Follow TV Tropes


Obviously Evil

Go To

Scott Lang: Who are these guys?
Tony Stark: They're S.H.I.E.L.D. Well, actually HYDRA, but we didn't know that yet.
Scott Lang: Seriously, you didn't? I mean, they look like bad guys!

A lot of fiction out there has a tendency to employ incredibly black and white perspectives to the characters and their actions. Due to the belief that its target demographic (usually children) can't understand subtler shades of evil, many works of fiction create a stark contrast between the heroes and villains. When this happens, the creators will bring in their Obviously Evil® Design Team. (Of course, another reason obvious villains are used in some fiction is simply because everyone loves a badass villain.)

If a work of fiction indulges in Obviously Evil®, every villain will be a Card-Carrying Villain, usually Colour-Coded for Your Convenience in shades of black and red. There won't be any Well-Intentioned Extremists, Knights Templar or pretty much anyone that doesn't accept and accentuate their evilness. If you see anybody that might seem to be a shade of grey on the side of the villains, it will usually basically be a hero with a slight bit of behavior modification to work with the villains (and an inevitable Heel–Face Turn coming up during Sweeps). If the villainous group is a governing body, it will always be an Evil Empire with a 0% Approval Rating. There aren't any Punch Clock minions that just accepted the job because it's work, but instead Always Chaotic Evil Faceless Goons that act like miniature versions of the main villain and provide no guilt whatsoever when they get killed by the truckload. The Dragon will either be fully loyal to their master and their evilness, or be The Starscream and never have any ulterior motive beyond a lust for more power. There will never be any Worthy Opponents or Tragic Villains or any kind of antagonist presented sympathetically as this doesn't accentuate the author's need to make the bad guys ALL bad.

The goals of the villains and their organization are always incredibly eeeeeevil, with one of five purposes: world domination, world destruction, corruption, genocide, or antagonizing the heroes. Nobody on the side of evil will ever Pet the Dog (except maybe the none-too-subtle Heel–Face Turn candidate). Even their imagery is blatantly made as a contrast to the heroes, with lots of skulls, Spikes of Villainy, and other assorted things. Imagine a villain whose entire body is made of Red Right Hands, stitched together with thread made from the skin of dead puppies and you're beginning to get the idea.

Fiction that relies on this is almost always Anvilicious to a fault, being the most extreme example of Black-and-White Morality. If the writers don't like X, they can just have someone Obviously Evil® doing X.

Note that it's possible to have Obviously Evil® figures in a normally more subtle setting; frequently, the justification is that the character is so far gone into their Card-Carrying Villainy (or some brutal variation of Blue-and-Orange Morality) that they don't care what other people think of them, or that the character is intentionally playing up a menacing persona in order to intimidate others into compliance. A character also doesn't have to gloat about how eeeeeevil they are to give off an Obviously Evil aura; all they need to do is look or, more importantly, act sinisterly enough that others are quick to suspect that they have no good intentions.

This trope actually has two aspects:

The first is Obviously Evil Behavior, where the villains act in extremely vicious and unnecessarily cruel fashion to heighten their evilness. May overlap with Villain Ball and Stupid Evil. Extremely common in fan fiction were authors use this as a shortcut to establish the "Bad Guy" of the fic and often happens to the author's least favorite character. Prone to Rape as Drama. See Kick the Dog.

The second is Obviously Evil Appearance where the villain merely appears evil. Unlike behavior, the appearance tropes are just stereotypes that have been drilled into our head over the years and as such make for prime subversion fodder when they appear on heroes and anti-heroes. (After all, who would expect Skeletor's skull-faced mug up there to appear on a good guy?) Even when they appear on certain types of villains they can still be used for the subversion aspect as people who have grown up on "Spikey-armor = Irredeemable" can still get thrown for a loop when it appears on a character presented sympathetically. If the villain of the series is a Knight Templar and/or Villain with Good Publicity then having a hero with an “obviously evil” appearance can create an interesting commentary on the nature of good and evil as the "Evil" looking hero battles the "Heroic" looking villain. See Dark Is Not Evil.

Compare Black-and-White Morality, Black-and-Gray Morality, Evil Versus Evil, Dark Is Evil, and Villainous Fashion Sense. Not to Be Confused with Devil in Plain Sight or Obliviously Evil, though the former can overlap. Contrast Dark Is Not Evil, Grey-and-Gray Morality, White-and-Grey Morality, Morality Kitchen Sink, and Face of a Thug. If the revelation that this guy turns out to be evil is treated as a shocking twist, that's Obvious Judas.

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes invoked in the establishment of this style 

Example subpages:

Other examples:


    Comic Strips 
  • Exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness in Liō: everyone who's evil has bad teeth. It's almost a Red Right Hand, except there's nothing in-setting to explain why they would all have bad teeth and why "good" (sorta) characters all have nice teeth.

    Fan Works 
  • In X-Men fanfic Mutatis Mutandis by Artemis' Liege, Chapter Ten opens with the Pro-Regs going about their daily routine: Reed Richards is experimenting on Goliath's corpse, condoned by all others, while he and Tony Stark discuss how much of a traitor Spider-Man is for not helping them imprison rebel heroes in the Negative Zone with the regular supervillains.
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War gives us Red Cyclone, who, aside from having red eyes and body color, is also an A-class Smug Snake and seeks to obliterate the ponies.
  • Titan from My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic is a hooded tyrant with red eyes. Also many Arc Villains, like the Dark King, a big black horned humanoid, Von Devilor, whose name alone says a lot really, and King Pinsar, a conqueror bug alien.
  • Fall of Starfleet, Rebirth of Friendship might deconstruct Starfleet Magic, but it has its own example in Dark Conquest, who is a black alicorn, has a Meaningful Name and is a rapist.
  • Yukari in Game of Touhou is basically a walking corpse and an immortal from Qarth but Reimu still trusts her (not that she has any other choice).
  • In Foxstar's Reign, the protagonist is shocked when a guy named Cruelheart turns out to be abusive.
  • Played for Laughs by Chapter 3 of Remnant's Bizarre Adventure Chibi. Enrico Pucci is obviously a bad guy, but because he keeps insisting that he is not evil, only Sun and Neptune realize it.
  • Peace of Mind, Piece of Heart: When Catra states that, while she figured it out pretty quickly, no one in the Horde really thought of themselves as "villains or anything", Steven points out that they literally lived in a place called the Fright Zone.
  • Please Stop Eating The Hell Butterflies: In the chapters set before the Soul Society Arc, Aizen really acts obviously evil and it makes you wonder why no one noticed. Then you read the rest of the madness that the good or morally neutral captains get up to and you realize why as Aizen's evil nonsense and everyone's insane nonsense is a bit hard to distinguish without hindsight.
  • Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40K: One of the OC villains on the Imperium of Man's side is a Radical Inquisitor named Tahr Whyler. Said Inquisitor has pale skin, black eyes, shark-like teeth, no hair, clawed hands, and a serpent-like tongue. His favorite color seems to be black because he incorporates it in everything; he wears a black hooded cloak, wields a black rapier, wears digi-weapon rings that shoot black Death Rays, and can even summon black-colored flames while using the Warp. Oh, and he also speaks with an unnatural rasp and is constantly associated with the image of a Slasher Smile.

  • In Popeye Saves the Earth, this is invoked by the names of Bluto's polluting companies — Earth Pavers, Never Green Logging, Blutonium Waste, and Spill Oil Co.

  • Dice Funk: The headmaster of the Pickman Academy is so shady that the players wonder aloud if he will turn out to be the final boss somewhere down the road.
  • The crew of Mission to Zyxx find Kor Balevor on a lava planet in a castle bound by chains of pure Space. He has spent his imprisonment teaching the lava crows to screech as a chorus. Everyone is immediately aware that Kor is not the good Zima they expected except Pleck (who's being mind controlled) and AJ (who is dumb as a rock).
  • Sick Sad World: Charles Manson's actions during his trial (carving an X in his forehead he later turned into a swastika, attacking the judge and saying "I'm gonna kill you!") made it pretty clear he did it.

  • Starship:
    Bug: You're evil!
    Pincer: No duh!
  • William Shakespeare wasn't immune to this trope. In Twelfth Night, the major villain is a lying, deceitful servant named Malvolio—that's Mal, as in "malicious" or "malpractice," from the Latin "mala" for evil—volio.
  • This is an extremely common trope in nineteenth century melodrama, which birthed many of the examples on this list—that genre was among the first to introduce the mustache-twirling villain who loudly declares his plans to steal, lie, cheat, commit crimes, and generally be a total Jerkass.
  • The titular character in Moliere's Tartuffe is clearly a con artist and form of Sinister Minister, preaching about sacrifice while indulging in all sorts of debauchery. In this case it's an Invoked Trope, as it's plain as day to everyone who meets Tartuffe except the family patriarch and that patriarch's mother, who are the only people who have any influence in the matter.

    Visual Novels 
  • Josef Capek in Shikkoku no Sharnoth. However, he turns out to be more sympathetic than he appears. He's simply not entirely sane anymore and hasn't been sleeping for months. ...Somehow.
  • From Fate/stay night, Zouken Matou. He looks like some sort of deformed little troll man and has jetblack eyes. Plus he manages to talk in a sinister fashion all the time - despite not having any audible clues - even before you realize that he is not the world's friendliest, cheeriest grandfather. The rest of the cast averts (Casternote ) and subverts (Berserkernote , Ridernote ) this, though. The novel also makes it blatantly obvious that Kirei Kotomine is up to no good. Word of God even confirms this trope was what they were going for when they made him.
  • Ace Attorney has Manfred von Karma, a terrifying guy with a booming voice, who even Miles "Demon Prosecutor" Edgeworth considers ruthless. It's quickly made clear that he is not above forging evidence and using underhand tactics to get what he wants (like hiding incriminating evidence, and tasering Phoenix and Maya to steal the evidence they'd acquired), and values a flawless record over putting the truly guilty in prison. It probably doesn't come as a surprise to many when it's revealed that he was the one who killed Gregory Edgeworth, for proving he used false evidence and thus putting a mark on his perfect record. In the flashback case of Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth, a young Kay tells him that he's "scary," just from his appearance and demeanor, and she clearly has no idea who he is..
    • In what can probably be described as Early-Installment Weirdness, the villains in the first game all tended to be obviously not nice people. Frank Sawhit behaves very suspiciously and has a creepy-looking face, Redd White is a Corrupt Corporate Executive and dresses the part, Dee Vasquez wears dark clothing and smokes a pipe, Damon Gant always stares at a camera and has an Ominous Pipe Organ Theme. The two first ones are culprits in Reverse Whodunnit cases, meaning the game doesn't even bother to hide their guilt. The only exception is Yanni Yogi, who's only the first culprit in the final case, rather than the mastermind behind the plot (Manfred von Karma).
    • In Justice For All, the second case opens with a voice-over accusing a man named Dr. Turner Grey of a murder. When the players meet Grey, he's tense, irritable, and downright nasty; his name implies a moral gray area; he makes a big deal about how innocent he is; and other characters relate stories of an incident in which many patients died under his care. It's pretty obvious he's going to be bad news to someone. Except he's not. He's actually the victim of the murder, which was carried out by the cutesy-looking Ini Miney, and it's ultimately left up in the air how responsible he was for the malpractice incident- Ini accuses him of overworking his nurses to the point of sleep deprivation, but she isn't a reliable narrator. However, the true mastermind behind the murder, Morgan Fey, plays the trope straight by looking like and being a highly ambitious narcissist.
    • Also from Justice For All, the first case's culprit is Richard Wellington, an Upper-Class Twit and con artist with a really smug look on his face. And while we don't see him kill the victim, the case is still a Reverse Whodunnit since the opening cutscene shows him attacking Phoenix with a fire extinguisher.
    • In Trials and Tribulations, Phoenix and Maya meet Furio Tigre, who looks like Phoenix, except his skin is pure orange and he has scars over one eye and much spikier hair and a really bad attitude. It's no surprise that he's the murderer. In fact, he's also responsible for impersonating Phoenix and causing Maggey to get convicted of murder.
    • In Dual Destinies, there's Florent L'Belle from the second case. He looks like the Joker went to the opera, he sprays cologne in poor Apollo's face, and he makes no attempt to hide his disdain for everyone who's not him. Even if the game somehow glitched and didn't play the opening cutscene where he clearly drugs the victim, very few players would be surprised to find that he's the killer.
    • In Spirit of Justice, there's Ga'ran in her prosecutor outfit. Magenta and dark purple colors, a spider motif, giant shoulderpads, evil facepaint, and cleavage of doom. No wonder she doesn't wear this outfit in her daily life- people might think she was a Disney villain.
  • In Virtue's Last Reward, Dio is so repugnant that The Reveal that he's actually a terrorist leader who has planted bombs all over the warehouse, and effectively the true Big Bad of the game, is... actually very surprising since it's so unsurprising.
  • Korekiyo Shinguji, the Ultimate Anthropologist from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, is a tall, rail-thin man who always dresses in olive-green military garb and covers the bottom half of his face with a mask. His demeanor is as unsettling as they come, too, seeming coldly detached from the Deadly Game going on around him and constantly talking about the "beauty of humanity". He even praises the culprit's ingenuity and cruelty in a few Class Trials. Is it any surprise that he turns out to be an insane Serial Killer with a near-triple-digit body count and a Norman Bates-esque obsession with his sister? He even lampshades it when Kaede comes to talk to him about his alibi for the first case (where he's legitimately innocent), saying that he has the look of someone who'd commit murder.
  • Despite the fact that Hatoful Boyfriend displays everyone as birds (not counting the few second pseudo-human visual of their human appearance), it's easy to tell that Doctor Shuu is not a good guy. Not because everybody tells the player over and over that he is evil. But Shuu is a partridge bird, definitely a lot more on the chubby side than the rest of the cast. He even lampshades this if you choose to romance him. He talks about how he was very clearly both evil and insane, and yet you chose to try and fall in love with him anyway. Right before he kills you with a cleaver.
  • In Heart of the Woods, the first person Madison and Tara meet in Eysenfeld besides Morgan, the one who invited them there, is Morgan's mother Evelyn. Not only do Morgan and Evelyn clearly not get along, but Evelyn has a cold, imposing demeanor and the horses become terrified upon seeing her. Her leitmotif, "Daggersmile," is appropriately ominous. Sure enough, Evelyn's not just unfriendly, but downright evil, and ends up trying to kill the protagonists(temporarily succeeding with Madison).


Video Example(s):


The Horned King

While never said to be one, the Horned King is a tall, skeletal and of course horned overlord, who seeks the Black Cauldron to reanimate an unstoppable army of the undead, so that he may used them to conqueror the world.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / OurLichesAreDifferent

Media sources: