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The Starscream
aka: Starscream

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"Every ruler has a hungry right hand."
Wiseguy
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In some stories the Big Bad casts a shadow over everyone: They might be afraid of him, they might be his minions, or they might be the heroes trying to defeat him. Then there's this guy.

A certain type of character falls outside the pattern: a villain too ambitious or individualistic or just too stubborn to accept the supremacy of the Big Bad. Instead, this villain actually dreams about overthrowing the guy everyone else fears and taking his place. Sometimes he is a (grudging) servant of the Big Bad; sometimes he is entirely outside the established power structure. In rare Noble Demon or Anti-Villain cases, he may be actually loyal-to the Greater-Scope Villain, and feels his direct boss isn't. Either way, if the Big Bad ever stumbles or shows weakness, the Starscream will be there, ready to kick him out of the Astrotrain. A good way to tell a true Starscream apart from the run-of-the-mill opportunists who ally themselves with the Big Bad hoping to share in the spoils (and who would only take over if they were given the chance in a golden platter) is through his emotions. If he is privately seen boiling with anger and seething with hatred over his boss ordering him around and being forced to say yes sir then his supposed boss should watch out for him. The dominant trait of a Starscream is resentment at being a sycophant and this bitterness is proof that he is the real thing.

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Depending on the nature of the character, he may be an overly optimistic fool or someone who might actually be able to pull it off. If the character is badass enough, the heroes might be forced to try to stop him from toppling the original villain. Usually fond of playing Commander Contrarian to their boss' schemes (deservedly or not), who will normally Neck Lift them into kowtowing to their will. It can be hard to justify why the Big Bad keeps them around and doesn't Shoot the Dangerous Minion, but it may be so the Big Bad has a reason to always keep his guard up (and thus can rest assured that he will never become too complacent). Or perhaps the Starscream is simply a powerful asset whenever he actually obeys the main villain, so it's worth keeping him around despite the risk of betrayal.

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In some cases, the Starscream may actually start the series as a staunchly loyal supporter of the Big Bad. Unfortunately, when the boss turns out to be an inept General Failure who's more interested in juggling the Villain Ball than actually succeeding, the Starscream becomes fed up with the boss's idiocy and decides that the villainous organization would be more successful with him in charge. A former Big Bad who has been Demoted to Dragon by a new, bigger and badder villain is very likely to become the Starscream as well, bidding his time while plotting against the new Big Bad in order to reclaim his former seat of power.

Not the same as The Dragon getting a promotion when he survives the Big Bad's downfall — that's Dragon Ascendant. Also not to be confused with Dragon Their Feet, where the Big Bad's right hand man screws his boss over by being strangely absent at a bad time. Compare and contrast Dragon with an Agenda, who has different goals from the Big Bad but is at least nominally loyal and generally won't turn on the Big Bad unless said goals are threatened.

If The Starscream succeeds in taking over the mantle of Big Bad from his superior, the former Big Bad may have actually been a Disc-One Final Boss. If he was consistently portrayed as the more dangerous or important of the two to begin with, then he's also a Dragon-in-Chief. Many a Dragon-in-Chief don't care about openly taking over because they know that they really are the ones in charge and the real Big Bads even though some are too egotistical to pretend any longer and go on full betrayal mode. If it turns out that the apparent Dragon was the true Big Bad all along, using his "boss" as a decoy or puppet for his schemes, then he is The Man in Front of the Man.

Quite strongly related to the Rule of Two, where this is expected and quite nearly mandated. Also often carries strong undertones of Ambition Is Evil — it is the ambition to seize the Big Bad's throne for himself what drives a Starscream to betray his boss, after all.

Many examples can end up being The Millstone if their schemes consistently screw up the Big Bad's plans enough to let the heroes keep pulling off wins.

See also Bastard Understudy, with a similar attitude but more subtlety and patience, and The Dog Bites Back, for when the attacker has not planned but takes advantage of weakness (and/or Right Makes Might if said attacker was actively abused by his new victim).

Heroes almost never have this problem, because while sometimes subordinates do turn against them, they rarely stay with the heroes afterwards, as a Starscream often does. (Maybe this is one big reason heroes win far more often than villains do; they do not make a habit of allying themselves with folks who they obviously can't trust.) The Lovable Traitor is probably the closest counterpart on a hero's side, but even folks like that rarely ever have malicious intent like the Starscream does.

Often involves Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!. All examples prone to suffer from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. A Starscream's chances are better if he's a Chessmaster Sidekick. If the Starscream waits until after his master is eliminated by outside forces to make his move, see Evil Power Vacuum.

Sub-trope of Evil vs. Evil. Opposite trope of The Creon, who will do anything in his power to stay second-in-command at all costs. Contrast Sarcastic Devotee, Professional Butt-Kisser, and Villainous Friendship (where The Dragon and the Big Bad trust each other as friends).


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • For some part of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, Robotnik's nephew Snively served as his increasingly untrustworthy lieutenant, and eventually set in motion a plan to destroy Robotnik. In "Endgame" he actually succeeds in erasing the original Robotnik from existence.
    • Robotnik/Eggman has stated that he knows that Snively and several of his Grandmasters are planning to turn on him, but precisely because of that they serve him to their fullest, because they want to take over a strong empire. He actually applauds Lien Da for an underhanded attempt and chastises Snively for a sloppy one.
      • Eggman has another reason for encouraging his Grandmasters to plot against him, he actually finds it fun to have enemies to defeat, seeing it as just a game to him. But he wants them to be aware of the consequences if they lose.
    • Also there's Miles, Tails' Evil Twin from Moebius. Originally loyal to Scourge (Sonic's counterpart), he eventually convinced the rest of the Suppression Squad to turn on him, and soon after set himself up as their new leader.
    • Conquering Storm is a low-key one but any advantage she see against Eggman, she more then willing to take such as providing Snively with the Iron Oni to use against Eggman.
    • Lien-Da Desposed of her Great-Great-Grandfather to gain the role of Grandmaster and tried to overthrow the Iron Queen. This didn't work out too well however. She then became one to Eggman. He in fact saved her from dying because he's amused by having his underlings trying to kill him as part of his "game."
    • Kragok was this to Lien-Da - he had agreed to share power as the Grandmaster after they did away with their father, only for him to take the entire thing.
  • Weasel of Deadpool fame (during the latter's Villain Protagonist arcs). He's nowhere near as scared of Deadpool as someone with his proximity and history should be, and Deadpool speculates in front of him that he might be one of these - but he's just too useful to kill.
  • The Penguin's Number Two, Ogilvy, takes advantage of his boss being distracted by the Joker's return to completely take over his operation, becoming the Emperor Penguin, the most powerful crime boss in Gotham, while the original Penguin is left powerless and broke.
  • Doctor Doom for a while had a Mad Scientist right hand man, called Hauptmann. In a fit of rage, after Hauptmann fired a weapon at the Fantastic Four which also destroyed some of Doom's heirlooms, Doom killed him. A while went on until Hauptmann's brother joined Doctor Doom, who coincidentally was also a scientist. He always plotted to kill Doctor Doom for vengeance. At one point Hauptmann created a machine which synthesized Terrax' power cosmic, and pleaded for Doom to use his machine. Doom turned the machine on him instead, knowing fully well the second Hauptmann was going to betray him, and that he would've used the machine on himself before he would give it to Doom.
  • In the Marvel comic book stories of G.I. Joe, Serpentor immediately becomes this to Cobra Commander. He successfully coerces Cobra Commander and Destro into a situation where they apparently get killed and then takes control of Cobra. Unknown to him, to Cobra and to the Joes, the two actually survive; they part ways and the Commander briefly conspires with one of his Crimson Guardsmen, who eventually kills him out of anger when CC has a Villainous BSoD moment. (Long story; He does come back... almost 40 issues later!) This Guardsman then completes his Starscream moment as he decides to take the identity of Cobra Commander and wrest control of the organization from Serpentor. The Baroness, being the only one in Cobra at the time who has the credit of having seen Cobra Commander's true face, goes along with the ploy and proclaims to the whole organization that he's the real deal. Serpentor, unable to prove her wrong, then goes back to Starscreaming; plotting behind this Cobra Commander's back to get rid of him and bring Cobra back under his control.
  • Green Lantern:
    • Mongul of the Sinestro Corps. Subverted in that Sinestro had a backup plan in case of an insurrection or attempted leadership coup. It doesn't end well for Mongul.
    • And before Mongul came onto the scene, Superboy-Prime was the Starscream, planning to betray the Sinestro Corps' "guardian", the Anti-Monitor, and kill him in revenge for the Anti-Monitor's destruction of Prime's entire universe.
    • Bleez began sowing seeds of discontent among the Red Lantern horde once the ongoing series started, which partially resulted in Atrocitus restoring her intelligence. She's made her ambitions much more apparent since then.
  • In a straight up subversion Alexander Luthor from DC's Crisis Crossover Infinite Crisis knew that it is generally impossible for anybody to control somebody that's as insane as The Joker so he did not even try. The Joker was VERY unhappy that he was not picked for the team as Luthor eventually found out. Villains who want to live usually realize that allowing the Joker in is better than the alternative.
  • Darth Wyrrlok is an unusual example- he betrays his master Darth Krayt only because he feels this best serves Krayt's own goal of a Sith-ruled galaxy. As he puts it: "Sometimes for the dream to live, the dreamer must die". High Moff Morlish Veed from the same series is a more traditional example, though his own shortsightedness means he generally winds up a pawn for more competent players.
  • In Matt Wagner's Mage: The Hero Discovered, Emil Grackleflint.
  • Kulan Gath in Pathfinder: Worldscape serves Empress Camilla as her Court Mage, but also plans behind her back to the MacGuffin for himself so that he can rule all dimensions with it. He is successful in that he manages to have his master assassinated and steal her artifact... What he doesn't know is that his own agent was playing The Mole for the good guys all along and switched the artifacts.
  • In the Fleetway Sonic the Comic series, Robotnik also had to fight against Commander Brutus, a robot with an indestructible body and a copy of his own brain patterns, who started off as Robotnik's Dragon and then rebelled against him. Robotnik himself was briefly The Starscream when he was allied with the Drakon Empire and then to Princess Kupacious both times he succeeded.
  • Moonstone of the Thunderbolts and Dark Avengers. This goes back to her Masters of Evil days.
  • Desaad, Torture Technician and advisor for Darkseid.
  • Marvel Comics' Fabian Cortez plays the trope straight, betraying Magneto and "killing" him. Magneto later took him back in his ranks out of need for his abilities, but promptly took his revenge when he no longer needed him.
  • The Kingpin's son Richard usually works for him, but there have been times he has tried to oppose him secretly, usually taking the masked identity of the Rose (and later the Blood Rose, a more martial and violent version of the previous identity). Richard eventually tried to convince his mother to help him, but her loyalty to her husband was far greater than it was to her son; she shot him in cold blood.
  • Another Marvel example is the Controller, who constantly attempts to betray and overthrow his boss The Hood. The Hood is well-aware of this but Controller is too useful to kill, which Controller was quite aware of. Eventually though Controller ended up pushing Hood too far and Hood responded by taking a third option; namely, taking one of Controller's slave discs (which basically force anyone wearing one to do whatever someone else wants, while leaving them self-aware) and slapping it onto Controller permanently.
  • Iznogoud: The comic's entire schtick is the Grand Vizier wanting to overthrow the none-too-bright and overly-trusting caliph, failing every time. In France, Iznogoud is the go-to character for the Starscream archetype, and his catchphrase "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph" is euphemistically applied to similar situations. Made particularly hilarious when Sarkozy (also a short, excitable Number Two) became president.
  • Herr Starr is this to Allfather D'Aronique, head of the Grail worldwide conspiracy organization in Vertigo's Preacher. Starr saw the ridiculously obese leader as a ruthless, deluded madman who would utterly destroy the world in the course of supposedly trying to "redeem" it with his plan to stage the Second Coming, and resolved to kill him upon their first meeting. Starr ultimately succeeded, dumping the gigantic glutton from a helicopter, right on top of the brain-damaged, inbred descendant of Jesus Christ that D'Aronique intended to unveil to the world as the New Messiah.
    Starr: 1982. I meet the most powerful man in the world, and know immediately that I must one day kill him.
  • Wonder Woman: The Duke of Deception is Ares/Mars' right hand man and he's repeatedly attempted to betray the war god who granted him his powers.

    Fanfiction 
  • Ace Combat: The Equestrian War has Red Cyclone. He remains loyal to General Silverbeak until chapter 14.
  • Mikami becomes this in A Cure for Love upon realizing that his "God" is a sickly teenaged junkie that has said bye-bye to reality.
  • In "The Council Era", a Mass Effect fanfic taking place around 83 CE (in the first half) , both salarian advisor Tyrin Lieph and krogan advisor Halak Marr eventually overshadow their respective bosses (The Council for Tyrin, Krogan Overlord Kurvok for Halak) in terms of power and prominence.
    • Tyrin is temporarily Councilor after the asari Councilor gave him the title, and later was elected as Councilor after the salarian Councilor's death. Before this, he consistently manipulates the Councilors in order to further his own gains. He'd been conspiring to push himself into the upper political echelon in order to "improve" the galaxy as he saw fit for approximately 30 years. Telia and Roraan (the Councilors he served) were just collateral damage when he finally could start making ripples in the galaxy.
    • Halak forces Kurvok into retirement and becomes Overlord, but this is long after Marr began pulling the strings and became the real driving force behind the Krogan Rebellions.
  • Silvertongue in CRISIS: Equestria. He's feigned loyalty to his dimension's Goddess of Discord, Nihilia, for centuries just so he can kill her and take her godly powers for his own. With the unwitting aid of the Mean Six, he finally succeeds.
  • Dusk And Dawn: Eclipse wants to unite the Elements of Harmony to overthrow Nightmare Moon for the good of Equestria.
  • Dr. Beljar in The End of Ends.
  • In Fever Dreams Light exploits this trope when cornered he tells the investigators that he was coerced into working for the REAL Kira and then betrayed him and though he conveniently can't go into details, he has now backed Kira into a corner so he can't kill anymore. L realizes to his frustration that he can't prove it either way.
  • In Death Note AU Heart Of An Assassin this is what happens if you try and force Kira to work for you.
  • In Empire Snape is this to Dumbledore.
  • The Immortal Game: In a similar vein to Dusk and Dawn above, Nihilus obediently obeys Titan's orders to hunt down the Mane Six — so she can take the Elements of Harmony (which Titan doesn't know exist) from them, corrupt them, and use them to overthrow Titan and establish herself as the new ruler of Equestria.
  • Inner Demons: Shortly after her Face–Heel Turn, Scootaloo reveals herself to be plotting against Queen!Twilight Sparkle — as she explains to Rainbow Dash, she'll help Queen!Twilight crush the heroes and conquer Equestria, then stab her in the back and take the throne for herself, making herself look like a hero in the process.
    • She eventually makes her move Queen!Twilight is weakened by the magical strain of freezing the sun in place for a permanent twilight and researching a way to ascend to Alicorn-hood (this is also Pragmatic Villainy, as Scootaloo knows she stands no chance against Queen!Twilight if she ascends), but is herself attacked by the eternally-loyal Trixie. She also reveals during this that she's deluded herself into believing that she's the Master of Harmony (The Chosen One foretold to defeat the Queen of Darkness) and tries to paint herself as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who only served Queen!Twilight in order to get close and end her evil. Queen!Twilight calls bullshit on this.
      • Trixie defeats her in their fight, and Queen!Twilight punishes her for her treachery by subjecting her to perpetual pain.
  • Katara, an Avatar: The Last Airbender Gender Flip version of Aladdin has Mai, in the Iago role, successfully usurp control of Toph the Genie, from Azula/Jafar and takes up the role of Big Bad for the remainder of the story.
  • Mega Man Recut has future!Protoman, who is successful, and Ice Man, who isn't.
  • The captain of Chrysalis army in My Brave Pony: Starfleet Magic II Turns out he is a cyborg only pretending to be a changeling, who wants to take over Equestria with his robot army.
  • In the Dark World of the Pony POV Series, the Valeyard is this to Discord. He views his servitude as humoring Discord until such time as he can take his power for his own, become a god (when he already views himself as a pseudo-one), and take over the universe.
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: Giovanni notes that recently Proton is growing increasingly ambitious, too much for his taste. While it's not fully confirmed, a sidestory reveals that Proton is running projects behind his back, so Giovanni might have good reason to be concerned.
  • The Powers of Harmony: Eclipse chafes under serving Cetus — rather understandably, since Cetus is her creation and forced her into the role, plus the fact that Eclipse is aware Cetus will eliminate her once she's no longer needed. As such, she's plotting against her. Rarity, currently possessed by Eclipse, is trying to use this to her advantage.
  • The Big Bad in Forget the Y2K, This is Madness!! shows that it has no wish to follow its creator's programming once it believes itself powerful enough to take over the Internet. Unlike many examples, it's surprisingly successful.
  • In The Teacher of All Things, Machinedramon/Neo Saiba's Metalgreymon is this towards Piedmon and Apocalymon. While he succeeds in his Batman Gambit to use the Digidestined and Metalseadramon's forces to take out Piedmon, his plans to defeat Apocalymon require the use of the Digi-Mental, which Tai no longer possesses or has knowledge of its location.
  • Webwork: Of all of Jade's minions, Tara/Tarantula is the most disloyal, primarily because she's a Fully-Embraced Fiend who enjoys using her new form to act out every monstrous desire she felt she couldn't as a human, and is disgusted at Jade wanting to maintain some kind of morality. When the Old Queen's spirit reveals that she views Jade as an Inadequate Inheritor for the same reasons, they make a pact wherein Tara will outright try to overthrow Jade in exchange for the Old Queen making her the new Queen.
  • Necrophobia: Samerina Volcuzas is one to the titular dark guild's leader, Dieter Mengele. The only thing that's keeping her back from initiating her plans is the bomb that Dieter implanted inside her head.
  • Domino is this way towards Giovanni in the Pokémon fanfic The Dark Side Of Innocence. After Giovanni's death, she takes the opportunity to become leader.
  • Maverick Storm in The Pre Despair Kids.
  • Transformers Animated: Cybertronian Genesis: The usual suspect, of course. And this time, Sentinel is along for the ride as well!
  • In The Bridge, the Big Bad Bagan recruits Queen Chrysalis to his Villain Team-Up. Being who she is, Chrysalis instantly begins plotting to trick him into helping her fully restore her Evil Mentor Grogar, the Nexus of Dark Magic, at which point she fully expects the two to fight and Grogar to win. A glimpse of a Bad Future implies she succeeds in restoring Grogar and the two going to war with each other. King Sombra teams up with her as well when he's resurrected.
  • In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, Daolon Wong starts off as totally loyal to Prince Phobos. But when Phobos indulges in a bit of You Have Failed Me torture on him, Wong loses all respect for the prince and begins plotting to gain the power to overthrow him and seize control of Meridian for himself. He's joined in this by his friend the Tracker, and by Cedric, who was already a Dragon with an Agenda who'd been manipulating Phobos to his own ends for years. Wong's plans ultimately fail because, ironically, he gains his own Starscream in the form of his Shapeshifter lieutenant Roberta, who is talked into betraying him as part of Cedric's own larger plan.
  • Besides the Will of Evil: Chrysalis used to be Reiziger's second-in-command during his reign, but made herself queen after his defeat. When he returns to reclaim his control of the changelings, she's not happy about becoming a lieutenant again. So she tries to usurp power from him. It ends poorly. Very poorly.
  • Miraculous Knight features the last of the Villain Team-Up dissolving when the Joker decides he wants Ladybug and Cat Noir's powers for himself and kills Hawk Moth.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: During the climax of Season 1's Story Arc, Norlock hits his breaking point with working for Zim and betrays him, stealing the control node for Project Domination from him.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, Assassins' Guild leader Lord Downey is seen to get paranoid about Joan Sanderson-Reeves - a woman who Lord Vetinari himself reccomended to Downey as a mature candidate for Guild membership. Joan not only passed the demanding and exacting Mature Students' Course while in her forties. She became first a Dark Council member and then Deputy Guild Mistress. At the current point on the timeline she is a loyal and diligent deputy who is strongly tipped to become the first ever Guild Mistress. Downey is seen to regret being School Bully to Vetinari in the long-ago past, reflects that Joan is a far better poisoner than he is, and uneasily notes that she pours the tea at Dark Council meetings. He is, by the time of the fic Strandpiel, asking himself if he will live to enjoy a long and well-deserved retirement. He also notes that Vetinari has advanced his deputy to the social rank of Dame - an intermediate step to her being ennobled as a Lady.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Scott Evil takes over Dr. Evil's empire at the end of Goldmember. A variation in that he only gradually becomes this over the course of the series, as his suggestions are constantly ignored and he attempts to earn Dr. Evil's approval. It's only at the end once Dr. Evil has his Heel–Face Turn that he finally snaps.
  • Number Two of the Austin Powers franchise is a very rare sympathetic example.
    • Then again, he was able to make far more managing legitimate enterprise than Dr. Evil ever could with his schemes, so from his perspective, he's just Surrounded by Idiots.
  • Ostensibly Jack Napier in Batman (1989), though it's hard to tell if it's a straight example or a subversion. While he was the one who killed Carl Grissom, he did not do so as part of a plot to take over. He killed Grissom out of revenge, and then decided to take over his empire as an afterthought. Then again, comments Napier made in passing to both Alicia and Lieutenant Eckhardt suggest that he may have been plotting Grissom's murder sometime in the future, or at the very least was waiting for the old man to die. So it seems more of a foregone conclusion
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Logan, one of the members of the Hole-in-the-Wall Gang, challenges Butch for leadership of the gang. A well-placed Groin Attack puts a stop to that.
  • Malachai in Children of the Corn (1984) isn't happy how the Dark Messiah Isaac is leading the children, so he betrays him and sacrifices him to He Who Walks Behind The Rows.
  • Lord Sopesian and Lord Glozelle seek to overthrow King Miraz in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian by provoking him into accepting Peter's challenge of a mano-a-mano sword fight in hopes that he'll be killed. When this doesn't happen, Sopesian stabs Miraz in the back. Glozelle gets a Heel–Face Turn, though. In the book, Glozelle is the one who stabs Miraz to death, as revenge for his ex-leader insulting him before the duel with Peter takes place. Both him and Sopesian end up killed in battle.
  • In Elysium Delacourt plans a coup because she feels the current president doesn't have what it takes to lead. Kruger later kills Delacourt in order to seize control of Elysium for himself. Karma's a bitch.
  • Faust: Love of the Damned: Claire tries to kill her demon master M and take control of his organization The Hand by convincing his doctor to sabotage the routine injections that M needs to sustain his human body. He recovers soon enough, and is none too pleased.
  • Cobra Commander from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
  • Jack the Giant Slayer: Fumm clearly doesn't care for Fallon and goes out of his way not to help him when Fallon falls into the fire moat.
  • Rico in Judge Dredd, who murders Chief Justice Griffin and takes over control of Griffin's evil plan.
  • Benedict in Last Action Hero acts as The Dragon to the mob boss for most of the film, until he figures out what's going on and shoots his boss, becoming the new Big Bad.
  • In The Matrix trilogy, Agent Smith starts out as a loyal (if somewhat disgruntled) Agent of the system, but eventually rebels and decides to just kill everybody, humans and machines, which ultimately forces both sides to make peace so Neo can stop him.
  • Frank from Once Upon a Time in the West. He spends most of the movie testing Morton's authority, and later betrays his employer.
  • Hector Barbossa from the Pirates of the Caribbean films was this to Jack Sparrow. Originally, Barbossa was Sparrow's first mate, until one day he and several other pirates on Sparrow's ship decided to get rid of their captain by throwing Sparrow overboard, and as a result Barbossa becomes their captain instead.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has three Starscreams—the Largo siblings. Each of them would happily topple the other and can't wait until their father dies so they can get the top spot. Until the end of the film, where their father's crushing rejection of all three of them in favour of his ex-wife's kid causes Luigi and Pavi to stand behind Amber as she takes over the company.
  • Captain Frye from The Rock becomes the true Big Bad of the movie after he and his accomplice Captain Darrow kill Hummel and Baxter.
  • In Rocky V, Rocky Balboa chooses Tommy Gunn as his protegé, and as Gunn rises through the ranks, George Washington Duke finds a way to become his manager, while keeping Rocky as his trainer. After G.W. Duke visits Rocky's house and outlines the new scenario which would be mutually beneficial, Rocky tries to warn Tommy Gunn that dealing with Duke would lead to disaster. Tommy storms off, tired of living under Rocky's shadow, and fights Union Cane for the title, only to learn that Cane didn't win the title from Rocky, which leads to Tommy challenging Rocky. After several refusals, Rocky challenges Tommy to a street fight when he attacks Rocky's brother-in-law Paulie, and Rocky thrashes Tommy and punches Duke afterwards when he threatens to sue Rocky.
  • Riff-Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He pulls it off.
  • Scarface (1932): Tony constantly and openly tests Lovo's authority. When Lovo finally sends assassins, Tony kills him and takes his place.
  • Modus operandi of virtually all Sith in Star Wars, who tend to be just waiting for their Master to slip up. Darth Bane, creator of the Rule of Two, even applauds it in his apprentice when he finds out she would have supplanted him if he had lost certain battles. In fact, the rule was created because the Sith spent more time fighting between themselves (playing this trope straight) than trying to rule the galaxy/fight the Jedi, among many other things, but the average Starscream is usually not strong enough to off their boss directly, or they'd be the boss. Same with the Sith.note 
    • Plagueis attempted to avert the trope when mentoring Darth Sidious/Palpatine, only for that to backfire horribly when Palpatine decided to kill him off in his sleep. It's also strongly implied that Sidious had also manipulated everything Plagueis did since becoming his apprentice (and possibly even before becoming his apprentice, if Book of Sith is anything to go by) with the latter never realizing it until his death.
    • Bane based the Rule Of Two off of a holocron left by Revan. True to form, Revan's apprentice, Malak, tried to assassinate him while he was fighting off a Jedi team sent to capture him.
    • In fact, Darth Maul almost failed a Sith Initiation Test because he was not a Starscream and was completely loyal to Darth Sidious, to the extent that Palpatine had to motivate Maul by lying about cultivating an apprentice (or at least a half-truth) to get him to have enough anger to even nearly kill his master.
    • Anakin Skywalker (aka Darth Vader) in particular. In Revenge of the Sith, Anakin believes he can overthrow Palpatine and rule the galaxy with Padme, likely foreshadowed in Attack of the Clones with his mistrust in Senatorial politics. Then he tries it again with Galen Marek in The Force Unleashed and its sequel, and then with his son in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Special mention given because it does not involve the typical Sith MO of killing their masters over power, for it seems more like Anakin does not like how Palpatine rules, and wants to supplant him and perhaps do it better.
    • In fact, things weren't too bad back during the Sith alliance during Darth Bane's time. They were doing somewhat well in the war against the Jedi despite the constant stream of back stabbing. Endless lines of crazed berserker Sith with light sabers tended to end armies very quickly. Plus this type of Sith, while weaker than the smarter/calmer Sith, tended to be less backstabby as long as you had a common enemy to point them at. Indeed the smarter Sith were only destroyed because Darth Bane (now obsessed with the Rule of Two) convinced them all to try a Desperation Attack against the Jedi Master Hoth and provided them with a scroll with the spell's parameters. It turns out that the spell drove them into a trance and they failed to realize (or no longer cared once they were swept up in the euphoria) that it was a mass Suicide Attack. Sure the Sith were struggling and ultimately failed over and over again, but Darth Bane going omnicidal is what truly did them in. Given how short the Sith's victory was in the movies (in a cosmological sense of time), we can't claim that Darth Bane was vindicated.
    • In Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, the entire story revolves around Starkiller falsely believing that he is training for Darth Vader's plan to oust the Emperor. Even though it is further revealed that Darth Sidious was planning for Starkiller to be the Starscream to Darth Vader. Something that does not please Darth Vader.
    • In The Last Jedi Kylo Ren kills Supreme Leader Snoke — not, as Rey hoped, because of a Heel–Face Turn like Vader in Return of the Jedi, but so he can then take over the First Order. It's implied also that General Hux has shades of this; his first instinct upon seeing Kylo unconscious is to reach for his blaster to finish him off, but then carefully put it back when Kylo wakes back up.
  • Thor: Ragnarok: Loki had gained the Grandmaster's trust in order to secure a position as one of the latter's aides. Loki was secretly plotting to overthrow his boss so that he could have Sakaar all to himself.
  • In the Underworld series, Kraven is this to everyone. He teamed up with Lucian to defeat the vampire elders, and then turned on Lucian. He's eventually Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves by the last elder Markus, who caught on to this act.
    • Underworld: Blood Wars brings us Alexia, who conspires with the lycans against Semira, one of the two Big Bads in this film. The other Big Bad is Alexia's lycan lover, Marius.

    Podcasts 
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance: Yeemick the goblin has a vendetta against Klarg the bugbear, who he claims is a Bad Boss, and blackmails the party into trying to kill him. His plan lasts exactly long enough for the party to tell Klarg, who kills him in a spectacular fashion.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Bruno Sammartino and his 1980 feud with Larry Zbyszko. In a twist of this trope, "The Living Legend" was very much a face and was grooming Zbyszko to become the next megastar of wrestling. But the trope kicks in wherein Zbyszko grows more and more frustrated that his time in the spotlight is still coming, and eventually asks for a challenge match against his mentor. The famous match saw Sammartino counter Zbyszko's moves at every turn, and every complaint that Zbyszko had that Bruno wasn't giving him a fair chance was ignored. Eventually, Zbyszko lost his patience and brutally beat Sammartino into a bloody heap. The aftermath made Zbyszko – the Starscream – into a hated heel and set off a violent feud that ended in a steel cage at New York City's Shea Stadium.
  • Víctor Quiñones was a frequent Starscream, which led to a lot of locker room and office drama, as well as some interesting angles. To summarize a long story, he was first the Starscream to Carlos Colon and Víctor Jovica in Capitol Sports Promotions, which led to him departing for FMW, where he was the Starscream to Atsushi Onita, which led to the creation of W*ING, where he was the Starscream to Kiyoshi Ibaragi, which led to IWA Japan and IWA Puerto Rico, allowing him to fight a two front war on both FMW and CSP (which was calling itself WWC by that time).
  • Los Vipers founder Cibernético had one in Abismo Negro, which led to the group splitting in two (Los Vipers Primera Clase y Los Vipers Extreme) but they reunited to defeat Los Vatos Locos. The internal conflict was ultimately settled by Cibernético simply giving Los Vipers to Abismo Negro and forming a new group called Lucha Libre Latina.
  • The Rock became this for Faarooq in The Nation of Domination, and eventually took over and retooled the stable to his own liking.
  • The Corporation era in WWF was full of Starscreams. First it was Shane McMahon usurping power right out from under his own father to form the Corporate Ministry. Then it was Vince McMahon taking said power away from his wife (in a double swerve orchestrated with his own son, thus rendering the previous insurrection moot). Then later on in 1999 after the McMahons turned face, Triple H and Stephanie McMahon took control of the company in a very Machiavellian fashion in what was known as the McMahon-Helmsley Era. Stone Cold eventually got involved too as part of the InVasion angle when all of WCW and ECW were a Starscream.
  • CZW has one in Maven Bentley, since the fed remains a sister company to his Association despite his open attempts to take over.
  • Ring of Honor has an incredibly long chain of them. Alex Shelley was betrayed by Austin Aries, who was betrayed by Roderick Strong, who was betrayed by Davey Richards, who was betrayed by Kyle O'Reilly, who was betrayed by Adam Cole (though in the latter case, Cole had already surpassed O'Reilly but was afraid O'Reilly might be catching back up to him).
  • After Lucha Libre Latina was pushed out by Konnan's La Legion Extranjera, Cibernético created a religion based around himself called La Secta Cibernética. They faced stiff opposition from La Parka Jr though, causing Cibernético to bring out a "death cyborg", Muerte Cibernética, to defeat him. Instead, Muerte Cibernética took over the religion while Cibernético was out with a knee injury, turning it into La Secta de la Muerte. This time Cibernético did not play around and ended up disposing of his would be usurper in a volcano.
  • Abismo Negro had his own Starscream when Mr. Niebla left CMLL to join (read:takeover) AAA's Vipers Revolucion in 2007. The rest of Revolucion ended up taking Niebla's side and ejecting Abismo Negro, replacing him with Black Abyss.
  • After Muerte Cibernética returned from hell as Mesías to restart La Secta, he found himself with his own Starscream in Ozz, who would announce Mesías was no longer part of the group after a loss to Vampiro. Cibernético's Los Bizarros would (foolishly) absorb Ozz's Secta into their ranks to help them defeat Los Perros Del Mal but as soon as that was done La Secta would turn on Los Bizarros and actually manage to turn one of them to their cause.
  • Kurt Angle was this in the early part of the Main Event Mafia against Sting. Eventually, Angle got fed up with Sting not being evil enough and usurped his control of the group.
  • David Otunga showed signs of this toward The Nexus leader Wade Barrett. When the Nexus was in a situation where all of the members faced other WWE superstars and Barrett told the other members to either win or be kicked out of the group, Otunga was quick to point out this applied to Barrett as well. He expressed his desire to win a battle royal to determine the #1 contender to Randy Orton's WWE championship, which didn't impress Barrett. On the same night, he tried to make friends with John Cena, knowing that Cena was unhappy being a part of the Nexus and was the most likely member of the group to turn on Barrett. This backfired, as Cena was able to eliminate Otunga and justify his actions by telling Barrett what Otunga was trying to do. He led the Nexus on an invasion of WWE Smackdown (without Barrett) and failed miserably, with Barrett pointing out that the next time he decides to undermine his leadership, he should be successful about it. Barrett for his part seemed well aware of Otunga's discontent, and on a number of occasions put him in some really bad situations because of it, such as forcing him to forfeit the Tag Team Titles to Justin Gabriel and Heath Slater, or forcing him to wrestle Edge with the stipulation that he'd be fired if he lost. He seemed to have the rest of the Nexus on his side of the struggle; all of them left Barrett to be beaten down by Cena alone. Interestingly, he didn't seem to have a problem when CM Punk became the new leader of the Nexus.
  • John Laurinaitis acted as if he was supporting Triple H during his early time as COO in 2011. It became quite clear that he was behind the scenes trying to make Triple H look like the bad guy by having members of the roster come to him with their issues, and sucking up to the Board of Directors in order to be appointed as the head of Raw after they decided to take Triple H off due to the walkout. Even Vince McMahon himself was displeased that Triple H, the guy who took over his operating duties, was being overruled by the board.
  • Another ROH example with Adam Cole, the former "leader" of The Kingdom, the promotion's primary opposition to Bullet Club. After Kenny Omega forcibly took over Bullet Club, it was decided the best way to handle the longstanding Cole problem would be to appease him by throwing their entire support behind making him ROH Champion. Himself being a Bastard Understudy, Omega probably should have known this wasn't going to work and Cole turned out to be much more blatant in his power grabs than Omega ever had been, going so far as to delay Omega's reentry into the United States so he could keep lording over the ROH Bullet Club members unopposed. To this end, Cole was kicked out in favor of another Bullet Club enemy, Marty Scurll, who they believed could be appeased with money, and the more loyal Cody was moved into Cole's position.
  • Mercedes Martinez was this to Ivelisse Vélez during the latter's second run as SHINE Champion. Martinez had never really spoken well of Velez and despite joining her Sicarias stable, continued to try to win Velez's title and relied on her own Trifecta without the other Sicarias. This clear potential threat took attention away from a more covert but active one as Amber O'Neil of the rival C4 stable was turning Amanda Rodriguez into a mole within Las Sicarias. Only Thea Trinidad voiced any suspicions but she didn't think to raise them to the other Sicarias until after Rodriguez attacked Rosa Negra with a chair to distract Velez from LuFisto.

    Radio 
  • This trope is not limited to the Sith in Star Wars. In the NPR radio plays, depending on the cut you're listening to there's a scene where Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and Admiral Motti are heard plotting to overthrow the Emperor. They get blown up before they can put their plan into effect, obviously, and it's unlikely they would've succeeded in any case.

    Religion 
  • Satan serves as one to God himself, proving that this trope is Older Than Dirt.
    • In the book of Samuel King Saul is convinced that his head general, David, is his Starscream, but he is Wrong Genre Savvy and needlessly paranoid.
    • In the New Testament Judas, of course, betrays Jesus for some silver. Jesus, being the son of God, was aware that Judas was planning to betray him but let it happen Because Destiny Says So. YMMV, since according to the Gospel of Judas, Jesus requested Judas to betray him, as Judas was the only disciple who truly understood his message.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Unsurprisingly common among the setting's Demon Lords and Archdevils. Mephistopheles is one to Asmodeus, while Levistus and Baalzebul are former cases still undergoing the terrible punishments Asmodeus subjected them to. Indeed, this seems the typical way to climb up the ladder in infernal nobility.
      • Geryon is a subversion: a subordinate of Asmodeus who was punished for placing his loyalty to Asmodeus above his own ambition, because loyalty is weakness in Baator. Which is ironic, because Dante's Geryon was the "Beast of Fraud".
    • Elsewhere in the D&D game, several Ravenloft darklords have Starscreams on the payroll. One of the most powerful darklords, Azalin the lich-king, actually used to be a Starscream, before he left Strahd's domain and service. In so doing, Azalin gained his own domain, so that one was a draw.
    • The vampire Kas was this to Vecna. The attempted coup didn't really work (at least not in the long term), although Vecna did lose his hand and eye.
    • The drow from pretty much any setting of Dungeons & Dragons do this on a regular basis to each other. It's rare to find one in a position of leadership that didn't gain her position by betraying her predecessor. Mothers generally expect that their strongest daughter will eventually assassinate them and take over the family. Different noble houses will betray each other to rise in the power structure, individual drow will try to murder and overthrow their superiors, make alliances with enemies and double-cross allies, and so on. That said, they will set aside their bickering and unite against a greater external threat, or simply when their demonic goddess Lloth orders them to, because no one disobeys the spider goddess.
      • Lolth herself, in 4th Edition, has an exarch named Enclava who has betrayed her not once, but twice. Amazingly, Enclava has not been punished and is still Lolth's exarch, possibly because Lolth can't help but admire her audacity.
    • This Trope plays a part in the history of two infamous Artifacts of Doom, the Machine of Lum the Mad, and the Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. Leuk-O was a battle mage and warlord who found the Machine in a castle belonging to the ruler of a nation his army conquered. Being somewhat of a prodigy with mechanical devices himself, he learned how to use the terrible device, and became more of a threat than ever, using it to unleash cataclysms and hordes of monsters upon foes. Eventually, however, his second-in-command, General Leuk-O became jealous of his lord's power, and found a second artifact that seemed connected to Lum's Machine in some way, the Mighty Servant. Eventually, the two fought using their artifacts, until a dimensional rift apparently sucked them both into oblivion. (Lum and his machine were later part of the module The Vortex of Madness, where it is suggested that the ultimate goal of the Machine is to locate the Servant again, for some mad reason. It would seem that these two devices are sentient beings that are fated to either oppose each other or combine their powers in some way; the reason can't be good.)
  • In Exalted:
    • Princess Magnificent With Lips Of Coral And Robes of Black Feathers was forced by her bosses to work for the First and Forsaken Lion; she's not happy about that arrangement at all, and plots his downfall. It's gotten to the point where fans sometimes refer to them as "Princess Starscream and the First and Forsaken Megatron."
    • The Green Sun Princes are practically designed to be this to their Yozi masters. Half the charms in the Broken Winged Crane book are dedicated to allowing the GSPs to break free and to become something even more powerful than the Yozis.
  • Sometimes one Starscream just isn't enough, so the New Phyrexia set from Magic: The Gathering gives us the Black Phyrexian faction - The Seven Steel Thanes, which is seven Starscreams, each with their own personal army and each trying to out-stab the other six, as well as any other Phyrexian higher-ups that happen to stand between them and the position of Father of Machines.
    • Magic: The Gathering loves these. Storyline-wise, Tezzeret is turning into one. But more gameplay-wise, you get your choice of the Lord of the Pit and Force of Nature. Arabian Nights gave us four djinn who do this. All of which are creatures that are powerful, at least for the cost to summon them, but use up a resource or hurt their controller directly. The Juzám Djinn listed above is considered the best, both among those djinn and among creatures in general when it was introduced. Most new players will still react to such things as "Any card that hurts you is bad," but many experienced players have been more than happy to deal with the drawbacks of creatures like these.
    • There's also Vhati il-Dal, the ambitious first mate of the Predator, who was placed in charge of the ship when his commander Graven il-Vec was personally overseeing the boarding of the Weatherlight. Fed up with Greven's brutal leadership and hoping to usurp his rank, he fired on Greven while he was still on the Weatherlight. This decision proved ruinous for Vhati.
  • In the Scarred Lands tabletop RPG, one of the villains is a being called Mormus, AKA The Jack Of Tears, who rules over his own part of the world. He has four lieutenants, and all but one of them is planning to usurp him and betray each other. Mormus's well aware of this, but he lets them continue their machinations just because it amuses him.
  • If you're playing a Ventrue in Vampire: The Requiem, and you're not ruling a city, you're conniving and plotting to destroy and replace the current ruler.
    • The Ventrue see the Daeva as this and they have good reasons for thinking this way.
  • The Skaven in Warhammer. If a Grey Seer doesn't honestly believe his ascent to the Council of Thirteen, usually by betraying everyone in sight, isn't the only hope for the Skaven race, he's been trained wrong. The primary weakness of the Skaven is that the vitally important role of The Starscream is given to everyone (though since the race breeds like rats, it's probably a vital form of population control).
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Find a Chaos warband, Ork mob, Dark Eldar Kabal, or Imperial planet. Find the next most powerful Marine, next biggest Ork, next most powerful Dark Eldar, or next highest-ranking noble. Congratulations, there's a 98% chance the person you've found fits the bill in a manner appropriate to the race in question. Except the Dark Eldar, as their rate of Starscreaming is close to 100%. The only person in their entire society not trying to overthrow his/her superior is Asdrubael Vect, and only because he has no superior to backstab. That said, although they are viciously competitive, the Dark Eldar will set aside their personal ambition and grudges when it comes time to execute a realspace raid for captives and plunder - they're scheming bastards, but they aren't stupid enough to sabotage their Kabal's success (and risk their own lives) by screwing up the battle plan. Incubi are also less likely to do so to their clients- their loyalty is based on salary (among each other it still applies, as they practice Klingon Promotion).
    • The Chaos God Tzeentch is hope embodied, and thus presides among things like change, magic, mutation, and backstabbing (to the point where he has plans that depend on a previous plan failing). Any Chaos leader hiring a sorcerer without expecting them to betray him at any second honestly deserves everything that happens to him.
  • In Paranoia, of course a bunch of your subordinates are plotting to take you down and take your place, or at least cut you out of the loop so they can wield the real power.

    Theatre 
  • Cassius in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. A subversion Older Than Steam; Cassius succeeds in killing Caesar, but he doesn't succeed in taking control of Rome.
  • Macbeth in Shakespeare's play of the same name, although we really don't learn enough about Duncan to determine whether he could be considered the Big Bad or not. Macbeth succeeds, but never manages to completely control Scotland and is himself overthrown.
  • The Ring of the Nibelung, when Alberich has taken over the Nibelung his brother Mime plans to overthrow him, which Alberich is aware off. After Alberich loses the Ring of Power he and Mime compete over it, and Alberich is delighted when Mime is killed by Siegfried.

    Webcomics 
  • Gloog from A Game of Fools is constantly trying to undermine Captain Sepultra's authority (and at one point manages to briefly overthrow him), mainly because Sepultra won't allow some of Gloog's more sinister antics.
  • O'Halloran's constant attempts to usurp the Chairman in Building 12 certainly qualify.
  • In Drowtales, Suu'be Nori'fu is this to Quain'tana, since Suu'be resents Quain for making her own daughter Koil'doarth no longer be the heir. Rosof says that if Quain were to let her heir Ariel train under Suu'be Ariel would probably die in an "accident" and Word of God is that Suu'be would try to get rid of Quain if she thought she could get away with it, while on the other hand Quain knows that she can't get rid of Suu'be, leaving them in a state of constantly pulling at each other. Finally reaches a head in Chapter 50, when Suu'be attempts a coup and tries to wipe out Quain's bloodline, ending with Quain herself delivering a Neck Snap to her traitorous Dev'ess.
    • Sene'kha was also this to Kiel's mother Ven'ndia, and it's heavily implied that it was Sene'kha who coaxed Kharla into killing her. After Sene'kha took over Starscreaming seems to have become S.O.P. in the Vloz'ress.
    • And collectively, all three Sharen sisters, Snadhya'rune, Sarv'swati and Zala'ess, pulled this on their mother, though she didn't know until the moment of the actual betrayal.
  • General Izor, of Dubious Company. Given that his boss is a Psychopathic Man Child Evil Overlord that throws hissy-fits involving conquering yet another country, and wants to become a god of war by sacrificing Sal, could you blame him?
    Izor: Think about it. You could end the constant Kreedor aggression, help sow peace between various nations.
  • Cerise from Eerie Cuties and Magick Chicks plots to overthrow Melissa, the clique leader. Who learned to recognize these moments and apply preventive treatment. It's better for everyone involved, though, because Cerise doesn't think her plans through.
    <ZAP!>
    Cerise: What was that for?!
    Melissa: You had that look on your face again.
  • Drizz'l of 8-Bit Theater managed to usurp Garland. For about a day.
    • On the other side of the "Light" Warrior/Dark Warrior fence, BM taking advantage of Thief's absence once to take over. It didn't last.
  • El Goonish Shive has the body-snatching aberration Sirleck, who quite blatantly plots to steal Magus's body once he regains it; of course, Magus knows this is going to happen and plans to kill him before he can, making this a case of Inevitable Mutual Betrayal.
  • Fruit Incest has the Transfarmers characters, in which the appropriately named Starspray and Planescream both plot to overthrow their leader Cottontron as well as each other simultaneously.
  • Captain Vole from Girl Genius finds himself promoted into this role, Gilgamesh Wulfenbach having decided that having a Super Soldier as The Starscream and still being alive will give others pause if they consider attacking him.
    Gilgamesh: We'll make a game of it! "Who's the scariest monster?"
  • One episode of Hijinks Ensue.
  • Homestuck:
    • Jack Noir.
      • In every Sburb session, Jack is strongly predisposed to loathe the Black Queen and will seek to overthrow her wherever possible. While normally he just begrudgingly offers to help the players dethrone her as he did in the trolls' session, in the kids' session he gets an opportunity more suited to his tastes in the form of an Infinity Plus One Bunny - he uses it to kill the Black Queen, take her Ring of Power, go One-Winged Angel, take command of Derse for himself, and obliterate both the Prospitian and Dersite armies on the Battlefield. All because he really hated the harlequin/princess hat he had to wear.
      • In the kids' session, he has taken on the title of "Sovereign Slayer". He's earned it.
    • The Condesce shows signs of chaffing under Lord English.
    • Subverted with the versions of DD, the Post-Scratch Dignitary often talks about ambitions of Condesce or Jack Noir, but while he respects ambition, he really doesn't care to scheme with or against anyone.
  • Nebula: Jupiter is one bordering on obsessive; it seems like nearly all his time is devoted to undermining Sun in one way or another. All his attempts are unsuccessful, though, or just end up Poking The Poodle.
  • The Order of the Stick,
    • Redcloak is this to Xykon. He is more subtle than other examples, and is content to wait until Xykon has outlived his usefullness before making his move.
    • And Tsukiko is this to him until she tries to take his position, which gets her killed.
  • One minion tries to be this in To Prevent World Peace. It, uh, doesn't end well for him.
  • When Bun-bun captains a pirate ship in Sluggy Freelance, his Jerkass behavior inevitably drives every single one of his first mates to try and kill him. Bun-bun actually encourages this, since he "feels safer knowing where the next mutiny is coming from." Ironically, his first first mate, Blacksoul, who gave him the idea, wasn't actually trying to mutiny, though Bun-bun thought so.

    Web Original 
  • At the end of Linkara's Lord Vyce story arc, it is revealed that Linksano was actually this all along, spying on Vyce for Linkara so that he could be the conqueror of universes.
  • Chaos Fighters: Chemical Warriors-RAKSA has Harlion who took over the mayor's monument from Ortla.
  • In Death Note: The Abridged Series (kpts4tv) there's Mikami in the second alternate ending where he kills everyone at the warehouse and takes Light's place as God of the New World.
  • Dreamscape: Keela became The Dragon of the Master of the Dammed so she could betray and kill him when the opportunity was just right.
  • In KateModern: The Last Work, the Shadow is this to Rupert van Helden. It is left ambiguous whether he succeeds or not, but Word of God is that the Shadow killed Rupert.
  • When The Nostalgia Critic becomes the president of Kickassia, his Distaff Counterpart The Nostalgia Chick becomes an ambitious Sarah Palin lookalike vice-president who tries to assassinate him every five minutes or so. Fortunately for the Critic, he obliviously dodges every murder attempt she makes.
  • On top of being a Dirty Coward, Twp'atwt from the Protectors of the Plot Continuum reveals himself to be this during the Black Cats' attack on HQ; while he had previously appeared loyal, it turns out that he and his lover - Serna Tjan - are planning to overthrow the Bracket Fungus and the rest of the Cats after they've taken over, leaving Twp and Serna as leaders of the PPC. Unfortunately for them, they run into Blue Photon and the Mysterious Somebody respectively shortly after this revelation, resulting in their Karmic Deaths. This was also hinted at in the prior story, The Reorganisation, when Twp'atwt attempted to blackmail the Nightshade and Orchid into making a clone of the Mysterious Somebody that would obey Twp's every command.
  • Adam Taurus in RWBY, though not to the actual Big Bad of the series. It's discovered at the end of Volume 4 that he's planning a coup against the leader of the White Fang, which he carries out in the second episode of Volume 5.
  • A variation in Survival of the Fittest - Hayley Kelly was playing the game in v4 mainly to protect her ex-girlfriend, Ema Ryan. However, when it came down to the wire, almost 30 students left, Ema Ryan decided she could do the rest on her own and killed Hayley, went on to become a late-game player who killed almost the same amount of people Hayley did (about eight, including Hayley herself), but ultimately died of her injuries when there was less than ten students left.
  • We're Alive has Scratch who is at the very least a Dragon with an Agenda who has set off on her own to get revenge on Pegs for killing Latch. But as of Chapter 24 she may be looking to overthrow Durai.
    • Gatekeeper was also this to Marcus. In Chapter 19 he staged a coup to take control of the Colony.

    Western Animation 
  • The sentient tomato Zoltan is Dr. Gangreen’s Starscream in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! as he’s always questioning his plans and his leadership. In the second season Zoltan and his four goons actually dethrone Gangreen and took over the world from him.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender.
    • Ozai to Firelord Azulon. To precisely what extent he masterminded his father's death is uncertain, though he was deeply pleased with the results; his initial intent was to maneuver one-up on his brother, the heir Iroh, his father's favorite.
    • Then Zuko becomes this to his father after being crown prince for half of season 3. Like his father before him he does this by out-manoeuvring the favoured child.
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes!, Abomination is The Starscream to Baron Zemo. Abomination is an interesting example since before joining Zemo, he was a loyal Dragon to the Leader.
  • Paxton Powers in Batman Beyond was an odd case. You could technically say he was a successful Starscream killing his father Derek (or so it seemed) and taking over Wayne-Powers as CEO, even though he really only did so because he lucked out. The thing is, Paxton became a rather pathetic replacement, not at all like the dangerous and ruthless tycoon his father was. Squandering his newfound position on wine, women, and song, neither Bruce Wayne nor Terry took him seriously at all, and when he eventually got greedy and double crossed the Royal Flush Gang after hiring them to steal artifacts, he was hauled off to jail. (And he pretty much ruined the Royal Flush Gang's once stellar reputation in the underworld in the process.) Paxton did threaten to buy the courts and have Barbara Gordon and the rest of the police department working in the sanitation department when his lawyers were done, but that was likely an empty threat. The important thing is, Wayne was finally able to regain full control of his company again.
  • In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien Vilgax is eventually Demoted to Dragon by Diagon. When he reappears for the Grand Finale he loudly proclaims his Undying Loyalty to Diagon. Ben immediately calls him out on his bullcrap, believing that the real Vilgax isn't loyal to anyone but himself. Ben is completely right. Vilgax also manages to be a successful Starscream, tricking Diagon into attacking an energy absorbing device — bad news for Diagon since he's an Energy Being — sealing (possibly killing) him.
  • BIONICLE:
    • Makuta Icarax believes that Big Bad Teridax's (the Makuta) plan to take control of the universe (by putting the Great Spirit asleep and then reawaken him once preparations are complete) to be too convoluted, and prefers to batter people into submission instead. When Teridax was temporarily unable to monitor the actions of his whole Brotherhood, Icarax decided to speed up the process by going to war. He had already claimed some areas when Teridax arrived and beat him up, but those ambitions simply are put on the shimmer. He's only kept alive because of his talent at fighting and the fear he inspires in his foes, and being their best physical fighter nobody aside from Teridax wants to actually tangle with him if they can avoid it. His first actual appearance in the books has him not only sitting on Teridax's throne in Destral like he owns it, he's wearing their leader's personal Mask of Power and becomes nearly murderous when it's mentioned he needs to follow The Plan. After being deevolved by Toa Ignika, he later gets killed by some of his fellow members when he tries to ruin The Plan, making him a historical Starscream. The ones that killed him though suddenly outlive their usefulness.
    • Roodaka has at least attempted to betray nearly everyone she's worked with.
    • The Piraka. Every one of them, as they all betrayed the Dark Hunters for power, and then most of them schemed and attempted to betray each other throughout their time working together. Only two of them actually managed to keep a handle on it: Zaktan because he found it stupid to betray the others when they hadn't even obtained their prize, and Vezok because he was just satisfied fighting or killing anyone who got in his way, and in fact was all too eager to throw down with any traitors.
    • The Shadowed One of the Dark Hunters went so far as to invoke this trope with the Hunter Darkness, whose mission was to watch over him at all times and kill him if he ever showed weakness to ensure he wouldn't grow soft in ruling his merry band of thieves, murderers, and madmen.
  • Glove from Bionic Six. Which is most amusing since Glove, like Rasp, was voiced by Frank Welker, the original voice of Megatron.
  • Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys: Rhesus-2 sometimes shows a rebellious attitude towards Nebula. When Nebula is incapacitated in the series finale, he doesn't hesitate to take control for himself. When he uploads his brain patterns into the Holo-boon generator, turning them evil, they turn against him after driving off the Space Monkeys.
  • Castlevania (2017): Almost as soon as she arrives on the scene in Season 2, Carmilla starts plotting to usurp Dracula's role as leader of the vampires. After recruiting Hector to help, she tricks him into sending the castle to a town now controlled by her loyal forces, so that they can ambush Dracula's loyalists and invade the castle. The arrival of the heroes cuts the fighting short, and after Dracula's resulting death fighting them, Carmilla prepares to fill the void left behind.
  • Zero, on Challenge of the GoBots. Zero had been the leader of the Renegades, and Cy-Kill stole the job from him after defecting from the Guardians. Zero had every reason to resent Cy-Kill, and he wanted his job back.
  • In Chaotic, Lord Van Bloot is a lieutenant of Chaor, supreme ruler of the Underworld, that really wants the bigger chair. The latest sets in the card game reveals that he has allied with the M'arillians to achieve his goals of ruling the Underworld (even thought that would just make him a mere governor if the M'arillians succeed in taking Perim).
  • Jose from Cyber Six goes from an ambitious "Well Done, Son!" Guy to this when he finds out Von Richter plans to destroy "his" city. He pulls it off, too; his actions not only inadvertently save the city, but also cause the deaths of Von Richter and possibly Cyber Six herself, as well as the end of the series.
  • Rasp from Dino-Riders, although not to the consistency of the trope namer. Interestingly, his voice actor was the same who did the voice of the original Megatron, Frank Welker. He also voiced the Big Bad, Krulos. This more-or-less means that he was trying to backstab himself.
  • Urpgor from The Dreamstone intends to claim the titular MacGuffin for himself, betray and overthrow his master Zordrak and crown himself Lord of Nightmares. A very unusual kind of character from a show that has been accused of tasting too sweet.
    • Urpgor is a more subdued example. Though he really does dwell over the possibility of Zordrak expiring and leaving him ruler of Viltheed, his betrayals are more often to preserve his job as right hand man, sabotages any schemes or resources Zordrak comes into possession of that would render him redundant (knowing from experience that the demonic overlord would turn on him the moment he doesn't need him anymore). He did make an attempt to take possession of the Dreamstone with his Auntie, though an argument over power led to him betraying her, considering even working under Zordrak a more tolerable position.
  • General Skarr from Evil Con Carne.
  • In Exo Squad, Draconis regularly plots against Phaeton, but his plans always come to naught. Phaeton eventually gets rid of him anyways.
    • Typhonus also has a Starscream moment in the first season finale, when he responds to Able Squad taking Phaeton hostage by reminding them that everyone is expendable. It doesn't work out well for him either.
  • On The Fairly OddParents!, the Lead Eliminator eventually tires of taking orders and tries to revolt. He promptly gets "unmade". Though he eventually comes back as a One-Winged Angel, the true villain of the special.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, in episode "Setting a President", everyone gets fed up with Mr. Herriman's unjust rules and the whole house leads on Frankie, who offers generosity and compassion, to defeat Herriman in the upcoming election as the new president of the house. Bloo serves as the Starscream, as he also joins the election to overthrow Herriman in wanting to abolish all rules and shower everyone with candy and money if they keep him in power.
  • G.I. Joe:
    • Rampage in G.I. Joe Extreme. Rampage has his sight set to SKAR's leadership (to the point he even mutters "Things won't be satisfactory until I'm in control of SKAR" right in front of Iron Klaw) and undermine Iron Klaw's authority by stockpilling weapons, running his own operations and disobeying orders to not attack Inter-Alliance targets. Iron Klaw is fairly quick to catch on to Rampage's treacherous nature and only keep him around due to him being useful as a weapon supplier. When Rampage finally makes an over attempt to take control of SKAR, Iron Klaw lets him rot in prison when his attempt to attack Fort Knox fails and is deeply opposed to the notion of freeing him when representatives of SKAR's other division propose to do so.
    • Hilariously enough, this is what Cobra Commander becomes after Serpentor becomes head of Cobra in season two of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. However, Serpentor was more than willing to leave Cobra Commander behind to be either captured by the Joes or to die in the miniseries in which he (Serpentor) first appeared. Cobra Commander then pointed out that sooner or later that the rest of the Cobra would realize that Serpentor was not perfect and that a scapegoat would be needed when things fail. Also, Serpentor usually never finds out about Cobra Commander's attempts to kill him. The closest Serpentor got to finding out was in the episode where Cobra Commander summoned an Eldritch Abomination to kill Serpentor, though Serpentor thought that the Joes were the ones behind the attack in the end.
      • Bonus points for Cobra Commander being voiced by Chris Latta, the actor who also brought The Trope Namer himself to life!
    • The Baroness gets a moment of this as well in the episode where she obtains a power to subjugate men.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
    • Evil-Lyn, who many a times has worked behind Skeletor's back for her own purposes. There's even been a few times when Skeletor was aware of her treachery. Unlike Megatron, Skeletor doesn't take kindly to this and usually attempts to make her pay with her life. However, Evil-Lyn usually gets lucky and manages to get a little leverage over Skeletor that forces him to accept her back into his ranks. In the 2002 version, her betrayal almost cost her her life and her soul. The show seriously compromised the Never Say "Die" policy when Skeletor tried to punish her by sacrificing her to an Eldritch Abomination which seem to have more than a few things in common with the things you see in Cthulhu Mythos. She survived because her dad told He-Man that Skeletor was planning a Human Sacrifice that would make him more powerful, conveniently leaving out the fact that it was Evil-Lynn. He saved her anyway when he saw it was her (commenting to himself that "I'm probably going to regret this later.") He was right, of course; she wasn't grateful at all. Skeletor later changed his mind, admitting that he somewhat admired her for taking the initiative (although he did threaten a worse punishment if it happened again). And that may well have happened if the series had continued. She made plans to ally herself with Hordak that, unfortunately, were never resolved due to the cancellation of the series.
    • Trap-Jaw could be considered a serious Starscream too (or at least he was once) if the origin given in his issue of the Icons of Evil limited series comic book (based on the updated version of the cartoon) could be considered cannon. In the plot of the story, he is depicted as far more clever than he is in the cartoon, and he raises an army of warriors from stragglers in the Dark Hemisphere to wage a coup against Skeletor, but fails, the loss of his jaw and right arm (resulting in the cybernetic replacements) resulting from a brutal and bloody showdown with Skeletor himself, which he loses. At the end of the story, he's working for Skeletor again, and when Evil-Lynn asks him why, his response is, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
    • Skeletor himself was one to Hordak. According to Word of God, if the 2002 incarnation hadn't been yanked due to the network fouling things up, Skeletor would've been a successful Starscream.
    • In the '80s version, both Beast Man and Clawful had Starscreamish tendencies. Beastman only passively resented Skeletor and intended to wait for a good moment, but Clawful threatened to overthrow Skeletor to his face and then laughed off his threats. (Of course, Clawful was dumber than a box of hammers, especially in the remake. Clearly, he wasn't a threat.)
  • Grimian of Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 is an incredibly persistent Starscream, his constant attempts of usurping command from Kalus almost becoming a Running Gag. His last attempt at taking over is heavily implied to be his last. You can only push Kalus so far...
    • Krocomodo was originally this trope for the Vandals before Grimian booted him out of it.
    • Another one who actually succeeded is Zemerik. He was originally Krytus' Dragon but gained free will and overthrew him, imprisoned him and his team, then became a Dragon Ascendant, serving as one of the Big Bads in season 1. Unfortunately for him, Krytus was freed in season 2 and took the role back by force.
  • In the episode "Gir Goes Crazy and Stuff" of Invader Zim, the main character locks his usually hopelessly scatterbrained Robot Buddy Gir into "duty mode", forcing him to be focused and sane. Unfortunately, Zim himself is a total General Failure, and now that Gir is functioning properly for a prolonged period of time, he can realize just how much of a bungling, arrogant, hopelessly incompetent fool Zim is. So he openly turns on Zim and nearly kills him before Zim manages to undo his efforts, making Gir too stupid and distractible to think about betraying Zim anymore.
  • Valmont in Jackie Chan Adventures betrays Shendu right after he betrays him. He plans on robbing him of his palace, but fails. Next, he pulls an Enemy Mine on Jackie to remove Shendu from him.
  • According to Word of God, Samy on Jimmy Two-Shoes would overthrow Lucius if he had the chance. Considering his status, this seems unlikely.
  • Happened once in Kim Possible: A Sitch In Time, where after Drakken and his Villain Team-Up squad were arrested, Shego decided to use the Time Monkey to take over the world twenty years later, though it's not that much of a shock when you think about it. She was actually very successful, even managing to have the other villains under her thumb. If it wasn't for the huge Reset Button that was set at the end of the movie due to Ron breaking the Time Monkey, she would've been known as the most successful Starscream in history. Though that's what she gets for telling Ron she was the one responsible for him being moved to Norway and separated from Kim. Though technically, she only did it because Drakken convinced her, so that's what she gets for listening to Drakken. You'd think she'd know better, especially as the ruler of the world.
  • Gantu on Lilo & Stitch: The Series. While not actively attempting to overthrow Hamsterviel, he does take opportunities to break away from him. When he got 627 and Dupe, for example.
  • Mighty Max's Warmonger was Skullmaster's Dragon and Starscream throughout, and temporarily succeeded in replacing him. Skullmaster, in a rare attack of competence, set the whole thing up: Skullmaster being offstage encouraged the heroes to blow the spell that could stop (kill?) him on the Hydra instead.
  • Shang Tsung, as depicted in Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm, is resurrected by Shao Kahn, reigning arch-villain, Emperor of Outworld, and his former boss. Shang Tsung quickly decides that he'd rather overthrow him, but his plans don't get very far. Later, in the season (and, as it turned out, series) finale, he makes a better-planned effort to overthrow him and very nearly succeeds before both villains and the rightful queen are sent running, and there are still two factions left fighting for the throne. Long story. Oddly enough, all forecasts say that he's somehow measurably more evil than Shao Kahn, so Outworld may have dodged a bullet.
  • Ninjago has Samukai, the king of the Underworld who apparently wasn't too thrilled about having Lord Garmadon take the throne from him after being defeated by Sensei Wu. After the ninja bring the Golden Weapons of Spinjitzu to the Underworld, Samukai tries to use him being Multi-Armed and Dangerous to hold all four at once in an attempt to defeat Garmadon but is destroyed in the process.
    • Later on there's Skales, who understandably believes he'd be better as chief of the Hypnobrai after Slithraa's initial blunder allows Lloyd to use his hypnosis against him. He succeeds in taking the position from Slithraa after defeating him in an arena duel. Over the course of the first two seasons he acts as a Starscream to three masters: Slithraa, Pythor, and Garmadon, overthrowing the first and third while the second does himself in.
  • In the season one finale of OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes, Darrell takes over Boxmore from his father/creator Lord Boxman and has him launched into the sun.
  • Mullins in Peter Pan & the Pirates mostly as a counterpart to Smee’s Sycophantic Servant of Captain Hook. Although Starsky has the role sometimes he is less vocal in his questioning of Hook’s plans. Of course Hook is pretty badass in this version (and helps that is voiced by Tim Curry) and a very competent villain and his plans are generally very good. Mullins and Starky’s questioning is more related to point out Hook’s futile obsession with Peter Pan and how they waste their lives there when they can be pillaging somewhere else.
  • In Rocky and Bullwinkle, Boris Badenov tried many a time to stab his boss Fearless Leader in the back. When you're dealing with evil spies, what do you expect?
  • In Shadow Raiders Emperor Femur's chancellor Pelvis regularly drips poison on his boss's dinner slugs. And they're "good guys", sort of.
  • In the Sonic Sat AM series, Snively constantly grumbles over having to serve the Doctor, but doesn't actually attempt to harm him. By the Second Season he has blatantly come to resent his uncle's abuse and makes a few shrewd plans behind his back (he once attempted an attack on Knothole while Robotnik was gone, and was savvy enough to make alterations to his base that would ultimately save his life when Robotnik stabbed him in the back and left him to die in it). He simply plays along until Robotnik is electrocuted in the final episode, then is seen donning his uncle's trademark yellow cape. He does, however, resemble Starscream in voice, especially considering his voice is done by Charlie Adler.
  • Pretty much everyone's Dragon in the gang war arc of The Spectacular Spider-Man, especially Hammerhead, which is surprising because he seemed to be extremely faithful toward his leader. However, he is understandably fired by said boss shortly after they (or at least the boss) were arrested.
  • Toffee from Star vs. the Forces of Evil was initially hired by Ludo to make his monsters more efficient. He succeeds with flying colors, and then uses his success to usurp Ludo's command and tosses him out of the castle.
  • Airball in Stunt Dawgs.
  • Silver Surfer from The Super Hero Squad Show. He starts out as an ally to the Super Hero Squad, then returns to Galactus with the Infinity Sword. The weapon corrupts the Silver Surfer to the point where he actually becomes more powerful and arrogant. His act of this trope involves what looks like an alliance with Thanos, whose Infinity Gauntlet now has all 6 gems, by shaking his hand. But at the end of the handshake, he rips off the gauntlet from Thanos and banishes him into the gauntlet. He then becomes the Dark Surfer. This is one of the few examples of a Face–Heel Turn pulling this trope off.
  • SWAT Kats. Lieutenant Steel has his eyes set on replacing Commander Feral as leader of The Enforcers. Unlike most examples, Steel is trying to be leader of a heroic organization. Although Steel himself is the least heroic of the Enforcers as he displays all the qualities the Trope Namer has. He is complete suck-up to Feral, even praising his worst ideas, while mocking him behind his back. The moment Feral is out of commission, Steel makes his move, even once abandoning Feral to his fate. And like the Trope Namer, he's a total coward who just want to throw orders. The moment he's forced into being Feral's co-pilot, he reveals he has no combat training and gets airsick in the jet.
  • In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003), Baxter Stockman plays this role whenever he's working with The Foot, and will take any opportunity to be a thorn in the Shredder's side. If you want your Mad Scientist's loyalty, here's a tip: don't punish him by way of Malevolent Mutilation for every single operation gone wrong until he's more machine than man. He can make said machine very big and very nasty, and he'd probably rather use it on you than the Turtles.
  • Scarlett from Total Drama Pahkitew Island, who spends the season using Max to do her dirty work before in "Scarlett Fever" she reveals herself to be Eviler Than Thou and takes control of the island's systems to coerce Chris into handing her the prize money.
  • At first, Pavel from TRON: Uprising, appears to just be a Professional Butt-Kisser, but is slowly revealed to be this. He leaves Paige to die, keeps a powerful upgrade a secret from Tesler, tries to make Tesler look incompetent in front of Dyson, and then when Paige repeatedly rejects his offer of a Villain Team-Up, he begins to takes verbal jabs at her in front of Tesler.
  • Sarah Bellum was like this in one episode of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?. This led to a brief Enemy Mine between Carmen and the two heroes, as Carmen was obviously the Lesser of Two Evils. (Sarah was far more brutal.)
  • In W.I.T.C.H., Cedric eats Phobos unexpectedly after Phobos agrees to give "a fraction of his power" — which he decided to interpret as 3/3, 4/4 or equivalent.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In "The Mean 6", the clone of Twilight Sparkle created by Queen Chrysalis secretly plots to steal the Elements of Harmony for herself and overthrow Chrysalis as soon as she is away from her would-be-ruler. And when Chrysalis finds out about her treachery, Mean Twilight nearly succeeds into beating the changeling in a Beam-O-War, before being interrupted by the Tree of Harmony.

    Real Life 
  • As of 2019, there has been an internal power struggle within the higher-ups of the National Rifle Association. Executives such as Chris Cox and Oliver North (along with many rank-and-file members) have become deeply dissatisfied with CEO Wayne Lapierre's leadership and have (so far unsuccessfully) tried to oust him. Many claim that the organization does not do enough to fight for gun rights, while Lapierre allegedly lives a lavish lifestyle.
  • Mark Felt, a.k.a. "Deep Throat", the informant who leaked details of the Watergate scandal to journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Woodward writes that Felt was a devoted disciple of J. Edgar Hoover, and was upset when L. Patrick Gray was chosen over himself as the new FBI Director. Felt may have leaked the incriminating information to the press as revenge against Nixon.

Alternative Title(s): Traitorously Ambitious Subordinate, Starscream

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