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

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While similar to Eviler Than Thou, that's when one villain demonstrates their superiority over another villain, usually to prove they're more of a threat. A Darker Shade Of Black is when a villain is shown to be more evil to another villain. The "Oblivion" in Evil Versus Oblivion often fill this role, but sometimes they're just as evil or even shown as more sympathetic than the "Evil". The polar opposite of A Lighter Shade of Black, where a villain is better than another, and like that trope it's often used to determine who should be rooted for or against in Evil vs. Evil situations. When there's a truly heroic figure to compare, it's The Good, the Bad, and the Evil. Related to Sorting Algorithm of Evil.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Akame ga Kill!: The Jaegars serve The Empire, but even the worst of them have a strict moral code, don't indiscriminately kill citizens of the Empire unless they believe they're part of La Résistance. Later on the Wild Hunt is introduced as secondary enforcers of the Empire, who serve to make the Jaegars look good by comparison by being hired psychopaths who will kill and rape innocent citizens out of sadism, and have no care for each other's well-being compared to the genuine sense of camaraderie the Jaegars have for each other. They're so vile Night Raid and the Jaegars team up against them.
  • Dragon Ball sometimes uses this trope in regards to introducing new villains.
    • Dragon Ball Z Namek Arc: Frieza serves as this role to previous Arc Villain Vegeta. While Vegeta is just as interested in conquering the galaxy as Frieza, he has a warrior's pride and is willing to work with the heroes against a common threat. Frieza is even larger scale villain than Vegeta was, and is shown to be far more sadistic and cutthroat. And while Vegeta has Villainous Valor, Frieza is ultimately a coward that tries to kill Goku behind his back even after Goku saved his life.
    • Dragon Ball Z Android Arc: Cell ends up being the final antagonist in the Android arc after Android 17 and 18. Like them, he's a killer android, but while they are delinquents who only plan to kill Goku, Cell is a homicidal android that drains the life of thousands of people with glee, and after becoming perfect wants to kill everyone so he can watch their faces contort in terror. While the twins end up having a Heel–Face Turn, Cell rejects any desire to stop his villainy and dies evil through and through.
    • Dragon Ball Z Majin Buu Arc: The Majin Buu introduced at the start of the arc is a villain that causes random destruction and turns people into candy, however there is a large amount of levity to his actions because of his comical personality, and only does bad things because he doesn't know they're evil. After he has a Heel–Face Turn, a new Arc Villain is introduced in his Superpowered Evil Side Super Buu, who's intentionally cruel and sadistic. He, in turn, is replaced by Kid Buu, who's animalistic and a completely insane force of evil in contrast to "Fat Buu".
  • The plot of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Vento Aureo centers around a bunch of mobsters, who vary in morality. However among the Boss' Special Unit, Cioccolata is meant to stand out as particularly horrible. While ruthless, most of the guard is motivated by cash and try to avoid harming innocent civilians. Cioccolata however is a disturbed sadist and Serial Killer who only joined Passione for the opportunity to torture and murder people, and delights in the mass slaughter of innocent civilians. Everyone in Passione, even the Boss considers him repulsively evil.
  • Pokémon: Cassidy and Butch serve as this and Eviler Than Thou rivals to Jessie, James and Meowth. Both are Pokemon thieves working for Team Rocket, but Jessie and James are shown to care for their own Pokemon, work with or even sympathize with the heroes and have other likable traits. Cassidy and Butch by contrast lack any Affably Evil traits and don't show any care for their Pokemon.
  • Overlord (2012): Ainz is stuck babysitting a bunch of murderous psychopaths (essentially a bunch of Original Characters created by people in full edgelord phase) united only in their unwavering faith and devotion in Ainz as their Physical God and their hatred of humans. Because Ainz still thinks like a human, he's unaware of their more troublesome quirks like Demiurge running a vast vivisection operation on beastmen or Lupusregina interpreting Ainz' orders to guard a human as "don't kill him yourself", even as he's trying to run a kingdom where different races can live in peace.

    Comic Books 

    Fanfiction 
  • Conquest has Anakin Solo, who is a new Emperor and a Well-Intentioned Extremist, along with Admiral Kanos, who is a ruthless and pragmatic military commander, as the villains at the start. However, the final conflict is about Jacen Solo, who is just plain evil, intending to cut the Star Trek galaxy off the Star Wars one (since Anakin is the only one he fears) and rule it on his own. Kanos gives the recently conquered Federation near full autonomy in order to secure their assistance in the fight.
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    Films — Live-Action 

    Literature 
  • Conan the Barbarian: Conan will frequently go from administering well-deserved violence unto a reprehensible example of humanity at the start of a story to punching out Cthulhu by the end.
    • The Phoenix on the Sword: The conspirators attempting to assassinate King Conan and usurp his throne are not nice people, but Evil Sorcerer Thoth-Amon and the demon he summons with his Serpent Ring of Set are so nasty a long-dead adversary of Set is forced to give Conan mystical assistance from beyond the grave (the titular Phoenix) to stop them.
    • Xuthal of the Dusk: Thalis is the primary antagonist for much of the story, intending to sacrifice Conan's Girl of the Week to Thog so she can have Conan all to herself. She's eaten (or something) by Thog, leaving Conan to lay the smackdown upon the "god."
    • The Vale of Lost Women: Conan leads his tribe of warriors to slaughter the tribe they'd come to parley with (who Conan knew full well would betray them the first chance they got) to rescue the fair maiden the other tribe had captured. In a panic, said fair maiden flees into the titular Vale, home to a "Demon of the Outer Dark," which Conan sends packing with his trusty sword.
  • Morganville Vampires features the vampire Amelie and her father Bishop. Amelie as leader of the Morganville vampires can be ruthless and perfectly willing to kill people if it means that vampires are able to survive as she feels its for the good of her people. That said she does everything with the best of intentions and is also genuinely friendly and even views the series heroine Claire Danvers as a surrogate daughter of sorts. In contrast her father, Bishop who is introduced later in the series is a ruthless sociopath who would bring about the extinction of all other vampires but him if it meant he got to rule and is far more prone to violence and bloodshed. Every ounce of politeness or apparently kind thought that comes from Bishop is fake.
  • Downplayed with Roose and Ramsay Bolton in A Song of Ice and Fire. Roose Bolton is a sociopathic lord that starts as the Token Evil Teammate for House Stark, before betraying them in the Red Wedding. While bad, he tries to promote order. His bastard son Ramsay is a wild sadist who openly tortures and kills people, much to his father's frustration. However, Roose is almost sadistic as his son beneath his Mask of Sanity and opposes Ramsay's naked cruelty because it's bad PR rather than any morality. However he does have one distinct standard above Ramsay, that being even he wouldn't kill his own kin despite how Stupid Evil his bastard is, while Ramsay is heavily implied to have murdered his legitimate half-brother to become Roose's heir
  • These Words Are True and Faithful: Ernie, the Villain Protagonist, has standards but sometimes grants himself a dispensation because he lets his heart (or other body parts) rule him. His affair with Danny, who turns out to be an amoral leech, causes him to reconsider what he's done.

    Live Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Tywin Lannister and Gregor "the Mountain" Clegane. The former is a Magnificent Bastard obsessed with keeping his family in power, the latter is a rape-happy Psycho for Hire who kills whoever Tywin tells him to (and then some). When Cersei eventually takes the throne and uses the Mountain (now a Technically Living Zombie) as her bodyguard, she still has a use for his brute strength, but this fails her in the final season when the Mountain disregards her orders and kills his creator in order to fight his brother Sandor.
    • The Night King serves as this in contrast to the rest of the various lords squabbling for power. While many of these lords and nobles are bad people, they're still human beings with relatable or reasonable reasons for what they do. The Night King, by contrast, is a literally inhuman force of nature than only wants to wipe out every living thing, and has zero interest in any of the politics or personal relationships of the rest of Westeros.

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • ''RWBY goes through an escalating series of these:
    • First we have Roman Torchwick, dapper, amusing, and deadly in a fight, but ultimately just a petty crook.
    • Roman soon gets the White Fang working for him, a group of Faunus terrorists lashing out at humanity for generations of prejudice and oppression.
    • And all this is the plan of Cinder Fall , a mysterious and powerful young woman running a ploy to steal the immense mystical power of the Fall Maiden. She succeeds, and uses her new power to kill Ozpin and Pyrrha. The death of Penny and utter destruction of Beacon is just collateral damage on her way to her objective.
    • And then Cinder is revealed to be working for Salem, she who controls the Grimm and may or may not functionally be a goddess of evil.
    • Zig-Zagged with Adam Taurus, implied early on to be the current leader of the White Fang and responsible for their shift from peaceful protest to terrorism. We soon learn he's only the leader of a splinter faction. . . but the bulk of the White Fang agrees with him, and while the actual leader is a Reasonable Authority Figure in comparison to Adam, he shortly and violently removes her from power and brings the White Fang fully under his control.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The first recurring antagonist for Bugs Bunny is Elmer Fudd, going back to 1941's Elmers Pet Rabbit (or 1940's Elmer's Candid Camera, if you regard this rascally rabbit as Bugs Bunny). Elmer, however, seemed too gullible and undeserving of the Karmic Trickster's abuse, so Isadore "Friz" Freleng created six-gun bandit Yosemite Sam in 1945 to trouble Bugs; a deliberate Jerkass who'd deserve to be bested by Bugs. Of course, Sam fared no better than Elmer, so 1953 ushered in the Tasmanian Devil, a Chaotic Neutral whirling dervish with a ravenous appetite.
  • Played for Laughs in Ren & Stimpy: Stimpy ends up causing Ren to undergo a Literal Split Personality between his evil side and indifferent side. The Evil Ren ends up splitting himself to create an army, resulting in the creation of Hideously Evil Ren. This even more evil Ren ends up dodging normal Evil Ren's punches and keeps punching him, before going off to live in Unholy Matrimony together.
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