Punch Clock Villain

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There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal, kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do.

Like a mercenary, but with none of the Badass.

These are characters who have no real grudge against the heroes, but are simply doing a job they're getting paid for. After hours, they're totally personable joes who go hang out like anyone else. Most Punch Clock Villains are not even particularly mean.

Used to be an odd device but has become increasingly frequent due to the popularity of superhero parody, where minions are portrayed as sympathetic employees for unreasonable bosses. In addition, nearly all anime featuring a comedic villain usually has these, who are frequently cute characters.

Conversely if played seriously, the emotional detachment that the Punch Clock Villain displays when he or she knowingly contributes to various atrocities can be chilling, and audiences may see them as a Complete Monster. Depending on the nature of the story this trope can make a villain either more relatable to audience or more hateful.

Many Punch Clock Villains may execute a Heel Face Turn at the very, VERY end of the film.

If they'd rather Pet the Dog, they might be a Minion with an F In Evil; if they got into evil because the superhero team fired them for misbehavior, they may be a Hero with an F In Good.

Related to Villains Out Shopping and Good All Along. Compare Obstructive Bureaucrat. The opposite of Visionary Villain. For the Anti-Hero version, see Punch Clock Hero. Not at all related to villains who love their clocks, or to villains who punch their clock.

Examples of Punch Clock Villain include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Subverted: Mana Tatsumiya, the gun-wielding mercenary shrine maiden from Mahou Sensei Negima, only pretends to be a Punch Clock Villain; in actual fact, she joined up with the antagonists during a particular story arc because she truly believes in their cause. Of course, she's still getting paid.
    • Canis Niger (the gang of bounty hunters that Negi kicked the crap out of), however, truly qualify. A dozen or so chapters after Negi wrecks them, he runs into them in the bath house, where they promptly reassure him that they won't hurt him unless someone pays them to. The worst that they do is a lot of Skinship Grope, courtesy of their female member. Remember the perverted tentacle guy? It's not a guy. But she still really loves boobies.
    • Tsukuyomi actually starts as one, leaving the battlefield as soon as she earns her pay and acting rather polite even when fighting. But the Magic World arc starts, and we see her taking a Nightmare Fuel-ish shift towards Psycho Lesbian or, better said, Depraved Bisexual...
    • Also: Demons. Even the one who turned Negi's village to stone is implied to not have done it out of his own will. Or at least to have gotten no pleasure from it.
  • Saiyuki's Kougaiji and his entourage. They're under orders to kill the main character and take his sutra, but when they haven't specifically been sent after him, they're known to ignore his presence in the area completely or even help him. These ones are quite Affably Evil, and when the two groups do fight, they usually have fun doing it.
  • Tsujido, Makabe, and Niihari from Speed Grapher are not particularly evil, and are only villains because of their personal loyalty to Suitengu, whom they owe their lives to.
  • Sergei Wang from Mai-Otome is a personable Joe when he's not on the clock. He just happens to work for his much-more-evil leader in order to do what he thinks is best for his country. However, his loyalty to his adoptive daughter Nina trumps that of his boss, and he almost gets killed trying to subvert Nagi's Evil Plan.
  • In the GetBackers manga, Gouzou "Mr. No-Brakes" Maguruma is somewhere between this and True Neutral. He's the only character who has no problems with Kuroudo "Doctor Jackal" Akabane and Ryuudo "Undead" Hishiki, the former being someone the eponymous heroes can work with if absolutely necessary, but the latter the only opponent they go out of their way to avoid. Someone usually hires him to transport the item someone else hired Ban and Ginji to get back, but he's perfectly willing to loan them his taxi or give them a lift if they ask for it. Ginji reacts with his "happy fans" whenever they see him.
  • Florsheim in Tentai Senshi Sunred are completely this trope. Sunred himself is a bit of a jerk, so the group has to work around their Monster of the Week's work schedules, see when a good time to schedule a fight with Sunred is, and still talk about life on the side.
  • In the fourth Sailor Moon anime season, the Amazon Trio, Quirky Miniboss Squad of the Dead Moon Circus, always lounge around their own personal bar between evildoing, drinking, talking about various things, complaining about the stress of their jobs, and generally regarding their villainy as a bothersome intrusion to their circus performing. Their successors, the Amazon Quartet, are a strange subversion....unlike the Trio, they do truly care about the mission to capture Pegasus; however, it's not for the same reason as their boss....they just want to ride it.
  • Most of the Siberian Railroad from Overman King Gainer, Jaboli, Kajinan, and Enge in particular are usually obsessed with getting promoted for a higher pay.
  • Porco Rosso has a whole set of these. In fact, every single one of the seaplane pirates that form the closest thing to antagonists that the first half of the movie has is very much a Punch Clock Villain. They all put on a tough show of hating "that stinkin' pig", but as a collective, they're about as evil as a box of kittens and are pretty much just out to make a quick buck.
  • Most incarnations of Pluto from Astro Boy. He has zero enthusiasm for his work, or anything else for that matter, because he was only programmed to follow his master's directions.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler has a team of three Yakuza enforcers, who, in the first chapter, attempt to capture Hayate to sell his organs and cover his parents' debt. They later meet again after Nagi has squared his debt. The lead yakuza explains that he was just doing his job and admits that he actually likes people like Hayate, lament what terrible parents he has, and are even about to buy him lunch when they are interrupted.
  • Lord Frieza's army, most notably the Ginyu Force, from Dragonball Z.
  • The World of Narue has a team of gynoids who are only "villains" because they follow orders. Then they start disobeying orders because they realize they like the protagonists.
  • Goshuushou-sama Ninomiya-kun has a squad of generic military personnel who threaten the cast around episode 6. In one scene, a soldier who was hunting down Mayu helps her out of a trap she fell into, and has a friendly conversation with her before she trips another trap that knocks him out. Of course, in contrast, similar soldiers were brutalizing a captive Shungo just two scenes before that.
  • Gunslinger Girl has Bruno, who works for the Padania by disposing the bodies they rack up. He mentions at some point that ideals are nice, but they don't feed your family.
  • The Dragons of Earth in X 1999 are not particularly evil after hours, they just happen to be on the opposite side of the Dragons of Heaven. Their goal is one of Well Intentioned Extremism.
  • In Code Geass, the Knights of the Round are all Punch Clock Villains, except for Number Ten, who is a sadistic psychopath. They have no motivations for what they do (with the exception of Suzaku and Bismarck) other than that it's their job and they're good at it.
  • Almost everyone on every single side in Darker than Black. Most of the rest are either well intentioned extremists or misinformed. Well, except Wei. And later, Genma.
  • "Pokémon only do bad things because Master bad."—Ekans (with Koffing), the original Pokémon of Jessie and James of Team Rocket.
    • Jessie and James themselves sometimes go back and forth between this and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain. Some episodes, they seem to simply take the day off to work side jobs like selling food. They usually stop stealing when Jessie enters a Pokémon Contest.
  • Vice Commander Renee in Innocent Venus is a Punch Clock Villain, which predictably leads to a Heel Face Turn, of course.
  • Oh boy, Gun X Sword's villain group runs on this. So, if they're not planning for a Utopia, they're like a normal family, with The Claw as the 'kind father', Carossa & Melissa as normal twin kids, Fasalina as their Cool Big Sis, Michael as the new 'adopted son' who's trying to fit in (much to Carossa's chagrin), and maybe Gadved as their uncle. For some reason, Woo prefers to be left out.
  • In D.Gray-man, Tyki would sometimes rather slack off and play poker than work on missions from the Earl. When he's off duty and in his ordinary form, he's a nice guy, even to enemies.
  • Arguably, Sloth from the manga version of Fullmetal Alchemist. If it wasn't for the fact that he was created by Father, and is threatened with his siblings' wrath (pun not intended), he wouldn't be even bothered with digging a tunnel around Amestris in the shape of an alchemist's circle, for, well, obvious reasons.
    • A good chunk of the Amestris military also qualifies, because, despite the repeated atrocities through-out the country's history like the Ishbalan genocide, the manga shows that they are just ordinary people following orders. Heck, one of the manga's themes is the fact that good, normal people can still do horrible things.
      • The chimera working for Kimblee stand out in my mind, since they weren't really so bad after all.
  • Some members of Baroque Works in One Piece, most notably Mr.2 Bon Kurei. He easily befriended the protagonists before he knew they were his enemies, but later fought them with all he had because it was his job. After his organization fell apart, he allowed himself to be caught to help the protagonists escape.
    • Sure, Mr. 2 is notable...But what about Miss All Sunday/Nico Robin? On the clock, she did whatever Crocodile instructed, when off duty, however, she seems to do whatever she can to actively help the heroes, including offering an eternal pose to Nanimonai Island and saving Luffy when he was Buried Alive in the desert, eventually joining the crew after Crocodile is defeated.
    • Although there are plenty of genuine rogues in the Navy, ranging from General Ripper Admiral Akainu to Dirty Cop Nezumi, many Marines are this trope. Most particular of these is Smoker, who is shown from his introduction to actually be a very kind person to those he is not pursuing.
    • Captain T-Bone of the Navy is just about the most heroic character in the whole story, who cares greatly for his troops, offers to use his parts of his cape as a bandage for them, weeps openly whenever someone gets hurt, abhors violence, and has a strong enough resolve that he would chase a train going full speed on foot, through a giant storm, in the middle of the ocean. Zoro cuts him down, since he was standing in the way of their train and was not going to move for some pirate.
    • Aokiji also fits as well. As an Admiral, it is his duty to hunt down and destroy pirates. However, he seems at the very least to be morally conflicted about it. He does his job, but, especially in the latest chapters, seems to half-ass it and apologizes when it actually inconveniences people.
      • This troper wouldn't consider Aokiji a villain, as there's nothing villainous about the character other than that he happens to be a Marine and thus opposes the protagonists by default. He's really more of a Hero Antagonist.
  • The ending credits of the 2008 remake of Yatterman strongly suggests that the Doronbo (Skull) Gang are of this type with a romantic montage of Doronjo in civilian clothes walking in the rain, window shopping, etc.
  • Most of the cast of Black Lagoon fall under this. In the city of Roanapur, anyone who tries to kill you, fails, and survives your retaliation is probably a good business contact. They'll also probably try to kill you again, when the price is right. Nothing personal, Just Business.
  • The Eiserne Jungefrauen in Umineko no Naku Koro ni are magic-denying witch hunters, but only when they're on the job as Inquisitors. Otherwise, they don't mind innocent magic that is used as an embellishment, as long as it doesn't hide the results of what happens. Dlanor, in particular, has a discussion with Battler, explaining this over tea.
  • Kyouko, one of the enemy espers in Haruhi Suzumiya, has nothing against the protagonist Kyon, and even disapproves of her organization kidnapping Mikuru, though she still took part in the deed. She's a perfectly congenial person as long as you aren't in favor of letting Haruhi keep her godlike powers.
  • Caldina, pre Heel Face Turn, in Magic Knight Rayearth. She was just a paid mercenary and did not even know what Zagato's true motivation was—only that it was not to take over Cephiro.
  • In Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Kyubey turns out to be one of these, and is willing to go to some pretty serious lengths in order to meet his "quota" of magical girls.
  • Most of the Card Professors from Yu-Gi-Oh! R have nothing against Yugi or his friends even as they block their rescue mission, and duel Yugi only to collect the bounty placed upon defeating him in the duel (and they don't even try to cheat to win, which is saying something because the amount offered is sizable). On the other hand, the concept of an innocent girl being sacrificed for their boss' project (assuming they know the truth at all) doesn't seem to trouble them, either.
  • The Wire Master in Mouse has this, where both he and the main character enjoy a drink together because it was a Sunday, and they didn't wish to work on a Sunday.
  • Ax Crazy Shin and Genki Girl Noi from Dorohedoro. Both are quite friendly when off the job and are often seen in restaurants. However, Shin seems to enjoy his job a little too much, and Noi remains cheerful while killing (and occasionally makes it a contest with Shin), so they both demonstrate the thin line between this trope and Psycho for Hire.
  • Kahlua from Rosario + Vampire seems to be a deconstruction of this trope, with a severe dose of Psycho for Hire. She will take any job, regardless of who she has to kill or the toll it takes on her body, and will not stop unless ordered to do so. Despite this, she hates killing, and she will cry the whole time as she does so.
  • Most of the Thirteen Court Guard Squad Captains during the Entry arc of Bleach would qualify as this. Especially Shunsui Kyoraku, the captain of Squad Eight.
    • Later on, Espada member Coyote Starrk is a borderline if not outright example.
  • Semi of Maoh Juvenile Remix, who, although initially sent to kill the main character, is actually fairly nice to him when off-duty.
  • This arguably applies to most of the Shinigami in Death Note. It really is only their duty to take humans' lives, and they only truly qualify as "evil" insofar as the occasional decision to kill a human earlier than intended - and doing so to save another is an offense for which death is punishment.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Harley Quinn comic book showed the "business side" of being a henchman in Gotham City, as Harley basically held auditions. (Looking, like most Bat Villains, not just for muscle but stylish muscle). The group she wound up with, the Quinntet, were all veterans of other Gotham villains' gangs, and discussed it almost as if they'd been in theater productions.
    • Streets of Gotham loves this trope, as it has already introduced an affably villainous "just business" realtor-to-supervillains, and a carpenter, both of whom work on the utmost principles of discretion.
  • In Birds of Prey, Huntress and Black Canary go disguised as former minions of Penguin and Riddler to a large meeting of Gotham's hired muscle. It turns out, rather than planning some massive heist as they originally thought, the guy who called them is actually trying to form them into a unofficial union in an effort to get better pay and treatment by the main villains who hire them.
  • The Deadpool comic book upgrades the faceless minions of HYDRA into Punch Clock Villains, mostly through the info we receive from Deadpool's kidnapped pet minion Bob, Agent of HYDRA. Through him we learn that some of the minions of HYDRA doesn't care about the "take over the world" agenda, they just can't find work anywhere else. They also fear and hate Captain America (comics), Elektra and Wolverine. However, one downside of working for HYDRA is that they don't get dental insurance.
    • Deadpool himself once stopped midway through a fight with Spider-Man when he realized he was off the clock. Though villain is a pretty harsh word, considering the fight at that point had degraded to a "Yo Momma" contest.
  • In the first issue of the The Invisibles, King Mob kills a whole slew of security guards while trying to break Dane out of a juvenile facility run by the Archons of the Outer Church. About twelve issues later, we see the life of one of those security guards—his family, his relationship with his wife, his time in the military—up until his death at King Mob's hands.
  • The Shocker, an unfortunately named Spider-Man villain, differs from his peers mainly due to the fact that he considers supervillainy more of a job than a way of life. He is essentially a gifted inventor that considers robbing banks to be more entertaining than a typical desk job, and has taken pains to avoid causing casualties in the past.
    • Later, he starts working for Hammer Industries, which hires him out as muscle, where he literally punches into work and has a supervisor, etc.
  • The Sandman, another Spidey enemy, is, while a supervillain, still a halfway decent person, who, among other things, changed his real name so that his mother wouldn't get caught up in his criminal career. He even tried a heroic career, and kept it for quite a while before the Chronic Villainy set in, and he's still shown to be a relatively amiable person once you get past the life of crime, and is noticeably less violent and cruel than his peers in Spidey's Rogues Gallery. He occasionally gains traits of an Anti-Villain as well, especially in the third Spider-Man movie, where he was a full on Anti-Villain who only commits crimes to save his daughter.
  • Recurring minor Invincible villain Furnace. In his later appearances, he wants to kill Invincible for damaging his suit to the point that it required massive repairs, setting him back millions of dollars and forcing him to start at square one. "I'm just trying to make a living, he has no idea how expensive this thing is..."
  • One of the concentration camp guards in Maus is shown to be surprisingly affable, acting friendly with prisoners and reminiscing about beautiful countrysides. When one day he comes to work incredibly chilled and frightened, acting harshly with the prisoners, Vladek guesses that the guard witnessed a mass killing since he was stationed for a time at Birkenau (or Auschwitz II) before coming back.
  • Ron Gomz in Doom Patrol was hired by the team's benefactor Thayer Jost to take them on as a publicity stunt... but when he attacks and finds out they cancelled their contract with Jost (and consequently he wasn't going to get paid), he had a bit of a meltdown of properly villainous proportions.
  • The Human Flying Fish from the latest Aquaman series. As he says, he's just a wage slave doing his job: they design the suit, they get to pick the name and the color scheme, he gets to beat people up.
  • The new Big Wheel in Ghost Rider, who even goes so far as to say "nothing personal" and that this is just work for him.
  • In Little Gloomy, Simon von Simon's hunchback assistant Boris honestly couldn't care less about whatever project Simon is working on; he's a hunchback, so mad scientist lab assistant is the only job he can really get. He also tells Frank that he's just doing his job before hacking him to pieces with an axe. When Simon's castle blows up, not only is Boris long gone (the gig was clearly going sour), his first thought is sifting through the newspaper's want ads for new employment.
  • Atomic Robo portrays most German soldiers this way, making sure that the readers see them as human beings.

German who just came face to face with a ticking bomb: "Dammit, I don't even like Hitler."

  • Eric Finch from V for Vendetta could be considered to fit into this category, depending largely on one's political perspective.
  • Most of the thugs, minions, and lackeys in Empowered are pretty decent guys, especially the protagonist's boyfriend and his buddies. The segment where he explains that killing superheroes is even dumber than killing cops is hilarious, and makes an enormous amount of sense.
  • In the Evanier/Spiegle run of Blackhawk, Professor Merson is an American scientist who designs wonder weapons like the War Wheel for the Nazis. But only because they pay him. After finally being captured by the Blackhawks and in British custody, Merson happily switches sides to work for the Allies after Winston Churchill offers him more money.
  • Spoofed in a The Far Side comic, where a series of woodland creatures are shown lining up at a pair of punch clocks, labeled "Predators" and "Prey" respectively.
  • When the Thunderbolts were turned over to HAMMER in the wake of Dark Reign, one of Norman Osborn's immediate hires was Paladin. Paladin has made a name for himself in the Marvel Universe as a reliable mercenary who gets the job done and doesn't ask questions, and he stays true to that reputation for much of his tenure with the team. He knows Osborn is crazy and that what he's doing is wrong, but, well, as long as there's money, you know?
  • Neil Gaiman offered some examples in his The Sandman comics. Most notable is Caine, who routinely and casually murders his brother Abel. In The Wake it is revealed that Abel is a dream; Caine murders him over and over because it's his gig, and he has a contract that says so.
    • While he does have a contract, it's rather strongly implied that he suffers from some sort of compulsion, unless his promise to "do 'it' less often" when he gives Abel a new pet gargoyle is standard abuser behavior. Either way, he leans into Psycho for Hire territory.


Films[edit | hide]

  • Kronk, Yzma's lovable-lug henchman from The Emperors New Groove is the classic example of this.
  • Mirage, Syndrome's right-hand-woman from The Incredibles.
  • Wraith and Bradley of Weapon X in X Men Origins Wolverine. They do their job and try not to think too hard about it. Then later repent. After all, "I was Just Following Orders" is only an excuse for so long.
  • Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction relate to this trope. One minute they're chatting jovially about mayonnaise on fries. The next, they're pulling off the hits they're paid for. It's subtly lampshaded in an early scene: Arriving at an apartment for a hit, they check their watches, find out it's not time to go on the clock yet, and hang back a few minutes to finish a conversation they were having.
  • A couple of Regional Bonus scenes from the first Austin Powers film show Dr. Evil's security mooks to be family men with normal social lives, and explore the tragic results of their death. These scenes appeared in North America as DVD Bonus Content
  • Although they don't get paid per se, this trope sums up the entire point of the Terminators. They hold absolutely no bloodthirst against their intended targets. It really just is a job to them, and it can't be anything else. Consider the classic scene from the second movie when the "hero" T-800 is about to kill some dumb jocks who were just screwing with John...

John: You were going to kill them!!
The Terminator: Of course. I'm a Terminator.

  • In the film ''Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Officer David Bouchard recounts killing an entire houseful of criminals, but sparing the vicious attack dog because it was "just doing its job."
  • Subverted in Tomorrow Never Dies: after a captured torturer/assassin claims, "I am just a professional doing his job!" James Bond replies, "Me too", and just shoots him. The guy had just killed his love interest and was clearly a Psycho for Hire.
  • This is pretty much the entire point of Terry Gilliam's Brazil, where the primary villain isn't so much individual cruelty (although there's plenty of that going around) as the collective effect of simple apathy from an entire society of bureaucratic jobsworths. Jack (Michael Palin's character) is an extremely good example.
  • In Blade, as the eponymous hero is killing the Faceless Mooks, one of them tries to save his life by saying "No... please! I just work for them!" If "they" hadn't killed the hero's mentor, it might have worked.
  • Implied to be common in the Get Smart movie.
    • The hired thug going after Max and Agent 99 is actually dealing with marital problems. Max, having stated early in the movie that evil is what villains do, not who they are, uses this information to save both himself and 99, and inspire this villain to become the Reverse Mole for him later on.
    • After putting up with yet more verbal abuse, Shtarker at one point gripes that he wants to quit, but can't because Siegfried is married to his sister.
  • The Mortuary Keeper in Mystery Science Theater 3000'ed film Space Mutiny. He's just there running the facility where failed Mooks are frozen until necessary. He may work for the villain but when the heroes arrive he asks if they need help or would like a cup of tea. He also answers all their questions about the Big Bad's Evil Plan. He doesn't really seem evil at all.
  • The Godfather films, especially the first and third, have organized crime bosses say "it's not personal... it's strictly business" (or some variation thereof) regarding their business affairs. The one scene from the novel sadly not in the movie had Michael comment on this and basically call it rubbish. He then goes on to describe his father as never treating his affairs as "just business" and speculate this is what had made him great.
  • The three main characters of In Bruges, the Odd Couple protagonists and the Big Bad, are all this trope.
  • Although there are no direct examples, the film Cube implies the builders of the eponymous Death Course were of this nature.

"Who do you think the establishment is? It's just guys like me. Their desks are bigger, but their jobs aren't. They don't conspire, they buy boats."

  • Dee Jay in the Street Fighter movie, who not only does his job only for the money, but clearly hates every single person in the organization, as he also doubles as the Deadpan Snarker. He ends up trying to escape with Bison's money only to find out that it's Bison dollars, which are worthless.
  • The teen protagonist of The Manhattan Project is hunted by gun-toting government agents that repeatedly threaten to kill him if he does not turn over his homemade nuclear weapon. One of these agents assures him it was nothing personal later in the film just before they may all die in an unintended detonation. (And in all fairness, they were government agents acting legally to protect the public from an unauthorized Plutonium-Bomb!)
  • In Apocalypse Now, Kurtz gets a monologue on the subject:

"And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men... trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love... but they had the strength... the strength... to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral... and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling..."

    • This is actually a distorted retelling of another sort of punch-clockery: soldiers in the Belgian Congo were accused of wasting ammunition, so they were told they'd have to bring back a hand for every native they claimed killed... so to save some ammunition for hunting, they took to cutting off hands from the living. John Milius took an example of barbarism for pecuniary gain and turned it into a parable of how thinking men can turn themselves into monsters for an ideology....
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera has the Genterns, sexy sadistic nurses who put up with an awful lot for their well-paying jobs (including occasionally being raped or murdered by a Largo child). There's also the Repo Men, sociopathic organ retrieval experts armed with very large scalpels. One of the Repo Men is a protagonist—he's shown as being a sweet, slightly campy, doting family man when not on the job.
  • A Take That is delivered in Taken, where Patrice, the auctioneer of the would-be sex slaves, tries to insist that "It's all business. It wasn't personal!" Of course, since his last "sale" was Bryan's daughter, "It was all personal to me" and Patrice gets the rest of the bullets in Bryan's pistol clip.
  • Star Wars examples:
    • The clone troopers in Revenge of the Sith. To them, Order 66 was just another mission. The lack of any real hatred or rage behind their actions let the troopers get the drop on the Jedi, killing damn near all of them in the initial attacks.
    • Jango Fett, the clone troopers' genetic basis and bounty hunter getting paid to kill off Padme, who appears more interested in getting paid than invested in the political aspects of the separatist movement he works for.
  • Arthur Brooks, the social worker in Big Daddy, probably qualifies as this - until the climactic scene, where he (along with everyone else in the courtroom) gets a Pet the Dog moment when he pays a call to his father.
  • In The President's Analyst, an American and a Soviet agent are old pals who place a friendly wager on who'll catch their common target first, going so far as promising to leak info so the other guy would get stationed to where the loser would buy the winner dinner. Another agent puts off assassinating the title character because his bullets are inconveniently far away and he told the wife he wouldn't work late.
  • In The Island, the mercenary helps the heroes the moment the job is finished.
  • From a certain perspective, Sully and the other scarers from Monsters, Inc. fits this as well. "I'm not going to scare you. I'm off duty!"
  • Inglourious Basterds uses this trope in full. While the Basterds view the German army as a bunch of Jew-killing monsters, the majority of Germans outside of Hitler and Goebbels are portrayed as decent, loyal soldiers. One German officer refuses to give information that would get his men killed, and gets beaten to death for it. In one of the most heartbreaking scenes, several Basterds infiltrate a bar where a group of soldiers are celebrating one's new baby boy. When their cover is blown, the shooting starts. Everyone but Bridget and the new father are killed in the ensuing gunfight. When the soldier begins to surrender to the Basterds upstairs, Bridget shoots him in the back to try and keep her cover.
  • Sharon Stone's character in Total Recall. She said it best, "I just work here".
  • In District 9, Wikus (pre-Character Development) and most of the other non-military workers can be seen as these. The awful way they treat the prawns stems from nothing personal, but is simply how they've been instructed to do their jobs.
  • Colonel Cutter from Antz is the more serious and competent kind of Punch Clock Villain. When sent to fetch Princess Bala, the first thing he does to get some attention is punch a hippie bug in the face. But when it comes to committing genocide, he feels that's taking it a little too far.
  • Shoah is a documentary about the Holocaust. Many of the people interviewed by the director were "just doing their job" or "following orders" when they participated in the organized extermination of Europe's Jews.
  • All the hitmen that go after Jason Bourne in The Bourne Series are just doing their job. When off the job, they hang out with their kids, meet up with executives of their company or just travel around the world. Certainly not played for laugh, considering how the series completely abstained from any comedic relief.
  • Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca, who makes it clear he's happy to cooperate with the Nazis as long as they remain in power, without caring about their ideology one way or another.
  • To an extent, Greg in Mystery Team.
  • Inigo Montoya and Fezzik are punchclock villains while working as goons for Vizzini in The Princess Bride. Inigo even states outright that he's only a Punch Clock Villain: "I only work for Vizzini to pay the bills." Vizzini also reminds Gentle Giant Fezzik of his former status: "UNEMPLOYED in GREENLAND!"
  • Administrative Assistant Bob from Demolition Man simply sees it as his duty to serve whoever is in charge, which is how he goes from helping Dr. Raymond Cocteau to Simon Phoenix to Edgar Friendly.
  • Petrov appears to be this for the Bolsheviks in Doctor Zhivago; however he bends the rules for family members.
  • The Mexican has a cute one: James Gandolfini playing Winston Baldry abducts Julia Roberts because "it's my job", then the two of them start a girly friend relationship (turns out this punch clock villain is also a Badass Gay) and just to prove this trope right he executes a Heel Face Turn.
  • In The Cabin in the Woods, all the people working at the facility. An example of the darker side of this trope, as the fact that it's just a job means they set up a betting pool, pride themselves on good work, and have a party once it's over. They don't do it out of malice, but they don't care or regret it either.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • After Voldemort's Death Eaters take over the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the normal Ministry workers become this. They publish anti-Muggle propaganda and persecute Muggle-born wizards, but only because they have no choice.
  • Every Obstructive Bureaucrat in most Franz Kafka novels.
  • Damon "Demon" Larkham in Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow. He runs a ruthless, highly efficient (they exterminate the Taliban) and technologically advanced band of mercenaries (called IG-88), but he still gets beaten by the heroes. At the end of the novel, he and his men corner Aloysius Knight. Just as Knight has a huge Oh Crap moment, Larkham gives a short speech about how "what happens on the field stays on the field," congratulates Knight, then walks away.
  • Inigo Montoya even points out his own status as a Punch Clock Villain in The Princess Bride, telling Westley that "there's not a lot of money in revenge."
  • As seen in the quote above, the torturers of the Omnian Quisition in the Discworld novel Small Gods.
    • Also the original incarnation of the Cable Street Particulars. In Night Watch, they're a branch of the police accountable to no one where the stories about what goes on behind those doors are usually pretty accurate. Eventually, Vimes (alias John Keel) barges into their headquarters and demands of a man "WHAT DOES DADDY DO AT WORK ALL DAY, MISTER?" In spite of the man's protests that he's only a clerk, Vimes is still inclined to hold him accountable for the horrors perpetrated.
    • On a slightly more sympathetic note, in Making Money, the villain has a "cleaner" on payroll for him who spends the book killing everyone who unknowingly assisted his boss in his scheme to become Lord Vetinari. When not killing, the assassin seems a normal enough guy and has a noted interest in reading for pleasure. The villain's other employee finds this more worrying; if the guy was The Brute, he'd at least be understandable.
    • Not quite a villain but Professor John Hicksx Head of the Department of necr Post-Mortem Communications is required by University Statute to commit evil acts.
      • Moderately evil acts, at least. Like pressuring people to attend community theatre productions.
  • In the Doctor Who novel "The Resurrection Casket", the hideous interdimensional monster Kevin is not evil or ravenous, or anything a monster is. He'd be entirely content simply hanging out at a pub and watching a football game with his pals, but when someone is given a cursed piece of paper, he's duty-bound to kill them, or he'll be sent to a hell dimension until called back.
  • In The Dark Tower, (the final book of Stephen King's The Dark Tower series) it's revealed that many of the Big Bad Crimson King's Minions were in actuality Punch Clock Villains, with the most prominent example being the decent, devoutly religious warden of the prison community where the "Breakers"—psychics who work to "break" the beams that hold all existence together—are held. He fully expects to go to Heaven once the job of destroying the Multiverse is complete, and to be well-received there.
    • He also makes sure the Breakers are treated very well (because they do better work if they're happy, but still). They get everything they want except the right to leave the grounds, and he has the man who raped one of them publicly executed.
  • Captain Ramballe of the French army that invades Russia in War and Peace is very much this. He sits down with Pierre in occupied Moscow and offers him dinner and wine, discussing how the Russians performed splendidly at the Battle of Borodino, commending them for such a fine job at defending their own country.
  • In "If This Goes On—" a science fiction novella by Robert A. Heinlein, our hero is captured by the evil government. He notices that the several torturers for the government show no pleasure in their job, they are strictly business. It is implied that anyone who likes to inflict pain is not permitted in that job, as they are supposed to get information, not necessarily hurt people (although that is always an option if they think it will help).
  • One subversion is mentioned in Honor Harrington. The People's Republic of Haven mans concentration camps with real villains who like being villains and not just punch clock villains. The type of people in State Sec who get fleet duty or work as intelligence officers, are often the types that would be chaplains or psychologists in the former case and intelligence officers in the later case in any state's defense system rather then professionals in atrocity.
  • Sergeant Zim and the other Boot Camp NCOs from the book Starship Troopers. While not technically evil, their job is to make sure that the 90% who can't cope with being in the M.I. or don't want the franchise bad enough drop out as early as possible. It is stated that the suffering they induce is too impersonal to be the work of a bully, that "Basic training is made AS HARD AS POSSIBLE, and for good reasons", and that all NCOs are decent (by NCO standards) to the ones who are left, when they know they are going to hack it.
  • In accordance with the Truth in Television mentioned below, the British heroes of the Aubrey-Maturin series and their French opponents often enjoy each other's company when on land or after one of them has surrendered. One reoccurring Punch-Clock Villain is Captain Christy-Palliere, who eventually becomes their ally in The Hundred Days when the French military forces split between Bonaparte and Louis XVIII.
  • Good Omens features the Chattering Order of Saint Beryl, a group of Satanic nuns who are fairly ordinary people aside from helping to bring about Armageddon (via swapping the Antichrist for the baby of another family), and who regard Ax Crazy animal-sacrificing Satanists in the same way that most moderate Christians regard certain "fire and brimstone" extremist Christians.
    • This is played for ironic laughs at the moment when the nuns do the switch, when the text informs us that it's possible that the nuns, as part of some dark satanic ritual, did something so terrifyingly horrible and evil to the baby who was swapped for the Antichrist that we would be horrified to our souls to hear of it; however, we can imagine that they made sure that the baby was given to a lovely family who would raise him well if we want to make ourselves feel better. It was later revealed to be the second option all along. Well, what did you expect?
    • Aziraphale and Crowley, an actual Angel and Devil respectively, consider fundamentalists and Satanists as a Vietnam veteran would consider a civilian who walks around wearing camo.
    • Arguably, Crowley himself. His job as a demon is to tempt mortals into sin and bring about Armageddon, but when he isn't working, he just likes to feed ducks in the park. He just likes humanity too much. Aziraphale is the same way, but in a different direction: he's an angel who's untruthful and lazy.
  • Derk from Dark Lord of Derkholm is this trope in the extreme. He's a completely sweet and loveable wizard whose only wish is to work on his experimental creatures, but due to the extremely oppressive "boss" of his entire world, he's forced to play the Big Bad in his world for "tourists."
  • American Gods contains a disturbing example in the form of a glance inside the head of a kindly Nazi working the gas chambers in a concentration camp: "... and if there is anything he feels bad about, it is that he still allows the gassing of vermin to affect him. Were he a truly good man, he knows, he would feel nothing but joy as the earth is cleansed of its pests."
    • The antagonists of the novel (the modern Anthropomorphic Personifications like Media and the Technical Boy) also turn out to be this in the scene at the hotel. Of course, it turns out that they aren't evil, or at least not any more so than the old gods. The whole conflict is a set-up by Wednesday and Loki.
  • Every baddie in The Grapes of Wrath, as lampshaded in a tragicomic scene where a fellow who's been forced off his farm tries to figure out who to shoot in revenge.
  • Some of the recent Star Wars Expanded Universe novels which focus on people working for the Empire embrace this trope. Allegiance has five stormtroopers whose consciences eventually override their willingness to take orders, though admittedly they didn't have a choice about leaving. Death Star is about a collection of people working on, well, the Death Star. A trooper, a gunnery officer, a cantina operator, a couple of convicts, a surgeon, a pilot, a librarian. It's also about Admiral Motti, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader, so it's partly a Villain Protagonist novel, but the other characters all assumed the Death Star would never be used on an inhabited world. As the surgeon tells Leia while he's treating her after torture, he can't leave.
    • The gunnery officer who actually hit the final button to fire the superlaser was one of the main characters. He is immensely humanized; we learn that what he'd always wanted was to fire the biggest gun, that he sort of cheated in arm wrestling because a tendon had been torn and reattached in a stronger place, that he backed up his fellow gunners. He also followed orders. The prison planet, well, it was inhabited almost entirely by convicts, but some of them had been political prisoners or wrongfully convicted or guards. He saw Alderaan, though, as his personal Moral Event Horizon, making him one of the biggest mass-murderers ever, bringing him misery beyond his wildest dreams. He was the one saying "Stand by" when the Death Star was in range of Yavin - he knew that if he refused they would just get another gunner and give him a death mark, but he desperately didn't want to fire again and was fervently hoping that something would come up. And it did. Poor bastard.
    • The Death Star cantina? Eddie Izzard got there first (NSFW).
    • Also, from the New Jedi Order books is Yuuzhan Vong Shaper Nen Yim. While most of her colleagues are straight Mad Scientists, Nen Yim is legitimately trying to produce useful research that will help save her species from extinction, and she bears the victims of her experiments no malice or real ill-will. She ends up doing a Heel Face Turn after realizing that her people have gone very wrong in the distant past and will rush headlong to their own self-destruction if they keep going like they have been.
  • As did Randall and a passing customer in Clerks, considering the deaths of civilian contractors on the half-built second Death Star. Although it's played with, as the passing customer—with reference to a friend of his who took up a contract on a house owned by a high-profile mobster that the customer himself warily passed on and got gunned down in a drive-by shooting as a result—notes that on some level even the contractors and non-military staff had to be aware of what they were getting into, even if they chose not to acknowledge it; it is essentially a massive death ray for a fascist empire they're building, after all.
  • The demons, or spirits as they like to be called, are portrayed this way in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. At least until the third book.
  • This is a huge part of the premise to Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Big Bad Katham-Shud's henchmen are all unimpressive clerks who are doing very boring-looking jobs that just happen to be ruining imagination as we know it. Subverted by Katham-Shud himself, who looks like a Punch Clock Villain but is more of a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout-as-narrator explains that children of lawyers often assume that whatever colleague their parent goes up against in court is a bad guy, only to be mystified by the sight of them acting like friends when court's not in session. By the time of Tom Robinson's trial, Scout and Jem have outgrown this, and they're familiar enough with the prosecutor, Mr. Gilmer, to recognize and appreciate the tricks he employs, all in the spirit of a fair trial, of course. Neither of them is quite old enough to realize until the guilty verdict that that's not what's going on this time, and for the case of a black man accused of raping a white woman, no one's bothered hitting any punch clock.
    • The whole point of the book is Scout's opportunity to see her perfectly normal neighbors condemning a good, innocent man. There is no punch clock because the jury is following ingrained social custom, the same as they do every day.
  • The summoner-for-hire Binder from the Dresden Files book Turn Coat mostly just wants the bounty on Morgan. He doesn't have anything against Harry personally, it's just that he happens to be on the other side of the issue. Harry lets him get away for this (and other) reason(s).
    • Subverted by some of the other creatures Harry encounters. They try to play this card with varying success over the course of the series.
  • While some of the Black Ajah in The Wheel of Time are genuinely evil, many actually joined it only for the opportunities of power it gave, and are not particularly keen on that whole world-destroying stuff.
  • Comrade Death: Hector Sarek once sold farm equipment for his company and when they became a weapon manufacturer he started selling guns instead. It was just his job until it became his life's work.
  • In Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure, the hero is once approached by a well-dressed man who introduces himself, informs him that the Assassin's Guild has taken out a contract on him, and asks him to roll up his sleeve. Hilarity Ensues.
  • In Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, a former concentration camp guard is on trial as a war criminal, mainly because she was given the task of making sure that none of her prisoners escaped during a march. On an overnight stop, the prisoners were locked in a church, which caught on fire. Rather than risking disobeying orders by showing the prisoners mercy, the guards chose to leave them locked inside while the building burned to the ground. When confronted about it, she seemed confused that she was on trial despite having followed her orders, and asked the judge, "What would you have done?" This from a woman who had at other times shown kindness to the prisoners.
  • In several place, The Bible mentions tax collectors as among the most disliked members of society. Back then they were considered little more than thieves employed by the government, Which means this trope is Older Than Feudalism.
    • Offset by the fact that tax collectors were known for taking what was owed the government, and then taking pretty much whatever they felt like, meaning that they were little more than thieves employed by the government.
      • That is, when they actually WERE employed by the government. The Roman Empire often made use of "Tax Farming," the practice of selling the authority to gather tax moneys. The purchaser could squeeze people as hard as they liked under the tax laws, and any extra they got was profit. This practice was common in Europe through the Middle Ages, and is likely the cause of the heavy taxes often mentioned in Robin Hood and similar stories.
  • In Theodore Cogswell's short story Wolfie, Dr. Arsoldi is a sorcerer (in denial as to his accomplice's demonic nature) in New York City specializing in helping murderers commit the perfect crime. He also has to stand security; if the murder falls through, it's off to Hell he goes. At the time the story starts, he's already had one close call. Naturally, the next job is a textbook case of Epic Fail.
  • In The Two Towers, Faramir remarks about a fallen foe (a member of an army marching in support of the Dark Lord), "His sense of duty was no less than yours, I deem. You wonder what his name is, where he comes from, and if he really was evil at heart. What lies or threats led him on this long march from home, and would he not rather have stayed there... in peace?" (This rumination was cut from the theater version because it was such a long movie.)
  • In Death: Sylvester Yost from Betrayal In Death is very much this. He kills people because he's paid to, and he looks at what he does as a job in which he puts a number of years into it, and then he can retire and live in what he considers relative peace. Don't believe for a minute that he's a great guy, however. On the job, he rapes his target and strangles him or her with silver wire. He is The Sociopath and a Complete Monster who needs to be stopped.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the cops towards the end of the book are "a couple of intelligent caring guys that you'd probably quite like if you met us socially!"
  • An Irish Airman foresees his death by Yates can be both this trope and Punch Clock Hero, depending on whether you're an Irish airman or an adversary of an Irish airman. It has this as the third and fourth lines:

Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love.

  • Tales of Kolmar has the villain hire mercenaries to go after someone. She is defended by an ex-mercenary who sees through their attempts to get casually close and warns them that they can leave now and it'll be fine, but if they go after her they're all dead, and urges the youngest one to leave the profession. The mercenaries do go after their target and are repelled, losing several of their own. After that, shaken, the youngest one decides that he's had enough and quits, and all the older mercs are actually pleased for him, but they won't quit a contract. All of them get killed.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • On Doctor Who, most employees of the Torchwood Institute tend to be Punch Clock Villains; however, over in Torchwood, they're the main characters. They're usually different members, though.
    • Well, Captain Jack explains that he rebuilt and changed Torchwood after they got destroyed in the Cybermen invasion.
    • In another instance, the Doctor gets some righteous fury on the workers of the Bad Wolf corporation; a television company with gameshows that end in murder. When one of the managers claims that they're just doing their job, he angrily tells her that she has now lost the right to even speak with him.
  • The trope is one of the principal themes of Torchwood: Children of Earth. Many characters in the British government fit the trope, none more than Frobisher, designated Butt Monkey and expendable fall guy for every single action taken by his superiors during the miniseries. You feel really bad when he finally kills his family to spare them a Fate Worse Than Death and then commits suicide himself.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard tends to leave the audience feeling more than a little sympathetic to the deputies working under Sheriff Rosco and Boss Hogg. Most of the sympathy fell on Enos Strate, who was genuinely sympathetic and actually had a crush on Daisy Duke. While his replacement Cletus Hogg wasn't as much an Anti-Villain, he generally pointed out that it's nothing personal; he just wants to keep his job and not be a shame to the Hogg name.
  • Prison Break is full of punch clock villains. The prison guards like Warden Pope were punch clock villains-Good guys who even had the respect of the audience and the protagonists but were simply in the way of a bigger cause (freeing an innocent man from prison) so they had to be taken down. Same with Paul Kellerman. He was a humongous threat to the protagonists but he was depicted as disinterested in the people he was trying to kill and a man dealing with heavy pressures from his employers. These punch clock villains were contrasted with characters who became emotionally invested in the destruction of the protagonists like Brad Bellick.
  • Played with on Angel, when the title character meets a vicious-looking demonic prison guard he has to defeat. The demon reveals his name is Skip and he commutes to work. Skip is sympathetic to Angel's situation, but is obligated to fight Angel anyway; when he is defeated (Skip later claims he took a dive) Angel makes sure he's not badly hurt before knocking him unconscious.
    • Skip later turns out to play a larger role in the show. First he helps Cordelia become part demon to cope with her visions. Later on, it was revealed that he did this because he was working for the goddess Jasmine, who kills Cordelia and tries to take over the world. This makes him less of a Punch Clock Villain and more of The Mole.
    • When the cast takes over Wolfram and Hart they find that a lot of the people there will just go with the flow. Work to bring about apocalypse, work to help people, whatever, what's my bonus package look like? Lorne reads everyone to screen out the truly nasty people, and they get along okay. That said, there were a few goofs. Eve and Sirk both turned out to be plotting with Lindsey to kill Angel. One of their doctors was part of an extreme gourmet food network, and had Nina kidnapped to be eaten alive. And Knox secretly worshipped Illyria, and decided that Fred would make a good host for it. There also had a demon who liked to dismember virgins for fun.
  • Babylon 5 featured a sequence in its fourth season where the main character, John Sheridan, was tortured for weeks on end by a banal inquisitor attempting to gain a signed confession out of him in exchange for his freedom. The inquisitor makes a big deal about never telling a lie, neglecting to mention the truths he conveniently omits, such as offering Sheridan half a sandwich in exchange for some small act of cooperation and not mentioning the fact that the poison within it will give him a night of horrible illness. Adding to the banality of the inquisitor's evil, near the end of the program, when the inquisitor has completely failed to get what he wants from Sheridan, he is simply replaced with another, who begins having the same conversation the first inquisitor began with.
    • Sebastian AKA Jack the Ripper, from the episode "Comes the Inquisitor", arguably also counts. Sure, he tortured Delenn and Sheridan during his testing of the two, but once they passed the test that was the end of his hostility towards them.
      • Unless he sees his former arrogance in the people the Vorlons send him to interrogate, and projects all his self-loathing onto them. That seems to be what the Vorlons were going for, actually. They passed the test by convincing him that they weren't like him and didn't deserve his misplaced self-hate.
      • Mr Endawi, of Earth Force Intelligence from the Third Season Primere who comes to Babylon 5 to snoop around about reports of the shadows. What is interesting is that he apparently doesn't know he is being used to help cover up a Government Conspiracy to cooperate with the shadows. The orders he is given are exactly the ones a Reasonable Authority Figure would have issued in the same circumstances. His superiors simply intend to use the intelligence for sinister purposes. But as far as Mr Endawi is aware he is just being a good officer following perfectly sensible orders; it is the actual purpose of the orders he is unaware of.
  • Pretty much the premise of the French series Flanders Company, where villains are actually paid by heroes to commit evil, fight them and lose.
  • Mr. Bennet- known in the early season of Heroes as 'Horned Rim Glasses' for his eminently clerkly appearance- was a frightening example of this trope played absolutely straight, until a family crisis pushed him into his Heel Face Turn.
    • Daphne Millbrook from Volume 3 is another example, an Affably Evil speedster that is reasonably personable around Hiro and Ando, despite pursuing the same prize.
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: In the second season episode "The Arabian Affair", we actually see a THRUSH minion in their New York satrap carrying a lunch pail and punching a time clock as he leaves the office. As well, throughout the series the viewer sees numerous uniformed THRUSH forces (usually guarding headquarters and other important facilities), with the implication that these personnel are at least drawing a steady paycheck, if not actually punching a time clock.
  • On 24 you have the Well Intentioned Extremists who often serve as the Big Bad. But most of the Mooks are simply punching the (villain) clock and are only out to collect a check. Most of them will Heel Face Turn once they are caught or at least cooperate with the authorities since they never really bore anybody any ill will. But they're villains so they usually demand immunity or some other kind of deal.
  • Though in most ways the opposite of this trope, Max of Dark Angel goes in that direction in her pre-hero career. When confronted with the supposed immorality of her burglary, she replies indignantly: "I steal things in order to sell them for money. It's called commerce."
  • The X-Files. Morris Fletcher in "Dreamland".

"You think being a Man in Black is all voodoo and mind control? You should see the paperwork!"

  • Subverted in Firefly when Jubal Early claims to only hurt people because it's part of the job, River replies that it's why he took the job. Eventually he concedes.
  • Played almost literally in F Troop. The Hekawi Indians have no time to terrorize the settlers when they're busy making souvenirs for tourists and distilling whisky for the town saloon.
  • "Mike" from Breaking Bad is a professional hitman, as well as a multitude of other jobs that generically make life easier for criminals. Although he confesses to enjoying his job, he is also shown to be somewhat of a clear-headed softie, and a caring family man.
  • The Romulan Commander from the Star Trek TOS episode "Balance of Terror":

"You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend... We are creatures of duty, captain. I have lived my life by it. Just one more duty to perform."

  • This was how the Klingons waged their civil war in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with soldiers from rival sides drinking together in bars at the end of a long day's slaughter. In an interview, Ronald D Moore even cited the classic Looney Tunes Ralph the Wolf/Sam the Sheepdog cartoons as his inspiration.
  • Most of the Germans from Allo Allo, if you think about it.
  • The "Mads" from Mystery Science Theater 3000. While evil and plotting to take over the world with bad movies, they could also make it clear on occasion that there were really no hard feelings. Dr. Forrester would cheerfully swap invention ideas with Joel, Pearl would invite Mike over for a beer and a chat, and their various subordinates were all basically too incompetent to be really malicious.
    • This may be a better example of Go-Karting with Bowser; nobody was paying the Mads to be evil (with the possible exception of Frank). That was just how they rolled.
  • Several villains of this caliber show up on Supernatural, most of whom are actually demons and monsters whose entire existence hinges around doing evil. Most prominent is a demon in Sin City who is stuck in a caved-in basement with Dean. She defends her role in bringing evil to city, claiming that she's just doing her job and most of the humans involved did it out of free will rather than her influence. Another example would be a pair of Pagan gods Sam and Dean encounter in the Christmas Episode who are Affably Evil and claim that they only take a few lives each year in order to stay alive.
  • Most of the characters good or bad in Covert Affairs are pretty much doing their job as police or intelligence officers. While many of Annie's opponents are ruthless and treacherous as might be expected for a spy, their objective tends to be what their nation or political faction says it is.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Finnish songwriter and artist Juice Leskinen has depicted this phenomenon chillingly in his song Osapäivänatsi (Part-Time Nazi), where a father takes off his uniform and jackboots after a hard working day, kisses his wife and plays with his children. He demonstrates how this kind of villains usually are the most dangerous as they are fully able to compartmentalize their ethics and their actions in two neat separate boxes.


Theater[edit | hide]


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Zevran, of Dragon Age: Origins, says that he's only doing the job he was paid to do when the Warden interrogates him after the botched assassination attempt on the Warden.
    • The Warden, if you played as a Dwarf Commoner. Depending on ow you play your character, they may not like what they're doing, but it's the only thing that will let them buy food for their family.
  • Though not indicated in-game, the Lekgolo (aka Hunters) of Halo are this. They're starfish aliens who don't really give a crap about the affairs of humanoid aliens, and only joined up with the Covenant because it meant that they would have greater access to space travel and because if they didn't, the covenant would've Kill Sat them to oblivion. They also fight mainly with battle couples, making killing them all the more awkward.
    • Most of the Kig-Yar (Jackals) are also just mercenaries who barely even give lip service to the Covenant religion. And the Unggoy (Grunts) are just enslaved cannon fodder.
    • And the Huragok (Engineer) who are extremely pacifistic and just want to help the other races (they even try to stop the war a few times).
  • The Pigmask Army from Mother 3 comes off as this way. The guys attend rock concerts, visit diners, make pleasant conversation with Lucas and Co., and in general act like people you'd meet at the office.
    • This is further strengthened when an NPC from your hometown joins the army. He's a pretty nice guy and nothing really changes, I mean, sure, he's wearing the suit but he's still the same person. On the whole the pigmasks come off less as minions of evil and more soldiers in a normal army. I mean there's a few rotten ones among them, and they've got a terrible leader forcing them to commit some atrocities, but most of them just seem like ordinary guys doing their jobs as soldiers.
    • In Touhou Mother, the Pigmasks are all Sanae fanboys. Subverted, as they're the unpleasant kind.
  • In the PC game series No One Lives Forever, random goons can often be overheard by the player talking about their family problems, girlfriends, and office gossip.
  • The Turks in Final Fantasy VII, who even help the heroes defeat a common enemy while "on vacation". Through sheer popularity, they got even larger roles in other OVAs. They even pretty much Lampshade it. At the end of said sidequest, Reno receives a call from Shinra and Elena asks "Was that the company?" Reno replies that it was and Rude asks if they're on? Cloud and the others take fighting stances, but Reno replies "No, today we're off duty," (or "No, today's our day off," if you're playing the PC version) and everyone relaxes.
    • Most of Shinra Inc actually. Crisis Core in particular makes clear that almost everyone in Shinra is just doing a job.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII one particular Galbadian Soldier worries about losing his paycheck for peeving the presidential body double, as he had wanted the money to buy a wedding ring for his sweetie.
    • Laguna and co. are also shown to be Galbadian soldiers although we found out later that at that point in time the Galbadians were the good guys.
    • More notably, there are two pairs of Punch Clock Villains who appear at several points in throughout. The first pair is Biggs and Wedge, who are almost entirely for comedic purposes, despite being fought twice. Both times they are fought, they are minor fights, and they are later seen to have retired from the Galbadian army due to repeatedly being beaten by Squall and co.
    • The other pair is Fujin and Raijin, who take on a more serious role, taking control of Balamb Town at one point. They are, however, later shown to go against the villain at the time, Seifer, and try convincing him to stop what he's doing. They are not entirely serious, with Raijin frequently making errors, prompting Fujin to kick him in the shins.
  • The members of LeBlanc's Syndicate in Final Fantasy X-2 are hinted to be like this. At one point, two of them are heard discussing how neither of them had any options left when they signed on with her.
    • Considering that one of them is a soldier who supposedly died during the Mi'hen Mission two years ago, he's right.
  • The majority of bosses in the Fire Emblem series that belong to an enemy army, but have nothing to do with the main plot, are straightforward Punch Clock Villians.
  • The guards in the Thief game series: they can often can be overheard casually talking with each other, sometimes dropping important clues along the way.
  • The Special Forces and Vigoorian Military in the Updated Rerelease of Ninja Gaiden. At least, it is implied, but since we never get to see things from their perspective the effect is dulled somewhat.
  • Megaman Juno from Mega Man Legends. Juno himself was not evil, but his job was to destroy all life on the island when it grew to a certain point. Even when he was defeated, he still had no hard feelings towards our protagonist.
  • In Mega Man Battle Network/Rockman.EXE 2, Shadowman.EXE and his operator are exactly this, except they are automatically badass since they are modern Ninjas. They first manage to take out an entire foreign nation by simply destroying their internet square. They even apologize to the (virtual) King of the foreign nation before deleting him, and then mutter something about being employed by "These Gospel music fans or something".
  • Shown often in the Splinter Cell series. Sam Fisher will often encounter guards or soldiers who are simply doing their jobs, or are even completely unaware of what they're guarding. Some missions will involve Sam going up against people who he can't use lethal force against, including American and foreign soldiers, CIA security guards, and the Mexican Coast Guard.
  • Psychonauts has an... interesting version of this. One type of enemy in the mental worlds is called a Censor. Their job is to hunt down manias, waking dreams, and other foreign thoughts and censor them out. Since Raz is technically a foreign entity in a mental world, he's fair game, and you will see Censors being deployed in your general area. Frequently.
  • Max Payne loves this one, in both games. There are quite a few instances of unsuspecting goons standing around discussing their profession. In a late level, if you postpone the guns-blazing part, you can overhear two Men in Black discussing their work and one of them actually says that it's "just a job from 9 to 5".
  • Shows up in Grand Theft Auto, in, of all places, the protagonist of #4. You can even make him Pet the Dog in places.
  • City of Villains has billboards scattered throughout the urban zones advertising for 'Minions Recruiting Agency'.
    • It's also stated that, because he knows happy minions are loyal minions, Lord Recluse pays his minions extremely well, his pilots especially, due to their hazardous line of work.
  • Army of Two does this twice, with the People's Liberation Army pursuing the eponymous two mercenaries for blowing up their very spiffy bridge and killed a US Senator in the process, and in the final mission, where Salem and Rios end up fighting the other mercenary contractors of Security And Strategy Corporation, who believe they intentionally killed said US Senator.
  • Various Star Wars video games have this. Knights of the Old Republic in particular portrays the Sith troops as Punch Clock Villains, at least on the first planet. When off duty they hang out in a cantina, and on being talked to tell the player character that they're unhappy about being posted on a planet that hates them, also inviting you to a party. When the player character steals a set of Sith armor and talks to the Sith patrolling Taris, they are rhetorically asked "Is there anything more boring than being out on patrol?" Down in the Undercity one of them is defensive and angry about abandoning some of his people to die on a superior's orders, though he does it anyway. This is probably to enhance the fact that just a few gameplay hours later, Darth Malak destroys the entire planet, killing millions of innocent civilians AND his own troops.
  • Mass Effect has several enemies who you can have conversations with, where they indicate that they're just doing their jobs trying to stop you. In one jarring instance, you can encounter a mercenary commander whose exhausted, wounded, and undersupplied men have spent the last several days fighting for their survival and protecting a large number of civilians from Bee People. After helping him fight off another attack, and then proceeding to clear out the infestation, you come back, only to find he's received new orders: to kill you. He even says in a very tired, sad voice, that he's very sorry, but he's got his orders, right before the shooting starts. Fortunately, it is possible to go another route.
    • At one point in Mass Effect 2, after fighting through a bunch of Eclipse mercs, you encounter a young Asari merc hiding in a room. She pleads for Shepard not to hurt her, claims she has no quarrel with him/her, and thought her job would be "fighting bad guys", not killing innocent people for whatever psycho who hires the team. The Paragon option is, of course, to let her go. Subverted when you later find a datapad with a log entry by said merc where she sadistically gloats over having brutally murdered a volus merchant. If you had let her go, the only thing you can do is give the evidence over to the police.
      • The game actually is fair about it though: if you paid close attention to the mission briefing, you would be able to spot the blatant visual clue in the cutscene that tells you what's really going on. She's wearing the Eclipse uniform. You're told earlier that wearing Eclipse colors requires first passing the gang initiation of committing a cold-blooded murder; 'prospects' who are simply aspiring to be members but have yet to prove themselves aren't allowed to wear flags. This mirrors real-world street gang practices.
  • Most Reapers from The World Ends With You aren't too sadistic for their job. As a general rule, the Game Masters are usually a lot worse than the Support and Harriers. Kariya and Uzuki in particular stand out.
  • Not all Imperial soldiers of Valkyria Chronicles are Magnificent Bastards or Jerkasses. A large majority of them are regular people just like the Gallians, and this fact is heavily emphasized during one of the game's chapters.
  • While he is a definite Badass, the Sniper from Team Fortress 2 seems to think of himself this way. "Sniping's a good job, mate! It's challenging work, out of doors. I can guarantee you'll never go hungry...."
    • The Engineer, meanwhile, is mostly concerned with "solving practical problems" and self-defence.
  • Most enemy Ravens in the Armored Core series fight you because they're paid to do so and vice versa. "Most", because there are a few who have it in for you without being motivated by a paycheck.
  • The United States Marine Corps in Prototype are just trying to stop The Virus, and are only fighting Alex Mercer because they're told he is a serious threat, which, considering he's a Sociopathic Hero mass murderer who kills thousands of civilians and military personnel over the course of the game, is entirely justified.
  • Touhou features plenty of "villains" who just happen to be the Ninja Maid of a Big Bad who doesn't even realize what they are doing is wrong. Meiling, Patchouli, Sakuya, Youmu, Reisen, and Sanae just want to help their friend/employer who's gone a little overboard. Of course, Defeat Means Friendship, so they were Good All Along.
  • Gafgarion of Final Fantasy Tactics was a mercenary hired by Dycedarg to murder the princess. Gafgarion kills quickly and efficiently with no regard for who, but also shows a distaste for fighting any battle when there's "no money in it." At one point, he insults Dycedarg for betraying you, Dycedarg's brother.
  • In Disgaea, Prinnies only serve Etna (and presumably others) for less than minimum wage in order to buy their souls' merit back. They count as villains because most Demons (Etna included, to a degree) seem to be evil.
    • They're stated to work in Celestia, home of the Angels, as well. They're treated better there and work off their sins instead of working to raise money. Either way, it ends up with them as servants trying to reincarnate into something other than a Prinny.
  • Crimson Viper in Street Fighter IV makes it clear that beating the crap out of the world's top fighters in order to assassinate Seth is just business, and she's indicated to be a perfectly friendly person outside the ring who enjoys spending time with her daughter.
  • In Mirror's Edge, Celleste signed up as an assassin for the corrupt mayor because it's a comparatively safe job that puts bread on the table, and also has the great advantage that the police forces are now on your side, instead of trying to shoot you on sight. As a wonderful example of an actual Punchclock Villain, she still hangs out with her friends after work, and drops hints that it really would be better for them to stop antagonizing the oppressive government and starting a more socially accepted type of life.
  • Every character in Iji, even General Tor, the Final Boss and supposed Big Bad. In fact, the only ones who are evil are the General Ripper leading the Tasen, Blood Knight Iosa, and the pyschopathic Asha. The real Big Bad is implied to be the Komato government. And that government is itself a Punch Clock Villain because it's just doing what is demanded of it - exterminating what the shortsighted general public sees only as a threat. It's a pretty dark game...
  • Kingdom Hearts:
    • Half of the members of Organization XIII are portrayed this way in Kingdom Hearts 358 Days Over 2. They even get vacation days on occasion.
    • Also, Yuna, Rikku, and Paine, the heroines of Final Fantasy X-2, worked for Maleficent in Kingdom Hearts II because she paid well. They switch to the good guys' side only because they think Leon will pay better.
  • Joshua from Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones punches out after losing a coin toss.
    • From a pretty girl, mind you.
    • A number of minor bosses from the series in general will fulfill this trope.
  • An overheard conversation in Ace Combat X Skies of Deception shows that at least one Leasath shipman would rather be out fishing than watching the surrounding skies for incoming hostiles. Also subverted in the same game, where someone responding to said shipman nonchalantly tells him that he'll have all the time needed to go fish once Aurelia's been defeated. Several other snippets also show that some Leasath grunts genuinely buy into their commanding officer's desire to see the destruction and downfall of Aurelia.
    • Ace Combat 04 Shattered Skies has the Erusean 'Yellow' squadron, who are just soldiers and not really villainous for the sake of it. They even befriend the San Salvacion people and abhor the Erusean tactics of posting AA guns on hospitals in occupied cities. Thirteen even praises the "skilled enemy pilot" who is winning battles all along the way.
    • Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War also has honourable 'Knight' enemies. You get the feeling that they wouldn't be your enemy except for the fact that you're in the opposing army.
  • Lucifon of Princess Maker 2 seems to be very much this. When he is defeated in a duel by the father of the game, he points out that it was the God's will that he attack the corrupted land, a point the father can't argue with. He does seem to treat his role more as a job to be done than a chance to act as your typical scheming villain, though he takes a great deal of pride if he succeeds in corrupting your daughter enough to make her become the next princess of darkness either by marriage or You Kill It, You Bought It. He and most of the demons are generally Affably Evil.
  • At one point in Deus Ex, the player comes across an NSF platoon that is guarding an underground supply route. When the player reaches the platoon commander, he surrenders and gives up without a fight because "he's just a reservist". He explains that, under scary looking body armour, he's just an accountant, and isn't really big on dying just to protect the supply route.
  • In the Borderlands DLC "The Secret Armory of General Knoxx", the eponymous General is incredibly unenthusiastic about being sent to Pandora to deal with you, and just wants to get everything over with so he can leave.
  • The Four Gods in Izuna Legend of the Unemployed Ninja are nice, decent fellows who also happen to have an immature Jerkass as a boss. At no point do they wish to fight you, and they happily Heel Face Turn after Izuna knocks some sense into said boss.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog, Rouge the Bat could be classed as a Punch Clock Villain. She steals jewels whenever she likes and manipulates people to do so, but she's doing it all for herself, and when she's not stealing things, she's just your regular gal who likes a good night on the town.
    • The Babylon Rogues and E-102 Gamma from the same series. E-102 only tries to kill Sonic out of peer pressure, and the Babylons are racers and thieves.
  • Silver Sable appears as this in Ultimate Spider-Man at the end, when Spidey thinks that she is going to attack him after showing up at a rooftop, but she's not gonna since her contract with Bolivar Trask has expired 10 minutes ago. When Spider-Man is about to question her about what she's doing, Sable interrupts him by claiming "business is business" before leaving him to get Trask.
  • In the first Rival Schools, Hideo Shimazu and Kyoko Minazuki start out like this. Being new teachers in an elite school, they had no idea that their school president is conducting a mass brainwashing plot on the new transfer students that they brought in, they're just doing their job of recruiting. But once the realization hits, they tried to quit, got beaten into submission, brainwashed, snapped back, and turned against the president.
    • And Raizou Imawano, the president himself, is one of these despite looking Obviously Evil, as he's being brainwashed into doing all of this by his nephew and student body president Hyo Imawano.
      • And even Hyo is being brainwashed by the spirit of his dead father, Mugen Imawano.
  • Sometimes, Assassin's Creed II uses this. Most guards are Jerkasses who shove Ezio around with little provocation, but occasionally, during plot missions, you may eavesdrop on some of them talking about family and friends, and being normal people whose only problem is serving Ezio's enemies. This is given a Lampshade in the last memory with Jacopo de'Pazzi, where Ezio notes that the two guards who have seized him are just doing their jobs and that he'll spare them if they let him go.
  • Rocket grunts from Pokémon are these. Galactic grunts can also fall under this category.
  • In Metal Gear Acid 2, the security chief of SaintLogic, Vince, is a terrifying figure in full-plate armour with glowing blue eyes...who is disturbingly nice due to being this, not going out of his way to hinder Snake any further than his job requires, talking to him in a chatty and informal manner, and even siding with him occasionally when he feels his job is asking him to go too far. Because of this, he's a soft target for Venus, who is far less nice a person than he is.
    • The other example in Metal Gear is Kazuhira in Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Despite being on your side, in that game, you're playing as Big Boss, an eventual villain, and Kaz goads him into doing stupidly evil things like building nuclear weapons, kidnapping people, and (possibly) stitching sharp pieces of metal into his chest. Kaz is actually a pretty nice guy, but his main goal is to make a ton of money.
    • The legendary Johnny from Metal Gear Solids 1, 2, and Grandfather Johnny. Also doubles as a Minion with an F In Evil.
  • Cynthia Charleston from In The 1st Degree could qualify as this (as well as being an Amoral Attorney). She is a defense attorney who is defending a man charged with first degree murder and grand theft. However, since the game does not show her or her personality when she is off-duty...
  • In Jak II: Renegade, members of Baron Praxis' Krimzon Guard can be overheard discussing (among other things) going to see the races during the weekend, having to do sewer patrol after pissing off a commander, and liking the new armor, which is apparently "more comfortable in the crotch."
  • In BlazBlue, Litchi, provided that you just don't treat her as an utterly selfish and obsessed woman just because the side she serves, becomes this, Anti-Villain and Token Good Teammate for NOL. She's only in NOL for the cure of both herself and Arakune, in order to live longer and be with her friends when everyone else refused to help, and is currently distressed about it, as shown with her desperate ranting towards Rachel. She also has no interest in whatever NOL or Terumi are planning like either plunging the world into a state of 'World of Death' or 'Truth of Despair'.
  • Plenty of them in Tekken as not everyone is that much concerned with the Devil Gene business. The Williams sisters (Nina and Anna) takes any job and wouldn't expand it to personal lives, their aim is just to settle their sister rivalries. Eddy Gordo is only in Jin's army to get the cure for his sickly master. Bruce Irvin is a good friend of Kazuya Mishima and usually serves him well, but outside his servitude, he's a Friend to All Children and help them out when he can.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • Narbonic centers around Dave Davenport and his employer, the Mad Scientist Dr. Helen Narbon. Dave's fully aware of what Helen does for a living and will occasionally note how odd it is that none of it fazes him. Maybe if she succeeded more often...
  • A dominant theme of the webcomic Evil Inc. Several of the protagonists have "mixed marriages" (that is, hero/villain), some of which are kept secret in the interest of comedy.
  • Kroenen, and, to a lesser extend, most of the bad guys in Abe Kroenen. However, with the death of Rasputin, most of his minions seem to be rather depressed not to have someone boss them around.
  • Lampshaded in this strip of Hellbound, though, strictly speaking, they're heroic antagonists to the villainous protagonists.
  • After The Order of the Stick (temporarily) destroy Xykon, one of his remaining minions announces that, since nobody is paying them to fight anymore, they're surrendering. Unfortunately, he announces this to Belkar, who, undaunted, proceeds to wholesale slaughter the "pretty little chunks of XP".
    • Again, in The Order of the Stick, comics 30-32 take place in the secret Break Room of Xykon's Lair, where they encounter a "squid-thingy" before the comic is interrupted by two Lawyers sent to prosecute the comic for violation of the Open Gaming License.
    • Tarquin seems to be heading in this direction. With a big emphasis on villain. Remember, although he may not be a sadist, he is still Lawful Evil
  • Debatable in Kevin and Kell. Kell's job is to hunt and eat herbivores, but she's also married to one. Makes you wonder why she doesn't change jobs.
  • Abner the vampire hunter in Hanna Is Not a Boy's Name is something of this. He feels no personal conflict with his victims, he basically just shoots them for the paycheck.
  • Minions At Work: "Evil is not their nature, evil is just their day job."
  • Most of the Combine in Concerned, as well as their few human employees (including Gordon Frohman himself).
  • In Terinu, the Big Bad's chosen leader for his genetically created group of minions is a happy family man who's concerned for his pregnant wife, who just happens to leads invasions of innocent worlds for his master.
  • Most Heteri-Corp Mooks in Sluggy Freelance. This does not stop them from getting slaughtered wholesale.
  • Fuchsia, Exactly What It Says on the Tin-colored devil girl of Sinfest, has evolved into this in the last several months, until she finally becomes one literally in this strip (pictured above).
    • The idea is also summarized neatly here.
  • Subverted in Scary Go Round, where "evil intern" Gibbous Moon returns to romance Ryan, and turns out to be the field general for a crew of pirates, disguised as Blackbeard's ghost.
  • The major thematic element of Chopping Block. While Butch certainly enjoys what he does, he views it very much as a job, trying to make quotas, keeping a professional standard, and occasionally talking shop with other killers (though he detests that).
  • Abraham from El Goonish Shive seems to be this. He takes no pleasure in what he does, and it's heavily implied that if it wasn't for his oath, he wouldn't be antagonizing the cast, but he lacks the openly sympathetic aspect that would make him an Anti-Villain.
  • The 200th comic of Brawl in the Family uses this. "These minions clock in from 9 till 5 to provide for their wives..."
  • This Arc of Jack deals with the ethical dilemmas of finding yourself an unwilling punch clock villain by discovering half way through your employment that your boss is a twisted paedophile, and being unable to quit or tell anyone because he's also weeks from finding a cure to your wife's terminal cancer.
  • Gen. William Howe in The Dreamer. He really doesn't want to fight against the very people he fought with in the French And Indian War, but he has no choice but to follow orders.
  • Davan in Something*Positive originally worked in a Medicaid billing department, which required him to send crushingly expensive ambulance bills to people below the poverty line. The artist was taking out his rage at having previously worked at a similar job.
  • According to his Villain Song, Skipper Plumbthroat, of Homestuck's Show Within a Show Squiddles!, apparently hunts the eponymous Squiddles in order to pay off his debts.
  • In Sidekick Girl, Coldfire is a henchman who only henches because his visa is tied to the Henchman Agency, and he has a bounty on his head back in his home country. He often willingly helps the heroes in secret.
  • In Nintendo Acres, villains like Bowser, Ganon, and Dr. Eggman, like almost everyone else, are simply actors who work in video games, and are actually quite nice people.
  • In Voodoo Walrus, Shmeerm seems to exhibit qualities of this. If he doesn't have express orders to pummel, eviscerate, and destroy people, places, and things, he seems content to simply traumatize catgirls and talk about his relationship problems with a science badger over tea.
  • Sentry of Ask-a-Sentry, a Tumblr-based Tron webcomic. He's a sweet, awkward guy who just happens to be a member of Clu's army, and who wants nothing more than to fulfill his directives to the best of his ability (when he's not getting distracted, that is...)


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • The Everything2 short story, It's a hard knock life for a cosmic horror cultist.
  • Members of the Hymn of One cult in Lonelygirl15 are, for the most part, just religious people who like to meditate, find their "inner song", and do charitable work. Unfortunately, the people in charge have other plans.
    • Explored further in Kate Modern, with the character of Steve Roberts. "I was just doing my job!", indeed.
  • Dr. Horrible fits this trope rather well. Sure, he invented the freeze ray and transported gold bullion from a bank vault, but he also does laundry a few times a week and enjoys frozen yogurt.
    • There's also Moist, who leads a "life of crime" as a henchmen, and spends his free time dating and hanging out with friends in rooms with pink wallpaper and an abundance of stuffed toys.
  • The henchmen working for Leather are like this.
  • In the story "Boston Brawl 2" of the Whateley Universe, the Big Bad brings his Quirky Miniboss Squad and also four mercenaries in case the heroes show up. One mercenary, the Anti-Paladin, is appalled that - while they wait for the signal - a couple other of the mercenaries are sitting around playing a videogame. Definitely Punch Clock Villain material.
    • Ironically, the Anti-Paladin himself is just a professional. He's a bit of a Noble Demon, though still evil. (He sacrifices kittens so he can enter holy ground. However, see his focus in "Angel in Father John's Basement".)
  • Tex from Red vs. Blue:

Tucker: So I suppose if you're helping us, you're not as mean as I thought.
Tex: I wouldn't say I'm mean; I just get hired to do mean things.
Tucker: Yeah, but you like it.
Tex: Well, I think it's important to enjoy what you do.
Tucker: So... let's say I hired you to kill Caboose. You would still do it, right? Even though you're supposed to be helping us?
Tex: Is this a hypothetical discussion, or should we start talking numbers?
Tucker: Yeah, I don't wanna talk about this anymore.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • The Venture Brothers is partially built around this trope:
    • The Monarch's henchmen, particularly #21 and #24, are losers and social outcasts who are just trying not to get killed. In one episode, #24 is overheard to complain that working for the Monarch was the only job he could get after the factory he worked at closed ("It was either this or the Army"). In another scene, they both try to recruit new henchmen by searching for out-of-work deadbeats in need of a paycheck. They accidentally hire hardcore gangsters, who are completely out of place.
    • Over the course of the show, it's revealed that both heroes and villains are really just bored idle rich people who use their wealth to live a fantasy lifestyle. The Guild of Calamitous Intent keeps the battles from getting out of hand with a laundry list of rules and regulations. Arch-nemeses are gained by an interview process rather than personal vendetta. Battles are sometimes even scheduled like play-dates. Anyone who doesn't play by the rules is rounded up by the Guild, and anyone who is legitimately dangerous is taken out by the secret group Sphinx.
  • Ron, from Kim Possible, once stumbled into a bunch of Dr. Drakken's goons in what appeared to be an employee's lounge, suggesting that they're all punching a clock somewhere too. (At one point, Drakken mentions he holds an employee picnic for them.) In a further parody, one of the episodes features a trip to Henchco, a temp agency that does nothing but supply henchmen (and equipment) to aspiring villains.
    • At some point, all Kim Possible villains have had some version of a punch-clock villain. One went so far as to involve Kim and Ron in a fight between punch-clock villains and punch-clock spies.
    • Even Shego clocks off for the weekend if they're still in the planning stages of the Evil Plan.
      • Or at the end of the (inevitably failed) plan, unless Drakken drags her to Karaoke Night (where the civilians politely clap as Drakken sings; yet another example of an off-duty villain).
      • Fortunately, while Drakken's an incompetent villain, he's a pretty decent boss to work for; when Shego took a Christmas vacation in "A Very Possible Christmas", she was surprised to learn that Drakken had footed the bill for her vacation, including hotel accommodations and meals.
    • And let's not forget that when Drakken gets a cold that's going around, his temporary partner-in-crime actually hires someone from a temp agency. The guy gets totally into his job, seeing new career opportunities around every corner.
      • Shego calls in sick, and while she's off the clock, she stands there watching as Ron hauls away the MacGuffin.
  • Homer unwittingly ends up working as a Punch Clock Villain for megalomaniac CEO Hank Scorpio in The Simpsons. When Hank mentions he's "having problems with the government" (actually a full-scale base invasion straight out of James Bond), Homer expresses sympathy, but doesn't join in the fight (though he earlier prevented the escape of "Mr. Bont").
  • The Shocker started out like this in The Spectacular Spider-Man. He was a Hired Guns, who seemed fairly honorable. After his initial defeat, his grudge against Spider-Man seemed rooted in his wanting to do the job he was paid to do.
    • Also, Sandman, who maintains his lack of a villainous nature from the comics. He's only in it for a "big score", not all the vindictive vendettas most of the other villains have (he often says how much he hates revenge), and generally tries not to hurt anyone (except Spiderman and the cops, of course) when on a job. This becomes even more clear in a recent episode, where he, while waiting for a contact, helps a kid get rid of some bullies, and, after accidentally setting an oil tanker on fire in a fight with Spiderman, helps save the crew, and almost kills himself containing the explosion.
  • Many Fire Nation soldiers are portrayed this way in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although there are some that seem to enjoy being cruel, most are just normal people doing their jobs.
    • As well as Ty Lee and Mai, who are only doing evil due to being intimidated into it by Azula (Ty Lee) or because its the only way to find her missing boyfriend (Mai.)
    • Certain episodes show that the Fire Nation Soldiers, by and large, don't even view themselves as Villains. The Fire Nation uses very liberal amounts of propaganda on the populace, and many are convinced that the war they're waging on the "lesser nations" are in their best interests.
  • In Metalocalypse, Dethklok's manager, Charles Foster Ofdensen, is quiet and restrainedly affable, but will kill or torture anyone threatening his "bread and butter". Given that Dethklok are unambiguously a force for evil in the world (though a popular one and only one of a few), and he also doesn't care how many people are killed or maimed by Dethklok as long as there will be no untoward consequences for the band and his job, I think he qualifies as a villain.
    • Pretty much every antagonist (Revengeancers not withstanding) on the show falls into this category, one way or another; Even the Tribunal is only out to get the band because they challenge the status quo and it's their job to maintain it.
  • Lemongrab of Adventure Time is a tyrannical ruler who sends everyone to the dungeon for a million years. When he doesn't have a considerable position of power, however, he's just your average, mentally unstable, run-of-the-mill jerk who's only a threat to himself. He only acquired that position of power because it was his duty- not because he wanted to. And we all saw how eager he was to be there...
  • Mixmaster and Scrapper in Transformers Animated worked for Megatron because he had the better oil, and because he didn't try to scare them off. They really had no vested interest in Megatron's cause, and were only really motivated to fight when Starscream shot their oil. With their construction worker theme, it wouldn't be surprising if they used a punchclock.
    • Furthermore, they started out as friends to Bulkhead, one of the Earth team Autobots, and in "Human Error, Part 2", Scrapper joined up with Sari's group of Substitute Autobots to break Soundwave's brainwashing of the "first-string" Autobots.
  • Several Looney Tunes shorts where Ralph Wolf is trying to steal sheep away from Sam Sheepdog. There is an actual punchclock in this one, and both the wolf and dog punch in and out at sunrise and sunset. They also get an hour long lunch break, during which they eat lunch together and occasionally have a smoke (probably the reason why television doesn't show these anymore).
    • Like many cartoon series, it took some tweaking to arrive at the formula. In the first one, only the sheepdogs punch the time clock, a new shift continues pummeling the wolf. In the second, both the wolves and sheepdogs punch in and out, but at separate clocks - no interaction off work. By the third, the two would greet each other at the clock, and by the series end, they even shared a house!

"Good Morning Sam" "Good morning Ralph"

  • Jack Spicer begins to cross into this territory during the second season premiere of Xiaolin Showdown, after a temporary alliance with the heroes comes to an end. When Omi pleads with him to not return to evil, Jack sighs and says that, though he's still going to fight them for control of the Shen Gong Wu, he promises they'll go out for ice cream sometimes when they're all off the clock, which cheers Omi up.
  • Shriek in Batman Beyond started out like this: he tried to kill Bruce, but only because, otherwise, his Corrupt Corporate Executive boss would fire him from his perfectly respectable career as a sound engineer. However, he was then caught wearing his super suit at his workplace, meaning that he would unable to go back without being arrested, prompting him to embrace the moniker Shriek. Then, a battle with Batman caused him to go deaf, so he embraced full-on, city-threatening supervillainy to get his revenge.
  • Dr. Doofenshmirtz on Phineas and Ferb. His evil plans are basically a routine; he usually won't even start trying to use his newest invention until his arch-nemesis (and best friend) Perry the Platypus shows up to foil him, and he seems to realize that he usually loses. He also has a teenaged daughter who lives with him part of the time; she fits this trope too, though far less enthusiastically, as if assisting her father were simply a normal chore.
    • Not to mention that his plans usually involve creating potentially evil devices for silly, petty reasons.
    • And there's also Suzy, who's only mean to Candace whenever her brother's around (since she threatens her control over him), and is nice when she's "off the clock."
    • Also Buford, who refers to himself as a bully, but spends free time with his usual "victims" if there's no major bullying to be done.
  • The Justice League episode "Flash and Substance" has Captain Cold moaning about how crime isn't paying enough for him to make his mortgage payments.
  • Strike breaking lowlife Scab on Minoriteam is really just trying to feed his kids with villainy. And the Black Coq works for the White Shadow because he has nowhere else to go after losing his family and restaurant.
  • General Molotov on Jimmy Two-Shoes is pretty friendly whenever he's off-duty. This is especially notable since he works for Lucius.
  • A sketch on Robot Chicken featured Jason Voorhees eagerly awaiting Friday the 13 th, where he went on his normal killing spree. The following day, he is disappointed to go back to a normal routine.
  • An episode of Cow and Chicken had Chicken trying to confront a bully on the weekends. The bully says he only bullies on the weekdays and spends the weekends helping the poor.
  • From Gargoyles, Pack member Dingo is pretty clearly just there for the paycheck, and gets increasingly disgusted with his teammates as they slip further into Psycho for Hire-ness. Ultimately, he decides he's had enough and has a flat-out Heel Face Turn.
  • In one episode of Sealab 2021, Sparks reveals himself to be a madman bent on world domination, and offers Marco a position in his organization. Marco considers the job, depending on the benefits package.
  • Hinted at in a G.I. Joe episode, when the heroes search a COBRA office and one of them, reading some documents, remarks "Hey, they've got a dental plan!"
  • In South Park, Satan is portrayed in this fashion. He is also rather meek, insecure and Affably Evil, certainly less evil than Cartman, and even chats pleasantly and enthusiastically with his victims (who appear to only be truly bad people) after torturing them.
  • Lampshaded in Archer with this exchange:

Archer: Are you even really gay?
Charles: Like big ol' Tangerines!
Ramon: Then why are you working for Castro? You know his stance on homosexuality!
Charles: Because, commie, I have something called a "mortgage."

    • The villain of "Movie Star" also counts. She even briefly considers not carrying out her duty as a sleeper agent until she remembers that the Soviets said she'd get to direct...
  • The Ur Example of this trope, is Ralph the Coyote, from the Sam Sheepdog Looney Tunes shorts. He punches his card, tries to steal and eat the sheep, gets pounded by Sam, punches it again, and goes home. He and Sam even show friendliness to each other off the clock.

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Most real-life sportspeople are Punch Clock Villains to their opponents and their opponents' fans: fully genial and good-natured off the field, but ruthlessly competitive on it. Predictably—because good sportsmanship doesn't make for good drama -- most antagonists in Sports Movies are the opposite, being outright hostile to the heroes whatever the situation.
    • The same can't be said of most sports fans.
      • Many old (pre-1990s) Australian Rugby players lament that - due to various club rivalries and the growing trend of Contractual Purity within clubs - they can no longer go to the pub and share a pot with their mates (of either side) after the game.
    • And about good sportsmanship not making good drama, see Eyeshield 21. Many of the opposing teams are good, aspiring people that sometimes you can't help but root for, and their defeat often ends up as Tear Jerker.
    • It's especially prevalent when long-time teammates wind up getting separated due to trades. It's not uncommon to see former teammates and veterans chatting it up amicably between rounds of whatever game—and then turning around and being as brutal as possible during play.
    • Interestingly, there's an official rule in Major League Baseball that forbids players from fraternizing while on the field, enforcing this trope.
  • Prior to World War I, war was such a common way of life that enemy armies would be on quite good terms before a battle, often feasting together before plans were drawn up and they went back to form up their lines.
    • During the French occupancy in WWII, it was not uncommon for off-duty German officers (many of whom served in the front lines in WWI) to exchange stories with retired French WWI soldiers.
    • During the battle of Gettysburg, one stream saw both Union and Confederate soldiers drawing water from it and having conversations.
    • There was also the Christmas truce in WWI. It was famously remembered in Christmas song "Snoopy's Christmas" which saw the eponymous character (of Peanuts fame) have Christmas dinner with his rival, the Red Baron.
      • A bittersweet case of Truth in Television: When the Red Baron was shot down and killed, he was treated with the greatest respect and given a funeral with full military honors by the Australian unit credited with his death.
    • War as a "gentleman's game" ended when technology improved to the point that enemies could massacre each other at a distance. If you can mow down your opponents in bunches, without ever getting close enough to see their faces, they become Faceless Mooks, and chivalry goes right out the window.
      • This phenomenon is also common in discussions of Game Theory. In WWI, specifically, opposing military units would often face each other for long periods at a time, which allowed them to work out a crude sort of honor like "Don't shoot on Christmas" amongst themselves. Commanders figured this out and began rotating units so that they would not be "repeat players" and these informal deals would collapse.
      • In World War II, it wasn't uncommon for resistance fighters who didn't want their occupiers to be there and units of occupying troops who didn't really want to be there either to adopt an informal policy of leaving each other alone as much as possible. The best example was Yugoslavia: before Italy's Heel Face Turn, the Yugoslav resistance made a point of not deliberately antagonizing the Italian troops and instead focused on the Germans. For their part, the Italians made only half-hearted efforts to stamp out resistance units who, after all, were generally shooting at the Germans.
      • Rommel managed to maintain something of a "gentleman's game" approach, certainly, he refused to round up or execute the Jews in the areas he was posted.
  • A somewhat less pleasant example would be the civilians working at the Nazi concentration camps. They were mostly ordinary people who lived ordinary lives—and happened to be working the maintenance and administration of a death camp.
  • Loads of Nazi soldiers up for war crimes said they were Just Following Orders. That got them...wait for it...NOWHERE!
    • Considering that the Nuremburg trials dealt with fewer than 200 individual Nazis (only 150 or so of whom were actually convicted), while significantly more than 200 people had "followed orders" (some quite gruesome or inhumane) of one sort or another over the entire period of the war, it seems as if the excuse got many quite far. Doubly so when you consider that a number of German scientists and spies (some of whom were guilty of a great many war crimes) were transferred directly under the influence of multiple Allied countries (such as Wernher von Braun joining the US rocket program) without being tried at all. In a sense, most of the people for whom "following orders" was not considered an acceptable defense were those high up enough in the hierarchy that it was assumed they weren't merely following orders against their own good judgment and morality, but directly supporting and profiting from them as well. And who would be of more value as examples than as military/espionage/scientific assets in the rapidly-developing Cold War.
      • In any case once an SS guard found out his duties he always had the somewhat more honorable option of volunteering for the Russian front and picking on victims who were shooting back at him.
    • World War II was actually the beginning of the concept that "following orders" was not a justification for committing crimes against humanity.
  • The idea of "The Banality of Evil" by Hanna Arendt is a response to this, describing how people can regard the most terrible atrocities as "just a job" that they justify by the fact that they are Just Following Orders.
  • Terry Pratchett is actually right: groups of bureaucrats have done more evil than any lunatic or Complete Monster—just look at the Holocaust, Stalin's and Mao's purges, Saddam and his mass graves....
    • Except that Pratchett is completely wrong, as your own examples demonstrate: the Holocaust, Stalin's Great Terror, Mao's Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution, and Saddam Hussein's massacres were all driven by psychopathic megalomaniacs at the very top of the power structure in each case (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Hussein, respectively).
  • In The Stanford Prison Experiment, a well-known psychological study, psychologist Philip Zimbardo asked participants to stay in a prison-like environment, role-playing guards and prisoners for several weeks. The experiment was aborted when the results proved very disturbing...
    • What makes it even more disturbing is that Zimbardo is also a genial professor who makes educational videos about psychology, which puts the banality of evil in sharp relief. It's difficult to imagine that man acting the way he admits he did.
  • And there's also The Milgram Experiment, which shows that the majority of ordinary people will electrocute another person to death if they receive some mild encouragement from an authority figure.
    • Okay, Mileage Variance on the "mild" part. In the Milgram experiment, the prodding started off as mild and then escalated to basically telling the participants that they had no choice but to continue the electrocutions. In some variances on the experiment, some participants "lied" about applying the shocks so as to appear to cooperate, yet still refused to inflict further harm.
      • There have also been suggestions that the reason so many people continued with it was because they'd guessed that the shocks weren't real. As a result, a follow-up study was done using a live puppy actually receiving shocks as the victim. 20 out of 26 participants were still compliant, even though several participants openly wept.
    • Milgram, "The Perils of Obedience":

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority."

    • Which brings to mind the famous Upton Sinclair quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
    • Reportedly, there was a recent experiment where this took the form of a game show...with even more disturbing results.
  • Wernher von Braun designed the V-2 rocket, For Science!!
    • Operation Paper Clip as a whole combines this with Heel Face Turn.
    • "That's not my department," says Wernher von Braun...
    • Depending on your definition of a villain or point of view, we could also add the scientists under Oppenheimer, working on the Manhattan Project.
      • Also, the scientists working on bacteriological weapons, devising on ways to make nastier strains of anthrax and more efficient ways to spread them across enemy cities, then going home to their families.
    • He said afterwards, "The rocket worked perfectly except for landing on the wrong planet", which kind of says it all...
      • The standard joke about his autobiography I Aim for the Stars is that the full title was actually I Aim for the Stars (But- Sometimes I Hit London).
  • While the media and history textbooks have created a classic image of the old American Slave Owner as being pretty much a Nazi with a Southern accent; the image of the typical Southern slaveholder being a sadistic white aristocrat sittin' on the verandah sippin' mint juleps is not quite accurate. The majority of people buying and selling slaves really bore no ill will towards anyone, white or black. According to many reliable sources, several slave owners went out of their way to treat their slaves with genuine care and respect and many states had laws against their intentional mistreatment. So....it becomes understandable that the concept of treating living human beings like property and tearing families apart by selling off a man's wife and children like accessories at a yard sale could become viewed as 'benign', rather than as a abomination.
    • In The Boondocks episode about the main characters' ancestor, the third (and the true) version of the story, treated the slave master as this.
    • 1860 census records show that, while 25% of white Southerners owned slaves, less than 1% owned more than fifty of them. Also, South Carolina's third largest slaveholder at the time of the War was William Ellison, a black freedman. Much like the Holocaust, (and a great number of evils), it simply became such an accepted part of life that folks started missing the "evil" part, even those suffering it.
      • While it is generally a given that slavery is a disgrace to all humanity now, it's important to remember that in many civilizations, slavery had its origins as a humane solution. Some thought it was doing the conquered and/or captured a favor to take them slaves as opposed to slaughtering them all.
        • Much like the example of William Ellison above, throughout history many slaves owned slaves themselves and almost all freedmen did, as was the case in Ancient Rome. Also, Roman slaves occupied quite prestigious positions in society as well. So when slavery devolved into casual rape or horrific punishments of extremely minor misdeeds, it was easy to overlook it on account of how "well" it seemed to work out otherwise.
  • The average soldier or civilian employee in any dictatorship. For most part, they're just ordinary people wanting to do ordinary jobs, but doing so allow the regime to keep on going.
    • In a weird sort of way these can be both punch clock villains and punch clock heroes. You will be hard pressed to find a regime that does not provide some useful public service if only to make sure there are healthy taxpayers to extort money from. On the Eastern Front in World War 2 curiously the Red Army was to some degree protecting Russian civilians from the Wehrmacht in 1941 and in 1945 the Wehrmacht was protecting German civilians from the vengeance of the Red Army.
    • Special mention should go to the average North Korean soldier, not the commandos, who don't even get a good paycheck. During the winter, on the Chinese border, these guards are ordered to shoot or arrest anybody who has wandered along the iced rivers and into/out of the North. They are said to be quite polite towards the Chinese who live along the border and routinely ask them for food, cigarettes, and even coal, pretty much anything to help them survive sentry duty in the winter.
  • At a far less sinister level than all of these, but still worthy of mention: repo men (and women). Sure, they don't take anyone's organs, but most people still don't like their possessions being taken without their permission.
    • Kinda hard to consider them as villains when the hero is the one who put themselves in debt.
      • Not that those having stuff repossessed are always the pinnacle of good nature and intellect either. While many fall on hard times, others often enter into loan or lease agreements and then think that once they have possession of, say, a car, it's theirs for life. This is, of course, contrary to reality.
  • Pretty much everybody who works in a position of authority (prison guard, cop, judge, politician, lawyer, bureaucrat, teacher, soldier, corporate officer, business investor, security guard, etc, etc, etc.)...think that their job is good for the world, or at least a perfectly honest way to make a living. Yet about half of the time, the verdict of history is going to be that they were working for the wrong side.
  • Anarchist John Zerzan famously and controversially referred to this sort of person as a "Little Eichmann."
  • Whichever soldiers your side is fighting in a war are generally these, especially if there's a draft. However, there are certainly some exceptions.
  • The IRS (the Internal Revenue Service). A.K.A. the taxmen.
  • Hermann Göring, according to journalist and author Guido Knopp and others. He apparently didn't mind his younger brother Albert protecting Jews, as long as he didn't make any mess Hermann couldn't get him out of.
  • Mercenaries and most hired guns in general. It's just a paycheck, and it's inevirtable in the line of work that people will be shot.
  • Suicide Bombers curiously. They often do their job simply for a paycheck for their family.
  • In World War 2 there were actually punch clock villain states. Only a few regimes can be said to have woken up and decided,"I want to be evil, it's my lifelong dream". Almost everyone else in the entire world basically pursued the policy that would keep it alive and maybe get back at a neighbor for something, or pickpocket a bit of territory, or whatever. Once in awhile a government also considered honor but usually that was when their geography and resources made that an option. The result is that a lot of times how we look on a state retrospectively has more to do with their situation at the time then how evil or good it's leadership was.
    • For instance deciding whether Hitler or Stalin was more evil is rather eccentric and deciding who was a greater threat to the world was a nice judgement call. However the Finn's were pretty sure who Finland had the biggest beef with. Likewise Hungary and Romania took the German side because they didn't have much love for the Russians to begin with, but aside from that the Germans could take over their countries in a few days. On the other hand the Poles were on the Allied side because the Germans had kind of, you know invaded them(so did the Russians but one enemy at a time is enough).