Follow TV Tropes

Following

Viler New Villain

Go To

A Likable Villain can be fun, either because they have a good goal, are pleasant or otherwise relatable. But sometimes you want a more straight villain, someone to be hated for their evil. Maybe the likable villain used to fill that role, but since they Took a Level in Kindness that role needs filling. Perhaps there needs to be a worse villain for the nicer villain to have a plausible Enemy Mine situation with the hero, or have a Heel–Face Turn to oppose them. The darker shade of black contrasts the nicer by lacking their nobler intentions, standards, attachments and geniality. If the likable villain isn't a Knight of Cerebus, this villain might be. That, and/or they function as a Hate Sink, though sometimes they can take the role of being enjoyed for their heinousness in a way the nicer villain can not. Usually they're an even eviller counterpart or Foil to the honorable villain to make the point clear. Expect them to provoke Even Evil Has Standards from the other villains. This gets exaggerated if the previous villain was harmless, while the new one is a Complete Monster, and it may overlap with Vile Villain, Saccharine Show as well.

Advertisement:

Not the same as Eviler than Thou, which is when one villain demonstrates their superiority over another villain, usually to prove they're more of a threat. Here, the new villain is shown to be more evil to another villain without any sort of rivalry involved. If there is a rivalry involved, then it will likely lead to Make Way for the New Villains, with the old one suffering from The Worf Effect to establish the danger of the new threat. It may also show that Villainous Ethics Decay is in effect.

The "Oblivion" in Evil Versus Oblivion often fill this role, but that doesn't mean they have to eviler than the "Evil". A Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds is easily more sympathetic than a bumbling Card-Carrying Villain, but they're also likely to be more threatening in terms of strength and conviction, making them worse by default. The polar opposite of A Lighter Shade of Black, where a villain is better than another, and, like that trope, it's often used to determine who should be rooted for or against in Evil Versus Evil situations.

Advertisement:

May lead to an Enemy Mine situations (where the previous villain has to team-up The Hero to finish this menace and come back to the previous status quo) or a Hero, Rival, Baddie Team-Up (where The Rival is also summed to the team to defeat this menace), both alliances made temporarily and teeth-clenched. When there's a truly heroic figure to compare, it's The Good, the Bad, and the Evil. Related to Sorting Algorithm of Evil, More Hateable Minor Villain, and particularly Sliding Scale of Antagonist Vileness - the new villain has to be less sympathetic on that scale than the older one.


Advertisement:

Examples:

    open/close all folders 
    Anime & Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!: The Jaegars serve The Empire, but even the worst of them have a strict moral code, don't indiscriminately kill citizens of the Empire unless they believe they're part of La Résistance. Later on the Wild Hunt is introduced as secondary enforcers of the Empire, who serve to make the Jaegars look good by comparison by being hired psychopaths who will kill and rape innocent citizens out of sadism, and have no care for each other's well-being compared to the genuine sense of camaraderie the Jaegars have for each other. They're so vile Night Raid and the Jaegars team up against them.
  • Cross Ange: Embryo was this to Julio, sharing his loathsome traits with ever viler goals and pastimes while having the power and intelligence to be far more capable of realizing such and threatening the heroes. Any style, charm, moral intrigue or depth Embryo displayed is ultimately subverted made worse by using it to corrupt many heroines to his side as pawns and toys ultimately to discard them along with any pretenses of care and attempts to force himself on the one he couldn't seduce.
  • Dr. STONE: First villain Tsukasa was a Well-Intentioned Extremist that wished to keep the Stone World free from scientific advancements in order to prevent war and bloodshed. His Dragon Hyoga had a similar ideal, but with a far stricter "survival of the fittest" mantra, resulting in him allowing Tsukasa's other warriors to die in a poison gas cloud, which Tsukasa would have never done. Then it's revealed he merely went along with Tsukasa so he can find his weakness and kill him, even going after his younger (revived) sister to do so. But even Hyoga is downright charming compared to the next villain, Minister Ibara. The brutal dictator of the Petrification Kingdom, claiming his orders came from the island's Master, when in reality he petrified the Master long ago and destroyed his face (effectively killing him). When any of the girls he brings onto his harem discover this truth, he murders them without a second thought. Including his attempt to kill Ginro. Anyone that questions him is petrified, even his closest associates. Made worse in that he's clever too, managing to out-maneuver several of Senku's gambits.
  • Dragon Ball commonly uses this trope in regards to introducing new villains.
    • In the Red Ribbon Army arc, General Blue (already this trope compared to Colonel Silver and General White) was a formidable opponent who very nearly got to kill Krillin and proved to be the first personally severe obstacle to overcome. He's usurped by Tao Pai-Pai, who kills him with his tongue and then proceeds to kill Bora and then Goku (briefly). From a larger perspective, the Red Ribbon Army as a whole serve as a more dramatic and hate-able military force than the bumbling Pilaf Gang.
    • The eponymus Piccolo Daimao from the King Piccolo arc is easily the biggest jump, as he's much more formidable and callous than the Red Ribbon Army or Tao Pai-Pai, being the embodiment of evil. This jump is strongly contrasted as he spends the first half of this arc paired with the goofy Pilaf Gang. Daimao was notably the first villain to actually achieve his plan (restore his youth and take over the world), and in short order at that.
    • In the Namek arc, Frieza serves as this role to previous Arc Villain Vegeta. While Vegeta is just as interested in conquering the galaxy as Frieza, he has a warrior's pride and is willing to work with the heroes against a common threat. Frieza is an even larger scale villain than Vegeta was, and is shown to be far more sadistic and cutthroat. And while Vegeta has Villainous Valor, Frieza is ultimately a coward that tries to kill Goku behind his back even after Goku saved his life.
    • Cell ends up being the final antagonist in the Android arc after Android 17 and 18. Like them, he's a killer android, but while they are delinquents who only plan to kill Goku, Cell is a homicidal android that drains the life of thousands of people with cruel glee, and after becoming perfect wants to kill everyone so he can watch their faces contort in terror. While the twins end up having a Heel–Face Turn, Cell rejects any desire to stop his villainy and dies evil through and through.
    • Interestingly, the Majin Buu introduced at the start of the Majin Buu arc is a villain that causes random destruction and turns people into candy, however there is a large amount of levity to his actions because of his comical personality, and only does bad things because he doesn't know they're evil. After he has a Heel–Face Turn, a new Arc Villain is introduced in his Superpowered Evil Side Super Buu, who's intentionally cruel and sadistic. He, in turn, is replaced by Kid Buu, who's animalistic and a completely insane force of evil in contrast to "Fat Buu".
  • In Fairy Tail, Zeref was built up throughout the first half of the series as the ultimate source of evil - a large amount of the main villains were either creations of Zeref, trying to revive Zeref, or using magic that Zeref had left behind. Then it's revealed that he's a Tragic Villain who was cursed for trying to revive his younger brother from the dead. Shortly afterwards, we are introduced to Acnologia, an Ax-Crazy Hate Sink who even Zeref views as a monster.
  • Takemaru from Inuyasha the Movie: Swords of an Honorable Ruler was far from being a good person. He was a cruel samurai and murderer. However, he had only a hatred for Inuyasha, Sesshomaru and their father. The demonic sword So'unga, on the other hand, wanted to destroy the world and flood it with undead.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • In Stardust Crusaders, the moment the crusaders encounter Telence T. D'Arby, Daniel's younger brother and the last of the Egypt 9 Glory Gods, they are left in shock that he is even viler than his older brother. Despite having stolen fewer souls than Daniel, Telence traps them within dolls and deliberately keeps them fully aware of their situation and unable to do anything about it. DIO is especially fond of this guy and not only is he the worst of the Glory Gods, he is the most vicious of DIO's goons since J. Geil.
    • The plot of Golden Wind centers around a bunch of mobsters, who vary in morality. However among the Boss' Special Unit, Cioccolata is meant to stand out as particularly horrible. While ruthless, most of the guard is motivated by cash and try to avoid harming innocent civilians. Cioccolata, however, is a disturbed sadist and Serial Killer who only joined Passione for the opportunity to torture and murder people, and delights in the mass slaughter of innocent civilians. Everyone in Passione, even the Boss (who's the Big Bad, mind you, and no Anti-Villain himself) considers him repulsively evil.
    • Stone Ocean takes place in a maximum security prison, filled with rapists, murderers, lowlifes and corrupt officials but no other character stands out in depravity as much as the former leader of a suicide cult, Kenzō. He is an egotistical, sadistic piece of work with a god complex and similarly to Cioccolata, everyone hates Kenzō and refuses to associate with him.
  • Magi: Labyrinth of Magic has as is first antagonists a cruel but completely incompetent conqueror, and later a robber gang and a corrupt and incompetent king. But the opponents who then attack the heroes belong to an organization of black magicians who want to bring the world into chaos and call themselves Al-Thamen.
  • The Zanscare Empire manage to be worse than every previous villainous faction to come before in Gundam (which is no small feat given the mold many are cut out of). While most of the early villainous factions were shown to have plenty of sympathetic, well-intentioned or honorable members in their ranks, Zanscare seems to be almost entirely comprised of Ax-Crazy religious fanatics bent on enacting a total cleansing of Earth. The final stretch of episodes even sees them trying to Mind Rape the entire planet with a Kill Sat powered by innocent women and children. Yeah...
  • Charles Augustus Milverton, once he finally shows up in The Phantom of Whitechapel arc of the manga Moriarty the Patriot. He does everything For the Evulz, and it's notable that Sherlock Holmes loathes him, even though he's quite fond of Villain Protagonist William James Moriarty.
  • In Muhyo and Roji, Enchu, the main antagonist of the first saga, as well as his accomplice Rio Kurotori were both sympathetic villains with tragic backstories, while the next arc introduced Corrupt Corporate Executive Goryo and his Jerkass sidekick Ebisu, who were thoroughly unsympathetic. After Muhyo and Roji reunite, the next villain they face, Tomas, is one of the most despicable characters in the series, while Goryo and Ebisu (who are forced to accept Muhyo's help against their common enemy) become somewhat more sympathetic, partially by comparison.
  • The first parasites from Parasyte just want to eat humans, and actually have no sadistic pleasure in killing them. They even compare the eating of humans with the consumption of pigs and cows. But then Gotou, a particularly powerful parasite, is the new enemy, and he's crazy about killing as many humans as possible.
  • Pokémon: Cassidy and Butch serve as this and Eviler than Thou rivals to Jessie, James and Meowth. Both are Pokemon thieves working for Team Rocket, but Jessie and James are shown to care for their own Pokemon, work with or even sympathize with the heroes and have other likable traits. Cassidy and Butch, by contrast, lack any Affably Evil traits and don't show any care for their Pokemon.
  • Project A-Ko: Uncivil Wars: In contrast to the villains of the main series, who were all comical and caused harm as a result of misunderstandings or incompetence, the Space Pirates are an Apocalypse Cult seeking the destruction of all existence so their leader, Lady Xena, may remake everything in her own image. And while the mooks are stupid, the leaders are played seriously, with Xena in particular being a depraved, Ax-Crazy maniac and Godhood Seeker who blows up fleets, planets, and an entire galaxy onscreen while reveling in their deaths.
  • The Promised Neverland had Isabella as its first Arc Villain. By the end of the arc she was shown to have been like the main characters when she was their age; she attempted to escape from the farms they grew up on, but gave up after seeing the giant gap outside the surrounding wall. After that she simply devoted herself to living as long as she could and thought of herself as giving the children she watched the happiest life possible before their deaths. The first Arc Villain encountered after the children escape is Lord Bayon, one of the nobility among the demons who eat humans. Finding human meat prepared from farms to be tasteless, Bayon had children shipped to his home so he could relive the thrill of when he hunted humans. As his food was much more tasteful when he killed it himself, he had his hunts in increasing numbers, while inviting other nobles to join in the hunts as well.
  • Sonic X: As bad as Dr. Eggman could get, he wasn't a sadist, was Affably Evil, and wanted to conquer the world, not destroy it. Dark Oak, the Big Bad of the third season, is a genocidal monster who's destroyed multiple planets by stealing their Planet Eggs, plotted to wipe out all non-plant life forms in the galaxy, and decides to destroy the entire galaxy in his final moments rather than let Sonic and Shadow win.
  • Sword Art Online: Akihiko Kayaba was no saint, but he had his own moral code and stuck to it to the end. The Fairy Dance arc brings in Nobuyuki Sugou, who has none of Kayaba's Affably Evil traits and is just an amoral, greedy, perverted Jerkass who commits such horrifying atrocities as trapping 300 SAO survivors for the sake of performing mind control experiments, trying to rape Asuna while making Kirito watch, and then trying to kill Kazuto IRL. And while Kayaba had Villainous Valor, was a good fighter even without admin privileges, and ultimately took his defeat well, Sugou is a Dirty Coward who knows he doesn't stand a chance against Kirito without Game Master powers and wimps out when the tables turn on him.

    Comic Books 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ra's al Ghul is the Big Bad in Batman Begins, but he's is a Well-Intentioned Extremist and respects Bruce Wayne despite the latter opposing him as Batman. After Ra's Al-Ghul's defeat, a clown-themed villain named The Joker shows up to fill the vacancy in The Dark Knight. Unlike Ra's, the Joker is a Card-Carrying Villain who plunges Gotham into chaos For the Evulz and only sees Batman as an amusing challenge.
  • DC Extended Universe: Man of Steel had General Zod, a warmongering alien that would decimate all life on Earth, but ultimately he just wanted to restore his destroyed world. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice had Lex Luthor, whose motives aren't nearly as understandable. Luthor goes out of his way to antagonize and defame Superman so that not only would the public turn against him, but someone like Batman would try to kill him. Unlike Zod, Luthor doesn't give a damn how many of his own people will be slaughtered in the process.
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Eli Mills is one of the single most despicable characters across all the movies. He's a ruthless sociopath motivated purely by his own monetary gain, he has none of Peter Ludlow's standards or Unintentionally Sympathetic qualities nor any of Hoskins' dog-petting moments, his goals are arguably more materialistic than the For Science! motivations of Dr. Wu, and he crosses all sorts of lines that neither the aforementioned antagonists nor Nedry crossed (directly murdering his long-time elderly employer, planning to abduct and experiment on a cloned little girl, selling captured dinosaurs not to a new park on the mainland nor even to the official military but to literally any black marketeers who had dough).
  • MonsterVerse: The first movie introduces the MUTOs, destructive Non-Malicious Monsters who only want to live out their natural life cycle and are indifferent towards the humans and cities around them (until said humans destroy the female's nest). Next, Kong: Skull Island introduces the Skullcrawlers, who are hyper-aggressive carnivores driven by an extreme metabolism and at times appear to enjoy hunting their prey. Then Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) introduces King Ghidorah, an intelligent and genuinely evil alien kaiju who goes out of his way to kill as many humans as possible and is actively seeking the destruction of Earth's natural order.
    • This trope also somewhat applies to the human antagonists. In Skull Island, Preston Packard is an unstable war veteran with rather sympathetic circumstances, who's driven insane by losing his men one by one to the kaiju. King of the Monsters introduces Alan Jonah, a cold-blooded killer and misanthrope Eco-Terrorist, who proves to be a Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist when he doesn't care that Ghidorah threatens all life on Earth so long as it makes humanity suffer.
  • Saw: While he's not necessarily introduced as such, Hoffman is progressively shown to be a much more immoral and dangerous Big Bad than the original Jigsaw, as well as later killers and copycats, being one of the very few who directly murders people without using death traps. He eventually becomes an absolute sociopath with his Villainous Breakdown throughout Saw 3D.
  • The movie version of Sometimes They Come Back shows three murderers who become undead and haunt those who killed them then. The three murderers in the sequel, on the other hand, have become demons, and they are much more cruel and sadistic than those from the prequel.
  • Vulture from Spider-Man: Homecoming was a black-market arms dealer, but cared for his men and tried to limit innocent casualties as much as he can, even offering Peter an opportunity to back out with no strings attached, and even protects Peter's identity from known criminals. Mysterio from Spider-Man: Far From Home initially presented himself as The Cape, but is soon revealed to be a Fake Ultimate Hero with implied casualties in his drone attacks numbering thousands, doesn't care about his team more than their skillset, and brutally Mind Rapes Peter after his true colors come to light, despite liking the kid earlier. Even when Peter eventually defeats him, Mysterio manages to get the last laugh by publicly framing Spider-Man behind the London attacks as well as his murder and then exposing his Secret Identity for the world to see.
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader was initially introduced as a straight villain, but as the original trilogy progressed he was revealed to be a Tragic Villain who deeply cared for his son Luke and wanted to rule the galaxy together. To make his eventual redemption and fall seem more understandable, Emperor Palpatine was introduced as an unambiguously evil figure who turned Vader evil in the first place and for Vader to ultimately strike down as part of his break from the Dark Side. While Darth Vader would be characterized as an Anti-Villain and Fallen Hero who hated what he'd become and his Start of Darkness would be shown in the prequels, Palpatine would be written as lacking any redeeming qualities, and having no tragic past or good reason why he became who he was asides from sheer power-lust and sheer delight in being evil. It happens again in The Rise of Skywalker as he hijacks the First Order from Kylo Ren, setting up the latter for a Heel–Face Turn.

    Light Novels 
  • In Accel World, Cyan Pile, the villain of the first volume, does a Heel–Face Turn at the end, while Cherry Rook is a Tragic Villain who had been corrupted by the Armor of Catastrophe. Dusk Taker, however, is a truly despicable character who uses blackmail, manipulation and illegal technology to gain the upper hand.
  • Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? had as their first antagonists rather some assholes (and later also asshole victims) who have maltreated Liliruca. The sequel Sword Oratoria, on the other hand, had an evil adventurer and contract killer working for a malicious plant monster.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz is stuck babysitting a bunch of murderous psychopaths (essentially a bunch of Original Characters created by people in full edgelord phase) united only in their unwavering faith and devotion in Ainz as their Physical God and their hatred of humans. Because Ainz still thinks like a human, he's unaware of their more troublesome quirks like Demiurge running a vast vivisection operation on beastmen or Lupusregina interpreting Ainz's orders to guard a human as "don't kill him yourself", even as he's trying to run a kingdom where different races can live in peace.

    Literature 
  • Conan the Barbarian: Conan will frequently go from administering well-deserved violence unto a reprehensible example of humanity at the start of a story to punching out Cthulhu by the end.
    • The Phoenix on the Sword: The conspirators attempting to assassinate King Conan and usurp his throne are not nice people, but Evil Sorcerer Thoth-Amon and the demon he summons with his Serpent Ring of Set are so nasty a long-dead adversary of Set is forced to give Conan mystical assistance from beyond the grave (the titular Phoenix) to stop them.
    • Xuthal of the Dusk: Thalis is the primary antagonist for much of the story, intending to sacrifice Conan's Girl of the Week to Thog so she can have Conan all to herself. She's eaten (or something) by Thog, leaving Conan to lay the smackdown upon the "god."
    • The Vale of Lost Women: Conan leads his tribe of warriors to slaughter the tribe they'd come to parley with (who Conan knew full well would betray them the first chance they got) to rescue the fair maiden the other tribe had captured. In a panic, said fair maiden flees into the titular Vale, home to a "Demon of the Outer Dark," which Conan sends packing with his trusty sword.
  • Morganville Vampires features the vampire Amelie and her father Bishop. Amelie as leader of the Morganville vampires can be ruthless and perfectly willing to kill people if it means that vampires are able to survive as she feels its for the good of her people. That said she does everything with the best of intentions and is also genuinely friendly and even views the series heroine Claire Danvers as a surrogate daughter of sorts. In contrast her father, Bishop who is introduced later in the series is a ruthless sociopath who would bring about the extinction of all other vampires but him if it meant he got to rule and is far more prone to violence and bloodshed. Every ounce of politeness or apparently kind thought that comes from Bishop is fake.
  • The Mortal Instruments:
    • Valentine Morgenstern was a racist who had despised the humans and downwoldlers, and wanted a world in which there are only shadowhunters. After he was defeated, and Sebastian Morgenstern became the next Big Bad, it turned out that he was much more evil and wanted to turn the whole world into a hotbed of demons.
    • Fairies are generally considered beautiful, but also vicious. First, only the fairies from Seelie Court are shown, and many of them are really prone to be evil. But the sequel The Dark Artifices shows the Unseelie Court. And the fairies there are even more cruel.
  • Luke from Percy Jackson and the Olympians is an anti-villain who has at least a legitimate reason to rebel against the gods, even if that does not excuse many of his actions. But the sequel The Heroes of Olympus shows Gaia, who is a very powerful and very evil goddess and wants to destroy the world. Even minor villains like Octavian are far more vicious than Luke was.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Downplayed with Roose and Ramsay Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire. Roose Bolton is a sociopathic lord that starts as the Token Evil Teammate for House Stark, before betraying them in the Red Wedding. While bad, he tries to promote order. His bastard son Ramsay is a wild sadist who openly tortures and kills people, much to his father's frustration. However, Roose is almost sadistic as his son beneath his Mask of Sanity and opposes Ramsay's naked cruelty because it's bad PR rather than any morality. However he does have one distinct standard above Ramsay, that being even he wouldn't kill his own kin despite how Stupid Evil his bastard is, while Ramsay is heavily implied to have murdered his legitimate half-brother to become Roose's heir.
    • Balon Greyjoy is far, far from a saint, being an Abusive Parent to his last living son and a ruler who desires to bring back the old ways of the Ironborn, raping and pillaging as they please. Still, he has certain standards that come with the Ironborn culture, loves his daughter and at least one of his brothers and is generally too incompetent to do too much lasting damage, only indirectly ruining House Stark's chance to win the war. After he is killed off, Euron Greyjoy, his not-so-loved brother, comes into the picture and takes the Seastone Chair. Euron by contrast has no sense of honor, Ironborn or otherwise, no love for anyone and is sadistic for the the sake of sadism. Euron manages to be evil by real-world standards, common Westerosi standards, and even Ironborn standards. This coupled with his extremely high competence as a military leader and politician, and possible use of dark magic make him a much more dangerous, serious and despicable contender for the Throne than Balon ever was.
  • These Words Are True and Faithful: Ernie, the Villain Protagonist, has standards but sometimes grants himself a dispensation because he lets his heart (or other body parts) rule him. His affair with Danny, who turns out to be an amoral leech, causes him to reconsider what he's done.
  • Zodiac: Aquarius is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who genuinely believed in what he was doing, and didn't even want to do it at first. Which amounts for a lot more when you compare him to Blaze and Aryll.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: While Tuco Salamanca always was crazy, he doesn't hold a candle to the meticulous and conniving Gus Fring. By the end of the series, actual nazis make Jessie's life hell. His protagonist nature blurs the line, but Walter White's slow but certain descent into villainy makes him an example compared to the initial small fries.
  • This happened several times in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    • Spike started as Big Bad of the second season. But by the standards of vampires, he was not very evil. Although he was a real opponent for Buffy, and killed some humans, Angelus was worse. He showed from the outset a very cruel and sadistic behavior. And he wanted to free a demon that would turn the whole world into hell.
    • Faith in the third season kills Mr. Trick, the Dragon of the Big Bad. And then she became his new dragon. Among her acts were her sexual assault of Xander, the (indirect) rape of Riley, the kidnapping of Willow, the brutal torture of Wesley, a murder attempt on Angel, and at least four murders (three humans and a benevolent demon, the first of which was really an accident).
    • Maggie Walsh in the fourth season was just a scientist with evil motives. And she created a monster named Adam, which consisted of the body parts of humans, demons and machines. Adam killed her and became the next Big Bad of the season. However, since he pursued roughly the same plan as Maggie Walsh, it is more a case of creating a more dangerous villain rather than a more vicious villain.
    • In the sixth season, the new opponents are a trio of supervillains. The three are not very effective as villains, and at least one of them is more of a nuisance than really evil. But after Warren kills Tara, Willow falls into evil magic and trying to destroy the world.
    • In Angel, this is discussed as the heroes fight a powerful demon they call The Beast. They want to get Angelus to give them information on how to fight this demon. But some of the heroes are against it, arguing that Angelus could be far more dangerous than this demon.
    • Angelus's explanation of who the Beast is also involves explaining that there is a Viler New Villain who the Beast was serving; the Beast looked like he was acting on his own, but Angelus explained that he isn't smart enough or mighty enough to be operating without a Man Behind the Man: a Master who has stronger ambitions even though she has a lot of utopian justifications. In turn, the Beast's sheer destructiveness against Wolfram and Hart makes him look like an "enemy of the heroes' enemies" who is really more evil than they are.
  • The three Weird Sisters from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina are really assholes. But even during the first season shows that Father Blackwood is much more malicious. And at the end of the plot, they even have to fight the devil.
  • Game of Thrones: The Night King serves as this in contrast to the rest of the various lords squabbling for power. While many of these lords and nobles are bad people, they're still human beings with relatable or reasonable reasons for what they do. The Night King, by contrast, is a literally inhuman force of nature than only wants to wipe out every living thing, and has zero interest in any of the politics or personal relationships of the rest of Westeros.
  • Power Rangers Dino Fury: The Big Bad of the first season is Void Knight, who has a mysterious history but uses the Sporix to try and revive his comatose lover. The second season reveals his goal after that is to simply go home with her. In the second season, he shows he has some standards (and additionally a few moments of being The Comically Serious), just as Void Queen steps onto the stage, and demonstrates she has no standards, wanting to get revenge on all of humanity, even destroying a chance to leave, and blasting Void Knight when he objects, eventually brainwashing and mutating him into a monster out of spite.
  • Primeval:
    • Played Straight from Season 1 to Season 2. In the first season, Helen just wants to find an Anomaly to the future so she can explore it for herself, and the worst she does in pursuit of that goal is manipulating Cutter and the team into expending their troops and resources to serve her own ends. Oliver Leek from the next season is listed as a Complete Monster on this wiki for a reason: his entire motivations are power-hunger and ego, he's willing to use captured creatures to commit mass terrorism, and he also attempts to have Cutter's team fed to a Smilodon while Cutter helplessly watches just for kicks.
    • After Leek, however, this trope is Zig-Zagged. In Season 3, Helen, though far more dangerous and more of a threat than before, is ultimately motivated to stop mankind from unleashing an extinction-level apocalypse, even if she decides she can take the same opportunity to prevent mankind from existing altogether so that the world's other life can develop without suffering humanity's shortcomings, and she implies that she's willing to die if it'll achieve her ends. In Season 4, Ethan/Patrick is a deranged, gleeful murderer who doesn't seem to have any more idea of what he wants than the writers do and doesn't really have any higher plan, but he does have a fairly compelling excuse for growing into such a psycho, and he still has something resembling a heart when it came to Charlotte. Philip Burton in the last two seasons, though he can be dangerously petty, egomaniacal, overly manipulative and ruthless in his own right, is arguably the least violent of all the seasonal antagonists: he wants to use the Anomalies to solve the worldwide energy crisis with completely-green energy which he supposedly intended to give away for free, he arguably never breaks the law outright in pursuit of his goals, and he sacrifices himself to try and amend his mistake upon realizing what he's done.
  • Psych: The Season 3 finale introduces us to Mr. Yang, a serial killer who is only active when a worthy opponent shows up. However, the worst thing she does in the episode is kidnap Shawn's mother and strap a bomb to her. Yang's later appearances portray her as Affably Evil nutcase who genuinely likes Shawn. In the Season 4 finale, the Psych gang face off against her mentor Mr. Yin, a genuinely evil sociopath who commits murders, attempts to kill Jules and Abigail (and Gus in Season 5), and views Yang as nothing more than a tool.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation gave audiences the Borg. The Klingons and the Romulans, were interested in conquest and territory and were shown to have members who could be reasonable in deals with The Federation. The Borg were completely different and would settle for nothing less than the complete subjagation of the Federation and all other life.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine introduced the Dominion. Before they showed up, the show's main villains were believed to be the Cardassians. The Cardassians were militaristic space fascists but it was made clear that not all of them were like that. This was not the case withe Dominion. Its leaders, the Changelings, were a race of smug, egotistical racists who believe themselves to be the pinnacle of creation and that they were imposing order through their aggressive imperialism. Any race deemed too difficult to conquer or simply managed to anger the Changelings, they exterminate. Telling we did see some Borg in The Next Generation who when seperated from the Borg Collective could chose to be good. Outside of Odo in the show's main cast, every mature Changeling in the series was evil.
    • Among the races in the Dominion, the Changelings also prove to be this to their Jem'Hadar soldiers, who serve as the first contact with the Dominion. The Jem'Hadar are a race soldiers who fanatically fight and die for the Changelings. But the entire reason the Jem'Hadar live for war is because the Changelings genetically engineered them as such, as well to need special drugs to survive. The Jem'Hadar are Always Chaotic Evil but the Changelings made them as such, while Changelings chose evil.
  • In the first season of Stranger Things, the primary threat from the Upside Down is the Demogorgon, a Monstrous Humanoid that has a taste for human flesh. While it kills a fair amount of people, it's ultimately a Non-Malicious Monster driven by hunger. Season 2 introduces the Mind Flayer, an Eldritch Abomination that has a twisted intelligence, and possesses Will Byers, leading to the death of many people, including Bob. It's far more malicious and intelligent then the animalistic Demogorgon (who is revealed to be its minion). It gets even worse in Season 3, where it "flays" multiple people to create a body.
    • In Season 4 we find out the Mind Flayer was an extension of the true Big Bad Vecna/One. Formerly known as Henry Creel, One was a child that inexplicably developed psychic powers. Deeply misanthropic, One decided to use his powers to cause as much pain and death as possible for reasons that made sense only to himself.
  • Super Sentai
  • The Walking Dead (2010): Negan is introduced to make Dwight more sympathetic and set him up for a Heel–Face Turn starting in the back half of Season 7.

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ikemen Sengoku, Kennyo, a once-kind monk who wants revenge on Nobunaga for slaughtering his monk followers, was initially set up as the Big Bad of the game with the first seven routes having the characters join forces at the climax to take him down. Starting with Sasuke's route, however, new and more dangerous characters have taken the villain spotlight away from Kennyo, like the crazed pirate Motonari Mouri who doesn't just want revenge on a single person but on the whole world and the power-hungry Yoshiaki Ashikaga who treats everyone, including his own subordinates, like insects he can squash whenever he wants.
  • Rose Guns Days has four Big Bads for each arc, and of the first three, Crazy Alfred is a standard Starter Villain who only lasts three chapters, Father Caleb is ruthless but honorable and a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and Blue Dragon Wang is a Smug Snake who prefers manipulation to violence and only wants to control the spice trade. Major Gabriel Kaburaya, on the other hand, is a ruthless Knight Templar out to exterminate all criminals in City 23 and actually succeeds in killing off several major characters, something that none of the other villains managed to do, marking him as a far bigger and worse threat to the main characters.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time: The comical Ice King was the closest thing Finn had to a "nemesis" during the beginning of the show, but even before the full extent of his tragic past was revealed, the roots of Ice King's villainy were his loneliness coupled with his rampant insanity which prevented him from realizing his actions were wrong. Then the season two finale introduced the Lich, a sadistic undead abomination who was always played seriously and desired nothing less than the extermination of all life.
  • Amphibia has every season long antagonist be surpassed in villainy by their successors. Season 1's Arc Villains are Captain Grime, the Toad leader suppressing the frogs in the valley, and Sasha Waybright, a human who becomes Grime's lieutenant as part of a deal to get back to Earth. Sasha is manipulative and doesn't care about hurting the local frogs but she does care about Anne, who's one of her best friends, while Grime is mostly a thug who becomes humanized by his budding friendship with Sasha. Season 2 has them try to launch a coup of Amphibia, but they're quickly dwarfed in threat by King Andrias of Newtopia, who turns out to have been manipulating everyone to resume his ancestors' legacy as Multiversal Conquerors. Season 3 has Andrias's redeeming and tragic qualities slowly brought to light and it's revealed he's only The Dragon corrupted by the series true Big Bad, The Core, a machine that serves as a Mind Hive of all of Amphibia's past leaders, including Andrias's abusive father Aldrich. While Sasha, Grime and Andrias all redeem themselves, the Core and Aldrich remain pure evil tyrants willing to wipe out entire planets to maintain their power.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Original Series: Has this in play alongside the Sorting Algorithm of Evil. The first recurring antagonist Prince Zuko is an Anti-Villain with a discernible Freudian Excuse, standards and redeeming qualities. Admiral Zhao, the next recurring villain and an antagonist to Zuko and the Gaang at separate intervals throughout Season 1, is more competent and more willing to cross the Moral Event Horizon. After Zhao is killed in the first season finale, Zuko's sister Princess Azula, who is more competent than Zhao and lacks any of Zuko's redeeming qualities, becomes the main villain and deals the team a crushing blow at the end of Season 2. Season 3 introduces Fire Lord Ozai in a full appearance as he had mainly appeared via flashback beforehand. During the series finale, Azula is revealed to be a Tragic Villain and gets an Alas, Poor Villain while Fire Lord Ozai is perfectly happy to burn the world to ash to conquer it.
    • The sequel The Legend of Korra also plays this trope. The Red Lotus is made up of terrorists and assassins, but their actions bring Kuvira to power in the fourth season.
  • Big Hero 6: The Series: Up till Chief Cruz in the latter half of the second season, all the villains noticeably scaled up in evilness.
  • Given most Looney Tunes shorts revolved around a Comically Lopsided Rivalry, this trope was often utilised to ensure the audience didn't sympathise too much with the outclassed villain:
    • The first recurring antagonist for Bugs Bunny is Elmer Fudd, going back to 1941's Elmers Pet Rabbit (or 1940's Elmer's Candid Camera, if you regard this rascally rabbit as Bugs Bunny). Elmer, however, seemed too gullible and undeserving of the Karmic Trickster's abuse, so Friz Freleng created six-gun bandit Yosemite Sam in 1945 to trouble Bugs; a deliberate Jerkass who'd deserve to be bested by Bugs. Of course, Sam fared no better than Elmer, so 1948 saw the debut of Marvin the Martian, who is very calm and soft-spoken by contrast, but wants to cause an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, and then 1953 ushered in the Tasmanian Devil, a Chaotic Neutral whirling dervish with a ravenous appetite.
    • A particularly odd variation occurred with an established character for the Speedy Gonzales cartoons. Speedy's usual recurrent antagonist was Sylvester the Cat, who could often challenge Elmer in terms of neuroses and pitiful qualities, and seldom challenged Speedy in any capacity. In later Speedy shorts, Daffy Duck took over from Sylvester as his new main antagonist, and without a natural reason to pursue the rodent like Sylvester had, Daffy was often made more outwardly nasty and vindictive to set off feuds, and was often conveyed as at least relatively less pathetic and outclassed against Speedy compared to Sylvester.
  • Pretty much every new villain to appear in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is more vile and evil than the last. Nightmare Moon is evil in a cartoonish way and gets a pretty quick redemption, Discord is cruel Reality Warper but also very funny, Queen Chrysalis is a kidnapping power-mad G-rated succubus, King Sombra is a sadistic dictator who seeks to enslave the world, Tirek is a brutal monster bent on stealing all magic for himself and using it to destroy everything around him out of spite, Starlight Glimmer is a power-hungry manipulative cult-leader who uses uncomfortably realistic kidnapping, brainwashing, and borderline torture tactics, the Pony of Shadows is effectively darkness incarnate, and Cozy Glow is a power-hungry Enfant Terrible who could basically be described as "Starlight Glimmer without the redeeming qualities." While some of them eventually get better like Discord and Starlight Glimmer who manage to pull Heel Face Turns thanks to The Power of Friendship, and others get worse like Queen Chrysalis, there's no denying that the writers ratcheted up the villainy with every new Big Bad.
    • This trend continues within the movie with Tempest Shadow, a bitter and ruthless unicorn with a Dark and Troubled Past, and the warlord she works for, The Storm King, a power-hungry psychopath who has conquered and devastated dozens of lands south of Equestria, and has neither the redeeming traits or the Freudian Excuse the former has.
  • The Owl House has Eda's sister Lilith as the Arc Villain of the first season, but she was only an antagonist because she thought forcing Eda to serve the Emperor was the only way to heal Eda's curse. When her master, Emperor Belos, finally appears in the first season finale, he proves to be a genuinely evil tyrant instead of simply misguided like Lilith. Kikimora and the Golden Guard, who were both introduced in the first season, replace Lilith as the Emperor's top enforcers in season two, but neither are as bad as their boss. In the end, Lilith performs a Heel–Face Turn in the first season finale, the Golden Guard turns out to be a sympathetic villain serving the Emperor out of misguided loyalty and also pulls a Heel–Face Turn and Kikimora remains an ineffectual villain sometimes played for laughs. Belos goes on to darken every scene he's in and proves to be the most monstrous of all who came before him with his goal to wipe out all life in the Boiling Isles because he's a human witch hunter who believes all witches and demons are inherently evil.
    • Averted with The Collector, who is freed from their prison at the end of season two. While they're definitely a more powerful threat than Belos, they are much less evil, possessing Blue-and-Orange Morality.
  • Played for Laughs in Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy ends up causing Ren to undergo a Literal Split Personality between his evil side and indifferent side. The Evil Ren ends up splitting himself to create an army, resulting in the creation of Hideously Evil Ren. This even more evil Ren ends up dodging normal Evil Ren's punches and keeps punching him, before going off to live in Unholy Matrimony together.
  • In the early seasons of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power the primary antagonists consisted of Hordak as the Big Bad, Shadow Weaver as The Dragon, and Catra as Adora/She-Ra's friend-turned-nemesis. As the series progresses, each of these characters display humanizing traits (such as the ability to love) and have the tragic circumstances that shaped their bad choices revealed. Then along comes Horde Prime, the Greater-Scope Villain of the series and main villain for the final season, who displays absolutely none of the sympathetic or redeeming traits of the other antagonists. While Hordak spent the series trying to conquer Etheria with his offshoot of the Horde, Horde Prime rules over an intergalactic empire which he maintains by using mind-control chips to assimilate entire populations into his Hive Mind, commits wholesale genocide and planetary destruction when his enemies resist too much, and maintains an army of brainwashed clones of himself which he uses as expendable stock to preserve his immortality and erases their minds if they ever gain a sense of individuality. To put it in perspective, by the time of the series finale Catra, Shadow Weaver and Hordak all redeem themselves in some way, whereas She-Ra personally kills Horde Prime because he's too dangerous and evil to leave alive.
  • Shimmer and Shine introduces the sea enchantress Uzma late in season 4, who's sneakier than Big Bad Zeta and is willing to harm Nazboo to get what she wants, necessitating an Enemy Mine.
  • Tangled: The Series doesn't have any Arc Villains, generally (aside from the third season), but it's still possible to see this in play:
    • Mother Gothel was just a selfish woman who wanted to have eternal life and was perfectly happy to steal a princess away from her parents if it meant accomplishing that. Her goals did not extend beyond that.
    • Andrew and the Saporians explicitly seek to destroy Corona and everyone in it.
    • Cassandra is a self-absorbed traitor who actually tries to murder her former best friend and all her allies multiple times, just to see her suffer, even though (almost) no one in Corona was ever anything but kind to her. Oh, and she actually does destroy all of Corona in the penultimate episode. Then she's supplanted by Zhan Tiri in the last episode, who is essentially everything Cass is, but worse, and has no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
  • Wakfu:
    • The Season 2 Big Bad Ensemble Qilby and Rushu are this to Nox from the first season. Rushu is a card-carrying Omnicidal Maniac and a dickwad who's arguably only saved from Complete Monster status by how laughable he is. Although Qilby has very compelling reasons for being the way he is, unlike Nox, he just doesn't care about the harm he causes to others and he outright refuses to admit his actions weren't worth it when he's at his lowest and his crimes have turned all his family against him.
    • Then Season 3 introduces Oropo and Adamaï. Whilst Oropo is on the one hand more redeemable than Qilby as his love for his Brotherhood ultimately stops him from going through with his Evil Plan; on the other hand, his active goal of committing total genocide upon an entire dimension and its inhabitants is far beyond the scope of Nox's Well-Intentioned Extremist goals or Qilby's desire to drain a planet or two for his Krosmoz-cruising needs, and he tries to get under the heroes' skin in ways that the previous Big Bads never did; with his seduction of Amalia partly out of personal envy of Yugo, and him drawing Adamaï into his fold. As for Adamaï... it really can't be overstated how needlessly and nightmarishly vicious he was towards his brother and his former-friends throughout his villainous tenure just because he wanted to see them suffer, and his excuse for his Face–Heel Turn is far more feeble and hypocritical bordering on pathetic than the tragic backstories of Oropo, Qilby and Nox.
  • In Winx Club season 4, the wizards of the Black Circle seem to have changed their ways, only for the Earth fairies to become the new enemies. After they get redeemed, it turns out the wizards just pretended to be nice and pick up their villainous ways becoming the very first characters to permanently kill a main character. Up until season 5, the villains got worse and viler, ending with Tritannus, who was completely irredeemable.
  • When the girls in W.I.T.C.H. defeat Phobos, it turns out there was another, arguably worse villain that had been planning out her come-back since the start of the series: Nerissa. This gets reversed by the end, though, with Nerissa being given some humanizing qualities in spite of her remaining irredeemably evil, while Phobos defeats her, regains power, and is as devoid of honorable traits as ever.

Top