Evil Is Stylish

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue."

Evil may be cool, but it's also dumb. Bad guys in general refuse to take the most sensible, direct route to their goals, and go about doing (why sugarcoat it?) pretty idiotic things that heroes can exploit, or worse, sabotage themselves.

This really is an indefensible character flaw of the villains, usually used by writers to make sure the not that much smarter good guys win. Really, if someone Cut Lex Luthor a Check everyone would be so much better off...

Except... Evil Is Stylish. Sure, the Joker has had more than one opportunity to simply shoot Batman and kill him... but where's the art in that? The Riddler could easily get away with any one of his crimes if he didn't leave clues... but it's just so much fun to taunt the police and assorted heroes with everything they need to stop him and finding them unable to (he's also got an obsessive mental condition).

While many villains have evolved into more pragmatic methods, the true arch-villains, the ones that make the paper and are most memorable, are the ones that make Evil Stylish. They'll pattern their crimes to follow their own theme, leave clues, and insist on ethical standards and being oddly gentlemanly about it all. Somehow, perhaps in spite of these theatrical methods and knowingly imposing these limitations on themselves, these villains are more formidable for it, proving that even left handed they can force heroes to dance to their tune if they want to save Gotham. Plus, following this self imposed villainous code sometimes affords them a degree of Karmic Protection that goes a long way towards justifying Joker Immunity.

So what if they get foiled? They'll still have funds from a successful Plan B. Those upstart new villains who Trash Talk about being so much more effective? They still have a similar (or worse!) success rate as these theme villains, and none of the pizzaz to show for it. In fact, these old school black hats may even mock, advise against, or foil such Genre Savvy villains for daring to try these uninspired tactics... especially if it looks like they'll work.

It might even reach the point that villains will admire each other's evilness.

From a more authorial perspective, this also makes for a better story on many levels. Kids will enjoy reading about Batman's clever detective skills, and enjoy the inevitable foiling to follow. While more mature audiences can appreciate villains purposely giving into or trying to resist their Chronic Villainy.

Compare Contractual Genre Blindness, Sanity Has Advantages. Caused by and results in Jerkass Dissonance. Related to Combat Aestheticist. See also Stock Evil Overlord Tactics. Contrast No-Nonsense Nemesis and Industrialized Evil.

Not to be confused with Villainous Fashion Sense or Man of Wealth and Taste.

Examples of Evil Is Stylish include:

Comic Books

  • Batman's Rogues Gallery is almost entirely composed of theme villains. Joker makes joke based crimes, Riddler leaves riddles at his, and Catwoman has a penchant for cat based valuables.
    • Though the Riddler has actually tried to kick the habit of leaving riddles, and found himself unable to. It turns out that its an obsessive compulsion based on a need to prove that he is genuinely responsible for the crimes.
      • In fact this has led recently to a case of Cut Lex Luthor a Check, as the Riddler has reformed and become a private detective rather than a supervillain.
    • ...and Catwoman has since evolved to be more of an expert thief and vigilante. But generally this trope still stands.
  • This trope ended a partnership between Carnage and The Joker in a Spider-Man/Batman crossover; The Joker's creativity didn't act quickly enough for Carnage's tastes.
    • Joker probably should have teamed up with the Green Goblin, who fits this trope as well.
  • Bullseye could probably kill people just fine with a regular gun, but he prefers to use different kinds of items with his incredible aiming skills. When he was posing as Hawkeye in Dark Avengers, he wasn't to happy with Norman Osborn limiting him to only using a bow and arrow.
    • A mini-series starring Bullseye goes into detail about this. He was ecstatic when he finally killed Elektra, and is constantly looking for a way to get the same rush, with no success. He keeps on taking assignments harder and more impossible than the last simply for the thrill of it.
  • Morlun, before setting out to hunt his next meal, took the time to have a stylish outfit tailored for himself.


  • Any Bond villain worth his or her salt would marry this trope if they could. After all, why hide your headquarters in a boring industrial park in Cleveland when you could weaponize an oil rig? Or a volcano lair? Or an ice palace?. Of course, ususally this trope ends up being their downfall... but damn, it looks awesome in the meantime!
  • Megamind: "Do you know what the difference is between a villain and a supervillain? Presentation!"
  • Most Sith lords flirt with this trope, particularly Darth Vader, Count Dooku and Emperor Palpatine. Vader's cloak may serve no purpose on a life-support system, but he knows how to pull it off.
    • The handle of Count Dooku's lightsabre was specially designed(on the request of real life Badass Grandpa Christopher Lee no less) so as to make swordfighting easier and more graceful.
    • Also the uniforms of all imperial officers. The similarity to German Wehrmacht and SS uniforms is completely intentional.


  • The Assassin's Guild in Discworld simply hates coming across as... inelegant. It's part of the job description, after all, a man with a crossbow killing someone for money is just a thug if he doesn't do it with class.
    • Teatime from Hogfather acts like this, albeit in a very creepy, childish manner.
    • This is the reason Sam Vimes is able to foil repeated assassination attempts from the Guild. They always attack him at home or the office, never out in the street ("what, like some common murderer?"), and they always wear full black, which while cool, is fairly impractical for nighttime stealth (as anyone trained in camo knows, mottled grays or dark greens are better, black just outlines you). Vimes' home and office are riddled with cunning booby traps, and Vimes himself has no compunctions about fighting dirty.
  • Subverted by Katham-Shud in Haroun and the Sea of Stories. As the evil enemy of stories and imagination, he himself is a very skinny, weaselly, boring-looking clerk. He even transforms into a massive Eldritch Abomination style One-Winged Angel form...only to change right back and point out that looking so awesome is against his evil philosophy.

Live-Action TV

  • While the Go'auld of Stargate SG 1 attempted to be this, they came off as just a bunch of Large Hams what were Too Dumb to Live. Ba'al, on the other hand, actually was this. In the DVD movie Stargate: Continuum he had the means to crush the Earth to dust a hundred times over but he wanted to conquer the Earth by inviting the US President to tea. When the other Go'auld simply wanted to bomb the planet, he mocked their lack of style, saying "You're all so stuck in your ways." You could seriously sometimes forget that you're not supposed to root for him.
  • The Master of Doctor Who. He ticks off just about every evil style trope. There's cigars, brandy, smart black suits (occasionally fashioned from black velvet or silk), limousines, using charm and sex to get what he wants (and that's before the hypnotism starts), and much more besides. Oh, and he constructs entire, labyrinthine worlds to trap the Doctor in, builds badass aircraft carriers in the sky and likes to pose as a deity. He haz ze bearing of a gott.
  • Nevel on iCarly, to fit with his Camp Gay mannerisms.
  • Some of the UnSubs of Criminal Minds are pathologically stylish. The one that comes to mind first would be the Fisher King, who for some reason decided to send the protagonists on a King Arthur-themed scavenger hunt to catch him and save his victim who was also his daughter.
  • Angelus.[who?] Snappy dresser, charming, handsome, prefers a more poetic approach to trying to kill Buffy.
  • As with most things on Todd & The Book of Pure Evil, the (main) Big Bad subverts/inverts this trope. He's a high school guidance counsellor...with a taste for sweater vests.

Video Games

  • The help files in Evil Genius frequently talk about how to be a stylish Diabolical Mastermind.
  • Gilgamesh in Fate/stay night shows up, effortlessly kills Caster, deflects Ilya's best attack and sneers at everyone but declines to kill them because he thinks Shirou's house is too shabby for a battle. He also refuses to kill Shirou and Tohsaka later because the house is burning down, which might make his clothes dirty. Gasp! He acts like this throughout the game and only goes straight for a kill in Heavens Feel because he's pissed about someone taking away his stuff as in, Sakura is eating the townspeople. Oh, and it doesn't work, clearly because he discarded his style. Nevertheless, he's the most dangerous Servant around even though he is by no means the strongest or most skilled.
    • Actually he is repeatedly stated to be the strongest servant (he has copies of all the legendary weapons the others yield plus unique ones) and is only defeated because he failed to use his full strength off the bat due to wanting to toy with opponents or not considering them worthy of his exertion.
  • This is the point of the Execution Styles in The Godfather: The Game. Any two-bit mobster can just fill his enemies with hot lead from a Tommygun, and it is not much more creative to surgically ventilate brainpans, but the game awards you more Respect points for killing someone in more stylish manners, like garroting them or tossing them off a ledge. It gets Awesome but Impractical with some, though, like the Traffic Accident or Overcooked ones.
  • Ram Total Overdose is undercover as a criminal, which is highly convenient for him because was already a criminal, and crazier than most the bad guys he's fighting as a result of his brother's Fight Fire With Fire gambit. The game awards style points for kills and kill combos, and the point quota increases in later missions, so it becomes more important to make beautiful kills. Sure, you could sweep a roomful of mooks with a shotgun or submachine gun and carry on. But leaping backward directly into the crowd, spinning 360 degrees in air, and headshooting them all before hitting the ground will net you more points than you need for the entire run.
  • Invoked and subverted in Devil May Cry. Dante, our exceptionally stylish hero, is half devil.
  • Carmen Sandiego, isn't the worlds greatest thief for the profit, she just wants the thrill of stealing the unstealable, and seeing if the detectives on her trail can figure out the clues she leaves behind.
  • The Evil Ones / Black Knights from Ogre Battle - March of the Black Queen, with that fancy helmet and the cape that swooshes out on a breeze no one else can feel... Not to mention the completely unnecessary (but so very classy) three-point-spin on their melee attack.

Web Comics


Jeff: A real evil villain kills without remorse!
Galgarion: No, Jeffy, no, no, no. A real evil villain kills with style.

  • Order of the Stick: Xykon embodies this trope, having once killed dozens of paladins using a bouncing ball. He also sums up his philosophy quite well in the prequel book "Start of Darkness":

Xykon: And now I see that planning doesn't matter. Strategy doesn't matter. Only two things matter: Force in as great a concentration as you can muster, and style. And in a pinch, style can slide.

    • His most stylishly evil move: killing a man to get his trademarked crown. Not because it was a powerful magical item, but because it looked badass.
    • His stylishness is actually Justified quite well, as an epic level sorcerer, he has to have a massive charisma score, it's probably in the 30s if he's been using all available bonuses.
      • He is also a lich, meaning that he needs Charisma for normaly Constitution-based checks.
    • Nale seems to live by this philosophy, but he's no Xykon so all it does is make him ineffective.
  • In Sinfest, Satan urges that he sin with style.

Web Original

  • The eponymous Dr. Horrible of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog feels that "killing is beneath him", and, as a result, uses non-lethal weapons such as the freeze ray. At first, anyway...

Western Animation

  • Batman: The Animated Series has a memorable episode where Harley Quinn manages to make one of the Joker's theme schemes to kill Batman work. However, Batman manages to foil the improved and foolproof scheme by getting Harley to phone Joker to come see his death and impress him... but the Joker's huge ego would not let anyone but him kill Bats, this in spite of it being a worthy death. Just goes to show that Stylish evil can and does work... but Pride'll get ya every time.
  • The Affably Evil Señor Senior, Senior in Kim Possible insist on sticking to code of classic villainy on principle, even if it lets Kim get away and foil his crimes. Then again, considering for him this is an elaborate retirement hobby, it entirely fits that he wants to play by the rules to have fun rather than to succeed.
  • Ratigan of The Great Mouse Detective loves being a Diabolical Mastermind, and tries his hardest to do it with style. He muses on the Death Trap he sets like an artist showing off their magnum opus: "You have no idea what a delightful dilemma it was, trying to decide on the most appropriate method for your demise. I had so many ingenious ideas, I didn't know which to choose! So, I decided... to use them all! Marvelous, isn't it?"
  • Megamind. Oh so much.

Megamind: Oh, you're a villain all right, just not a super one!
Titan: What's the difference?
Megamind: Presentation!


Real Life

  • Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, AKA Caligula. He raped his sister, declared himself a god, and built a two-mile long floating bridge which he then rode across, in Alexander the Great's armor, on a horse.
  • In an almost literal example, the still famous company of fashion designer Hugo Boss was also a supporter of the Nazi party and manufactured the infamous black SS uniforms. Synonymous with heartless, brutal totalitarianism, but damn if they don't look spiffy. The uniform frequently shows up in manga and anime, usually in situations where it is completely out of place, to the point where the artists seem to not have the slightest clue who actually wore them. But who cares? They just look damn stylish!