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Smug Smiler

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Pictured: Lelouch on a good day.

"Os quoque parce Erigitnote  — nothing could suggest more vividly the smirk of a persevering governess who has finally succeeded in getting a small boy in trouble with his father."
C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love

This is the character who always has an infuriatingly smug expression on his face. He thinks he's better than you, and it shows. He may not be a Smug Snake entirely; either he's not a proper villain (just an annoying jerk), or he's only disdainful to certain people (mostly The Hero).

See Also Smug Snake and Smug Super, for more villainous/heroic versions; that said, this trope doesn't necessarily not involve them. Compare Psychotic Smirk and Cheshire Cat Grin for much the same reaction.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • Unadonman from Anpanman has his eyebrows and mouth flipped up at the tips. Combined with his simplified Tsurime Eyes, it makes it look like he's looking down upon others and their food choices. Conversely, these same traits can make him eventually look humbled when he has learned his lesson.
  • Ciel from Black Butler, especially in the manga. Always a smug expression, always a snarky remark.
  • Aizen from Bleach mixes this trope and Dull Surprise for Memetic results.
  • Lelouch vi Brittannia from Code Geass (pictured above) loves this trope to the extreme. Only that just as often, given his bad luck, he ends up with an Oh, Crap! expression on his face moments later.
  • Death Note: This is Light Yagami's default facial expression whenever things are going as planned.
  • Cell from Dragon Ball Z. It's mostly done in his perfect form, but it's done a lot in his Perfect form.
    • Future Trunks from the beginning of the Android saga adopted this mode when dealing with Frieza and his father King Cold. Being that he spent the better part of his life fighting Androids more powerful than him in the Bad Future he came from, completely wiping the floor with and annihilating two utter monsters was therapeutic for him.
      • He gets it from his father, Vegeta, who is one of the most arrogant characters in the entire Dragon Ball series.
  • Durarara!!: Izaya almost always has a devious smirk on his face, to the point that if he doesn't it means either you should really worry, or that one of his plans has failed.
  • Fujiwara (or "That Sneering Bastard"), from Haruhi Suzumiya, is described as looking like an "evil version of Koizumi" due to the fact that he constantly wears this expression.
    • As for Koizumi himself, Kyon often reads smarm into said perpetual smile when it's combined with his penchant for flippant philosophizing and generally being inscrutable.
  • Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is almost never seen without one, so you know that when he stops smirking you are either the newest entry on his shit list or about to become extremely dead (although the former is almost inevitably followed by the latter.) This carries on to the second opening of Stardust Crusaders when he passes a smirk to us and Jotaro in the stopped time.
  • And Saruhiko Fushimi of K (who happens to share a voice actor with the previous two), whenever he comes into contact with "...".
  • Quattro from Lyrical Nanoha, when she shows her true colors.
  • Gotou from March Comes in Like a Lion saves these for whenever he's taunting Rei.
  • Michio Yuki from MW.
  • Sailor Moon: Haruka/Sailor Uranus and Michiru/Sailor Neptune sport these from time to time.
  • Seto Kaiba of Yu-Gi-Oh! practically owns this trope. Heck, with only one exception, this is the only type of smile he's known for.
    • Yami Yugi can pull off a pretty good one on occasion, especially when he's about to deliver it.

    Comic Books 
  • In the first Blacksad, he mentions he couldn't have shot the villain if it hadn't been for that smug smile.
  • Kevin in Sin City. Even getting his head hacksawed off doesn't get rid of it.
  • Transmetropolitan: After a few pages, it's pretty clear what sort of smile the Smiler really has.
  • Robin Series: While Scarab usually keeps an impassive blank expression or has her face hidden by her helmet her other expression is a smug smirk usually brought on by thoroughly outwitting an opponent or client, like when she tricked Tim into accidentally helping her escape custody in Red Robin.

    Fan Works 
  • Harry Potter fanfictions are strangely fixated on making the Slytherins' only facial expressions sneering or smirking (for instance, Harry Riddle has a Slytherinish!Harry and his new friend Draco do a lot of smirking). This fandom quirk is parodied in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, where smirking and sneering are skills that all Slytherins are supposed to master for public relations as a matter of house pride, and students are casually noted as "master Slytherins" because they manage to communicate their moods solely through sneers and smirks. By contrast, the Smug Smiler in The Rival Prefects Trilogy is a Gryffindor.
  • All You Need Is Love: Light and his son Duck do this all the time.
  • In Fever Dreams L suspects Light is up to no good by his smug smirking. Light is deliberately invoking this trope so that L will remain suspicious of him in order to stay close to him.
  • This Legend of Korra comic gives one to Asami of all people.
  • In My Huntsman Academia, Neo is perpetually smiling while kicking Katsuki's ass, letting her foes know just how badly they're outclassed.
  • In The Power of the Equinox, Hasty Vote, an Expy of Dolores Umbridge, has constantly a sweet smile on her lips as she belittles other ponies.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Alex sports a pretty arrogant smile of his own in A Clockwork Orange.
  • This is the most frequent expression on the face of Louise Leroi from The Legend of Frenchie King.
  • Daniel Atlas and Thaddeus Bradley both infuriate people for how smug they act in Now You See Me. To be fair, though, their smugness is usually justified.
  • The Blank version of Oliver Chamberlain from The World's End.

  • Artemis Fowl is really good at this.
  • Prince Calder in the The First Law novel The Heroes is a self-professed coward and schemer who employs a smug smirk as "armor" against all of the bloodthirsty barbarians he interacts with. He's something of a composite expy of Theon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister (see above), including the aspect of seeming like a total bastard up until he becomes a POV character.
  • Dolores Jane Umbridge from Harry Potter reveals her overconfidence with several smug smiles in Order of the Phoenix.
  • Zaphod, of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, meets a man with a smile he wants to hit with a brick. He eventually does so.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • This is one of Theon Greyjoy's signature traits in addition to being a Smug Snake, although he's later revealed to have been a rather tragic Stepford Smiler. When he falls into the hands of a sadistic villain who he had previously looked down upon, in addition to other mental and physical tortures, the villain purposely breaks all of Theon's teeth.
    • Jaime Lannister does this a lot (which fits with his first appearance as a stereotypical fantasy villain), although the chapters written from his POV show that he consciously puts on his smile whenever he's unsure of the situation, because he's learned that people will read lots of different things from a knowing smile. This is, in fact, one of the early indications that he might turn out to be a better manipulator than you'd think from his initial thoughtlessness.
    • The HBO tv adaption interprets this as Littlefinger's default expression, and whilst he is a Perpetual Smiler in the book, his smile is described as either quite friendly or rather sad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mr. Morden from Babylon 5. One of several signs that he is BIG trouble.
  • Nazi Professor de Crinis in Charité at War constantly has a smug grin plastered across his face. You can tell that things are going south for him and his peers when it finally starts to fail.
  • Britta Perry from Community is mostly sympathetic and well-meaning, but she can get and look very, very smug whenever she gets on her self-righteous high-horse about something or starts lauding her supposed moral superiority over her friends. Which is often.
    • Jeff Winger's is even worse; in keeping with the fact that he's an Amoral Attorney with an Inferiority Superiority Complex that manifests itself in a conviction that he's above everyone he's surrounded by, a smug, insufferably pleased-with-himself smirk that kind of makes you want to punch him is practically one of his default expressions.
  • Mike Baldwin from Coronation Street has the greatest, self-satisfied, shit-eating grin to end all self-satisfied, shit-eating grins.
  • Merlin: Morgana Pendragon throughout most of season 3 after doing something evil does an evil smile. Other villains in the series (Agrivaine, Morgose, and Cenred) can be seen doing evil smiles. Even before he was evil Mordred both as Asa Butterfield and Alexander Vlahos. Merlin himself even showed some smug smiles through the course of the 5 seasons.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Dagmer. He has a constant smirk on his face that would classify as mischievous if it weren't for the fact that it tends to accompany his Evil Mentor and Kick the Dog moments.
    • Theon is prone to smirking when he's being cocky. His opportunities to be cocky, however, get fewer and farther between as the series progresses.
    • Theon's sister Yara (Asha in the books) also qualifies, with her default expression being a self-assured, cocksure smirk. At least in the second season, she is seen smiling whenever Theon messes up... which is often.
    • Daario Naharis generally wears a mischievous grin, which manages to be a Cat Smile due to the shape of his lips, especially when he's trying to impregnate Daenerys with his eyes. This is gone now that Michiel Huisman plays him.
    • By his expression, it's clear that no one thinks Petyr Baelish is more cunning or witty than Petyr Baelish himself.
    • Daenerys Targaryen has really turned up the smug in the later seasons if you think this is justified or not will generally dictate whether you are her fan or not.
    • There probably isn't a character from any medium ever, to compete with that contemptible, irritating smirk that Cersei wears constantly.
    • Weasel constantly wears a sadistic smirk.
  • The officers on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, whenever they catch the perp of the week.
  • Rimmer of Red Dwarf, generally when something unpleasant is going to happen to Lister. (Almost invariably, it happens to him instead.)
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine this was Bashir's default expression for most of the first three seasons.
  • Dave from Storage Wars, whenever he's bidding.
  • Played for laughs at the end of a That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch where David Mitchell and Robert Webb are plotting out the good and bad sketches of their show, which in turn leads to the two discussing common criticisms of their work. It ends with Webb gloatingly dismissing the criticism with "And people call us smug!", at which point the two sit around nodding at each other with the most absurdly smug expressions on their faces.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY
    • Neopolitan has an adorable grin that persists for all of the appearances she had in Season 2 (save for one Oh, Crap! moment). Said grin borders on mockery when Yang attempts to fight Neo one-on-one, with Neo wordlessly dodging and redirecting every single attack thrown at her and even finding the time to casually take a break in the middle of the fight. Yang is driven nuts by Neo's playful attitude, but at the same time just can't land a single hit on her opponent.
    • Mercury Black usually has a sardonic grin that almost never seems to leave his face. He approaches almost any situation with a smile that borders on arrogance, because it's usually combat he's tasked with, and he knows almost no one can keep up with him.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • The Onion's Who Needs a Good Cock Punching?.
  • The Trollface, of course. Note that the original usage of the face is much different; i.e 2 guys in a car is stopped by the police, and the driver is told by the other guy to show their "cool face". He then makes the trollface, while saying "Problem officer?" People then found this expression to be good for trolling people, and the rest is history.
  • A smug smile is the defining feature of Smug Anime Girl Wendy's, as a result of delivering sick burns. Sometimes she has a Cat Smile for extra smugness.

    Western Animation 
  • Jet does this in Avatar: The Last Airbender. During his first appearance, the writers apparently had orders to make sure Jet always looked cool.
  • CatDog: Winslow smiled much of the time he was mocking the titular duo (but especially Cat).
  • King of the Hill: Hank's dad, Cotton.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Babs Seed, from the episode "One Bad Apple".
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: As a Large Ham, all of Double Trouble's expressions are somewhat exaggerated, so when DT is smug, DT is very, very smug. Even while in disguise, they will occasionally pause when no-one can see them to smirk arrogantly and congratulate themself on their deviousness just for the hell of it.
  • Star Wars Rebels: If smug smirking is needed, Agent Kallus is usually the one who provides it, whenever he's winning. Special mention, however, must go to "Zero Hour", after Governor Pryce has ordered him Thrown Out the Airlock because he was taunting her because she was losing, and two stormtroopers escort him into the elevator, and he smirks, because it's the perfect opportunity to escape.
  • Qilby the Traitor in Wakfu after he ditches his Mask of Sanity and reveals his Big Bad status. His default expression is either a smug smile, a Slasher Smile, or some unholy combination of the two. He's got a pretty good reason to act as if he's better than The Hero Yugo considering he's basically a far more powerful version of him thanks to adulthood and his merging with the Eliacube. He only loses his smirk when his Berserk Button is pushed and when Yugo dissects his true motivations.

    Real Life 
  • Judah P. Benjamin, the southern Senator and Confederate cabinet member, was almost always photographed and drawn with a smirking expression, which was unusual for the 19th century. As an influential Jew in government, he was prone to being insulted for his faith but usually maintained his cool with a smug smirk. In a notable exception, he challenged Jefferson Davis to a duel on the Senate floor over an insult, but the two reconciled and became Fire-Forged Friends.
  • If there's one thing President Donald Trump and President Barack Obama have in common, is that both men have some of the smuggest smiles in presidential history. In fact, they are both so iconic for them that if you do a google image search of "smug" in the US you'll find that both men dominate the first page!


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