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Villain Ball

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Visual Pun aside, possessing a ball to do crimes isn't a well-rounded idea.
Superman: It turns out Luthor had this chunk of Kryptonite that would have totally ruined me if he would've just whipped it out.
Batman: Really?
Superman: Yeah, but for some reason he told me his evil plan first and then tried to trick me into finding the Kryptonite myself. What's up with that?
Batman: Villains are stupid.

"Evil sows the seeds of its own destruction", sayeth the fortune cookie.

Regardless of how Genre Savvy, intelligent, or pragmatic they might otherwise be, villains tend to inherently draw heroic attention to themselves that leads to their demise, or at least the demise of their Evil Plan. Even if their success is seemingly assured, the villain can't seem to help but do something evil that serves no purpose other than giving The Hero the extra motivation and opportunity to wreck everything, and he will.

Basically, they're saddled with carrying their own version of the Idiot Ball: the Villain Ball.

Sure signs that the Villain Ball is in play:

It seems they just can't help themselves, they are compelled to stop in their tracks to threaten innocent puppies just to prove that they are a Card-Carrying Villain. Inevitably, it's their own inherent Fatal Flaws that lead to their downfall, sometimes by Humiliation Conga. This may even lead to an apropos Karmic Death or Cool and Unusual Punishment.

Depending on the effectiveness of the villain in question, this can sometimes be a Justified Trope due to the Anthropic Principle. It's not as worrying with a baddie that's error-prone or lacking in foresight, but what if the heroes have to contend with a beast like David Xanatos? In dire circumstances, Evil Only Has to Win Once, and evil winning means there's no longer a show/game/whathaveyou; sometimes to give the heroes a realistic chance, the supervillain just needs to fumble. To make that fumble believable is often one of the most daunting tasks for a storywriter, and the spectrum of mishandling it ranges from Ass Pull at best to Deus ex Machina at worst.

When a previously composed and unflappable villain picks up the Villain Ball and runs with it as soon as his plans start going awry (which, naturally, only hastens his downfall), it's a Villainous Breakdown. When a villain's career is one long string of grabbing Villain Balls and facing all too predictable consequences, you're probably looking at Stupid Evil.

Trope relations:

Common Villain Ball carriers

Related plots

Can lead to


Example subpages

Other examples:

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  • FEMA has a series of fire safety PSA's, titled "Fire Is Not Your Friend", starring the Anthropomorphic Personification of Fire, who apparently just wants to watch the world burn. These PSA's open with ordinary people doing something unsafe that could easily burn their house down. At that point, Fire shows up to gloat about the inferno they're about to unleash, and then the people fix the problem and save themselves from fiery death. Fire has yet to figure out that his own premature gloating is the only thing that keeps saving his would-be victims.

    Comic Books 
  • In Action Comics #555 and Supergirl Vol. 2 issue #20 two-part story, Parasite and a clone of his put in motion a convoluted plan to kill off Superman and Supergirl simultaneously, which failed because they didn't think of searching their costumes before locking them in a Death Trap. And because the clone felt the need to gloat prior to sealing Supergirl in.
  • Sonic the Comic: During the "Robotnik Reigns Supreme" arc, Robotnik has drained enough power from the Chaos Emeralds to become a Reality Warper, and has used his powers to alter history so that Sonic never existed and Robotnik himself is the uncontested ruler of Mobius. Near the end, he's gotten Sonic Brought Down to Normal and pitted against an evil version of Knuckles, only for Sonic to exploit his ego and manipulate him into giving Sonic back his Super Speed and restoring Knuckles' memories of the original timeline, pointing out that even with Sonic powerless, Robotnik never would have brought forth an evil Knuckles unless he was still scared of losing. As soon as he does so, Sonic and Knuckles use the Grey Emerald to siphon the Chaos Energy out of Robotnik and turn the world back to normal.
  • Batman '66: Lampshaded by King Tut when he leaves Batman and Robin Buried Alive and they explain how they escaped.
    King Tut: Why don't I ever simply stay and watch you die? I'm just too decent!
  • In the Wonder Woman Vol 1 storyline Judgment In Infinity, the Adjudicator makes one stupid mistake after another during the final segment. He brings the eleven heroines into his ship because he wants to keep some "specimens", fires small eye beams at Wonder Woman when she breaks out of her cage instead of shooting a big unblockable blast or teleporting her into some airless world, and then he is cajoled into starting to monologue when he is about to obliterate Diana and her companions, which results in his undoing.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Alan Jonah handles it just by keeping the newborn San-Vivienne Graham hybrid Titan caged against its will and running cruel experiments on it — it never seems to occur to Jonah that doing this to such a creature will surely bite him in the ass once the hybrid can't be contained anymore. Nevermind how this clearly shows Jonah hasn't learned anything from the events of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) where he tried to control the hybrid's "parent", Ghidorah.

  • Mortality Smith is prone to this in the Deliver Us from Evil Series. Murders his step-nephew out of greed, captures Holmes, tortures him to death and gloats over him. Watson seriously doesn't take too well to this. It ends badly for the knucklehead. You'd think he'd be smart enough not to capture the guy and vice versa. Nope. He does so, which leads to him being killed in cold blood.
    • Also, the captured criminal. You'd think he'd be smart enough to REVEAL Holmes's whereabouts instead of not doing so and begging for remorse after playing a part in it.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, after Jade becomes evil once more, she juggles the Villain Ball by sometimes gloating and overestimating her own abilities, but she ALSO attempts to learn from both her own mistakes and the mistakes of previous Big Bads, like not going for a plot to Take Over the World, remembering how Shendu and siblings got sealed away, and having a special prison constructed to contain the good guys if they are captured.
  • When Villain Win pokes fun at Queen Chrysalis's holding of the villain ball (See the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic entry under Western Animation below). In this comic it was actually her intention to carry the Villain Ball and make mistakes which lead to her defeat: Her entire scam consists of showing up, almost conquering a nation, letting her subjects feed in the meantime, and then being "defeated and chased off" to save her the headache of actually running said nation. Lather, rinse, repeat. Only this time, she's a little too successful...
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • In Act I chapter 13, Ghaldin has Moka restrained and is about to finish her off, only for Astreal to take advantage of his distraction to destroy the bracelet he had used to control her and her sister Apoch. The minute he realizes this, Ghaldin tosses Moka aside and goes to kill Apoch and Astreal in a rage... giving Moka the perfect opportunity to punch a hole clean through his torso and kill him.
    • In Act I chapter 30, Rarosun and Surason have Dark and Rason tricked into thinking that they molested the other's respective girlfriends, and have Mizore and Kurumu restrained and are making them watch the fight. However, the two get tired of waiting and decide to morph into Mizore and Kurumu and give the boys the final push to kill each other; instead, Dark and Rason see through their disguises, promptly kill the Kiyo brothers, and subsequently realize they were duped. In short, Rarosun and Surason screwed themselves over through their own impatience and sadism.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos mostly averts this trope - with the major exception of Episode 67. Beelzebub wanted to study Tails' Shroud infection one day, so he goes about it by kidnapping, torturing, and raping Chris and Cosmo... and then gloating about it to Tails when he comes to rescue them. Somewhat justified in this case, since Beelzebub is an utterly sadistic pedophile and narcissistic Mad Scientist rolled up into one.
    • Tsali grabs it in Episode 73. Rather than just blowing up the Blue Typhoon and killing everyone the easy way, he decides to rampage through the ship and meticulously slaughter Sonic and friends one by one. Trinity actually points this out to him... and Tsali retorts that just blowing them up is "way too simple for them." This ends up distracting him at several key moments, letting Tails and Cosmo get away.
      • He also temporarily grabbed it when he took on Super Sonic, Super Shadow, and Super Eric at once because he thought he could win. He was wrong.
  • Downplayed and justified in The RWBY Loops. While Cinder starts off the Tale of Two Sisters with remarkable competency, as time goes on her actions grow more and more cliche, as acknowledged by the other characters. It turns out her good half was subconsciously sabotaging her efforts.
  • In Loved and Lost, an extended retelling of "A Canterlot Wedding" (see the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic entry under Western Animation below), Prince Jewelius successfully steals Equestria's throne by double-crossing the Changelings at the last minute, helping Twilight stop them herself, and tricking the public into blaming all the other heroes for the invasion. He then makes himself Equestria's "Holy King Jewelius I", banishes the disgraced heroes (who all now consider themselves to be failures) from Equestria, and manipulates Twilight into becoming his student and future queen as well as losing all trust in her friends, brother and mentor for abandoning her at the wedding rehearsal. Not settling for all these successes, Jewelius lures the banished heroes back to Canterlot for a false chance of redemption so that he can capture them, gloat about his success and evil actions in their faces, and personally guarantee that his aunt Celestia and cousin Cadance will die. After the heroes and the Changelings have all escaped from his dungeons, he focuses on hunting down the heroes and refuses to prepare against the renewed threat of the Changelings even though Chrysalis desires his blood and everyone in Canterlot is more concerned about the Changelings than about the heroes. This leads to Twilight (and Canterlot's citizens) realizing how evil and selfish Jewelius is, reconciling with her loved ones and bringing to them the Elements of Harmony which are used in the final battle to stop Jewelius' army from destroying Ponyville. Finally, once Jewelius is cornered by the heroes, Chrysalisnote  appears and orders her Changelings to kill Jewelius for his betrayal.
  • Sheltered (a Shelter/RWBY fic) features a spectacular fuck-up on the part of Jacques Schnee, Weiss' father, who in his greed attempts to force Rin to sign away all overship rights to her ship, including the intellectual property rights, hoping to secure exclusive access to advanced alien technology. Beforehand, Rin had little reason to think the Schnee patriarch would attempt to exploit her - had he played the long game and entered a partnership with her, he would have still secured an extremely lucrative source of profit, but instead he decides to attempt to basically claim everything from her, and it backfires hard. He initially attempts this when Weiss is away for an extended period of time, hoping Rin would skip over the legalization of the documents she's been sent, only for her to properly study them in detail. He then attempts to directly pressure Rin by using a combination of gaslighting her via fake audio from Weiss, cutting off any communication with the world outside of the Schnee estate to prevent her from trying to contact Weiss beyond that, and locking her in her room. Unfortunately for him, this causes Rin to become desperate enough to remotely order her ship to come to her to get her out of there, and she also first uses her semblance in the process. Jacques' blunder is so spectacular in scope that in order to avoid getting metaphorically crucified by General Ironwood and Weiss, he stages things to make it look like Rin was kidnapped in a White Fang attack (and the resulting security revamp likely having its own consequences later down the line), but he also hires mercenaries in an attempt to re-secure Rin after she lands in Menagerie, which goes poorly thanks to Ghira Belladonna and his forces, and it also scares her off again, causing her to become paranoid enough to try to slip under the radar, suspecting that Weiss and Ironwood were potentially in on this scheme and had betrayed her trust (even later, when Rin is informed that Weiss is attending Beacon, she is too hesitant to contact her directly out of fear that she was under her father's thumb and might report back to him). Rin eventually ends up living with Taiyang Xiao Long and his daughters Yang and Ruby, who manage to secure her trust, and this ends up causing the technology that Jacques' craves to end up being used by a competing company. In his greed and impatience, Jacques scares off the golden goose, and ends up having to scramble to cover up his blunder, which would make things even worse for him if anyone from Atlas found out the truth. In the words of one forum poster...
    CrowbarKnight: "Hmmm, you know I figured Jacques was a bit of a gambler, albeit more of the card counter or DíArby variety then anything else, but I didnít know he was into playing political Russian Roulette."
    • Now that the fic is finished, the epilogue details how this all finally ends: Jacques is arrested for treason (with Winter taking him in after listening in on him plotting to capture Rin while also unintentionally confessing his guilt), amongst several other crimes he committed in his desperation to secure control over Rin.
  • BURN THE WITCH features a Lila Rossi who is so used to getting away with all her machinations that she has no clue how to respond when she finally gets caught. Unable to acknowledge even the notion that her actions can have terrible consequences for her, and furious at the notion of Marinette and Ladybug being the only ones willing to try and protect her from Witch Hunter and the ever-growing angry mob, she repeatedly attempts to spitefully sabotage both her classmate and the heroine. In the process, she winds up self-sabotaging herself several times, as her attempts backfire and wind up costing her one potential safe haven after another.
  • Queen Beryl in White Devil of the Moon: Had she not been so hellbent on killing Nanoha because she was the reincarnated Princess Serenity, Fate and Nanoha would have still distrusted the Senshi and want nothing to do with them, and would have left the planet after Nanoha's vacation, leaving her free to continue her war on the Senshi-a war she was winning due to the rest of the Senshi being unable to stop her without the Moon Princess-with no intervention from the TSAB. And the worst part is her entire reason for wanting Nanoha dead is to Murder the a Love Triangle Nanoha wants no part of, because she's more interested in Fate. (An omake actually lampshades this last part, when Nanoha comes out as lesbian and basically tells Beryl she could have Endymion, Beryl immediately ends the war to pursue him.)

    Films ó Animated 
  • Disney villains in general love tossing this Ball around, as pointed out in this humorous comic post:
    • Maleficent's fatal mistake in Sleeping Beauty was letting Prince Phillip live when she captured him. Had she killed him, her plans would have gone without a hitch. Instead, she wanted to perform a Cruel Mercy by locking him in her dungeon for a hundred years and then release him (assuming he was actually able to live that long) to fulfill his destiny to awaken Aurora. By doing this, it gave Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather a chance to break into the dungeon and free him the moment she left him alone, and ultimately save the day.
    • In 101 Dalmatians, Cruella De Vil would have gotten the fur coat she wanted if she had just stuck with the 84 Dalmatian puppies she bought rather than kidnapping Pongo and Perdita's 15 puppies in addition to those puppies for no reason other than to get back at Roger and Anita for refusing to sell them to her. Not only did this result in Pongo and Perdita coming after their children, but the news about the stolen puppies spread and Cruella was Roger's number one suspect in the investigation. In the end she lost all the puppies, including the ones she bought.
    • Madame Medusa from The Rescuers would have successfully made off with The Devil's Eye diamond if she hadn't decided to store it inside Penny's teddy bear for no apparent reason other than to be mean.
    • The Little Mermaid (1989) has Ursula finally obtain the all-powerful trident and become ruler of all the ocean, a power she demonstrates by causing whirlpools and raising ships from the depths. Then she decides to throw the mermaid into the bottom of the whirlpool just to have a little fun sniping her. She's not only poorly wielding the trident with such a weak display, but she also isn't paying attention to what's around her, causing Eric to impale her with a broken bowsprit and killing her. All of which could've been avoided if she just used her control of the water to just drown Eric and slam Ariel into rocks.
    • In Aladdin, everything would have worked out fine for Jafar if he'd simply tossed Aladdin a few coins and sent him on his way rather than double-crossing him after Aladdin retrieved the lamp. Also, in the end Jafar was already the most powerful sorcerer on Earth, more than strong enough to defeat Aladdin. Instead he had to be the most powerful creature and wished to be a genie, with all that entails. Years of planning and hardwork for Jafar end up being for nothing with someone else getting his greatest dreams all because he wanted to screw the kid over.
      • For that matter, his entire scheme of arresting Aladdin and disguising himself was flawed. Aladdin's entire world revolved around basically keeping fed with dreams of one day being rich. Jafar could have just as easily gone to him in person promising him amnesty and a solid payoff for his efforts, which he even more easily could have actually given the kid: a single pardon and a bag of gold would have meant nothing to him even as the vizier, let alone the new sultan.
      • He does it again in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar when he praises Iago for successfully serving as The Mole for his plans to get back at Aladdin. Iago already felt guilty, but this was the final straw for him, and he ends up helping the others to stop Jafar once and for all.
    • At the end of The Lion King (1994), when Simba, still blaming himself for his father's death, is dangling from the edge of a cliff, Scar can't resist doing some Evil Gloating and says "I killed Mufasa." Big mistake. And not long after that...
      Said Hyenas watching in discrete back away growling
    • Charles Muntz from Up murders people because he thinks they're going to steal the bird he discovered. Even if they did, it would prove the skeleton he brought back to America years ago was real and not a hoax. For that matter, if they really were there to find the bird he could always team up with them, earn their trust by being a valuable ally, and then murder them when they actually found the bird to take it back alone and get all the credit.
    • Lotso from Toy Story 3 has two occasions:
      • Perhaps him abusing Big Baby wasn't such a good idea.
      • If he'd actually saved Andy's toys from the Incinerator instead of leaving them behind, he'd not only have avoided his Fate Worse than Death, but also could have possibly been redeemed for the cruelty he inflicted on the Sunnyside toys and allowed to stay there in peace. And all he had to do was push one button! He was so unable to accept the idea that anyone could care about him that despite his life being saved earlier by Woody and the gang, he still elected to save his own skin.
    • In Frozen, Prince Hans tells Anna all about his plan to marry her and find a way to get rid of Elsa in order to get the throne and become king. Then he leaves Anna to freeze to death, as opposed to either A) staying in the room until she dies, or B) immediately murdering her— which would have probably avoided Anna's Taking the Bullet. Granted, the latter option was probably one Hans couldn't use because a bloody corpse would've discredited his claims that Anna died in his arms, though he could have smothered her if that posed a problem.
      Anna: You won't get away with this!
      Prince Hans: Oh, I already have.
    • Edgar in The Aristocats was upset to learn that his boss, Madame Bonfamille was leaving her inheritance to her cats, and so he planned to drug the cats and leave them outside the city presumably to die so the fortune would revert to him as the will stipulated. However, he could have simply waited given that the average lifespan of a cat is only about 12-18 years, and after that, he would have gotten the fortune anyway.
    • Coco: Held by Ernesto when he made the night he murdered Héctor into a scene in one of his movies, dialogue and all. If he hadn't done that, Héctor would have never realized he was murdered and the entire third act of the film wouldn't have happened.
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2: The second time Hiccup tries to get through to the brainwashed Toothless, Drago Bludvist just sits back and lets him try, because he's so confident that there's no way Hiccup's touchy-feely method of trying to befriend dragons could possibly override the power of domination. It isn't until Hiccup actually succeeds that he attempts to intervene, by which point it was already too late. If he'd just had Toothless blast Hiccup the second he came close, things would have turned out quite differently.
  • Lord Shen of Kung Fu Panda 2 is generally pretty good about averting this, but he firmly grabs onto it during the climax. Victory is pretty much his at this point and all he has to do is finish off Po. He tries to blow him up with his cannon and when that doesn't work he... keeps doing it anyway until his entire fleet is destroyed. Things might have worked out better for him if he just had his wolves Zerg Rush the guy instead.
  • In Hey Arnold! The Movie, Scheck finds a document that would prove Arnold's neighborhood is a historical landmark and therefore can't be torn down and he keeps it hidden in a filing cabinet instead of destroying it. The idea of destroying it doesn't occur to him until after he catches Arnold and Gerald with it, which leads to him being caught by his own security cameras, mounted everywhere in his building, burning the document, as well as it being shown as clear as possible before it was burned.
  • Scooby-Doo and the Cyber Chase has this happen to a staggering degree with both the Big Bad (the Phantom Virus) and the Greater-Scope Villain (Bill):
    • The Phantom Virus, despite being able to bend technology to his will and shoot lightning from his hands, barely actually uses his powers, instead letting his minions do the dirty work even when he could easily just kill Mystery Inc. himself. He only becomes a legitimate threat at the climax of the movie, when he stops relying on minions and (surprise) actually uses his powers.
    • Bill, the creator of the Phantom Virus, ends up getting smacked with the ball twice. During the end of the film, he attempts to flee the crime scene despite Mystery Inc. only having vague hints that he may have been involved with the Phantom Virus' creation and hardly enough evidence to convict him with the crime. His other grabbing of the ball (as pointed out by Caddicarus) is more reliant on Fridge Logic, but still applies: since he made the Phantom Virus, he must have had to spend hours programming it, and thus is to blame for all of the Virus' design flaws, including failing to just kill Mystery Inc., constantly making stupid mistakes, and making tons of baseball references, which is what made Mystery Inc. suspect Bill was behind the Virus' creation.
  • Rex Dangervest from The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part starts his plan to turn his past self, Emmett into Rex by travelling back in time to save him from the accident that made him Rex then spends the rest of the movie failing to corrupt him.
  • Batman: Assault on Arkham: As the Suicide Squad makes its escape, they spot a helicopter — and start fighting each other for it, even though it's clearly large enough to carry all of them and they'd have a better chance of taking it by working together.
  • Wreck-It Ralph:
    • Retroactive example. King Candy had the ability to get Ralph's medal back from the game's code matrix whenever he wanted, but chose not to do so for whatever reason and instead ordered his soldiers to imprison Ralph, which led to him meeting and befriending Vanellope, which led to Disaster Dominoes.
    • Just after King Candy has manipulated Ralph into leaving voluntarily, Fix-It Felix arrives for him. Sour Bill, considering it a mistake they didn't just imprison Ralph, decides not to repeat that mistake with Felix, leaving Ralph with resources to quickly fix Vanellope's kart and overthrow King Candy as soon as he returns.

  • In A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Tyrion Lannister tells Tywin that if he uses a certain word, he will shoot him. Of course the word is uttered. Given Tywin's utter contempt for his son it is quite likely he used the word on purpose, never thinking Tyrion would actually shoot him especially while on the privy and is quite in character.
    • In A Dance with Dragons, Janos Slynt insults Jon Snow, Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, in front of the entire Night's Watch, and flat-out refuses to obey his orders. So Snow chops off his head. It's even more satisfying to the readers because Snow doesn't know how Slynt's betrayal contributed to his father's death. It's probably one of the most satisfying Karmic Deaths in the entire series.
    • When Cersei becomes Queen Regent, her paranoia and general unpleasantness as a person has her alienating even those who would have been happy to be her allies. She ticks off her family members (even Jaime), frames Margaery Tyrell for adultery, refuses to pay the Iron Bank, and kills the High Septon of the faith. Eventually she is imprisoned by the new High Septon, and she has left the realm in ruins, and everything the Lannisters have schemed for years slowly crumbles.
  • Alt-history novelist Robbie Taylor came up with a wonderful subversion of this idea: at the moment of defeat, the Antichrist accepts Jesus as his personal savior and therefore qualifies for admission to Heaven.
  • Lampshaded in Much Fall of Blood. The Evil Sorcerer plans to trap and sacrifice the heroes in a location where magic doesn't work. Of course, this means the Evil Sorcerer has no access to magic either, and the heroes are better in a physical melee.
  • The leader of the Psychlos from the Battlefield Earth novel and film does a lot of questionable things. In an especially stupid move, the leader teaches the hero, Jonny "Goodboy" Tyler, everything about Psychlos in a matter of seconds, in an attempt to get him to assist their enslavement of Earth. Naturally, it comes back to bite him in the ass at the end in a big way.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Lord Voldemort, amusingly enough, suffered from being more evil than needed and less evil than he could've been at the same time. If he'd just killed Lily Potter without offering her a chance to step aside or if he'd deigned to toss her aside when she refused, instead of killing her, he would've won. But in doing things that exact way he provided the conditions for her Heroic Sacrifice, which eventually led to his doom. It's really something when holding the Villain Ball is an acknowledged character flaw in the books. Most of his catastrophic failings are attributed to himself going for the most showy and dramatic thing he can think of and having it backfire. Had Voldemort just made a random rock into a horcrux and tossed it into a random lake it would have been completely hidden; instead he specifically goes for famous objects as Rule of Cool. He also keeps insisting on having duels with Harry when his henchmen could do the job without worrying about wand backfire and then he insists on using the Killing Curse several times on the one person who's most famous in part for surviving it.
    • Dolores Umbridge also holds the Villain Ball. In the fifth book, her answer to everything is to pass a decree; this actually gives students and teachers more ways to rebel. She goes as far as to ban the Quibbler, which had an interview with Harry, and having any student caught reading it expelled. As Hermione points out to Harry, banning it is a sure way to ensure everyone reads it! And then there's the whole bit about calling a horde of pissed-off centaurs "filthy half-breeds" for no good reason other than to show how racist she is. The results of that little stunt are never shown, other than her traumatized state at the end.
  • In the Everworld series, Senna Wales was a Magnificent Bastard up until the series was to be cancelled. At this point in the story, she had become allies with a whole pantheon, killed or weakened several gods, arranged the downfall of an entire nation, removed the one species that was a serious threat to her from Everworld, built a small army for her personal use, was still successfully blackmailing and manipulating the other main characters despite them wising up to what she was doing, outmaneuvered Merlin twice and laid a trap for him, become so powerful that no man could bring himself to lay a hand on her, had plans laid down to build her position that went entire years in advance, and needed only one more object in order to complete her master plan and become the absolute, godlike Dimension Lord of Everworld. How can this high-threat, universe-threatening witch be defeated in a quick, cheap manner? Give her the Villain Ball of course!
  • K. A. Applegate likes saddling her truly formidable villains with this: Senna is an Expy of Animorphs's David, who is also manhandled into carrying the Villain Ball to facilitate a quick defeat. At the point in the story he starts to carry it David has defeated four of the six Animorphs in a single night (almost killing two of them), acquired an Animorph for impersonation, made the team's resident Blood Knight afraid for her life, and strongarmed the Animorphs into a position where they have no choice but to give him the Morphing Cube. So how does the team effectively defeat David in the span of a few short chapters? Why, the Villain Ball, dear boy.
    • Visser Three, first by being a total dick to the Taxxons and denying them access to the morphing cube when he got it, and by refusing to promote Tom's Yeerk.
    • In the first book Visser Three chose to kill Elfangor rather than take over his body, which was younger and had much more up to date military knowledge than Visser Three's current body.
    • And Chapman, who inadvertently caused his own infestation thirty years in advance by revealing the existence of humans to the Yeerks.
  • Lestat passes off the Villain Ball between books in The Vampire Chronicles; he retcons into Yet Another Good Vampire when he takes on the mantle of narrator.
  • In Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, Jonathan's father Lawrence strange was a sure-handed holder. The narration mentions that he let petty maliciousness overcome his long term benefit, and suffered a Karmic Death when he opened a window on a cold night to further torment a fevered servant who had annoyed him - forgetting that he was much less healthy than the other man. He was found to have frozen to death during the night.
  • Graham Coates in Anansi Boys gleefully picks up the Villain Ball and runs with it starting in his own backstory. He's been embezzling money from his clients for years, and he fires most of his employees after a year or so, both to avoid having to pay too much in raises and to make sure that none of them have time to cotton on to what he's doing. This bites him in the ass when someone finds him out-he rearranges accounts to make it look like Fat Charlie, his most senior employee by a full year, was the one doing it, but the person he's trying to convince knows that it's been happening for much longer than Fat Charlie's two-year tenure. This ultimately leads to a murder, some attempted murders, and also slicing his own femoral artery with a poorly-chosen place to hold a knife. Of course, he may or may not have been possessed along the way.
  • Legends of Dune: Erasmus spreads dissent among the human slave population to win a bet with Omnius that even the most loyal humans are inherently untrustworthy. While all of this would've probably resulted in an easily-crushed revolt, he then goes ahead and kills a helpless child right in front of his mother and thousands of riled slaves. Cue the Butlerian Jihad - a century-long conflict that results in the destruction of all Synchronized Worlds. To top it off, he then raises a human child to be a human with the mind of a machine, who later betrays his "father" and joins the humans to found the Mentat school, giving humans living computers.
    • Omnius isn't much better. His attempts to finish off the hrethgir (free human) once and for all leaves him open to attack by determined humans, leaving him with one world out of hundreds in a matter of weeks.
  • In the Dale Brown book Plan of Attack, Russian president Gryzlov would have avoided death if he had not used nukes against the ABF-taken Russian airbase and prompted an Even Evil Has Standards Redemption Equals Death moment. In Edge of Battle Comandante Veracruz would not have been stopped either if he did not double-cross Zakharov and cause him to carry out Enemy Mine.
  • In The Hundred and One Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil owned more than 80 dalmatian puppies. Owned, as in had legally bought and paid for. There were no police, human owners, or frantic canine parents looking for these puppies. One would think that would have been plenty to start her dalmatian fur farm. If not, she could have waited until there was another litter for sale and just bought more puppies. Instead, she kidnapped the Dearly puppies (paying far more to the dog thieves than she had for any litter), thereby bringing the police, human reward-seekers, and Pongo and Missus down on her head, permanently putting a stop to her plans.
  • Everything the Capitol does in The Hunger Games seems to be based on how evil it is than whether or not it would be beneficial. Shooting an old man in a crowd just for singing a song, reducing District 12 into utter poverty to the point the protagonist wanted to rebel, rounding up a chunk of the victors of the games (people the public cherish and revere as heroes) into another game with the intent to kill, eliminating any good will between Katniss by brutally killing Cinna in front of her, eliminating the good will of pretty much any major character by brutally firebombing District 12 and killing civilians on TV. Combined with the Hunger Games itself, it makes you wonder how the nation lasted for 75 years without any form of outward rebellion which the districts are too happy to do in the span of a few months.
    • Aside from the central extravagance of the hunger games (and even that is in some ways an inspired form of repression in that it forces people to become complicit in it through starvation, quite stalinesque actually) the tactics the capital uses to repress the districts are actually a fairly realistic representation of the terror methods that Real Life regimes use, and just like in Real Life but unlike in most stories: They work, to a point. In 75 years of power the capital had almost certainly weathered minor uprisings that it had been able to quell through force, control of information, and playing districts off against each other. What tips the scale in the period of the plot is: military support from district 13, inter-district organizational and information support from district 13 and rebels in the capital, and a unifying symbol for all the districts in the form of Katniss and Peeta that had already been helpfully broadcast through the capital's own propaganda machine.
  • In Harry Turtledove's World War series, US President Earl Warren grabs it hard when he orders a nuclear missile launched at the Race's colonization fleet, at literally no possible gain for himself (it only kills enough of the Race to seriously piss them off) and everything to lose if he's found out. May not count in that the ship is the one containing almost all administrative personnel; regardless of how people may feel about bureaucracy, the Race thrived on it. The Colonization attempt being disorganized may have led to the Race being forced to learn to adapt, however, and it is unsaid whether the American intelligence apparatus could have known which ship to target (though it is likely).
  • Drake from Gone seems to be aware that hurting Diana would really anger the Big Bad, Caine, and, while he openly hates her, he saves most of his taunting of her for when Caine isn't around, even though she often provokes him. But then in Hunger, he picks her up with his whip-hand and bashes her head open against a rock because she yelled at him, all in front of Caine. This does not go over well. Of course, he's not exactly mentally stable, so...
  • The series Relativity has two villains that fit this trope:
    • Carnie Kid: In his first appearance, it can be gathered from the way the heroes talk about him that they don't consider him much of a threat.
    • Valdas Rasmas: He manages to capture all the heroes, but he doesn't kill them or even remove their masks, he brags about how brilliant the plan was. He even has a giant digital display showing how much time they all have to live.
  • In Adam Troy Castro's Sinister Six Trilogy, The Gentleman had a rather malicious plan to screw over the entire world by crashing the world economy, setting off an EMP over New York and simultaneously releasing a catalyst that would bleach all ink including bank notes and contracts and he might've gotten away with it if the plan didn't call for betraying Doctor Octopus and the Chameleon for no good reason.
  • Saruman's plan in The Lord of the Rings makes no real sense. He wants to get the One Ring. How does he do this? He reveals his treachery to Gandalf when Gandalf comes to him for help, and then, after Gandalf escapes, he raises an army and invades Rohan. This despite the fact that by that point he had already subverted King Theoden to the point where had effective control of the kingdom anyway. Not only does his invasion fail, it leads pretty directly to Rohan's intervention on the side of Gondor against Mordor, with which Saruman was allied. Meanwhile, Saruman never gets anywhere near the Ring. If he had just pretended to still be Gandalf's friend and still loyal to the Istari and the White Council, he could easily have traveled to Rivendell with Gandalf, attended the Council meeting there, insinuated himself into the Fellowship, and then persuaded them that the easiest way over the Misty Mountains would be through the Gap of Rohan, and as long as they were passing through the Gap of Rohan, they might as well stop at Isengard for the night. Such a plan would have left him any number of opportunities to get the Ring. There was no reason to tip his hand to Gandalf so soon, or to invade Rohan when he did. It's no wonder Gandalf asked him (in the movie at least) why he exchanged wisdom for madness.
    • Some of this is justified by Saruman's inability to understand Good. Since he's an untrustworthy manipulator trying to secure power for himself, he tends to assume the rest of the White Council (especially Gandalf) are the same. Which effectively means he doesn't trust them enough to effectively betray them. And the fact that he's trying to out-play Sauron at the Dark Lord game means he starts acting like a Dark Lord well before he's got the power or position to back it up.
    • Sauron gets one by leaving the Cracks of Doom completely unguarded. While the heroes are successfully bluffing him into thinking Aragorn has the ring, you'd think the one spot in his territory where it's even possible to harm him would have some security. Of course, you'd think that, but Sauron wouldn't - like Saruman, he doesn't understand Good, and doesn't understand how or why anyone would willingly destroy the Ring, especially if they were strong enough to get all the way inside his territory.
      • Justified in this case though. Sauron's mental wards were strong enough for the possible ring destroyer to change their mind and keep the Ring for themselves. This nearly won the battle both times for Sauron, so much that the literal intervention of the Top God was the only thing able to stop his plans.
  • The Warden's goal in Holes is to acquire the buried treasure of Kissin' Kate Barlow by forcing the inmates at her juvenile correction facility to dig holes every day, in the hopes that one will eventually dig it up, so she can confiscate it. But since her family has owned Camp Green Lake for generations, she could have just hired a group of contractors to dig for her, and she'd get the treasure no matter what. Instead, because the one inmate who finds what she is looking for just happens to be a descendant of the person Barlow robbed, and shares his name, he is able to claim it as his own, the Warden never even sees it, and she gets arrested for mistreating children.
  • Shades of Magic: The Caligula Athos Dane opts to take control of a defiant teen's body via Restraining Bolt out of sheer sadism, rather than make him into a minion via Death of Personality. In the climax, the teen exploits the wording of his orders to let Delilah enter the throne room and kill Athos' co-ruler sister at a critical moment.
  • In Carpe Jugulum, the Old Count grasped this with both hands willingly, making sure his castle was always littered with his weaknesses, such as garlic, easily-opened curtains, mirrors, ornaments easily bendable into religious symbols and so on. His (correct) reasoning was that if he was able to be temporarily dispatched easily enough, no one would be motivated to render him Deader than Dead.
  • In The Savior's Series, Brontes has been holding onto this for two decades. Considering his master plan is to kill Leila to seize power and use her death as a Pretext for War, some have questioned why Brontes wouldn't have tried harder to bump Leila off as a vulnerable child who couldn't properly use her magic, as opposed to waiting until she'd reached young adulthood and had time to master her powers. One also wonders why Brontes never told his three assassins what their target looks like, drawing things out even longer; he never provides them with a drawing or painting, or even just describes Leila to them. He instead decides to go through the entire tournament and hopes one of his three assassins wins (thus giving Leila ample time to plot against him).

    Print Media 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In BattleTech. When the Draconis Combine were conquering the Federated Suns territory, they reach the planet Kentares, the New Coordinator ordered the killing of the planets population in an act of vengeance for assassinating his father the previous Coordinator. When ComStar broadcast this to the rest of the Inner Sphere, this demoralized the Draconians, and enraged the Federated Suns to lead a Roaring Rampage of Revenge on the Combine, effectively retaking every world conquered by the Combine. Plus, there is the fact even from a Pragmatic Villain point of view, with the small size of the BattleTech armies, diversion of a sufficient force (a good portion of which eventually said Screw This, I'm Outta Here rather than continue the genocide) was quite unwise on its own.
  • Just about every thwarted invasion of Orks/Chaos/Dark Eldar in Warhammer 40,000 is due to this. Orks will destroy and loot highly advanced weaponry for parts so they can make their primitive shootas and vehicles (admittedly, they wouldn't know how to use them anyway), Chaos armies tend to fall apart due to second-in-command betrayal/costly sacrifices/religious differences resolved by chainaxe to the face, and Dark Eldar will happily take out their own leaders to take their place (while Klingon Promotion very strongly applies to the other two, the Dark Eldar turn it into a lifestyle). The Eldar's long-term plans rely heavily on misdirection and getting other armies to fight for them, but even when they're facing a common enemy like Necrons or Chaos they don't tell their allies/pawns everything they should know, and suffer for it.
    • There are documented cases of Chaos warlords deploying their elite Terminators to take a building, then running out of patience well before the Terminators have gotten anywhere and calling in an orbital strike.
    • Dark Eldar try to avert this as hard as possible, since raids in real-space are difficult enough without backstabbing and their civilization is entirely dependent on the success of those raids. SOP is to keep the backstabbing on hold until they get back home. It helps that Dark Eldar raids are relatively small scale, meaning their success won't affect the status quo of the setting.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Imagine you're an ancient, powerful dragon, with thousands of years of life experience under your belt and the ability to traverse the multiverse at will. You're leagues less powerful than you once were, but still leagues more powerful than basically anyone else in the multiverse. In a bid to reclaim your old power, you've taken an isolated plane and shaped it into a society of mindlessly devoted followers, who worship you as a god and faithfully obey your every whim. Their entire culture is devoted to spending their entire lives honing their minds and bodies to perfection, so that they can continue to serve you even after death, essentially giving you an endless supply of both living and undead servants. What do you do next? If you didn't answer "Destroy this civilisation for no good reason, gleefully expose yourself as a fraud to all your followers, destroy your own undead minion factory, and let the actual heroes go with nothing worse than a bruised ego", then congratulations, you're smarter than Nicol Bolas.

  • In Medieval Times, The Herald of the North picks this up near the climax of the show, when he issues an ultimatum to the King of Spain - either he kidnaps the King's princess, or he engages in a Duel to the Death against a knight of the King's choosing - after the offering from his own Lord Ulrich is rejected. The King of Spain chooses the latter option, which leads to the Herald losing the fight and being thrown in prison for the rest of his life, unable to inform Ulrich that the proposal had been rejected. Had the Herald not bothered with the ultimatum and merely returned to Ulrich with the news, the latter would have been able to retaliate against the King of Spain on a much larger scale.

  • It is BIONICLE's Grand Finale, and the Big Bad Makuta Teridax is standing right above Mata Nui, in the Humongous Mecha body that he stole from him. Mata Nui's weaker robot body is falling apart, malfunctioning, and barely has any power left. Makuta's body is, on the other hand, fully powered and quite capable of finishing off the only being who could ever hope to stand in his way. Even if he just stood there, Mata Nui would have fallen apart eventually. Instead, he of course has to make a show, so he uses his gravity power to fold the planet into itself, just to make sure Mata Nui would witness the end of his allies. Seemingly having forgotten about those two moons orbiting at head-level, and that using this power requires him to lift up his arms, giving Mata Nui the opening he needed to attack and force him to use said gravity powers on the moons themselves, which cause them to smash into the planet (thereby repairing the planet as was Mata Nui's duty) and allows Mata Nui in Teridax's moment of shock and hesitation to smash his foe's head into some of the falling moon debris, killing him.
    • This trope is actually lampshaded by Makuta Antroz, earlier in the story, when one of his fellows recommends ignoring "a handful of Toa."
    ""A handful of Toa? A handful of Toa stole the Mask of Light from Destral itself. Another prevented the conquest of Metru Nui, kept the Mask of Time from us, and even dared to imprison a Makuta! Still another ó this very group ó defeated Rahi, Rahkshi, and Bohrok swarms, and invaded Makuta Teridax's very lair. One thing I've learned is that you underestimate Toa ó any Toa ó at your own peril."

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: Although powerful and intelligent, Cinder's impatience, sadism, and pettiness often sabotage the villains' plans through constant gloating to victims, attempts to steal Maiden powers, and seeking revenge against her enemies. It leads to Ruby maiming her during a Traumatic Superpower Awakening when she delays killing Pyrrha to gloat; it costs the villains the Relic of Knowledge when she sabotages Salem's plan just to go after the Spring Maiden and Ruby; and it costs her the Winter Maiden's power when her gloating allows Fria to fend her off just long enough for help to arrive. In Volume 8, Watts lampshades this during a powerful "The Reason You Suck" Speech that reduces her to tears and forces her to re-evaluate her behavior. And even after that, she still grabs the ball tight in the following fight with Team RWBY, betraying her only combat ally Neo in the middle of the battle, valuing revenge against someone who once threatened her over having the best chance of victory, which contributes to her inability to achieve her main objective of getting the Winter Maiden's powers from Penny.

  • In Sluggy Freelance, Hereti Corp should have realized that, when they turned Aylee into a man-eating monster bent on world domination, it was probably a bad idea to leave Riff, one of her friends with a penchant for Saving The World, not only alive, but on their payroll. That's got conflict of interests written all over it.
    • Hereti Corps carries the Villain Ball less idiotically now that Dr. Schlock has taken over. But in that instance at least, Riff was 'one of her friends' who wanted kill her, so if anything, they should've been alert to the possibility of attacks from him.
  • In Bob and George, Bob seemed like your perfectly reasonable villain, driven to extremes by the world he was forced into. Then he decided to go kidnap the world's creator... who let himself be captured for the sake of a minor bet with the REAL Big Bad. Bob never did get beat down, though... or so it seems.
  • Fans!: The Order of the Dragon first appear as a group of near omnipotent individuals with supernatural powers and represent the greatest threat AEGIS has encountered so far. Members include Robert, a cunning illusionist and conman, or Keith, Rikk's former nemesis. And you can rest assured that the others are no better. The fact that their plan involved literally KILLING the alphabet and eliminating all written forms of communication doesn't help.
  • In the comic Pearls of Mer. The more senior agent of the Nebulous Evil Organisation tells the new comer to sit back and watch Arra the mermaid until they get word from HighUps. So what does the guy do? He runs out, tries to kidnap her and ends up shooting her human boyfriend. Things did end well from her wrath.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse: Babidi forcing Dabura to give his energy to Buu's cocoon before he has defeated Future Gohan.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: In the episode "The Deserter", if Zhao hadn't gotten so angry at Aang's taunting, he wouldn't have burnt his entire fleet down to cinders. And then, he kills the moon spirit in the season finale. Note that if he had just kept it in the bag he caught it in and ran to safety, the Fire Nation would have conquered the Northern Water Tribe and probably won the war. Instead he got himself killed by Koizilla.
  • A recurring theme with villains in The Legend of Korra is that, despite their admittedly noble goals (Amon wants equality, Unalaq wanted to bring back the spirits, Zaheer wanted the people to be free, and Kuvira is trying to bring order to the Earth Kingdom), they are not above committing pointless and petty acts of cruelty, which leads to Korra ruining their plans and even got their goals accomplished (except for Zaheer, in which he mournfully admitted that his actions in Book Three only caused chaos after he killed the Earth Queen that lead to Kuvira's rise to power and descent to villainy).
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", the Clock King uses a Time Bomb to suck all the air out of a Gas Chamber, when he could have used an instant Time Bomb to kill Batman immediately, and pulls Bond Villain Stupidity by explaining to Batman how to foil his trap.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "Spliced", Cuvier's big evil plan to keep splicing from getting outlawed is to... send spliced people to kill the D.A. leading the move to outlaw it. How that would, in any way, accomplish anything other than prove every criticism against splicing to be valid and turn the public more against it than ever, not to mention send the police commissioner (said D.A's wife) on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge hell-bent on avenging her murdered husband, is anyone's guess. He even rants at his goons for "ruining" his plans when the police raid his lab and begin hunting him after the assassination attempt fails... as if the police wouldn't have done that if the assassination had succeeded either. Even if his plan was to intimidate the police and public into not coming after him again, trying to intimidate the people of the most crime-ridden supervillain-riddled city in America by being a supervillain who commits a crime is a hilariously boner move.
  • Invoked in The Batman episode "Gothamís Ultimate Criminal Mastermind" with the Digitally Advanced Villain Emulator (D.A.V.E.), who is a robot with the combined memories and abilities (both physical and mental) of Batmanís entire Rogues Gallery. This makes him an unbeatable opponent who can commit crimes like stealing all of Gothamís money with casual ease, but it turns out he also has all of their Villain Ball traits which ultimately leads to his defeat.
  • Daffy Duck often falls into this in the shorts where he faces off against Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. In the opening of many shorts, he successfully tricks Elmer into thinking it's rabbit season when it's really duck season, so he'll go after Bugs instead. Even though he's already escaped Elmer, he constantly leaves his hiding place to lecture Elmer when he fails to actually recognize Bugs as a rabbit, or when Bugs points out that it's actually duck season. It's not enough that Daffy's escaped having his own head blown off; Bugs has to get blasted in his place, and Daffy has to see it happen with his own eyes. Needless to say, this constantly blows up in Daffy's face, in more ways than one.
  • Played for Laughs in one episode of Dilbert where the Nebulous Evil Organisation the titular character works for runs an outright ludicrous world-controlling conspiracy that keeps employees in line by convincing them that job is the only place in the world where engineers can find work and going as far as to manipulate the media and even kill people to maintain the Masquerade. Naturally they never put together that simply treating the employees better, paying them more, and giving them benefits would be infinitely easier and cheaper to do and would be more effective as it would also make the employees happy and more loyal.
  • One episode of Donkey Kong Country has Kongo Bongo hold an election to decide the next leader, and consequently, who will have legal access to the Crystal Coconut. Naturally, King K. Rool enters, and actually manages to get most of the citizens on his side. Shortly before the end of the election though, he suddenly decides to try and steal the Crystal Coconut anyway, and is caught doing so, causing him to lose all support in the election, and allowing Donkey Kong to win.
  • The Archmage of Gargoyles grasps the Villain Ball hard due to his hatred of Goliath. He makes two big mistakes: he doesn't wait until sunrise when the gargoyles are all helpless before starting the attack, and he opts to torture Goliath for amusement rather than simply killing him instantly with his incredible power. This leads directly to his defeat and rather nasty death. In fact, Word of God explicitly notes this as his undoing- for all his power, at heart he's a walking (though effective) cliche and cannot escape genre conventions.
  • Justice League:
    • Felix Faust in "The Balance", who has possessed the near-invincible body of The Annihilator which no longer has the Weaksauce Weakness of needing to feed on the aggression of its opponents, proves much more than a match for Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl combined. However, he decides just killing them simply isn't evil enough and so he sends them to the deepest pit of Tartarus instead. Where Hades is, who's certainly powerful enough to take on Faust. Who can now be freed by Wonder Woman and Hawkgirl. Who is certainly willing to team up with them to strike back. Who can teleport all three of them back to face Faust. Literally five minutes later Faust has been defeated and now gets to spend all of eternity being tormented by Hades: he may be a brilliant sorcerer, but he is not a clever man.
    • Cadmus's plan to destroy the Watchtower is so ludicrously supervillainy with so many extra mustache-twirling steps it's amazing anyone involved with it thought it would work. They fire a full salvo of massive missiles at the Watchtower which are effectively dropships that are filled with clones of the Ultimen controlled by Galatea, who intends to use the Ultimen as cover while she rigs the Watchtower reactor to explode and kill everyone on board. Why they didn't just fire missiles of the exploding or nuclear variety, which would have blown the Watchtower to high hell a heck of a lot faster and without the possibility of the Leaguers on board being able to defeat the invading Ultimen or stop the reactor from exploding, is anyone's guess. Why Don't You Just Shoot 'Em doesn't even begin to cover their level of villainous idiocy.
  • Kim Possible:
    • By being the Genre Blind Harmless Villain he is, Dr. Drakken is by no means immune to this trope. In one episode he created the awesome plan of disrupting the Kimmunicator so that he could pretend to be the Techno Wizard Wade in order trick Kim into stealing the Phlebotinum from Professor Dementor. Twice. Which got Kim's suspicions up and let to his defeat. When he has Shego, who is more than capable of stealing the Phlebotinum by herself...
    • Then there is Señor Senior Senior, who literally read the book on how to carry the Villain Ball, because he's obscenely rich and only commits villainous acts out of boredom. It's more fun for him to do it like a Bond villain. To him, the Villain Ball tropes are part of "the rules" of being a proper supervillain, and violating them would be like cheating in a sporting event: it would remove any sense of accomplishment from the victory.
  • In an episode of Mega Babies, the babies accidentally uncover an evil plot by a restaurateur to sell recycled food to unsuspecting customers. When he realises the babies simply don't care and are more interested in a bouncing ball, he announces he'll destroy their ball because he can, which prompts them to attack and defeat him.
  • In the season five premiere of Miraculous Ladybug, Gabriel has the Rabbit Miraculous as per the events of the previous season. Meaning that, as his loyal assistant Natalie points out, he can simply go back in time and send himself a USB drive with information on how to repair the Peacock Miraculous, thereby saving Emilie and (by extension herself) from its detrimental effects, without the need of the Ladybug and Cat Miraculous whatsoever. After all, saving his wife is the reason why he became a villain in the first place. Instead of doing that however, he immediately abandons the plan to instead attempt to ambush Ladybug and Rabbit Noir in the present and gain their powers. This naturally fails, resulting in him losing his newfound time travel abilities. When he reveals this to Natalie, she is so taken aback that she quits working for him right then and there.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000", the Flim-Flam Brothers could have agreed to a 50/50 share of the cider profit with Sweet Apple Acres, but no, they had to be greedy as all hell, wanting to put Sweet Apple Acres out of business and be the sole supplier of apple cider in Ponyville. They even go as far as stealing the Apple family's apples to make their own cider.
      • Zigzagged in "Leap of Faith", their second appearance. When Applejack finds out the con they're running, they're at first smart enough to convince her to go along with it as it's making Granny Smith happy and not hurting anyone else. But rather than take this easy opportunity to leave everyone happy, they then insist on promoting their phony tonic under Applejack's approval, leading her to expose them.
    • In the two-episode story "A Canterlot Wedding", Twilight Sparkle is the only one who suspects the character of Princess Cadance, who's marrying Twilight's brother, though she doesn't guess that it's actually Queen Chrysalis who had taken Cadance's place. At the end of the first part, Chrysalis manages to convince everyone, including Twilight herself, that Twilight is being a horrible person and only accusing her because she's possessive of her brother. That would have neutralised the only threat to her plans, but it's just not evil enough, so she has to go and imprison her in the same place where the real Cadance was, apparently trying to make Twilight kill her — only to lead to her eventual defeat after Twilight doesn't and they flee together to stop the wedding. It's also a bit more complicated than that, with a bit of a Bug War in there and whatnot, but the way the good guys win in the end would not have been possible if the real Cadance had not been freed. Or with Twilight moping alone somewhere after being told not to even attend the wedding. Even with Twilight out of the picture, Chrysalis constantly does things that are Not Helping Her Case like being a massive Bridezilla who constantly berates everyone for doing any little thing she doesn't like, even Shining Armor for doing minor things like wanting to wear something that belonged to his father. All she had to do to win was hold her position with Shining Armor loving her, which she would have accomplished with much more success had she just swallowed her pride and paid lipservice to "her" fiance and their wedding staff.
    • "The Times They Are A Changeling" reveals the changelings are species-wide villain ball holders. Thorax, a changeling who prefers to be friends with ponies, reveals that the changeling Mooks are free-thinking creatures capable of emotions and are fully capable of simply feeding on "ambient" love between others, and even on the love they could have for each other with literally no ill effects. They could keep peacefully to themselves or be the pony's greatest allies if they weren't naturally aggressive and didn't have such an evil tyrant teaching them from birth to invade and conquer instead. "To Where And Back Again" reveals this to be true. The Changelings could easily feed on love for each other instead of stealing love from others. Not only is stealing love totally inadequate, it never gets them fed at all. It only benefitted their very abusive leader.
    • In "School Raze", once Cozy Glow was foiled, had she turned back on the innocent little filly act she was otherwise so good at and made up a Freudian Excuse or cried to Twilight Sparkle about not understanding friendship, she would have been treated the same as Starlight Glimmer and been thrown a second chance so fast her freckles would have been blown off leaving her free to go back to villainy the second Twilight's guard was down. Instead she'd rather rant and rave about her villainy and gets tossed in Tartarus. She's actually smart enough to keep her mouth shut the second time she's foiled, but unfortunately this time Queen Chrysalis isn't and Celestia doesn't care either way at this point.
    • In the Season 9 premiere, King Sombra would've gotten away with it too, had he joined forces with the rest of the villains, instead of attempting to invade Equestria on his own.
  • Dr. Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb is one of the worst examples, as illustrated in the episode "Candace Gets Busted" where a building is blocking his view of the theater. He remarks that he could just move his chair, but decides to build a machine to zap the building out of the way.
  • In the Popeye cartoons, whenever Bluto manages to win Olive over, he will often ruin it by getting too grabby.
  • This Trope seems to be lampshaded in The Powerpuff Girls episode "Monkey See, Doggy Two". As the name of the episode suggests, Mojo Jojo is not only trying the same "turn humanity into dogs with an ancient Egyptian artifact" plan that he tried (which failed) in his first appearance (episode-wise) but he spends half the episode explaining to the Girls the steps he's taken to correct the flaws that made it fail the first time. They patiently listen, and then simply beat the crud out of him, causing the plan to fail even worse than it did before. note 
  • Very early in the Redwall Animated Adaptation Cluny sends his henchman Shadow over the wall of the titular abbey to steal their tapestry of Martin the Warrior. Shadow succeeds but is wounded, and Cluny refuses to help him since he "has no bedroom for bunglers". Apparently in Cluny's book, a loyal follower who can silently climb walls like Spider-Man isn't worth nursing back to health when your enemies have a fortress to hide in.
  • In the first Rose Petal Place special, Nastina plans to use a catapult to bury Rose Petal and her friends under rocks... but doesn't wait until they've left her castle first, and the rocks destroy it.
  • Samurai Jack:
    • Multiple episodes of feature some variation of a plot where Aku forces a person or a group of people into deceiving Jack and luring him into a trap to save their own lives or get some desired MacGuffin from him. Inevitably, this plot will succeed, but Aku always fails to uphold his end of the bargain. Which, of course, leads to the dog biting back and helping Jack escape. Had Aku ever just swallowed his pride and not screwed somebody over in exchange for the death of his most hated and dangerous enemy -or just waited to do it until Jack had been dealt with- he would have won. At least one episode suggested that Aku, being a living personification of evil, is literally incapable of not kicking the dog even when it would be beneficial for him not to do so.
    • One episode has him actually manage to steal Jack's sword, the one thing in all existence capable of harming and killing him. Does he destroy it, or order one of his goons to bury it on the other side of the planet, or hurl the damned thing into the stratosphere? No, he decides to dick around and use the sword to kill Jack. Granted he couldn't have reasonably known the sword couldn't hurt Jack, but given how much of a pain in his arse Jack has been and how clever and resourceful the samurai is he really shouldn't have even offered the scant possibility of Jack managing to get his sword back.
    • When Aku finally manages to capture Jack in the series finale, he decides to broadcast his execution to the entire world to make an example out of him. Then he wastes so much time debating (onscreen) about what the most painful way to kill Jack would be, that all of the people Jack has helped over the years have time to fly to his castle and launch an assault to rescue Jack. Aku being Nigh-Invulnerable, they aren't able to do much more than annoy him, but it does provide Jack the distraction he needs to escape.
  • The Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) episode "Game Guy" is basically one giant Villain Ball for Robotnik. He captures a Freedom Fighter squad and offers the leader their release if he captures Sonic. He succeeds, however not only does Robotnik forgo Snively's idea of just killing Sonic in favor of a complex death trap, he reveals his double cross to Ari midway through, in addition to gloating long enough for Sally and Dulcy to plot a rescue, allowing Ari to rescue Sonic in time.
  • Sometimes tossed around in the Super Mario Bros. (DiC) cartoons. In "Reptiles in the Rose Garden", for example, Kootie Pie would have gotten away with taking over the United States had she explicitly not told Mario that she and Koopa were doing so. Another example from the SMW cartoon episode "A Little Learning", in which Hip and Hop plan on framing Yoshi and Oogtar for their schemes in school, only for King Koopa to ruin their evil plans because he hates school that much.
  • Slade in Teen Titans (2003) would be a full-time Magnificent Bastard if he'd just learn not to give in to his sadistic impulses unnecessarily. As it is, this has gotten in the way of his plans by providing an out for one minion and turning another against him (which got him lava fried). Of course, this does mean that for a Smug Snake, he's still very effective and creepy, but he could be so much more...
  • In the Grand Finale of Transformers: Beast Wars, Megatron decides to use the Fusion Cannon on the entirely helpless proto-humans when he should have attacked the Maximals first, who could actually do something to stop him. To make it even worse all of the proto-humans survived somehow and he only succeeded in killing Quickstrike and Inferno, his own minions.
  • Underdog's Arch-Enemy Simon Bar Sinister (who, ironically, usually avoided this) got a bad case of it in one episode, when his plan to Take Over the World involved using a device called the Big Dipper to steal the Earth's water; it could drain the water from lakes, rivers, and even oceans, storing each in a small jar, which he planned to use to starve the world into submission. The first part worked, but when Underdog showed up to challenge him, he threatened to smash Lake Michigan on the ground if the hero didn't keep his distance. Underdog called his bluff, so the evil scientist threw it in the air, forcing him to catch it. So Simon threw Lake Superior too. Then he got carried away, and thought seeing Underdog scramble to catch them was fun, so he threw more and more of them. Unfortunately for him, Underdog didn't fail to catch even one, and eventually, Simon had thrown them all. By the time the villain realized he had no more "hostages", it was too late, and the hero was able to clock him.
  • The supervillains (or "antagonists" as they prefer) in The Venture Bros. that work for the Guild of Calamitous Intent carry the ball as part of the Guild's strict regulations for "Controlled Costumed Aggression", in effect literal Contractual Genre Blindness. Low level troublemakers use tranq guns, whereas hand guns and the like are reserved for more threatening opponents. Likewise, "protagonists" need to carry the Idiot Ball because, to borrow a quote:
    Brock Samson: Hey, no disrespect Jonas, but it isn't so easy. These guys like their system; it's what they do. You take that away, and you are dealing with a bunch of pissed off nutbags with rayguns and giant, I don't know, a giant octopus/tank with laser eyes.
    • The Monarch deserves special mention here, as it becomes increasingly obvious as the show goes on that he carries the Villain Ball on purpose because he gets off on arching Dr. Venture. When the guy goes after other people, or has an actual goal in mind other than just being Venture's bad guy, he suddenly becomes scarily competent and capable of killing off his enemies with utter ease.
  • Played for Laughs in Wacky Races with Dick Dastardly and Muttley. They have by far the best car, the Mean Machine, which is not only the fastest of all of them but can also fly, and Dick could easily win races fair and square. He's well aware of this, but won't because, as the villain, he refuses to win unless it's by foul play. He'll get ahead fairly and stop to lay traps, and one episode even has him stop just short of the finish line and let the other racers pass because he got there without cheating (mainly because Muttley wanted his autograph, so Dick stopped to oblige). Because of this, he's never won a single race and had the honor of being the Trope Namer for Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
  • Justified with the season 2 Big Bad of Wakfu Qilby the Traitor. He spends most of the season enacting an overly complicated scheme that actually brings his enemies together when he could have easily accomplished his goals and killed them all from the very beginning. Yugo eventually figures out why: Qilby is terrified of being alone. He never really wanted to kill Yugo or the Dragons because he was still secretly hoping he could convince them to see things his way so they could be friends again. He angrily tries to deny it to no avail.
  • In the episode "Panda's Sneeze" from We Bare Bears, Nom Nom and Panda take part in a competition to see which one of them is cuter, which the former convinces the latter to lose on purpose. He would have gotten exactly what he wanted out of Panda, who didn't want to be famous for his cute sneeze, if he hadn't started sabotaging him.
  • Winx Club:
    • The 4K dub provides an example of a Dub-Induced Villain Ball in the S1 finale, which has Icy telling the other Trix, "Give me your share of the Dragonfire, I need it to take care of this uppity pixie (Bloom). Don't worry, you won't need more than your regular powers to take on those four poseurs (the other Winx)." She doesn't tell them this in the original, but the result is the same anyway.
    • The Trix's other two seasons each have a major non-Dub-Induced Villain Ball: S2 sees them burying the Winx and the Specialists' plane under snow and an icy deathtrap... and then simply leaving, so they're not there to shoot them down again when they escape. S3 has Icy de-powering Bloom in a one-on-one (the other fairies are away in a crystal labyrinth, while the other Trix are taking on the Specialists) and not making her history immediately, allowing the other Winx to return in time to take the Trix out.


Video Example(s):


Daenerys Burns King's Landing

Mauler breaks down why Dany scorching all of King's Landing was needlessly cruel and unnecessarily destructive. Complete with animations from Cynic Snacks.

How well does it match the trope?

4.75 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainBall

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