Dystopia Justifies the Means

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"I want to be president because I hate you. I want to fuck with you."
Gary 'the Smiler' Callahan addresses the American people

The third, final, and most despicable trope in the unholy trinity of villainous objectives, Dystopia Justifies The Means is where the goal of the Big Bad is nothing less than the deliberate creation of a Crapsack World, a land, planet, universe or multiverse of perpetual misery and suffering, or some other form of evil.

The villains out to achieve this are usually Complete Monsters of the worst sort, ones who have flown well beyond the Moral Event Horizon long ago. It can occasionally overlap with Utopia Justifies the Means; in such cases, the deluded villain has an idea of a better world that the majority regard as Nightmare Fuel. In general, however, this trope refers to characters who wish to create a Dystopia and have no illusions or expectations that people will be happier or better off under it, and in fact would absolutely enjoy it if people are neither happy nor better off under it.

Contrast with Despotism Justifies the Means, which is where the villain seeks to establish his dominance by any means necessary; thus, they may create a hellish dystopia, but, unless they genuinely prefer that type of world, it exists only to keep the populace down, not as an end in itself. This type of villain will not be satisfied just with obtaining ultimate power; they will desire to use that power towards a particularly vile end - to remake the world into a place of suffering for its own sake.

The following villainous characters have sought to bring about dystopia for its own sake:

Media in General

Comic Books

  • Darkseid's ultimate goal is use the Anti-Life equation to rob everyone in the universe of happiness and free will, turning them into nihilistic, despairful mind-slaves whose only purpose in life will be to worship him. Apokolips itself is a kind of hellish space-age Greco-Roman world where the majority of the populace exist as slaves working to build a neverending supply of monuments to him; on the rare occasions when they rebel, Darkseid simply makes those slaves the new slavemasters and due to a lifetime of conditioning they are just as petty and cruel as their predecessors. This is combined with Despotism Justifies the Means, since he wants nothing more or less but total control, though he has a pathological need to make everyone suffer once he gets it. Essentially, he wants to break the spirit of every living thing in Creation and make himself their new God.
  • Marvel Comics has Dormammu, the immortal and unstoppable monotheistic god-tyrant of the mystical "Dark Dimension", worshipped as a deity in thousands of other universes, something worse than a demon, older and far more powerful than any elder god, possessor of sufficient might to have defeated cosmic entities such as the Phoenix Force or Eternity in personal combat, able to rewrite entire universes, and creator of kings of hell of the highest order, with the ultimate goal of slaughtering any rival higher powers, assume control of all life and afterlife, and turn both into an inescapable neverending torture camp from birth to death and anything beyond. Arch Enemy of Doctor Strange, and the first classic Dimension Lord. Arguably the most genuinely terrifying absolutely evil recurring villain in the Marvel roster. Think Darkseid taken to a much higher scaled ultimate extreme. Some of his plots stretching billions of years before coming to fruition, but luckily he's usually extremely arrogant and not a particularly inventive schemer. Then again he doesn't need to be, as he is one of the most powerful known EldritchAbominations in existence.
  • Apocalypse. His ideal society is a bombed-out radioactive wasteland littered with genocide camps and Nazi-style genetic experimentation labs. Think Benito Mussolini on crack. As the ultimate Social Darwinist, this world exists to weed out the weak and force the strong to earn their right to life by virtue of learning to survive and prosper on what is essentially a Death World.
  • The Red Skull. His ideal world varies between a violent Police State and a lawless, chaotic hellhole; in either case he believes that the strong could and should brutalise the weak, commits mass murder on a regular basis , and demands absolute power which he wants to use primarily to oppress and torture people, not simply power for its own sake. And he enjoys it, every minute of it.
  • Thanos, when he lords over all of creation, rather than trying to destroy it or is played as a Villain Protagonist.
  • Mister Dark
  • The Smiler, Big Bad of Transmetropolitan, openly admits to running for President so that he can mess around with America until bits start falling off. He gets his wish. The results aren't pretty.

Fan Fiction

  • The Legend of Spyro: Zonoya's Revenge incarnation of Malefor gets this as his ultimate goal after deciding that instead of destroying the world as he originally intended, he will conquer it. We see an Imagine Spot that gives us just a tiny taste of what he intends. That being Spyro's family and friends chained up and suffering horrifically, including the children. Malefor states that all (especially Spyro's friends and family) will be given over to his every whim. Considering this is a guy with a history of Mind Rape (and is implied to have sexually and physically abused Zonoya) and sadism, that is a very terrifying thought.

Films -- Live-Action

  • The Joker in The Dark Knight, who wishes to create a "world without rules" (or, as Alfred puts it, "watch the world burn"). He believes that, deep down, everyone is just as rotten and evil as he is, and he intends to rip away the "facade" of do-goodiness and create a world where, essentially, everyone acts like a violent criminal.
    • Interestingly enough, it almost seems like he's lonely; he can't be like the others, so instead he tries turning others more like himself.
  • According to The Essential Guide to Warfare, Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Motti's main motivations in A New Hope were wanting to have the galaxy ruled with fear, feeling that the navy maintaining the galaxy through beliefs such as stability and order has run its course.


Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games


  • Ganondorf, a desert bandit and Evil Sorceror who wishes to conquer the magical land of Hyrule, which he coveted because of the harsh environment he grew up in. Which doesn't mean he doesn't intend to turn it into a Mordor, in reflection of his cruel and sadistic personality.
  • Dr. Weil from the Mega Man Zero series. Upon becoming the ruler of Neo Arcadia, he strives upon bringing suffering and despair to its citizens with his iron-fist rule, to take revenge on them because of what they've done to him.[1]
  • Colonel Vindel Mauser from Super Robot Wars Advance believed that dystopia would prevent humanity from becoming complacent and corrupt, as well as making rapid advances in technology.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, this is what Caesar hopes to make. In his eyes, it'll be a world where raiders are exterminated, people are made stronger by the abolishing of medicine and non-destructive technology and his soldiers are united to be fanatically loyal to him. Also, women are now breeding stock at best. Even worse if Lanius succeeds him and rules Vegas, where he plans to "break the weak" with violence and wage war with towns and factions that even Caesar would have just left alone.
    • Father Elijah is even worse. His plan, if you let him succeed in it, results in the deaths of 90% pf the Mojave, and the enslavement of the rest. The remaining population are permanently binded to his service via Explosive Leash, invincible laser shooting holograms kill anyone who comes near, and a poisonous cloud of gas covers the area, rendering much of it unlivable. Elijah and the Courier stay inside the Sierra Madre Casnino, waiting for the world to begin again.
  • Darkrai from Pokémon Mystery Dungeon Explorers is a rare case of a villain managing to pull this off... until Grovyle and the player character travel back in time and stop time to stop time from stopping, without knowing that said villain even exists. (Wait, WHAT?)
  • Several Final Fantasy villains are like this, but the most notable one is Kefka Palazzo from Final Fantasy VI: He deliberately intended to ruin the world and leave it into a burning crisp by reviving the Warring Triad and then having them unleash their full power, as well as move the statues out of balance, resulting in millions of deaths. What's worse, even after that, he decides to blow up any remaining pockets of civilization with the Light of Judgment, as well as orphaning the children of at least one town (Mobliz), and it is heavily implied that he does these things solely for his amusement. Heck, its not even the first time that he did this: He also infamously committed what amounts to mass genocide against the Domans by poisoning their river supply, even when the Empire was going to win anyways with little casualties, and he has Thamasa burned to the ground after invading it to acquire the Espers the few times he was actually given command over a major operation. To put it in perspective, several villains who intended to commence this sort of goal (eg, The Emperor) actually voiced disgust towards Kefka's actions at least once in the Dissidia subseries.

Western Animation

  1. they put him in a suit that could regenerate him, prevented him from aging and dying, and they also converted his memories into data, and then he's left into exile in the barren wasteland he made himself from the events of Elf Wars