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Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist

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Clank: There must be another way to make a home for your people!
Chairman Drek: You think that's what this is about? Who do you think polluted our last world? I did! This is about one thing and one thing only: cash, and lots of it. See, I've been paid for every square inch of my new world. Once the new inhabitants move in, I'll begin polluting this world as well, and the whole thing starts all over again. Ah... brilliant.

So you have a villain who professes a noble goal but goes overboard achieving it. They may sack some villages, murder some people, perform some unconstitutional actions, and/or may be obtaining more emergency powers than necessary... but at least they have good intentions, like they said, right?

Unfortunately, pretty much every extremist claims to have good intentions.

This trope is the Faux Affably Evil subversion of the Well-Intentioned Extremist, who is sincere but does horrible things in the name of whatever it is they fight for and by default will have a good point to make. This villain, by contrast, only claims to be well-intentioned, but in actuality has much more selfish and evil motives for what they are doing.

A character who falls into this generally comes in one of the following flavors:

These characters have a good chance of being a Hate Sink as lying about doing evil for a good cause is considered more slimy than doing those evil things anyway but at least being up-front about your selfish motives. If their true intentions go far enough, a character like this has a good chance of being a Complete Monster.

May overlap with Motive Misidentification and Disappointed by the Motive when characters assume they have sympathetic motivations and are dispersed to learn otherwise respectively. This trope often helps writers to pull a Debate and Switch.

Compare Not in This for Your Revolution and Dragon with an Agenda. Contrast Believing Their Own Lies and Secretly Selfish, when they're unaware or in denial of how self-serving their actions truly are.

For obvious reasons, No Real Life Examples, Please!

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Films — Animation 
  • Antz: General Mandible insists that his actions are for the good of the colony. Those actions involved drowning the queen and everyone loyal to her so that he can start a new colony of soldiers loyal only to him. When Colonel Cutter calls him out on this, Mandible insists "I am the colony!"
  • Bartok the Magnificent: Ludmilla attempts to usurp the throne after calling Prince Ivan out on not taking his royal duties seriously. While she is right about Ivan, she really wants to take over the kingdom for her own benefit.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Once he finds out about the Beast and Belle's feelings for him, Gaston immediately rallies the villagers to storm the Beast's castle and kill him, painting him as a threat to the village who needs to be taken down. Of course, it's very clear that his true motives are just to Murder the Hypotenuse.
  • The Bob's Burgers Movie: Grover's plot to kill his cousins to inherit their fortune is so he can get rid of Wonder Wharf and replace it with his own "Mega Park". He views this as a good thing as it'd bring life into their struggling tourist town. Not only is he also willing to murder the Belchers when they discover his plot, but he also plans to bulldoze various homes and local businesses to make room for parking, which would limit the number of people who would need the profits of his park, showing he's just in it for money and a vendetta against his cousins.
  • In Cars 2 both the Big Bad and his Dragon are this:
    • Sir Miles Axlerod pretends to be looking out for the lemon cars as their kingpin, and claims that increasing reliance on oil will make them respected. In truth, he is the inventor of Allinol, the very fuel he's using to sabotage the reputation of alternative fuels, and mainly concerned with profiting off oil.
    • Though Professor Zündapp positions himself as wanting to help the marginalized lemon cars, he's really just a power-hungry sociopath.
  • Frozen II: King Runeard claimed that the reason why he wants to conquer the Northuldra tribe is to protect the people of Arendelle. However, this argument completely falls moot as his true motive was to secure his own position as King of Arendelle because he believed that they could potentially overthrow him due to them being magic-users. Dangerous Secrets even shows that the reason why Runeard came up with this ideology is that he wanted someone to blame his own faults on instead of maturing and taking responsibility for them, meaning he just wanted the easy way out, and the war he created led to the deaths of dozens of soldiers on both sides, leaving many of the children orphaned.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Frollo claims that he wants to purge the world of vice and sin. However, his real motive seems to be genocide against all those that he considers as sinful for living outside the natural order of things (aka his order). Later on, after a good deal of Sanity Slippage, his primary goal becomes satisfying his lust for Esmeralda.
  • In How to Train Your Dragon 2, Drago Bludvist claims that he wants to create a world where people no longer have to fear dragons. Hiccup calls him out on this as an excuse to simply control everyone. Drago admits it too.
  • The Incredibles: While Syndrome's Engineered Heroics are unsavory no matter how you look at it, the second part of his plan - selling his inventions so that "everyone can be super" - doesn't sound that bad... until, of course, you remember that he's doing it simply out of a petty grudge against Mr. Incredible and superheroes in general. In short, his goal is not to uplift the common folk, but to drag superheroes down.
  • Incredibles 2: The Screenslaver's true plan. Or rather, Evelyn's plan, as Screenslaver was a pizza guy she hypnotized into acting a villain. She claims her plan is to make Supers illegal permanently, as her father's Holding Out for a Hero got him killed by home invaders and her mother died from heartbreak soon after, seeing that Supers only cause more harm than prevent. However, her plan has endangered innocent people, including the pizza guy she framed. Also, she doesn't even suggest how to prevent crises without Supers, meaning all it turns out to be is just Misplaced Retribution.
  • The Iron Giant: Kent Mansley seeks to destroy the Iron Giant, believing it to be a threat to America, but he's motivated first and foremost by furthering his own career. While he does have a point that Hogarth knows little to nothing about the Giant, like where it came from and why it's on Earth, he ruins his own case by acting so paranoid, reckless, and ruthless about the situation. His willingness to threaten to separate Hogarth from his mother, chloroform him, and potentially endanger his life by lying to General Rogard that the Giant killed him proves he'll go to any lengths to get what he wants. He finally unveils his true colors as a coward and a hypocrite to everybody when he recklessly orders a nuclear strike on the Giant, forgetting that the latter is still in town and everybody, including himself, will be caught in the blast radius. Once he fully comprehends that this will mean his death, he renounces his patriotism and tries to flee for his life.
  • Lightyear: Zurg's motivations for the crystal Buzz has is, at first, genuine. He is an older Buzz who is still fixated on getting everyone home and has developed a time machine to make it happen by undoing the crash. However, it's growing increasingly clear that obsession has corrupted him and fixing that mistake to help everyone is just an added bonus. His real goal is to once again be looked up to by everyone as a hero. He dismisses his past self's disapproval at causing everyone in this future to be Ret-Gone, especially Alisha's granddaughter, by stating she won't miss someone who never existed.
  • Monsters, Inc.: Randall Boggs claims that he's going to revolutionize the scaring industry which most of the time would mean that he just wants to prevent Monstropolis from going down under due to scaring energy slowly faltering, but in fact he's only doing it for personal recognition and is more concerned with filling his pockets and getting to become the CEO of Monsters Inc than any legitimate saving as a stark contrast to Mr. Waternoose's genuine intentions of saving his company.
  • Next Gen: The Big Bad Ares' plans of creating a world without conflict by killing all humans rings hollow when he's shown to be a sadistic egotist willing to kill his own robots should they ever get in his way.
  • Recess: School's Out: Phillium Benedict insists his plan to create an Endless Winter and end summer vacation is motivated by wanting American kids to have higher standardized test scores since going to school year-round will supposedly make children smarter. While he's not lying about this and genuinely believes he's in the right, he's not doing it for altruistic motives. In reality, he just wants to use the praise he thinks he's sure to receive to further his political ambitions.
  • Shrek: Lord Farquaad attempts to justify his authoritarianism and oppression of fairy tale creatures as him trying to create a perfect world. But it's blatantly obvious that he's just a power-hungry bigot trying to compensate for his own insecurities and force his dominion to be how he wants it to be.
  • Wreck-It Ralph: King Candy claims that isolating Vanellope and not letting her race is for her own good and makes a good enough argument to convince Ralph (essentially, since Vanellope is a glitch, her racing would cause players to think the console was broken, and the arcade owner would shut it down), but that's not the real reason he does it. He is actually the one who doesn't belong, and if Vanellope were to race, the game would notice that he wasn't supposed to be part of the game and that Vanellope was, and the subsequent debugging would restore her rightful place in the game and reveal him as Turbo.
  • Zootopia: During her We Can Rule Together speech to Judy, Bellwether, the Big Bad, tries to pass herself off as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, believing that all predators are just strong and loud but because prey is 90% of the population, they can unite against a common enemy and come out on top. However, as Judy is facing seemingly certain death from a savage Nick, she cuts to the chase, asking "So that's it? Prey fears Predator and you stay in power?" To which Bellwether replies "Pretty much."

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four: Zig-Zagged with The Inner Party. Like any dictatorship, the Party presents itself in propaganda as a benevolent force that wants to rule the citizens for their own good. Winston initially assumes that the Party's ruling ideology is some horribly corrupted attempt at the greater good mentioned in their propaganda, only for O'Brien to tell him that's all a lie and that the Party was founded solely to cause as much suffering as possible to as many people as possible because that's the only way to keep it running perpetually. O'Brien all but says there is no point or lofty intention behind their atrocities: the Party are just power-hungry thugs running a system built on eternal subjugation. The second twist is that the Inner Party are so careful to only select the people who truly believe in the system of eternal subjugation, and who police their inner thoughts so strongly to avoid heresy, that they end up acting identical to a normal well-intentioned extremist. Such is the power of Double Think.
  • The Amy Virus:
    • At first, Cyan's father seems like he genuinely believes that the Good Brain Diet is helping Cyan. He even points out that autistic people are less likely to be hired for jobs. However, as the story goes on, especially after it's revealed that Cyan's parents know that the Good Brain Diet is a total quack, it becomes clear that Cyan's father doesn't want her officially diagnosed with autism because he wants complete control over her life.
    • Another example is how Cyan's father insists that his daughters become doctors because he believes it's the only guaranteed way to make a living in the 2010s economy because other jobs are being shipped overseas and/or being lost to younger competitors. While those are genuine concerns, the fact that Cyan's father actually lost his old IT job because he screwed up some code and tried to blame someone else for his mistake and won't consider that there are other ways to make a decent living note  demonstrates that forcing his daughters to become doctors is just another way he enforces his control over his family. This point is also well demonstrated by the fact that he insists they attend Caltech for their undergrad despite there being other good colleges that can help one get into medical school and the fact there's no guarantee they can get into a high-level college like that.
  • Assassin's Creed : Forsaken: Reginald Birch upholds this, by now standard, excuse for all his atrocities of being genuinely well-intentioned to Haytham even right at the end. What makes this different is that it's pretty obviously a self-delusion and neither Haytham nor Jenny believe a word of it and see right through him as nothing more than a self-deluded madman only using the Templar ideology as an excuse to claim more power for himself.
  • The Empirium Trilogy: Corien does genuinely want to restore his brethren, the angels, to flesh and blood. However, the reason he's doing this isn't entirely selfless: he views humanity as an inferior species and yet is also jealous of their power over the elementals- something that the ancient angels cannot even claim. As such, he'll happily kill all humans to make room for the angels. It's also suggested, if not outright stated, that he's angry with God and will move heaven and earth to go against Him in any way he can.
  • The Expanse: Marco Inaros leads the Free Navy as the self-proclaimed champion of the Belters, who have long been treated by the "Inners" as cheap, disposable Asteroid Miners who might now have trouble staying competitive given a Portal Network connecting the Sol System with hundreds of Earthlike planets rich in resources... except Marco is less interested in creating a secure future for his fellow Belters than in asserting dominance by amassing followers and causing wanton violence such as by sending a cluster of asteroids towards Earth for no strategic reason than to send a message (terrorism in other words) and will in fact readily betray his fellow Belters to buy himself time, attack them for not being 100% loyal to him or use them in his petty vendettas.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Umbridge tries to come off as committing her horrible deeds from a sense of loyalty to Fudge and as protecting the British Wizarding community from Dumbledore and Harry's self-serving lies when she is just doing whatever she can to grab power for herself and cheerfully serves in the Voldemort controlled Ministry in Deathly Hallows.
  • The Lord of Bembibre: The various Spanish kings and lords claim to want to destroy the Templars in order to punish their corruption and dreaming about taking over the Order's wealth and lands.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Sauron started off as a Control Freak who wanted to bring order upon all of Middle-earth and thought only he had the ability to pull it off. However, as time went on, his motivations devolved into something more self-serving in nature. By the time of the story, Sauron has lost sight of ALL his noble albeit immoral intentions and now only wants power for power's sake as the ultimate Evil Overlord. The only thing still keeping him somewhat better than his old boss Morgoth is that Sauron still wants to rule the world while Morgoth long ago wanted to just destroy everything.
  • Cassius the Elder in Lucifer's Star by C.T. Phipps is the leader of the Free Systems Alliance and claims everything he does is to bring about freedom for all the worlds conquered by the Commonwealth. He actually turns the majority of his volunteer soldiers into nano-technology zombies and plans to surrender the entirety of human space to the alien Community. He plans to rule as The Quisling and take advantage of Elder Race technology so that he can live forever to boot. All things point to him being a vain, power-hungry, psychotic hypocrite without an ounce of shame.
  • Agatha Trunchbull from Matilda justifies her abuse towards her students by saying it's for their own good, insisting that it prepares them for the real world and teaches them to be proper adults. But it's blatantly obvious that she's just a cruel Child Hater.
  • Moribito II: Guardian of the Darkness: Yuguro Musa plans to overthrow the Mountain King and gain free access to luisha against tradition, which would enrich the poor people of Kanbal. He actually cares more about achieving eternal glory for himself than the lives of his people, including his family and followers.
  • The Mortal Instruments: Valentine Morgenstern expresses hatred and disdain for the human-demon mixed-breed Downworlder species, and contends that the Shadowhunters must keep the world safe from demons even if it means committing genocide against all Downworlds. But he deliberately taints his own son with demon blood, making him into a strange human/angel/demon hybrid, and even tried using demon blood to change himself with unclear results. He also readily summons and uses large numbers of demons to fight for him, as well as dealing with the powerful Greater Demon Lilith. And finally, he attempts to summon and forcibly enslave the angel Raziel (the patron angel of Shadowhunters), to say nothing of Valentine's earlier role in the torture of another angel. Raziel calls Valentine out on much of his bullshit and the fact that Valentine is really just a monster of a Glory Hound hiding behind a veil of righteousness, before killing Valentine pretty much on principle.
  • The Otherworld: Giles Reyes presents himself as a messiah figure who will help supernaturals come out into the light and take over the world, which he claims is rightfully theirs. In reality, all Giles really wants is to rule the planet and couldn't care less about the well-being of supernaturals, even willing to test out a deadly virus on his own men and killing and experimenting on supernaturals en masse in his bid for world power.
  • The Stormlight Archive: King Taravangian proves willing to sacrifice his life for his cause. He reveals his hand while he is in Dalinar's power, after having made himself useless as a hostage and disassociating himself from all his friends and family so that he can't be used against them. He points out that this is proof of his sincerity; Dalinar, on the other hand, says that he's just trying to martyr himself and become known posthumously as the one who did everything to save what he could. Dalinar believes that, despite what he says, Taravangian wants to be proven right in his extreme measures more than he wants to be proven to be a good person. When push comes to shove, when he kills Rayse and becomes Odium and therefore gains the power to end the war with minimal trouble... he decides to continue with Rayse's plan to conquer the Cosmere. This ultimately shows that Dalinar was right — Taravangian really does only want power in the end, he just doesn't go about achieving it in the way that most warlords and dictators do.
  • In the backstory of The Sorcerer's Daughter, Brother Aloisio of the Inquisition stated that King Roberto is too good at healing for an ordinary human, therefore, he is a sorcerer, therefore, he must burn. Insane Troll Logic, of course, but something more or less to be expected from a Knight Templar inquisitor, right? Then it's revealed Aloisio was actually involved in a political plot against the queen, and most probably was in league with the sorcery-practicing Gottwald in the latter's plan to frame Roberto.
  • Warrior Cats: Tigerstar justifies his attempts at forcibly unifying the Clans by saying it'll finally bring an end to the brutal competition and violence between them. In reality, he just wants to put himself in charge of everyone, and his persecution of halfClan cats for their supposed divided loyalties shows that he doesn't actually believe in the high-minded ideals he espouses.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angel:
    • In the episode "Sanctuary," Buffy chases Faith down to L.A. after her recent antics in Sunnydale, during which Faith used a device to switch bodies with Buffy and used it to her advantage to sleep with Buffy's new boyfriend Riley... only to come into conflict with Angel, who's firmly convinced that Faith can be rehabilitated. At the end of the episode, when Faith turns herself in to the LAPD, Buffy insists to Angel that she came to help him because he was in danger (Faith had previously been hired by Wolfram & Hart to assassinate Angel), but Angel doesn't buy it for a second, pointing out he's in danger every day, and knows she was just using that as an excuse to come to L.A. for vengeance on Faith; Buffy doesn't deny it and states outright she's entitled to revenge.
    • Jasmine, the Big Bad of Season 4, comes across as one of these. She claims to want to save the world, but her methods of doing so are very brutal; along the way, she killed several thousand innocents, conjured a rain of fire over LA, and unleashed Angelus once again. Not only that, but her idea of a perfect world is an Assimilation Plot that completely removes free will and makes everyone on Earth mindless drones who worship her endlessly. When Angel thwarts her plans, she decides that if she can't rule the world, she's going to destroy it.
  • Arrow:
    • In the first season, Malcolm Merlyn claims that he wants to help his city by destroying the crime-ridden Glades. It turns out that he only came up with the plan after his wife was murdered there, something that he himself could have prevented by answering her desperate phone call instead of ghosting. When finally beaten by Oliver, he spitefully has half the Glades destroyed even when his plan is already foiled. Later seasons have him throw out any pretense of good intentions and betray and/or murder anyone for his own sake.
    • Damien Darhk claims that he wants to make a utopia and that sacrificing the majority of the world's population is a necessary evil for this to happen. Not only does he have way too much fun torturing and killing people for this to be completely true, but he eventually decides to just try wiping out the entire planet wholesale after Team Arrow foils his plans once too many and his wife is killed by Anarky. In Legends of Tomorrow, when he gets hold of the Spear of Destiny and gets to make any kind of world he wants for himself, he can't think of anything bigger than becoming the tyrannical mayor of Star City and keeping Sara and Amaya as his molls.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: During her days as the vengeance demon Anyanka, Anya described herself as a righteous sword for all Woman Scorned, but her behavior is more along the lines of a Jackass Genie rather than the "patron saint of scorned women" she claimed to be. She essentially tricked women into inflicting Disproportionate Retribution on former loved ones, and in "The Wish," when Cordelia's wish that Buffy never came to Sunnydale led her to create a Crapsack World where vampires rule the town with no Slayer to keep them in check, Anya took open pleasure in the results.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White originally turned to cooking crystal meth to pay his hospital bills and provide some extra money for his family should he die, but his motivations increasingly turn to serving his own ego and hunger for power. In the finale, he finally admits to Skyler that cooking meth was something he did for himself, and his family was always just an excuse.
  • Criminal Minds A number of UnSubs qualify.
    • "The Tribe": Jackson Cally made an Apache Cult to initiate a race war for power, racism, and manipulation, but tricked everyone into thinking it was to get non-Apache out of the desert.
    • "Legacy": Charles Holcombe is a "housecleaner", killing those he sees unfit to live: junkies, homeless, prostitutes, etc. He claims to be doing a favor to the world, but between the Death Course he puts them through, and false promise of a chance to escape, this is clearly just a rationale for his own sadism.
    • "Amplification:" Chad Brown launches Anthrax attacks to, as he boasts, provide warning about the United States Government's laughable lack of preparedness for bio-terror, but once the BAU analyzes his reason to attack said locations, it turns out that he chooses his attack locations as revenge for minor slights (bookstore that he was fired from, park that he was dumped on, and the Army base constantly refused to accept him because he never learned that he was not supposed to check "yes" in the test's question that The Needs of the Many requires the death of civilians).
    • "To Hell"/"And Back": Quadriplegic Mason Turner manipulates his mentally handicapped brother to murder people, and claims he's conducting experiments to find a cure for his condition. Garcia and Rossi immediately call BS, the setup he has is nowhere near sophisticated enough to conduct any experiments, he's just a sadist who gets sexual pleasure from the suffering of others. Emphasizing this, he has a number of mirrors set up to allow him to see the murders from his bed.
    • This is an unspoken rule for all vigilantes on the show, and why the BAU chases them regardless of whether their victims deserved it. While the public may project noble desires onto them, ultimately they are killing to make themselves feel better, and eventually suffer Motive Decay and get someone undeserving killed.
  • Princess Catarina of Artena in Deus Salve O Rei claims to have her kingdom's safety in mind when plotting and backstabbing people, but deep down, she wants to fulfill her ambitions of power to the point she engineers a war with a neighborhood which results in Artena destroyed, just so that she can come out on top.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Rassilion seemed to want to end the Time War but his actions show he simply wanted immortality and power, no matter the cost. Over the course of the Time War between Time Lords and Daleks, Rassilon opted for a final solution: to wipe out all of space and time so the Time Lords would remain as pure consciousness, yoked to his will because he didn't see any other way to end it, even killing any of his minions who wanted to intervene just to preserve his power, not caring about the cost.
    • Davros claims that he's doing a service to the Kaleds by replacing them or transforming them into the Daleks, and believes that their Omnicidal Maniac tendencies will bring an end to war. In reality, he's motivated by a god complex and cannot fathom an actual peaceful solution.
  • ER's Kerry Weaver joined the staff and almost immediately set about making everyone miserable with her strict insistence on abiding by rules and policy. As time went on, it soon became clear that what she really enjoyed was lording her authority over others as well as presenting herself to her superiors as the perfect doctor, especially as her hypocrisy was frequently displayed—whereas she would severely reprimand/punish those who broke the rules, she never had any problem doing so herself. There's also the storyline where she contrived to get two other doctors fired/demoted for their role in a patient's death. Ostensibly because of their errors, but in truth, to keep her mistakes from being discovered.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • During the two episodes in season 3 regarding Gorilla City, Grodd lures Team Flash to Gorilla City only for them to be captured and imprisoned with an impending death sentence on their heads. Grodd justifies himself by saying that he got Barry and friends purposefully imprisoned so he could get them to kill his hated superior Solovar, who according to Grodd is planning on invading Central City and laying waste to it out of paranoia, with his reason for helping being that he doesn't want to see his true home be destroyed. But as Barry soon finds out for himself, Grodd is a liar. He is the one who wants to invade Central City, and by manipulating the Flash into fighting Solovar, he spreads fear and distrust among the apes and gets to usurp control from Solovar. After revealing his deception, Grodd goes on to try to nuke Central City, and when that fails leads an army of gorillas to assault the city, purely out of hatred and spite towards the humans living there.
    • Season 4's Big Bad, The Thinker, set out to cause "The Enlightenment". At first it seemed he had noble intentions despite what it amounted to, causing all humans' minds to effectively restart, wiping away intelligence, emotion, and even free will. His aim is to help humanity move away from distractions like technology to achieve its intellectual potential. However, as his plans succeed, he continues to grow drunk with power and leaves a trail of innocent people dead in his wake. Before the season ends, it turns out he abandoned this goal a long time ago and is now aiming for world domination, wanting to remake the world with him in power as the only intelligent mind.
  • Scorpius in Farscape may well be one of these. There are arguments on either side as to whether he genuinely believes that he has to save the rest of the galaxy from the Scarrans, or whether he's seeking selfish vengeance on them and doesn't give a crap about anyone else. Wayne Pygram, the actor, definitely thinks the latter.
  • The Good Place: John Wheaton was a massive Jerkass gossip who constantly harassed the Spoiled Sweet Tahani Al-Jamil and excuses his constant mean-spirited attacks against her and the rest of the Fiction 500 by claiming that he "speaking truth to power" and calling out the rich for living needlessly extravagant lifestyles. However, he eventually goes through a Jerkass Realization where he confesses to Tahani that in reality, he was just a horrible gossip and he picked on Tahani in particular because he was childishly jealous of her getting to live the high life while he had to desperately scrape a living by through running a crummy gossip blog. Him confessing this and admitting that he now feels guilty for having treated her so terribly helps him and Tahani spark an Odd Friendship and inspires him to become a better person.
  • G-Saviour: General Garneaux tried to forcibly procure a serum, supposedly to help with a food crisis. But in reality, he wanted to destroy it in order to implement a policy of selective starvation, all in the name of power.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider: Skyrider: The Great Leader of Neo-Shocker claims that Neo-Shocker's goal is simply to cut the human population by 1/3rd to prevent the planet's resources from being over-used and save humanity from eventual extinction. However, when confronted by the Riders, he tries to wipe out all of the Earth's oxygen which would wipe out all life on earth, including all of humanity, just to spite the Riders showing ultimately his claims of good intentions are false.
    • Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Masamune Dan claims that, at first, all he wants to do is help balance Kamen Rider Chronicle and save the lost players within the game, even going as far to seize the ultimate power of the game, which is needed to clear it, to give himself an edge as he interferes. Later on, though, it's revealed that this isn't his intention at all; his true plan is to market the game worldwide to goad everyone in the world to play it, die in battle, and be transferred into data he may control and possibly never let go. Indeed, when he has no chance of worldwide distribution of the game, he simply decides to cause human genocide by infecting everyone on earth to turn them into data.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O: Swartz claims to have brought about the creation of Oma Zi-O so that he could steal his powers and save his timeline, which was doomed to perish because of having no Riders in it. As soon as someone else from his timeline gains Rider powers, however, Swartz goes berserk over this, demonstrating that it was all about his own personal power and glory all along.
    • Kamen Rider Zero-One: The Ark's servants claim that its interest in starting a robot uprising is because humans are a selfish, violent species that will destroy all other life on Earth unless they're stopped by any means necessary. While this was its motivation when the Ark first started its rebellion, a decade of solitary confinement at the bottom of the ocean after its initial defeat means that by the time its servants manage to dredge it up from the bottom of the sea, its motives have decayed into simple hatred of everyone and everything.
    • Kamen Rider Dragon Knight: Xaviax claims his intent is to save his dying world. However, the only reason it's dying in the first place is because of a war he himself was a part of and saw kidnapping people of other worlds as slave labor was the best solution. It gets increasingly clear Xaviax only really cares about conquering other worlds than saving his own.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:
      • Garrett vaguely mentions HYDRA's aims but it quickly becomes clear he joined HYDRA purely for his own selfish goals.
      • Hive claims to want to unite the world by transforming them into Inhumans it can "sway", and refuses to harm Inhumans. Essentially his plan is to remove The Evils of Free Will, though the people swayed retain some free will (their personalities are unchanged and one of the first things an infected Daisy does is to correct Hive when it uses her old name), plus everyone will have superpowers. Then the doctor it has working to create Inhumans unintentionally transforms a test group into feral subhumans — but because Hive can control them, it declares this a success and refuses to let the doctor refine the process. It also tries to drain Daisy fatally to expedite the process of making more, demonstrating that world domination is its only real priority.
    • Daredevil: Wilson Fisk wants to destroy Hell's Kitchen so he can build over it, believing he is doing the city a favor as the area is rampant with crime and poverty, but his true motive is that he's traumatized from bad memories of growing up there and thus wants to destroy an entire town to give himself a sense of peace. In order to do this, he has amassed money and power by becoming a powerful crime lord and allying with violent Russian gangsters and two factions of the Hand as well as getting a full third of New York's police department to become dirty cops on his payroll; he sets off a gang war when the Russian gangsters annoy him too much, murders everyone who crosses him along with their friends and families, and purposely exacerbates the crime and corruption of the Kitchen in order to justify tearing it all down, up to and including terrorising the residents and even bombing several buildings. When he is finally arrested for his crimes and on his way to court, he reluctantly admits to the armed police escorting him that he always thought of himself as the Good Samaritan — as in, explicitly comparing himself to the Bible parable — but now accepts that he is actually the men of ill intent who attacked those the Samaritan, say, armed police escorting a crime lord down a road that they should not have been on.
  • Played more tragically with Nikita with Michael, who helps Division force teenagers to carry out dangerous missions, but it turns out he acts less out of loyalty to the United States and more out of the hope that enough work for Division will help him kill the one responsible for the death of his wife and child. Once he finds out the one responsible was his own commander, Percy, he changes his ways and joins Nikita.
  • The Shield: Vic Mackey zig-zags this. He claims his corruption and involvement in Farmington's drug trade is motivated by his desire to protect innocent people, but it's clear he's motivated more by lining his own profits than anything else. However, he does show a genuine desire to help innocent people… which gradually fades as he becomes increasingly consumed by his greed and desire to avoid facing punishment for his crimes.
  • Star Trek: Discovery: In Season 4, Ruon Tarka initially presents himself as a ruthless pragmatist who wants to stop the planet-destroying Dark Matter Anomaly by any means necessary. It's later revealed that his true objective is to gain control of the Anomaly so that he can use its energy to transport himself to what he believes will be a better alternate timeline, and by the end in pursuit of this objective he's repeatedly betrayed people who trusted him, nearly started an intergalactic war, endangered many billions of people, and finally attempted to commit genocide on an entire sentient species.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise: Commander Dolim is informed along with the rest of the Xindi leaders that humanity will destroy them in the future, so they engage in a pre-emptive strike against Earth in preparation for building an even stronger weapon to Kill All Humans. The Xindi are actually being manipulated by a shady cabal from a future timeline, but when Dolim learns of this, he greedily accepts their offer to make the Reptilians the dominant force of a new Xindi empire and turns on his allies, proving that his actions were never about protecting the Xindi, just about securing his power.
  • Supernatural:
    • In the season 4 finale, as explained to Dean by the angel Zachariah, it's revealed that Heaven has allowed the Apocalypse to unfold because they desperately want to defeat Lucifer and his demons and finally create paradise on Earth. However, while Zachariah's boss the Archangel Michael is a genuine Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes it is his destiny to slay his brother and deeply regrets it, Zachariah himself doesn't give a damn about any cosmic plans and is only going along with it to further his own advancement in the angel hierarchy while feigning good intentions.
    • The British Men of Letters in season 12. Their original purpose was to simply research the paranormal and pass that knowledge on to hunters who would kill any threats to humanity. After the American chapter was wiped out by demons, the British Men of Letters was determined to avoid the same fate. So they made a deal with the King of Hell that he could make demon deals for souls as long as demons never attacked the island and they began killing all monsters whether they were harming humans or not. 50 years later they got tired of watching the American hunters, who by now had never even heard of the Men of Letters, flounder on their own, so the British Men of Letters invaded, tried to force their system on the entire US hunter network, and when it was forcefully rebuked as far too brutal, they decide to eliminate the American hunters. Over the year the British chapter was in the US, they murdered as many, if not more, humans than the monsters, including murdering the very hunters they were meant to help!
  • Tensou Sentai Goseiger: Brajira of the Messiah, the show's true villain after spending most of the series as his Buredoran disguises, finally reveals his motivations that the world is corrupt and the Gosei Angels are growing ineffective at protecting it from itself and that the way to rectify it is to restart it anew. The problem is that he wants it recreated into his own image where he would be worshiped as messiah (hence his name), making his so-called noble intentions ultimately self-serving. His lack of remorse for his crimes or the crimes of the other villains in the show and his Chronic Backstabbing Disorder also brings his intentions into doubt.

    Visual Novels 
  • Chaos;Head: While Genichi Norose, president of NOZOMI, claims to have good intentions, in that he wants to create a utopia by mind-controlling humanity to quash their primal urges, the fact that he's a Straw Nihilist pursuing his goals to horrific extremes fueled by a god complex make him just as bad as the humans he despises. In the end, he just wants power.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In the third case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, Aristotle Means claims that, to fight the rampant corruption in the Dark Age of the Law, you have to use corrupt means yourself (“the ends justify the means” is his personal motto). However, it's later revealed that he is the one who framed Juniper for the murder of Courte, who discovered Aristotle accepting bribes from O'Conner's parents. Aristotle, upon being discovered, says that the dark age of the law was beautiful and not to be fought at all. Athena is quick to chew him out on it.
      Athena Cykes: They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but not yours! You never had good intentions, only lies to protect yourself with while blaming another. You, professor, are the embodiment of the dark age of the law!
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Spirit of Justice: Queen Ga'ran Sigatar Khura'in, dictator of the Kingdom of Khura'in, is the creator of the Defense Culpability Act, which punishes defense attorneys of convicted clients with the same sentence their clients had. When first met, she paints the DC Act as something that is cruel but necessary for order to be held in the country. In reality, it's all a blatant power-grab in order to keep herself in power, as shown when it is revealed that she usurped her sister, the rightful ruler, to become queen in the first place.
    • The Great Ace Attorney: The true Reaper of the Bailey, Lord Chief Justice Mael Stronghart, has been responsible for the murders of at least 20 people, including the Professor killings. When exposed, he claims that all his victims were criminals who got away with their crimes and that he was trying to preserve law and order. However, many of his murders allowed him to ascend in status, and not only was he willing to kill innocent people like Genshin Asogi or his own subordinates like Inspector Tobias Gregson just to cover up his crimes, but the heroes call him out for failing to actually rid London of crime. And after his breakdown, he says that he wants "everything to run smoothly, in the exact manner I prescribe", making it clear he couldn't care less about the people of London and is really a power-hungry Control Freak out to enrich himself.
  • Mystic Messenger: The Savior/Rika/Mina, leader of the cult Mint Eye, institutes a horrific regime of torture and brainwashing, while also having followers drink an elixir that breaks down their sanity and trying to destroy the Rika Fundraising Association. In V's route, the Savior claims, when conversing with the heroine, that this is all to create a paradise where everyone in the world can be happy and free from pain and suffering, and no one will have to suffer the bad childhood that the Savior did. However, in Ray's route, the Savior drops this rhetoric and reveals it to be a cover for being The Social Darwinist who believes the strong should dominate the weak. So in the end, the Savior simply wants to dominate others as payback for being dominated and abused as a child.
  • In the first Galaxy Angel installment, Tact and Shiva accuse Eonia of being this. Eonia was exiled from the Traansbal Empire because he wanted to use the Lost Technology to expand it (read: conquer other worlds with it), claiming that he wanted to increase the prosperity of the empire. But after he returned having found the Black Moon, he had no qualms about using it to destroy anyone who opposed him, even firing upon civilian ships or attacking the Fargo residential zone, resulting in countless innocent casualties. Shiva even says he's just using his "dreams" as a pretext for revenge against the empire.

    Web Animation 
  • Meta Runner:
    • Derek Lucks claims to have noble intentions, but he has done a lot of unscrupulous things, up to directly hurting people, such as allowing Sheridan to enact Project Blue and almost kill Lucinia in the process, lying to and manipulating everyone so they wouldn't leave him because of the truth, abusing all of his employees, and even willing to kill a child, all for his own benefit.
    • Dr. James Sheridan exceeds Lucks in that he keeps claiming his actions will change the world, but in the end, it causes more harm than good.
  • RWBY:
    • Blake originally believes that Adam shares her idealism for a world where humans and Faunus are equal and peaceful; even after she abandons him in the Black Trailer for not caring if humans die during their train heist, Blake still assumes he's just gone too far in pursuit of a noble goal. When they confront each other at the end of Volume 3, Blake understands for the first time that Adam never shared her future vision, believes peaceful equality is impossible, and instead wants to enslave humanity and destroy everyone and everything Blake loves as punishment for abandoning him. He later murders and usurps his boss, Sienna Khan, with a smile, because she isn't ruthless enough to lead the Faunus into a war they can't win against humanity. Later on, when Blake turns many Faunus against him, he tries to kill them all, and his own followers, with explosives, rather than admit defeat.
    • The Albain brothers share many of Adam's same goals for Faunus supremacy but come off looking slightly better because they're not selfish assholes murdering people for petty spite. Much of their time is spent translating Adam's angry rants and needlessly cruel orders into something that sounds clever and pragmatic, which the rest of the White Fang will accept more readily.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • When the audience is first introduced to the Director of Project Freelancer in The Recollection, he seems to have genuinely good motives behind his actions, wishing to use the project for the sake of preventing human extinction. However, later revelations, as well as flashbacks in The Project Freelancer Saga, would show that when he realized the possibility of using the project to bring his deceased wife Back from the Dead, that became his biggest priority. While he might have had selfless goals at first, that isn't the case by the time we finally meet him.
    • Season 15 has one in Mark Temple, leader of the Blues and Reds. After his Freudian Excuse is shown, one can't help but have some sympathy for what made him into the monster he is now since he's completely right to be furious about he and his friends being used as a Redshirt Army and target practice by Project Freelancer, and also about the UNSC sending them off to Project Freelancer in the first place. Unfortunately, it's hard to feel bad for him when it's revealed that not only his reaction to that aforementioned torment is to degenerate into an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer who has been tracking down the remaining Freelancers (and while It's Personal against Tex and Carolina, both of whom played a part in his friend's death, he goes after every agent indiscriminately, including Washington, the guy who brought down Project Freelancer) and subjecting them to horrific deaths by armor lock-induced dehydration and starvation, but that he also wants to forcibly dismantle the entire UNSC, a galactic federation full of countless innocent civilians that will be slaughtered in the crossfire.
    • Zero from season 18. He talks a big game about the corruption of the Alliance of Defense and their countless "experiments and manipulations", but at the end of the day he's just out for revenge because he feels cheated out of being the leader of the original Shatter Squad and is basically throwing a gigantic tantrum over it.

  • I Don't Want This Kind of Hero: Baek Morae's goal of giving Raptor a future might seem understandable on paper—as he points out, she's an orphaned, crippled, and uneducated hybrid, meaning her job prospects are bleak once superheroes are no longer needed. However, as Naga retorts, Raptor is surrounded by loved ones and a strong support system, and so Baek Morae's ultimate goal is nothing more than self-satisfaction.
  • Redcloak in The Order of the Stick may tell himself that everything he does is for the good of goblins as a whole (and he is quite correct about them having a crappy deal), but he's prepared to let them all die rather than admit the Plan isn't going to work because ultimately this is about him, his Sunk Cost Fallacy, and getting revenge on the gods and the Player Character races.

    Web Original 
  • Blood After Midnight: Kelvin presents himself as a benevolent cult leader who claims to be killing people in order to resurrect the demon Shadoth so that he can use the beast's power to eradicate technology and secure jobs for his followers. Ultimately, this proves to be a lie, as Kelvin's nothing more than a selfish sadist who eradicates his own followers once his plans have been achieved, and is only using Shadoth to conquer the world for himself.
  • Dream from the Dream SMP claims that all he wants is for the server to come together as one big happy family, with no factions or nations or conflict. In his attempts to create this happy family, Dream has waged war against a nation of pacifists, given Wilbur the TNT needed to destroy L'Manburg (and basically commit suicide in the process), had Tommy (who was 16 years old at the time) exiled to a faraway beach and abused him so badly that he almost killed himself, manipulated Tubbo into giving him Tommy's disc and then carpet-bombed L'Manburg down to bedrock, commissioned Pandora's Vault, a massive prison that he purposefully made as hellish as possible, created a massive vault to put everyone's pets and most valuable items into to use as blackmail, and would've forced Tommy to watch him murder Tubbo for not being fun or useful anymore, and locked Tommy up in Pandora for the rest of his life, if the rest of the server hadn't intervened. Keeping this in mind, it's pretty obvious that what Dream really wants is control.
  • Jreg: In the Centricide saga videos, most of the extremists have good intentions, at least from their own perspectives. However, for all his rhetoric about changing the world, their leader, Anti-Centrist, doesn't seem to have much of an end goal besides eliminating the centrists and becoming a "real political ideology". One of his own subordinates, Ancap, points out that he doesn't appear to really have a motive or game plan regarding the world as a whole outside of "blind political chaos". Radical Centrist, meanwhile, implies that he may have an even more sinister objective that he's not telling anyone about. Turns out, he's right: Anti-Centrist's real goal is to summon Accelerationist and corrupt or destroy all other ideologies.
  • Played for Laughs in the Solid jj video "The Empire Did Nothing Wrong" parodying Return of the Jedi. In it, Darth Vader doubles down on his We Can Rule Together attempt on Luke by giving a series of Dog Kicking Excuses for everything he did (that Luke knew about). He decries the Rebels as terrorists and justifies blowing up Alderaan for harboring them, asserts that aside from that the Death Star was only ever meant to be a scare tactic, says killing Obi-Wan was self-defense, and Lovable Rogue Han was wanted for a whole laundry list of crimes and he did the galaxy a favor by selling him out to Jabba. Luke's unable to see the flaws in his logic and starts to come around... until Obi-Wan shows up and brings up all the kids he killed in Order 66, horrifying Luke and leaving his father without a snappy retort this time.


Video Example(s):


Dr. Benedict's Motive

Dr. Phillium Benedict explains how his plan to destroy Summer Vacation is rooted in a desire to improve students' test scores..... which he hopes would then result in him being regarded as a hero and advance his political career.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / NotSoWellIntentionedExtremist

Media sources: