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Plot-Irrelevant Villain

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"What did I do? Oh, Barry. My idol. My inspiration. That's the beauty of all this madness. I didn't do anything. Not a thing."
Professor Zoom, Flashpoint

Here we have Bob. Bob frequently appears throughout the narrative to do what he can to make Alice's life miserable. Sounds like he must be the Big Bad, right?

The problem? Bob isn't actually essential to the narrative. He might Kick the Dog to inspire an emotional reaction, but this guy barely manages to contribute anything to the story. He'll dash onscreen every so often, twirl his moustache in a Jerkass manner, and then leave with little fanfare. Be wary, though, some characters are capable of pulling this while crossing the Moral Event Horizon at the same time doing something with real weight.

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In other words, Bob is a villain who doesn't do anything essential to the plot. He has been shoehorned into the narrative for little reason beside the conventional wisdom that all narratives need a bad guy. For this reason, he's an especially common Canon Foreigner addition to adaptations intended to reach a wider audience than the source material did.

Alternately, this guy would qualify as a major villain... in a smaller scale story. As it is, he's one notch above a Bit Part Bad Guy in importance.

This trope can possibly go in line with Designated Villain. If he's there to provide someone to boo because the main antagonist is too cool/sympathetic to hate or a morally neutral/intangible problem (a runaway train, an earthquake, the main protagonist simply making bad decisions), he's also a Hate Sink. Compare with Breakout Villain, Filler Villain, and Orcus on His Throne. Often overlaps with Giant Space Flea from Nowhere in the case of video games. Occasionally it's an example of a Villain of Another Story. When it's an entire unwholesome class of characters who don't seem to do of the dirty deeds of their profession, it's The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything. Contrast Villains Act, Heroes React (where the plot only exists because it was created by the villain), and Outside-Genre Foe where the villain is a legitimate threat because no one would expect them to appear in the setting, who may or may not be plot essential. If there are both types of villains in the same narrative, it is most likely that they will become a Big Bad Ensemble.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • From Pokémon:
    • Gary Oak in the first season. He's a Jerkass antagonist to Ash for absolutely no reason, and continually antagonizes him in ways that never add anything to the story. In his defense, the anime was originally only going to last through this first season before the franchise became such a phenomenon, and the original ending had Ash vs. Gary as the final battle, so had that happened, his previous antagonism would have actually been building the rivalry up so that the story's climax was more satisfying. Incidentally, this ends up happening in the Johto season, but by that time, he had already lost most of his Jerkass tendencies.
    • The Team Rocket trio sometimes fall into this, particularly in Hoenn and Sinnoh. While they often help pivot the plot (or accidentally solve it) through their schemes, sometimes they only show up to keep up appearances, with Ash's team treating them as little more than nuisances to their own situations. Later seasons try to downplay this by omitting them from the occasional episode where their presence is unnecessary.
  • Code Geass has Mao, who merely serves to distract Lelouch from the first season’s real Big Bad, his sister Princess Cornelia, for a few episodes, and to provide a bit of exposition (even in this he doesn't actually explain anything himself, but his actions cause others to explain things). In this case, Tropes Are Not Bad, especially as Mao became an Ensemble Dark Horse.
  • In the first season of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, there was Devack, one of the Dark Signers; while most members of this group had extensive backgrounds, motivations, and some sort of connection to the heroes, Devack had none whatsoever in all three areas. He was a Card-Carrying Villain who seemed to despise the Signers for no known reason. (The Yu-Gi-Oh! 10th Anniversary Animation Book explains that Devack was originally intended to be from a demon worshipping cult and was sacrificed to the Earthbound Gods, but then reborn as a Dark Signer.)
  • Tokyo Godfathers features a sequence based on real life where some random ruffians attack Gin for no reason at all. It has absolutely nothing to do with the plot and yet they end up more hated than the plot-relevant Anti-Villain.
  • Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure has a large amount of mercenaries hired by the DIO. Most of them have no narrative importance other than slowing the heroes down on their journey. Tropes Are Not Bad, as these fights allow the heroes to show off the more creative uses of their seemingly straightforward abilities. Later parts also have a few such enemies, but they make up the minority of encounters.
  • The Mystical Laws: The reptilian aliens who show up to try and invade Earth while Tathagata is destroying it. They appear in only two scenes and have absolutely no bearing on the main plot of the movie.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Big Fish & Begonia, the Rat Matron doesn't have much plot importance, and why she wants to enter the human world isn't elaborated on.

    Comic Books 
  • The Joker in Justice. His role during the story? Escape from Arkham Asylum, blow up a significant chunk of Brainiac's compound, and injure Scarecrow while the latter is trying to run away, in that order. All as revenge for Lex Luthor not inviting him into being part of his Legion of Doom. His rampage provides additional insult to injury at the climax while the Legion is getting its ass kicked by the Justice League, but that is it.
  • Hellboy: Gustav Strobl in "Abe Sapien". He has some sinister plans for Abe, but for the most part his story runs completely parallel to Abe's, the two of them only meeting face to face in the concluding chapters.
  • In The Mask, Mask Hunters' only real purpose in the plot is to show up at the end for the climactic fight scene. Everything before that is just them showing how evil they are so we know it's okay to kill them.
  • Superman stories provide plenty of examples:
    • In Who Took the Super out of Superman?, Solarman has zero to do with the main plot, his actions are completely unrelated to the Big Bad's scheme, and he becomes even more irrelevant after Superman destroys his power suit and takes him away.
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton, Blaze breaks free from a containment cell, slays several guards while making her escape and looks for allies to strike Supergirl. Nothing to do with the main storyline, and Supergirl doesn't even run into her once. Blaze was supposed to be dealt with in a later story arc, but Tony Bedard was kicked out of the book before he could advance that particular subplot.
    • Jackhammer's only purpose in Two For The Death Of One is to pad the story by keeping Superman too preoccupied with his antics to look for a way out of his predicament, caused by the real Big Bad, during two issues.
    • Rebel's role in Many Happy Returns is bothering both Linda and Kara until Supergirl tells him he was nothing but "something to do" until their real enemy revealed itself, and she angrily tells him off. Kara frightens him away so badly he goes away and is never heard of again.
      Kara: Don't you get it, Rebel? You're not important! You never were! You were just — something to do! Something for Supergirl and me to bounce off of for a while until people and events of real consequence came along!
    • In Power Girl 2009 it looks like Dr. Sivana is being presented as a future threat to Power Girl, but after selling weapons to Ultra-Humanite and Satanna, Sivana makes clear he couldn't care less for their grudge or Kara, and he'll not get involved further.
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    Fan Works 
  • In Heart of Ashes, Lord Beronor, the head of the most powerful noble house of Dorwinion, brings Kathryn to the largely insensitive court of his king as entertainment. He does this to gain more favor in his ambition to create a lasting dynasty for his house, and he slaps Kathryn when she outright refuses to obey him. He doesn't do much anything else, however, and as soon as Kathryn first leaves the capital, Beronor's put in his place by the widowed Queen Lalemwen, and he makes no other appearance.
  • I Will Remember You: XANA. While it's still up to its old tricks in the background, the focus is on Reese and his abusive father.
  • Multiple examples in Klaanon. Some Nazorak officers, namely Colonel 437, are there just for the action sequences, and then there are the personal nemeses of some characters. But considering that the whole purpose of Klaanon was to create something huge from separate fanfics, it is only natural. Considering that, it is rather marvelous how the many, many characters, including villains, have been incorporated into the main plot, and you can never know which character will go from irrelevant to very, very important.
  • Superman of 2499: The Great Confrontation: Muto believes he's the Big Bad, but his appearance at the beginning of the story is completely unrelated to the main plot (Adam Kent's sense of self-entitlement and growing resentment against his father and brother setting him on the path towards villainy), and he's defeated very quickly.

    Films — Animation 
  • Alice in Wonderland: There's not much of a plot to begin with, but the Queen of Hearts appears during the last twenty minutes of the film, after Alice has been through all sorts of wacky adventures and wishes to return home. She does make her wish that more than ever, though...
  • Despite causing the revolution and being responsible for Anya's amnesia, Rasputin in Anastasia essentially zigzags with this for the rest of the film. Although he provides moments of danger throughout, the focus instead falls on Anya learning how to act like a princess and rediscovering her past. The protagonists aren't even aware of Rasputin until the climax. The Broadway musical adaptation drops the character entirely and replaces him with General Gleb, who also doesn't have much direct plot relevance but gets significantly more to do anyway.
  • In a way, Gaston in Beauty and the Beast is this trope, despite his prominence and important actions. Until the climax, he's completely separate from the main focus of the plot: Belle and the Beast needing to fall in love to break the Beast's spell and gradually doing so. From a plot standpoint alone, his only purpose is to cause the Beast's Disney Death in the end, leading to Belle's spell-breaking confession of love. Unsurprisingly he's a Canon Foreigner, not in the original fairy-tale, where the Beast's Disney Death is just due to grief over Beauty leaving him.
  • Mor'du in Brave is only tangentially related to the main plot of the film. He's just an incredibly vicious bear, who likes to eat things... like a bear. Even the fact he's also the result of a curse is inconsequential to his specific role.
  • Apart from briefly hindering the protagonists' attempts to return to the present, the villains from Dino Time are largely incidental to the plot.
  • The Elm-Chanted Forest has an Evil Overlord with a whole army at his disposal as the main antagonist and yet there is also a race of intelligent and chauvinistic mushrooms who appear out of nowhere and do not do much other than capture and delay Peter Palette, make the film even trippier than it was, and provide for a unique case of Wacky Wayside Tribe.
  • Prince Hans from Frozen is largely indirect from the conflict with the eternal winter, taking advantage of a situation instead of causing it, with his main purpose being someone for Anna to protect Elsa from and perform an Act of True Love. A strange example, as there is a reason for Hans existing (to inadvertently start off the conflict by trying to take the throne), but not much reason for him being a villain besides being part of the moral about true love.
  • Thunderclap and his gang in The Good Dinosaur exist mainly to act like jerks, accidentally bring Arlo to Butch, and to enrage Arlo by trying to eat Spike. Narratively speaking, Arlo could've met Butch and returned home without them.
  • Joe from Help! I'm a Fish became the Big Bad of this film because it's the result of the Antidote dropped into the sea by Fly and Chuck accidently while searching for the now starfish Stella which the incident happened because of Stella accidently drank Mackrill's potion, and Joe and his Shark were now Intelligent by the Antidote and they start their Empire, the whole thing would have never happened if Stella never had drank the Potion.
  • Hotel Transylvania: While a few outside factors interfere with the plot, there's no central threat, apart from Quasimodo's small role and the peasants who murdered Dracula's wife all of the conflict comes from Dracula just trying to keep his daughter safe.
  • Bela from Hotel Transylvania 2. He enters the narrative in the third act alongside Vlad, and does nothing but hang around seething with fanatical, murderous loathing for humans while his boss Vlad actually interacts with the main characters. Bela eventually, and with very little in the way of a trigger, calls in an army of his brethren just so there can be a climactic final battle.
  • Ice Age: Not in the first movie, but both Ice Age 2: The Meltdown and Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs feature dinosaur predators who stalk the main characters incidentally and show how out of water the herd really is. Averted by Ice Age: Continental Drift, where Captain Gutt does directly oppose the heroes at several points, even if it was his fault for capturing them in the first place.
  • Unlike Shere Khan, who causes the wolves to send away Mowgli starting the The Jungle Book with his mere presence, Kaa just reminds to everyone that danger lurks everywhere in the jungle, even in trees unapproachable by tigers. King Louie and his monkey subjects exemplify this to an extent even greater than Kaa, by becoming so immersed in their festive mood, that their scheme becomes irrelevant to even themselves.
  • The closest Madagascar has to a villain are the fossa — but they are a menace that hardly appears. The major conflict is both the protagonists being stranded in a strange place, and the sole carnivore of them becoming hungry.
  • In Monsters University, the main conflict was not dependent on the members of Roar Omega Roar being jerks to Oozma Kappa. They could have been the nicest rival frat ever and the plot still would have happened, given that the story was hinging on Mike's desire to prove himself and his tension with Sulley.
  • Although he's a very memorable character, the plot of The Nightmare Before Christmas happens without Oogie Boogie, and the Final Battle happens after the climax as a way of tying off loose ends rather than causing any resolution or character development (specifically, a need for Jack to visibly demonstrate his repentance for ruining Christmas to Santa Claus). Tellingly, in the original poem (found on the blu-ray narrated by Christopher Lee), Oogie Boogie doesn't appear at all despite the movie following the rest of the poem. However, Oogie does fill the Plot Hole regarding Santa's whereabouts during the climax. Averted in the prequel and sequel video games, where his origins and taking revenge on Santa and Jack (respectively) are the basis of the plot.
  • Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure: Hoo boy. It is to be expected in a movie where half of the things that happen are irrelevant to the central plot which is saving the doll Babette from the toy Pirate Captain. There's both Greedy and King Koo Koo and his minions, both notably more memorable than everyone else due to their sheer zaniness and creepiness. In fact, King Koo Koo causes the real climax of the story by inflating his importance and rendering the Captain one more bystander and victim.
  • Cortez from The Road to El Dorado. While Cortez is indirectly responsible for Miguel and Tulio winding up at El Dorado, he vanishes from the bulk of the film after the opening, is briefly seen a couple more times and only factors into the plot again very late in the film, with Tzekel-Kan taking over as the main villain for the bulk of the film.
  • Mrs Brisby has to deal with a lot of danger to learn the The Secret of NIMH and save her son. At the same time the rats of NIMH are threatened by the titular organisation and have to take action to survive. The scheming rat Jenner who is a member of the group doesn't have anything to do with either of those plots, as he appears late in the story and tries to merely seize the opportunity to take over. In fact he comes across as very deluded and as vulnerable as the other rodents to the scientists who chase them and his power-hungry plans are doomed from the start, making the threat that he poses to the heroes unreasonable even for a megalomaniac.
  • The Sword in the Stone has Mad Madame Mim, who has been described as filler for a good reason. She does spice things up and provides an entertaining battle, but most of the film could have happened without her, as it is about Merlin giving Arthur life-lessons. She's best appreciated as an amusing single encounter in a highly episodic narrative, rather than as some type of overarching antagonist.
  • Clayton from Tarzan is the leader of the poachers and the greatest threat to the gorillas and Tarzan. However, he doesn't show up until the second half of the film, not even having an effect on the first half, with the main conflict being with Tarzan trying to deal with the fact that he is different from the gorillas. This does not, however, qualify for the first half's villain, Sabor, who is responsible for the deaths of Tarzan's human parents as well as the death of Kala's gorilla child, thereby kickstarting the plot.
  • King Candy/Turbo from Wreck-It Ralph is the Big Bad of the story, but he is only a factor in turning Vaneloppe into an ostracized glitch by hijacking the Sugar Rush cabinet. His story of "Going Turbo" doesn't really influence Ralph's decision into leaving his own game at all and the accidental leaking of the Cy-Bugs is mostly his own fault. He is only there for Ralph to prove that he can actually be a hero, and the climax of the story involves the Cy-Bugs invading Sugar Rush, with King Candy only becoming the Final Boss due to being swallowed by one.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Jabberwock in Alice in Wonderland (1985) is an unnecessary addition to the "Through the Looking Glass" portion of the film. In the original book, the Jabberwock never appeared outside the poem "Jabberwocky". Irwin Allen, however, believed the story needed an equivalent to the Boogeyman, so he made the Jabberwock appear and scare Alice when she reads the poem, and then turn up again twice later (once at the end of the Humpty Dumpty scene, the second during the climax). But really it contributes nothing to the story, aside from allowing the producers to put in a climax somewhat more comprehensible than the book's rather bewildering finale.
  • American Mary has Ruby's husband as a minor villain — so minor, in fact, that he isn't even named. He appears in literally two scenes, and his only role in the plot was killing Mary at the end, and even then, it comes off as a Diabolus ex Machina to keep Mary from being a Karma Houdini.
  • Past Thanos from Avengers: Endgame serves as this in direct contrast to his deceased present counterpart as the only reason that he becomes part of the story is because he discovered the Avengers' attempt to undo his future self's fingersnap that turned half the universe into dust. He is absent for most of the plot and only confronts the heroes in the climax of the movie, with the only contribution he made in the overall story (aside from giving a spectacular Final Battle) is to facilitate Tony's own Heroic Sacrifice to wipe out his entire force.
  • Blood Surf: The Indonesian pirates, who basically just appear to spice things up. While they threaten to rape several of the female characters, they're eaten by the crocodile before you can say "Asshole Victim!".
  • Bruce Almighty, which is simply about the title character dealing with the responsibilities of being God and has only a gang of low-lives that threaten and harass Bruce as the last straw that leads him to declare that he would be a better God.
  • The title antagonist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier is a downplayed example. The "conspiracy thriller" half of the plot would work just as well if you swapped him with any other ultra-competent assassin - being brainwashed, he's not in a position to do much beyond follow orders. Cap's own emotional arc is another matter.
  • In the movie Fired Up, the stereotypical evil cheerleader captain of the Opposing Sports Team is introduced as a big villain... and does nothing in her five minutes total screen time other than badmouth the good team a couple of times and have sex with the female lead's Jerkass boyfriend (who the audience knows is sleeping around, so this role could be filled by any random girl).
  • Stathis Borans in The Fly (1986) is a seriously played with example. He is Veronica's editor and ex-lover, who becomes a Stalker with a Crush as he realizes that Seth Brundle is interested in her and tries to sabotage the relationship that follows over the course of the first act. He drops out of the narrative shortly before the end of the act after Veronica stands up to him. There's just one problem — because Veronica sees Stathis as a personal nuisance, Seth doesn't know exactly what's going on when she leaves to confront him. He jumps to the conclusion that they're still lovers based on what he does know, gets drunk...and decides to become Professor Guinea Pig, beginning his slow transformation into not just a villain, but a monster far more wicked (if tragic) than Stathis ever was. With this in mind, when Stathis returns to the narrative in the third act, it's as the despondent Veronica's confidant, and he slowly becomes a Hero Antagonist whose actions are as important to the climax as anyone else's.
  • Gigantic is an indie romantic comedy. Not exactly a genre needing a villain, yet for some reason it has a strange homeless man who attacks the male lead at random intervals for basically no reason whatsoever. One of the more bizarre examples, as there is not even a token attempt to shoehorn him into the plot, he's just there.
  • Cobra Commander only appears in G.I. Joe: Retaliation to have him escape from prison, killing the warden in the process, and pulling off a Villain: Exit, Stage Left in the climax to set up a Sequel Hook. Zartan is the one doing all the dirty work what forcing the other country leaders with nuclear weapons to give them all up. Cobra Commander may be Zartan's superior, though his limited screen time makes him rather irrelevant to the movie's plot overall for world domination rather choosing to only pop up at the end.
  • Humma Kavula from the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. Oh yes. He's given little backstory, his motives are only hinted at, and seems to exist only to push for the inclusion of the MacGuffin used to save the day at the end. No doubt if sequels were made he'd have a larger role, but sequels seem unlikely at this point. And the most aggravating point is that the movie already had villains! Do the Vogons chasing Zaphod for kidnapping the President (himself) and stealing a ship not count?
  • Azog the Defiler in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Yes, he did kill protagonist Thorin's grandpa, and the two have shown enmity towards each other, but the main plot isn't about it — it's about a group of dwarves trying to retake their old city of Erebor from a dragon. In the original novel, he's only briefly mentioned, and was killed over a century before the book, but his inclusion in the movies helped pad the film adaptation into a trilogy. Azog's role in the films could as easily have been by his son Bolg, who seeks vengeance for his father's death.
  • I Come in Peace: Victor Manning is a drug kingpin who only exists to kill off Caine's original partner, then disappears from the narrative entirely (he skips the country to enjoy his freedom in Brazil, only sending a postcard to Caine just to be a dick) as Caine suddenly has to deal with an alien drug kingpin who starts rampaging through town. Caine doesn't even have time to avenge his partner.
  • The Killer That Stalked New York, a 1950 film Very Loosely Based on the 1947 New York City smallpox outbreak: Whereas the Big Bad is smallpox causing an outbreak in New York City and The Heavy is Patient Zero Sheila Bennet for (unknowingly) spreading the disease, the villain of the story is Sheila's husband Matt, who doesn't affect the outbreak but who is really terrible to Sheila in several ways.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: The whole Pelegosto tribe eating people alive sequence qualifies; they've got absolutely nothing to do with Davy Jones or the East India Trading Company, and they never appear again once Jack and company escape their island. The Prison Dog is left stranded on the island, however, and is last seen being chased into the distance by the entire tribe... only to somehow appear unscathed in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, apparently with the help of "sea turtles."
  • The film Recipe for a Perfect Christmas had an office rival for the heroine who did not directly harm the heroine at all but still gets a verbal slapdown for offering her own ideas to the boss while the heroine has been suspended from her job.
  • SF Debris found the Duras sisters to be this in Star Trek: Generations, arguing that if you gave their dialogue to any other villain, you'd have the same effect, as he demonstrated by reading their lines as a Dalek, a Cylon, and Londo Mollari, and later using Admiral Piett's death from Return of the Jedi to stand in for their own.
  • Enforced and discussed in both versions of True Grit (as well as the book) with Ned Pepper. He has all the makings of a true antagonist, being a gang leader and having a history with Rooster, but he has nothing to do with any of the events of the story. It's actually his drunken idiotic henchman Tom Chaney who killed Mattie Ross's father, thus dragging Ned into it with him. Ned even scolds Tom for this.
  • The rival climatologist team in Twister is entirely redundant and has no useful role in the story.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter:
    • Draco Malfoy is this most of the time in the early books, where he spends his time being Harry's Jerkass nemesis at Hogwarts, and serve as a Red Herring while his father takes on plot-relevant villainy stuff. He only really starts to dovetail with the main villains in book 5, and even that was a role that wasn't needed for the book, especially since he at last got a true plot-relevant role in the following book.
    • The position of the professor of Defense against the Dark Arts during the events of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is filled with the ridiculously narcissistic Gilderoy Lockhart whose only function seems to be providing comic-relief and only making everything plot-relevant accidentally worse. Until it is revealed that is, that he is a fraud who is willing to cause permanent amnesia to two 13 year olds in order to hide how incapable he is of dealing with the main problem.
    • Dolores Umbridge is largely just there to give the main characters something to keep them busy during most of Book 5. She has no relevance to the book's climax, which is a fight in the Ministry of Magic and an explanation of why Voldemort wanted Harry dead in the first place. The only important role she provided was The Reveal that it was actually her that sent the Dementors after Harry early in the book, not Voldemort or Fudge as the reader likely suspected. Umbridge is actually this from the perspective of the Order of the Phoenix members. She's not related to the war they are fighting, but is just as depraved as the opposition. And she at least is a major character in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
  • Cribbins in the Discworld novel Making Money, an old partner of Moist's who is out for revenge. Barely affects the main plot at all, turns up after the climax only to dispose of himself painfully.
  • Akivasha in Conan the Barbarian book The Hour of the Dragon is a vampiress encountered by Conan while exploring the Stygian tombs in search of the Heart of Ahriman. While a very sinister foe that makes for a memorable encounter, she has no relation to the plot or with the main villains, Conan chooses to flee rather than fight her, and she never appears again in the story, making her one appearance a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • Beauty's sisters in the original fairy-tale of Beauty and the Beast. Their selfishness and meanness contrast with Beauty's goodness, but apart from manipulating Beauty into extending her home visit too long (leading to the Beast's Disney Death By Despair), they have nothing to do with the central plot, which is Beauty taking her father's place as the Beast's prisoner and then gradually falling in love with him. Their villainy is so plot-irrelevant that adaptations easily leave it out altogether, either making them perfectly nice, loving sisters and having No Antagonist (as in the two Robin McKinley retellings), or else replacing them with an entirely new villain like Disney's Gaston.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien created a very expansive world where every character no matter how secondary in The Lord of the Rings is part of the bigger story where everyone's part is relevant to it, in a way that is not always addressed in as much detail even including the definitive book of Middle Earth history The Silmarillion. As such all of the creatures encountered by the Ringbearer and his Fellowship are in some way connected with the Greater-Scope Villain (who in a way is responsible for every evil that exists) and who is absent by the time of The Lord of the Rings leaving no affiliation between them and the central Big Bad. During the first part of the journey Frodo and his friends are way-laid by a carnivorous tree called Old Man Willow. They are later threatened by the ancient Balrog who used to serve the same master as Sauron but has slumbered deep underground for millennia and was perhaps attracted to the Ring, and by the half-demonic spider-spawn Shelob who satisfies her insatiable hunger by feasting upon anyone unlucky enough to end up in her caverns. The most mysterious must be the Watcher in the Water who is also probably attracted by the Ring and whom even Gandalf fails to identify until later when he claims that nameless beings older than Sauron, lurk in the deepest cracks and crevices of earth.
  • Winni Allfours: O'Toole has virtually no importance to the plot, other than to set up a joke. Mr and Mrs Allfours' refusal to sell Winni to him also shows that they're not bad parents.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who: In "The Beast Below", the Smilers don't appear to do anything of note except look a bit grumpy. They're eerie enough, fitting three faces on a two-sided head, and they appear in some very creepy scenes, but it's never clear whether they're actually causing trouble or they just happen to be there at the time. The closest they come to participating in the plot is marking a child's homework in the Cold Opening.
  • Kamen Rider Den-O worked well as an ensemble Monster of the Week show, and then basically fell apart at the very end, when they tried to introduce a primary antagonist. Not helped by the villain's motivation being rather obtuse up through the end of the series.
  • The Punisher (2017): The main plot is Frank Castle hunting down the people behind Project Cerberus and the massacre of his family. The subplot of Lewis Wilson going from PTSD sufferer to Timothy McVeigh-esque terrorist and going on a rampage has absolutely no relationship to this at all, but it do provides a Deliberately Bad Example to measure Frank against.
  • The insane simulant in the Red Dwarf episode "Justice": Aside from providing an excuse for reaching the space station, he had no purpose other than to tack on an (admittedly funny) action sequence after the plot proper was resolved. Need to get the crew in a Wild West simulation? Simulant. Need a reason to get Rimmer on his own planet for 600 years? Simulant. Need a way to introduce a drugged-up twin brother of Kryten? Simulant. The only Simulant that appears that is directly related to the plot of the episode is The Inquisitor, and really, he might as well not be one, as his motivation isn't the killing of humans, but replacing them in history with those who in his opinion deserve life more.

    Theatre 
  • Hamilton: King George III is technically the main antagonist of the first act, being the king the main characters are revolting against, but plot-wise... he doesn't do anything. All the main characters are in America, and he's in England, so they never tangle with him directly, and, obviously, once the Revolution is won, he has no influence over them anymore. You could cut him out of the script and nothing would really change. So why is he there? To sing not one, not two, but three showstopping Villain Songs, and be hilarious. And the fans love him for it.
  • Yumemigusa, Tsukiuta's Shinsengumi AU, has a villain named, of course, Sakamoto Ryoma (a historical enemy of the Shinsengumi). He has a backstory in that he's a Sole Survivor of a world that was destroyed, and he wants to bring pain and suffering to this one. But the story already has enough pain and suffering because Arata or You (In-Universe double-casting) is dying of tuberculosis (because he's Okita Souji). The villain is essentially just there for some gratuitous Flynning fanservice. On top of that, he's very over-the-top and cheesy, and as such, the actors have parodied that character in the comedy portions of later entries in the series. The actor who played, him, though, has returned for the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 8th entries, as a total of 7 characters so far.
  • Westeros: An American Musical: The play's version of Daenerys Targaryen. "I'll Be Back" reminds the audience that she doesn't have an heir and can't have children. "The Storm's End" has her point out that the turmoil that has happened by the end of Act II would make it a good time for her to try getting the throne... but that she first needs to conquer three different major cities on another continent than the one on which the rest of the characters live. "The Storm's End" is not only the last the audience sees of her, but the last song of the entire play.

    Video Games 
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness: Laharl even named him Midboss because he was a seemingly unimportant villain, and he continually returns to antagonize Laharl's troupe for no apparent real reason. Subverted when it's revealed that he was helping the seraph's Batman Gambit by monitoring Laharl and co. to make sure everything was going according to plan. He's also the reincarnation of Laharl's father.
  • Walhart the Conqueror from Fire Emblem Awakening has no connection to the game's main story arc involving Plegia and the Religion of Evil that seeks to revive the Fell Dragon Grima, he's simply the ruler of a foreign Empire who happens to invade at the time. He mainly exists to give the game's second act an Arc Villain, while the main plot of this act involves simply gathering MacGuffins for the Fire Emblem. The only real plot relevant role he serves is having someone for Basilio to pretend to die fighting, and one of his underlings secretly working for the Grimleal (although this is only revealed in throwaway dialogue and isn't relevant in the grand scheme of things).
  • Spider-Man 2 has Shocker. The real focus of his story missions is on Spider-Man's balance between civilian and hero life, and he's only there to give Spider-Man and Black Cat a reason to work together. The other villains who didn't show up in the movie qualify to a lesser extent; though Mysterio is totally unconnected to the main plot, he at least drives his own subplot, while Bit Part Bad Guy Rhino and Giant Space Flea from Nowhere Bonus Boss Calypso barely qualify as villains in the first place.
  • In the Spider-Man (PS4) game, Shocker qualifies again! Almost every other villain has an important role in the story to some extent. Shocker is just there to get his ass whupped and foreshadow The Demons.
  • Batman: Arkham Series:
    • Batman: Arkham Asylum has Bane: he shows up once to fight Batman and gets taken down immediately, unlike the other villains who all come back at least once. His indirect role in the plot, however, is much greater: Joker plans to use a derivative of the Venom formula in his blood to make rampaging monsters out of all of Gotham.
    • Two-Face in Batman: Arkham City. He is seen once in the main game. With the Catwoman story DLC, twice. The only part he serves in the story is capturing Catwoman for a while so Batman can save her.
      • Mad Hatter has no actual bearing on the plot, yet his side-quest shows up by actually making you believe the plot is solved. All other sidequest villains, like Deadshot or Hush, don't even bother pretending to belong to the plot. To be fair, they can be mostly ignored. But if it's the first time you're playing the game, ignoring Mad Hatter is really hard to do.
      • Riddler, just like in the first game, doesn't actually contribute to the plot, but, again, he certainly doesn't like being ignored, so there's no chance not to run into his sidequest.
    • Only two of the eight assassins in Batman: Arkham Origins directly impact the plot — Bane and Firefly. Another two — Shiva and Deadshot only show up in sidequests. The other four just show up to serve as a boss fight while Batman's trying to do something else. Two of the latter six do indirectly impact things, however — Electrocutioner's gloves become a very useful tool for Batman after his death, and Shiva provides some futureshadowing for the first two Arkham games.
      • Mad Hatter is, once again, irrelevant to the plot, but you get an "invitation" to his sidequest as soon as you finish a story mission.
    • Played with in Batman: Arkham Knight. Most of the villains don't affect the main story directly, but that's their plan; Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight drive the plot and everybody else is trying to tire Batman out, and are dealt with in side missions. This way they get their turn on the spotlight.
  • Most of the villains in LEGO Batman 2 don't do anything, although most of the Batman villains do at least show up to be beaten up in the first few levels. Overlaps with The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, considering there's at least two dozen of them.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • While Final Fantasy VI has quite a few boss fights that have little relevance to the plot, the most obvious is recurring boss Ultros, the wisecracking octopus. His first boss battle takes place at the end of a river level, so it makes a little bit of sense, but you fight him three more times over the course of the game with less and less relevance to the plot in each fight.
    • Seymour Guado in Final Fantasy X becomes this after his plans get thwarted at Bevelle, only appearing to challenge the party in impossible attempts to take back Yuna so that he can become the next Sin. His main claim is showing up as That One Boss in one such appearance, but not even the characters take him all that seriously by the end when they run into him yet again after already making it impossible for his scheme to succeed anyway.
  • Paper Mario
    • Paper Mario 64 has Jr. Troopa. He fights you in the prologue because you intrude on his turf, then shows up in nearly every chapter after that trying to get revenge. He has nothing to do with Bowser or the Star Spirits, he just can't let it go that you beat him.
    • In a way, Bowser ends up in this role for Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. His entire story arc basically comes from the fact that somebody else usurped his role of Big Bad for the game and Bowser's desperate attempts to make himself relevant to the plot. Aside from serving as a boss fight in Glitzville and when he finally manages to meet Mario at the end of the game, he's around as a comic relief role. Then he's never mentioned or seen again after Mario defeats him.
    • Bowser Jr., carries on the tradition in Paper Mario: Sticker Star where he spends his first two appearances attacking Mario to force him to hand over his rare stickers. He only becomes relevant when he uses an airship (implied to have been given to him by Bowser) to prevent Mario from reaching Bowser's Sky Castle in his final appearance.
  • Punchinello in Super Mario RPG comes out of nowhere. He has zero relevance to the plot and the only reason he even attacks Mario's party is to get himself fame and attention. Even Mallow outright says he's never heard of the guy.
  • Persona 4: Izanami, despite being the game's True Final Boss, is seen by many as this, especially in the original PS2 version as their presence was barely alluded to throughout the game before finally being revealed in the last few hours of the game. By the time you face the boss, Tohru Adachi had finally been arrested for the series of murders that have been the primary focus of the game's story. The game tries to justify this by revealing that she was the source of Yu and Adachi's Personas, but that falls flat because Yu had his first Velvet Room vision before he even met Izanami. Defeating Izanami is supposed to put an end to the Midnight Channel, but the spin-offs that came out since render that pointless. You can even skip the fight, and still get the good ending without any indication of negative consequences. Many people believe the game would have been better off if Adachi/Ameno-sagiri was the game's final boss and Izanami's presence only served to drag the game longer than necessary. This is thankfully rectified in Persona 4 Golden, where Izanami gets foreshadowed much more often.
  • Spelunker HD has the black Spelunker, who steals items you wanted and occasionally makes you run away from a bomb. He does nothing to further the "plot," which is just to explore a dungeon, and you don't even contribute to his defeat.
  • Halo
    • The Covenant remnant in Halo 4 do nothing important in the main plot aside from being obstacles. The real threat comes from the Sealed Evil in a Can, the Ur-Didact, who doesn't appear until the third level of the game.
    • The same thing applies to the Covies in Halo 5: Guardians (hell, their leader is killed off at the end of the very first level), though they do have a little more importance in the Sanghelios sections.
  • Stretch from Grand Theft Auto V serves as this for Franklin— while he does cause trouble for Franklin (mainly by tricking and doublecrossing him and Lamar), Franklin often completely forgets about him in the face of bigger threats. It's lampshaded when in the "death wish" ending, Trevor brings him up and Franklin's reaction is "You wanna throw him in?" (since all three protagonists are planning to get back at their respective enemies).
  • The Dollmaker from Welcome to the Game II. Despite being possibly the most twisted person in a game full of them, he has zero bearing on anything to do with the plot. It's entirely possible to go through the whole game without meeting him.
  • Earthworm Jim has, along with the main plot of defending his super-suit and rescuing Princess What's-Her-Name from their main enemies, a lot of time-outs in various planets that are not much of a break since he has to contend with a variety of villains who inhabit those planets and wish to either lay claim on the suit or on his flesh. These include: Evil the Cat who welcomes any weapon that can help him into getting the universe into his planet in a handbasket, Bob the Killer Goldfish whose megalomaniacal plans fit perfectly with the suit's powers, the territorial and xenophobic redneck Chuck and Doc Duodenum who is an organ of simple pleasures content with the much humbler life-goal of consuming whatever passes through its domain. Major Mucus isn't a clear case however, as it was his desiring of the Suit and willingness to fight Psycrow over it, that led it into Jim's worm body. And Professor Monkey-for-a-Head doesn’t qualify either, as he was the one who made the suit to begin with- it was just bad luck that Jim wound up in his lair.
    • The special addition and the sequel add in addition to the aforementioned ones: the eternally hungry and unstoppable Big Bruty, Pedro the Puppa who is a slimy unicycle-riding maggot with religious fundamentalist issues and a Flamin Yawn for good measure.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots: The B&B Corps are almost entirely irrelevant to the plot, to the point that you could remove almost every single instance of them and nothing would change in the narrative. They exist solely to keep up the series' tradition of having a Quirky Miniboss Squad for boss fights, except that FOXHOUND, Dead Cell, and the Cobra Unit were all integral to the plot and could not be easily removed.
  • Lunar: The Silver Star: All Royce really serves in the plot is a boss fight at the end of the game and takes some scenes Xenobia had in the original game, and in the end isn't even needed for the story.
  • Inverted with the titular antagonist of Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, as while Ripto definitely is the main threat to Avalar, the individual realms already had problems before he showed up. The most blatant case is Idol Springs, where the idols turn sentient for no reason (although it's suggested that Ripto's magic caused this).

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The big twist in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is that Professor Zoom is basically this. He reveals in a particularly memorable Wham Line that he's not the one who made the timeline go bad — Barry Allen is, because his going back in time to save his mother from being killed ended up creating a Time Crash that caused the backstories of sundry heroes and villains to happen differently, which is ultimately what lead to the events of the comic/movie. Zoom is there to provide a Batman Cold Open and complications in the final battle, but that is it. This is a big difference from the original Flashpoint story because the writers Adapted Out (or at least made highly ambiguous) the plot point that Zoom was responsible for Wally's mother's death, so the animation makes it look much more like it was Barry's actual selfish desire that made everything go wrong, rather than a decision to Set Right What Once Went Wrong that didn't nullify an attempt to Make Wrong What Once Went Right because the plot said so.
  • The main antagonists, Duchess and Terrence, from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, were important in the pilot and pretty well ignored since. Most episodes of the series proper have No Antagonist, the most frequent source of conflict being Bloo's selfishness or idiocy.
  • The Christmas Special Christopher the Christmas Tree has a scene where a fox and weasel show up for no reason other than to lend the end of the special a little suspense by planting the idea that Christopher will be chopped down for firewood, rather than picked to be a Christmas tree.
  • Parodied in the American Dad! episode "Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth", where Roger is riding Stan in a horse race (Stan's mind is temporarily in a horse's body). Roger mentions his regret that he doesn't have a rival to race against and make it more exciting, so when Stan points out that it isn't too late, Roger deliberately picks a fight with another jockey just to create a rival.
  • Peyo's original comic book version of The Smurfs story "The Astrosmurf" had No Antagonist. The cartoon adaptation, however, put Gargamel in it for some scenes, trailing the Smurfs with a crystal ball to give an added risk of Dreamy Smurf catching onto the plan. He was driven away quickly, and really wasn't necessary for the story as a whole.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero: Rippen is this in "The Ripple Effect". His goal in that episode is to convince the cutelings to move to a planet named Ploopiter and he's not responsible for the catastrophe that made them need to move from their home planet in the first place. Penn is the one who caused the trouble.
  • South Park: Eric Cartman serves as this for the "Imaginationland" trilogy. He doesn't contribute anything to the ongoing conflict and is only interested in having Kyle suck his balls.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: Since the main plot of "Gift of The Card" is about the gift card expiring, Rasticore doesn't do much in his first appearance and has no bearing on the plot. He gets disintegrated once he confronts the heroes.

Alternative Title(s): Villain Who Doesnt Do Anything

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