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Stupid Evil

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Richard, you really, really Didn't Think This Through...

"I am compelled to do evil, regardless of its utility."
Dmitri Noumenon, Dresden Codak

An exaggerated form of For the Evulz, where a character feels the need to do evil things even at times when such actions are clearly not in their best interests, sometimes to the point where it goes against basic self-preservation. Such characters will betray allies, kill team-mates, threaten or harm people who were previously willing to give them what they wanted, be petty, piss off all the wrong people, attack fellow villains to prove they're eviler, sabotage their leaders, abuse and exploit underlings, throw their weight around at every opportunity, engage in utterly pointless acts of cruelty, reward kindness with cruelty, spurn plans and start fights that they absolutely should not have started, rub salt in the wound even when it would destroy an already-present advantage, and generally be suicidally stupid simply because it's eeeevil.

In short, these characters cannot let go of the Villain Ball, to the point that it's a wonder they haven't caused their own death already, and it comes as no surprise if they eventually do. A useful solution to the question of Hanlon's Razor; instead of debating whether a villain is stupid or evil, they're both at the same time.

This, along with Chaotic Stupid, is also often one of the reasons the forces of evil never manage to destroy the forces of good: it's not particularly evil to work with others, or acquire wealth and power through legal means, and so forth. In particular, this is both a Justified Trope and a serious occupational hazard for demons and other Made of Evil entities - an innate compulsion to spread evil and subhuman intelligence (or even just a human-plausible lack of intelligence, foresight, and/or creativity) are a very dangerous combination.

In video games, this often results from poor implementation of a Karma Meter. These games need to provide the player with the opportunity to be evil, but their evil actions usually can't go too far without either breaking the game's narrative or going over the line into uncomfortable territory. Thus, most "evil" options in games take the form of random Kick the Dog or Video Game Cruelty Potential moments, most of which offer little to no gain (extorting a quest-giver to slightly increase a meager reward) or are even harmful to you (killing off a potential ally). In games where having very low karma provides some kind of benefit, it turns into players aiming to get the lowest as quickly as possible, which invariably leads to this trope in terms of how their character will act.

Compare with Lawful Stupid, Chaotic Stupid, Stupid Neutral, and Stupid Good. Contrast with Pragmatic Villainy, when a villain only does evil things for practical reasons and refrains from doing them when they would be counter-productive, or Poke the Poodle, when a character tries to do bad things but is either too kind or ineffectual. See also the Insufferable Imbecile, who is not always a villain, but whose deliberate ignorance leads to a rejection of the basic rules of decency. Also compare Sanity Has Advantages. A Smug Snake is usually Stupid Evil, although it's not mandatory - sometimes their incompetence and overconfidence isn't closely related to their evil. If an otherwise competent antagonist momentarily becomes Stupid Evil, they've caught a Villain Ball. See also Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, where a villain sabotages their own scheme by doing evil when they could've won by playing fair, and Cut Lex Luthor a Check, where a villain uses something for evil when their goal could have been accomplished with it legally. If a character becomes aware of this trope and switches sides, see Moral Pragmatist. For this trope's Good Counterpart, see Good Is Dumb.

Not to be confused with Stupid Crooks, although these tropes can overlap.

  • 0% Approval Rating: Typically their reputation, as they have a well-earned rep for being gigantic liabilities that you don't want to be anywhere near.
  • Ax-Crazy: A villain is too unstable and/or irrational to make good decisions, and consequently becomes a pariah among fellow villains after they gain a rep as a liability and/or a ticking time bomb who is just as likely to attack you as they are the enemy.
  • Bad Boss: Mistreating the people that work for you while thinking the fact you sign the checks gives you free license to kill or torture them doesn't breed loyalty.
  • Better to Kill Than Frighten: When explicitly against the boss' orders or colleague expectations, a villain (out of stupidity or blood thirst) kills someone when intimidation/blackmail would have been enough. More often than not, it becomes a huge Kick the Dog act for the killer that, at absolute best, leaves the boss looking for a reason to get rid of them and at worst is the direct reason of their inevitable demise.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: There is nothing quite as dumb as telling the hero how to stop your plan just because you're so certain that they're going to die and therefore can't do anything about the scheme.
  • The Brute (with The Hero as The Smart Guy)
  • Bullying a Dragon: The villain repeatedly antagonizes and torments someone who is far above their weight class because they think that they won't do anything about it.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The villain is so determined and proud to be Obviously Evil (even literally having cards printed out) that he absolutely refuses any kind of pragmatic options because he doesn't believe that's what villains do.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Villains don't care much about maintaining loyalty, but this villain really doesn't know how to do anything else but betray whenever he thinks he can get away with it... emphasis on "can".
  • Chronic Villainy: A villain goes back to their villainous ways despite being taught that doing villainy will bite them in the rear.
  • Complete Monster: When their particular breed of idiocy involves one unspeakably vile and cruel act after another, with zero redeeming value and often zero forethought.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The villain uses their powers and gadgets to commit crimes for profit when they could easily be using their gifts to get money the legal way.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Many villains have lost the fight because for many, literally kicking a dead horse is considered too damn much to tolerate.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The villain cheats in a competition even though their opponent has no chance at beating them, which often ironically leads to the opponent being able to beat them because the villain's cheating allowed them time to catch up.
  • Dirty Coward: It’s hard for bad guys to find assistance to help them with their Evil Plan if they have a reputation of throwing said assistance under the bus to save their own skin in times of danger. And if said lackeys survive the betrayal, they’ll likely seek retribution for it.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The villain punishes someone for a relatively minor offense, no matter how minor the offense, and said punishment runs the risk of making the villain cross the line.
  • Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: A villain decides to piss off a Physical God, no matter how dumb it is.
  • The Dog Bites Back: The usual result of needless, pointless cruelty.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The general reaction from saner, more rational villains.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The bad guy doesn't understand why the heroes do what they do or is unable to conceive of a reason for the heroes' actions that isn't selfish, cruel or otherwise immoral.
  • Evil Is Not a Toy: The villain decides to toy with dark, hellish powers that are beyond his understanding, and ends up screwing himself over because either the power source is too much for him to handle, or it decides it doesn’t want to play second fiddle to said villain and promptly kills him or worse.
  • Evil Is Petty: Bad guys are willing to commit the most heinous of atrocities just because they're pricks.
  • Evil Versus Evil: When villain internecine is due to one villain needlessly starting trouble with another just to try and flex.
  • Eviler than Thou: The villain is determined to prove he's more evil, even if that means doing stupid decisions.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The villain repays the person helping them out by being evil to them.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: This is when "foot stomping on humanity's face" supersedes "the trains run on time", even if the trains running on time is very important to keep stepping on humanity's face.
  • For the Evulz: Committing evil deeds solely for the sake of doing them, to the point that they jeopardize their own plan simply because they cannot restrain the urge to be a sadistic, unnecessarily cruel moron. This is the core trope.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: This "friend" is Hated by All, typically for a good reason.
  • Glory Hound: Deliberately endangering people in the pursuit of glorifying their ego isn't going to breed loyalty.
  • Hate Sink: Most Stupid Evil characters are this, as their needless cruelty and sadism cement their loathsomeness.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: What many, many examples of Stupid Evil behavior often result in.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: When a villain has a level of restraint so minuscule that he ends up Blinded by Rage and blows their master plan because someone insulted him or he thinks they did.
  • Irrational Hatred: A villain that hates someone so much that they don't bother to question the origin of that hatred (hating someone because they killed your family makes sense, hating them because they are gingers doesn't) or whether or not the actions taken for the sake of destroying them are actually useful for anything.
  • It's All About Me: A villain is self-centered to the point of making poor decisions because he cares more for himself than everything else.
  • Jerkass: A villain goes out of their way to be an asshole to people they meet, and as a result ends up bringing more harm than good upon their head.
  • Just a Gangster: The villain has a desire for street rep and "thug life" to the point he will actually undermine any attempt at getting more money or reputation that, even slightly, requires legitimate channels or label anybody who does as a "gone soft sell-out" and try to kill them, no matter how stupid that is.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: If a villain keeps pushing their luck just because they can, they'll find their warranty expiring much sooner than they would want it to.
  • Karmic Death: Frequently the fate for these villains. More often than not, their needlessly cruel acts lead to their demise.
  • Kick the Dog: Many villains of this type just cannot resist doing evil crap, even when it isn't in their best interest.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: A villain impulsively starts or joins fights that are way out of their league.
  • Lethally Stupid: When a dumb villain is dangerous solely due to the repercussions of their own bad decisions.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: What mistreating your minions ends up leading to.
  • The Millstone: The villain ends up making things worse for his team than if they weren't there.
  • Mook Depletion: The villain has executed so many of his minions and/or sent so many of his minions to their deaths that he has none left to assist in his schemes or defend him when the heroes come calling.
  • Moral Event Horizon: The one bad deed a character does that erases any chance there was of redemption. While this is an audience reaction trope, any deed horrific enough to be a Moral Event Horizon will usually erase a huge chunk of a villain's trust, support, and goodwill if it becomes known in-universe as well.
  • Machiavelli Was Wrong: When villains that rule by fear escalate things to the point that they either self-sabotage themselves or their evil scheme by being said fearmongering asshat, or their minions grow to hate them more than fear them and either promptly desert them or rebel.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The villain attempts to do something to harm the hero, but their actions instead shift things toward the hero's favor.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Villains who believe this rarely have a better plan than "backstab, grab, and run". Most don't even think that doing it after the plan is well and truly over and they are 100% sure the loot won't get lost, or that their colleagues won’t catch on and preemptively off them are good ideas.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: It's very hard to find reliable allies when your goal in life is "kill all life, things that annoy me the most first" and make no attempt to hide it.
  • Overzealous Underling: When a goon is so willing to please the boss that they overstep their boundaries, causing death and destruction (and misunderstandings) the boss did not wanted, and the heroes to come looking for blood.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A villain goes out of their way to be bigoted, and as a result brings more harm than good upon their head.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: A villain committing wanton destruction (and rape, which most people (and even some villains) consider one of the worst crimes a villain can perform) will do nothing but earn them a bunch of enemies.
  • Revenge Before Reason: A villain is so consumed with revenge against whoever wronged them that it either hampers their performance because they’re too wrapped up finding a way to savagely murder the offender to think clearly, or the target in question has proven themselves to be the type of person the villain doesn’t want to ever screw with, retribution or otherwise.
  • Sadist: A villain is so consumed with their joy for harming others that they spend too much time making their enemies suffer when they could have just simply finished them off.
  • Sanity Has Advantages: Villains with mental health issues often make incredibly poor choices that sane, stable villains would likely not make, and even end up vulnerable to being taken advantage of by others.
  • Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!: Calling out foolish, low-life cynics.
  • Smug Snake: A character becomes so overconfident and arrogant that their own hubris sabotages their plan, or their attempts to rub their sense of superiority in the faces of others ends up not having the desired effect.
  • Self-Disposing Villain: In cases where the villain manages to either put themselves out of commission or kill themselves because of their own boneheaded decisions.
  • Threw My Bike on the Roof: A villain decides to vandalize someone else’s property for shits and giggles, only to have their target end up causing trouble for them in the long run, or being promptly caught by the police and arrested.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Congratulations, now the hero is so pissed off that nothing less than the villain's complete defeat/death will be accepted as a resolution, and will be driven to utilize tactics that he would never think of doing otherwise because assholes like these must be eliminated as soon (and as effectively) as possible. All because the villains decided to paint themselves as utterly irredeemable. Because they're idiots.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A dumb character ends up killing or endangering themselves because of their idiocy.
  • Villain Ball: The result of a normally-competent villain doing something extremely stupid for no good reason, usually out of cruelty or greed.
  • You Monster!: A villain is rebuked for being particularly cruel.
  • You're Insane!: A villain is called out for doing or attempting to do something that proves they are completely out of their gourd.

Example Subpages:

Other Examples:

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    Films — Animation 
  • Rourke from Atlantis: The Lost Empire. For the first part of the story, he comes off as a Reasonable Authority Figure for the expedition, until he displays his true side to Milo in Atlantis, revealing that he wants to take the Heart of Atlantis with him so he'll sell it to the highest bidder. Even though being part of the team which discovered friggin' Atlantis would already have made him rich and famous beyond his wildest dreams. Even if all he wanted was money, he had the king at gunpoint and could have just ransacked the vaults and walked away with more priceless treasure than he knew what to do with, without needing to commit genocide (hell, his former comrades end up getting paid in exactly that by the end of the movie). Or, hell, just ask the fabulously-wealthy Whitmore to add a couple of zeros onto his paycheck, which would undoubtedly be a rounding error compared to building the physics-defying, battleship-sized submarine used for the expedition. Too bad Rourke wants more, even at the expense of quite literally everyone else, from his own team right down to the Atlanteans themselves.
  • Hans's betrayal of Anna in Frozen isn't just cruel; it's unnecessary, given that Anna is frozen solid and is going to die anyway. All he needs to do is kiss her, and if it doesn't work, he could just claim that he sincerely believed it was True Love. He could also have convinced her to stay in the room willingly while he pretended to get help, actually letting her freeze to death as he went to kill Elsa. But because he decides to be a dick and refuses to kiss Anna when she needs it, and to gloat about his plans, Anna ends up escapingnote  and proves to be the Spanner in the Works by throwing herself in front of Hans's sword just when he goes to execute Elsa, saving Elsa and exposing Hans's lies, which gets him deported back to the Southern Isles in disgrace for trying to murder the two sisters.
  • Sunset Shimmer from My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, a unicorn that is exceptionally skilled in magic to the point where she could've probably rivaled Twilight Sparkle at some point, seems to think that staying in a world where her unicorn magic is useless, being the Alpha Bitch of a local high school for a couple of years, and eventually hatching a scheme that involves bringing Twilight Sparkle's Element of Harmony to said world will get her closer to becoming an Alicorn than simply staying in Equestria (with or without Princess Celestia as her teacher) and working on improving her own magic.
  • Captain Qwark in Ratchet & Clank (2016) has the motivation of being jealous of Ratchet's newfound popularity as a hero. To accomplish this, he decides to betray Ratchet in the process of stopping a planet from being blown up. This is despite the fact that betraying the Galactic Rangers and assisting in the destruction of a planet would be far more damaging to his own career as a hero, and indeed, gets him sent to prison even after his rather hasty Heel–Face Turn. Downplayed overall, though, as he does realize and regret what he did. In the original game, he was merely employed by the villains to begin with, due to being a sponsor and highly paid spokesperson for the Chairman's new planet. While that strategy is still somewhat stupid, it's at least more consistent.
  • The opening of the Rainbow Brite movie has the Dark Princess being told that stealing Spectra will drain all color and life from the universe, destroying it. She doesn't care and later attempts to shatter Spectra when stealing it becomes impossible.
  • Played for Drama in Megamind with Hal Stewart AKA Tighten. Before gaining superpowers he was a somewhat creepy bumbling loser. After gaining powers and being rejected by the object of his affections, he decides to become a supervillain and terrorize the city. The fact that he is an idiot actually makes him more dangerous than Megamind, because while Megamind is reasonable and looking to profit from crime, Hal is a petty Psychopathic Manchild who will lash out at the world and live out all of his dark fantasies because he knows that nobody can stop him.
  • "Big" Jack Horner in Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, is a sadistic, cruel, selfish, and unrepentant crime boss/pie salesman who seeks the wishing star for the selfish desire to control all magic. Over the course of the movie, he shows very little regard for his subordinates, and kills the majority of his own men through Lethally Stupid means. When the final battle ends up, Jack only has one henchman remaining, and when that henchman dies he's defeated with ease.
    Jack Horner: Well, you know what they say; can't bake a pie without losing a dozen men.

  • Eminem's Slim Shady character will kill anyone for absolutely no reason and antagonise everyone else, up to the point of trying to annoy his own surgeon during an operation. Everything he does ends up a chaotic mess as a result.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Satan is definitely this: Revolting against omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omnibenevolent God, taking third of angels with him, and deceiving God's supreme creation, who are considered to be His children (Humans). Yeah, how's that a good idea?
  • Orthodox Christianity states that sin (i.e. acting against God's love and His will) is inherently stupid (basically Evil Is Dumb). It brings His wrath upon you, totally ruins your soul, mind, and body, makes you want to sin more, and eventually, brings you to a Fate Worse than Death. (Not to mention that the whole universe has changed for the worse after Adam and Eve's first sin.) In fact, the only reason that we exist now, according to saints, is that He wants us to repent (feel guilt, ask God for forgiveness and stop sinning, and live by His Commandments (Old and New Testaments)). At the same time, however, it recognizes the concept of Necessarily Evil (killing in wars while protecting your country, for example). It's still a sin, and should be avoided and repented if committed, but it's allowed. It also makes an above-mentioned statement about Satan even more outlined.
  • Zoroastrianism argues that evil is self-defeating because it is inherently stupid. This is why Angra Mainyu is fated to lose compared to the intelligent Ahura Mazda, and indeed in mythology, most of his "plans" (read: spiteful decisions) backfire horribly one way or the other.
  • There are quite a lot of figures in Classical Mythology that seem to be low on survival instinct, but the king of them all is probably Ixion. He became the first kinslayer when he invited his father-in-law to dinner and, as revenge for him stealing horses after Ixion refused to pay a bride price, pushed him into a pile of coals and burned him to death. This resulted in him being shunned by society, until Zeus himself took pity on Ixion and decided to give him shelter on Olympus. Ixion, having been already endured the consequences of a violation of Sacred Hospitality and having been granted a second chance by the god of sacred hospitality, then decided it would be a great idea to try to rape his wife, who is also a goddess. Zeus was so pissed at the guy's stupidity that not only did he humiliate him by tricking him into having sex with a cloud instead (which eventually resulted in the first centaurs), but he incinerated him with a lightning bolt and tied him to a flaming wheel for eternity.

  • In his regular editorial for the Role-Playing Public Radio podcast, Tom Church explained that part of his hatred for the Star Wars RPG is the insistence of players on playing Sith while unable to grasp the concept of quiet, calculating menace that makes them such appealing villains in the first place. "Would you like to go out for some babies later this evening?" "Why yes, that would certainly hit the spot."

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Kane kept falling into this pattern of behavior when he was trying to get John Cena to "Embrace the Hate" in the course of their recent feud. Although his long-term plan was to poison relations between Cena and the "Cenation" and then between him and his friends Zack Ryder and Eve Torres (and this plan proved partially successful), Kane just could not restrain himself from attacking and maiming Ryder (or further maiming, since he had already put Ryder in a wheelchair) simply because he could, which only shifted attention away from Cena's ambivalent relationships with his allies and motivated Cena to oppose Kane all the more.
  • Bray Wyatt at the start of his feud with Dean Ambrose. His plan to convince Dean Ambrose to become his new follower would have worked a lot better if he hadn't attacked Dean and cost him the match against his Arch-Enemy.
  • When you get down to it, Heel authority figures are often this — insulting the crowd, making decisions against their wishes, etc.... despite said crowd being the company's main source of income.

  • The Dark Dragon in Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues originally intends to go after the government agent Travers, but has his plan waylaid when Melissa is able to convince him to attack public civilians instead. Irene, who is listening in, is amazed that he'd be so stupid as to fall for such a blatant manipulation tactic.
  • Mike Block on NoPixel, hands down. On his first day in Los Santos, he attempted to claim the central police station as his gang territory, and tried to get officers to pay the "hood tax."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The forces of Chaos (appropriately enough) make some pretty questionable tactical decisions from time to time. There's a reason that the symbol for Chaos is an arrow that points in eight different directions.
      • They enjoy sacrificing hundreds of their own cultists for purely symbolic reasons (as opposed to sacrificing hundreds of cultists for perfectly practical reasons, like summoning daemons, bigger daemons, and really really big daemons to attack their opponents).
      • Infighting between various Chaos factions has spelled the ruin of more than one attack on the Imperium. This might be an aversion since it seems that the Big Four doesn't want to win their war with the Imperium. If they win the war, the human population will drop drastically, along with human psychic emanations that form their existence.
      • Kharn the Betrayernote  is such a bloodthirsty, frothing Ax-Crazy that even his fellow Ax-Crazies don't want to get anywhere near him. This is because he has a tendency to slaughter friend and foe alike when his blood is up. At one point, when the World Eaters (Kharn's legion of Chaos Space Marines) were attacking an enemy force of Emperor's Children (another Legion of Chaos Space Marines), a blizzard so terrible even the genetically-enhanced and daemonically-powered Super Soldiers couldn't take it descended and forced both sides to retreat into shelter. In a fit of rage, Kharn burned shelters to the ground and proceeded to run around in a psychotic frenzy, slaughtering anyone that came within chainsaw-axe range. Both Legions had to kill their own battle brothers to get inside the shelters and survive, and as a result, they were never again able to take the field as a unified fighting force, and are now reduced to fighting alongside other Chaos warbands as shock troops. This is represented in the tabletop game by Kharn's special rules: if you roll poorly to hit in close combat, where any other character would simply miss, Kharn instead hits someone on his own side. Though he does have a little Justification; Kharn is fanatically dedicated to Khorne, the Blood God, and Khorne cares not from where the blood flows, so long as it flows. Thus, as far as his faith is concerned, he was doing the right thing and all the other world eaters were being cowards.
      • Diverting shock troops in extremely rare and strong armor, even by Space Marine standards, from a strategically important battle to take out an enemy propaganda station run by a dozen unarmed monks, then annihilating it from orbit while the shock troops are still inside. Chaos commanders seem to have a collective inferiority complex or something.
    • The Imperium of Man suffers heavily from this; half the time, it seems like it's done to keep them from completely wiping out the Chaos Marines. Acts done by the Inquisition are the worst case; they don't shy away from committing acts of Necessarily Evil but are infamous for doing things like leveling whole planets just because a few people came into contact with alien technology. The Imperial Guard, Depending on the Writer, will be led by incompetent General Rippers that can't think of any tactics beyond throwing human wave tactics at things that will tear them in half, as opposed to, say, shooting them from a distance with their huge tanks.
    • Dark Eldar love torturing stuff. Technically, they do have a reason, as they do it so that an evil god their ancestors ended up creating won't eat their souls, but let's face it, they just love torturing people for fun (especially when you consider that doing stuff like that created the thing in the first place). So much so, in fact, that their vehicles are designed for swooping in, grabbing prisoners, and zooming off into the sunset at the expense of all else — including armor and crew and passenger protection, though not necessarily firepower. Though the Dark Eldar avert this to a degree. They are backstabbing assholes, yes, but unlike Chaos, they at least understand that turning on each other during a life-or-death battle is absolutely moronic. Of course, once the raid is over, their rivals are fair game again.
    • Orks are done this way on purpose. They pick a fight with anything they meet, including each other if there's nothing else around. But for them, it's part of their appeal, and the fact that they basically reproduce by dying helps cover for their stupidity. The Orks' inability to stop infighting is actually a justification for why there is a setting at all: If the orks, in all their unfathomable numbers, didn't like killing each other as much as everything else and actually managed to work together long enough, nothing in the universe would be able to stop them. Downplayed in that Orks are not really evil so much as Blood Knights: for them, war and violence are nothing more than fun pastimes. In fact, Orks are just as often Chaotic Stupid as "Stupid Violent".
    • The Eldar, of all factions, grab the Idiot Ball almost as often as the Imperium. They will lie, mislead, manipulate, and be jerks just to show off their superiority. They will orchestrate deaths of billions of the Imperium soldiers to save a few hundred of their own kin, despite the fact that the Imperium is the only thing protecting the galaxy from being overrun by forces of disorder.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Drow elves in most campaign settings are like this. Being forced to live in the Underdark, surrounded by swarms of magic-eye-beam-firing, mind-controlling, acid-spewing, nastiness-causing beasties is bad enough. But they also worship an insane demon and turn their own civilization into a Social Darwinist nightmare, to the point that they expend three-quarters of their energy fighting themselves. It helps that in most settings, the drow are watched over by a Chaotic Evil goddess named Lolth, the Queen of the Spiders; Lolth rules the drow society and demands that they constantly double-cross each other. She is specifically described as "constantly watching for signs of too much cooperation."
      • That said, the drow can still go too far into Stupid Evil even for Lolth's social Darwinist tastes. The Starlight and Shadows trilogy sees Lolth sending a divine avatar to command them to tone it down for a while, lest the whole drow race completely destroy itself. The Forgotten Realms also has the "Silence of Lolth", where she simply cut off all access between herself and the drow for seven months; by the time Lolth came back, drow society had collapsed into even worse infighting and cult worship, and was on the brink of destruction before Lolth got everything back in order. At least as much order as a society like the drow elves could ever have with their Stupid Evil tendencies.
    • The Drow are far from alone amidst evil D&D monsters and villains here. In fact, some of the most blatant examples are human (many of the Forgotten Realms's Zhentarim come to mind) — in this case, their individual evilness may be unconsciously or deliberately played up because they have no convenient "monstrous" traits to clearly mark them as Obviously Evil otherwise.
    • Demons pretty much have this as their hat. While devils (which are not the same thing in D&D cosmology, one is Chaotic Evil, the other is Lawful Evil) are scheming, manipulative bastards who constantly backstab each other and occasionally indulge in pointless cruelt, they are at least capable of working together effectively in an organized legion and hierarchy. Demons, on the other hand, represent the worst aspects of chaos and evil. They exist solely to indulge their darkest vices, which includes Rape, Pillage, and Burn throughout the entire multiverse. To make it worse for them, each and every demon believes itself to be the pinnacle of creation with no equal, and the only thing that makes them work together is a stronger demon. The only reason the legions of hell haven't won their Forever War is that there are infinite demons, whereas devils are short on manpower. Hell probably would have allied with Heaven to finish the demons once and for all, if the angels hadn't recognized that an eternal stalemate between the universe's two mightiest and cruelest factions is the best possible option.
    • Most Game Master|s will disallow the Chaotic Evil alignment among players because of this trope. While Lawful Evil is usually interpreted as either having a personal code, Pragmatic Villainy or exploiting the law to their advantage, Chaotic Evil is usually interpreted as indulging in cruel whims and vices. At the best of times, a chaotic evil player might simply kill a monarch and thus land the party in deep shit, while at the worst they might burn down an orphanage for funsies or betray the party and join forces with the Big Bad.
  • Intentionally employed in the Paranoia RPG system, where all of the player characters are supposed to be stupid evil and the "plot" is just an excuse to put them all in one room while they try to out-backstab each other. Not only that, but they're all at the mercy of an omnipresent Lawful Stupid NPC, Friend Computer so that they have to try to get away with being Stupid Evil while acting like they're Lawful Stupid.
  • The Skaven of Warhammer Fantasy are very much Stupid Backstabbers. While this serves a useful purpose in ensuring only the strong survive, this isn't saying much since Skaven take the We Have Reserves and Zerg Rush approaches; on the other hand, their tendency to turn every minor engagement into a five-way leadership battle is pretty much the sole reason apart from sheer troop inadequacy that they haven't taken over the entire friggin' world. Seriously, in one of the Gotrek & Felix novels, Thanquol could have won by page 200 if he hadn't been sending the heroes to eliminate his rivals out of fear for his position. In the setting's grand finale, they took on basically everyone else except the other Chaos factions at once and won on almost every front, only failing to win the entire war outright because some of them decided to blow up a moon over one of the continents while a large portion of their warriors were currently standing on it.
  • The World of Darkness as a whole seems to always have a Stupid Evil faction for the players to fight against (or join). In Vampire: The Masquerade, we have the Sabbat, who want to rule over humankind openly, ignoring that the Camarilla, their opposing faction, already basically rules the world. In Werewolf: The Apocalypse, we have the Black Spiral Dancers, who would really, really like to help the Wyrm destroy the universe. And finally, for Mage: The Ascension, we have the Nephandi, who want to help Demons/The aforementioned Wyrm/Every other otherworldly abomination destroy the universe basically for the lulz.
    • Lampshaded in the Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade supplement Infernalism - The Path of Screams: "Here comes my Dark Lord! Booga-Booga-Booga!" "No, you don't - taste my steel!" SPLAT! End of story, right? Not if you do (Infernalists) justice." That passage goes on to describe complex and intelligent motivations and behaviors for Infernalist antagonists.
    • The New World of Darkness has its share as well, most notably Belial's Brood in Vampire: The Requiem. ...Unless you happen to have their book, which shows them to be more of a Gnostic Religion of Evil that views the chaos they cause as needed for their enlightenment, and quite capable of subtlety and patience if the situation calls for it. In fact, the pneuma (soul-focused) factions are actually all about subtlety and patience — the Nameless are primarily researchers and scholars, while the Mercy Seat regards playing The Corrupter as a holy mission.
  • Exalted:
    • Subverted with the Infernals... most of the time, anyway. Even after offering their souls to the Yozi and merging with a demon, most Infernals are at least practical in their quest to turn Creation into a living hell. That being said, Infernals are expected to be paragons of demonic will while they are in Malfeas, and participate in baby-eating contests and the like.
    • Side note: you can commit super-villain style antics, such as telling the heroes about your magnificent plans, kidnapping maidens (or men), or setting up elaborate death-traps in order to reduce your Limit (and avoid the wrath of your demonic overlords). In other words, the game encourages you to be Stupid Evil, at least some of the time.
    • The Neverborn's punishments of the Deathlords when they don't perform to their satisfaction, mainly, not destroying all of creation, even if they can destroy most of it. The Neverborn's punishments have proven so brutal that the Deathlords actually hesitate to carry out their plans because they're so afraid of their masters that they won't try any plans unless they are absolutely sure they will work. Granted, the Neverborn were not exactly sane even in life as Primordials, and being dead has unhinged them even more. The fact that they aren't too smart is hardly surprising.
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • The Rakdos from the Ravnica bloc are this intentionally. They even draw a great deal of their strength from mindless slaughter, which is also reflected in their representative gameplay mechanic (Hellbent).
    • The Gruul might also be either this or Chaotic Stupid, depending on who you ask. They have good reason to be pissed, though: Backstory tells that when the guilds were first formed, the Gruul were put in charge of "protecting nature." The problem is that Ravnica, their setting, is a planet-wide city, so between having much of their purpose being co-opted by the other Green-based guilds, or just eliminated by urban planning, they were eventually cast down as a guild. They didn't take it well.
    • The vampires of Innistrad are extremely hedonistic and short-sighted, willing to wantonly kill humans to the point of near-extinction just to satisfy their bloodthirst. It got bad enough that one of their number, Sorin Markov, created the archangel Avacyn to defend humanity and act as humanity's Big Good solely to prevent the vampires from exhausting their food source. Obviously, the other vampires weren't happy about this, although Sorin maintains the necessity of his actions. Later, in the story of the set Crimson Vow, the vampires stop a ritual meant to solve the impending problem of The Night That Never Ends even though it would risk humanity's extinction.
    • In New Phyrexia, this seems to be the role of the black mana Phyrexians. Blue, green, and white all seek the creation of a more perfect creature or society, respectively through research, accelerated evolution, or spiritual purity. Red keeps the world running through construction and forging. Black... fights amongst itself over who gets to be in charge of their faction. Anything actually useful they contribute is pretty much just a side effect of their in-fighting.
      • A certain amount of Surprisingly Realistic Outcome as a result of this; when last we heard of New Phyrexia, Elesh Norn had taken control of both the Black and Red factions as well as her own white Machine Orthodoxy. The Red Phyrexians have been confused by their feelings of empathy and not sure what to do, while the Black Phyrexians were too divided from all their pointless infighting to resist Norn taking command.
  • Legend of the Five Rings' Sealed Evil in a Can villain, Iuchiban, was eventually revealed to be this. After twice nearly conquering the empire through subtle infiltration, relying heavily on his enemies not even realizing his existence, he trumpets his third return in blatantly evil style by murdering a ki-rin spirit.
  • Pathfinder paints goblins as manic vermin who usually do themselves in by sheer idiocy halfway through their natural lifespan. With nonexistent attention spans, no grasp of tactics, and no regard for each other's well-being, they tend to deal hefty Friendly Fire before they even reach their targets and abandon each other as soon as something spooks them — a poor strategy to pursue a violent grudge against almost every other species.
  • Ars Magica: Demons lack the Seven Heavenly Virtues completely, which often takes them into this territory — for example, they compulsively betray their allies because, lacking Faith or Charity, the idea of cooperating towards a common goal is completely alien to them and they can't bear to act for another person's benefit. Even powerful demons are relatively flighty and gullible by human standards since they're driven entirely by their worst impulses.
  • Happens every so often in BattleTech. The most prominent example is Jinjiro Kurita, whose response to the assassination of his father Minoru, the previous Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, was to order his troops to kill every last inhabitant of Kentares IV, to the point that he had his infantry decapitating civilians with their katanas. The Kentares Massacre slowed down their conquest of the Federated Suns, repulsed several other semi-neutral states on moral grounds, destroyed the morale of his troops, revitalized the Fedrats' resolve, which led to them turning the tide of the First Succession War, made the Draconis Combine an ally-less pariah for generations, and single-handedly undid every single achievement of his father, all in the name of his violent thirst for revenge. When his own generals and even a priest begged him to stop the massacre, he instead killed the dissenters himself.

  • Doctor Faustus. You made a Deal with the Devil to have magic powers in exchange for taking your soul in a few short years... really, why act surprised? What did you THINK was going to happen? To make matters worse, he repeatedly insists he's beyond redemption despite theologians and an actual angel telling him that's impossible, and even as he's about to be Dragged Off to Hell, all he does is make a speech begging to be given more time to repent, even though he could easily just repent then and there and save himself.
  • The Jew of Malta. Barabas betrays the Christians, who have wronged him, to the Turks, who reward his betrayal. He then betrays the Turks to the Christians, on the ground that he hates them both… and ends up in that boiling cauldron.
  • Don John, the "plain-dealing villain" of Much Ado About Nothing. For unknown reasons (sometimes interpreted as resentment over being a legal bastard) he rebelled against his brother Don Pedro before the play and lost. Rather than imprisoning him, Pedro added John to his household and treats him as a guest. John's friend Conrade advises him to accept the circumstances and keep his head down, but John refuses and instead hatches a scheme of vengeance against Pedro and his young protegé Claudio. He temporarily succeeds in scuppering Claudio's wedding and makes a run for it, but his deception is quickly uncovered and the play ends with him being apprehended again.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • Frank Sahwit, the culprit of the very first case in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, has no reason whatsoever to pin the crime on Larry. He had no connection with him or the victim; he simply needed to silence a witness of another crime. However, he testifies that he saw Larry do it and ends up Saying Too Much when cross-examined, revealing him to be the killer. Had he just left and pretended he had nothing to do with the case, no one would've connected him to the crime. (The player knows him to be the killer from the start.)
    • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All has Richard Wellington, the culprit in the first case (not a spoiler; it's another Reverse Whodunnit). He pretty much went out of his way to give easily disproved excuses, even trying to steal his phone back from Phoenix and not bothering to check it was the right one!
    • Matt Engarde in the final case of Justice For All is an even worse example. Hiring an assassin to kill off someone is one thing. Filming said assassin as he performs the deed so you can blackmail him, especially considering how good the man is at his job and how much he values honor and trust, puts a big target on your back.
    • Furio Tigre, the culprit of the third case of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations (again not a spoiler; he's so obvious as the killer the game doesn't even bother to hide it and shows him poisoning the victim's coffee in the opening cutscene). The guy could've gotten away with killing Glen Elg and framing Maggey just by having his girlfriend and the guy who owed him money say they saw Maggey do it, but no, he just had to pull off an overcomplicated scheme that required him to don several disguises (which both got Phoenix involved and tipped him off that something was wrong, due to Tigre's terrible acting skills) and appear several times in court, which gets him nailed.
    • Florent L'Belle is a financial version; the reason he has money troubles is because he invented multiple cosmetics for his own personal use- and then spent all his money advertising the products he never intended to sell just so he could gloat about having them to more people. He'd be set for life if he sold his beauty products, but he'd also rather commit murder than let "peasants" look as good as him.
  • BAD END THEATER: The demons in the Overlord's castle intend to overthrow and kill the Overlord by locking her inside the castle and setting it on fire. At no point does it occur to them how setting their own home on fire could possibly be a bad idea.
  • Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony: Chapter 3 in each game always contains a double murder, but this is the only one where the second killing was entirely For the Evulz (in the first game, both killings were part of the culprit's complicated plan, and in the second, a witness walked in on the killer with their first victim's body), and it ends up doing the culprit in. Despite having already committed a murder that couldn't be pinned on them (Angie, who walked in on the killer setting up a death trap), they decided to kill someone else (Tenko) because they didn't want to waste the trap they'd set, even though its use was totally unnecessary for graduation. Naturally, the circumstances of Tenko's murder end up providing enough evidence to pin the killer for Angie's as well. Korekiyo also gloats about killing Tenko during the trial because Monokuma's rules mean that only the first victim discovered counts for the trial, and since Angie was discovered first he wouldn't count as the Blackened for Tenko. Problem is, while his classmates hadn't the evidence to prove he killed either Tenko or Angie, they could prove that the same person killed both girls. Admitting to killing Tenko meant Korekiyo indirectly admitted to killing Angie, which gets him executed.

    Web Animation 

  • El Goonish Shive: The Comically Evil Guy, who only showed up in one strip and whose purpose was to have a completely unsympathetic victim for one of the incoming aberrations. Given that his evil plan started with setting fire to an orphanage so that he could steal money from a nearby ATM...
  • In Looking for Group, Richard started out like this. In fact, he's still like this a lot. It helped with him being undead and a powerful sorcerer, not having to suffer any real consequences for his actions — although the other party members certainly did. It's later revealed that his Stupid Evil acts do have a point, though. If he doesn't continually kill innocents, he loses his powers. All of his powers. His undeath (i.e. his immortality, inability to feel pain, and ease of regeneration) and his magic. His insane actions are shown to be a bit of a facade, as he's aware he's doing evil things, but he is doing them in hope for the Greater Good. The crazier he acts, the less responsibility he has to take for his actions, and the less clearly he remembers his old self.
    • Later in the comics, he mellows out the evil without drawbacks, since he is supposed to save innocents for power now, but the problem is he is still an idiot and he will still do Jerkass acts for fun or if angered. Turns out he is insane, but it's a question of degree.
  • In Dresden Codak, Dmitri's Dungeons & Discourse character is a Stupid Evil "Dark Kantian" as a parody of Kantian philosophy.
    Dmitri: I am compelled to do evil, regardless of its utility.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Belkar is a great example because he's not just evil in a stupid way, he's evil because he's stupid. When Vaarsuvius cast a wisdom-boosting spell on him, he swore off evil and needless killing. Then V dismissed the spell and he ran off to kill things. However, he had a vision/hallucination of Lord Shojo which has seemingly convinced him to avoid this; if he's a bit more selective with his carnage and act as if he's playing by everyone else's rules (in his word, "faking Character Development"), he can get people to stop hating him and possibly even get them to do what he wants. Considering the setting (Dungeons & Dragons), Belkar is eerily effective at times compared to more intelligent and less stab-happy people. Belkar may also be smarter than he looks, as shown when he did a pretty effective job of dismantling Miko despite her ridiculous combat proficiency. Of course, then he was just as stupid as you'd expect when he's defeated off-camera and has the holes in his resurrection scheme pointed out. There are some hints, however, that his development may turn out to be genuine, such as seeming to lament that hurting people is all he's good at after insulting Roy out of a breakdown due to Durkon's vampirization.
    • The trope is discussed between Roy and the High Priest of Hel when Roy calls him out on why he wants to destroy the world:
      High Priest: Maybe it's because I'm an Evil vampire now?
      Roy: So what? Xykon's an Evil lich. Tarquin's an Evil human. Neither of them wants to actually destroy the world. Heck, Belkar is an Evil halfling and he's like 70% towards wanting to save it. You need to have some kind of underlying reason to support this scheme!
    • Later subverted when it turns out he does have a reason. When the world is destroyed, the souls of all the dwarfs in the world will belong to Hel, which will grant her the power to remake the world as she sees fit, with the High Priest presumably having a favored position at her right hand.
    • Nale. Compulsively boastful of his evil deeds, arrogant, power-hungry, but often doesn't think through the consequences of his actions. He once killed 417 people just to give local law enforcement an obvious clue as to where he was hiding out at (the map of the killings formed an arrow). However, his arrogance came back to bite him, hard, when he plotted and executed the killing of his father's friend Malack, then boasted of it to his father, who then killed Nale and avenged Malack.
  • Subverted in the RPGamer comic Knights of the Dinner Table, where player Sara Felton becomes evil because of a cursed object, but acts, as she points out, definitely not Stupid. And she likes it.
  • 8-Bit Theater:
    • Black Mage, who puts the "sociopath" back into Heroic Comedic Sociopath — and removes the "heroic" for good measure. His apparent solution to every problem is "kill everyone, starting with the people I hate", and it seems the only reason he hasn't put this plan into action is that he doesn't know where to start.
    • He also has a flowchart.
    • Kary is also this, considering she blows up her own minions just for fun and to prove that she is evil, which depletes her supply of them. Later, she blames the Light Warriors for killing her minions despite admitting that it was all her fault.
    • The other Light Warriors can fall into this at points - Thief once sold a fraudulent map to someone they were asking for directions.
  • Minor villain, Jaxon, in Dominic Deegan is in the middle of a chaotic and extremely dangerous wilderness when he decides to stab his boss and go hunting for a monster that completely outclasses him. Later, while wounded, he decides to attack the unscathed main character. He's either classic Stupid Evil or just suicidal.
  • Girl Genius gives us Bangladesh Dupree. Her attempts to follow orders inevitably add a lot of "kill people" between the lines. On a more specific note, she has to be beaten unconscious so she stops trying to kill the guy trying to keep the airship they're on from being destroyed. In all fairness, she was dazed, delirious, and barely awake, and he had recently broken her jaw. And he did that because she attacked him when she saw him dragging her unconscious boss through the halls. Bang also (surprise) sees Klaus as some sort of a father figure, so she might have been trying to protect him. In her case, it's sometimes hard to tell motivated violence from unmotivated. She's the girl who complains about orders to not burn any towns and then adds "even if a town really needed burning".
  • In Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, when princess Dewcup tries to join the Drow because Evil Is Cool, she got a thing or two mixed up.
  • Homestuck:
    • Jack Noir (the alpha version, anyway) took a hard right into this trope via a Jail Break-like imprisonment sequence, where he keeps foiling his own escape plans with his compulsive need to stab everything in sight. He ends up beaten senseless by a gang of burly Prospitians.
    • Vriska arguably counts too — she will do everything up to and including prototyping Jack Noir with a Physical God just so that she can influence the story's events in some way.
    • Caliborn starts as this, but we learn that he took a major level in badass and became the Big Bad Lord English.
  • Klonoa: Dream Crusaders:
    • Tenebrae Hue, the Big Bad Wannabe, has a few moments:
      • Downplayed and maybe justified when Noctis Sol warns Hue that the latter's ritual will summon an ancient evil. Hue stubbornly dismisses it as "nonsense" and goes through with the procedure anyway. He does try to prepare his minions to fight this evil, but Claire the Ancient turns out to be just as dangerous as Noctis Sol said, and wipes the floor with all of them. It's implied that Hue ignored this warning because he had a personal reason for his evil plans and really didn't want anyone trying to talk him down.
      • Played straight later on when Hue is stranded in another world with Lolo (and the King of Sorrow, though Hue and Lolo don't know he's there yet). Hue immediately turns his wrath against Lolo, even though she had nothing to do with the portals scattering everyone, and she was the only person around as far as Hue knew. Even Joka, who is usually one of the most incompetent villains, realized it would be wise to cooperate with the heroes he was stranded with.
    • Claire creates a bunch of portals that scatter the main characters, including Tenebrae Hue, to different locations. But then she realizes that she needs Hue for her own plans, so she is forced to track him down. This shows that while Claire is immensely powerful, she is not very good at forward thinking.
      Claire: Maybe I should have thought twice before flinging you into space with my portals...

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Media Zealot is a channel that goes into the various ways this could have been avoided by various film and show companies like Umbrella, OCP, and even Sauron is not immune to their judgment.
  • This is the main playing style of the Spoiler Warning crew.
  • The Unexpectables: In "Skycrimes", the engineer of a pirate (air) ship complains after the fact about kidnapping an opera, which has already led to a battle with the title characters who had been attending in the audience, is so in keeping with their captain's behavior that he has no trouble accepting Greckles' cover story, and ultimately sees their ship lost to a disappointed client.

  • Insofar as lying is "evil", then the knaves in Raymond Smullyan's logic puzzles count; they always lie, even if they would give away their being knaves (eg, if you ask them "Is the Pope Catholic?", they will say "No"). The most famous and widely imitated such puzzle is described under Knights and Knaves. In that one and its variants, puzzle solvers are limited in the number of questions they can ask, and there is often a more conventional "Normal" character hidden among the Stupid Evil knaves, who can usually imitate a knight or knave whenever convenient.
  • Many conspiracy theories portray the villains in question as this way, as they are said to do some nefarious deed even though it doesn't benefit them any (and, in many cases, would actively be detrimental towards them), not to mention having an odd compulsion to leave clues behind for intrepid researchers to find, making their schemes needlessly elaborate or vast, not simply killing detractors in "accidents" etc (or if they're really so powerful, simply taking over things already).
  • The philosophy of Solipsistic Altruism is based on the idea that in the long term, all evil is stupid. Powerful people do heinous things to hold on to their power or gain more out of the fear of how they'll suffer if their power ever collapses, while driving themselves ever higher up an increasingly precarious tower. A psychological breakdown into either paranoia or denial is inevitable along that road. Therefore, the greatest benefit one could gain from exerting power is cultivating wealth and goodwill in their society: both to form a safety net for their fall and make a life without power into a desirable enough one that nobody else would see a benefit in ruining it.


Video Example(s):


Iok Kujan

Iok orders a Dainsleif bombardment on the Turbines, even though they were trying to unconditionally surrender to him, needlessly expending resources and using illegal weapons to shoot down a fleet of mostly women and children.

How well does it match the trope?

4.14 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / StupidEvil

Media sources: