"I've avoided showing you this form! You'll wish you never crossed Veran, Sorceress of Shadows!"
—Veran, Zelda: Oracle of Ages
(For extra effect, try listening to this while reading this page.)
Classic Big Bads have the tendency, when push comes to shove, to turn into big honking monsters. A mad scientist in a fit of urgency might down his own mutagen, or a cyborg turns his body into a living bomb, or a mild-mannered enemy reveals her terrifying true form. Bets are good they'll become way more bloated, ugly, or plain disfigured. Sometimes this is more subtle, and the character will look perfectly normal (or even attractive) save for a few glaring monstrosities that give them a scary Game Face.
This shows the villain means business and it's time for the heroes to end it. And for those with firmer morals, this qualifies the villain as a monster, making it fine to kill him. (See also Karmic Death.) This is probably why item 34 in the Evil Overlord List says "I will not turn into a snake. It never helps."
Usually accompanied by the stock phrases "No one who has seen me in this form has lived to tell about it!!!", "I have only begun to fight!", or "Now you'll face my true power!"
If there's one final final form after the heroes beat the bad guy, and it loses handily, it was a Clipped-Wing Angel.
Named in honor of Sephiroth, Big Bad of the video game Final Fantasy VII. Video games in general absolutely adore having their final boss do this, even when their original form is scary enough anyway. In fact, it's gotten to be somewhat of an arms race: thanks to the popularity of Frieza in 1991, three-form bosses are now somewhat common, and those games going for "epic" will sometimes go for even more. In JRPGs, particularly, it is rather common to see two stages of One-Winged Angel: the "bizarro" form, that is huge and scary, and the "angel" form, that is winged, eeriely beautiful and accompanied by Ominous Latin Chanting (the original One Winged Angel, Sephiroth, is the codifier of this subtrope). Once beaten, or on becoming even more powerful, the villain may cross the Bishonen Line and into safer territory for an Evil Makeover to work its magic (though it's a huge case of Tropes Are Not Bad; as much as it's used, you'd be hard pressed to complain when they turn into something fucking awesome).
Sometimes you never even fight their human form at all and they immediately turn into a monster. Can count as The Unfought if they showed fighting ability in their human form. This is more popular among minor video game villains who will often transform into tougher versions of earlier monsters like in the Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy games, as it takes time to create a unique battle sprite for them.
Interestingly, heroes, particularly transforming characters, have been known to use this "turn into a big scary monster" tactic as well. It's extremely rare for it not to cross into Super-Powered Evil Side territory.
Sadly, this transformation can often be anti-climactic, as it telegraphs to the audience that the villain will most likely face his final defeat soon. Outside of video games, it is quite rare for a bad guy to invoke this trope and actually WIN. This might be because the less human a character looks, the more "acceptable" it is to kill them.
Scaled Up and Make My Monster Grow are major subtropes. See also I Am Not Left-Handed, Evil Makes You Monstrous and Shapeshifter Showdown. Compare Emergency Transformation, Came Back Wrong, and Not Even Human. One subversion is to make it a Clipped-Wing Angel.
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- Okay, named in honor of his theme music, as he has in fact seven wings, but just one in place of an arm.