Follow TV Tropes


Sanity Has Advantages

Go To

Will Graham: I thought you might enjoy the challenge. Find out if you're smarter than the person I'm looking for.
Hannibal Lecter: Then, by implication, you think you're smarter than I am, since it was you who caught me.
Will Graham: No, I know I'm not smarter than you.
Hannibal Lecter: Then how did you catch me?
Will Graham: You had... disadvantages.
Hannibal Lecter: What disadvantages?
Will Graham: You're insane.

Someone, perhaps The Hero, has to deal with an Ax-Crazy character who is more than a match for them...if it weren't for the fact that said Ax-Crazy character is of course insane in a way that can be exploited (by a Guile Hero in particular).

Is the villain suffering from a Split Personality? Well, turn the multiple personalities against each other, the villain will be completely ineffective as they squabble and fight for control. Is the villain's problem a Complexity Addiction? Appeal to his ego; simply killing the hero with the pull of a trigger or a swing of an axe probably isn't grandiose enough for him. Is the villain a gambling addict? Challenge him to a game of chance, he won't be able to resist. What about the remorseless, sadistic Psychopathic Manchild who kills For the Evulz? Even he will grovel sobbingly at the feet of the guy who holds his favorite teddy bear hostage. A Blood Knight hopelessly addicted to fighting? He won't kill you and will probably hold himself back or even deliberately give you an advantage at some point because killing you or winning by an overwhelming margin is no fun. Particularly bad case of Hair-Trigger Temper? You can easily get them to do something incredibly stupid in a blind rage without even really trying. The No-Nonsense Nemesis? Ask him about his Fantasy-Forbidding Father and sit back and listen to his angry ranting about how his father literally smacked the concept of "professionalism" in his head and hope the cavalry arrives before he runs out of steam.

On those rare occasions when an Ax-Crazy villain becomes Bored with Insanity and turns sane again, the new-found sanity may throw our heroes for a loop when they make their plans...

Can be a specific flavor of Batman Gambit. Compare Not Worth Killing and Blofeld Ploy. Games with a Sanity Meter encourage this. Contrast Power Born of Madness, where insanity has its advantages too.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • After God: Vollof is so addicted to drugs, he gives Alula some powers back, hoping she can create more for him. The one who tried to kill him previously and had to be sealed away. Alula naturally thanks him by biting part of his head off, and he's still not getting why she'd be angry. He also asks Orokapi, who's bleeding on the floor, if he can still produce sweet venom, unwittingly pushing him to side with humans and later Orokapi killing him.
  • Used a few times in Black Lagoon. Though, it varies.
    • Sawyer the Cleaner is defeated in her first appearance when she drops her handheld Audiovox off a building into a fire, causing her to drop into a near-catatonic depression just as she is about to kill her target with a chainsaw. She also needs one hand to use the Audiovox, and has to stop attacking with her two-handed chainsaw in order to say anything. She realizes that this is an issue and later gets a collar Audiovox, preventing this from happening again.
    • The Twins are absolutely brutal in combat, but due to their madness and bloodlust they have absolutely no grasp of the bigger picture; they willingly walk into a trap that Bailailaka even comments a sane person would never have fallen for, just for the mere chance of getting to kill more people.
    • On the other hand, when Revy snaps and goes into Whitman Fever mode, she becomes ruthlessly effective. However, she's easily distracted by a room full of unarmed, surrendering people, and won't stop until she kills everyone in her path, no matter what. Ruthless, yes, but a waste of ammunition and time while on a job that already has a set target, and at the same time attracting unneeded attention, which is the reason Dutch calls her out on it.
  • In Bleach, after Aizen fuses with the Hogyoku, he proclaims that he is a god and throws away all the tactics that had previously served him so well in favor of relying on raw power to crush his enemies. This trope comes into play when he finally comes across someone more powerful than he is — Ichigo after his latest bout of Training from Hell — at which point Aizen promptly gets curb-stomped. This is shown again in the final battle of the Blood War arc, when Aizen and Ichigo join forces against the new Big Bad. The Hogyoku now "only" gives Aizen Complete Immortality and otherwise his power level is back to what it was before fusing with it... but his masterful use of illusions is extremely effective even though said new Big Bad is a Reality Warper so powerful he's known as "The Almighty".
  • Cowboy Bebop: Spike is cornered by Nigh-Invulnerable Mad Pierrot, but is saved by Mad Pierrot's paralyzing fear of cats. In the episode's climax he is saved by Pierrot's childishly low threshold for pain.
  • Death Note: While Light Yagami is an intelligent young man, his god complex, arrogance, narcissism, and eventual Sanity Slippage cause him to make increasingly detrimental mistakes that would eventually lead to his undoing. Killing Lind L. Tailor just because he called his methods evil allowed L to confirm Kira's existence and narrow down his location, his bad habit of Evil Gloating ends up exposing him as Kira, and his arrogance leads him to underestimate his opponents to the point he won't consider the possibility of losing at all, making him more careless and unprepared when he's finally Out-Gambitted.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z: When he ascends to Super Saiyan 2, Gohan loses a good chunk of his sanity, wanting Cell to suffer for his actions so much that he deliberately drags the fight out rather than finish him off. This bites him in the ass big time when his decision to prioritize revenge and sadism over pragmatism leads Cell to a Villainous Breakdown and to try to blow up the Earth, costing Goku his life.
    • Dragon Ball Super: In contrast to the completely insane Frieza, Frost, for all his cruelty and grievances, appears to use his head and control his emotions rather than let them get the best of him in the heat of the moment and, for the most part, ends up much better off for it. Whereas Frieza literally gets himself killed months after his revival, Frost is able to survive for over a year as a fugitive upon losing everything he had. Even as a villain, Frost is mainly driven by profit and is a No-Nonsense Nemesis rather than enjoying wanton death and destruction and drawing out fights.
    • While he was always mentally unstable even on his best days, Frieza originally had enough lucidity to be something resembling a pragmatist and a No-Nonsense Nemesis to his opponents, as seen when he kills Dende. After Goku hands him his ass on a platter after going Super Saiyan, he steadily becomes so Ax-Crazy in his subsequent appearances that while he does have a couple moments of lucidity in battle, he's now so bonkers that the only arguable thoughts he has anymore are revolving around murdering people sadistically, especially when it comes to Goku. It takes heavy meditation while trapped in a cocoon in Hell to finally render him somewhat lucid again, which he manages to accomplish through focusing those murderous thoughts.
    • Vegeta is all around a better, smarter fighter and calmer person when he's not letting his ego and Hair-Trigger Temper run his actions. Best displayed in the Namek Saga, where he's able to play it smart against Frieza's army, defeating many of them and even managing to snag the Dragon Balls right under their nose. Then comes the Cell Saga, where he becomes a Super Saiyan and completely throws all of that away, making things much worse before they get any better.
  • Kengan Ashura: Insane fighters tend to be a less effective combatant than their sane counterparts.
    • Masaki Meguro is an extremely talented Judoka who wears a Mask of Sanity until he's 13 years old, before finally snapping and becomes an Ax-Crazy Serial Killer. As he becomes more and more deranged, his techniques (especially his defense) becomes less polished; and the fact that he takes enjoyment from pain makes him less motivated to avoid or block attacks inflicted against him. This allows Muteba to easily defeat him once he's gotten a hang of Masaki's moves. In the Sequel Series, Omega, we are introduced to Masaki Hayami, Meguro's clone who is specifically designed to retain the latter's natural talents but without the insanity. The second Masaki is considered a much more effective fighter than his predecessor as a result.
    • Kanoh Agito is considered one of the best fighters in the entire history of the Kengan Association due to his ability to use both the "Formless" style and conventional Martial Arts movements. However, due to his Dark and Troubled Past, he's developed a Split Personality, and he whenever he switches from one style to the other, it triggers his "beast" personality, which puts a significant time lag in his movements, and puts him at a disadvantage. After getting over his trauma and overcoming his "beast" nature, he is able to get rid the time lag when he switches styles, thus making him a lot more powerful.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny: Shinn Asuka is normally quite sane, and a brutally effective Combat Pragmatist who's one of the top 3 Ace Pilots in the series. He even once defeated the top pilot in the series (Mobile Suit Gundam SEED protagonist Kira Yamato) by carefully studying his fighting style and developing counters to it. But that's when he's calm. Shinn also has massive anger issues, and whenever he goes berserk all thought of tactics goes out the window and both Kira and his own mentor Athrun Zala curbstomp him with little more effort than they expend on mooks. His tactical skills and superb reaction time become useless when he's so enraged he just rushes straight at them for a frontal attack.
  • Johan on Monster is a frighteningly effective criminal even while insane. If he had been sane enough to not attempt to commit a perfect suicide by eliminating all evidence of his existence before goading someone into killing him, he probably would have been unstoppable. On the other hand he's still alive and apparently free.
  • Naruto: Sasuke Uchiha is a better fighter, a calmer thinker and overall a happier person when he isn't plagued by his grief-fueled insanity. During the Five Kage Summit arc, his obsessive need to kill anyone he believes to have wronged him causes Sasuke to get thrashed by pretty much everyone present. At the end of it, he tries to kill Kakashi but collapses from exhaustion and realizes in the aftermath that he's overused his Mangekyo Sharingan in the few days he's had it to the point of being almost blind.
  • In One Piece, both Kaido and Big Mom have these issues.
    • When sane, Big Mom is a pragmatic and fairly reasonable capitalist who runs her nation fairly. Problem is, she's rarely that sane, and her litany of mental problems (ranging from an unspecified "eating disorder" that can drive her into psychotic rages, to serious abandonment issues) make her unpredictable and almost as destructive to her own side as the enemy, as well as giving her openings to exploit. Her Homies also only obey her when she's sane — being made out of her own soul, when she has a psychotic break they can work against her.
    • Kaido isn't mentally ill like his fellow Yonko, but he has a massive alcohol problem, and he's a really mean drunk. He's also prone to ignoring enemies because of his desire to get wasted. That said, he's also an incredibly talented Drunken Master when he gets serious, retaining his impressive martial talents and phenomenal strength while becoming so random and chaotic in his behaviour that he's almost impossible to read and react to.
  • A so-called "invincible technique" in Ranma ½, the Cat Fist, induces an Unstoppable Rage in its user that boosts speed and reflexes, as well as giving "ki claws" that can cut through anything... but since he acts and thinks like a kitten, he can be distracted by toys and games. Even Kunō figures out this weakness within seconds of witnessing the Cat Fist in action. Not only that, it takes considerable time for Ranma's fear to reach the necessary level, which means he (or she, as the case may be) is simply running around, completely open, unable to fight back until it kicks in... a perfect target for anyone who is aware of what's happening and has the skill to capitalize on it. In fact, the only time that the Cat Fist has been an actual advantage is the climax of the Phoenix Pill saga, where Ranma uses it to catch Cologne off-guard: most likely, as an Old Master who may well have been one of the people who proclaimed the Neko-ken to be Harmful to Minors, she doubted anyone would be stupid enough to teach it in this day and age, nevermind the trainee actually being willing to use that training.

    It's notable that teaching this technique involves covering the student in fish and throwing them in a hole with a buttload of hungry cats. The book in which Genma found the technique even points out that the technique is effectively useless (because of all the reasons above) and was only included as a historical curiosity. If only Genma'd turned the page and read that part... In the manga the page with the insanity warning and how useless the Cat Fist is was stuck to another page, keeping Genma from noticing it.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Search, a sequel comic to Avatar: The Last Airbender, insanity fails for Azula again, when she tries to run away from the Gaang when they get close enough to Hira'a. She stops running to argue with another imagined reflection of her mother long enough for Zuko and Katara to capture her again... and she also attracts the attention of an enormous, angry wolf spirit.
  • Batman: Most of Batman's foes have done this at least once.
    • You could argue it's The Riddler's whole gimmick. Given a little more depth and drama in some comic interpretations that demonstrate Riddler's shtick as an unstoppable compulsion, and all the problems this gives him. Played right, it's a tragically self-destructive compulsion: "You don't understand...I really didn't want to leave you any clues. I really planned never to go back to Arkham Asylum. But I left you a clue anyway. So I...I have to go back there. Because I might need help. I...I might actually be crazy."
    • In fact, in one early story ('60s) the Riddler realizes that he simply cannot commit crimes without leaving riddles. He tries to fix himself, but that doesn't work either...
    • The Riddler example was sent up by Exterminatus Now, which featured a joke about the Riddler leaving a nonsensical riddle, and three weeks later Batman is still working on it when the TV news reports that the Riddler has stolen the Moon. Here it is.
    • The Riddler reformed and worked as a private detective. Since Batman is also a detective, Riddler could match wits with him legally. Aaaannnddd then he returned to his old game again, following a kind of reverse-nervous breakdown.
    • One time, the Riddler found out Batman's secret identity... but Batman was easily able to manipulate him into keeping it a secret by playing on the Riddler's need for intellectual superiority; there's no point to a riddle if everyone just knows the answer.
      • And was hired by Nightwing in the Trinity series to look into why items related to Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman were being stolen and who was behind it. The other heroes think he's insane when Nightwing mentions where he obtained the information, but the series showed that the Riddler had an advantage that even Batman didn't: assorted lowlifes and ex-lowlifes like the Penguin are willing to talk to him without having to be threatened.
      • Similarly, during the events of Knightfall, the Riddler is working alongside several random crooks to steal a large shipment of bonds that are passing through a post office. The crooks finally snap at Riddler after he forces them to delay the crime for weeks while he tries to get the police to pay attention to the riddles he's been mailing them (overshadowed by the breakout at Arkham and Gotham being all but completely put to flame). The Riddler flees, and the crooks go ahead with the crime...which goes pretty well. They follow the Riddler's actual plan (without the riddles) to the letter, and they're in and out in minutes. One even notes that if he weren't so hung up on his riddle-gimmick, he'd make a fortune, but another counters that it's probably that very same obsessive attention to unimportant details that lets him plan heists this well. Of course, it all comes to naught when they get taken down by the Huntress.
    • Subverted in one episode of Batman: The Animated Series where The Joker develops a plan to kill Batman by lowering him into a tank of piranhas, but abandons the idea because piranhas' faces look like frowns rather than smiles. Harley Quinn decides to curry the Joker's favor, captures Batman for him and arranges it so Bats would be upside down, so the "frowns" look like smiles to him. The Joker is furious for being upstaged, but further outraged that she would create a "punchline" that has to be explained. So he lets Batman down and leaves but seconds later decides this is too good a chance to pass up and comes back to just shoot him.
    • It's not Two-Face's fault that he has to let a coin flip make his decisions for him, so that, if you toss a ton of coins in as he flips, he can't make a choice anymore! Honest, it's not!!
      • Naturally, Batman exploits this in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series where he replaces Two-Face's coin with a trick one that always lands on its edge. The ploy backfires on Batman when the coin keeps bouncing towards the edge of a derelict skyscraper.
      • This is further explored in The Batman Adventures; Two-Face ends up with a weighted coin and commits a series of good deeds. However, this backfires, as his good acts not only start to get a little darker, but become suicidally dangerous.
      • In DC One Million, it's mentioned that a future Batman eventually cured a future Two-Face by convincing him that, coin toss for coin toss, he'd made more good decisions than bad ones.
      • In his first appearance, Batman slipped him a coin weighed to land on its side and when he said, "Heads I'll let you go, tails I'll kill you" got him to agree to turn himself in and submit to all necessary plastic surgery and psychotherapy. It worked — but meant the end of Two-Face.
      • The one-shot Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth has Arkham therapists trying to treat Two-Face by expanding his mind to the number of possibilities in each action, by replacing the coin with a deck of cards, eventually planning to work him up to the I Ching. This has a downside, as it means that Two-Face cannot decide whether or not to go to the bathroom.
      • In Batman Forever, Two-Face has Batman on the ropes, about to shoot, when Batman reminds him to flip his coin. When he does, Batman throws out a dozen or so similar coins. Two-Face tries to catch them all, and falls to his death. In the Peter David novelization, Bats blindly throws a Batarang, hoping to knock the coin away and stymie Two-Face. It works, but Two-Face just leaps to catch the coin and falls two yards onto a girder, with the equivalent of "nice try". Then Robin calls him out on never using the coin on himself. He looks at the coin, and just lets go. Robin says he didn't actually mean to kill him, and Batman says that maybe Two-Face just made his first real choice in a long time.
      • Another case of Batman taking advantage of Two-Face's mania occurs in The Batman Adventures, during one of Arkham Asylum's bimonthly mass jailbreaks, with Batman pinning Two-Face's coin under some fresh rubble, good face up, while Harvey is distracted. Two-Face finds it, declares that he's a good guy until he's able to flip it again, and promptly starts helping Batman contain the jailbreak.
    • The Batman villain Cluemaster began as a cheap Riddler imitation, who used non-verbal clues in the same kind of compulsion. The later writers decided to play with the trope a bit, and had the Arkham psychiatrists cure him of his mania. Now, he's a criminal mastermind who doesn't leave clues behind. "Gee, thanks, Arkham," says Robin. Though this is also what prompted his daughter Stephanie Brown to become The Spoiler—she would just spoil his schemes anyway.
    • All of the above notwithstanding, The Joker largely benefits from being insane, since it has the advantage of making him completely unpredictable, which is handy when his nemesis' primary skill is being Crazy-Prepared. It's also the only thing that has kept him from getting the death penalty dozens of times over.
      • One particularly interesting example is in issue 7 of his self-titled comic. After a day where Joker and Lex Luthor accidentally swap their main characteristics (madness and intelligence, respectively), Luthor is in his jail cell, remembering that when he was mad he had thought of "the ultimate theory", an explanation for the universe that he'd need to be crazy to come up with that would have made him world-renowned. Unfortunately, he was unable to remember it when his sanity was restored.
      • A couple of comics have posited that he isn't insane. One story in Batman Black and White 2 has the psychologists at Arkham stumble across an anonymous report from one of Joker's therapists, which explains in detail how he is chillingly rational and aware of his actions, and perpetuating the ultimate scam by faking madness to avoid execution. The report ends with the writer recommending he be tried as sane and sentenced to death. The other doctors actually find themselves agreeing with this assessment... until Harley walks by and recites the final words. She wrote it, is now mad herself, and there's no way her diagnosis would stand up in court. The doctors still think she was right, though... and that the Joker let them find the report, knowing they couldn't do anything with it.
      • Although his obsession with Batman means he can't resolve to kill him (even when all powerful in Emperor Joker) or trying to find out who is behind his mask to the point Death of the Family shows that Bruce can come up to him and make clear he is Batman and Joker won't even notice.
  • In Crossed +100, the titular Hate Plague infected aren't mindless zombies but suffer from extreme impulsivity, making long-term planning difficult. Most of them don't bother to feed and clothe themselves or seek shelter in winter - quite a few even mutilate themselves for fun. Those don't last long. The Crossed relied on sheer weight of numbers in the early days, but most died off the first winter after which point the global population had already fallen from 7 billion humans to 2 million humans and 100 million Crossed. Natural selection (and AIDS) set in after that, and the smarter, more "sane" Crossed survived and are a lot more dangerous while the dumber Crossed have tended to die off over the course of the next century.
  • Spider-Man: One of the major advantages Spider-Man has over his Rogues Gallery is that most of them are rather crazy and Spider-Man, editorially mandated Deal with the Devil notwithstanding, isn't.
    • None of them illustrate this better than his Arch-Enemy Norman Osborn a.k.a. the Green Goblin. Norman is a manipulative sociopath on a good day. The rest of the time he's an Ax-Crazy monster in a garish outfit riding a hoverglider throwing pumpkin bombs. No matter how well he manipulates, schemes, and kills his way into power, Osborn always ultimately loses because he's too crazy to keep it together once he reaches the top. Norman gets a lot more dangerous when he purges himself of the Goblin formula. While that renders him physically an ordinary human, it also renders him more or less sane but just as much of an Evil Genius as ever.
    • An interesting comparison is Norman's copycat, Roderick "Hobgoblin" Kingsley. While he's not completely sane by most medical definitions (being a narcissistic sociopath), he's much more high-functioning and rational than the Green Goblin, making him a very different kind of problem. He's not the kind of villain who might take over the United States or blow up New York, but his caution, pragmatism, and solid business sense make him much more difficult to take down, either permanently or at all. He even franchised the Hobgoblin identity and put it and the related equipment up for sale, meaning that half the time, the man in the mask will be someone completely different who's almost impossible to trace back to him, while Roderick himself will be enjoying himself on a beach somewhere, profiting off supervillainy without having to lift a finger.
    • Electro isn't as homicidally nuts as the Green Goblin, but his crippling insecurities hold him back from really using his electric powers to their fullest potential and cause him to make boneheaded mistakes in his crimes and pick unnecessary fights with superheroes.
    • Minor Spidey villain The Looter discusses this in The Superior Foes of Spider-Man during a villain support group meeting: He knows he's C-List Fodder and that committing crimes will just result in Spider-Man beating him up again, but he's also convinced he's better than everyone and feels compelled to commit crimes to prove it, meaning that he gets beat up by Spider-Man again, which bruises his ego so he feels the need to commit even more crimes, and so on.
  • In one early Spirou & Fantasio adventure, they have to stop a Mad Scientist from launching a device that will set fire to the Earth's atmosphere. They fail. They say their goodbyes... only to discover that the Mad Scientist was, well, mad and his doomsday device was mostly made out of old shoes.
  • Suicide Squad The Return: Harley Quinn is rendered sane by the Black Vault when everyone else in Belle Reve is driven to homicidal madness (since she's crazy and homicidal already). She notes that being sane means that she's now subject to near-crippling fear at the odds she's up against, but also that it allows her to actually plan out her actions enough to beat those odds.
  • Superman: This is for the most part how Superman views Bizarro. He's acknowledged that Bizarro actually does have the potential to be far stronger than him but because of the way his brain works... or doesn't work, Bizarro will never be able to achieve his full potential. And it's because of this that Superman can usually defeat Bizarro, since Clark is able to rationally use his mind and focus on how to best utilize his powers effectively while Bizarro is too dumb and crazy to be able to take advantage of his powers the same way as Superman.
  • Zot!'s archenemy, Dekko the cyborg Mad Artist, tends to get beaten by his own self-destructing insanity at least as much as by the hero's actual efforts.

    Fan Works 
  • Among the advantages the Justice League has over both The Seven and The Boys in The Boys: Real Justice includes their greater mental stability and the fact that the Justice League's individual flaws and vices are far less self-destructive than their opposite numbers.
  • But Doctor, I Am Pagliacci starts with the Joker, or rather Jack Napier, having finally been cured of his insanity. Rather than re-integrating into civilian life, however, he shows just what someone with the Joker's knowledge, skills, and decades of experience fighting one of the three greatest superheroes on the planet can do when they're capable of rational thought. Luckily, Jack is fighting for the good guys.
  • A redeemed (mostly) Loki feels this way in Child of the Storm, inwardly observing that "madness may provide great inspiration, but it plays havoc with your probability calculation, capacity for rational thought and ability to appreciate the arts. Though it does do wonders for your fashion sense. Black, after all, is always in style." He goes on, however, to note that it also provides perspective. After all, you set a thief to catch a thief... Harry, after his own bout with madness, develops a similar opinion.
  • In Dino Death Match's "Fantasy vs. Reality" fight, this is a big reason why the Indoraptor lost against the Utahraptor. The Utahraptor was technically less intelligent because it's a normal animal following experience and instincts and not a Hollywood semi-sapient raptor, but due to being a hybrid the Indoraptor's conflicting instincts as well as captive raising made it go insane. This meant that rather than trying to use any real strategy it was just trying to maul and attack its opponent relatively at random, whereas the Utahraptor's predatory instincts made it home in and attack its enemy's weaker spots.
  • Hinamori in Eroninja fails in her attempt to make Naruto and Kiyomi/Kyuubi kill each other because she's too insane to realize that even under an illusion making her think Naruto wanted her dead, Kiyomi would refuse to fight him. Furthermore, while Naruto sees and hears a taunting Sasuke instead of Kiyomi, he still notices something is wrong when "Sasuke" only flees and never attacks.
  • In Harry Is a Dragon, and That's OK, this is how Lupin wins over Fenrir Greyback. While they both fight as werewolves, Lupin has taken Wolfsbane Potion and is able to out-think the more feral Greyback, and manages to grab his wand and curse him.
  • Hope for the Heartless: The Mad Pack is composed of wolves that have been driven Ax-Crazy by an incurable disease. Having lost all natural instincts and reason, they attack and kill on sight anything that moves, and make no attempts to preserve their own safety. When the Horned King shows up to rescue Avalina from them, they don't flee from the lich once it becomes clear he has them outmatched as healthy, sane wolves would do. They just keep bearing down on him until he has killed the last of them.
  • Inheritance (Worm): Taylor, as Butcher XV, is far more dangerous than any other Butcher before her because Queen Administrator is uniquely suited to managing her fifteen powersets and the minds of their prior users, allowing her to incorporate them all into a more cohesive whole and to selectively ignore the different Butchers, giving her the chance to learn about her new circumstances without risking the possibility of being overloaded and being driven insane by the experience. As the sole sane Butcher, she's universally recognized by her predecessors and the Teeth as the most dangerous and ambitious of them all, eliminating the ABB and the Empire Eighty Eight as viable gangs in a week and a single day, respectively.
  • Justice: Most supervillains have ego games and other issues holding them back, and even when they try to cooperate with each other they tend to be really bad at it. The fact that the Straw Hats are True Companions means that they actually can work together well, and after seeing what they can really do in the Nazi-dominated timeline created by Vandal Savage, Green Lantern fears that the League has fallen into We Have Become Complacent because they're used to the normal villains.
  • A Loud Among Demons: Lincoln's one advantage in Hell is his lack of bloodlust inherent to demons, meaning he can think more tactically than his fellow imps. Also, his genuine Nice Guy nature is very much a breath of fresh air and makes demons like him.
  • Percy Jackson: Spirits: As Percy notes a couple of times when fighting them; if the dark spirits were better able to work as a group they would be far more effective than they are. Amarok gave into the darkness willingly, and is more focused, and thus more dangerous, as a result.
  • With This Ring: This is described as the unique benefit of Green Power Rings: they don't alter your mind as much as the other colours. The protagonist sticks with orange rings because a) he's already developed the relevant skills (including building himself a soul made primarily from the orange light) and b) the Guardians have the green light locked down, so people can only use it with their permission and on their terms. But even Controller Hinon, who manages the Orange Central Power Battery, says that they originally focused their research on green for good reasons.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, Terry struggles in the final fight until he realizes the Joker's irrational fixation on Batman is his ultimate weakness, and proceeds to taunt him mercilessly about it. This causes the Joker to make a critical error that ends the fight in Terry's favor.
  • This is a big reason that Tai Lung loses to Po at the end of Kung Fu Panda. Tai Lung is the superior martial artist by far, but he's also completely obsessed with the Dragon Scroll to the point of ignoring Po in the middle of their fight if he sees an opportunity to grab it, while Po is smart enough to take full advantage of this and use the scroll as bait to allow him to get in some seriously debilitating hits (and knows he can afford to do this because the scroll is a Magic Feather). Tai Lung's worsening Villainous Breakdown as the Humiliation Conga goes on doesn't help him any either, and neither does Po's adipose immunity to Tai Lung's pressure point attacks.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Avengers: When the newly formed Avengers are trying to figure out where Loki is going to open a portal in the sky to start his alien invasion, Tony is able to correctly guess that Loki would start his invasion in a place where everyone would be able to see him beat Earth's heroes. From there, Tony realizes that Loki is going to open his portal on top of Tony's newly built skyscraper in New York, because it is the tallest, flashiest thing around, and, to Tony's chagrin, he and Loki really aren't as different as he would like. Being so predictable most likely contributed to Loki's defeat; because the Avengers were able to find the portal so early, they were able to contain the invasion to a surprisingly small area.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Sherlock's Heroic Sacrifice at the end, taking both him and Moriarty down the Reichenbach Falls is completely unanticipated by Moriarty on account of him being a self-centered sociopath. Sherlock may have a host of his own mental maladies and conceited ego, but he is rooted firmly on the side of sanity and betterment of society in comparison to Moriarty's sociopathy. The villain discounted Sherlock being The Fettered, completely oblivious to such a character's nuclear option in the Heroic Sacrifice... because Moriarty would never do such a thing so selfless. Holmes even said he might do such a thing earlier and Moriarty still discounted it.
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith sees Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker in a duel to the death. Obi-Wan is a Master Swordsman, but even then Anakin is The Chosen One who has fallen to The Dark Side — Obi-Wan only wins the resultant fight because Anakin, as part of his fall, is tapping more and more into his anger for power — but Anger Is Not Enough when fighting someone like Obi-Wan, and as Anakin digs deeper into his anger to the point of Ax craziness, he becomes reckless — exposing openings that Obi-Wan exploits to end the battle by way of Literal Disarming.

  • Trapped by a vampire? Throw some rice/beads/knotted bits of string at it! They have to stop and count it. Ah ah ah!
    • Beautifully done in "Bad Blood", the "Rashomon"-Style episode of The X-Files.
    • And subverted multiple times in Discworld's Carpe Jugulum, where this is one of many traditional vampire weaknesses the Magpyr clan had overcome. It's inverted right back when, under the stress of having their plan spontaneously collapse when Granny Weatherwax "borrows" their blood, the Magpyr's conditioning starts to fail. Since the Magpyr's conditioning involved knowing the root cause of every traditional weakness and countering all of them through meticulous and repeated exposure, the resulting collapse added a form of hypochondria, in the form of a self-inflicted Weaksauce Weakness. So, for example, they're no longer immune to religious symbols... and they also memorized so many that they see religious symbols everywhere; religious symbols tend to be simple shapes, and there's a lot of simple shapes in furniture and buildings.
    • Charby the Vampirate subverts it in one early strip. He is compelled to count a handful of beans his intended victim throws at him, but does it by determining the average weight of a bean, weighing the pile, and extrapolating how many there are from that.
    • Subverted in the sequel to Dracula 2001, when a vampire accurately counts thousands of grains of rice before they even hit the ground.
    • In Supernatural, it's leprechauns that have this problem, not vampires. In "Clap Your Hands if You Believe", Sam gets knocked around by the leprechaun before pulling his container of salt out of his pocket and emptying it onto the ground, to a This Is Gonna Suck from his opponent. He then banishes it at his leisure.
  • Likewise, the kappa of Japanese folklore. Its Weaksauce Weakness is that its power is derived from a pool of water carried in a dent in the top of its head. Not only does it have to avoid spilling the water in an attack, but it is also supremely polite: if you bow to it, it will bow back to the same degree as you do. If a human is confronted by a kappa and doesn't have a cucumber handy (give a kappa a cucumber with your name carved into it and it'll leave you alone, and might even befriend you), all you need to do is bow deeply enough and offer a polite greeting, and the kappa will be obligated to return the salutation, despite the fact that it deliberately spills the water it requires.

  • The primary reason the Animorphs manage to survive the entire war against the Yeerks without a single casualty until the last book in the series is because the leader of the Yeerk invasion Visser Three is an Ax-Crazy, supremely arrogant, ignorant, megalomaniac psychopath who makes Bond villains look intelligent and rational in comparison and is such a Bad Boss that his soldiers are too terrified of him to do anything without his express order. More than once do the Animorphs conspire to keep Visser Three in power specifically because the Visser's insanity causes more damage to the efforts of the Yeerks to take over Earth than the Animorphs could ever do.
  • In The Belgariad, the king of Cthol Murgos is mentioned as having been a great warrior once, but by the time he appears his insanity had grown to the point that when he meets his archenemy in battle, he's so focused on killing him that he doesn't bother defending himself. He dies still screaming for the man to come back and fight him.
  • In Fifty Feet of Trouble (sequel to City of Devils), mad scientists are a type of monster. They're all megalomaniacs capable of creating weapons and abominations that could potentially threaten the world. The main reason why the other monsters don't gang up and exterminate them for everybody's safety is because it's in the nature of their madness to always forget at least one important detail that interferes with their plans.
  • This is what allows Tavi in Codex Alera to defeat an Ax-Crazy but vastly superior opponent. He uses her name and reputation to start psychoanalyzing her in the middle of their Duel to the Death, and watches her reactions to give a Hannibal Lecture that drives her into making a mistake due to screaming, psychotic rage.
  • The title character in Eden Green is a rationalist whose best friend is infected with an alien needle symbiote that slowly drives its host insane. Eden keeps her head for most of the book and uses planning and rationality to investigate the symbiote.
  • Referenced and played with in Ghost Story, as Evil Bob tries to recruit Harry:
    Evil Bob: You have sound fundamental skills. You are practical. Your ambition is tempered by an understanding of your limits. You have the potential to be an excellent partner.
    Harry: And I'm not flipping insane like the Corpsetaker.
    Evil Bob: Hardly. But your insanities are more manageable.
  • Harry Potter:
    • It's repeatedly alluded to that Voldemort's egomania is keeping him from being a much more effective villain by compelling him to keep the Villain Ball on his person constantly. He starts juggling it in the final book, and becomes much more dangerous. Probably the best example is the horcruxes themselves. Harry observes that had he made them innocuous items and hid them in plain sight, it would be impossible to find them. Fortunately, as Dumbledore explains, Voldemort's obsessive nature focuses on trophies and rituals, so he needs them to be special items, hidden in special places, which makes them easier to track. Although in truth it's not so much Voldemort's obsessive nature that makes him choose grandiose objects for his horcruxes; it's his pride. Said hubris is behind pretty much every mistake he makes — look at how he decides straight-off that Harry, rather than the pure-blooded Neville is the Chosen One, just because Harry is a half-blood like himself. Then again, said hubris and egomania is the reason he's a villain in the first place.
    • For that matter, a large number of Voldemort's henchmen manage to mess things up for him by being various flavors of sociopathic, vain, narcissistic, delusional, uncontrollably violent or a combination of the above, simply because those are the sorts of unbalanced followers someone like Voldemort tends to attract in the first place.
  • Immortals After Dark: Nucking Futs Nix, the powerful soothsayer, is quite insane due to spending so much time seeing the past, present, and future interchangeably to the point that she's often unsure which is which. So far, she's been able to manipulate events to her and her allies' advantage in each book, but her ability to do so is threatened by her rapidly dwindling sanity.
  • In Brisingr of the Inheritance Cycle, Brom hints to Eragon in a memory that Galbatorix's insanity is something that he should use to his advantage when it finally comes time to face him. "Whatever you do, you must remain nimble in your thinking. Do not become so attached to any one belief that you cannot see past it to another possibility. Galbatorix is mad and therefore unpredictable, but he also has gaps in his reasoning that an ordinary person would not. If you can find those, Eragon, then perhaps you and Saphira can defeat him." Galbatorix has no empathy, so Eragon gives him some — for all of the lives the mad king ruined — and it drives Galbatorix to kill himself (and everyone else too).
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, The Gentleman could have killed the magicians at any time, but as the book explains fairies have a greater capacity for magic, but much less of one for reason. Instead he spends years watching them and coming up with plans to destroy them while doing nothing, under the belief that these plans wouldn't work. And the actions he does eventually take backfire on him in the end.
  • Invoked by the character Zane in the second Mistborn book. He is legitimately Ax-Crazy, but is quite self-aware about that fact, considering the fact that he hears a voice in his head that goads him to kill everyone he meets to be personal flaw that he must work to overcome if he's to reach his full potential. Of course, being Ax-Crazy, when this plan falls apart he doesn't take it well, but the (sane) Action Girl who he tries to take it out on succeeds in killing him, thereby proving the trope. Ironically enough, the voice in his head is not a symptom of his insanity. He actually has the setting's God of Evil in his head, which is the primary cause of his insanity.
  • The only way Crown Prince Alaric was able to defeat Gaithim in The Quest of the Unaligned was because Gaithim's Ax-Crazy nature made him make two fatal errors. In the first fight, he had Alaric completely at his mercy, but instead of killing him quickly, he began to torture him, which bought time for The Cavalry to show up, in the form of Nahruahn and Laeshana. In the second, he shielded himself against any form of magic, but completely forgot that he was still vulnerable to mundane knives.
  • In Misery, Paul Sheldon is a badly injured novelist held captive by his number one fan, the insane Serial Killer Annie Wilkes. Crippled and helpless, he is still able to manipulate Annie by invoking her love of the main character of his flagship novel series, the Victorian bimbo Misery Chastain. He knows that Annie won't kill him until he finishes the book that brings her favorite character Back from the Dead, and at the end when he seemingly burns the draft, Annie immediately drops her guard to "rescue" Misery from the flames, which gives Paul just the opening he needs to whack her over the head.
  • The page quote is a near-exact adaptation of a scene from Red Dragon, featured in both the 1986 film adaptation Manhunter and the eponymous 2002 film. The only deviation is that in the book, Graham's original explanation is "Passion. And you're insane." Lecter abruptly changes the subject and tries to get into Will's head instead by mocking the effects of his 10-Minute Retirement.
  • Subverted in Sir Apropos of Nothing. When Apropos leads an army against the mad king Meander's city, he finds Meander recycling Apropos' strategy for Bluffing the Advance Scout and leads the charge with a laugh, thinking Meander too senile to remember that he learned it from him. Then Meander's actual forces strike from ambush and devastate Apropos' army — Meander might be insane, but he's Bunny-Ears Lawyer insane, not incompetent.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is pretty much Joffrey's and later, Cersei's main weakness. Joffrey only knows how to be as cruel as his imagination can allow him to be, and nothing else. It's his execution of Eddard Stark, done for no reason other than petty cruelty, that basically guarantees that the war between the Starks and the Lannisters has no possibility of a peaceful conclusion, and when Tyrion is appointed as acting Hand, most of his job consists of trying to minimize the damage done by Joffrey's insanity. Cersei's is slightly different, as most of their mistakes result from a mind-blowing level of paranoia, thinking that everyone who doesn't constantly kiss ass and do absolutely everything they ask is trying to sabotage them, so they make sure everyone around them is nothing more than a yes-man, and has everyone who's competent removed. This bites them right in the ass, and fast when they reinstitute the Faith Millitant, which promptly arrests them for treason and adultery.
  • Star Wars Legends: This is the main advantage the Jedi (and the Republic in general) have over the Sith. With Great Power Comes Great Insanity is in full force here with anyone strong enough to be a good Sith. The reason there's currently only two Sith at a time is because whenever there were any more, their tendency to backstab any and everyone for personal power meant that the Jedi (who weren't as individually powerful but could trust each other to work effectively as a team) were basically picking them off one by one as the Sith were too busy dealing with each other to effectively counter them. The Republic beat the Sith Empire by playing defense and waiting for the inevitable self-destruct, and the Imperial Remnant only became a stable entity after the Sith at the top were dead. Though Bane Order does manage to destroy Jedi, their Galactic Empire falls because their policies became too stupidly evil.
  • Oathbringer (third book of The Stormlight Archive):
    • Dalinar contacts both the Tukari and Emuli, knowing that they'll only be able to ally with one since they're at war. The Emuli are amenable to an alliance while the Tukari are not, which Navani is fine with since the Tukari are crazy.
    • Many of the Fused are insane after their repeated resurrections. The sane ones are automatically in charge, since despite his talk of passion, Odium needs people who can actually follow orders.
    • An army in thrall to the Thrill is tireless and fearless, but also so battle-crazed they'll fight an endlessly respawning army of illusions without caring that it's pointless.
    • Downplayed with Adolin, for a given value of sanity. As the series goes it, it becomes apparent that Adolin is one of the most important members of the cast, not just in spite of his lack of Surgebinder powers, but because of it. To become a Surgebinder, one must have 'cracks in the soul', another word for trauma or mental illness. Surgebinders have heavy baggage, and Adolin is crucial because his lack of baggage helps him provide moral support without self-loathing.
  • Insanity may not be exactly the right term. The Ontongard of Ukiah Oregon are Hive Mind aliens that think of themselves on a scale smaller than humans can see; they take multicellular forms but if those are torn apart they form into smaller animals. Ukiah, being descended of a mutant Ontongard who kept individuality, escapes "one" human-shaped mass of them by going over a cliff and catching a branch near the edge. The Ontongard mass follows, and some parts of it grab for the branch, some try to backpedal, so it falls. Individuality does have its perks, Ukiah thinks.
  • In the backstory of the Vorkosigan Saga, Mad Emperor Yuri decided that his relatives were plotting to overthrow him, so he ordered the assassinations of anyone with enough Royal Blood to claim the throne. This meant he ordered the maternal side of Aral Vorkosigan's family assassinated, but since the Vorkoisigan side didn't have a strong claim to the empire, he left them alive. If he'd been sane, it might have occurred to him that Aral's father (Who happened to be the most talented general on the planet) would be upset about his wife and children being brutally murdered. This leads directly to Yuri's overthrow, making his fear a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.
  • The Wheel of Time:
    • Ishamael/Moridin is The Dragon to the Dark One and has vast supernatural power: he's as strong in the One Power as The Chosen One Rand, can kill people Deader than Dead through their dreams, and can draw directly on the Dark One's strength. Fortunately for the good guys, his Straw Nihilist philosophy and direct link to the Dark One have short-circuited his brain to the point that believes himself to be the Dark One or its prophesied champion, passes up multiple opportunities to kill Rand and guarantee the Dark One's victory in favour of Evil Gloating, and delivers counterintuitive orders which the Dark One's followers accept as part of the usual Chronic Backstabbing.
    • Demandred crashes the Final Battle with an army of linked spellcasters and the most powerful Amplifier Artifact in the world, then squanders his advantage strutting around and demanding that The Chosen One, his Arch-Enemy, come out and face him. He gets his head lopped off by a stranger before he realizes that said Chosen One is dealing with more important matters (namely, fighting his boss, The Anti-God) in a different country.
    • This is the main problem of Shadow in general; instead of uniting and beating their enemies through force or subtlety, they spend more time backstabbing each other to increase their own power (particularly Graendal got executed and reincarnated as a punishment for that), achieving their own goals (Lanfear got a chance to capture and convert Rand but decides against it because she wants him to join willingly), or gloating. It's implied that Dark One specifically chose people with huge ego issues because it's all he can understand and truly control.
  • Wings of Fire: The Villain Protagonist of Darkstalker was extremely paranoid, so he made himself invincible to conventional weaponry — blades, flame breath, etc. Clearsight neutralizes him with a sleep spell, a method which works because Darkstalker never expected that his enemies would be moral enough to subdue him non-violently (and — being incredibly powerful and ruthless — Darkstalker himself never dealt with enemies in any other way than killing them).

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Beginning of the End", HYDRA's plan to infiltrate the military is ruined because Garrett crashes the meeting that was supposed to convince the military to hire HYDRA's supersoldiers, rants about his delusions of godhood and attacks one of the representatives. Garrett's saner accomplices are not pleased.
  • When it comes down to it, this is the entire point of Criminal Minds (and similar Real Life organizations): some serial killers are obviously mentally unstable ("disorganized"). Therefore, they have patterns that can be predicted, flaws that can be exploited, and make mistakes that can be turned against them. This is Truth in Television to a point: many serial killers escape capture and leave no clues. Some are only caught when they taunt the police, looking for validation of their brilliance.
  • Deadliest Warrior has two definite examples and one borderline case according to the experts.
    • Saddam Hussein defeated Pol Pot, despite the fact that both were classified as insane. Saddam was still more sane than Pol Pot. They say that, like history shows, Saddam would use his violent insanity to his advantage (killing thousands of Kurds to prevent rebellions and surviving the Iraq/Iran War and Gulf War despite overwhelming forces) while Pol Pot's insanity was self-destructive (the damaging genocide and being easily defeated in the Cambodian–Vietnamese War).
    • Hernan Cortes defeated Ivan the Terrible. Cortes isn't classified as fully insane, just greedy and violent. In fact, he was able to make good choices to defeat a larger Aztec army and avoid arrest from the Spanish Empire (by bribing the army sent to kill him). While Ivan is insane from drinking mercury and alcohol constantly and being bipolar. In fact, after his reign the Russian Empire almost collapsed.
    • The borderline case was the George Washington versus Napoléon Bonaparte fight, which Washington won. Neither was truly considered mad, but many X-Factors in Washington's favor involved the egotism and tend to overreach that Napoleon exhibited late in life. In the aftermath, it was even mentioned that a younger version of Napoleon — at a time when he wasn't such an egotist — may have done better.
  • While the Doctor from Doctor Who is only partially sane, they've defeated many of their enemies via intimate knowledge of how the latest Mad Scientist or Omnicidal Maniac will react, having encountered so many of them over the centuries that very little surprises them any more. Special mention should go to Davros and The Master, who are probably the main reason the Doctor can predict other villains so well. It's even been pointed out by other villains.
    The Rani, to the Master: You're unbalanced. No wonder the Doctor always outwits you.
  • River Tam in Firefly is unbelievably intelligent, combat-capable, and psychic, but her usefulness in a number of situations is clouded by mental instability. She gets better in the movie.
  • Kamen Rider:
    • Kamen Rider Ryuki: Takeshi Asakura(Ouja) is raving mad and prone to crazy, suicidal behaviour. Once he starves his bound monsters until they threaten to eat him. Once, after failing to kill a long-running enemy, he charges a bunch of armed policemen without even using his powers. That last one does not end well.
    • Kamen Rider Gaim Mitsuzane Kureshima starts of pretty stable and is a pretty smart kid but as his envy towards Kouta. drives him insane he becomes too Arrogant to even consider using backup plans if his other plans failed.
  • In a heroic example, Monk's severe OCD makes him the world's greatest detective, but also makes him too unstable to be relied upon in desperate situations, as evidenced by the pilot in which his condition causes him to freak out and let the killer escape. This is why he's not been allowed back on the police force since the Heroic BSoD he had following his wife's death. Even in the depths of the seriousness of the series finale, the OCD comes shining through full force in an intentionally Level Breaker moment after Monk has been poisoned and told he will vomit first, then die. Cue awesome run-on gag of Monk focusing on the vomiting aspect and ignoring death.
    Adrian Monk: Are you sure? Does the vomit really HAVE to be first?
  • This is likely the biggest reason why the Rangers managed to defeat The Psycho Rangers in Power Rangers in Space, despite the fact that the Psycho Rangers were far stronger than they were. The Psycho Rangers were not only insane, they were obsessive, unwilling to co-operate with each other (something the real Rangers were rather good at) and too impatient to adhere to the careful strategies that Astronema laid out (while the true Rangers were very good at sticking to theirs). In fact, in retrospect, the villains may have been more trouble to Astronema than they were ever worth.
  • Stargate SG-1: The Goa'uld as a whole. Sure, they have an enormous technological advantage thanks to their genetic memory, but said memories as well as abuse of the sarcophagi mean they are all megalomaniacal cliché villains. Furthermore, most of them believe in their own propaganda about being gods, and act with the expected supreme arrogance. The System Lords spend most of their time and resources fighting each other rather than dealing with their common enemies, which both Tok'ra and Tau'ri gladly take advantage of. They also waste their soldiers by slaying them for the slightest failure or insisting they always fight to the death, even against disastrous odds, rather than withdraw to win another day. The Goa'uld were the dominant species of the Milky Way till season 8, but they would have been infinitely more powerful if only they had co-operated from the start, rather than being forced to by Anubis or the Replicators. Notably, the few System Lords that don't fully buy the godlike nonsense (like Ba'al, or Yu before he went senile) are portrayed as much smarter and dangerous than their brethren.
  • Clearly, this is why Kirk and Spock were able to defeat Garth in the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Whom Gods Destroy". Garth was a madman, and the fact that he flew into rage on more than one occasion when he was frustrated (such as when he realized he needed to know a countersign in order to board The Enterprise) showed that his madness was hindering him greatly. Garth's attempt to intimidate Kirk by murdering his lover with the super-powerful bomb he created does nothing more than prove to Kirk — and the viewers, most likely — that he's a lunatic, and when he thinks he'll have more luck with Spock due to Spock being a "very logical man", Spock's logical thinking is, in fact, what leads to Garth's final defeat.
  • In a Xena: Warrior Princess episode, a man tries to kill Xena just for the challenge. He tells her he has advantages over the two deadliest opponents she had faced at the time: he doesn't have a soft spot for her like Draco did, and he's not crazy like Calisto was.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech, insanity runs in the Capellan Confederation's rulers, House Liao. Maximilian Liao was originally a fairly shrewd and cunning ruler, but slipped into delusion after his defeat in the 4th Succession War. After his death, the reins of the shattered realm passed to his daughter Romano. A completely paranoid individual, she ordered numerous bloody purges of the realm that left it barely able to function when she was killed by her sister Candace in retaliation for assassinating Candace's husband. At that point, control was transferred to the much saner Sun-Tzu Liao, who immediately set about undoing Romano's destructive policies. In only a decade, he was able to turn the Confederation completely around and make it into a prosperous and militarily powerful nation again.
  • Betrayal at House on the Hill has the Sanity stat, which often determines whether or not your investigator will keep their wits about them...or simply stay alive. It's exceptionally useful if a high-Sanity character like Father Rhinehart manages to get a hold of the Ring, which allows them to attack with Sanity instead of Might.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:
    • In Changeling: The Lost, the Sanity/Karma Meter Clarity offers exceptionally acute senses and intuitive awareness of supernatural beings at high values, as well as a greater ability to "talk down" others who have fallen into insanity. By contrast, low-Clarity Changelings often get lost in fantasy and hallucination, and might become completely unhinged from reality.
    • In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, the Black Spiral Dancers' greatest liability is their insanity. All Black Spiral Dancer characters have at least one derangement, which often interfere with social interaction, perception, and decision-making.
    • Genius: The Transgression (a fan supplement for the New World of Darkness) has two versions of this: Your Obligation and whether or not you're an Unmada.
      • On the Obligation side, a high stat means you're in better control of yourself and can relate better to normal people. Which is important, because all your Wonders require resources to build, and you need to be able to work with the Muggles to hold down a job. And, as with most World of Darkness morality stats, losing your Obligation means that you're likely to develop Derangements, which will also screw with you. Going all the way down to zero makes you Illuminated, and so divorced from reality that you might kill yourself in an experiment even before every relatively sane Genius around you shows up to put you out of everybody's misery.
      • Becoming Unmada means that you Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality, specifically the fiction that your wonders work on. Character-wise, it makes it really hard to cooperate with others who think differently (e.g. everyone) and makes you irrational. Mechanics-wise, Unmada don't get to regain a point of Mania at the start of the day like normal Genii, and they're only one failed Unmada check away from turning Illuminated themselves, while a relatively sane Genius takes two- the first to turn them Unmada, and the second for Illumination.
    • Princess: The Hopeful (another fan supplement): This is one of the greatest weaknesses of Creatures of the Darkness, as an embodiment of every form of vice and perversion the Darkness does not encourage restraint or rational thinking in its servants. Undirected Darkspawn usually have no more mind than a beast and are incapable of strategy, Mnemosynes and Cataphractoi will often backstab each other and squabble over territory, and the majority of Dark Cults tend to get taken down by the regular police.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • This trope is why the Order Versus Chaos Blood War between Devils and Demons has been in stalemate for Eons, despite the fact that the demons of the Abyss outnumber the armies of Hell by almost a hundred to one. The devils live and breathe discipline, planning, and strategy; while the hordes of the Abyss can be explained in three words: "Scream and charge". It's telling that the Abyss and its demons are functionally infinite, so its armies in the Blood War are only the rare few who overcame their chaotic nature to the point that they could scream and charge at the enemy.
    • Also stated to be why the Drow aren't a bigger threat to the world above; cunning, powerful, and with demonic magic on their side, they'd be a force to be reckoned with... if their society wasn't built on Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Drow spend more time plotting against each other than their enemies, with the happy endorsement of their goddess Lolth, who only intervenes so they don't starscream themselves into extinction (and, inversely, so that they don't become independent enough of her that they might reconsider her patronage and trade up for a more agreeable god).
    • Similarly, Beholders are capable of destruction on a massive scale (they can disintegrate matter at will, control minds, kill with a glance, nullify any magic they look at, and more), but can barely even be said to have a society, due to their inherent madness. Every beholder is convinced it alone was created in the true image of their goddess — who abets the delusion by appearing in their form — and any beholders, even their offspring, who look even slightly different should be destroyed.
  • Exalted: Most antagonists come with some form of insanity-related dysfunction which will lead them to make drastic, exploitably bad decisions. Examples include other Creation-based Exalts, who are usually blinded by the towering hubris of the Great Curse; the Yozis, who come with a heavy paradigm blindfold that leads to them interpreting nearly everything in terms of their own fundamental concepts; apostate Alchemicals, who are compelled by their condition to become less and less stable as time goes on until the killing starts; and ghosts and Deathlords, who naturally default to melodramatic passion plays rather than the organic behaviour of humans. (Should you be coming up against a high-Essence sane Alchemical, who will likely have a high Clarity rating, you might actually have to invert this trope by making seemingly illogical moves to catch it unawares.)
  • Sentinels of the Multiverse:
    • This is the difference between Miss Information's two forms. Her first form is ruthless and more than a little obsessed with Failure-To-Save Murdering the Freedom Five, but is still functional enough to weave a web of surprises, lures, distractions and traps to do as much damage to them as possible. Her second is a Reality Warper... but has lost an awful lot of SAN, meaning that not only is she a team-up villain rather than a solo operator, but she's not even a notably strong team-up villain compared to, for example, Sergeant Steel.
    • Then there's Wager Master, who has cosmic power to make the gods themselves look like small-timers...but is also impatient, petty, obsessive, gullible, erratic, and pretty low in situational awareness, allowing the heroes to take on his mazes on more or less equal footing. Guise, himself far from the most rational person in the multiverse, wins their first fight, a nonsensical battle of This Is My Side where Wager Master pushes the line most of the way across Guise's side, by annoying Wager Master enough that he flips the entire apartment in such a way that he ends up on the wrong side of said line and therefore loses. Another time, he sends the Wraith running through a giant rat maze looking for a cheeseball, then is lured in to try and find her when she hides; she jumps out of the shadows, grabs him in a chokehold, and hisses, "Found the cheeseball." Then there was the time the Southwest Sentinels, who kept failing his challenges, managed to convince him to play poker with them instead. Of note, OblivAeon, a being in a similarly cosmic weight class but with a more direct goal than faffing about for eternity (that being "destroy everything") has his own ridiculously brutal game mode, while Wager Master is a mid-difficulty villain deck mostly notable for changing the game rules in oft-annoying ways.
  • In Unknown Armies all magicians are insane, to the point that several of the most powerful NPCs are completely mundane, and players without powers often have significant advantages over those with, and various examples of possible mundane parties are discussed in the Global level of the sourcebook. One of them is even a bunch of stage magicians who pretend to have real powers. In the New Inquisition sourcebook, they explicitly address this trope, pointing out that by virtue of not having any magical powers, the head of the conspiracy is sane, his vision unclouded, and capable of everything a multi-billionaire with few ethical scruples can do. Which is quite a lot.
  • Warhammer:
    • The Skaven are enormous in number, have very impressive (if unreliable) technology, and most people on the surface don't even know they exist. When you get right down to it, they have a good chance of taking over the entire world... or would, if they weren't so fractious and treacherous. Constant infighting is so ingrained into the vast majority of the Skaven race that when they actually manage to drop their constant feuding and work together constructively, it's usually a sign that the shit has hit the fan; perhaps the most famous example is their role in the downfall of Nagash, who would have destroyed all life in the world (including them) if he hadn't been stopped. This is one of the only times that the Skaven's rulers (the Council of Thirteen) stopped plotting against each other and focused on a problem.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • A number of Chaos units have this as their drawback. Defilers are daemonic assault walkers with amazing statlines and low costs, but their insanity rules means that they are unreliable and have decent chances of attacking their own troops. Chaos Dreadnoughts are excellent in melee and ranged combat, but they also have insanity rules that make it likely that they go on an uncontrollable rampage or start firing those big guns at your troops, or things that they aren't equipped for. Daemonic transports have a chance to literally EAT one of the soldiers they are supposed to carry. Kharn the Betrayer is one of the most deadly Chaos Marines in general, but still has a 18% chance to strike an ally during close combat (and he never misses his strikes; him hitting his own allies are the misses).
    • On a similar note, Orks by themselves tend to be irrational, and will happily fight anything or anyone, including each other out of grudges or boredom, without direction from a suitably bigger Ork to yell at them. Feral Orks, members of the species that have no weapon more advanced than a spear, are seen as more as a petty nuisance (a nuisance that helps train up troops) than anything else by the Imperium. However, if a strong-minded Warboss manages to get his fellow Orks to focus on something they quickly turn from being comedy relief nuisances into an ever-expanding army that can easily rampage through entire star systems. This inevitably spins right back into the trope once the Warboss gets killed (by an enemy or an ambitious subordinate) or his armies run out of things to fight, since they'll fight each other for his spot or out of boredom.
    • It's often easy to take advantage of Chaos' self-destructive nature. Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!!!) once foiled a Slaaneshi summoning by telling his men to hold fire until two Khornate Space Marines had taken out the cultists barricading the entrance (opposed Chaos gods hate each other on a fundamental level, so killing followers of one god is a good way to get favor with the other). By the time they arrived at the summoning, the cultists were all dead and so were the Marines, leaving the Imperials with the comparatively minor problem of an angry Slaaneshi daemon princess who considered herself a Woman Scorned by Cain (some heretics take lasbolts to the chest so personally).

    Video Games 
  • Bioshock:
    • The denizens of Rapture have access to Plasmids, drugs that give you superpowers by rewriting your DNA. The problem is that, like other drugs, you can easily get addicted to "splicing" and even worse, rewriting your genetic code does a number on your sanity. It's not a coincidence all the major players in Rapture have refrained from all but the most basic Plasmids, allowing them to rule by virtue of being the only people still sane enough to plan and organize.
    • The novelization either subverts this or makes it a touch more abstract by showing the exact problems with Plasmids were discovered before their initial marketing, and the major players are saner because they had the money and knowledge to demand a safer variety of the drug. The society topples mainly because of its initial "reality-challenged" design (some assumptions about Rapture's population mix were provably false early as during its construction) and an insistence there should be nothing to prevent it from collapsing since it would obviously never happen.
  • Defied by the Chaos Marines in Dawn of War.
    "Sanity is for the weak!"
  • In Don't Starve, being insane means many visual filters will block your view. If you go far enough off the deep end, powerful shadow monsters will begin attacking you. Inverted with Enlightenment, which is affiliated with the moon and replaces Sanity while near moon related areas, but similar effects to low Sanity take place with high Enlightenment, such as Gestalts attacking and visual filters as distractions. However, shadow monsters give you Nightmare Fuel upon death, meaning insanity also has advantages sometimes.
  • A subtle variant pops up in The Evil Within with the reveal that you're fighting in a Mental World created by the Big Bad, Ruvik. Now, Ruvik's arsenal of monsters and traps should be capable of overwhelming you through attrition alone, but because Ruvik is both a sadist (and so the player character Sebastian's efforts and resulting fear/hope cycle amuse him) and a megalomaniac (so he figures he's unbeatable), Ruvik deliberately scatters useful items like healing items and ammo around, which prolongs the "game" and allows Sebastian to eventually defeat him.
  • In Freddy Fazbear's Pizzeria Simulator, William Afton admits to feeling like there's something off about the newest pizzeria location, but he's too overcome with bloodlust and his desire to murder more children to actually stay away from it. He doesn't realize that the building is an inescapable maze of vents meant to trap him and the other animatronics in it until it's too late and he's burning up, along with the building.
  • Halo: A thematic case/variant is seen in the Human-Covenant War. Part of the reason for why the UNSC was able to resist the Covenant for so long is explained as being due to them lacking the sheer religious fanaticism showcased by most of the Covenant's upper leadership, which often had the Covenant making profoundly idiotic strategic/tactical decisions in the name of their religion (i.e., gathering Forerunner artifacts but only barely researching them (if at all) and sacrificing countless soldiers on the battlefield to settle leadership disputes), whereas the humans focus on defending themselves by killing the Covenant.
  • Haunting Ground has Daniella as one of the toughest opponents... if her mental issues wouldn't result in her getting distracted from hunting for Fiona at times. She is temporarily incapacitated when seeing herself in mirrors, causing her to have an extended Freak Out and giving Fiona precious time to get away. When it's 'cleaning time', Daniella is focused solely on that and actually can't chase Fiona, making her no threat during those times.
  • In KGB, a pimp gets his workers addicted to cocaine so they'll be more compliant. This makes them incredibly easy to bribe.
  • Played with in regards to Ganondorf/Ganon from The Legend of Zelda — as the Fallen Hero timeline goes on, Ganon slowly requires fewer holy weapons to defeat, correlating with losing more of himself to his lust for power. Whereas the Hero can always find a way to avoid Ganon's mighty Trident and the Master Sword can repel evil, in his earliest chronological appearance, he instead is able to fool the young Link and Zelda into handing him the Triforce on a silver platter. His relative sanity, compared to his megalomania in later forms, is what allowed him to attain the very power that drives him mad. However, despite being a cloud of concentrated hatred of by the time Breath of the Wild comes around, he's become more powerful than ever. Sanity may have advantages, but Ganon considers growing his might worth losing his mind.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom adds another wrinkle to the issue. While Ganondorf is unequivically more cunning and strategic than Calamity Ganon, the latter also lacks the former's Fatal Flaw; Pride. Calamity Ganon is a No-Nonsense Nemesis that doesn't care how it wins so long as it does, but Ganondorf is so confident in his abilities that he's willing to let Link become more powerful simply because he wants his victory to be worth something. He's so disappointed by his first impression of Link that he delays his conquest and lets Link come to him despite the fact he could have easily taken over Hyrule from the start. As such, Calamity Ganon actually comes closer to winning than Ganondorf, because Calamity Ganon didn't bother letting Link get stronger and simply attacked as soon as it had subverted the Divine Beasts that had driven it away before.
  • Brought up Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots in regard to the Beauty and the Beast Unit. They're all psychologically damaged pretty much beyond repair. Rose points out that this probably doesn't help their combat abilities and that only a monster would put such broken people on the front line, especially since they'll eventually break down completely and be useless. Snake agrees on all points, but he also notes that it works to his advantage if they're not fighting at their full combat effectiveness... and sure enough, the player can exploit their various issues to fight them more effectively.
  • Portal: Subverted by the Rat Man. He was a programmer who survived GLaDOS's takeover of Aperture Science by being a paranoid schizophrenic who believed that the computer was evil and planning to kill them all. The reason this is a subversion instead of inversion is that the rest of his team knew that she wanted to kill them all at every boot up but still gave her access to the neurotoxin emitters when she started playing nice. Thus, the crazy guy was the Only Sane Man. That being said, he also makes sure to save his last dose of medication for when he really needs it, meaning that Temporary Sanity Has Advantages.
  • Mia Winters of Resident Evil 7: Biohazard is a special forces operative who makes her civilian husband look like a child in combat. She gets infected with a bio weapon that gives her enhanced strength and durability, but gradual sanity slippage means all those fancy skills went out the window, to the point that the aforementioned husband can beat her in a fight before he started taking levels in badass.
  • In Saiko No Sutoka, Saiko's many psychoses are why the player has a fighting chance of escaping her.
    • Saiko likes to toy with the player, which is why she's making him escape the school by solving a puzzle instead of just killing him when she had him drugged and helpless at the beginning. It also means that she will not go for an immediate kill unless you've really annoyed her, allowing the player to push her away and escape.
    • Saiko is a Mood-Swinger to the point of having multiple personalities; one, the 'Yandere', wants to keep you trapped, while the other, the 'Yangire', wants to kill you. The two will work against each other, with Yandere Saiko giving you medicine for the wounds Yangire Saiko gives you.
  • Sonic Forces: While Infinite is extremely dangerous due to being a Reality Warper, he's also clearly an insane sadist. This screws over him and Eggman on several occasions, as he prioritizes his sadism over pragmatism; he spends more time monologuing at the Protagonist about how outmatched they are than actually fighting them, and he'll stop to rub his power in a fallen opponent's face instead of capturing them or killing them. This ultimately leads to his own undoing and, by extension, the Eggman Empire's.
  • In Spider-Man (PS4), Spidey takes down the narcissistic social media Attention Whore villain Screwball (who does her villainy by setting up publicly perilous situations for Spidey to heroically resolve for the social media viewage) by orchestrating a celebratory party that she psychologically cannot resist attending. The cops are ready and waiting with the 'cuffs.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, this trope is why The Good Guys Always Win. Because of The Corruption inherent in the Sith religion, an uncomfortable amount of the inmates running the asylum that is The Empire are Ax-Crazy lunatics prone to Stupid Evil and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder to the point that their inevitable collapse was the only outcome they gave themselves. The Sith were on their fifth resurgence into the galaxy at large, while The Republic & Jedi Order more or less stood united against them every single time. This is half the reason why the Rule of Two was eventually made in the first place; to limit the amount of self-sabotaging crazy among the Dark Side's ranks.
  • Super Mario Bros.: This is one of the many reasons why Bowser is so terrifyingly dangerous: for all he favors the age-old stratagem of "punch or incinerate", he has a major advantage over other Mario villains — he's not crazy, is perfectly capable of learning, strategizing and innovating, and he never gives up.
  • Inverted in Touhou Project.
    "In Gensoukyou you can't let yourself be held back by common sense!"
  • A game mechanic in Yandere Simulator. If you keep Yandere-Chan's Sanity Meter high, she will be able to behave like a normal student, allowing her to interact with others and commit any crimes in a pragmatic fashion (though she'll never quite be sane- if she was, she wouldn't be a Yandere- but she's composed enough to convincingly fake it). If her Sanity Meter is low, her disturbing behavior will get her in trouble with teachers, scare students away, attack anyone she gets close to, and when you kill someone, you'll perform a long, drawn-out kill sequence, allowing other victims the time to escape. And god help you if you let Senpai see you in this state.

    Visual Novels 
  • Danganronpa: The ultimate mastermind is a brilliant Manipulative Bastard and singlemindedly determined to make sure everyone crosses the Despair Event Horizon... but this same despair obsession that allows them to do such crazy things also means that they will often get distracted from their objective by their need to inflict and feel despair- and in fact, they will occasionally do things directly and knowingly counter to their main goals because they can't resist the despair of their plans failing. And finally, they're so obsessed with despair that they have a huge hope-related blind spot; for all their planning, they never account for people who don't fall into despair when they're supposed to.
  • Fate/stay night has The Berserker class Servants with their Mad Enhancement skill, that gives them an increase of basic parameters at the cost of mental capacities as well as personal skills:
  • In My Harem Heaven is Yandere Hell, the schizophrenic Sayuri collapses from cognitive dissonance at a really inopportune time, allowing her captive to escape. Since her schizophrenia is (largely) what made her do villainous things in the first place, this is fitting.

    Web Animation 
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • The Meta suffers from this after being caught in the EMP at the end of Season 6. While he retains his strength and combat ability, the actual brains behind the operation was the AI Sigma, who was killed by said EMP. The human wearing the armor, Agent Maine, had been tortured into an Empty Shell by Sigma, and with Sigma gone he is a mental wreck who doesn't know how to do anything except try to complete Sigma's now-impossible goal. The final battle with him takes advantage of it, as when he has Sarge at his mercy he chooses to slowly strangle him instead of just killing him, allowing Sarge to carry out his plan and ultimately kill the Meta. Later on, the Counselor theorizes that had Sigma not died, the Reds and Blues would never have been able to defeat him.
    • Felix in the Chorus Trilogy is an excellent fighter and brilliant manipulator, but his sociopathy comes with a pathological need to gloat, even he'd really be better off shutting up and getting on with things. This gives Carolina an opportunity to save the Blood Gulch Crew when he has them at his mercy, and later allows Tucker to trick him into an Engineered Public Confession. He also can't stand being humiliated, which leads to his Villainous Breakdown and final battle against the Blood Gulch Crew, in which they take advantage of his state of mind to bait him into trap after trap.
  • RWBY:
    • Adam Taurus is indeed dangerous, especially in personal combat, but as shown throughout Volume 5, he's also a complete lunatic. After going on a furious rant about how much he hates the Belladonna family, he has to struggle to calm himself down before ordering the deaths of Blake's parents purely to spite Blake; the attempt backfires and rallies Menagerie against Adam and the White Fang, since her parents are the former leaders of the White Fang and the leaders of Menagerie. The Albains even comment on Adam's growing instability and contemplate removing him from power.
    • Cinder Fall was a skilled fighter even before she got Maiden Powers, and can be a talented manipulator with decent plans, but trauma stemming from her abusive adoptive family has given her serious issues about relating her power to her self-worth; she doesn't think she's worth anything if she isn't the biggest bad in the room or bullying someone. This leads to a lot of dumb moves on her part, especially after she's scarred by Ruby's Silver Eyes and her Sanity Slippage sets in properly. She was only scarred in the first place because she opted to stay and kill Pyrrha out of spite, she repeatedly chooses to seek revenge on Ruby over simpler paths to victory, gets her ass kicked by every Maiden she impulsively attacks to steal their powers, and frequently betrays and kills her own allies for various slights. Arthur Watts (one of said soon-to-be-deceased allies) eventually mocks her overconfidence and subsequent incompetence in a "The Reason You Suck" Speech that leaves Cinder in tears. Ironically, Cinder is at her best when she isn't using her personal power; her assault on the Vytal festival went off without a hitch and she's able to turn Ironwood into a mad dictator merely by leaving a chess piece on his desk.
    • James Ironwood genuinely wants to save the world, and commands enough resources to provide a serious force for the heroes' side. Unfortunately, his mental state is quite poor- he at the very least has PTSD from the events of Volume 3, and he's a massive Control Freak. Because of this, he tends to make decisions that alienate potential allies and grant openings to actual enemies. When Cinder thoroughly smashes his Trauma Button at the finale of vol. 7, he turns on the nascent alliance that has just formed between him, the heroes and Robyn Hill; his mental breakdown leads to increasingly dictatorial decisions, but the culture of obedience he fostered in Atlas means that no one has the nerve to remove him from power. He becomes the Arc Villain of Volume 8, overseeing the undoing of everything he had once tried so hard to achieve.

  • 8-Bit Theater: Black Mage reveals that he plans to help Chaos because by his (it's?) very nature, he is just as likely to turn the world into cake as he is to destroy it. Of course, Red Mage points out how utterly stupid it is to bet your survival on an ultra-monster's chaotic nature. Notably, though, the Light Warriors are much more efficient and cooperative when not caught up in their personal manias (be it stupidity, greed, pride, or bloodlust.)... though they succeed just as often by outright ignoring logic altogether.
  • Girl Genius: Sparks can enter the Madness Place, a state that greatly boosts their intellect as well as increasing their physical capabilities and even giving them a low grade Compelling Voice that lets them cow people into minions. The downside is, it makes them mad and Sparks are prone to acts of self-defeating lunacy while in its grip. The first showing of the Madness Place is when Gilgamesh slips into it while trying to understand a complex piece of machinery. The Madness Place allows him to understand the device's workings enough to begin tearing it apart in a rage to try to fix the faults in it, but it is only after he's jarred back out of the Place that he's thinking clearly enough to understand the machine will never function at all.
  • Looking for Group: Richard is one of the most powerful spellcasters introduced, has ungodly strength, and can shrug off almost anything thanks to being undead. Even Anti-Magic doesn't work against him, since he has a Bag of Holding full of powerful creatures that will fight for him and can weaponize plants without magic. However, he is unable to focus, tends to spout nonsense, and lashes out at his own teammates when he gets bored.
  • In A Miracle of Science, a thorough understanding of Science-Related Memetic Disorder means that Vorstellen Police officers play their role correctly, ensuring a Mad Scientist will surrender once their illness takes its course. Mad scientists also have a tendency for Didn't Think This Through that undermines their plans.
  • At least half the cast of Narbonic are mad, which has its advantages — a better "creative spark" and no Weirdness Censor, for instance — but can also blow in their faces, sometimes quite literally. The examples that spring to mind are when Narbon Senior imprisons Artie in a room with a perfectly serviceable telephone, and Madblood's downfall due to his refusal to acknowledge basic safety measures.
    Mell: You didn't build in a safety? A back door to switch the thing off?
    Madblood: Young lady, you fail to grasp the basic principles of mad science. [...] Common sense would be cheating.
  • The Order of the Stick has Tsukiko, who, as a fairly high-level Mystic Theurge (a Prestige Class for multiclassed divine and arcane casters), depends on high scores of Intelligence and Wisdom. As a result, she's fairly powerful and knows her way around magic — but she's also a complete and utter lunatic who seems to think that she's the protagonist of a Girl Meets Lich romance with Xykon. Because of this, she tends to make incredibly bad decisions, like dismissing Redcloak as a mere obstacle to her romance with Xykon, and neglecting to consider that her great array of spells can be neutralized by a simple combination of the evil Cleric's Command Undead ability, a dimensional ward spell, and the Counterspell option.
  • In the "Fire and Rain" arc of Sluggy Freelance, Oasis comes very close to killing Zoe, but suffers a complete Villainous Breakdown and collapses in tears moments before delivering the fatal blow.

    Web Original 
  • Explored in The Anglo/American – Nazi War.
    • Some of the most formidable troops used by the increasingly desperate Nazis during D-Day 1958 are simply the leftover Heer troops used in the original invasion of continental Europe in the early 1940s pressed back into service. Despite mostly being in their forties and fifties and armed with hugely obsolete equipment, their methodical and rational approach to battle means these "old bastards" actually put up a decent fight against Allied units, even earning a begrudging respect from them in the process. This is compared to the more modern SS units, who tend to be young men and kids brainwashed by the Nazi education system and so tend to fight like maniacs but get brushed aside easily.
    • The Nazis' obsession with their supposed racial superiority and racist beliefs screw them in the long run. They get wrecked in a fight because their strategy wasn't based on anything rational: they thought the Polish soldiers were racial inferiors, and thus easy to beat.

  • SCP Foundation:
    • The Foundation's acquisition of SCP-668 was made significantly easier by the obsessive behavior of the Ax-Crazy Serial Killer employing it in his killing spree. If he'd had the sense to move around more, and not waste so much time in making the deaths extra-horrific, the Foundation would've had to resort to nuking the whole area.
    • SCP-3393 is a former researcher given anomalous properties through unknown means and has since been obsessively erasing or editing all information and memories regarding them. The document detailing its Special Containment Procedures is part of the successful containment effort, as bait to lure it into a room and seal off all its exits once they access and begin editing it.

    Web Videos 
  • Inverted with Doctor Steel. "I mean, you can get away with pretty much anything if you're bonkers."

    Western Animation 
  • Aladdin: The Series:
    • An episode featured a (non-villainous, though the heroes did not realize that at the time) reality-altering ("more powerful than a palace full of genies") catlike creature who was the Anthropomorphic Personification of Chaos, who shrunk Jasmine and then changed her back just because nobody was expecting it.
    • There was also Mechanicles, self-professed "Greatest of the Great Greek Geniuses". Tends to have a gigantic array of inventions and/or clockwork robots at his beck and call and probably would have conquered the world twice over if not for his Neat Freak tendencies and obsessive list compilation that would make Monk look slovenly; he is once defeated by the heroes getting oil on his tunic as a distraction.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the climax features an Agni Kai between Zuko and Azula where Zuko intends to take advantage of his sister's crumbling sanity. It is working perfectly until she throws out the rules of the duel and shoots lightning at Katara. Then it starts working again when her normal hyper-awareness and savviness is suppressed by her derangement and she charges right into Katara's trap.
  • A non-villain example happens to Ben 10: Alien Force's Doctor Who expy Paradox. He claims to have been driven mad after an eon of being woven through the fabric of time and space until, as he says himself, he grew bored with insanity. This let him comprehend the incomprehensible and somehow get time-travel powers that made him one of the most powerful and all-knowing characters in the franchise.
  • Played with on Darkwing Duck, during Megavolt's introduction in "Duck Blind".
    Darkwing: Fortunately, we have a psychological advantage.
    Launchpad: Because, uh, we're sane and he's not?
  • In the Futurama episode "Insane in the Mainframe", Roberto's hostage situation ends when, convinced that Fry really is a battle-droid, he has a Freak Out and jumps out the window.
  • In Generator Rex, Breach is an incredibly powerful teleporter capable of transporting anyone or anything anywhere with little apparent effort. If she put herself to it, she could be a bigger threat then her boss Van Kleiss. But her insanity and crippling OCD keeps her as a minor villain.
  • Invader Zim: Let's face it: How many times would Zim have conquered or annihilated the Earth if he weren't completely out of his Irken mind?
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Those who are akumatized by Hawk Moth are often People of Mass Destruction. The Equivalent Exchange is their monomaniacal drive to avenge whatever slight made them accept their deal with Hawk Moth and the necessity to get the Miraculous in order to fulfill their part (which makes them equally driven to attack the heroes). Much to Hawk Moth's frustration, this means they aren't the most rational of people, and often fall for obvious traps because the heroes used either themselves or the person who caused their akumatization as bait. "Gang of Secrets" has Hawk Moth directly point out that the titular gang is ignoring a golden opportunity to go for (an illusion of) Marinette... but since they were akumatized after Marinette yelled at them, they head straight for the bait and leave themselves open for the heroes to snatch their akumatized object.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has a LOT of this.
    • The pilot two-parter's villain, Nightmare Moon, has Phenomenal Cosmic Power (TM), telekinesis on a grand scale, super illusion powers, the ability to possess other living things, and perfect shape-shifting... and she uses it to make scary faces on trees and turn into a thorn to piss off a manticore. Or when she completely underestimates Twilight and her friends.
    • Discord, of course, is arguably doing everything because he thinks it's funny, being as he is the setting's God of Chaos. Of course, prior to his Befriending by Fluttershy, he also suffered from a massive superiority complex and a great deal of spite at the idea of friendship and harmony actually being as strong as he is, despite being turned to stone the first time he showed up.
    • Even Trixie, when she comes back under the influence of the Alicorn Amulet, gets progressively crazier and crazier, culminating in things like not trusting WHEELS and other neurosis. This allows Twilight to easily defeat her by playing to her now-ridiculous ego, tricking her into taking the thing off and thus losing the power boost.
    • Queen Chrysalis is a cunning planner, has a lot of story-breaker abilities, and commands a vast army. Unfortunately, she's also a narcissistic sadist and fouls up many of her Near-Villain Victories with her inability to shut up when it counts. Worse, she appears incapable of learning from this; despite several of her plans involving charming and lying to her enemies, she has consistently proven herself poor at both. Instead, she prefers to blame all her defeats on her enemies, and in the comics, she's gotten a bad case of Revenge Before Reason.
    • Starlight Glimmer is extremely savvy to the tricks and plots of the main characters and has established a very efficient system of control over the cult she has gathered. It soon becomes apparent that unlike most cult leaders she genuinely believes in her warped view of the world, and this means she's entirely unable to predict something that conflicts with it. This is subverted in her second appearance where she's completely lost it, where this actually makes her more dangerous due to paying no heed to the consequences of her actions. Twilight has to instead talk her back to sanity to stand a chance of averting the damage she is causing.
  • One episode of ReBoot, where Hexadecimal has gotten "The Medusa Bug", which is turning everything in Mainframe to virtual stone. Bob (being immune) goes and talks to her, mentioning casually how nice and orderly everything would be from now on. Naturally, Hexadecimal is the epitome of chaos, so she immediately undoes it.
  • Rick and Morty: Evil Morty is as smart or smarter than any Rick, but he also has the advantage of a far more rational mind than any of them. When Evil Morty finds Rick fracking the Central Finite Curve for copies of Rick Prime, he instantly deduces the function of the device and how to improve it in a way that Rick could also have done if only he had put a little more thought into it.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Normal humanoid Gems are far stronger than Corrupted Gems, who were normal gems caught by a weapon that corrupted their bodies and minds, because (moments of It Can Think aside) Gem Monsters are basically bundles of fight-or-flight instincts with no real sense of strategy or tactics.
    • For a non-Corrupted Gem example, Jasper. She is extremely dangerous, but several months of And I Must Scream trapped at the bottom of the ocean eroded her sanity considerably, and now she's completely obsessed with getting revenge on Steven for what (she perceives) he did to her, and it's rather easy to infuriate her to the point where her accuracy and tactical skills go down quite a lot. And then her obsession with fusion causes her to fuse with a Corrupted Gem to defeat Smokey Quartz, which infects her with what corrupted the monster. After that, she can be one-shotted by Peridot.
    • Malachite is a "split personality" example. Despite her immense power, her two-component minds (Jasper and Lapis Lazuli) don't mesh well and indeed actively oppose each other.
  • The Transformers: After losing his marbles, Galvatron becomes a much more dangerous Ax-Crazy warrior, but also a much less effective leader who needs to be kept in check by his more competent subordinate Cyclonus.
  • The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: In "Viva Lost Wages", a gambler named Billy steals Felix's magic bag and uses it as a lucky charm to win bets. When Felix breaks into Billy's mansion to recover the bag, he's easily caught by a security guard. Billy could just have Felix thrown away but can't resist when Felix challenges him to settle their score with a bet. Felix points to a pair of dice and says he can get any number Billy calls. Subverted because Billy, not satisfied with the odds, calls 13 in spite of Felix's protests that the highest number one can get is 12. Fortunately, Felix has an idea: he gets the dot from the exclamation point that appeared with the idea and used it to turn a 6 into a 7. Felix eventually wins and reclaims his bag.
  • Phantom Limb from The Venture Bros. spends the third season insane but becomes a true menace again once he regains his sanity and builds the Revenge Society into a true supervillain alliance.