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Psychotic Smirk

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Peter Sullivan: Why are you always smiling?
Connor Rooney: Because it's all so fuckin' hysterical...

As far as the most devious and subtle of villains are concerned, when it comes to facial expression, less is more. A Cheshire Cat Grin only warns people that something's afoot; a Slasher Smile is even more glaringly obvious. No, when someone's about to walk straight into your Death Trap or your Evil Plan is about to pay big dividends, it's best to show your smug superiority with a devious little smile, probably behind your victim's/lackey's back, or behind your hand (or hands). Only the villain and the viewers know that alarm bells should be ringing in the good guys' heads — but hey, they're the enemy, why give them advance notice? For obvious reasons, this subtle hint of treachery is especially likely to turn up as part of a Traitor Shot.

The Psychotic Smirk is a favorite with Big Bads everywhere. There's no need to broadcast just how dangerous they are — everyone's got a pretty good idea already, but no one can prove it. The important thing is to smile with only one side of the mouth. Sometimes, it's accompanied by a Finger Wag as if to say "Nice try, sucker" if the hero had attempted to defeat them.

Unfortunately, the understated effect is often ruined by an over-the-top Motive Rant when the penny finally drops for the heroes.

For the heroic (but just as cocky) version, see Grin of Audacity. A particular type of Anti-Hero does this, too: the soft-spoken, underhanded ones who always know more than they let on, but never see fit to warn others of the danger.

See Sideways Smile for the generally less-evil-more-neutral version.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Demons of Ah! My Goddess: Velsper and Hilde more so than Mara, who's a little too over-the-top to pull off the "subtle mastermind" shtick.
  • Akuma no Riddle has a cast of mostly Axe-Crazy Professional Killers. There's plenty to go around.
  • Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom sports an utterly chilling one whenever he gets serious, adding to his Dissonant Serenity.
  • Berserk: While the Slasher Smile is Guts's forte, Griffith has mastered the Psychotic Smirk. Suits the Manipulative Bastard quite well.
  • Rock from Black Lagoon has started doing this.
  • Bleach:
    • If you see Aizen smiling even a bit, turn heel and run because it generally means you're on the wrong end of his manipulations — the kind of manipulations that threaten life or sanity. Unfortunately for all the characters, he's always smiling.
    • The anime subtly portrays Mila-Rose as someone that enjoys fighting, with a slight sadistic streak as she's shown with a psychotic smirk when fighting an outmatched Matsumoto.
    • Ginjou has a habit of letting these slip out. His first introduction to the storyline even included one. As he once confessed to Ichigo, when he's forced to play the role of a villain, he tends to go for the cliché.
  • Harusumi of Bokura no Kiseki is pretty fond of this. He'll occasionally combine it with a Death Glare for some truly terrifying expressions.
  • Aion from Chrono Crusade is very fond of this trope. So much so that it's when he stops smirking that you really have to be worried.
  • Lelouch Lamperouge in Code Geass loves doing this behind that Cool Mask of his. For good reason; whenever he does it without the mask it passes from awesome to terrifying. We're first introduced to that smile at the end of the first episode, when he grins just a little too evilly after Geassing the soldiers about to kill him into shooting themselves. It's the blood splashing onto his cheek that really does it.
  • In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Sympathy for the Devil", once Once the truth about Wen is revealed, he starts flashing these sorts of smiles. It's rather unsettling to see on someone who looks like a child.
  • Light from Death Note. Three words: "Exactly as planned." One smirk he busts out is so momentous, it's accompanied by a sudden earthquake in the cinematography.
    • Also, Mello in the scene where his henchman is killing much of his opponent Near's team. In the anime, in the middle of the scene, while the dice are falling and the people are dying, it cuts to Mello, and a satisfied grin. Also chocolate. Always with the chocolate.
  • Piedmon from Digimon Adventure does this every time he's preparing his next move.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Vegeta's psychotic smirk was one of his trademarks as a villain, given just before blasting someone to Hell (or the Next Dimension, for those of you who go by the earlier dub).
    • Cell's final form on Dragon Ball Z seemed to do this all the time. There's one particular example on the cover of DragonballZ Budokai.
    • Gohan counts, too (Super Saiyan 2 Gohan that is).
  • Fairy Tail: Mard Geer of Tartaros, constantly. Whether it's lounging on his throne, making a speech on how humans are pathetic, facing down the Celestial Spirit King, or taking on three Dragonslayers, it seems to be his default expression as The Stoic. When he's Not So Stoic though, it turns to a full-blown Slasher Smile.
  • Haruko from FLCL usually has one whenever she is fighting.
  • If Akito from Fruits Basket (the manga, at least) smiles, this is usually the smile he chooses. Of course, if you take in what his eyes usually say ("I am so enjoying ripping your little psyche to shreds!"), it's a little more disturbing...
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Edward, Envy and Kimblee all do this at least once (but then again, we don't think we've ever seen Kimblee when he's not doing this).
    • In Episode 37, Kimblee actually has a very sweet smile when he tells Winry about her parents, and how his squad was too late to prevent their demise at the hands of Scar. Which only gets just as disturbing once you learn he and his squad were on a mission to dispose of said parents for assisting the enemy.
      • Just FYI: the smile was genuine. Kimblee is a definite sociopath, but he also holds deep admiration and respect for people who stick to their convictions, such as the Rockbells.
    • A non-villainous example is when Grumman's Xanatos Gambit to prevent Bradley, A.K.A Wrath, from being able to reach Central, when Mustang's assault happens, which either Bradley will not return to Central due to a training exercise or does return and his train is destroyed while over a bridge planted with explosives, possibly killing him, pulls off. Grumman has this reaction when he hears that the later happened. It's even better in the anime where the opening notes of the ending theme play right when he does this.
    • In Episode 62 of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, the camera focuses on Father doing this just before he unleashes a Wave-Motion Gun on the heroes.
  • Gauron from Full Metal Panic!, being the Smug Snake he is, has this as his constant default expression. Only broken when he's having one of his Slasher Smiles.
  • The Trigger-Happy Joichiro Nishi from Gantz wears one of these at all times, right up until his incredibly painful death. Though of course, he was Dead to Begin With...
  • While almost everyone in Gintama does this from time to time, Okita and Takasugi probably do it the most.
  • Alucard from Hellsing almost always has this, so much so that it's hard to distinguish this from his Slasher Smile.
    • The Major also sports one quite a lot. Pretty much everyone in the series has had one.
  • Kiku Honda (Japan) of Hetalia: Axis Powers does this very subtly in the anime while being very enigmatic. Coupled with his Monochromatic Eyes...
  • High School D×D: Akeno Himejima loves to play with her prey. The Lecherous Licking only enhances the effect.
  • Naraku from Inuyasha typically has this expression when he has the upper hand and isn't trying to trick the heroes into thinking he doesn't (which is pretty much always).
  • Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, although after he drains Joseph of his blood he gets a Slasher Smile.
  • Everyone in Joker Game does this in one point or another, but especially Yuuki, after successfully gaining what they want from the villains.
  • Kazuma from Kaze no Stigma. He really doesn't like the Tsuwabuki family...
  • In Kunisaki Izumo no Jijou, Kumedara gives one to Izumo before dragging him into drag.
  • Tomomi Saikyo of Ladies versus Butlers!! is commonly seen with this when she is about to/planning to screw over a classmate of hers. It's hinted that she manipulated Akiharu Hino, a childhood friend, into saying, "I want to become a bride."
  • Mad Scientist Big Bad Jail Scaglietti of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS wears one of these on his face most of the time. He uses a particularly nice one when Due assassinates the founders of the Space-Time Administration Bureau.
  • Orga Sabnak, Cortho Bauer, and Sting Oakley of Mobile Suit Gundam SEED and Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny typically sport one of these. Both Cortho and Sting graduate to full on Slasher Smiles following the deaths of their teammates.
  • Alejandro Corner is fond of doing this as his plans unfold in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. And Ribbons starts copying it as soon as it becomes clear that he was just using Corner.
  • Itachi from Naruto seems to consider this his favorite expression. Of course, he only has three; frowning, blank stare, and smirking. If he're in trouble. Direct, immediate, trouble, that is. Most likely he's just reversed your attack and you're about to kill yourself unless you stop.
    • Suigetsu does this most of the time, usually one with his mouth closed if he's genuinely indifferent, or with it slightly open (showing off his shark teeth) if he's about to kill someone face an opponent he thinks he can easily beat. He usually only does otherwise if he's in some sort of danger.
    • And now, Sasuke sports one of these in 476, after crushing Danzo (but not really) for speaking ill of Itachi.
    • Kyuubi!Naruto sports an amazing one near the beginning of his fight with God Realm Pain. You don't get better Psycho Smirks than that.
    • Now Obito has jumped in on the action after being unmasked. His response to being asked if he really is Kakashi's old friend is just a long parade of these one after another.
    • And lest we forget Gaara before his Heel–Face Turn! As shown here, here, here, here and here! And pages 10, 12 and 15 of this gallery have a bunch of his smirks from his battle against Naruto!
  • Psycho Lesbian Tsukuyomi of Negima! Magister Negi Magi often does this in her early appearances. Later on, it turns into a full Slasher Smile.
    • Occasionally Eva slips into this when things are going especially well for her. For example, right before having five of her ribs broken... putting the expression under this trope.
  • Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion smiles like this whenever something goes All According to Plan, although he usually camouflages it by leaning forward on his desk with his hands folded in front of his face. At most other times, he is a Perpetual Frowner — when he smiles openly, it's never good news for anyone but him.
  • Everybody in the chaotic Dysfunction Junction and Cast Full of Crazy that PandoraHearts is made of busts out one of these at some point or another, although in this manga it's commonly crossed with a Slasher Smile.
  • Anti-Hero type: Count D in Pet Shop of Horrors, particularly when he's manipulating a presidential candidate and his aide in Dual and when he tells a couple to "take good care" of their new pet rabbit/surrogate daughter in Daughter. In the anime, this is made even more creepy when the darkness of the screen emphasises his smirk and his mismatched, glowing eyes.
  • Mewtwo from Pokémon: The First Movie spends most of the movie wearing a cold, stern expression, but he gives a couple of smirks when amused by Ash and co. defiance towards him.
  • Rebuild World:
    • Sheryl, a morally grey Guile Hero, does this whenever Akira is being threatening towards someone she’s angry at.
    • When the unscrupulous Knowledge Broker Viola tries to sell information to Mizuha about how her organization Drankam has The Mole inside of it, and Mizuha refuses to hear what she’s trying to sell, Viola smiles like this imagining how Mizuha might be ruined by said mole.
    • Chloe, a Drama Queen villainess, does this when Akira plays right into her traps, doubling as an I Shall Taunt You provocation.
  • Moka Akashiya's Superpowered Evil Side from Rosario + Vampire hardly smiles, but sometimes she does it to look frighting. This is made all the more frightening in the first season due to Art Evolution just starting...
  • Ukyo from Samurai 7 is fond of this. And it is creepy.
  • Xellos from Slayers is also an antihero version. Of course, he smiles all the time, so his smirks are definitely important when they show up, usually complimented by a slight opening of his eyes, another important visual cue.
  • Characters driven insane in Soul Eater mainly get full-on Slasher Smiles. It's just the look that's used. In his moment of madness, Death the Kid gets a smirk not entirely unlike his expression when pleased under normal circumstances. Somehow this makes it worse.
    • Stein gets some fantastic ones here.
  • Kagato, in Tenchi Muyo!.
  • Legato Bluesummers from Trigun puts off several of these.
  • Dilandau Albetou from The Vision of Escaflowne, frequently switches between his trademark Psychotic Smirk and a disturbing Slasher Smile.
  • Noa, villain of the Virtual Nightmare arc of Yu-Gi-Oh!, has this expression when watching the misery of the heroes from the comfort of his cyber-throne. He gets it almost perfectly right.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman's enemy the Riddler is fond of doing these.
  • The Daredevil villain Bullseye does this a lot.
  • Mender of Elfquest fame does the same when riled up during a fight. He uses the Facepalm of Doom for extra benefit.
  • The Marvel Universe's Thanos of Titan combines the Psychotic Smirk with the Glowing Eyes of Doom (which occasionally has a smoking effect for the extra panache).
  • The New Gods villain Darkseid does this a lot, too...
  • The Runaways villain Kid Twist has one as he guns down the Street Arabs. Given that he is a 1900s expy of the above-mentioned Bullseye, this is probably to be expected.
  • Secret Six: Cheshire sports a particularly frightening one while spying on Deadshot and Catman in Villains United.
  • Watchmen: Who could forget Ozymandias' classic smirk when Dan questions his ability to catch a bullet?
  • X-Wing Rogue Squadron: Every now and again Big Bad Manipulative Bastard Ysanne Isard gets to do this.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): MaNi/Elder Brother has a smirk on his face, before he stabs Monster X in a way he knows will be extremely uncomfortable and torturous.
  • Advice and Trust: After firing Shinji and Asuka for "insubordination", Gendo's face displays a very disturbing smirk while he tells his Sub-commander that should he need them again, he can easily manipulate them into coming back.
    Gendo finally turned to give his Sub-Commander a razor thin smile. "Really, Professor, they are not that hard to manipulate. Despite their ability to Pilot the most potent weapons humanity has ever built, the Children have no real power here."
  • Child of the Storm has Doctor Strange, who usually has a Grin of Audacity on his face, but sometimes it turns into one of these. It's usually a prelude to a reminder that for all his sometimes quirky mannerisms, there is a reason that this man has a reputation as The Dreaded sufficient to baulk gods.
    • Harry, his student, is a generally Nice Guy, who at worst (after an epic Trauma Conga Line) is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a grumpy Knight in Sour Armor. However, 'generally' is not 'invariably', and he develops an occasional one in the sequel Ghosts of the Past that reminds people unnervingly of Strange. It usually appears when he's about to come up with something creatively nasty to screw over the bad guys.
  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Ami, like her canon counterpart, is as about a nice a girl as you can get. But occasionally she'll have a really 'good' science related idea or figure out how to get back at a villain in the perfect way. Then a very disturbing smile appears on her face, and it really doesn't help that her eyes glow red
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, all the Yakuza can do it, mainly because it implies that they can give you hell. Mori's smirk, on the other hand, can cause fear-induced paralysis, and she isn't even one.
  • Severa, from the Knights and Dragons, a Percy Jackson and the Olympians fic, is like this. Permanently.
  • In Loved and Lost, Prince Jewelius gives Queen Chrysalis a sly and malicious grin right before Twilight Sparkle uses the spell he showed her a few chapters earlier to turn Chrysalis and her entire Changeling army tiny enough to trap them all in the glass jar he just revealed. This is also foreshadowing to a later revelation that Jewelius and Chrysalis at first worked together to take over Equestria on Princess Cadance and Shining Armor's wedding day until he decided to make Twilight his pawn and help her defeat the Changelings while making the public believe all the other heroes are to blame.
  • Thousand Shinji: Shinji displays a very unsettling smirk after telling Misato a not-false-but-not-quite-true-either tale about his canopic jars.
    When she was safely out of view, Shinji let a snake-like smirk cross his face.
  • The Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic Trick of the Light has this description of the Manipulative Bastard Roy Mustang:
    Colonel Mustang upheld his reputation as a man so far gone into smirking that the expression was terminally default. When the time came to bury him at last, the mortician would have to chisel his lips back into a proper, neutral line, an artificial solemnity that never existed in his waking moments save during interrogations.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Michael Keaton's version of Batman was prone to doing this: twice in Batman (1989) (first when telling one of the muggers "I'm Batman," then again when Jack Napier says "Nice suit.") and once in Batman Returns (when strapping the bomb to the strongman).
  • A Clockwork Orange
    • Alex does this frequently, most famously paring it with a Kubrick Stare during the opening scene at the Korova Milk Bar.
    • Frank Alexander gets in on the action when he's torturing Alex with Beethoven's Ninth, hinting that in this moment, they're not so different.
  • In The Equalizer, when Nicolai is not keeping his menacing frown, he sports one of these for a small time.
  • Castor Troy in Face/Off. Sean Archer does this also, when he is still Castor Troy and when he's drunk, as shown here.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong: Walter Simmons has a particularly small yet devious one on his face when he enters the control hub, right before the test run begins and Mechagodzilla in all its frightening glory is revealed to the audience and to Team Godzilla (whom Simmons is unaware are watching).
  • Jurassic World: Hoskins has one on his face when the aviary's swarming occupants are wreaking havoc on the park's visitors.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
  • Laurie has one of these at the end of Halloween II (2009).
  • Robo-Maria from Metropolis, in every single scene she's in (Even while she's being burned at the stake!).
  • The Villain Protagonist of Mr. Brooks employs a particularly impressive smirk during his Moment of Awesome.
  • Arnold Vosloo's smirk is probably the main reason he got the part of Imhotep in The Mummy Trilogy.
  • The Omen (1976) with Damien. At the end, during Robert and Kate Thorn's funeral, he turns towards the camera and gives a little smile. Damien's nanny, Mrs. Baylock, also pulls off the trope, most notably when she's about to kill Kate.
  • Pretty much the whole point of Paranoiac is seeing Oliver Reed grin creepily.
  • Sean Miller, an Irish terrorist in Patriot Games, uses this on Jack Ryan during his own trial for murder and attempted kidnapping.
  • Marion Crane in Psycho while driving along and imagining the reactions of everyone in her life upon realizing that she's stolen $40,000 and fled with it. Norman Bates has one at the end after he's caught.
  • Star Wars: Emperor Palpatine does this quite a bit, one of the most notable examples would be when he's chuckling to himself behind Vader's back during the latter's infamous Big "NO!" in Revenge of the Sith.
  • X-Men Film Series
    • X2: X-Men United
      • Magneto performs a Psychotic Wink after admonishing the (dead) guard for unwittingly aiding in his escape.
      • He gives another little smile to Jason Stryker after his helmet no sells the psychic attack Jason was making Xavier perform on all mutants.
    • In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Victor Creed likes giving these.
  • Isildur in The Lord of the Rings does one of these when refusing Elrond's request that he destroy the One Ring, showing that he's already under the influence of the Ring within minutes of picking it up.
  • In The Stinger for Venom (2018), when Eddie Brock goes to visit Serial Killer Cletus Kasady for an interview, the latter gives Eddie a psychotic smile after vowing that when he escapes, there will be carnage.

  • Most of the head looters in Atlas Shrugged. Especially Cuffy Meigs, Mr. Thompson, Dr. Floyd Ferris, and Balph Eubank. Along with the producers: Francisco D'Anconia, John Galt , and Hank Rearden.
  • Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov has a habit of flashing these when he thinks he's making an irrefutable point. He can't help himself from grinning sickly here and there when he's giving Ivan a Heroic BSoD during his mind-blowing Motive Rant.
  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Spine Tinglers II: The mysterious woman in The Elevator sports one of these toward the end of the story. It's part of her unexplained psychological campaign against Martin.
  • Kitiara from the Dragonlance series frequentely shows a malicious, slanted smile.
  • In the Everworld series, the witch Senna almost never smiles. However, when she's using magic to attack or to control someone, she occasionally makes small smiles to herself. She never shows teeth, but they're so disturbingly described that they would probably qualify as a Slasher Smile if she was more open with them.
  • This seems to be Draco Malfoy's default facial expression.
  • The Kite Runner gives us the following. Bear in mind that the Psychotic Smirker in question has just raped the best friend of the boy he's smiling at.
    Assef smiled. It was creepy how genuinely sweet he made it look.
  • Whenever Zack, the Anti-Hero of The Mental State, has succeeded in one of his devious schemes, he always sports this expression. Sometimes, you only realise just how badly you have been screwed and who is responsible when he gives you one of these looks directly.
  • Lisbeth Salander's crooked half-smile.
  • Edgar Allan Poe, in his humorous essay "Diddling Considered As One Of The Exact Sciences", declares that one of the defining traits of a Con Man is his grin, which he only permits himself in private when no one is there to see it.
  • When Grand Admiral Thrawn smiles, which happens very rarely, it tends to be this. He's quite self-possessed.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Deus Encarmine, when Arkio has touched the Spear of Telesto and briefly taken on the appearance of the primarch Sanguinius, much impressing his fellow Blood Angels, Inquisitor Stele can not keep "a thin, icy smile" from his lips.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Anna Espinosa, a recurring antagonist on Alias, was fond of this trope. Sark, too, if memory serves.
  • Kerr Avon from Blake's 7 has one of the scariest and most ambiguous smiles in TV history. It's hardly ever obvious just what it portends until he acts.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Within the first ten minutes of the episode "Innocence", the Judge walks up to Angel, and tries to burn him. Since the Judge can only burn someone with humanity in them, it serves as a marker that Angel has lost his soul. He turns to Drusilla, and says "I'm back", with a very muted psychotic smirk.
    • Angelus also sports a particularly evil smirk in "Passion" when he's watching Buffy and Willow break down upon being told about Jenny's murder. In fact, Angelus is nearly always wearing one.
    • In Season 8, Buffy gives a particularly frightening one to a vampire as it's doused in fuel, threatening to Kill It with Fire.
  • Jeff Winger on Community (the Anti-Hero version).
  • Lila from Dexter does this in a Revealing Hug with Dexter, having successfully gotten him to come to see her after he'd previously ignored her phone calls.
  • Doctor Who:
    • This is to the First Doctor what the Cheshire Cat Grin is to the Fourth — it's his trademark "I've-just-done-something-very-clever" expression. Excellent examples are when he knows he's got the Daleks beaten at the end of "The Dalek Invasion of Earth", when he's teasing his torturer with a Psychic Block Defense in "The Space Museum", and when he's embarrassing Emperor Nero in "The Romans".
    • "The Satan Pit": The Beast, in the body of Toby Zed, does this when it believes that its escape from Krop Tor is certain. The others onboard the spaceship notice, but don't initially think too much of it.
    • Jeremy Baines/Son of Mine of the Family of Blood is always wearing one of these, yet no-one except maybe Tim Latimer seems to think the guy Son is now possessing suddenly looking this way is cause for concern until he and the Family crash the dance...
    • The Jacobi and Simm Masters enjoy doing this too, which is incredibly startling to see on the Jacobi version after he's played a kindly old man most of the episode.
    • "Midnight" has such a smirk on the face of whatever's possessing Sky whenever things are going well for it.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Roose Bolton puts on a flat out disturbing one combined with a kubrick stare during The Rains of Castamere when urges Catelyn via his eyes to pull up his sleeve and see he has his chainmail on thus cluing her and the audience in he's betrayed Robb and the Red Wedding is about to begin.
    • And then there's his bastard son, Ramsay, who is a master of this.
    • Walder Frey also sports one throughout most of the Red Wedding.
    • This seems to be Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish's default expression.
    • Arya Stark's is developing very nicely, despite ostensibly being one of the good guys, as she progresses from Princess in Rags to vengeance-seeking Child Soldier. She almost gives one when she sees the body of The Tickler. She definitely gives one after killing Polliver.
    • Septa Unella has one of these going on during Cersei's walk of shame. What's more, it only grows more pronounced as the commoners hurl abuse and filth at the queen. Clearly, the good septa is Not So Above It All, something Cersei later calls her out on when the tables are turned.
    • Cersei as she's carried off in the arms of Ser Robert Strong, her instrument of future vengeance, in "Mother's Mercy".
    • As Khal Moro describes in detail how Daenerys is not going to be a Dosh Khaleen and instead will be gang raped for her insolence, Dany just stands there with a smug malevolent grin, savoring the notion that he, the other khals, and their blood riders are moments away from dying in a fire. Moro is unnerved that she's doing this instead of despairing.
    • The Waif has a small gleeful smirk on her face after she receives her charge to assassinate Arya.
    • Sansa leaves the kennels with a smile as her abusive husband Ramsay gets eaten alive by his own hounds in the background. You can't blame her...
    • The Night King does this after Daenerys' attempt to destroy him with Dragonfire does absolutely nothing to him. The fact that this is the only time the character has shown an expression besides scowling makes it even scarier.
  • Hannibal: The final shot of the first season sees Dr. Hannibal Lecter smiling at the camera while looking at Will Graham, whom he has successfully framed for all of his brutal crimes.
  • Sylar from Heroes does this occasionally. Apparently, Sendhil Ramamurthy who plays Mohinder does a pretty good one, too!
    • One particularly memorable smirk came while he was shapeshifted as Micah to help him fake his death. For a split second, "Sylar" shows through. The kid nails it.
  • Male Yandere Masato Kusaka from Kamen Rider Faiz used to do this when he was trying to separate Takumi from his friends... until episode 30, when it morphed into a creepy Slasher Smile.
  • Hilary Briss on The League of Gentlemen, who has this hideous, almost mocking smile.
  • Benjamin Linus from Lost does this from time to time. The most obvious example would be when he flashes a psychotic smirk in season 4, after having masterfully convinced Sayid to become his personal assassin after they both leave the island.
  • In Merlin (2008), we have Morgana. Dear God Morgana. Everytime she does something evil her psychotic smirk goes on a rampage and smacks us in the face. Worse? She does it in broad daylight in front of the people she is convincing that she is still good. And they never notice it. It does finally blow her cover when Gwen notices it.
  • Mr. Robot: Post her Face–Heel Turn, Angela sports one of these when Mr. Robot calls her out on exploiting Elliot's mental illness.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: James Gillies has a creepy smirk at the end of "The Murdoch Trap".
  • This seems to be the default expression of Ryan O'Reily in OZ, but seeing as he spends the entire series manipulating one side against the other it's hardly surprising.
  • Psychopath Diary: In-woo has a very unhinged half-laugh half-grin that he uses when planning to kill someone.
  • Default expression for Lionel and Lex Luthor in Smallville. Chloealso gets a small one when Lionel convinces her to do a temporary Face–Heel Turn.
  • Someday or One Day: The first hint that Xie Zhong Ru who is really Xie Zhi Qi is off are his sinister smiles when looking at and hearing about Chen Yun Ru. Later on it turns into outright Slasher Smile territory when he's attacking with intent to kill.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In "Mirror, Mirror", Mirror Sulu does this right after he announces his plan to kill off both Kirk and Spock while casually tilting his knife from side to side. These Mirror Universe security chiefs seem to have a thing for being a Smug Snake...
      • Also, in "Return to Tomorrow", the alien of the week who has body-snatched Spock wears either this or a Smug Smile in almost every scene he is in. Especially disturbing, since the audience is used to Nimoy keeping his face perfectly calm and expressionless as The Stoic Vulcan.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: This is one of the more unsettling traits of resident Magnificent Bastard Elim Garak. Whether he's hemming a dress or killing someone in cold blood, he almost always wears a small, pleasant smile on his face. It should be noted, though, that while this is his face's default setting, if you ever see that smirk disappear, it's already too late...
    • Star Trek: Enterprise: Stiff-upper-lip tactical officer Malcolm Reed does this when taken over by a non-corporeal alien in "The Crossing", and when he's just plain Mirror Universe evil in "In a Mirror, Darkly" (check out the scene in which Reed watches his own ship get destroyed).
    • Star Trek: Picard: Narissa frequently grins when she either contemplates harming someone, is in the process of doing so, or after she has already tormented her victim.
  • Strangers From Hell: Moon-jo wears an incredibly disturbing smirk when he's killing people or when he's trying to convert them into serial killers.
  • Supernatural:
    • Sam when he was The Soulless, watching as Dean was turned into a vampire and he realized he could use a vampirized Dean to help track the Alpha Vampire. Creepy.
    • Ruby has an obnoxious habit of breaking out cocky little smirks when Sam's got his back turned and she's succeeding in molding him into her Unwitting Pawn. She flashes one such smile at Dean when they both recognize that the other knows Lilith is the last seal and he's shown up too late to stop them.
    • The Trickster wears this a couple of times — there's a particularly good example in the episode "Changing Channels".
    • In "Moriah", Chuck has one before snapping his fingers to kill Jack.
  • Torchwood: In "Small Worlds", Wicked Stepfather Roy has one which goes unnoticed by his girlfriend and the many party-goers, when he sees Jasmine is about to discover she's been fenced off from the Faeries' forest. He gets his just deserts a few minutes later.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • IWRG and EMLL luchador Sable had such a look cut into his mask.
  • Randy Orton viciously stomping the heads of other wrestlers (most of them legends), presumably giving them career ending concussions. Right before Orton does the move, he gets a sinister look in his eyes and gives a smirk.


    Video Games 
  • Zsasz displays a very creepy one on his character trophy in Batman: Arkham City.
  • This is the second of Hazama's three smiles, squeezed in between his unpleasant Cheshire Cat Grin and monstrous Slasher Smile.
  • Master Contra from Neo Contra.
  • Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII tosses Cloud a cold, calculating smile as he basks in the flames of the protagonist's hometown (although Crisis Core retconned it slightly so it resembled more of a sorrowful or rageful expression).
    • Not to mention a chillingly smug smirk when he runs his sword through Aerith.
    • In Advent Children, Sephiroth's Psychotic Smirk is clearly in evidence during his big fight with Cloud. That, a bit of Dissonant Serenity, and the fact that he never breaks a sweat or breathes heavy during this fight was supposedly done to show his immense strength.
    • Sephiroth also displays a charmingly evil smirk during his boss battle with Zack in Crisis Core.
      • Sephiroth is pretty much the king of this trope, and Rosso the Crimson is his queen.
  • The default expression of the megalomaniacal dictator Paulo Orlovsky from Gadget: Past as Future. It's notable in that he's the only character with a facial expression that can be discernably read at all. Every other character in the game has a neutral look on their face that sometimes vaguely looks melancholic. However, as the one causing the other characters' misery for his own pursuit of power, Orlovsky certainly has a lot to be happy about.
  • Haunting Ground: If Daniella isn't expressionless, she's doing this.
  • Norman Jayden from Heavy Rain sports one of these in the ending "Uploaded" right after scaring the shit out of Carter Blake in ARI.
  • In Hotline Miami, the janitor duo constantly have these plastered on their faces upon being confronted by the Biker in the "Resolution" chapter. They do, however, stop smirking when the Biker tells them that he managed to bypass their computer's security measures.
  • Master Xehanort of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is nearly always wearing one of these.
    • Larxene pulls one of these before kicking Sora to the ground.
  • In Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards the ruler of Ripple Star does one of these behind Ribbon's back during the game's false ending.
  • Kain smiles for the first time in centuries in Legacy of Kain: Defiance, just before trumping Moebius for the last time. Or, as one Fauxtivational Poster put it, "Kain is smiling. Run for your lives."
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: "Professor Alba" adopts one after Joshua accuses him of orchestrating the memory-loss events at the end of the first game. It's an early reveal that he's not exactly what he appears to be.
  • In Zelda: Wand of Gamelon, Zelda gives a creepy little smirk after she kills Hectan
    Zelda: Good.
  • Ganondorf's default expression in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • A rare heroic example, perhaps, would be Commander Shepard him/herself. While the Renegade Shepard does this quite often, there are two particular occasions when even the Paragon Shepard cannot help but break out that signature Shepard smirk that says "I just saved the galaxy and I'm not even tired. What can you do, suckers?" These occasions are when Shepard emerges quite alive from the rubble after the battle with Saren/Sovereign and when Shepard tells the Illusive Man to go fuck himself right after blowing up the Collector base.
    • Mass Effect 3: When questioned by Admiral Hackett on how s/he got the krogan and salarians to cooperate (answer: by sabotaging the genophage cure), Shepard's response of "careful diplomacy" is accompanied by a Kubrick Stare and Psychotic Smirk.
  • This is the default expression of Shadows in Persona 4. The exceptions are Shadow Teddie, who has a blank grimace, and Shadow Naoto, who switches between crying and looking superior.
  • Persona 5: As befitting his trickster personality, the protagonist smirks a lot; he has a particularly smug one after he successfully tricks the traitor. In the bad ending where he makes a deal with the Big Bad, he gives a particularly evil one, complete with sinister chuckle.
  • In Pokémon Sun and Moon, Lusamine sports one after the first encounter with UB 01/Nihilego. She sports this smile multiple times after she's revealed as the big bad of the story.
  • Alex Mercer does these from time to time. His habit of flashing them at victims when he believes them at his mercy means they border on slasher smiles a lot (and his dietary habits sure don't help dispel that impression). He's just not a naturally reassuring sort of person.
  • This is Wong's default expression in Psychic Force. Guy's a very happy Chessmaster.
  • Albert Wesker of the Resident Evil games loves this, especially in Resident Evil 0 and Code: Veronica. In both games, he's controlling a series of deathtraps that the player has to navigate through. He also smirks evilly when he takes on Code: Veronica's Big Bad; after finding himself over his head, he smirks and leaves the two of you alone to work out your differences.
  • Ishida Mitsunari in the opening video of Sengoku Basara 3, after dealing swift death to a couple of mooks. And then he glares for the rest of the entire game.
  • Utilized as a game mechanic in Shin Megami Tensei IV, where any unit can gain the Smirk status if they score a critical hit or nullify an enemy attack. The following attack will be much more powerful as a result, and the icon for it is depicted as a devilish demon face.
  • Part of The Reveal in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time: Penelope comes out of her Black Knight mecha while sporting one, and keeps it throughout the whole scene as she gloats over how she played with Bentley over a false romance, intends to kill his two best friends, and then use his skills to make billions in weapon designs, unknowingly exposing herself as The Sociopath to Bentley as he was in the rafters at the time. It turns into a Slasher Smile when the Cooper Gang finally confront her.
  • Since Shadow the Hedgehog is supposed to be a darker version of Sonic The Hedgehog (Stalwart of the Sideways Smile), when he isn't scowling, he will occasionally drop one of these.
  • Richard gets a good one in a cutscene in Tales of Graces, as he is being crowned King of Windor. And after that things go quickly to hell and he mostly resorts to a full-on Slasher Smile
  • Team Fortress 2's Mac Update trailer features a Scout that meets up with his team's Demoman and Heavy (who are enjoying music courtesy earbuds on thin, white wires), trades his clunky 1950s headset for a matching pair of sleek white earbuds, slings his bat over his shoulder, and unleashes the smirk.
  • Jeanette Voerman in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines does a minxy one of these when sending you off on her schemes, Rawr.
  • Volsung from Wild ARMs 5.
  • Bloody Mary from The Wolf Among Us is almost always wearing one from the moment she's introduced in "A Crooked Mile".
  • In a flashback, Joshua of The World Ends with You pulls a deeply unsettling one of these right before shooting Neku in the head. He gets another one in the endgame when threatening to do it again, though the smile gets softer after he actually does.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Prosecutor Miles Edgeworth does this in court whenever he's about to say something that will crush Pheonix's argument.
    • Damon Gant, the culprit of Case 5 in the first game.
    • Matt Engarde sports a wicked one after he's reveals himself as the killer in final case of the second game.
    • Kristoph Gavin, the Big Bad of Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney.
    • Shi-Na/Calisto Yew in Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth.
    • Investigations 2: Horace Knightley, Sirhan Dogen, Dane Gustavia, Blaise Debeste, and Simon Keyes, all making frequent use of one.
    • Edgeworth still does this in the Investigations games. Yes, he's the protagonist. Yes, he's a good guy now. Nevertheless, one still can't help but feel that he's hatching some insidious plan whenever he smirks.
  • Tsukihime: Nanaya Shiki. Usually more of an antihero than a villain, his smirk doesn't mean he knows more than he's letting's just that he's going to love kicking/killing your ass.
  • Bernkastel of Umineko: When They Cry does this a whole lot after The Reveal.


    Web Original 
  • The Anti-Villain Dr. Horrible has one of these at the end of Act II, as he begins "Brand New Day," and resolves to Murder the Hypotenuse.
    • And again, in Act III, during his Villain Song "Slipping."
  • Evan from Everyman HYBRID shows off a creepy one at the end of "Joke's Over", while Vince is talking about how two of their friends are missing.
  • The Nostalgia Chick gets a good one when she successfully pulls a Wounded Gazelle Gambit on the Critic.
    • Speaking of Critic, he spends most of "The Review Must Go On" like this. His even doing it when he's back at his desk made people theorize that he Came Back Wrong. He does it again at the end of The Cat In The Hat when Soulless is screaming in hell from his torture suggestion.
  • RWBY:
    • The Dragon Cinder Fall loves this trope.
    • One of her accomplices, Mercury Black also likes this trope, especially while Ruby's in shock over Penny's death.
    • Neo also gives one after handing Yang a Curb-Stomp Battle.

    Western Animation 
  • Azula of Avatar: The Last Airbender has this down to a fine art: when she strikes down Iroh when he's not looking, when she gets Zuko to join her by saying it's his choice, when she attacks Aang mid-Transformation Sequence, and when she reveals the contingency plan after figuring out Aang is alive from Zuko pausing and saying there was no way he could have survived.
    • The picture that used to be above comes from the finale, while Azula is suffering from her Villainous Breakdown. As time goes on, it degenerates into a full-on Slasher Smile. In general, she was a child prodigy gifted in general evil, which comes with the Psychotic Smirk.
    • In "The Boiling Rock", Zuko gives one of his own after unbolting the cooler. Looking kinda Light Yagami there, Zuko. Though oddly this is the only time he makes one and it's after he does a Heel–Face Turn.
      • Psychotic smirks must run in the family, as Ozai is also a master at this. He displays several throughout the Day of Black Sun and Sozin's Comet.
  • Lydia from Barbie & The Diamond Castle.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Bad!Ben in "Above and Beyond" wears one when he's particularly enjoying terrorizing the Plumber cadets.
  • Danny Phantom has Big Bad Vlad Masters who cracks one of these every so often throughout the series, often in front of the main hero as much as he does in secret.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Damn Movie, Eddy's Brother sports one just before he beats up Edd and Eddy.
  • The Fairly OddParents!: Timmy gets one that takes up most of his face in "Timmy's 2-D House of Horror", when he notices the wave of lava headed towards Vicky's house.
  • Black Knight on Generator Rex displays one whenever she has the upper hand. It also indicates to perceptive combatants she's dropped her guard.
  • Heloise on Jimmy Two-Shoes, whenever she isn't going for a full on Slasher Smile.
  • If Batman is smirking? Be very afraid.
    • Be even more afraid when Superman does it.
    • In various animated adaptions featuring the Joker, he will sport one of these in addition to his trademark Slasher Smile especially in regards to the power struggle between him and Batman.
  • June on KaBlam! does this a lot. Unlike others with this trope, she's one of the protagonists (even if her ideas of fun include putting her friend, Henry, through hell).
  • Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters has the usually flegmatic, Affably Evil Choten delivering a quite creepy one when pulling a You Have Failed Me on Fingers.
  • Kim Possible:
  • The Legend of Korra
    • Amon from wears a mask with a built-in evil smirk that's both deceptively inviting and unnerving.
    • Criminal waterbender Ming Hua occasionally displays one, usually while delivering a vicious beatdown.
    • Kuvira from Book 4 will occasionally wear one of these when something goes her way. And for someone portrayed as a stoic Iron Lady, they are surprisingly unsettling.
  • Surprisingly, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has Fake!Cadance pulling this off from time to time, though one of her more memorable ones is when she has a sinister smirk while in front of green fire when she sends away Twilight to the crystal caves.
  • Matrix from ReBoot tends to do this, usually right before he's about to start deleting things. This conversation pretty much sums it up:
    Ray Tracer: Nice chap. Does he ever smile?
    AndrAIa: If he does, run. Very fast.
    • Megabyte also smirks a lot, most terrifyingly when he banishes Bob into the Net.
    • It was also one of Hexadecimal's favorite masks, though she seemed to sport it even MORE often after Bob "fixed her face" and let her have actual expressions.
  • The Simpsons: Mr. Burns often pulls this expression, often coupling it with steepled fingers and a hissy "Eeeeeeexcellent!"
    • Discussed in "Monty Can't Buy Me Love." Kent Brockman provides a practical news voice-over describing the typical billionaire: "a joyless miser brooding in his cavernous mansion, grasping a glass of brandy with his thin, claw-like fingers and a superior smirk on his greedy, soulless face." Cut to Mr. Burns in this exact position, chilling smirk and all.
  • Storm Hawks: Add a One-Liner and this is basically how half of Master Cyclonis' appearances end.
  • Megatron and Starscream, in whichever series they feature in, often sport this expression when a plan is going well.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Psychotic Smile, Psycho Smirk


Prussian wins over his prey

In the episode "Hi Violet!", Violet is good at frightening his foes with his roar, when a old lady accidentally sneezed and shot her teeth gums into Violet's mouth, Violet tried using his roar until he was utterly inept at his usual skill.. making this Prussian's finest moment with getting the upper hand towards his prey.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / PsychoticSmirk

Media sources: