Follow TV Tropes


Ugly Hero, Good-Looking Villain

Go To
"So here is a riddle to guess if you can
Sing the bells of Notre Dame.
What makes a monster and what makes a man?
Whatever their pitch, you
Can feel them bewitch you
The rich and the ritual knells
Of the Bells of Notre Dame."

When an unsightly hero is juxtaposed with a handsome villain. Differs from a subversion of Beauty Equals Goodness in having this specific pairing. Expect the villain to play upon Genre Blind characters to make them turn against the hero and for An Aesop about the villain "being the real monster". This is fairly common in Beast and Beauty plots.

Often seen in series where Beauty Is Bad, and/or when True Beauty Is on the Inside.

Sometimes, the hero will be Ugly Cute, even if by accident.

More often than not, the ugly hero is a male and the good-looking villain is a beautiful female (though an ugly heroine and a good-looking male villain dynamic is rare, but not unheard of).

Compare Face of an Angel, Mind of a Demon, Face of a Thug, Polite Villains, Rude Heroes (this applied to personalities), Sensible Heroes, Skimpy Villains (this applied to clothing modesty), Shabby Heroes, Well-Dressed Villains (this applied to dress and cleanliness), Sexy Villains, Chaste Heroes (this applied to sexualization). Can overlap with Love Interest vs. Lust Interest if the Lust Interest is a shallow person whose good looks are the only thing going for them, while the Love Interest being an less attractive person who makes up for their lack of physical beauty with inner beauty.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kitano and Suda of Angel Densetsu. Suda is meant to be a parallel or antithesis to Kitano. While Kitano is frightening in appearance and often called a monster, while actually being kind and gentle, Suda is quite attractive and charismatic, whom people often adore and proclaim to be awesome or hot (If by people, you mean Ikuko). However, he is more like a monster in his behavior, often lying to people and manipulating them to achieve his ends. He even goes so far as to try to turn Koiso against Kitano in order to emotionally devastate him and win the war going on between them at the time.
  • Berserk has Guts and Griffith. Griffith is an extraordinarily beautiful man with glistening white hair, garbed in shining armor who is adored and worshiped by women and men alike. Guts is a scruffy black-armored bad-tempered lug and a near-Perpetual Frowner, disliked and hated by almost everyone he comes across. But Guts's compassionate side is brought out by Casca and he quickly begins to love her and his comrades. Griffith also begins to love Guts and thus is shattered when Guts leaves him to find his own path, leading Griffith spiraling down a destructive path that culminates in summoning the God Hand, sacrificing all his men to become a demon god and raping Casca in front of a helpless Guts causing him to slice his own arm off to try and stop Griffith... showing who is truly the man and monster. It is downplayed somewhat as Guts is only ugly in comparison to Griffith and usually quite the Chick Magnet when Griffith's not around.
  • Death Note:
    • The manga has handsome and charming Villain Protagonist Light facing unsocial and somewhat wild-looking Hero Antagonist L. Interestingly, though, whenever Light is being particularly evil, his face tends to twist into asymmetrical grins and other bizarre expressions that utterly break his boyish handsomeness.
    • Similarly, L's features tend to soften and get closer to Ugly Cute when he's doing something particularly good. It comes to feel something like Light, who is heroic at heart (albeit in something of a Well-Intentioned Extremist way), and L, who would under normal circumstances be something of an Unscrupulous Hero at best, are both being pushed in directions they wouldn't normally go - Light is being warped into villainy by his ever-growing madness, and L is being warped into a Messianic Archetype to counteract it.
  • Dragon Ball Z, it unintentionally happens once during the Namek saga when Vegeta fights Zarbon over a Dragonball Krillin has. Bulma is terrified of Vegeta and thinks the handsome Zarbon will save them, and so is utterly surprised when Zarbon shows his true colors (and monster form), getting her more scared. But Vegeta blows a hole though Zarbon, unintentionally saving her. Bonus points for Bulma marrying Vegeta later.
  • Played for Laughs in Good Luck Girl!. Momiji is a god of poverty and misfortune who sports a disheveled and flat-chested appearance and is tasked with restoring the balance of happiness energy in the world. Ichiko, the beautiful and well-endowed source of the imbalance of happiness energy, does everything in her power to ensure she doesn't lose her desirable lifestyle.
  • Majin Devil Dekoppa is geeky looking compared to handsome and literally angel-winged Naohisa and Ashihara is quick to note it, but changes her mind when Naohisa turns out to be a terrifying Spider-monster who impregnates girls with his spider seed.
  • Naruto:
    • Titular character Naruto was considered far less handsome the mysterious Sasuke Uchiha by the girls of his village, but while Naruto's personality can radiates goodness... Sasuke's personality often doesn't.
    • Rock Lee and Gaara aren't pretty like Kimimaro but are super models compared to his bone-form
  • One Piece: Most of the villains aren't nearly as good looking as heroes, but there are a few times when this trope gets played. Enel and Doflamingo are tall and handsome blonde men while Luffy is a scrawny little pirate teenager. But personality-wise, Luffy is a million times more decent human being than Enel and Doffy, both who borderline on the whole "human" part.

    Comic Books 
  • In Sin City, Marv has a face that looks like a worn out slab of concrete and fights mostly normal looking people (and Elijah Wood). He's (sort of) the good guy, mainly by comparison though.
  • Rorschach of Watchmen is quite homely and short, both of which are mentioned in-story at least once. Also, he smells bad, dresses scruffily and has terrible table manners. He's a Noble Bigot, a rape apologist (though to be fair he knew the real deal with Silk Spectre and the Comedian), a Nietzsche Wannabe ... but, then again, Rorschach only kills dangerous criminals. Ozymandias, is attractive (though how varies by medium- he is tall, blond, athletic, and square-jawed in the original comic book, but slender, youthful, a bit fey and with noticeably wide green eyes in the film) and Wicked Cultured. While Rorschach and Ozymandias are both Well Intentioned Extremists, Rorschach never hurt an innocent person throughout the whole story, whereas Ozymandias killed two million innocent people with the intention of saving billions from nuclear war. This kind of pushes Rorschach into an Anti-Hero while Ozymandias is more of an Anti-Villain, so this mostly plays the trope straight.
  • Played straightest in the The Dark Knight Returns (with Superman of all people!) as Batman has aged to his 50s while eternally youthful Superman still looks like he's from the Golden Age, but as the story goes on it's clear Superman is on the wrong side while Batman still knows what's right.
  • X-Men:
    • In the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, Cyclops is concerned that, in a televised debate, Professor Xavier looks "severe, almost scary" compared to his opponent, the handsome, charismatic anti-mutant zealot Rev. William Stryker. Stryker figures in another example later in the book, as he tries to rouse sentiment against the demonic-looking but heroic X-Man Nightcrawler.
    • Wolverine and Cyclops are also ploy to this as well, with Wolverine being scruffy and animal-like while Cyclops is clean-shaved and has attractive boy-scout demeanor. Which quickly drops when Cyclops becomes villainous, one notable exchange in Schism points this out when Logan and Scott argue over their shared love Jean Grey.
    Cyclops: [Jean] never loved you, you know. You always frightened her.
    Wolverine: And if she was here now... who do you think she'd be more frightened of?
    [cue Cyclops looking furious]
  • Fables:
    • Prince Charming and Prince Brandish are far more dashing than the wolfish Bigby, but it becomes clear that both of them aren't half the man Bigby is. And could never be the hero in Snow White's eyes.
    • Flycatcher is also less striking than most princes, but is far more pure and even wins the heart of Red Riding Hood.

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge has it in kaiju form. Grand King Ghidorah is a sadistic mass murderer who commits extinction level events at a whim and has been ravaging the galaxy for hundreds of millions of years; yet whole he is quite imposing as a 150 meter tall three headed dragon, he's covered in golden scales, has jewel-like eyes, and has a regal look to him. The third Godzilla, "Junior" all grown up, looks like he'd fit the Reptiles Are Abhorrent trope with a mouthful of fangs, jagged spines, a gray coloration, obvious battle scars, and a predatory visage the Equestrians pick up on. Junior is also the leader of a band of heroic kaiju, is a Gentle Giant, and has been intentionally protecting humanity and later Equestria from entities like Ghidorah.

    Films — Animation 
  • Beauty and the Beast uses this with ugly hero The Beast and handsome villain Gaston. This is "borrowed" from Jean Cocteau's film La Belle et la Bête. Interestingly, in Cocteau's version, the same actor played both the Beast and the Gaston-equivalent, Avenant, and when the latter is killed, he takes on the Beast's appearance and the Beast's human form is that of the handsome villain. This situation leads the Belle character to muse whether she preferred this old form; this line was actually suggested to end Disney's movie as well.
  • This trope is used in the Shrek movies: While Lord Farquaad isn't exactly good looking, he does play upon Shrek's ugliness to try to incite villagers against him. The later two films go further by setting Shrek up against the grandmotherly Fairy Godmother and her son, Prince Charming himself.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame has a little of this, though it's more like Deformed Hero, Normal Villain; the Old Master Frollo isn't very good-looking, but his looks don't have the stigma attached to them that Quasimodo's do. Frollo teaches Quasimodo that he's "a monster", but in the end Quasi realizes that Frollo was the monster all along.
  • Strange Magic has this once the true villain and hero dynamics are revealed. While Marianne is your typical good looking fairy princess, Roland is the handsome blonde villain and the Bog King, who looks like a humanoid moth-cockroach monster turns out to be a pretty decent guy.
  • In UglyDolls, the Uglydolls are lumpy and misshapen reject dolls, but they have kind and optimistic hearts. In contrast are the Perfection dolls, pretty and mass-produced fashion dolls that have snobby and disdainful attitudes over anything that's not "perfect".

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hellboy is more frightening than ugly, but at least two of his enemies (Grigori Rasputin and his Nazi henchwoman, Ilsa Haupstein) are definitely sexy-type villains. Also note Prince Nuada, a very handsome elf prince, is the main antagonist of the second movie.
  • While not so much good-looking as they are human-looking, Small Soldiers has the peaceful yet monstrous-looking Gorgonites against the G.I. Joe-like yet psychotic Commando Elites.
  • In Blade Runner, Roy Batty (the leader of the escaped replicants) is spoken of like he's a blond Aryan superman (which he was deliberately intended to be). The protagonist Deckard, on the other hand, is not nearly as physically fit and gets beaten up pretty badly during their climactic fight. Of course, the film also plays with the idea of which of the two is truly the villain, hinting that Deckard might be more deserving of that description.
  • Wayne and Garth vs. Benjamin in Wayne's World .
  • Nerds vs. jocks in the Revenge of the Nerds series.
  • The movie Freaks has the eponymous freaks who, while portrayed as creepy in their own way, are still otherwise nice people regardless of their deformities and the prejudice they receive. This is in contrast, to the villains, who are both beautiful.
  • The Room (2003): The "hero" Johnny is played by the lumpy Tommy Wiseau while the main antagonists are pretty Dude Magnet Lisa and the conventionally attractive Mark.

  • Pretty much all the good guys in The Chronicles of Prydain are of a less-than-flattering nature (a swineherd, a red-haired tomboy, a shaggy-haired idiot, a dwarf, a grungy adventurer, and Gollum's hairy cousin). The big villains, meanwhile are all immaculate, posh and beautiful/handsome devils (except for Morda, he's just creepy).
  • There are many examples of this in Discworld:
    • Granny Weatherwax was never particularly attractive (although ugly would be an exaggeration much to her disappointment), her sister Lilith is a Knight Templar fairy godmother (did the writers of Shrek read Witches Abroad?) who looks like a younger and prettier version of Granny, and ironically was supposed to be the good one of the family.
    • In Night Watch, the villainous Captain Swing believes in something like phrenology and thinks that rough heroic cop Sam Vimes has the face of a murderer, while Serial Killer Carcer has an honest face. Although it's been noted (and explored particularly in that book) that Vimes does have the capacity to be a murderer, but doesn't let himself.
    • Hogfather uses the monster Aesop noted above. The heroine, Susan, is a nanny and uses a fireplace poker to kill monsters. At the end of the book, the psychopathic assassin Teatime (whose boyish good looks are marred only by his creepy eyes) is at their home, along with Susan's grandfather, Death (long story). Teatime tries to convince the children that he is good and that Death is the one they should be afraid of and ends up with the poker being run through him, with one of the kids pointing out that the poker "only kills monsters".
    • Not to mention Lords and Ladies, the Pratchett version of Can't Argue with Elves. Elves are beautiful, or at least appear to be. Their main opponent is Granny Weatherwax (again), who looks like a crabby old woman.
  • In Dragon Bones, there is Tisala, with whom Ward is smitten, even though she's not classically pretty (she has a rather majestic nose) and there is the more conventionally beautiful Bastilla, who turns out to be a traitor. Of Ward's (potential) love interests, Tisala is by far the more heroic one.
  • In The Elenium attractiveness has no real correlation with morality, with heroes and villains veering all over the place looks-wise, but this trope does come into play with Sparhawk and Martel. Both are somewhere approaching middle age, but only Sparhawk looks it: he was no looker at the best of times, but his oft-commented on broken nose gave a twisted, ugly and cruel cast to his face. Martel on the other hand is described as youthfully handsome, with a mane of white hair.
  • Abner Marsh in Fevre Dream is frequently described in unflattering physical terms, as opposed to Damon Julian's dark handsome looks.
  • Gone Girl: Detective Rhonda Boney, Hero Antagonist, is juxtaposed with Femme Fatale Amy. Amy is stunningly beautiful and adored by everyone, while Boney is described as being very ugly in the book, which is one of the reasons she isn't listened to, due to a misaimed belief that Beauty Equals Goodness. The trope is still present in the film in a very downplayed way, as despite much uglying up, Kim Dickens is still very pretty.
  • Played with in Harry Potter. Harry starts off as a scrawny ten year old with "knobbly knees" and Nerd Glasses, but is definitely implied to get more attractive as the series progresses. Lord Voldemort, on the other hand, is stated to have been very good-looking when he was younger, but as he gets older this diminishes somewhat (although it was his own fault).
    • This also applies to the series backstory, where the handsome and outwardly charming Tom Riddle frames the large and fierce-looking Hagrid for crimes he himself commited. Inverted, however, by the present day where Hagrid still looks like a normal man (height aside), while Riddle now looks considerably more monstrous.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Outside social shunning in general, the good-hearted but grotesque Quasimodo has his counterpart in handsome Phoebus, who is an utter bastard (a thoroughly, selfish unprincipled scoundrel who won't hesitate to sacrifice his supposed love interest if his social standing and future wife's good graces are at stake).
  • In Jane Eyre, Jane often describes herself as "plain" and is described similarly by others, whereas Blanche Ingram is very beautiful, but a Rich Bitch.
    • Similarly, while not exactly a villain, St. John Rivers is domineering, self-righteous and classically handsome. On the other hand, Rochester is not handsome (and is by the end of the book actually disfigured), but for all his flaws, he is at heart a good person.
  • In Masques, the hero, Aralorn, is rather plain, her friend Wolf is so ugly he has to wear a mask when in human form, while their enemy, Geoffrey ae'Magi, is supernaturally handsome. Partly it's lucky genetics, but he also prevents his aging with magic. In the end, Wolf/Cain decides to get rid of his scars, which freaks Aralorn out because he now looks like his father, the ae'Magi. She tries to get over it.
  • Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, much like Disney's Beauty and the Beast, has a handsome but black-hearted man who horribly abuses the heroine and an ugly but good-hearted Beast who she comes to love. The twist in this particular BatB retelling is that both of them are the same person, or at least share the same body — the major reveal at the book's end is that the Beast was actually the prince's original personality and his mother's wish for him to be handsome ended up creating "Jean-Loup", a separate personality who was good-looking but as ugly on the inside as the Beast was beautiful on the inside and overtook the Beast's personality until the enchantress "cursed" him back into his original beastly form.
  • Jennifer Murdley's Toad has a Story Within a Story that retells the "Diamonds and Toads" fairy tale with an ugly but kind girl getting blessed to have a gem fall from her mouth every time she spoke and her beautiful but cruel stepsister getting cursed to have a toad, rat, or snake fall from her mouth every time she spoke. In a double example, Jennifer Murdley, the homely protagonist, has to defeat the beautiful-but-wicked girl all grown up as a witch who uses her magic to keep looking young and beautiful.
  • In The Catcher in the Rye the narrator's roommate is the attractive-but-sketchy Ward Stradlater, and his next-door-neighbor is the pimply unclean Robert Ackley. At first, Holden praises Stradlater as a handsome, popular friend who has a way with the ladies, while pointing out Ackley's pettiness and general difficult personality. After he realizes that his roommate might have date-raped a friend (or romantic hopeful-partner) of his, Holden seeks sanctuary with Ackley and shows him to be at least an average guy with self-esteem issues.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The 1980s retro-cop show Crime Story has pockmarked, scary police detective Mike Torello (Dennis Farina) pitted against sharp-dressing, impeccably coiffed, good-looking mobster Ray Luca (Anthony Dennison).
  • The original idea behind the Master in Doctor Who was that he'd be played by a conventionally handsome, charming individual, to contrast with the Doctor's more funny-looking appearance. As a result, this dynamic is very apparent in the first Doctor/Master matchup — the Third Doctor and Roger Delgado. Later the trope finds itself ignored as much as it's played straight, with there not being a significant gulf in looks between John Simm and David Tennant, and with the odd-looking-but-healthy-and-attractive Tom Baker being pitted against a rotting, hissing undead corpse version of the Master.
    • Also the deformed, sea lion-looking Rills and the beautiful Drahvins from "Galaxy 4."
  • El Chavo del ocho: Don Ramon invoked the trope while selecting a cast for a play held at the neighborhood when Dona Florinda complained about her son playing a villain instead of a hero. She bought the excuse.
  • Played with in the episode "The Golden Man" from the TV series Lost in Space, where the titular Golden Man appears to be a benevolent god and his frog-faced opponent the villain, but "frog-face" turns out to be the hero while the Golden Man is actually the villain and the trope is played with because the Golden Man turns out to be a monster who deliberately disguised himself as something pleasing to the human eye.
  • The eponymous monster Swamp Thing vs handsome Dr. Arcane in Swamp Thing.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Interestingly enough, The Bible may qualify for this, depending on how it's interpreted. Ezekiel 28:12-19 is often understood to be referring to Satan; it describes him as beautiful, even going so far as to say he was "flawless in beauty". Jesus, on the other hand, is described as plain-looking, if not downright ugly; Isaiah 53, which is believed by Christians to be a Messianic prophecy, says "He had no form or beauty, that we should look at him: No charm, that we should find him pleasing."note  This is reinforced later on in the Gospels, when Jesus is apparently so ordinary it takes Judas (someone who knew him) to tell him apart from the other disciples for the authorities who are coming to seize him.

    Pro Wrestling 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000:
    • Anytime a champion of Slaanesh fights someone is almost always guaranteed to be this, as unearthly beauty is a common gift of the Chaos god of excess (especially in 40k, where anyone who can fight a champion alone is likely a scarred and grizzled veteran whose face is as much bionics as it is flesh). The notable exception is Lucius the Eternal, who started as a bishonen but whose face is now a network of self-inflicted scars.
    • Inverted with certain armies like the Blood Angels, who are basically all Bishōnen Renaissance Italians.
    • And played straight with the Space Wolves and Salamanders who despite being Werewolf Vikings and Scary Black Men respectively are actually one of the more genuinely heroic Space Marine Chapters.

  • Hairspray: The whole plot revolves around Tracy, a fat girl, going up against the Alpha Bitch Amber and her mother, Velma. Velma and Amber are both beautiful beauty pageant winning blondes but are horrible bigots to everyone. Tracy and her mother Edna (who is always played by a man to prove the point), meanwhile, are kind, genuine people (though Tracy is usually quite cute, even pretty, herself, pudge and all. She's just simultaneously fat).

    Video Games 
  • Dead Rising has shlubby-looking photojournalist Frank West (who was intentionally designed to be ugly/average-looking) foiling the terrorist plot of handsome villain Carlito Keyes.
  • While the titular character of Ganbare Goemon isn't ugly per se, his clownish hair and makeup certainly make him rather goofy-looking. His primary companion Ebisumaru is even goofier, and is pudgy with a big nose. In contrast, the vast majority of the series' Big Bads are tall, muscular Bishōnen (albeit generally with some kind of bizarre personality quirk). It reaches a point where these villain characters all qualify as having Nonstandard Character Designs, as they are significantly taller and more realistically-proportioned than every other character in the series.
  • The "Exhibition Match" game of Rhythm Heaven Fever has you playing as a chubby, ugly baseball batter, going up against an adorable female pitcher. Thing is, the pitcher's cheating (when she throws the ball, a monkey catches it behind a curtain and waits for a moment before throwing it, trying to catch you off-guard), making the batter the better man. It's downplayed a little, because she really isn't evil per se. Just a cheater.
  • Wario Land and its sequel have you play as Wario, with Captain Syrup as the Final Boss and his Arch-Enemy. Subverted in later games of the series where the villains are scary monsters that are sometimes even uglier than Wario, although Captain Syrup does return in Wario Land: Shake It!!, albeit as more of a Magnificent Bastard that just manipulates Wario a little rather than take on the role of Big Bad again.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines can potentially play this trope straight if the Player Character is Nosferatu (who are so grotesque to look upon that just walking in the surface risks breaking the Masquerade) since s/he will be going up against Sebastian LaCroix and Ming Xiao, both of whom look very attractive. Initially averted, as their initial antagonist is the Tzimisce Andrei, since he looks far uglier than the PC (they will be bald with pointed ears and grey skin, while Andrei resembles an alien with his elongated face, reptilian features and spiked body).
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones features the titular Prince- a Tall, Dark, and Handsome youth- vs the Vizier- an evil old man with a beard, long creepy fingernails and an Incurable Cough of Death. After the Vizier stabs himself with the Dagger of Time, however, he and the Prince both end up becoming altered in jarring ways. The Vizier becomes a handsome bald man with fair skin and a bare chest, with golden wings and scorpion body below his waist. The Prince becomes a grey-skinned, yellow-eyed monster with black Flaming Hair, a Whip Sword bound to his left arm- painfully- and a lower, growlier voice. In spite of this, the Vizier is still the Big Bad set on conquering the world from the Prince's home city of Babylon, and the Prince still fights against him. That said, the Prince is suffering from a case of Enemy Within after he transforms...

    Western Animation 
  • The Aesop that just won't die in Gargoyles: First, there's David Xanatos. Then comes Macbeth. Then the creators decided to finally make it explicit with the Hunter family, especially the youngest Canmore brother.
  • In the second episode of Ruby-Spears Superman, Superman has a problem with an alien monster from a space police officer's spaceship. He had a choice between a ugly male and a beautiful female as either cop or crook. It turns out the ugly male cop was the cop and the female was the crook. Bonus point for revealing that her stage was cocoon stage of the alien monster race had a battle with.
  • The original version of ThunderCats did a very similar episode, except the two visitors to Third Earth were both male.
  • The Crab Nasties and the Flores in the My Little Pony episode "The Fugitive Flowers". As the title implies, the pretty flower people are the criminals and the crab monsters are the police trying to stop them from causing more damage.