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Villain Protagonist

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Why ROOT for the empire when you can LEAD it?

"HBO has proven that we will follow for years and years some pretty reprehensible characters as long as they're fascinating."

An interesting twist on conventional storytelling: make the bad guy, or a bad guy, the main character.

Sometimes (but not always), this villainous main character will even get the Sympathetic P.O.V. On the other hand, it is not necessary for a villain to be sympathetic for them to be this trope. They simply need to be a villain whose morally reprehensible actions (however well-intentioned) are in no way glossed over or justified within the context of the story. We are seeing the story from a villain's point of view. Villain Protagonists are also common in Evil vs. Evil stories, where their nemesis is a Villain Antagonist.

A Villain Protagonist (especially in a comedy) is quite likely to go down in flames at the end. Whether this counts as a Downer Ending or not generally depends on how many dogs they kick along the way, how entertaining their Humiliation Conga or Karmic Death is or both. They may also do a Heel–Face Turn and become a Hero Protagonist (or at least an Anti-Villain). This doesn't necessarily mean they will lose or perform a Heel–Face Turn. In fact, their status as a main character just makes it more likely that the story will end with the villain winning than any other story would. In child-oriented media, the Villain Protagonist commonly pulls a Heel–Face Turn.

When this is done for one episode, it's a Villain Episode.

This trope very often overlaps with a Nominal Hero and/or Sociopathic Hero, and sometimes with the more extreme cases of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist. Note that they do not necessarily have to be the Big Bad — a Villain Protagonist can, and often does, deal with cases where they are the victim of some other villain rather than the aggressor and try to survive like anyone else would, but in order to be considered a Sociopathic Hero or a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as well, their struggle has to protect other victims of their enemy; it doesn't matter if they care at all about them or if any good that comes out of it is purely coincidental. Actually, authors may find that it is easier to write a story where the antagonist makes the plot rather than the villain, which means that a villainous protagonist is often just as passive and reactive to other characters' actions as a more traditional heroic protagonist. In fact, it is rather rare for a Villain Protagonist to be the villain of a story, presumably because audiences still want to root for the protagonist. It can still easily result in Too Bleak, Stopped Caring if handled poorly, or if the Protagonist is too Villainous. If this is a comedy where empathy isn't important, however, this isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Very often leads to Misaimed Fandom. Do not confuse with the Anti-Hero, who lacks traditional heroic qualities and may have some unheroic ones, and may be more morally ambiguous, but is still ultimately on the side of good (although an Anti-Hero can end up becoming a Villain Protagonist if they end up crossing one too many lines). Also not to be confused with Byronic Hero, who is simply a deeply flawed person, heroic or not. Many Byronic Heroes tend to zone in and out of Villain Protagonist territory, though. If the main character is the villain to themselves in their own story, they are His Own Worst Enemy. If a heroic protagonist is revealed to be Evil All Along towards the end, this is The Killer in Me. If you get to see how a heroic protagonist gradually becomes evil over the course of the story, this is Protagonist Journey to Villain.

It is vanishingly rare for these characters to be a Complete Monster or a Hate Sink, as regardless of how much a bad dude a protagonist may be, the audience will generally still desire to have at least a degree of relatability and sympathy for them, although it has happened in very rare circumstances, often in stand-alone and experimental works. This results in them almost always being the sympathetic party of a Sympathetic Villain, Despicable Villain duo. Very rarely, they might even show up in serialized series, which can lead to Too Bleak, Stopped Caring unless executed in a very careful fashion and are usually counterbalanced by either making it a He Who Fights Monsters story or adding a sympathetic Deuteragonist who shares near-equal screen time.

Contrast Hero Antagonist, both in terms of morality and role in the story. Compare and contrast Villain Antagonist and Hero Protagonist. Do not mix up with Vanilla Protagonist, unless this particular villain is meant to emphasize how evil the other villains in the main cast are.


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    Audio Plays 

  • Alexandre Cabanel's The Fallen Angel: The painting's subject is a newly banned from Heaven Lucifer. It's even in the title that he's now a Fallen Angel who harbors nothing but shameful contempt toward the God he used to adore.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 

See also the music page for Villain Song.

  • Barnacle Bill the Sailor from the Bawdy Song of the same name is occasionally depicted as this, especially in the more vulgar versions of the song. If the fair young maiden asks what will happen if her parents see him, he will answer that he will "kill your pa and fuck your ma". When asked about what will happen if he goes to jail, Barnacle Bill will brag that he will escape. At the very least, the cleaner versions of the song make it clear that Barnacle Bill is not a pleasant fellow.
  • The Beatles had a few examples: the title characters in John's "The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill", Paul's "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" and George's "Taxman" (the last one is also the viewpoint character), the persona in John's "Run for Your Life", and John's persona in the second half of "Happiness is a Warm Gun".
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is about a hero who travels to the future and witnesses The End of the World as We Know It, and when he travels back to the present, he is transformed into the title's villain who causes the future destruction in the first place.
  • Blue Öyster Cult gives us the song ME262, which positively goes into rhapsodies about the World War II German jet fighter, and the joys of shooting down bombers for the Nazi regime.
    "ME262 Prince of Turbojets, Junkers Jumo 004, blasts from clustered R4M quartets in my snout, and see these English planes go burn..."
    • The cover of the album on which the single appears, "Secret Treaties", even features the band standing around the plane with the group's logo replacing the German markings on it.
    • Blue Öyster Cult does this a lot, really. Some other examples include "Career of Evil", "Then Came the Last Days of May", "Harvester of Eyes", and "Dr. Music".
    • Their Rock Opera Imaginos and Albert Bouchard's sequel Imaginos II: Bombs Over Germany follow the story of the flamboyantly amoral shapeshifter Desdinova.
  • The Boomtown Rats' "I Don't Like Mondays" was written about Brenda Spencer, who killed two adults and injured nine children in a school shooting in San Diego in 1979.
  • Cher Lloyd's song Want U Back is about a petty, jealous woman who dumped her ex because he wasn't cool enough for her and is furious to see he's doing just fine without her. She wants him back not because she likes him but because he's not allowed to be happy without her.
  • David Bowie's Station to Station is narrated by the Thin White Duke, a heartless fascist who the opening line of the album describes as "throwing darts in lovers' eyes." Bowie himself described the Duke as "a nasty character indeed," and the threat of becoming Lost in Character motivated his decision to eschew stage personas once the album's promotional cycle wrapped up.
  • Nick Cave has a few songs about villain protagonists, most notably the entire album Murder Ballads.
  • Played for Laughs with Jonathan Coulton, whose protagonists have variously included a sapient zombie ("Re: Your Brains"), a wannabe Mad Scientist ("The Future Soon"), an actual Mad Scientist ("Skullcrusher Mountain") and so on. He also wrote GLaDOS' songs for the Portal games.
  • The Rake from The Decemberists' "The Rake's Song" sings, without so much as a hint of regret, about how he killed his three children in order to escape from the responsibilities of parenthood. It's quite good.
  • "Strong" by Clamavi de Profundis tells the story of a Viking tribe who goes to invade a monastery, fully intending to kill everyone there, and loot all their gold.
  • The Eagles' 1973 album Desperado tells the story of real-life wild west outlaws Bill Doolin and Bill Dalton.
  • Eminem's early music told the stories of Slim Shady, an Ax-Crazy, sexist, homophobic, drugged-up, Chaotic Stupid sociopath who leaves a trail of violence and wanton destruction wherever he goes.
  • The band, Fear Factory's, earlier albums were based on a continues storyline about a futuristic war between man and machine; machines being the villains. Many of their songs at the time had the machine leader giving it's commentary on wanting to wipe out the human race.
  • Peter Gabriel's songs "Intruder" and "Family Snapshot" are told from the perspectives of a burglar and Lee Harvey Oswald/Arthur Bremmer, respectively.
  • Great Big Sea's "Harbour Lecou" is narrated by a sailor seeking marital infidelity in a port away from his home & family.
  • The heavy metal band GWAR can be classified as this.
  • Iron Maiden has a few, such as "Run to the Hills" (the first half is sung by a Badass Native, then a Perspective Flip goes to a cavalryman gloating about destroying their tribes) and "El Dorado" (sung by a Corrupt Corporate Executive who cons people without any shame).
  • Hip-Hop artists like Jay-Z or 50 Cent were allegedly criminals before having music careers, and many of their songs deal with this topic from their perspective.
  • Elton John's "Ticking" has an initially unassuming protagonist going on to kill 14 people in a mass shooting before being gunned down by police.
  • The Kinks "Sunny Afternoon" is told from the prescriptive of a Rich Bastard who complains about "the tax man [taking] all [he's] got" (yet he still lives in a "stately home"), being unable to use his yacht and is an Alcoholic that is "cruel" to his girlfriend.
  • All of Macabre's are told from the perspective of the most wicked killers in human history.
  • Metallica's "Jump in the Fire" is sung by the Devil.
  • Everything that happens in a Monster Magnet song happens with a fistful of pills. Protagonists run the gamut from garden-variety drug abusers/dealers to comic-book-style supervillains and demonic agents. There are a lot of bombs getting planted, and things might get a little rape-y. Notable are the infanticidal couple of "See You in Hell", the drug-addled character in "Tractor", and various personifications of evil in "Kiss of the Scorpion", "Atomic Clock", and "Bummer".
    I drove out to the Meadowlands to throw our baby away. —"See You in Hell"
    If you wanna spank your demons and make them pay, well baby, I'm your man of the hour —"Bummer"
    Got a knife in my back, got a hole in my arm, I'm driving a tractor on a drug farm —"Tractor"
  • The main character from Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral starts off as someone who indulges heavily in sex and drugs to try to feel something, but crosses the Moral Event Horizon when he eventually rapes someone.
    • Several songs on Year Zero are also from the villains' perspectives. "God Given" and "Capital G" are from the viewpoints of the corrupt church and state respectively, "The Great Destroyer" is most likely the viewpoint of a character known as "The Angry Sniper," and the last half of "The Warning" has the disembodied hand in the sky known as The Presence threaten to destroy mankind if they don't change their ways.
    • "Big Man With A Gun" is sung from the point of view of a Serial Rapist, and in one of the lines he talks about wanting to put a hole in someone's head "Just for the fuck of it.
  • The Nirvana song "Polly" is sung from the point of view of a rapist who holds his victim captive and tortures her with razors and a blowtorch. It was based on a true story.
  • Pink, from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Though the album begins with a Start of Darkness and ends with a redemption of sorts.
  • The Police: in "Every Step You Take" the protagonist is very clearly meant to be a Stalker with a Crush, and Sting himself said the lyrics are meant to be very sinister. Despite all this, some people still say they find the song romantic.
  • The Primus song "My Name Is Mud" is sung from the perspective of a man who murdered his friend and is burying the body.
  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is sung by a condemned murderer who is only sorry he didn't get away with it. Maybe. At the very least, we know Beelzebub has a devil put aside for him. For him. For hiiiiiiiiiiiim.
  • Then there's "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, which as the title makes clear is narrated by Satan himself.
  • Slayer's "Angel of Death," about Josef Mengele.
  • The song "Sex Dwarf" by Soft Cell is from the point of view of some kind of pimp or something, and has an oft-repeated line about "Luring disco dollies to a life of vice."
  • Al Stewart's "Running Man" is about a Stern Chase, told from the sympathetic perspective of the fugitive. He's implied to be an old Nazi.
  • The Talking Heads song "Psycho Killer" is sung from the point of view of the Son of Sam killer.
  • Ziltoid from the Ziltoid the Omniscient album by Devin Townsend is definitely this. He destroys earth, because he didn't like the coffee they presented him, follows the escaping humans to another planet, unsuccessfully attempts to destroy that one, then he asks the Planet Smasher to destroy another planet, which is populated by sentient being, just to lift his mood.
  • The narrator of Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" is responsible for all the conflict and misery around her, including her own future possible murder.
  • U2's "Until the End of the World" is sung from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ.
  • "Caught" by Velvet Acid Christ is song from the point of view of a Serial Killer who mainly preys on children, especially little girls, who apparently leaves his victims "Eviscerated, with their tongues cut out", and brags about how evil and scary he is and how no one will catch him.
  • Many, many Vocaloid songs. Notable examples include Mothy-P's Story of Evil and the numerous "yandere" songs like "Luka's Love Disease," "Miku's Rotten Girl," and "Grotesque Romance."
  • The viewpoint character of Voltaire's song "When You're Evil" is a Card-Carrying Villain. Also "Almost Human", and "The Chosen" and "Brains"... he kinda likes that one.
  • The Irish traditional "Whiskey In The Jar" famously performed by The Pogues and The Dubliners follows the crimes and arrest of a highway-robbing drunkard.
  • "Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who is this with an Anti-Villain.
  • Within Temptation uses these most significantly in their "Unforgiving" album (and supplemental arc videos), which revolves around a vigilante serial killer cult recruited from the souls of the damned.
  • Clockwork Quartet's 'The Watchmaker's Apprentice' is told from the perspective of a man who frames his boss for murder.
  • The narrator of the Wreckers song "Crazy People". There's a reason only crazy people fall in love with you, lady.
  • The narrator of Warren Zevon's "Mr. Bad Example". He starts out stealing from a church fund for widows and orphans as a young boy, and only gets worse from there. The Ax-Crazy subject from "Excitable Boy" would be another example.
  • The Ian Dury and the Blockheads song "Billericay Dickie" is about a man boasting about all the women he's raped.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • An interesting Biblical example is the prophet Jonah (although he can also be seen as a very unpleasant sort of Anti-Hero). God has a plan to push the entire city of Nineveh into a Heel–Face Turn and He wants Jonah's help, but Jonah refuses. Eventually God convinces him to play along and the city does indeed get saved - but Jonah is explicitly noted to be "angry enough to die" about it. He wanted the city to remain evil. In particular, he appears to have been hoping that they would remain evil and dangerous enough for God to have no choice but to destroy them, which kinda implies the prophet was a closeted Blood Knight. While not the only Biblical protagonist to start off by opposing God, he is the only one who doesn't seem to learn the error of his ways. The narrative ends with God giving him a What the Hell, Hero? speech before apparently leaving him alone.
  • Ishtar in Mesopotamian Mythology, particularly in Inanna's Descent to the Netherworld where her goal is basically to take over three worlds.
  • Iktomi in numerous Lakota fables. Despite being a member of the Wacan Sica, he is also the paradigm of human advancement, meaning that he will appear in these stories to teach the characters and readers valuable lessons (often indirectly).
  • The husbands in The Swan Maiden myths. They essentially force the swan maidens to be their wives by hiding their animal skins, which effectively traps them.


  • John Wilkes Booth is this in the 1865 prequel miniseries.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. While there's no question that he was an Anti-Hero from 1998 onward, it could be argued that he was basically this in 1997. Although the crowd was firmly on his side against the Hart Foundation, he acted like the same vicious heel he had always been - beating up on babyfaces, even the ones who helped him. When Mankind helped him in a handicap match, for example, he hugged him and then gave him a Stunner and told him he'd never work with a freak like him. When he was forced to relinquish the Intercontinental and Tag Team Titles thanks to his neck injury, he made a hitlist of the three main authority figures (lead announcer Jim Ross, Commissioner Sgt. Slaughter, and Vince McMahon) and made sure to beat them all up while mocking them for it the whole time. Mind you, they were all babyfaces and were looking out for his safety. Just 18 months earlier, that same type of storyline was used to get Vader over as a monster heel. Real Life Writes the Plot intervened to create a brilliant Heel–Face Turn against Bret Hart (who did a Face–Heel Turn in the same match), and Austin became the number one most popular guy in the golden era of wrestling.
  • Triple H became this in 2002 after the aforementioned Steve Austin and The Rock were slowly being phased out of the company, note  and due to being actually married into the McMahon family by this point, he took the opportunity to book himself as the de facto face of the company. He became the inaugural World Heavyweight Champion and began his infamous "Reign of Terror" where for the next few years, he was the main focus. The A-show, Monday Night Raw and often had segments that opened and closed the show. Even if he would occasionally lose the title, he always got it back somehow, having a grand total of 609 days, across five different reigns. Even after finally being dethroned by his protégé Batista in 2005, Trips always found himself somewhere near the main event scene up until his retirement from in-ring action in 2022.
  • Roman Reigns became this as of his return and subsequent Face–Heel Turn in the second half of 2020. After roughly five years of X-Pac Heat due to creative forcing him into the same roles that Hulk Hogan and John Cena previously filled, Reigns became a full on villain after allying himself with Paul Heyman and winning the Universal Championship and would go on to defeat every heroic face that challenged him and become the longest reigning champion of the modern era since Hulk Hogan's first run as world champion in 1984. Reigns is notably the first wrestler pushed as the company's ace to be a Heel.

  • Thomas in Old Harry's Game is the focus of most of the story lines he's in. He's also such a godawful person that Satan (himself an example of this trope) is shocked by how evil he is at times.
  • Ghost of True Capitalist Radio can be this at his worst. Usually, he is an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist with many Pet the Dog moments, but he occasionally lets his mean-spiritedness and bullying nature get the better of him.

  • Destroy the Godmodder: In Be the Godmodders, you played as godmodders, trashing the last safe haven left.
  • The main character of Digimon World: Infamy is solely motivated by Revenge and killing the "heroes", not caring in the least bit about wiping out any number of random Digimon if it helps him achieve his goals.
  • Dorf Quest's Beardbeard embodies this trope - cutting down forests, killing elves, attacking small children, and promoting Satan himself to godhood.
  • Eric from Mall Fight. Originally he was Heroic Neutral, a Type IV Anti Hero at worst, but in the latest canon he rules over a Wretched Hive, keeping dozens of slave girls and a former classmate he's obsessed with as his queen against her will. He still tries to do good and wants to be a hero, he just doesn't care about what anyone else wants.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Though not specific to any system in particular, it's very much the point to many campaigns. The "evil campaign" is often used to change things up where the PCs are the group of troublesome goblins, the terrorizing bandits or eclectic grouping of monsters. The goals tend to vary from pure destruction for the sake of destruction, sticking it to a certain group, actual goals of city/country/world domination or even a subversion of the genre.
  • Atmosfear's player characters include a shyster mummy, a serial-killer vampire, a bloodthirsty werewolf, an angry poltergeist, a vodou-spinning zombie, a vain gorgon, a pyromaniac witch or skeletal bandits trying to escape an even BIGGER asshole in the form of the Gatekeeper.
  • Bloody Inn has the players act as members of a villainous family of innkeepers who compete to see who can murder and rob more guests without being caught by the authorities.
  • The Delta Green adventure "Iconoclasts" has perhaps one of the more outstanding examples of this in tabletop games, with the first chapter of the multi-part adventure making the player characters for the scenario members of ISIS who are tasked with destroying "blasphemous" artifacts. This being Delta Green, the adventure is typically meant to end with a total party kill after the extremists damage the wrong jar and unleash a Mask of Nyarlathotep that takes the form of a flensing storm of shards of obsidian, with the other chapters focused on Delta Green picking up the wreckage.
  • While Empire of Satanis tries to explain it with a "master morality", the bottom line is that you are a demon who performs evil acts and torments humans so you can become a god and be even more evil.
  • The basic assumption when you play an Abyssal in Exalted. One chapter even has discussion about how to make the game more than one slaughterfest after another; they are that bad.
    • This is where you're assumed to start as a Green Sun Prince in 2e. Subverted, however, if you quickly catch on that the Yozis are (A) certifiably insane and (B) can't actually rope you in. You can become a Punch-Clock Villain looking for an escape, a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Hero using a loose interpretation of your orders to push an ultimately productive agenda, or just a plain ol' Noble Demon who just wants to be left alone, before you slip the leash entirely. It's dropped in 3e and Essence, which see the Yozis letting you do your own thing without mandating any particular behavior, figuring you'll serve the Yozis' ends just by being yourself and disrupting Creation's established power structures as you go (and given you're among the most powerful of the Exalted, it's hard to say they're wrong...).
  • Legendary Encounters: Predator has a variant where the players play as Predators who are hunting humans for trophies.
  • After two expansions to their Middle Earth CCG, Iron Crown Entertainment tried shaking things up by releasing a whole second basic set called "The Lidless Eye", casting the players as one of the nine Nazgul, working in the shadows to locate the Ringbearer and/or rally the monstrous races into an army. An interesting idea, but unfortunately, one which did nothing to stem fan complaints of "filler lore", and only ruffled more feathers by being largely incompatible with cards from the previous set.
  • Monopoly: The players are supposed to be this, as the goal of the game is not to simply make the most money, but to buy out everyone else or put them out of business. The game was meant to have a Capitalism Is Bad message. Unfortunately, this goes right over the heads of most modern day players.
  • The SavageWorlds setting Necessary Evil has the players make supervillain characters to combat an alien invasion.
  • The Pathfinder RPG has an Adventure Path called Hell's Vengeance where the whole point is to play evil characters serving Cheliax.
    • Second edition has the Blood Lords adventure path, where the players take the role of troubleshooters working under the titular Blood Lords, ministers of the undead-ruled nation of Geb. The player companion does say that the players don't need to be evil — Neutral-aligned or even Lawful Good characters can work if they're played the right way — but Geb as a whole is a Lawful Evil nation, and the AP is primarily designed for characters who are True Neutral at best.
  • By definition, Player Characters in Shadowrun are all criminals, and more often than not criminals performing not only illegal but also immoral acts on the behest of one Mega-Corp or Syndicate or another. Most game masters will pit the characters against opponents who are at least a little worse than they are.
  • Trogdor!! The Board Game casts the players as the Keepers of Trogdor, who help the ferocious dragon Trogdor the Burninator and guide his actions as he rampages across the kingdom of Peasantry, burninating the countryside, the peasants, and the thatched-roof cottages.
  • Violence™: The Roleplaying Game of Egregious and Repulsive Bloodshed casts the players as sociopathic murderers and criminal scum who rob, rape, and kill innocents. Justified as the game is a dark satire of conventional hack-n-slash RPGs.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Due to the Evil Versus Evil setting, every faction could be seen as a villain protagonist when they're being played. From war-crazed Ork swarms to Chaos demons to fascist, genocidal humans, no one group could be said to be "the good guys." The Craftworld Eldar, Tau Empire, and some sub-factions of the Imperium could probably get away with being called dark Anti Heroes, but everyone else (including the bulk of the Imperium) is firmly in Omnicidal Maniac territory to anyone outside of their faction... and even a lot of people within it.
    • That said, the Imperium's Villain Protagonist status is more evident in earlier editions of the game. As the game grew more popular and mainstream, since the Imperium was the de facto protagonist faction due to being the "Human Over-Faction", it got progressively Lighter and Softer to make it palatable.
  • Wicked Ones is heavily inspired by the video games Dungeon Keeper and War for the Overworld, with the players all taking on the roles of the titular Wicked Ones: fantasy monsters trying to develop and maintain a dungeon staffed with evil minions and filled with plunder taken from those hapless do-gooders as they work towards their nefarious goals.
  • Many gamelines of the World of Darkness have the players as traditional "monsters", vampires, werewolves, mummies, etc. But there are a few where the player character actually has to be evil, Beast: The Primordial is one of those exceptions. Beasts have to inspire fear, often destructively, else their Soul runs rampant and does it anyway, with a chance of creating Heroes obsessed with slaying them. But even Beasts can feed their hunger without being destructive by watching other supernaturals feed.

  • Roxie Hart, the protagonist of Chicago, is an unrepentant murderer who cheats her husband, shoots the man she cheated with after finding out he lied about being able to get her into show business, refuses to admit she did anything wrong, lies in order to gain press sympathy...and eventually gets off scot-free.
  • Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil for diabolical powers that he uses for selfish and often petty goals.
  • Don Giovanni is a lecherous noble who has had sex with over two thousand women before callously abandoning them. The opera begins with him trying to rape a woman, then killing her father when he defends her honor.
  • While most of the cast of Great Britain are morally ambiguous at best, the main character, Paige Britain, is most definitely a villain, being a worker at a tabloid paper, who rapidly becomes more corrupt and goes to greater ends to try and further her career. She eventually crosses the Moral Event Horizon by allowing a Page Seven model to starve to death so she can have the exclusive rights to her death story.
  • Harry Bogen from I Can Get It For You Wholesale spends the entire musical lying, cheating, betraying and embezzling his way to success.
  • The Jew of Malta goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that takes in a lot of innocent bystanders, including an entire convent full of nuns.
  • The title character of Macbeth is somewhat of an Anti-Villain despite his Moral Event Horizon against the family of the play's Hero Antagonist; though his antivillainy isn't really of the "good intentions" variety so much as the "just plain pitiable" variety.
  • Medea from Greek Myth, at least as presented by Euripides in the play Medea. A straight reading of the facts of the myth makes Medea come across as an irredeemably evil multiple murderess (her victims included her younger brother and her sons), yet Euripides presents her as sympathetic, or at least understandable.
  • Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, although Bassanio and Portia have about as much or more lines. Some productions turn Shylock into an Anti-Villain, as the play was Fair for Its Day and gives him legitimate reasons for being so ruthless.
  • No Exit: All three main characters have well earned being condemned to Hell together. Ines is a self-proclaimed sadist who murdered her own cousin to get with his wife, Garcin is a narcissistic Dirty Coward who emotionally abused and cheated on his wife, and Estelle is an unhinged psychopath who drowned her own baby and drove her lover to suicide in order to cover up an affair.
  • Although Othello is ostensibly a play about Othello, Iago is really the protagonist and most definitely the villain.
  • Richard of Gloucester (a.k.a. King Richard III) from William Shakespeare's Richard III is one of the earliest Villain Protagonists.
  • Arnolphe, from The School for Wives (L'école des femmes), is a clear example, although he is usually seen as sympathetic because all his plans are easily thwarted and his villainy stems mostly from his desire to have a loving wife who will not be unfaithful to him.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character kills everyone who comes into his barbershop and has them baked into meat pies to get rid of the bodies. Mrs. Lovett fits the trope as well.
  • Tamburlaine features as its protagonist a man who mutilates, kills, subjugates, and rapes at any opportunity he gets. He locks up the Ottoman Emperor in a cage and feeds him his wife; he kills one of his own sons for being unwilling to fight; he is driven around in a chariot drawn by deposed kings and emperors. In the end, he burns a Qur'an and dies suddenly.
  • In Used Cars, the salesman protagonists lie, cheat, and steal from essentially everyone they meet.
  • Volpone from Ben Jonson's play of the same name is a greedy and lecherous con man; the play's main plot is about him faking being on the edge of death to trick people into giving him gifts in the hopes that he'd name them as his heir.

    Theme Parks 

    Visual Novels 
  • A number of "dark" visual novels of the Hentai variety feature a protagonist who, from the beginning, intends nothing better than to rape and/or enslave as many targets as possible.
  • Atlach=Nacha, where the protagonist Hatsune is a humanitarian Giant Spider who lusts after tender young schoolgirls to replenish her energy and fight Hero Antagonist Shirogane, though she can be played as a Nominal Hero, and Shirogane himself is the true Big Bad who made her that way.
  • Beyond Eden's protagonist Alex Wake is essentially a younger, more emotionally broken Edmund Dantes who doesn't shy away from using rape and blackmail in revenge against those he sees as responsible for his sister's death. The entire VN revolves around uncovering what turned a moral and good child into such a man, and whether the targets of his (misguided) revenge could still get through to him and convince him of the possibility of atonement.
  • In Cooking Companions, it's greatly implied that the protagonist is Baba Yaga, and they have been luring countless guests to their home in order to slowly murder and cannibalize them. This only applies to the main game, as the Chompettes Origins is from the perspective of Ryna/Raspberry.
  • Towards the climax of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it's revealed that all the quirky, but not exactly evil, students are actually dangerous terrorists put in a Lotus-Eater Machine in an attempt to be rehabilitated. In fact, Hajime Hinata, as his alter ego and Junko Enoshima's second-in-command, Izuru Kamukura, is responsible for not just the events of the game, but also the Tragedy that sparked the entire series. By the end, however, all the survivors choose to atone for their actions, and in-game most of them are decent people who don’t act villainously, with the exception of the various culprits.
  • Servant Avenger from Fate/hollow ataraxia, originally the Greater-Scope Villain of the original story, is definitely a Villain Protagonist - he is supposed to be Evil Incarnate, after all. His soul itself is twisted and Always Chaotic Evil, and he actively pursues murder and rape to pass the time. This does not prevent him from becoming a character you can sympathise with, especially after the flashback to his horrific Start of Darkness and some very poignant conversations with other characters. Despite hating humanity, he still shoulders the responsibility that was forced onto him - to bear every sin ever committed and will be committed by a human and forever serve as a twisted 'champion' of humanity. The ending is complete with a Tear Jerking Heroic Sacrifice.
    "Even if humanity is worthless, the history that has been laid down until now has meaning.
    (...) It is not a sin to exist."
  • Deconstructed with Keisuke Takato from Euphoria. At first glance, he's an Ordinary High-School Student, but he's bottling up some rather serious sadistic tendencies when it comes to sex. The thing is, he knows that these tendencies are socially unacceptable and wasn't planning on acting on them - too bad he's been thrown into a Deadly Game in which everyone's survival rests entirely on him succumbing to his violent urges. Your choices decide whether he changes for the better... or the worse.
  • Never 7 attempts to subvert traditional visual novel dating sim storytelling by placing the player in the shoes of the character who would typically be considered The Rival. Although Makoto begins the game as simply a lazy womanizer, over the course of the game he ends up assaulting a small dog, grooming a child to date him, lashing out in anger whenever events don't go his way, fantasizing about breaking all of the bones of a middle schooler, and even attacking fellow main characters who attempt to explain to him what's really been going on behind the scenes of the game.
  • About halfway through Saya no Uta, it’s revealed that the protagonist Fuminori Sakisaka and female lead Saya are an insane, cannibalistic killer and an amoral Eldritch Abomination, respectively. Although Fuminori doesn't start out that way, only becoming evil if he chooses to stay with her at the first branching point and crosses the Moral Event Horizon, and they're both sympathetic.
  • Umineko: When They Cry loves to play with this trope, at least in-universe. Namely, in the 5th Arc, Battler become the Endless Sorcerer while a Mary Sue of Bernkastel's creation takes up the in-universe 'protagonist' role. (That is, has a reliable perspective.) In reality, though, no face heels or heel faces occur. The 'protagonist' role simply gets taken over by the two most evil characters in the series while they force the good guys into the 'antagonist' role.
  • In Swan Song one of the protagonists slowly becomes this throughout the story. That being, Takuma, who has a righteous fall from grace after being betrayed numerous times throughout the story. Ultimately becoming the Big Bad by the end of the story.

    Web Animation 
  • The Annoying Orange: Orange is a Psychopathic Manchild who often laughs at the brutal deaths of the foods he comes across, makes his friends (especially Pear) the butt of jokes, obsesses over explosives, and makes sadistic jokes at others' expense. That being said, he is much nicer in the Cartoon Network series (not that it says much).
  • Counterspell: Black Mage and Bruiser are both bosses who were supposed to fight the heroes to the death only to run away and cause chaos outside of their zone.
  • The title character of Felix Colgrave's Double King is a strange little creature who spends the whole cartoon running around, killing other rulers and stealing their kingdoms, all so he can wear their crowns.
  • The main cast of Eddsworld counts, due to their violent, but affable behavior, but mostly Tom and Tord fall into this.
  • The title character of Father Tucker is a Pedophile Priest who has gotten away with his actions due to forcing his victims into keeping quiet by claiming they'll go to Hell if they squeal on him and none of the adults suspecting anything wrong.
  • GEOWeasel focuses on The Big Weas, whose goal is to take over the world, though he is not seen doing much to that end.
  • The webseries Gotham Girls stars four of Batman's most prominent supporting ladies. One of them is the vigilante superhero Batgirl... and the other three are jewel thief Catwoman, eco-terrorist Poison Ivy and supporting henchgirl Harley Quinn. Their shenanigans can be entertaining, but they never let up with the thievery and crime.
  • Happy Tree Friends:
    • While Lumpy is usually portrayed as well-meaning but extremely stupid, there are some episodes where he is instead portrayed as this, such as "We're Scrooged" where he murders Toothy for the sake of selling his body parts, "Banjo Frenzy" when he goes on a killing spree because nobody liked his song, and "All in Vein" when he's a vampire, and not the friendly kind.
    • Lifty and Shifty are the focus of most episodes where they appear. They also swindle and steal from the other characters on a regular basis, often knowingly killing the victim in the process.
    • While Splendid is usually just a Heroic Comedic Sociopath, he's this full-on in his one appearance in "Ka-Pow!" when he starts a fight with Splendont which destroys half the town and kills countless people just because Splendont wouldn't shake his hand.
    • While Flippy isn't a villain to start with (most of the time), his Superpowered Evil Side usually takes over midway through most episodes focusing on him.
  • Helluva Boss: Blitzo, Moxxie, Millie, and Loona are the main protagonists in this series. As demons working in an agency in Hell that specializes in assassination and who regularly kill living humans at the request of dead sinners, they are far from good guys.
  • Llamas with Hats: Carl is an Axe-Crazy psychopath who slaughters crews ships, nukes cities, mutilates babies to steal their hands, and eventually goes on to end all life on Earth.
  • The Most Epic Story Ever Told in All of Human History: Ridiculously Epic, the Big Bad, takes center stage and is more or less the main protagonist of episodes 2 and 7, “Ten Steps to Saving the World that Totally Won’t Work” and “The Most Epic Supervillain Origin Story”, respectively. He is just as evil as usual during these episodes.
  • Mystery Skulls Animated: "Ghost" and "Freaking Out" feature the powerful vengeful ghost Lewis as a major focus; the former song is from his perspective, and the second part of the latter video is devoted mostly to him resolving to find Vivi and get Revenge on Arthur.
  • In the prequel segments of Red vs. Blue, the Freelancers fall in this category... but they're not portrayed as bad guys, just as guys being told the bad things they're doing are actually for good reasons.
  • Many Youtube Poop and GoAnimate protagonists will murder, rape, and do all kinds of horrific things for little to no reason.
  • In two shows created by Mark Cope and Carlos Moss: Mackenzie Zales from The Most Popular Girls in School and Dr. Havoc from Dr. Havoc's Diary. While the former often succeeds in her plans, the latter doesn't.

  • Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater. Actually, every main character that isn't White Mage is not someone you'd want to share a bus ride with (and she's not that nice either). Strangely enough, Garland (the main "villain") is the next friendliest character. Fighter is mostly just played as being way too stupid to understand morality above a kindergarten level.
  • The Antagonist, which follows a villain after he fails. K, the Antagonist, is largely Affably Evil. He frequently talks to the readers, an act which confuses everyone around him, sounding sometimes like the narrator of a book, and he believes his life is ruled by an overreaching "plot".
  • anti-HEROES. The title sums it up, although we should avoid confusion by saying that they're the opposite of heroes (i.e. villains, but sympathetic and fun) NOT Anti Heroes as we know them.
  • Bad Guy High, which is about a school for wannabe supervillains.
  • Although the stakes in the real-life parts of Basic Instructions are not particularly high, the author, Scott Meyer, has said he views his Author Avatar as one of the comic's main villains, since Comic!Scott is an asshole to his fellow employees, his company's clients, his depressed best friend, the list goes on. That being said, Comic!Scott is still shown to be A Lighter Shade of Black than, for example, Mullet Boss.
    The Rant: I’ve said that I consider myself to be the villain of the comic, and the angry customer comics are a good example of why. All he wants is for my company to do the job he paid us to do, and all he gets is abuse.
  • The main protagonist of Baskets of Guts is a three hundred years old lich, who wants to conquer the world with an army of undead. And though for the most of the story he may seem to be funny, reasonable and kind of passive, his intentions are genuine.
  • Beyond the Veil is about a deposed Galactic Emperor resurrected in the stolen body of a hapless (female) explorer. Her plan to regain her throne seems to involve spreading misinformation and fear by unleashing a genetically engineered monster and a henchman who can't remember what order to Rape, Pillage, and Burn on a medieval planet.
  • Every character in Cry 'Havoc' bar Hati is greedy, violent, sadistic, or manipulative. The only defining characteristic the protagonists share is a sense of group loyalty (that may or may not be innate).
  • Darken features a party of evil characters led by Gort, the Lord of Hellfire, who wants to unite the three Artifacts of Hell in order to become a demonic demi-god and rule all of Darken with an iron fist.
  • Every major character in EVIL, except probably Trevor. Not surprising, considering it is set in a university for villains.
  • Dr. Kinesis, and in fact, most of the main characters in Evil Plan. The webcomic is about supervillains, so this trope applies heavily.
  • The Fourth is about Dark Lord Tiberius Skarva IV and his plans to take over the local kingdom.
  • Goblins follows a band of goblins from a role-playing game, usually regarded as low-level adventurer fodder, leading you to expect it would be this. However, the goblins are actually pretty heroic. A couple of straight examples do occur in the series, though, particularly the character of K'Seliss. (K'Seliss is part of a party including a couple of more admirable characters, though; the truly evil characters in the setting are never really used as viewpoint characters.)
  • The stunningly mis-named Angel of The Good Witch, who has a Freudian Excuse, but long since went over the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Asa and Rook of Hotblood!, who — when introduced to us, the audience — are hightailing it away from law inforcement. Rook notes he has a bounty of $800 on his head (a lot of money, for The Wild West).
  • Jerome in Hungry City is an unscrupulous vampire who has no qualms about hunting humans for food, and only the Zombie Apocalypse happening all around him forces him to protect the one human survivor he manages to find, rather than drain her dry right out of the gate.
  • Jared features three main characters who are all varying shades of evil; Jared, Mary and Lilac, as well as some with questionable motives; corrupt police officer Carl and Hat Cat. The good guy is not introduced until the last page of the first arc.
  • The Last Days of Foxhound is as pure an example of this trope as you can find, given that the six lead characters are all the freak mercenary terrorists that Solid Snake must fight in Metal Gear Solid. It's also a subversion. Foxhound might be villains by the time of Metal Gear Solid, but they start out the comic as heroes working for the US government, and remain so right up until the very end, where they become heroes working against The Patriots, Metal Gear's version of the Illuminati.
  • Life and Death while played for laughs, Steve takes his job as Death seriously and murders a lot of people as does his assistant Sally.

    Web Original 
  • 30 Days in Spring: Ryan Rhodes, who has spent his life hurting others and goes on a killing spree when stranded deep in the woods.
  • Muschio in Dive Quest's goal is to "become the Devil" and has no qualms about burning down peaceful villages and assassinating his rivals to get his way.
    Muschio: When I was very young, I asked my mother what I would have grown up to be, if I were not the Prince. She told me, "Muschio. Whatever you desire, that you shall have tenfold. If you want to be a soldier, you will become a general. If you want to be a monk, you shall become pope." I wanted to be a villain. *Beat* And I do not intend to stop until I have become the Devil.
  • Whichever way you look at it in Farce of the Three Kingdoms. Liu Bei, the Designated Hero, is cowardly, hypocritical, and self-centered, and Zhuge Liang is arguably an irredeemable monster. Cao Cao is generally more likable, and frequently Pets The Dog, but he's definitely a paranoid, murderous tyrant. Sun Quan is A Lighter Shade of Grey, but he gets much less focus.
  • Iriana from Ilivais X gradually becomes this. At first, she's mostly freaked out, having narrowly escaped from an eternity of servitude to an empire that half-unwittingly tortured her for more than half of her life. As such, she spends her first week or so taking respite, learning to use the eponymous robot, defending herself, getting in close with Mille, and generally being moderately suspicious but even pitiable at times. But soon she realizes the infinitely destructive power of her robot, and her grudge against the Aztecs and the world in general begins to surface. She begins antagonizing the empires far more adamantly for little reason aside from wanting them destroyed, manipulates and forces people into serving her (especially Mille), and shows an unwillingness to accept things that aren't in her control- and if that doesn't change, she deigns to erase it from existence.
  • In The Iron Teeth, Blacknail frequently murders and steals, and does not even comprehend why any action that doesn't further his or his master's interests might be morally wrong.
  • Unlike most superhero-based Shared Universes, the Metaverse focuses primarily on the villains. And then, a lot of the heroes aren't all that heroic....
  • Migraine has Ken Muntz, a seemingly typical American wanting to earn money to buy a new apartment. It's later revealed that he's a serial killer who kidnaps people, kills them, and sells their flesh on the Black Market so he can use said money to buy said apartment.
  • The version of Billy Mays featured in Nashmetal100's YouTube Poop videos is depicted as a downright Jerkass, being depicted as racist towards black people, Germans, and Mexicans in "The Billy Mays Dating Experience", constantly interrupting Anthony Sullivan's attempt to sell a product in at least two videos of his, and even going as far as to murder Vince Offer.
  • A Practical Guide to Evil: Cat, the protagonist of the series is nominally aligned to Evil (capital E) in order to protect her kingdom from the abuses of Praes. Over time, however, she definitly commits enough atrocities to deserve being called a villain.
  • Michael from The Salvation War. Though the humans are undoubtedly the real heroes of the story, Michael acts as our main viewpoint in Heaven, and has quite sympathetic motivations in wanting to limit the damage done to Heaven when the humans inevitably invade, even as he keeps crossing the Moral Event Horizon to accomplish this.
  • SF Debris portrays Captain Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager in this way — a power-crazed, murderous sadist who is deliberately spreading chaos throughout the Delta Quadrant and has set up a Xanatos Gambit to gain control of the Alpha Quadrant.
  • The Blogfic Soon, I will Rule The World! has one of these. He's a Lich who has come to our world to take it over. He hasn't really crossed the Moral Event Horizon yet, and he's decent to his minions, but does collect protection money from a substantial chunk of the city and did try (and fail) to hypnotize some orphans to mess with his nemesis. Though it is implied (Albeit barely, though the author says that more on that is planned) that he does have a Freudian Excuse.
  • Deconstructed with Rast Racklyn from Tails of Fame. Rast turns to a life of crime in order to get famous, but the story shows that everything he does is horrific, absolutely nothing he does is justified, and he only cares about himself and his ego.
  • Whateley Universe:
    • The story "Mimeographic", featuring the supervillain Mimeo. He's not an amoral street thug. He's an amoral street thug with unstoppable superpowers.
    • Or "It's Good to be the Don", told from the viewpoint of Don Sebastiano.
    • Or the Jobe stories. Or "Razzle Dazzle", told by a supervillain who may have been, among other supervillains, the legendary Cerebrex. It's hard to be sure, since it clearly has an Unreliable Narrator.
    • "The Final Trump" and "The Mark of Miss Scarlet" feature the Harrow family, who are three generations of Affably Evil supervillains, con artists, and dark wizards.
  • In Worm, not only is the protagonist a villain (well, sort of, at firstalthough she later becomes one for sort-of real) but most of the perspectives seen via Interludes are also villainous. Anti-villainy varies greatly.
  • Psycho Gecko is a murderous, insane supervillain protagonist in the Web Serial Novel World Domination in Retrospect. Black Comedy and Bloody Hilarious violence abound.

    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):



Though he originally sought to cure his vampiric curse, Kain's growing contempt for humanity leads him to ultimatly embrace his dark gift and damn the world of Nosgoth by refusing to sacrifice his life to save it.

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Main / VillainProtagonist

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