and his allies to predict his next move, or sending assassins to kill them. Vosen does shoot at Bourne at the end of the film as a last ditch effort to prevent his escape, but fails miserably. Vosen's superiors, Dr. Albert Hirsch and CIA Director Ezra Kramer, also qualify for this trope in Ultimatum.
    • Eric Byer from The Bourne Legacy is only seen out in the field in one scene that took place years earlier, and even then he's out of the action. During Legacy, he either spends his time in NRAG's office or in a crisis suite, hundreds of miles from the film's conflict.
    • Dewey from Jason Bourne in particular may not be a physical threat, but he is the head of the CIA and this gives him a massive amount of men and money. He used this to have Bourne's father killed, and arranges for the death of several characters. He is also an expert smooth talker, capable of getting Jason to stand down, and is the closest any villain in the series comes to killing Bourne.
  • King Edward "Longshanks" from Braveheart commands his armies from the sidelines instead of fighting in battles personally. The closest thing Longshanks gets to fighting is when he throws an advisor out the window and beats his own son. When William Wallace confronts Longshanks personally, Longshanks flees to safety.
  • Casablanca: Heinrich Strasser is a threat mainly through what he represents, namely the might of the Third Reich. On a personal level, he is an aging Desk Jockey with no relevant combat skills, and goes down like a sack of potatoes when he tries to out-draw Rick.
  • The Fast and the Furious:
  • Rex Lewis/The Doctor/Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Slightly subverted. While he does leaves the dirty work to his Vipers and McCullen, he does use his tools in wanting to torture Duke. Which makes sense since Rex blames Duke for his apparent death.
  • Commodus from Gladiator is a Dirty Coward who has no combat experience apart from killing his deathly ill father to become Emperor. He relies on his countless soldiers to carry out his evil deeds, and sends his best gladiators into the arena in an attempt to kill The Hero Maximus. When Maximus goads Commodus into fighting him in the arena, Commodus stabs a restrained Maximus in order to win the fight unfairly. Commodus still loses.
  • Mason Verger in Hannibal pulls the strings to set much of the plot in motion - from disgracing Clarice Starling to the capture of his nemesis Hannibal Lecter. Mason's encounter with Hannibal left him a mutilated quadriplegic, so needless to say he relies entirely on hired help for his schemes.
  • In Hellraiser, Leviathan, despite being extremely powerful in it's home dimension, relies on Pinhead and the other Cenobites to travel to Earth to capture souls on its behalf.
  • Pretty much every James Bond villain relies on The Dragon, The Brute, or just a Giant Mook to present a physical threat to Bond, while they provide the resources and ideas. There are some exceptions though; Alec Trevelyan in GoldenEye is a match for Bond, being a former MI6 agent himself.
  • Balem only has one fight in Jupiter Ascending, and he loses pretty easily. Even Jupiter, who gets abducted or taken hostage by everyone in the film, can easily defeat Balem once they're in a one-on-one fight.
  • Valentine from Kingsman: The Secret Service. He has no stomach for blood or violence, and he's a feeble techie to begin with, so he lets Gazelle do the fighting for him.
    • Poppy Adams, the sequel's main antagonist, despite being a ruthless and brutal drug lord, who has no problems having one of her newest henchmen throw the recruiter in a meat grinder as a test, never personally gets her hands dirty; even when Eggsy and Harry have her cornered, the most she tries to do is be as uncooperative as possible (they still need her password to shut down the Evil Plan).
  • General Peter McAllister and Arjen Rudd from the first two Lethal Weapon movies. In the first movie, McAllister is able to sneak up on Riggs without the latter noticing, and is clearly proficient with firearms. He just chooses not to get his hands dirty. And in the second movie, the only time Rudd takes action is to empty an entire clip on Riggs in the climax.
  • Sauron from The Lord of the Rings film series is a partial case. He does come out, and he DOES do some major damage in the prologue against the Last Alliance, until he's deprived of his Ring of Power. But he never comes out to play again during the main story arc; in the film explicitly because his form has been reduced to just an eye on his tower.
  • Dieter von Cunth in MacGruber, for all his fearsome reputation, just stands there and gets his ass kicked when the finale comes.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: The film is sometimes said to "not have a supervillain". Obadiah Stane admits that he's "never had a taste for this sort of thing" as his plan goes from behind-the-desk manipulation to mighty fisticuffs in the last twenty minutes.
    • Justin Hammer from Iron Man 2. While he isn't quite as old as his comic book counterpart, he still doesn't get involved in physical combat, preferring to act as a Corrupt Corporate Executive.
    • Thor and The Avengers (2012): Downplayed with Loki. While he is well above any mortal in physical prowess, he isn't up to par with Thor in combat, preferring to compensate with his intelligence and cunning. As such, he tends to use his illusion powers to avoid direct conflict, or to rely on the Destroyer / brainwashed minions / alien army to do the fighting for him. In The Avengers, he readily dispatches S.H.I.E.L.D. agents that are no threat to him and proves Captain America's superior during their short battle, but when he has to deal with the Hulk, the latter throws him around like a limp noodle.
    • Captain America: The Winter Soldier: Alexander Pierce does nothing more in terms of action than use a gun to hold people hostage a few times. Dr Zola is much the same, although he at least has the excuse of being a computer now.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Helmut Zemo despite being a former Spec Ops soldier, never directly confronts or fights the Avengers. It actually makes him more dangerous as he acknowledges he can't ever match or defeat them and instead turns them against each other to destroy the group.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: Quentin Beck, who was initially shown as being in a powered-up supersuit and fighting with magic, was unsurprisingly revealed to use a heck lot of drones for his elaborate illusions and to do all the fighting, with the true Beck wearing nothing more than a motion capture suit. He promptly goes down to stray bullets from a drone in the final battle, which may or may not be an illusion.
    • Black Widow (2021): Dreykov is a fat old man with no real combat ability beyond throwing weak punches. It's the Widows that do all the real work. As soon as Natasha breaks her nose to get past Dreykov's pheromonal lock, he simply flees since he can't fight back.
  • Downplayed in Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation. Solomon Lane is the only villain in the series that doesn't engage in hand-to-hand combat with Ethan. Nonetheless, he usually makes an effort to be on-site whenever an Evil Plan is being carried out, even if his minions are doing the actual work, just to make sure everything goes according to plan. He is also a decent shot and sometimes carries out murders on his own. In the finale, he chases Ethan down Terminator-style, only to find he was lured into a trap and is captured. This fully averted in sequel Mission: Impossible – Fallout, where he personally ambushes and captures Illsa and comes seconds away from killing another one of the heroes, before Ilsa manages to free herself and save him, before a engaging Lane in very even fight.
  • Murder Party: Alexander never once lifts a finger to participate in any of the conflicts that happen during the film, playing instead with his cellphone nonchalantly both when the rest of the group hunt Chris armed and dangerous (well, apart from Lexi) and even more dumbfoundingly when Zycho attempts to murder them all and Lexi tackles him and Macon lands him the killing blow.
  • Morton in Once Upon a Time in the West, a crippled railroad baron who relies on gunslinger Frank and his henchmen to "remove small obstacles from the track." The trope's played with though: Morton initiates the film's events but Frank grows increasingly insubordinate, and the two spend the second half of the film trying to kill each other.
  • Cutler Becket from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He loves to sit and enjoy his tea while he watches his armies fight against the pirates. According to secondary materials he is an expert swordsman but never gets the chance to show it in the films.
  • Dr. Zaius is the main antagonist of Planet of the Apes (1968), but being a somewhat elderly orangutan he's not exactly an imposing physical presence, and easily taken hostage by Taylor at the movie's climax. Zira and Cornelius even chastise Taylor for not being gentler on the old doctor.
  • Dr. René Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark is an intelligent Manipulative Bastard Smug Snake who surrounds himself with his personal goons whenever he confronts Indiana Jones, but never attempts to actually fight him. However, without him, the Nazis would have gotten nowhere. Colonel Herman Dietrich, the leader of the Nazis searching for the Ark, also qualifies. Although Dietrich looks imposing, he never does any physical work apart from manhandling Marian, leaving his Nazis to do all the fighting.
  • Tama, the villain of The Raid Redemption, is a pudgy middle-aged gangster who is entirely reliant on his main enforcer, Mad Dog, in combat. However, he's a pretty cunning enemy, and quite capable of breaking his enemies by talking.
  • In Rambo IV, unlike the other villains, Major Tint is shown running for his life and hiding from the battle at the end of the movie.
  • Dick Jones from RoboCop (1987). Aside from trying to take the Old Man hostage, he never even attempts to harm anyone directly, instead using his ED-209 drones and Clarence Boddicker.
  • Subverted with Professor James Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, who seems like only a thinker and not a fighter on the surface, and never gets into a straight up fight with Holmes in the film. But it is established early on that he is a former college boxing champion, and later in the film, he subjects Holmes to Cold-Blooded Torture via ramming a hook through the latter's shoulder. Also, during Moriarty and Holmes's mental battle at the end of the film, both of them conclude that thanks to Holmes's shoulder injury, Moriarty would have probably won a straight up fight between the two. Luckily Holmes is smart enough not to play fair.
  • In The Shining, Jack Torrance has been sent to kill his family by the ghosts of the Overlook Hotel. The ghosts do torment the main characters with hallucinations, and they do have some physical influence in the hotel, such as when one of them bruises Danny's neck, and when the free Jack from the kitchen. However, they rely on Jack to do the killing, and when Jack dies and the family escapes the hotel, the ghosts presumably can't do a thing about it.
  • Space Jam: Mr. Swackhammer is the boss of the Monstars, and is the one who sends them to kidnap the Looney Tunes, but as he acts as their coach, he doesn't really engage in any action himself.
  • Star Wars:
    • Grand Moff Tarkin in A New Hope, in a prime example of the films' Early-Installment Weirdness. Although he commands the Death Star and leads the hunt for the Rebels, he's just a bureaucrat and lacks any sort of Force power, in stark contrast to the major villains of the other movies and the saga in general.
    • Jabba the Hutt from Return of the Jedi serves as a Disc-One Final Boss version of this, a massive gangster who can't even move from his throne and is so inept at the physical stuff that Leia simply strangles him with the chain he was using to enslave her.
    • Memorably subverted with The Emperor, who projects an image (both to the audience and to Luke) of being a helpless feeble old man (even using a cane that he doesn't need) who needs Darth Vader to fight for him. Then he busts out the Force Lightning. The same applies in the prequels (which take place before he was the Emperor), where he manipulates things behind the scenes and lets his subordinates do the actual fighting. When he's forced to actually get into a fight, however, he's shown to be a Lightning Bruiser and Master Swordsman able to kill several Jedi masters in seconds, even without using Force Lighting.
  • All three Big Bads in the Taken trilogy are this, with the second-to-last villain putting up a big fight with Bryan Mills near the end of each movie.
    • The first film has three different characters that can qualify for the Big Bad, (the guy who actually kidnapped the hero's daughter, the man auctioning off the women, and the sheik who buys her) none of which put up a fight, with only the first one actually trying to resist and the third making a feeble attempt to take his daughter hostage.
    • Murad in Taken 2, despite the plot being about his own personal revenge against Bryan Mills, he does absolutely none of the physical work beyond slapping Bryan while they had him captive and without his goons to do the killing, he is completely defenseless. When Murad tries to shoot Bryan in the back, after the latter tried to make peace and dropped an unloaded gun to test him, Bryan kills him with one blow.
    • In Taken 3, after the defeating the ex-Soviet Spetsnaz and crime lord who was thought to be the man behind everything, both Bryan and the audience are treated to the revelation that, Stuart St. John, Bryan's ex-wife's former new husband and Corrupt Corporate Executive with no known combat ability what so ever is the true Big Bad.
  • Discussed in Unbreakable, where the mother of Elijah Price, a comic art gallery owner, mentions the "soldier villain", basically an Elite Mook who fights with his fists, and the mastermind villain, who plots and plans and is often much more dangerous. David Dunn, the Nigh Invulnerable protagonist, runs into the film's Big Bad, who is an example of the latter, pretty much immediately afterwards. It turns out to be Elijah.
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory: Travis Dane, the mastermind who hired the mercenaries and devised the plot to hijack the Kill Sat, isn't much of a physical threat. This is exacerbated by Ryback's Invincible Hero status, as The Dragon lasts only a few minutes in a fight against Ryback, Dane only seconds.
  • Much like the comics, X-Men Film Series follows suit with their human villains:
    • William Stryker, the most recurring Big Bad in the series, has a military background, unlike his comic counterpart. That said, he almost never takes on any of the mutant heroes, either because of his advanced age or because he couldn't possibly match them in a fight; even in his prime, he decides to run away rather than face them head on. The only instance where he takes action is in X-Men Origins: Wolverine when he shoots Wolverine with adamantium bullets.
    • Bolivar Trask in X-Men: Days of Future Past, though it's extra-justified due to his dwarfism.
    • Zander Rice in Logan is a Mad Scientist just like Trask, but unlike his predecessors he successfully engineered the extinction of mutantkind through genetically modified food-stuff.

  • Angie's First Case: The main villains of two plotlines (burglary ring spy and planner Heather, and counterfeiter Mr. Wells) are never seen in person, while their associates pose bigger threats.
  • The bad guy in Dragon Bones is a noble who has all the dirty work done by his underlings. He is after a substance that can greatly increase a mage's power, but doesn't intend to use it on himself; he wants to use it on a powerful mage who is completely loyal and subservient to him.
  • Malkaris in the Redwall book Mattimeo, who's a deformed creature who physically can't defend himself or fight, so he has his Dragon lead his forces.
  • The Hunger Games:
    • President Coriolanus Snow, being a politician who has lots of underlings to do things for him. He also veers into Dark Lord on Life Support as well, since he is a 80-year-old man diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness, compared to our healthy 16-year-old female heroine.
    • President Alma Coin from the third book, Mockingjay. In fact, the series as a whole averts the Rank Scales with Asskicking rule; none of the physical characters in the series can be counted as true villains, as they mostly do their dirty work because higher, non-action but charismatic, powers force them. Which is how politics work in real-life, as well.
  • Divergent:
    • The series features Jeanine Matthews, who never, in her entire appearance, puts up a physical fight against anyone, especially not to The Protagonist, Tris. What she is identified the most is that she has the highest IQ among her colleagues, which is why she is elected as leader of her faction. And when someone manages to totally corner her, she dies.
    • David from the third book, Allegiant. Sure, he is the one who kills Tris, but it's done by a pistol, which everyone can pick up, plus Tris isn't in the best of her condition, having been incapacitated by the death serum. Like Jeanine, David is also outclassed physically, being a handicapped middle-aged man against a combat-ready teenage girl.
  • Chancellor Ava Paige from The Maze Runner isn't just isn't physical; she is never even seen once in the entire series.
  • Animorphs:
    • The Council of Thirteen are Non-Action Greater Scope Villains, as they're political leaders and their hosts are apparently just normal Hork-Bajir and Taxxons (though a few have unknown hosts). They could take a normal human in a fight, sure, but they probably wouldn't stand up to the Animorphs. Their morph-capable servant, Visser Three, is the real Big Bad.
    • Subverted with Visser One. You wouldn't think a middle-aged housewife could be very formidable in a fight, even if she is controlled by the leader of the initial invasion of Earth. You would be wrong.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Ysanne Isard, the primary villain of books one through four and eight of the X-Wing Series, loses the only actual physical fight she gets involved in for the entire series. As Director of Imperial Intelligence, she's a chessmaster type.
    • Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy can get physical when required and is implied to be at least a decent fighter, but he has no interest in engaging in combat himself—it's strategy and trickery that hold his interest, not brawling. In more recent licensed fiction, he has been upgraded to a Badass Bookworm.
    • The Big Bad for the first six books of Galaxy of Fear is a Shi'ido named Borborygmus Gog. While the series' other Shi'ido, Hoole, takes several different forms in order to fight various menaces, Gog prefers to use his talents for impersonation and trickery. His menace comes from his projects and schemes, and while he menaces people with a blaster a couple times and once detonates an Explosive Leash in a creation's skull, he never actually fights anyone himself.
  • Lord Straff Venture in the second Mistborn book- he's a thoroughly evil man, but is middle-aged, out of shape, and a Tineye (meaning that he has magical abilities, but they involve Super Senses rather than anything physical). As such, he prefers to work through his army and his Ax-Crazy Dragon and illegitimate son Zane.
  • Lord de Worde in The Truth doesn't hit people. He hires people to do that.
  • The Toad Lord from The Builders. He's a gluttonous, immobile Puppet King who doesn't appear until the final chapter, while Mephetic is the one who does all the dirty work and sends his soldiers to go after the Captain's crew.
  • The title character of Artemis Fowl, largely because he's twelve years old and wouldn't last two seconds in a fight. And doesn't; although his scheming in the first book causes no end of trouble, once Holly escapes she just punches him in the mouth.
  • Prince/King John in most versions of the Robin Hood tales never confronts Robin directly, leaving that up to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
  • In one of the Israeli writer Bormor's short short stories, an adventuring party fights its way thorough the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, defeating many bosses along the way. At last they encounter the Big Bad in his throne room... and he falls after the first strike. The adventurers justify it: after all, the Big Bad was dangerous because of his commanding talents, not because of personal fighting prowess.
  • Sauron is this by the time of The Lord of the Rings. He used to be considerably more badass once, and much of the plot is set into motion by the threat of him regaining at least a dangerous portion of that power should the One Ring ever fall into his hands again, but he never even puts in a personal appearance in the books; it's purely his servants and his armies that act in his name.
  • All three of the Ravenor trilogy’s main villains—Jader Trice, Orfeo Culzean, and Zygmunt Molotch—are scheming chessmaster-types that prefer not to get their hands dirty and leave the killing to their more-than-capable subordinates. Molotch is a subversion: while he prefers not to fight, he’s an exceptionally skilled and deadly combatant.
  • The Running Man: Killian is just an executive who pumps out horrible entertainment to the masses, so he simply spends all his time in an office. McCone, the head Hunter, is charged with tracking Richards down and killing him, even though they only run into each other at the end.
  • Tal Hajus, one of the two main villains of A Princess of Mars. Despite being the jeddak, or high chief, of Thark, a nation of twelve-foot tall four-armed Space Orcs, he's established early on as a Dirty Coward Miles Gloriosus. But the Green Martians are a Proud Warrior Race among whom Asskicking Leads to Leadership, and after his leadership and bravery are called into question, he has no choice but to face the lower-ranking chieftain Tars Tarkas (one of the good guys) in single combat for the title of jeddak. It's such a Curb-Stomp Battle that it only takes a single sentence to relate.
    The combat was soon over, and, with his foot upon the neck of the dead monster, Tars Tarkas became jeddak among the Tharks.
  • Bazil Broketail: Although it has a considerable army under its command, the Doom is itself completely immobile and defenceless. It relies on slaves to move it up and down in a vertical tube in order to move around its fortress, and has absolutely none combat capabilities of its own, being essentially round, black, featureless stone sphere.
  • The master in The Zodiac Series is very clearly not a combatant, despite having an army of followers. The one fight scene he's apart of, he doesn't hurt anyone (and in fact gets hit with a Scarab) and he goes without a weapon for the whole of Thirteen Rising, something even Rho doesn't do.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Most of 24's Big Bads, who prefer to leave the fighting to The Dragon or other more violent underlings.
  • In Blake's 7, Servalan was originally meant to be just this. It was initially thought that the Supreme Commander (later President) of the Federation would have better things to do than personally go around chasing Blake. In the real world, a Commander in Chief wouldn't command a flagship during wartime, let alone go about chasing terrorist units. Those are jobs for his generals, admirals, and Black-ops units. The Federation was just that big. Originally, he (yes, Servalan was originally conceived as a male character) was only to have only appeared once in the series. Jaqueline Pearce's performance was so well received that she became a regular character and archenemy of Blake and Avon.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White becomes this toward the end of the series after he assumes the role of Big Bad. Being an older man with no combat or shooting experience dying of lung cancer means he's useless in a fight and can be taken out by his own protégé, the short, string-beaned Jesse Pinkman. Walt uses this in his favor at points as more dangerous drug lords consistently underestimate him through the series; his intelligence, knowledge of chemistry and engineering, and cunning make him far more dangerous than you'd think.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • The Mayor hates getting his hands dirty (literally, as he's a Neat Freak who loathes germs), and while he gains Nigh-Invulnerability, that's all he gets; Xander could probably take him in a fight. The problem is he's just as good a politician amongst demons as amongst humans, with no end of mooks and evil pacts to give the Scoobies a headache. His ultimate goal is to become a giant demon snake, averting this trope... for all of ten minutes before the Scoobies blow him up.
    • The First Evil, having no physical form, must resort to Mind Rape as well as The Dragon and its Elite Mooks. It does not want to be this trope, and attaining a physical form is implied to be its endgame (since it is Made of Evil, the more evil it can make the world, the closer to fulfilling this ambition it gets). On the flipside, it is completely invincible and As Long as There Is Evil it will always exist, so it's a pretty high-functioning example of this trope.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Davros is an Evil Cripple who created the Daleks. He can't do much beyond sit and talk and laugh maniacally, although he gets an artificial hand that can shoot bolts of electricity later in the series.
    • The Master didn't start as this, but became it later. The Roger Delgado incarnation did a lot of dirty work himself and got into quite a few physical confrontations, including a memorable sword fight against the Doctor in "The Sea Devils". Later incarnations changed him to be more of a Manipulative Bastard who preferred working behind the scenes and through patsies, and would run at the first sign of an actual fight.
    • "Planet of the Ood" has Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Halpen:
      "Can't say I've ever shot anyone before. Can't say I'm gonna like it. But... it's not exactly a normal day, is it?"
  • V.M. Varga, the loan shark and money launderer from Fargo: Season Three, relies entirely on hired muscle to deal with anyone whom he's unable to intimidate verbally or buy off.
  • Joffrey Baratheon from Game of Thrones. Notorious for being a cruel sociopath and one of the biggest assholes on the show, he can't fight worth squat, and isn't a good strategist either. He talks tough, but when the fight starts, he runs and hides. At first glance, being as young as he is might be considered an excuse, but given the setting (younger female characters were skilled at swordplay) it can only truly be attributed to laziness.
  • Tousei Kaneshiro from GARO: The One Who Shines in the Darkness. Justified, as he knows that the sect of demon hunters that oppose his plans are forbidden to slay ordinary humans. Thus, his complete lack of superpowers ironically becomes the perfect defence against his superpowered enemies.
  • Linderman from Heroes, who as a seemingly friendly old man with healing as his power is the only Big Bad without decent combat skills.
  • Common enough in Justified. While Boyd Crowder (Seasons 1-the present), Bo Crowder (Season 1) and Robert Quarles (Season 3) were capable (and in Quarles' case, terrifying) combatants, most of the other big players rely on their underlings to do their fighting for them. Mags Bennett (Season 2) was an older woman who operated through her sons and never personally pulled the trigger, Nicky Augustine (Season 4) executed an unarmed man, but always let Mr. Picker do the fighting, and Theo Tonin (Greater-Scope Villain to Quarles and Augustine) never appeared in person, operating through more physically capable agents like Sarno and Elias Marcos.
  • While it's almost a requirement for a Big Bad in Kamen Rider to be able to match the heroes, there have been a few exceptions.
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki's Shiro Kanzaki is one. It's a common misconception that Kamen Rider Odin is him when in fact it's simply someone he brainwashed. As he merged with the mirror world to become its embodiment, he literally has no physical form and thus relies on using the Mirror Monsters and the other Kamen Riders to do his dirty work.
    • Kamen Rider Den-O: Kai has very few powers that are useful in combat, instead relying primarily on sacrificing chunks of his own memory to summon Imagin to various time periods to wreak havoc. When it comes time to throw down with the heroes, he does so by putting all of his remaining memories into producing one very powerful Imagin to serve as the final boss, causing it to become a Load-Bearing Boss that erases Kai and his entire army by proxy after it's destroyed.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim: While DJ Sagara is easily the most powerful character in the setting, he's simply a projection of Helheim to serve as a commentator on the war for the Golden Fruit, and thus nobody wastes their time trying to fight him.
    • Kamen Rider Build has Juzaburo Namba, president of Namba Heavy Industries. While he's exceptionally ruthless and cunning, he's also an old man and thus relies on the army of Tyke Bombs he's been raising and his other minions to do the fighting for him.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us a few such villains:
    • Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk. For the most part, he is very hands-off, and always has others do his dirty work for him, unless he's in a really bad mood and it's for very personal reasons. At which point he's more than willing to dirty his own hands. The only five times in the show he personally kills someone rather than have someone else do it, they've all been for personal reasons: his father (for beating his mother with a belt), Vladimir Ranskahov (for crashing his date with Vanessa), Ben Urich (for visiting Fisk's mother), Leland Owlsley (for poisoning Vanessa), and Agent Weller (for being the unfortunate agent to inform him that Dex has failed at killing Karen to avenge Wesley).
      • Enforced in season 3, where Fisk is under "house arrest". Which means nothing as the FBI agents guarding him are all on his payroll (with Dex providing a physical antagonist for Matt to fight), and it's gambits he's been planning while behind bars that are the main hurdle for everyone else.
    • Jessica Jones (2015): Kilgrave. Physically average in every way, it's his Compelling Voice that makes others fight for him.
    • Luke Cage (2016):
      • Mariah Dillard. Out of the first season's rather crowded Big Bad Ensemble, she is the only one with no fighting ability whatsoever. Instead, she prefers to act through hired thugs, powerful connections, and plausible deniability (and a bit of luck), while using her position to provide a legit front for it all. After she kills Cottonmouth, she becomes a lot more ruthless but is still no physical match for Luke himself. Note that this is a far cry from her comic book counterpart, Black Mariah, who is a definite Brawn Hilda. This also contrasts her sharply with Bushmaster in season 2, who is more than willing to dirty his own hands.
      • Shades to a degree. While more than capable of holding his own in a fight thanks to growing up as a street brawler, those moments where he has to get physical are very rare. And unlike other henchmen, he's also smart enough to never challenge Luke to a fistfight.
    • William Rawlins, AKA Agent Orange, from The Punisher (2017). He does perform interrogations, but possesses no real combat skills and is completely helpless in a fight against anyone who isn't tied up. Despite receiving numerous rewards for his service to the CIA he's never actually seen combat, and both protagonist Frank Castle and his Dragon-in-Chief Billy Russo are disgusted by his refusal to actually get his hands dirty. When Russo decides he's had enough of Rawlins, he discreetly sets Frank loose, knowing that without his intervention Frank will utterly destroy Rawlins, despite Frank having been tortured to the point of not even being able to stand on his own.
  • Resurrection: Ertuğrul:
    • Grand Master Petruchio in the first season. While he is the de-jure leader of the Amanus Mountain Knights Templar, he's a frail old man who hardly engages in active combat and spends most of his time either plotting within his fortress or going undercover to obtain vital information.
    • Two seasons later, Master Simon also displays traces of this trope, being the owner of the Hanli Market and far more likely to use his wits and financial knowledge than his weapons when it comes to conducting his schemes.
    • Not as much of a full-on Big Bad as the previous two, but Tekfur Kritos shows a few qualities of this trope at work. He’s not too adept when it comes to direct brawls, but he is clever enough to both govern a whole city and an elite battalion (And is actually present to supervise his army slightly more often that the other two examples).
  • The Dominion from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are led by the "Founders", a race of reclusive changelings. The only thing they do personally is infiltrate their enemies (being shapeshifters, they're uniquely suited for this role); for everything else, they just pull the strings and use their most loyal armies as enforcers against the others.

  • Dr. Wily in The Protomen's albums. It's lampshaded in Act I.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Haki Shinpi, Darklord of Rokushima Táiyoo in Ravenloft, is a nearly powerless geist. He can turn invisible and scare people, but can't interact with objects and has a very difficult time hurting anyone. In his canon version his influence is still powerfully felt even if he can do little himself; in the Fraternity of Shadows version he becomes a Greater-Scope Villain who manipulates his sons into endless war.
  • Leviathan: The Tempest has Ophions, Leviathans whose divine self has overcome their humanity and bestial self. With only their divine nature remaining, Ophions barely remember that they have a physical body (in game mechanics terms, they lose all dots in Physical skills upon becoming an Ophion and still suffer the usual penalty for unskilled actions). As such, if you can engage an Ophion in physical battle they will usually go down fairly easily for something as alien and powerful as a Leviathan. Unfortunately, that's a pretty big "if", given that any Leviathan who's been around long enough and indulged its divine nature enough to become an Ophion will usually have a powerful Cult and an extensive network of proxies to work through. Worse, many Ophions descend into the Rift and only contact their cult through Rituals or through the Channels that allow for telepathic communication, making it nigh on impossible to physically engage them.

    Video Games 
  • In Alice: Madness Returns, Doctor Bumby cannot fight at all in the real world. At the climax of the game, Alice (who also isn't much of a fighter in the real world, and is much younger than he is) is able to finish him by shoving him in front of a train.
  • Henry Leland in Alpha Protocol. He can be the final boss, but the fight is a joke and its made clear that this is just an act of desperation. Sergei Surkov is also one.
  • Baron Alexander in Amnesia: The Dark Descent never fights the player. Unlike most games it isn't as jarring, as there's no combat anyway.
  • Batman: Arkham City has Hugo Strange; his "fight" with Batman consists of a cutscene where he's shoved aside so Batman can access some consoles. The Joker, as the other major player in the Big Bad Ensemble, is even more of an example than usual, as he's dying of blood poisoning and understandably not up for a fight.
  • Santiago Espinosa in BattleTech. Unlike many nobles in the setting, Santiago is a politician and not a MechWarrior, and never faces you on the battlefield in any shape or form. His daughter Victoria, meanwhile, does on several occasions.
  • BioShock:
    • Andrew Ryan of BioShock, until you deal with him and Fontaine takes over the show.
    • Sofia Lamb from BioShock 2 spends all her time ranting at Delta over the radio, and even in her attempt to kill him she didn't harm him directly.
    • Zachary Comstock from BioShock Infinite is weak and dying from years using dimension-tearing technology and in no shape to put up much of a direct fight against Booker. This wasn't always the case, but saying any more than that would spoil it.
  • Bladed Fury have it's main villain, Lord Tian, who can summon demons and supernatural creatures to fight you. But Tian himself is a frail old man who can't even put up a fight (in comparison, you're a Warrior Princess who killed your way in and out of hell). Tian's final solution when you confront him is to slit his own throat.
  • In Byteria Saga: Heroine Iysayana, The Man Behind the Man Behind The Man is an unidentified superior being attempting to bring down the Celestial Bureaucracy. He doesn't want the archangels to come for him, of course, so he stays hidden and lets Paulinus, his mortal Dragon-in-Chief, execute his plan. He only (carefully) manifests himself when he tries to convince the heroes to join him; he could presumably wipe the floor with them but doesn't risk leaving traces.
  • Call of Duty:
    • Major General Nikita Dragovich from Call of Duty: Black Ops. The best he can muster against Mason and Hudson when he confronts them directly at the end of the game is to try and shoot the former with his sidearm, before being easily beaten up and choked to death.
    • The same can be said of Imran Zakhaev from the original Modern Warfare. Without his Ultranationalist armies to protect him, he's just an angry old dude with one arm. The only reason he manages to kill Gaz and most of Soap's other squadmates is because they previously had a tanker truck explode in their faces. The moment Soap gets hold of a gun, he's done for.
  • City of Heroes:
    • The Center, leader of the Council. Heroes have only ever been able to talk him via radio in a mission added over six years after the game's launch. Villains can meet him in person during one of their story arcs, where he is indeed not a combatant.
    • King Midas, leader of the Gold Brickers, has never appeared in person at all.
  • In the arcade version of The Combatribes, the main heroes spent the last two stages chasing after a man in a suit who fits the image of a stereotypical crime boss. When the crime boss is cornered in the final stage, he is betrayed and killed by his female bodyguard Martha Splatterhead, who proceeds to fight the player in her boss' place.
  • Dr. Neo Cortex of the Crash Bandicoot series. He's a super genius and at least arms himself with a deadly laser gun, but he's also a weedy midget with a head almost bigger than his stick-like body. Granted Rule of Funny applies on occasion; in Crash Twinsanity he actually brawls with Crash toe to toe.
  • Marian Mallon in Dead Rising 2: Case West is an Evil Cripple in a wheelchair. In Dead Rising 3 she fights Nick with a series of cranes, but doesn't physically challenge him. She is later killed unceremoniously by the game's real Big Bad.
  • Victor Donovan of Dead or Alive. Despite being the Big Bad of the entire game series, he has yet to be a final boss (a unique case among fighting game villains) and is more of a schemer than a fighter.
  • Bob Page from Deus Ex. Although he's in the process of becoming a god, at that particular stage in the process he's so vulnerable that effectively all you do is turn off his life support.
  • Escape from Butcher Bay: Hoxie, the Warden of Butcher Bay, never actually fights Riddick personally and spends the entire game residing in the corporate offices of the prison. Even when Riddick faces off with him at the end, Hoxie attempts to flee and let his robotic guards deal with Riddick.
  • In Evil Genius, the Evil Genius character is unable to attack enemies (though that doesn't stop him/her from dispatching Mooks). Averted in the sequel, where the Geniuses can fight but aside from Red Ivan (the military-focused Genius) it's not their forte and their deaths will result in your loss.
  • Lord Lucien in Fable II. The final battle can be resolved by killing him with one attack, and if you wait long enough, Reaver does it for you. In neither case does he try to fight back.
  • King Logan in Fable III. After cutting a swath through his armies, The Hero storms Logan's throne room, only for him to surrender gracefully.
  • Fallout 2 has President Dick Richardson. Confront him, and you'll find he has no weapons and no armor (though his health is above average, but not enough to survive more than a single round of attacks). He won't even try to fight back unless you shoot first, and if you do, he won't do much more than punch and kick ineptly. Even when he knows who you are, he's content to just calmly explain his motives to you. Of course, attacking him also sets off the alert in the base, and will result in troops in Powered Armor with heavy weapons rushing either to his rescue or to avenge him. The actual Final Boss is the head of the Secret Service, who, needless to say, is a lot more dangerous.
  • Fallout: New Vegas:
    • Caesar does not fight unless you decide to assault his fort, preferring to let his Dragon Lanius take command of the military campaign. It's justified in that he's an aging man with a brain tumor and doesn't put up much of a fight by himself, though statistically he is equivalent to an Elite Mook with nonexistent armor since he wears ceremonial robes and is surrounded by Praetorian Guards.
    • Dr. Mobius in the Old World Blues DLC. While he spends the entire DLC siccing his Robo-Scorpions on you in as maniacal a manner as possible, when you actually meet him he turns out to be a heavily senile and grandfatherly old brain who can barely remember half of what he says. Most of his more maniacal rants are due to him taking Psycho. You can fight him, but he's hardly a match for you. Similarly, The Think Tank at the end are equally pitiful in combat, though it's made clear early-on that without their pacification field there's nothing stopping you from curb-stomping them.
  • Counselor Arruntius, the main villain from Gladiator: Sword of Vengeance, is a frail old man confined to his throne, whose power comes from his pact with the dark gods. Despite being the cause of all your pain and suffering, in the final cutscene after you defeated all of his minions and even the gods Deimos and Phobos, Arruntius' only response is to cower and plead for you to not hurt him. You sensibly complies by chucking your sword into Arruntius.
  • Queen Brahne from the first half of Final Fantasy IX. She's initially presented as the main antagonist, but while she can use her daughter's Eidolon's to devastate the enemy, she's a morbidly obese queen with no weapons or fighting ability. She ultimately gets killed in a cutscene when her accomplice Kuja takes control of Bahamut and destroys her fleet.
  • Hyman Roth in The Godfather 2. Once you get past his plans and mooks, he's a Zero-Effort Boss who can be killed however you like with ease.
  • Alex from the Golden Sun series. While it's presumed that he's capable of fighting as he was once Mia's apprentice and is a fellow member of the Mercury Clan, the closest he ever comes to fighting anyone is when he says he'll hold off Blados and Chalis atop Apollo Ascent at the end of Dark Dawn; he's not shown on-screen for the rest of the game, so presumably he just left. This fits perfectly into his usual M.O. of pitting various groups against each other while he takes advantage of both of them.
  • Throughout the Gradius series, the main villain of each game is typically a giant brain or a giant humanoid head with a proportionately giant brain. Most of the time they don't try to fight you, and when they do their attacks are laughably easy to dodge. That said, they're also in control of the various enemies you've been fighting throughout the game, including the incredibly tough ones leading up to their rooms.
  • Grand Theft Auto V has Devin Weston. Unlike fellow main villain Steve Haines, he shows no aptitude for combat and never gets personally involved in anything dangerous. When Trevor storms his mansion in Ending C, his response is to try to hide, and he can't defend himself from getting knocked out and stuffed in the trunk of his own car.
  • Dr. Breen in Half-Life 2. The final battle consists of sabotaging his teleporter before he can run away (nuking you in the process), while he taunts you.
  • In Henry Stickmin Series, even though Reginald Copperbottom is the Big Bad of Airship and all routes in Mission if Rapidly Promoted Executive or Pure-Blooded Thief is taken, whenever Henry closes in on him, he always tries to run away, relying on the Right Hand Man to defend himself. The moment Right Hand Man is defeated, he's easily subdued and surrenders without a fight. The same also applies to Sven Svensson in Government Supported Private Investigator routes where he is easily knocked out by Henry and Ellie with one punch the moment he is disarmed. However, this is averted if Right Hand Man is the Big Bad in Relentless Bounty Hunter routes as he does not hesitate to engage Henry directly.
  • Dr. Curien, Goldman, and the Mysterious Man in House of the Dead series. All of them are ordinary human beings, and in the case of the former two, you fight their ultimate creations- the Magician and the Emperor, respectively- as the final bosses of the first and second games. Curien does come back in the third game as the Wheel of Fortune, though.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • After spending Mass Effect 2 in an uneasy alliance with Shepard, the Illusive Man becomes this, with Kai Leng acting as The Heavy. It's kind of like they split the role Saren had in the first game into two people - Shepard and the Illusive Man constantly try to talk the other around to their way of thinking, while Leng is an exclusively physical threat who ends up on the wrong end of Shepard's omni-blade. Originally, the creators intended for the players to fight a reaperized version of The Illusive Man as the final boss, however they felt that since TIM was meant to be a villain whose intelligence was his greatest weapon it would undercut the character for him to become a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
    • The Catalyst doesn't seem to have any weapons, powers, or anything else to oppose you or anyone else, until the Crucible is plugged in - yet, as the Reapers' governing intelligence, it at least indirectly controls thousands upon thousands of enormous machines designed and optimised solely to destroy entire species.
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The Archon, leader of the kett forces in the Heleus Cluster. Despite Ryder coming face-to-face with him at one point, there's never a chance to directly fight him. It's justified since he's essentially a general; he's supposed to have an army to do the fighting for him.
  • Victor Branco in Max Payne 3. The one time he tries to pull a gun on Max, he gets disarmed quickly and only The Dragon saves him. The "boss fight" with him is just blowing out his private jet from under him.
  • King Cepheus and Lady Vega in the first two Mega Man Star Force games tend to rely on their ultimate weapons, Quirky Miniboss Squads, and minions to do the fighting for them. In both games, the final boss isn't the villain, it's the device they planned to use to take over/destroy (delete as applicable) the world.
  • Subverted in Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. With the bad guy being a senator, you'd think you'd only have to reach him, and it would all be over. After all, you're a Cyborg. Then he starts riding a Metal Gear. And then he further subverts this to ridiculous lengths, personally giving Raiden the worst beating he'll take in the whole game, thanks to his nano-machine enhancement.
  • Metroid: Mother Brain lets her minions attack and automated defenses hinder you rather than do anything herself. She's been more active in every reappearance.
  • Dr. Zomboss, the Evil Genius leader of the zombies in the Plants vs. Zombies games. He would rather send his fellow zombies or pilot a Humongous Mecha than fight the plants directly.
  • The Voice in Pyre simply does not like you and makes his contempt known early on. While he starts warming up over the first three cycles, once Volfred rejoins the Nightwings' roster the vitriol returns with a vengeance in the fourth cycle. The scathing commentary is all he can really do against you, however; not only is he all the way up in the Commonwealth whereas you (and the action) are in the Downside, but he's just as bound to the laws of the Rites as you are.
  • John Brightling in Rainbow Six, to the point that once you reach his lab he simply surrenders.
  • Resident Evil:
  • Shadowrun Returns: Adrian Vauclair of the expansion, Dragonfall, is an elderly scientist in the process of dying of leukemia. His security chief/assassin, Audran, is a huge orc with a minigun and military-grade power armor. Unsurprisingly, the latter is the final boss, while the former shoots himself once it's clear his plans have failed.
  • Embraced in some iterations of Silent Hill series:
    • The first game's villain, Dahlia Gillespie, functions behind-the-scenes and doesn't attack Harry directly. Plus, during the climax, she gets incinerated by Alessa before Harry can do anything to her.
    • In the same vein, Claudia Wolf of Silent Hill 3 acts through her minions to fulfill her goals and rarely takes action herself, until she decides to swallow the God pill and gives birth to God, that is.
  • Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion has Commander Tartar, a sentient A.I. complex housed inside what appears to be an old telephone — it can't even move on its own, let alone fight. The final battle is a Level in Boss Clothing in which you have to find the most efficient route to completely cover a Doomsday Device in ink before Tartar fires it.
  • Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time has Le Paradox, to an extent. As Sly points our while dishing out a "The Reason You Suck" Speech, Le Paradox never actually stole the Coopers' various canes himself, instead leaving it up to his various partners to do all of the dirty work for him. That being said, he does put up a good fight against Sly during the Final Boss fight.
  • Jack Denham in Syndicate (2012). He tries to shut down your CHIP, but when that fails he doesn't raise a single weapon.
  • Tomb Raider (2013) has Mathias, who largely leaves it up to his Solarii goons or Himiko's Stormguard to do the fighting for him. He does attack Lara in the finale, but is easily shot off of a cliff.
  • The Camerata in Transistor were never combatants to begin with, but while two of them gain some method of fighting Red, Grant, their leader and the cause for everything, ends up being The Unfought.
  • Katherine Marlowe from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception never directly attacks Nathan Drake, mainly due to her old age (although she does slap young Drake during a flashback). To make up for this, she's the head of an Ancient Conspiracy that employs armies of loyal agents to dispose of Drake. Later, Marlowe hires a crew of Indian Ocean pirates to do the same.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Sebastien LaCroix is the Camarilla Prince of Los Angeles, the guy who bosses other vampires around and one of the game's main villains. Despite being 200-years old, he is never seen in combat and would rather send you on errands (if you don't obey, he uses Dominate to compel you), though its implied he is capable of combat since he is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. In one of the games' endings where you actually confront him, he doesn't even put up a fight, its his Sheriff who serves as Final Boss. He is instead reduced to a grovelling wreck at the end or if you chose to attack him, he goes down in two stabs, despite your character being a fledgling vampire and should be all rights be much weaker than LaCroix.
  • In Watch_Dogs, Lucky Quinn and Damien Brenks are both physically unimposing and prefer to get others to do their dirty work.
  • While it's shown that Dusan Nemec of Watch_Dogs 2 has no problem judo-chopping people who annoy him in the neck, he primarily relies on using his connections and tech-savvy to deal with DedSec. In the end, Marcus and T-Bone get him arrested for Insider Trading.
  • The Kilrathi Emperor and Admiral Tolwyn in Wing Commander. The former never takes part in battle and is killed when his home planet is destroyed. The latter is not defeated in battle, but by exposing his wrongdoing to the government.
  • The alien brain in X-COM: UFO Defense does absolutely nothing but sit in its underground base, waiting for someone to shoot it. The Great Dreamer (X-COM: Terror from the Deep) is no better.
  • Subverted in Hollow Knight. The true final boss, known as the Radiance, is behind quite literally all of the chaos in the game. She cannot be directly fought without completing certain steps first, as she is trapped in the consciousness of another character. However, despite her not being in the real world physically, she is able to possess other creatures to fight for her.
  • Psychonauts 2: Gristol Malik, the game's Big Bad. He is a very skilled schemer, to the point where he successfully ensured he was Beneath Suspicion as The Mole. When Raz and Lili confront him at the end of the game, however, the latter beats him up effortlessly with a doll.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the original trilogy, Morgan Fey never faces you in court (she testifies once as a witness, but there's no way to get her to reveal her involvement in the crime) and never kills anyone personally, but it's her plotting to replace her niece Maya (successor to the Master of the Kurain Clan) with her daughter Pearl that leads to the events of cases 2-2 and 3-5.
    • In The Great Ace Attorney duology, Mael Stronghart prides himself on never actually having killed anyone directly, techincally doing "nothing wrong" note . With this, he manages to almost convince the jury to spare him of punishment, as he did all of his actions in the name of Britain. But like all of the criminals in the series, he falls too (quite literally on his case).
  • In Daughter for Dessert, Cecilia prefers to use her nearly limitless money and information rather than violence to cause problems for the protagonist.
  • Nerd that he is, Dennis from Double Homework is inept at fighting.
  • In Melody, Bethany, although belligerent, never gets physically violent. In fact, the one time there’s violence around her, she’s the one who gets hit, and the protagonist and Melody ask if she’s okay when the smoke clears.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Season 10 has The Director of Project Freelancer. While the main characters are hunting him down, he does nothing to stop them except leave a bunch of Tex-bots for them to deal with. The page quote comes from season 6, Reconstruction.
    • General Doyle is this for Seasons 11 and 12, not even having any fighting experience (he was promoted from brigadier's secretary) and having no control over Locus. Even when he is revealed to not be a villain at all, this trope still counts to the true Big Bad, Control, who only gives orders for Locus and Felix to carry out while Control sits and waits.

  • Doug Fetterman in Dead of Summer. This may explain some of why he's evil; he didn't get any cool powers like the rest of the group did.
  • Sluggy Freelance: Every CEO of the evil, world-conquest-plotting company Hereti-Corp (as of 2016; there have been a couple) has been a Diabolical Mastermind (or at least wannabe) who relies on mooks and powerful minions to do the fighting and has no combat ability himself.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 

Alternative Title(s): Non Action Arc Villain