Villain Protagonist

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After all, at its core, Yandere Simulator is a horror game. Where you are the monster.
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So where is it written that the bad guy can't be the star? Nowhere, actually.

An interesting twist on conventional storytelling is to make The Protagonist a Villain. Sometimes (but not always), this villainous main character will even get the Sympathetic POV or be portrayed as an Anti-Villain. Although "hero" and "protagonist" are frequently used interchangeably, it can be fun to take Evil's side and root for it to win over the boring goody two-shoes. However, it is not necessary for a villain to be sympathetic for them to be this trope. Sometimes it's done by having the protagonist facing even worse people.

A Villain Protagonist (especially in a comedy) is quite likely to go down in flames at the end. Whether this counts as a Downer Ending or not is debatable. They may also do a Heel Face Turn and become a Hero Protagonist.

Of course, in the case of video games, some will allow you to choose to be evil, but that's another trope entirely; only when the character you play automatically defaults to villainy does this trope apply. Commonly in video games, you just do it For the Evulz.

When this is done for one episode, it's a Villain Episode.

Compare the Hero Antagonist and Hero Protagonist. May overlap with the more extreme cases of an Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist.

Not to be confused with the Byronic Hero, who is a horribly flawed person but has heroic qualities and is often working towards a heroic goal, though, there are cases where a Byronic Hero and Villain Protagonist overlap. May also overlap with a Type IV and Type V Anti-Hero and/or Sociopathic Hero.

The point of this trope is for the Protagonist to be the Villain; it doesn't count if the Hero's girlfriend, or best friend is the evil.

Don't confuse this with the Anti-Hero, the Outlaw Hero, or the Hero with Bad Publicity. If the Protagonist's goal is to kill the Chosen One, or to take over the world for is own ambition, or something like that you are ok.

Examples of Villain Protagonist include:


Anime & Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Light Yagami in Death Note, who kills people for his Knight Templar dreams of a better world and godhood. He consistently sees himself as a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and doesn't seem to realise that he's crossing Moral Event Horizons. During his Motive Rant, he still legitimately seems to believe that he's doing the right thing.
  • Raoh from Fist of the North Star is the main focus of two of the Legends of the True Savior movies, as well as the protagonist of his own spinoff manga/anime titled Legends of the Dark King
  • Ladd Russo of Baccano!. He's not the main character (there is no main character), but he is an Ensemble Darkhorse.
    • If you think about it, almost the entire main cast of Baccano! is villainous. Firo and the Martillo family are camorristi, the Gandors are mafia, Jacuzzi and gang are, well, a gang, Claire Stanfield is a master assassin, Ennis is the servant of the Big Bad of 1930, the Daily Days is a cynical information broker worried only about itself. Really the only main character who isn't villainous is Eve Genoard, and then, she has some Corrupt the Cutie moments in the 1932 novel.
  • The eponymous Golgo 13 tempered by the fact that those he fights tend to be complete monsters
  • Lucy from Elfen Lied is a cold-blooded killer. She has killed armed men and innocent children, for reasons ranging from "trying to kill me" to "You killed my dog" to "I envy your happy, normal life, and I need a place to crash." She kicks people quite sadistically when they are down. She hears voices and tries to infest humans with her diclonius genes, which will lead to the extinction of mankind. No effort is spared to let the viewer feel sympathy for her plight. In the end, she sacrifices herself to save the one guy who was nice to her. And then you look in the fridge and realize that by the time the series started, years after her most horrific deeds, she never explicitly killed anyone who was unarguably innocent, and got Mayu, whom she'd never met before, out of harm's way when fighting another diclonius...
  • MD Geist is revealed to be a Villain Protagonist, but it is difficult to either sympathize or despise him because he isn't developed at all and his true motives are never revealed.
  • Mirai Nikki is interesting as the true protagonist is reasonably moral (though not truly heroic, least not yet), but all of his allies seem to have rather questionable morals. One is a terrorist who thinks nothing of blowing up a school while it's occupied, while his closest ally and potential girlfriend is dangerous. Over the course of the series, he does eventually become more immoral and becomes as nutty as his girlfriend. Many characters call him out on his villainous behaviour as he gets worse and worse.
  • Dai Mahou Touge.
  • Yuuhi and Sami, the main duo of The Lucifer and Biscuit Hammer. Sami has vowed to destroy the Earth herself after saving it from the eponymous hammer, and Yuuhi is extremely loyal to her for that end. The other Knights besides Yuuhi don't know about Sami's intention; Yuuhi and Sami plot to turn against them as soon as the world is saved. After much Character Development for both of them, they get better. Yuuhi eventually 'defeats' Sami, who didn't really want to destroy the Earth at that point, and the two go on to live Happily Ever After.
  • Hell Girl. Ai and her helpers are likable, but they damn people to hell for a living. What's more, Ai gets most of her contracts from desperate, vulnerable people who will regret their decision for all eternity. The first season balanced Ai's group with a pair of non-villain protagonists, Hajime and Tsugumi, and Mitsuganae seems to be doing the same with Mikage. Futakomori's approach was to emphasize the helpers' sympathetic backgrounds and ramp up the nastiness of Ai's victims.
  • The protagonist, Ryo Narushima, in Shamo is one of the most hate-able main characters in comic/manga history. He murders his parents in the first 3 pages of the book, and throughout the series commits (or at least attempts to commit) multiple acts of murder and rape.
  • Higurashi no Naku Koro ni loves this trope. Several characters play this role at some point. Subverted as neither the protagonist nor the viewer knows until The Reveal.
  • Mayo Sasaki in Fushigi Yuugi: Eikoden. While she's not truly evil, she is extremely selfish and unsympathetic, and her obsession with stealing Miaka's beloved husband Taka/Tamahome, coupled with her irresponsible behavior, causes a lot of trouble for the warriors of Suzaku.
  • Toshiya and Mon of The World Is Mine. They're Mad Bomber Serial Killer Rapists who take over a police station with rocket launchers; even Toshiya's own father wants to kill him himself after the media attention caused his mother to commit suicide. For most of the story these 2 people had caused more deaths than a giant bear creature that can destroy whole buildings.
  • Yoshitaka, the male lead of He Is My Master is a sociopathic pervert with little to no redeeming qualities.
  • Tomie.
  • Gundam Seed Stargazer does this with the pilot of the Strike Noir, Sven Cal Vayan. He is the character with the most focus and the only one that (due to the length of the story) got any degree of backstory. He's also shown to be extremely cold, more than willing to gun down entire crowds of refugees on the off-chance that one is a terrorist, and show no trace of remorse or grief when a wingman gets killed. He does eventually get better, but not before getting into a Chained Heat situation with the Hero Antagonist of the series and the pilot of the Stargazer.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo aka Edmond Dantes from Gankutsuou. Especially when the title Cosmic Horror is in control of him.
  • Alucard from Hellsing . The first anime leans towards Anti-Hero, but the manga and OVA series depict him as more of a monster. But in that series, he does have a more human side as well. we really see it during his last battle with Anderson.
  • Ookami no Kuchi Wolfsmund'' is a series of tragic stories only connected by the presence of Wolfram and the eponymous border pass that he oversees. As of the first volume, no one has gotten past Wolfsmund alive or unscathed thanks to him.
  • A lot of Hentai has this. One notable series is the OVA Slave Market. Every episode features the main character, Cassius, buying a slavegirl. His initial intention is to "save" her, but he finds himself becoming obsessed with her, leading to rape and torture. In an effort to make him even remotely likable, there is inevitably someone even worse hunting his newest slave. Notably, the second episode featured a pair of Hero Antagonists who ended up saving the girl from both Cassius, and the real villains.
  • Sheila of Superior. Responsible for the death of half the human race (and wants to finish the job), thinks children are an excellent snack, travels with the Yuusha with the express intent of betraying and murdering him... But the entire story is about her slooow Face Heel Turn.
  • Tentai Senshi Sunred focuses mainly on day-to-day life of the title character's Arch Enemy Vamp of Florsheim and all his Evil Minions. Vamp is a Harmless Villain (and his minions moreso) and obeys Contractual Genre Blindness, and the whole thing is one long string of Villains Out Shopping. It's very much Played for Laughs.
  • The Rise of Scourge focuses on bloodthirsty murderer Scourge, as he commits murder, murderously.
  • Ling Xiaoyu from Tekken: Blood Vengeance is probably the most heroic example of this trope ever, seeing that she was only in it because her target is a hottie. After her opponent goes out of her way to save her life following a showdown, she pulls a Heel Face Turn and allies herself with her so they can get to the bottom of what their superiors are really up to.
  • Excel Saga is a humorous take on this that can be argued to be an outright parody. The eponymous Excel willingly serves Il Palazzo and his "ideological" organization ACROSS, whose express goal is to Take Over the World, but is in ACROSS because of Il Palazzo. Excel's services to ACROSS are marked by her Genki Girl status mixing with her cheerful and often loud proclamations that ACROSS will subjugate the ignorant masses under their will, alongside her incompetence usually preventing ACROSS from achieving anything substantial towards reaching their goal, all the while showcasing its incredibly quirky humor consisting of attempting to fit in Il Palazzo's plans amidst her and her partner Hyatt's part-time jobs due to living in Perpetual Poverty. The humor is, however, toned down quite a lot during the last episodes of the anime, and is in lower quantity in general in the manga (compared to the anime, which is even titled 'Quack Experimental Anime: Excel Saga'). In the anime, however, it's more the fact that Excel was kicked out of ACROSS without her knowing then shot by Il Palazzo, the lost her memory than her becoming truly evil. It doesn't stop Excel from totting a large blade down the middle of a street in plain sight in the night while cheerfully singing about murdering the author.
  • Natsuo of Teppu definitely qualifies. The realistic high school setting of the manga means that she's probably not going to be murdering anyone, but she has demonstrated herself to be ruthless, selfish, arrogant and frequently sadistic. For example, she initiates a fight with her future rival just because she's bored, and her rival's cheerfulness and self-confidence pisses her off. Natsuo has gotten a little less arrogant over the course of the series so far, but otherwise she's still just as much of a bitch as she was at the start.
  • Sasuke of Naruto becomes more and more like one of these in Part II. He was just a major character and not the actual protagonist.
  • Shana is revealed to have unknowingly been this all along in volume 22 of Shakugan no Shana. To be fair, neither she nor the other Flame Hazes knew what the Snake of the Festival was really up to, and when they find out it's a big What Is Evil? moment for all of them.
  • In Big Order this is what Eiji wants to be.
  • In Black Lagoon almost all the main characters are villainous, and some arcs (like the first arc, and the initial Roberta arc) sees them take the actual villain's role by doing stuff like kidnapping, or doing stuff like supporting Balalaika, who is the Big Bad of the Yakuza arc (with the Washimine clan and Yuko being the closest thing to 'the hero', up until the point where The Bad Guy Wins).
  • The titular character in Ratman is one.


Comic Books[edit | hide]

  • Comedian of Watchmen, with more emphasis on "Villain" than on "Protagonist"; like Rorschach, he is essentially a violent thug. Unlike Rorschach, however, he's willing to kill people whose only crime was not letting him do whatever he wants, and he stays a "Superhero" mostly so he can enjoy government sanction for his thuggery.
  • The protagonist of the eponymous Bomb Queen is a supervillainess-turned-Evil Overlord. There are no apparent efforts to justify a Sympathetic POV. In the beginning it showed her character in a more humorous light but now there is no doubt that she is a complete monster (she crushes Obama's nuts just for fun in the latest volume, murders all of her "friends", and if that isn't bad enough she then has a baby by George Bush. Heck her actions would make Johan Liebert blush)
  • Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes.
  • The Tomb of Dracula has stories focusing on the Count, and all the evil deeds he commits.
  • Mark Millar's Wanted, clearly, since nearly all of the main characters are stand-ins for DC and Marvel supervillains.
    • Millar does everything to make sure beyond the shadow of a doubt everyone understands that most of those guys (including the protagonist) were too busy raping the dog to notice the point at which they crossed the moral event horizon.
    • Oh, and by the way, they're still looking for the next kick.
  • A lot of DC villains get this treatment. Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, even Catwoman when she's not being an Anti-Hero.
    • The Joker had his own short-lived series back in the '70s in which he cheerfully offed various other characters.
    • Lex Luthor had his own limited series in which he presents himself as a brave man trying to let humanity take its own course by freeing us from the influence of that meddling alien, Superman. He was also the star of Paul Cornell's Action Comics run (concurrent with Brightest Day).
    • Eclipso, a B-squad villain upgraded in a Crisis Crossover to the God of Vengeance, was the narrator and main villain in said crossover, "The Darkness Within", after which he was given his own series which lasted nearly two years.
  • Around the time of the 1970s Joker comic, DC also broached the trope (depending on your point of view) by launching Blitzkreig, a WWII comic featuring a group of Nazi soldiers as sympathetic protagonists.
  • The seven issue miniseries Empire centers around a Doctor Doom-esque protagonist finalizing his conquest of the Earth, and dealing with the question "what next?"
  • In the original comic book version of The Mask, the central character (who is called "Bighead", because most people don't know he's wearing a mask) is a sociopathic serial murderer, akin to The Joker given powers (which got even scarier in the Joker Mask miniseries, where this actually happened). Let's just say that in the comics, the early scene in the movie where the Mask shoved mufflers up the asses of the mechanics who ripped him off would have involved a lot of red ink being used in the coloring process. Very often, the actual people wearing the mask are treated as little more than hosts whose bodies are being used to commit Bighead's comedic killing sprees... and they'll still gladly kill each other for the chance to wear it.
    • One wearer of the mask was a little girl (in 5th grade or something) who was bullied at school, and so when she puts the mask on (a dream come true for her) she goes to a school party and burns the school down.
    • This aspect of the comic series may have been referenced in the animated series, when a 4000 year old sociopathic fey who claims to have known all of the Mask's previous hosts (who included the likes of Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan) returns to Earth to team up with the latest Mask, but soon realizes he's "not like the others."
  • Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, an Ax Crazy Serial Killer with touches of the Sociopathic Hero. In his more collected moments, he's all too aware of it, once even breaking the fourth wall to remind readers that he is the villain in the story.
  • Teknophage, a short-lived comic by forgotten mid-90's publisher Tekno Comix, was a story about a 65 million year old, reptilian, Steampunk Dimension Lord/Magnificent Bastard who fed strife, misery, and tyranny merely to enjoy the chance to eat the souls of those with the killer instinct to struggle against him. Nominally, the comics were about the people trying to stop him, but everyone knew who to root for.
  • Ragamuffin from Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl.
  • The eponymous Lord Havok and the Extremists are all deadly supervillains bent on dominating the world that denied them... and are in fact portrayed much more sympathetically than the "heroic" Americommando, who is inarguably a danger to all around him. Lord Havok in particular is given a heartbreaking Start of Darkness.
  • Hunter Rose, the original Grendel, was an assassin/crimelord who did a lot of bad stuff for kicks and giggles. The later Grendels were more Anti Heroes, fighting against even worse individuals, particularly Japanese Kabuki Vampire Tujiro XIV.
  • Deadpool, the lovable Fourth Wall-breaking psychotic killer. Same goes for many other mercenary- or hitman-based comics, such as Scud the Disposable Assassin.
  • According to Word of God, the Legion of Super-Heroes of 3 Worlds miniseries is focused on its main villain Superboy-Prime.
  • Diabolik, the eponymous hero of the long-running Italian comic series. He is a ruthlessly violent jewel-thief who indifferently kidnaps, tortures, brainwashes and kills the innocent and guilty alike. His lover/partner-in-crime Eva Kant happily assists with all of the above, and throws obsessive sexual jealousy into the mix.
  • Incognito's main character, Zack, is an ex-super villain who got put into a witness protection program. He does do some heroic acts in secret, but only for selfish reasons.
  • Secret Six: It has Bane, the man who broke the Bat, Scandal Savage, the psychotic daughter of the first murderer, and Ragdoll, who is just freaky. Add to that Catman (an honorable but crazy hired killer), Deadshot (a sociopathic hitman) and an actual freakin' Banshee and you know this is not a team of nice people. Nice to look at, sure, but not nice. Definitely not nice.
  • Conan's nemesis Thoth-Amon had a comic.
  • A good chunk of titles under Marvel's Dark Reign banner.
  • The DCU villain Kobra, the Mad Scientist leader of a Religion of Evil, was originally introduced in an eponymous comic series that followed his efforts to Take Over the World, which were invariably foiled by his good twin brother. The series was cancelled after just seven issues (but Kobra would return).
  • RISE, KRAKEN! is a comic about a Cobra/SPECTRE-like global organization "with the stated goal of raising a giant sea creature that will rule the world by iron fist and slimy tentacle", and what kind of person joins up to build lasers on the Moon and get beaten up by the heroes. The protagonist discovers that most of the people involved aren't in it For the Evulz, but to advance their own possibly more reasonable agendas.
  • The Punisher, when written by Garth Ennis.
    • When not written by Ennis there's a chance that an author will write him as a cool but gritty person who does what needs to be done.
  • Marvel Zombies focuses on the eponymous superhero zombies. A few are portrayed sympathetically, while others are complete monsters.
  • Suicide Squad: DC's comic about supervillains offered a pardon in exchange for completing missions that are... rather difficult.
  • Marvel loves giving their villains their own books. Bullseye has actually had a few miniseries under his belt (Bullseye: Greatest Hits and Dark Reign: Hawkeye for example) and other villains like Loki, Doctor Doom, The Hood, Sabertooth, Mystique, Baron Zemo, Magneto, Norman Osborn, etc., have all starred in their own books.
  • Daken in his own ongoing. It's made pretty clear he is not a good person (He kills people for kicks after all), but he is charismatic though.
  • Most iterations of the Thunderbolts, although how villainous they are depends on the iteration and the villains involved.
  • Chaos! Comics, a horror comics company whose heyday was in the '90s, specialized in villain protagonists. Their most successful "hero" and a downright extreme example of this trope was Lady Death, who in her first story won over a boy who had suffered severe child abuse with promises of love and then coaxed him into going on a killing spree. After seizing the opportunity to turn him into the "super-zombie" Evil Ernie, she encouraged him to wipe out the entire human race, all just to free her from a curse that kept her from returning to Earth. Over the course of his various mini-series Evil Ernie did indeed succeed in wiping out millions through hijacked nuclear bombs and his own zombie plague. Unsurprisingly, Lady Death softened up quite a bit even before Chaos! went under and more when she was licensed out to other companies; at least there was no more goading abuse victims into committing genocide.
  • Atrocitus in the Green Lantern books walks the line between this, Anti-Villain, and Anti-Hero (-ic Sociopath). He's an eternally wrathful berserker on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge (and willing to visit Disproportionate Retribution on other criminals he comes across), but his rage was sparked by a very serious injustice and makes it a point to punish only the guilty. In the 2011 DC reboot, he and his Red Lanterns received their own series.
  • Paperinik (a Donald Duck alter-ego created in Italy) had no problem committing thefts and fighting the police to get revenge on who wronged him in his early stories. He however evolved into a much more heroic character with time, especially in Paperinik New Adventures.
  • Iznogoud has the titular character as your stereotypical Evil Chancellor. Virtually all his adventures are about him trying the craziest schemes to replace the Caliph of a mythological Baghdad, each time failing hilariously.


Fan Fic[edit | hide]

  • In The Mad Scientist Wars, a great number of the characters fit this trope. The story doesn't even bother to try and justify.
  • Arestis from Arestis' Childhood is a violent manipulative bitch of a psychopath, who quite possibly has NO redeeming qualities. She also happens to be the main character. Also, the stage is set for Tarsia to be one of these in the sequel.
  • Justin as Kira in Kira Is Justice. However, his motive is that he is using the Death Note because he feels like "it is his duty".
  • King Superman: Each and every one of the protagonists qualify, for acts including using the children of Little Lamplight as slaves and human shields, repeatedly leaving behind friends and allies to save their own asses, and convincing Cliff Briscoe to chug radioactive sludge.
  • Tyrin Lieph, a Well-Intentioned Extremist who believes that Utopia Justifies the Means is the protagonist equivalent in the Evil Versus Evil plotline of the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era, his Worthy Opponent and antagonist being Halak Marr.
  • Dark Yagami in Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami. While he's once referred to as the "hero" of the story (mainly to justify his Plot Armor), unlike many fanfics with sociopathic main characters, the author seems to acknowledge that he's almost pure evil.
  • The Kimagure Orange Road fanfic Revenge Road is told from the perspective of Hikaru, who murders Madoka and Kyosuke out of jealousy.
  • Ghost in the Armored Core cooperative fanfic From the Ashes is this turned Up to Eleven. Relatively early on in the story, he kills one hundred million people. It's implied that he's been running a huge Evil Plan for a long, long time, and is most definitely a Magnificent Bastard and The Chessmaster; he seems to believe that Utopia Justifies the Means, but in this case, the 'means' are genocide of the highest order. He gradually turns all the members of the rebuilt ORCA Brigade against him, and when his Morality Chain Holly [[spoiler:came out of a coma and didn't remember him... well, it's going to get a lot worse. Given that he's an Omnicidal Maniac already... the world should probably start running. Especially given that he's got the king of all Super Prototype NEXTs and is a Person of Mass Destruction when on foot... well, this is bad. Really bad.
  • In the Invader Zim fanfic trilogy My Hostage Not Yours, Zim and Gaz spend the first two stories as Anti-Heroes (with some Sociopathic Hero thrown in), but switch to this in the final story (see page for details).
  • The Pony POV Series, being a POV series, does this on occasion. But the example that stands out is Princess Luna during her second POV. She starts out as a hero, but eventually performs a Face Heel Turn due to her overpossessiveness of Pip. She gets into an argument with Celestia, resulting in her killing and bringing Pip back to life as an immortal undead so she can have him forever. When Celestia tries to convince her against making him immortal, she tries to murder her, killing a number of innocent ponies in the process. This leads to Celestia being a Hero Antagonist and fighting back to stop her now insane sister, ultimately killing her. It was All Just a Dream, but still!
  • Sonic the Hedgehog fanfic Prison Island Break has all the main cast as violent convicted criminals. They don't even have a particuarly heroic goal; they just want to escape. But because the story is centered on them, they get the Sympathetic POV and you completely forget they're a collection of terrorists, serial killers and rapists (even though the writer never lets you forget).


Film[edit | hide]

  • While the first two Ringu movies antagonized Sadako, the third film, Ringu 0: Birthday, treats her as the protagonist.
  • The Starship Troopers trilogy is about the humans as the evil invading aliens.
  • Most gangster films, from The Public Enemy (1931) to Public Enemies (2009).
  • Henry Faber in Eye of the Needle (Ken Follett has said that it was mostly his inexperience hubris as a first-time novelist that led him to use such a risky device as a Villain Protagonist).
  • Yuri Orlov in Lord of War is a gunrunner who sells weapons to anybody, including violent dictators and human rights violators. We're shown what a disaster his love life and family relationships are in such a way that you have to stop and feel sorry for him.
  • A Shock To The System follows an Average Joe (played by Michael Caine) who, after accidentally killing a hobo, decides to also ingeniously murder his wife and boss, seduce his secretary, and get that job he's always wanted. And he gets away with it all, too.
  • Deathtrap: Michael Caine as a man who murders his wife and seduces his secretary?
  • Reservoir Dogs follows several thieves after a heist. Although one of them is actually a cop, they are all more or less equal in screen time.
  • Natural Born Killers
  • Big Jim Mc Lain features a "hero" who works for Senator Joseph McCarthy (yes, that McCarthy), and beats the living snot out of liberals in Hawaii. Made worse by the fact that this "hero" is played by John Wayne. To be fair he is targeting "communists", but the definition seems to be more than a little... general.
  • The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers' final film, is an Affectionate Parody (with roots in The Goon Show) that makes Fu Manchu charming and a bit sympathetic in his unrepentant wickedness. Having been thwarted so many times by the British, and on the brink of death, the whole plot hinges on him creating a youth elixir to save himself.
  • The Day of the Jackal. Originally literature, but well-known for the film.
  • Nick Naylor of Thank You for Smoking is the "Sultan of Spin" and chief spokesperson for the tobacco industry. His Crowning Moment of Awesome comes when he testifies before a Congressional hearing that when his son, possibly the only other sympathetic character, turned eighteen and wanted a cigarette, he would buy him his first pack. The story softens his character considerably by making plain that he realizes the fact that many people see him as a villain, and good-naturedly takes this in stride.
  • Diabolik, Italian comic book "hero" and main character of the film Danger: Diabolik (spoofed on Mystery Science Theater 3000's final episode) is definitely a Villain Protagonist. At first rub, Diabolik may come off as a Gentleman Thief, but throughout the film he indulges in purely selfish acts, stealing millions and killing indiscriminately just to satisfy his girlfriend Eva's tastes or his own whims. He doesn't even have the caveat of fighting a greater evil; he's simply indulging himself with every act in the film.

Crow: Well I'm sorry if you're offended by my random killings.
Servo: Once again they triumph in the name of sex!
Mike: (fake joviality) So more innocent people killed because of Diabolik's whims!

  • Repo the Genetic Opera has an ensemble cast with a lot of these—Rotti, Luigi, Pavi, Amber, Grave-Robber, and Nathan can all apply.
  • Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) in Ace in the Hole (1951). He's a washed-up, amusingly cynical, charismatic, and brilliantly manipulative newspaper writer who dooms a man to death in a collapsed cave by prolonging and milking the rescue attempt - he's confident the man will make it through several days in there - just so he can report on it and restore his career. He regrets what he does in the end, but it's doesn't much matter because it's a World Half Empty where most of the characters don't care about the life at stake, and instead take his lead and encouragement to profit off of the literal media carnival that springs up in its wake of this "Human Interest Story".
  • Hard Candy. You can choose either one or both of protagonists. Word of God is that it's both. Jeff is a predatory hebephile, and Hayley is a fledgling Serial Killer.
  • Salieri in Milos Forman's Amadeus.
  • Daniel Plainview, obviously, in There Will Be Blood.
  • Peyton, the Yandere from The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.
  • Michael Douglas' character in Falling Down, though reviewers like this one seemed not to understand the concept of the villain protagonist.
  • Sing from Kung Fu Hustle starts off as a poodle-poker wanting to make big-time with the powerful Axe Gang, but eventually pulls a Heel Face Turn and becomes a proper hero.
  • Similarly for John Preston from Equilibrium, who starts the film as a member of the local Dystopia's Stoic Badass Longcoat-clad Culture Police, but misses a dose of the emotion-blocking drug, starts questioning his own actions and eventually becomes a hero.
  • The League of Gentlemen - ex British Army officers turned bank robbers.
  • Neither of the eponymous characters in Mr. and Mrs. Smith seem to have any qualms at all with killing anyone (except each other... eventually) which makes them a notch more evil than most Hitmen With A Heart who have the decency to be emotionally damaged.
  • Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal Rising, although it's more of a Roaring Rampage of Revenge at that stage.
  • The main character from Woody Allen's Match Point starts a love affair with his friend's (eventually ex) lover, marries the same friend's sister, and continues the affair while married. He eventually gets his mistress pregnant and when she confronts him about it, murders both her and her unborn child in cold blood after and makes it look like a robbery, effectively crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
  • Woody Allen loves the Trope, as Judah of Crimes & Misdemeanors follows a similar path to the protagonist of Match Point. Judah wrings his hands a lot, but he's still a complete monster.
  • Babs Johnson, the main character of Pink Flamingos. She's a serial killer, robber, thief among other things, but you just have to love her.
  • Henry, the eponymous character from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer Unlike other examples of this trope, though, he's not Affably Evil or an Anti-Villain in the slightest. In fact, he's so cold and emotionless that he comes across as barely human, and routinely commits some of the most horrific murders in film history.
  • In the Norwegian film Insomnia, the protagonist Engstrom begins as a moderately corrupt detective (though he's highly regarded by his peers). By the end, he's descended into near-Complete Monster status, partially caused by the madness of working in 24-hour sunlight above the Arctic Circle but mostly due to his own inner lack of humanity. The final shot of his dead, haunted eyes is one of the creepier endings in film.
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille kills women in order to create the perfect perfume.
  • Kind Hearts and Coronets: The protagonist's mother, the daughter of a duke, is disowned by her family after eloping with an opera singer. In revenge, the protagonist plots to murder every relative standing between himself and the dukedom. While simultaneously leading on both Betty and Veronica. And it's all played for laughs.
  • The Godfather: Michael Corleone is the American Film Institute's 11th most iconic villain in film history, in spite of being the protagonist.
  • Taxi Driver's Travis Bickle came in 30th on AFI's most iconic villains. He comes off as a hero at the end, but it's ironic. Had things gone slightly different, he would have been an attempted assassin instead.
  • Frank Abagnale Jr., the protagonist of Catch Me If You Can, is an adrift and young counterfeiter & con man who uses his natural cleverness to make some money, and his antagonist, Hanratty, is an FBI agent trying to, well, Catch Him if He Can. In the end Frank with Hanratty's support eventually goes straight.
  • The Producers (either version) is about two guys who spend the whole movie not only scamming old ladies assembling a Batman Gambit that bites them in the ass, and is also the Trope Namer for Springtime for Hitler, and it is hinted that after they got their (much deserved) sentence, they intended to scam the police in prison with a theatrical play.
  • Cecil B. Demented and his Sprocket Holes. One of them is a satanist!
  • Pirates of the Caribbean is all about Jack, being actively hunted by the authorities through the entire series.
  • Theo, the protagonist of Der Freie Wille is a serial rapist
  • The Firefly family from The Devils Rejects.
  • The eponymous character of Charley Varrick is a career bank robber, who we first see robbing a bank. However, given that the movie is about him trying to escape the consequences when the bank he hits turns out to be a money laundry for the Mob, he played entirely fair with his fellow gang members until they tried to screw him over (at which point he unhesitatingly arranged for them to fall into the hands of the antagonists), avoided killing innocent bystanders (again unlike the antagonists), tragically lost his (fellow bank robber) wife in the opening scene, and faced off against a Complete Monster of a Mafia hitman, he's entirely easy to root for.
  • As suggested by the title, the western spoof The Villain is an example of this trope.
  • Otis, which features a deranged serial killer who targets young women in order to relive his high school memories (or more accurately, his brother's). However, he apparently doesn't rape them.
  • King of New York is the heartwarming saga of a couple of violent drug dealers (played by Christopher Walken and Laurence Fishburne) who just want to sell drugs, kill people that cross them, and build a few hospitals for poor people.
  • In American Psycho you follow the psychopathic killer Patrick Bateman.
  • Apparently, even Maleficent will now qualify as such, due in part to a live action film being made about her. Almost disturbingly appropriately,[1] Angelina Jolie expressed interest in portraying her.
  • Christian Slater as Jason "JD" Dean in Heathers.
  • Jawbreaker has Courtney Shane.
  • Shattered Glass follows Stephen Glass, a rising journalist who makes up half of what he writes.
  • Benoit from the mockumentary about a serial killer, Man Bites Dog.
  • Title character Leslie Vernon of Behind the Mask The Rise of Leslie Vernon spends much of the movie preparing for a killing spree and demonstrating how the killers in slasher flicks do what they do.
  • The film crew from Cannibal Holocaust.
  • The Australian psychological thriller Restraint has a female example in Teresa Palmer's character Dale, a stripper on a crime spree with her murderous boyfriend. She remains sympathetic due to a kind streak.
  • Also common in David Lynch films: Mulholland Drive, Inland Empire, and Lost Highway all presumably fit this trope.
  • The father/daughter con-artist team of Paper Moon.
  • Tony Wendice in Alfred Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder and Steven Taylor in the pseudo-remake A Perfect Murder. Both discover that their wives (who are each independently wealthy) are cheating on them and, not wanting to divorce them and lose out on the money, cook up elaborate schemes to murder them instead.
  • The Usual Suspects revolves around a group of criminals, trying to get out from under the finger of the villain, Keyser Soze. It turns out that the main character, Verbal Kint, was the villain all along.
  • Jodie Foster's character from The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane. An interesting case, because her killing is more of a survival tactic than a true villainy, but her actions are a little too extreme to describe as "antihero." Plus, it's not (usually) so much a matter of physical survival, but of preserving what amounts to a set of hippie values. Which is subversive in all kinds of great ways.
  • Four Lions: a comedy about wannabe jihadist suicide bombers.
  • The eponymous main character of Mini's First Time is an utterly remorseless parricide. She is probably as close to soulless as a person could be, which is precisely what makes her so compelling to watch.
  • The Hot Rock, based on the first of the Dortmunder novels by Donald E. Westlake (see Literature examples below).
  • The protagonist of The Bad and The Beautiful is a ruthless movie producer who scruples not to lie, cheat, steal, seduce, and con to get his movies made. The film is narrated by three of the people whom he chewed up and spat out on his way to the top.
  • Bridget Gregory of The Last Seduction, a Con Artist who steals $700,000 from her equally crooked (but much less clever) husband and spends the rest of the movie scheming to bump him off and get away with it. She succeeds, and her Unwitting Pawn goes to prison in her place.
  • Tony Curtis's Sidney Falco of Sweet Smell of Success. He screws over and uses everyone he meets in the film, with the exception of his master, J.J. Hunsecker (as portrayed by Burt Lancaster).
  • Earl Brooks (Kevin Costner) of Mr. Brooks, a caring family man and philanthropist with a secret addiction to serial murder. Unlike a lot of examples, the good sides of his persona are real and not just a mask, making him highly sympathetic and far from a Complete Monster. Despite that, he's still a monster.
  • Matsu from the Female Prisoner Scorpion films is, not too surprisingly, a prisoner. Put away for attempted murder, she goes on to kill and cause to be killed many more times before the series ends, her victims including the prison warden at least two detectives and several other policemen. The facts that one of the detectives, the man she tried and failed to kill, seduced her and arranged her rape purely to allow him to arrest the rapists and corruptly take over their business, that the prison warden tortured her, locked her underground in chains for a year, had her raped and ultimately tried to stage her death, and that she never kills senselessly, only makes her less villainous relatively speaking.
  • Maindrian Pace of the original Gone in Sixty Seconds steals cars for a living, though he makes sure that the cars are insured. The remake averts the trope. Although the protagonist is also a car thief, he's being blackmailed into performing the heist by the real villains.
  • Emma Watson as real-life burglar Alexis Neiers in Sofia Coppola's currently-in-production biopic of The Bling Ring.
  • The Hanson brothers in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead could quallify, althrough Hank is an Anti-Villain his brother Andy doesn't get much reedeming qualities.
  • Tyler Durden in Fight Club.
  • In Chronicle Andrew becomes this by the end.
  • A Clockwork Orange tells the story of Alex, a sadistic young thug who enjoys beating up homeless people, raping women, and picking fights with rival thugs just for fun.
  • The protagonist of I Stand Alone is a violent ex-butcher who pummels his pregnant girlfriend into a miscarriage, plans to murder random people who cross him, and molests his daughter.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • Christopher Marlowe's play, Tamburlaine the Great, features as its protagonist a man who mutilates, kills, subjugates, and rapes at any opportunity he gets. He locks up the Ottoman Emperor in a cage and feeds him his wife; he kills one of his own sons for being unwilling to fight; he is driven around in a chariot drawn by deposed kings and emperors. In the end, he burns a Qor'an and dies suddenly.
  • The Howard edition of Billy & Howard has one of these. Duumvirate has two and a whole lot of Supporting Villain Protagonists besides.
  • Michael Moorcock created Colonel Pyatt - a cocaine-addicted, self-aggrandising, violently anti-semitic Jewish engineer who worships Fascism and may or may not be a rapist. He's also the narrator of his series of novels, despite being an outrageous liar.
  • Barry Lyndon. The title character is based on a real-life cad, and William Makepeace Thackaray hides no joy in having his villain protagonist gets what's coming to him, including a Karmic Death. Stanley Kubrick's adaptation makes Barry far more sympathetic.
  • Becky Sharp from Vanity Fair, also by Thackeray. The book's subtitle is A Novel Without a Hero.
  • The abominable Protagonists, from the novel Hell's Children, by Andrew Boland, are this.
  • Harry Flashman, the eponymous hero of George Macdonald Fraser's books.
  • Thornhill is one of these by the end of The Secret River, having facilitated a genocide in order to avoid having to sell a hundred acres.
  • Lucius Cornelius Sulla from Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series is a pretty mean guy. He brings about the deaths of his stepmother, her nephew and his stepmother's lover in order to inherit their fortune (and kills another man to frame the deaths on him), treats his wife harshly to the point of driving her to suicide, and travels up north to spy on a group of Germans where he meets and impregnates a woman, he later arranges for his German family to be protected and leaves them. And that's all in the first book.
  • Doctor Impossible from Soon I Will Be Invincible is pretty comfortable with being the Evil Mad Scientist, albeit with a sort of flamboyant Silver Age kind of villainy. But even if he turns out to be a fairly nice and somewhat misunderstood guy, he is breaking out of jail for the thirteenth time to launch yet another Evil Plan to destroy or Take Over the World, and that's not even counting ones where he got away.
  • Half the cast of Micah E. F. Martin's Prophets House.
  • Alex from A Clockwork Orange. On most nights, he and his gang do things like drink spiked milk, beat up other people, and commit rape. Though he changes his ways in the end.
  • Humbert Humbert from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Altogether a charming, well-spoken and eloquent young historian of French literature, liked by the reader and nearly anyone who meets him. Too bad he is also a pedophile who marries a woman in order to abuse her daughter, then proceeds to lie to said daughter about the death of her mother while taking her on a not-quite-consensual road trip, on which he tries to drug and then have intercourse with her.
  • Artemis Fowl is in the first book. A greedy, Magnificent Bastard Chessmaster.
  • Lord Soth of Dargaard Keep, a death knight, was originally a villain in the Dragonlance novels. Three novels were later released starring Soth as the main character: Knight of the Black Rose and Spectre of the Black Rose by James Lowder and Voronica Whitney Robinson, and the eponymous Lord Soth by Edo van Belkom.
  • Gunnhild in Poul Anderson's, Mother of Kings. As he himself points out in the afterword he drew her from the Skalds' version of Gunnhild which is likely enough to be off just a smidge.
  • Paradise Lost. Half of the story follows the War in Heaven, in which Satan is the protagonist. Putting Satan center stage and allowing him to work his diabolical charisma on the reader is a major source of the poem's appeal. Some readers argue that Satan is an actual hero. This isn't the place to argue it.
  • R. A. Salvatore's Sellswords series follow the adventures of Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxle, both of whom are recurring antagonists in his previous novels. While Jarlaxle is really more of a neutral, power-hungry Magnificent Bastard than an outright villain and Entreri's backstory gives him a Freudian Excuse for being a heartless-murderer-with-morals, neither character can really ever be seen in a positive light. It's also worth noting that Entreri has improved a great deal from his first murderous appearance.
    • Similarly, the antagonists Jarlaxle and Entreri face are all much worse than them.
  • Forgotten Realms' War of the Spider Queen series. All characters walking along the plot are fit in range from casual backstabbers to neighbour-sacrificing Lloth priestesses, and violent half-demons. Which does not prevent some of them from being charming and all of them from having more or less good points.
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho is a deliciously Ax Crazy Serial Killer who tortures and murders a wide variety of innocent people in the story, simply because he likes the feeling. But even if he's just imagining that, he's still an unlikable, self-centered, elitist, racist, shallow bastard.
  • Whether it's Screwtape or Wormwood who's the "protagonist" of The Screwtape Letters may be up for debate, but both count as a Villain Protagonist.
  • The Eagle Has Landed follows a group of Nazi agents attempting to assassinate Winston Churchill. You'll still likely find yourself rooting for them at a few points.
  • Donald E. Westlake:
    • Parker, the central protagonist of a series of novels by Westlake wrote under the pseudonym Richard Stark. Several of these have been filmed (most famously as Point Blank starring Lee Marvin, and Payback starring Mel Gibson), although the central character is never named Parker in these adaptations due to the author's request. Parker has no moral hang ups about killing, stealing, or torturing to get what he wants, and what he wants is usually money or revenge for not getting money.
    • Westlake also wrote a series of novels under his real name about John Dortmunder, a professional burglar. The books are much Lighter and Softer than the Parker series, and generally Played for Laughs.
  • Wyatt is the thief protagonist of a series of novels (starting with Kickback) by Australian author Garry Disher. You will end up barracking for Wyatt as his schemes bring him into conflict with worse criminals who lack even Wyatt's basic sense of honour and ethics.
  • Mary Gentle's Grunts! tells the story of a group of orcs just trying to make their way in the world. After they loot a dragon's horde that has weapons from assorted universes, including some from the US Marines and assorted literature (including Das Kapital, which turns one female orc into a Communist Commissar). The book is an acid-tipped parody of Lord of the Rings, and none of the characters are heroes in the traditional sense.
  • A number of the books by Gregory Maguire (author of Wicked) feature villains from well-known stories as the protagonist. For example, the queen from Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (in Mirror, Mirror), and one of the stepsisters from Cinderella (in Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister).
  • Grendel by John Gardner is a Twice-Told Tale, retelling Beowulf with Grendel as the protagonist.
  • The Hitman from Thomas Perry's first novel The Butchers Boy. He is a sociopathic, amoral killer of considerable ability who has to evade both government agents and Mafia thugs when a Mafia boss tries to have him killed after a successful hit on a U.S. Senator that can be traced back to the latter.
  • Mercedes Lackey, in one of her stories featuring fantasy elves in the real world, had a cold-hearted, ruthless bitch of an antagonist who was quite willing to kill children if the job required it. The only problem was that she was going after a family that were protected by those same, very powerful, elves acting in secret to protect them. The shear magnitude of her hapless floundering around as she was constantly thwarted in one long Humiliation Conga would make you feel sorry for her if you didn't remind yourself that she was a murderous sociopath.
  • Strahd von Zarovich, the sociopathic vampire in I, Strahd (and TSR's Ravenloft campaign world).
  • Soltan Gris, narrator of L. Ron Hubbard's Mission Earth, is also the series antagonist (although you can't really call him sympathetic) who is secretly trying to stop the mission of his incorruptible, heroic Marty Stu counterpart Jettero Heller.
  • Hester Shaw, from Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines quartet (really, she's only the protagonist of the second book "Predator's Gold;" the first focuses on her husband and the third and fourth on her daughter), hovers between this and anti-hero. On the one hand, she is completely and incontrovertibly evil (she sells a city into slavery or death just to get rid of her rival for her husband-to-be, and actively enjoys killing people); on the other, one somehow can't help sympathising with her regardless, and because of her genuine love for Tom, her interests generally coincide with those of the other (not so evil) protagonists.
  • The narrator of The Debt to Pleasure, although his villainy is only gradually revealed over the course of the book.
  • The Cleaner by Paul Cleave is written from the first person perspective of a psychotic serial killer who considers killing, mutilating, and raping women "just a hobby."
  • Horace Dorrington from the short stories by Arthur Morrison is a corrupt detective who won't hesitate to cut deals with the villains or even kill his own clients, if he can profit from it.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe
    • Death Star focuses on the various people on the first Death Star. Most of them are Punch Clock Villains, really, who either think that The Empire is flawed but good or don't think they can join the Rebellion, either because they are stuck or they think it would just be curb stomped (they are on the Death Star). The cast includes the gunner who pulled the trigger to destroy Alderaan, a pilot who shot down enough X-Wings to become an Ace Pilot, a Force-Sensitive cultured stormtrooper, a surgeon who'd been stuck in service since the start of the Clone Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader. The survivors all either join the Rebellion (it blew up the Death Star! Maybe there's a chance!), flee to somewhere far away, or are Darth Vader. The Rebels aren't seen much - they're out there, but they don't show up for long. Leia's in the novel long enough to impress and guilt the surgeon who's treating her for torture, but the others don't get voices or faces, let alone names.
    • The Darth Bane trilogy follows the exploits of Darth Bane, a dark lord of the Sith.
    • Darth Plagueis follows both Plagueis himself and (even more so, ironically considering the title) the rise of his apprentice, Palpatine.
  • The entire cast of the HIVE series.
  • Tom Ripley in Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley and its sequels. His most significant acts include murder for the purposes of identity theft, art forgery, and taking revenge on a random guy who pissed him off by tricking him into thinking that he's dying of cancer, then persuading him to become a hitman. The Ripley books were Highsmith's only series, but the central characters of her books are almost always either Villain Protagonists or pathetic losers who suffer horribly.
  • The "My Side of the Story" series of Disney picturebooks. One side of the book has the protagonists' story while the literal flip side has the villain's account.
  • Steerpike is the protagonist of the first Gormenghast novel, while he either manipulates or assassinates the Groan family and their associates.
  • To at least one other protagonist's surprise, Clem's motives for assembling the Hand of Mercy are only a part the problem- as a Fallen angel, he's the villain by default. To a lesser extent, Nana Sophie and Salve aren't loyalists either, so it could be argued that most of the main characters are, at the very least, officially morally grubby.
  • The title character of The English Patient, in the sequences where he tells the other characters his backstory, probably qualifies, seeing as he was actively helping Axis spies cross the deserts in North Africa.
  • Baron Harkonen from Dune during his POV segments. You so want him dead for his crimes and perversions, but while waiting for his comeuppance, you can't help but admire his brilliant political maneuvering and epic-level Magnificent Bastardy.
    • Subverted in Book 4, where Leto II says that the Baron wasn't really evil at all, just a very excessive individual. And Leto II knows evil better than anyone, since he has most of humanity living in his head.
  • Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God is either an extremely sympathetic, but selfish and destructive one of these, or a type III antiheroine.
  • Catherine de' Medici is the protagonist of Jean Plaidy's trilogy Madame Serpent, The Italian Woman, and Queen Jezebel. Plaidy paints her as a Complete Monster who has her brother-in-law and one of her own sons murdered, and orders courtiers to sexually abuse another son to "turn him gay" and ensure that her favourite would reach the throne. She also shows the abuse Catherine endured as a child - in one scene, a 6-year old Catherine is forced to watch her beloved dog die in agony because her aunt disapproved of her crying over her other dog's death (all Truth in Television, sadly).
  • For most of the book The Woad to Wuin, the normally cowardly Anti-Hero Sir Apropos of Nothing descends into this. And fully enjoys it.
  • Gerald Tarrant of the Coldfire Trilogy is the true embodiment of a villain hero. From the beginning of the first book he is foreshadowed as the boogieman of a country. He is what parents threaten their children with to get them to go to their beds on time, and it is completely justified. The only reason he is a protagonist is because the thing that is threatening the world just happens to be a threat to him as well. He is a Magnificent Bastard who feeds on suffering and fear. But he also has an amusing side, in a state of near exhaustion in a land where he might be attacked at any moment, he still uses a part of his magic to fix his clothes and hair to look dashing.
  • A.E. van Vogt's classic sci-fi novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle opens with his previously published story "Black Destroyer", recounting the powerful, feline predator Coeurl's battle of wits against the crew of human space explorers who arrive on his planet. Partly because the story's told largely through Coeurl's eyes, and partly because the human characters' Expospeak dialogue makes them seem bland and uninteresting in comparison, his eventual defeat almost comes across as a Downer Ending. In the end, though, perhaps Coeurl had the last laugh: the Space Beagle's crew has passed on into obscurity, while he's gotten a Shout-Out as an enemy in practically every Final Fantasy game.
  • In the second book of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Nathaniel becomes one of these as part of his Character Development, especially unfortunate seeing as how he had previously been disgusted with the behavior of magicians who acted similarly to how he started to in the book.
  • Fantômas, protagonist of a series of stories written by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre.
  • Brendan Stokes in Edmund Power's The Last Chapter starts out as an "aspiring novelist", i.e. a pathetic, conceited, talentless hack. He finds a manuscript while looting his dead neighbor's apartment, promptly steals and plagiarizes it, lies his way to success, and on the way expands his repertoire with adultery, blackmail, and eventually, double homicide.
  • In the second book in the Night Watch series, Day Watch, part of the story is narrated by Alysa, who is the series protagonist Anton's opposite number/EvilCounterpart in the forces of darkness (They start at the same level of power; while the Big Good is Anton's mentor, the Big Bad was Alysa's lover), and she is one of the protagonists of the book.
  • The Eye Of The Needle has a villain co-protagonist, since it spends far more pages following the spy's progress across England than it spends with the heroine who eventually brings him down.
  • Most Gothic horror fiction features a Villain Protagonist:
    • Ambrosio, the villainous priest of Matthew G. Lewis's The Monk, who gives in to his desire for his pupil Matilda, a woman disguised as a monk, and then is overcome by lust for the innocent Antonia. With Matilda's sorcerous help, Ambrosio seduces her, then later rapes and murders her. He is delivered into the hands of the Inquisition and makes a Deal with the Devil to avoid the death sentence that awaits him. Only after getting tortured to death does he learn that Antonia was actually his sister.
    • The title character of Les Chants de Maldoror by Lautr éamont, a figure of absolute evil who is opposed to God and humanity, and has renounced conventional morality and decency.
    • Edward Montague's Demon of Sicily, who promises two holy people fulfillment of their wanton sexual urges in exchange for their souls.
    • Manfred, the lord of The Castle of Otranto, who tries to forcibly marry his own son's fiancee in order to avert the destruction of his line.
    • Byronic Hero Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. His life ambition is to wreak vengeance on all who have (in his opinion) stood between him and his would-be lover Cathy Earnshaw. He achieves this by mentally and physically abusing them, and embezzling their property. He extends his revenge to the children of his enemies.
    • The unnamed protagonist of Georges Bataille's Story of the Eye, which is full of Squick.
    • Medea from the final novel in The Icemark Chronicles. Its debatable though if she should be included in the category as the book has so many main characters
    • When the Marquis De Sade wasn't writing about good people that horrible things happen to, he was writing villain protagonists.
  • While some would argue that every Warhammer 40,000 novel has a Villain Protagonist by default, the Chaos Space Marine viewpoint characters of Graham McNeill's Storm of Iron and Anthony Reynolds' Word Bearers trilogy definitely qualify.
  • The Malus Darkblade series by Dan Abnett certainly qualifies though its plain Warhammer.
  • Lady Susan Vernon of Jane Austen's epistolary novel Lady Susan. Despite being the novel's central, most prominent figure, she is an unscrupulous, manipulative Vamp engaged in a sort of pre-affair with a married man while at the same time trying to snare the man her daughter is in love with as she struggles to force said daughter to marry a man against her will. Unlike Austen's Emma, Lady Susan does not change at all over the curse of her story. Her daughter Frederica is the more sympathetic heroine.
  • Simon Darcourt from A Snowball in Hell spends an awful lot of time narrating his crimes to the reader with glee.
  • Lysander in the last Apprentice Adept book, Phaze Doubt. Much of the book is spent trying to lure Lysander over to Phaze/Photon's cause (doubling as distracting him from his "real" mission as The Mole). Even though he's essential in the good guys' eventual triumph, he never actually switches sides.
  • Umberto Eco's latest novel The Prague Cemetery stars a racist, misogynistic forger whose only redeeming feature is his love of good food. The book starts with him penning down why he hates Germans, Italians, French, women, Jews, Catholics, Freemasons and many others, and ends with him penning The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as his magnum opus.
  • Jill from Blubber has no qualms in bullying an Actual Pacifist classmate. She never seems to think of her as a sensitive human being.
  • In John C. Wright's The Golden Age, Ao Aeon points at Phaethon's behavior and assures him he is obviously the villain of the piece. In The Golden Transcendence, Phaethon cites this to explain his behavior to Daphne, who is obviously, he explains, the heroine.
  • Dr. Seuss wrote two villain protagonists: The Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Once-ler in The Lorax. Likewise, Yertle the Turtle, who was based on Hitler.
  • We spend so much time experiencing The Liveship Traders through Captain Kennit's POV that it sometimes becomes hard to remember that he really is the villain of the piece. Just an extremely charismatic, sympathetic villain who tends to overshadow his more heroic fellow-protagonists.
  • Johannes Cabal in the series of the same name by Jonathan L. Howard.
  • Haplo of The Death Gate Cycle begins as one of these. In addition to being the main character, he is also a member of the Patryn race, which seeks to subjugate all the worlds under Patryn rule. Later, he becomes less of a villain.
    • Specifically, his progression goes thusly- in the first two books, he's the flat-out Dragon to Lord Xar, and though his backstory makes him sympathetic, there's no real doubt that he's a bad guy. Then, in books 3 and 4, he starts getting pitted against people much worse than he is, moving to more of a Type V Anti-Hero. From the fifth book onward, Haplo has reevaluated his purpose and place in the universe, and though he never loses his ruthlessness or hard edges, he softens up enough to settle in as a Type III Anti-Hero.
  • Chichikov in Dead Souls.
  • The Private series Spin-Off Privilege is from the point of view of Ariana Osgood, the villain of one of the books in the series.
  • Most of the protagonists in Tales of 1001 Nights are thieves.
  • Therese Raquin is all about a woman who murdered her husband to be with her lover.
  • Ambrosio, who was never a particularly nice or forgiving person to begin with, quickly falls from what grace he had and over the course of the story gets involved in Black Magic, rape, and murder.
  • Goldilocks is a common burglar, breaking and entering the bears' residence.

Live-Action TV[edit | hide]

  • Emily Thorne on Revenge is not quite this, but she is skating dangerously close to it. Particularly with the fact that she doesn't seem to care about the innocent people who get hurt from game of vengeance.
  • True Blood has a number of characters that fit very well into this category. It's two main vampires, Bill and Eric, certainly make their shifts. Eric is a villain in the first season, only to become somewhat of The Woobie in the second, revert into a Magnificent Bastard in the third and finally, went through a woobie-tastic brainwashed arc in the fourth before shifting back into bad guy territory. Bill seemed to be a straight up hero for the most part, but halfway into season three, he was revealed to have had his own agenda from the beginning, which involved sending two lunatics to beat Sookie half to death. The fourth season tried to play him as a Draco in Leather Pants by showing him do all kinds of irredeemable evil but having him admit to being still in love with Sookie but the fans weren't buying it no more.
  • Blackadder in the third series.
  • The title character of The Mary Whitehouse Story. (She was an overbearing Moral Guardian, and permanently upset by The BBC, by the way.)
  • Alan B'stard of The New Statesman. A corrupt politician abusing his power, all Played for Laughs.
  • Nancy Botwin and her Affably Evil associates from Weeds are drug dealers. Then again, almost every official and law officer is a corrupt hypocrite. She starts out in a Stepford Suburbia in a Crapsack World, and things go downhill from there.
  • The Shield Vic Mackey, and the other members of the Strike Team.
  • Hustle is about a group of con artists, though they tend to remain sympathetic due to their incredible charm and their code of only scamming people who are dishonest, greedy, and otherwise presented to the audience as unsympathetic.
  • Tony Soprano in The Sopranos.
  • There a few episodes of iCarly where even Freddie and Carly end up going against Sam when she does something bad. Example, starting a child labour sweatshop.
  • Jim Profit of Profit.
  • In Volume Four of Heroes, Sylar has become this. He's no longer working against the heroes, he's off looking for answers, killing people and racking up CMOAs while he's at it.
    • A character who sometimes seems to be irredeemably, cruelly evil and at other times merely a misunderstood, slightly unstable Anti-Villain. Sometimes even kicking up the bar to Hero until he performs a prompt Heel Face Turn. Actually, this character is the embodiment of Heel Face Revolving Door, but is classified generally as a villain just so we poor fanfiction writers don't have to go out of our way to keep up with the canon, as well as due to the definite evil side of his personality. More-or-less, a much-sympathized Anti-Villain who isn't really the primary protagonist (who is in Heroes?) but nevertheless is widely rooted for.
  • To the extent that they are protagonists, rather than Echo, the staff of the Dollhouse is this.
    • Although their villainy lessens over time, especially in season 2 as a Greater Evil is uncovered.
  • All male members of the Blakes Seven crew flirt with this, even Blake when you consider that in the finale of season 2 it's made clear that he was fully willing to cause the deaths of millions of people (by computer failure) in order to take down the Federation.
  • Francis Urquhart in the BBC series House of Cards (British series) and its sequels To Play the King and The Final Cut. Urquhart is a Richard III-esque British MP who schemes his way up to being Prime Minister via various sneaky and some downright evil acts.
  • Lex Luthor in Smallville fits this trope. Although the show is supposed to be about Clark it focuses on Lex just as much and his descent into becoming the Arch Enemy of Superman. So much so that he becomes The Woobie.
  • Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Don't hang out with those guys, or they'll crush your spirits and make you as vile as they.
  • Neal Caffrey of White Collar is a thief, but he's presented as all-around cooler than his stick-in-the-mud partner Burke. He could count as The Atoner, since he has stayed with the FBI beyond the three months he had left on his sentence.
  • Al Swearingen in the first season of Deadwood, though Seth Bullock is an equal protagonist and the hero. In the second and third season, the Hearst enterprises serve as the villain and Al becomes a more sympathetic Anti-Hero.
  • Rod Serling wrote three stories in which the main character is a Nazi Germany who receives a supernatural punishment: The Twilight Zone episodes "Judgment Night" and "Death's-Head Revisited", and a segment of the Night Gallery pilot film titled "The Escape Route".
  • Almost every episode of Columbo started off from the villain's point-of-view as he or she carried out a supposedly perfect murder.
  • Basil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers, although he's not a villain per se and more of just a nasty jerk.
  • For someone who is the main character of her series, Alex in Wizards of Waverly Place is a very bratty, self-centered Jerkass who uses her powers mostly to her own benefit without caring for the consequences.
  • The Borgias: Rodrigo Borgia, also known as Pope Alexander Sextus, is this. He's Affably Evil, has four kids and an openly-known mistress, and has no problem with blackmail or bribery, and pimps his kids out to the highest bidder. Plus, there's all of the less-than-ethical executions he's considered, and the situations his children have had to endure—in what amounts to emotional abuse. His elder son, Cesare, is an even better example, what with the killing people, having a personal assassin as a best friend, and really loving his sister, though that's probably the least villainous part of his personality. If history has anything to say about it, he gets worse.
  • Sailor Moon: Sailor Moon herself is revealed to have been this all along toward the end of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. She's the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds variety.
  • Nucky Thompson in Boardwalk Empire.
    • Also Jimmy Darmody, trying to make his mark and killing people along the way. Just because the people he kills are criminals doesn't mean he's not a murderer.
  • Harry Montebello in The Straits has been known to kill people by feeding them to a variety of exotic wildlife. This is because he takes the security of his drug-smuggling business and his family extremely seriously.
  • Everyone on Leverage. No matter how likeable they are, they're all wanted criminals and at least one has an (implied) very high body count. Plus, the sheer amount of collateral damage that results from their jobs.


Music[edit | hide]

  • Clockwork Quartet's 'The Watchmaker's Apprentice' is told from the perspective of a man who frames his boss for murder. It's incredibly awesome.
  • The narrator of the Wreckers song "Crazy People". There's a reason only crazy people fall in love with you, lady.
  • Likewise, the viewpoint characters in Jonathan Coulton's "Skullcrusher Mountain" and "Re: Your Brains".
    • The narrator of "The Future Soon" doesn't actually do anything, but he daydreams about taking over the Earth with a robot army and forcing the girl he likes to marry him, so he could also count.
  • In his first few albums, Eminem was this in his persona of "Slim Shady".
  • Pink, from Pink Floyd's The Wall. Though the album begins with a Start of Darkness and ends with a redemption of sorts.
  • The narrator of Warren Zevon's "Mr. Bad Example". He starts out stealing from a church fund for widows and orphans, and only gets worse.
    • The Ax Crazy "Excitable Boy" would be another example.
  • Opera, by Mozart: "Don Giovanni". He probably even qualifies as a Magnificent Bastard...
  • Hip-Hop artists like Jay Z or 50 Cent were allegedly criminals before having music careers, and many of their songs deal with this topic from their perspective.
  • The viewpoint character of Voltaire's song "When You're Evil" is a Card-Carrying Villain. Also "Almost Human", and "The Chosen" and "Brains"... he kinda likes that one.
  • The Rake from The Decemberists' "The Rake's Song" sings, without so much as a hint of regret, about how he killed his three children in order to escape from the responsibilities of parenthood. It's quite good.
  • Nick Cave has a few songs about villain protagonists, most notably the entire album Murder Ballads.
  • Then there's "Sympathy for the Devil" by The Rolling Stones, which should qualify.
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is about a hero who travels to the future and witnesses The End of the World as We Know It, and when he travels back to the present, he is transformed into the title's villain who causes the future destruction in the first place.
  • Peter Gabriel's songs "Intruder" and "Family Snapshot" are told from the perspectives of a burglar and Lee Harvey Oswald, respectively.
  • Everything that happens in a Monster Magnet song happens with a fistful of pills. Protagonists run the gamut from garden-variety drug abusers/dealers to comic-book-style supervillains and demonic agents. There are a lot of bombs getting planted, and things might get a little rape-y. Notable are the infanticidal couple of "See You in Hell", the drug-addled character in "Tractor", and various personifications of evil in "Kiss of the Scorpion", "Atomic Clock", and "Bummer".

"I drove out to the Meadowlands to throw our baby away." (See You in Hell)
If you wanna spank your demons and make them pay, well baby, I'm your man of the hour (Bummer)
Got a knife in my back, got a hole in my arm, I'm driving a tractor on a drug farm (Tractor)

  • "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen is sung by a condemned murderer who is only sorry he didn't get away with it.
  • The Beatles actually had a few examples as well.
    • The title characters in John's The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill and Paul's Maxwell's Silver Hammer. The persona in John's Run for Your Life would qualify as well as would John's persona in the second half of Happiness is a Warm Gun and George's persona in Taxman.
  • Ziltoid from the Ziltoid the Omniscient album by Devin Townsend is definitely this. He destroys earth, because he didn't like the coffee they presented him, follows the escaping humans to another planet, unsuccessfully attempts to destroy that one, then he asks the Planet Smasher to destroy another planet, which is populated by sentient being, just to lift his mood.
  • The Nirvana song "Polly" is sung from the point of view of a rapist who holds his victim captive and tortures her with razors and a blowtorch. It was based on a true story.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • After two expansions to their Middle Earth Role Playing CCG, Iron Crown Entertainment tried shaking things up by releasing a whole second basic set called "The Lidless Eye", casting the players as one of the nine Nazgul, working in the shadows to locate the Ringbearer and/or rally the monstrous races into an army. An interesting idea, but unfortunately, one which did nothing to stem fan complaints of "filler lore", and only ruffled more feathers by being largely incompatible with cards from the previous set.
  • Black Crusade, the fourth in Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay series, casts the player characters as members of the Forces of Chaos, either Chaos Space Marines or human Heretics. A PC's story arc will have one of four endings: death, ascension as a Daemon Prince, leadership of a Black Crusade, or transformation into a Chaos Spawn.
    • In the main 40k game, playing as any of the "evil" factions will automatically lead to this, even the fluff in the book is less sympathetic. This is most notable with the aforementioned chaos space marines and Tyranids, the latter of which usually has fluff written in an Apocalyptic Log style. This is more true during global campaigns, where the victories of "evil" factions will slowly edge the plot towards a downer ending, and the player base will still cheer for it.
    • Granted, it's 40k and none of the other lines necessarily involve Incorruptible Pure Pureness. Not only morality is less than shiny in-universe as it is, but the characters may fail to fit even in that: in Dark Heresy Scum class can have variety of criminal incomes as a matter of fact, and extra options include things like an Assassin optional background that involves plain old killing for hire (if being very peculiar about those contracts) and sects practicing Human Sacrifice in the dark valleys; while Rogue Trader has plain Criminal Endeavours with extra options including perks for pulling particularly impressive ones.
  • The basic assumption when you play an Abyssal in Exalted. One chapter even has discussion about how to make the game more than one slaughterfest after another; they are that Baaad.
    • This is where you're assumed to start as a Green Sun Prince. Subverted, however, in the assumption is that you'll quickly catch on that the Yozis are (A) certifiably insane and (B) can't actually rope you in, so you'll either become a Punch Clock Villain looking for an escape, a Well-Intentioned Extremist Anti-Hero using a loose interpretation of your orders to push an ultimately producitive agenda, or just a plan ol' Noble Demon who just wants to be left alone, before you slip the leash entirely.
  • First party Pirate themed Pathfinder adventure Skulls and Shackles was published shortly after the above and is considered fully playable as an evil party. Following the massive success of the Way of the Wicked an adventure explicitly for evil characters Hell's Vengeance was produced.
    • Third-Party Pathfinder adventure Way of the Wicked claims to be the first published adventure intended for evil player characters (instead of tacking on some options for them) as far as its authors were aware. Instead of being a standard adventure but Evil, the series inverts many bad guy plots to put the PCs in charge of sabotaging towns, running dungeons, slaughtering villages or taking over kingdoms instead of trying to stop these things.
      • ...and that's when we must send said author to take a look at least at AD&D2 Reverse Dungeon (ⓒ Wizards of the Coast 2000) is more or less tabletop Dungeon Keeper. "Welcome to Reverse Dungeon, the adventure where everything is backward! Instead of playing bold heroes who venture into dens of evil, the players take the roles of the monsters, determined to stop the adventurers from invading their homes." (don't be confused by the last part - it's not purely defensive, "Raiding the Village" is very much on the table).

Theater[edit | hide]

  • Byronic Hero The Phantom of the Opera.
  • Although Othello is ostensibly a play about Othello, Iago is really the protagonist and most definitely the villain.
  • Richard of Gloucester (aka King Richard III) from William Shakespeare's Richard III is one of the earliest Villain Protagonists. To some extent, Richard's father, Richard of York, in the Henry VI trilogy.
  • The title character of Macbeth, naturally. He is somewhat of an Anti-Villain despite his Moral Event Horizon against the family of the play's Hero Antagonist; though his antivillainy isn't really of the "good intentions" variety so much as the "just plain pitiable" variety.
  • Medea from Greek Myth, at least as presented by Euripides in the play Medea. A straight reading of the facts of the myth makes Medea come across as an irredeemably evil multiple murderess (her victims included her younger brother and her sons), yet Euripides presents her as sympathetic, or at least understandable. So this is Older Than Feudalism.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street: The title character kills everyone who comes into his barbershop and has them baked into meat pies to get rid of the bodies. Mrs. Lovett fits the trope as well.
  • Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly, and Billy Flynn from Chicago.
  • Shylock from The Merchant of Venice, although Bassanio and Portia have about as much or more lines. Some productions turn Shylock into an Anti-Villain, as the play was fairly Fair for Its Day and gives him legitimate reasons for being so ruthless.
  • In Used Cars, the salesman protagonists lie, cheat, and steal from essentially everyone they meet.
  • Volpone of Volpone is a greedy and lecherous con man; the play's main plot is about him faking being on the edge of death to trick people into giving him gifts in the hopes that he'd name them as his heir.
  • Arnolphe, from The School for Wives (L'école des femmes), is a clear example, although he is usually seen as sympathetic because all his plans are easily thwarted and his villainy stems mostly from his desire to have a loving wife who will not be unfaithful to him.
  • Don Giovanni of Don Giovanni is a lecherous noble who has had sex with over two thousand women before callously abandoning them. The opera begins with him trying to rape a woman, then killing her father when he defends her honor.


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • The developer of Yandere Simulator is set on making an ending where you don't hurt anyone.[2] However being a villain is considered the default way to go about things, as evident by the page quote. Also a planned feature is if you beat the game, you can play again in the 1980s. In the 1980s you play as Yandere-Chan's mom[3] and in the canon lore, she is definitely a villain.
  • All RTSs with playable factions, a clear good faction and evil faction, and a full compliment of Campaigns have this, especially ones with intertwined campaigns: At some point, you can or will be given the option to play the story's Big Bad. Exceptions fall under No Campaign for the Wicked.
  • Amnesia the Dark Descent is an odd example. The backstory, which is slowly revealed over the course of the game, shows that the protagonist was once a normal man who sunk to shockingly low depths in order to save his own life.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer bears mention, because there is no other clear villain in the story unless the player takes it upon him or herself to be one. It is hard to consider The Founder a villain, despite what she did, and the only other character who bears any blame has been dead (for certain values of dead) for centuries.
  • Longtime Big Bad Bowser from Super Mario Bros. is the central character in Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, though he functions more as an unwitting Anti-Hero secretly aided by the Mario Brothers rather than a villain. In other Mario RPGs, he's more of a Token Evil Teammate when playable.
  • 3 of the 4 paths in Der Langrisser (Light, Imperial, Chaos, Independent) have the protagonist Elwin be this way. Especially in the Chaos Path.
    • Independent casts Elwin as more of an Anti-Hero. He does some questionable things, but his goals remain fairly noble. For one thing, it's the only path where you can end the Fantastic Racism against demons.
  • Overlord, although you're allowed to choose between being really evil and just self-proclaimed evil. Plus, given that all the "good" characters are corrupt, choosing the latter option makes you the most sympathetic character in the game with this depiction being decidedly canon (the Overlord at least saves the Elves and Rose is the mother of his child). In the sequel you is 100% evil and you fight some genuinely Good foes, though your main enemies is still the anti-magic Glorious Empire bent on destruction of all magic. Lord Gromgard of the Wii prequel Dark Legend is portrayed as a Villain with Good Publicity who is at the least well-liked amongst his servants for not letting them starve.
  • The Grand Theft Auto series stars mass-murderering criminals who conquer other crime bosses. Aaahhhhh.
    • The games have gone back-and forth with this trope:
      • In Grand Theft Auto III, the protagonist was not even named, and appeared to be doing what he did solely to survive (the game starts with him being busted out of a prison transport). Only at the very end does a revenge motive appear.
      • The most clear-cut Villain Protagonist of the series is Tommy Vercetti from Grand Theft Auto Vice City. Unlike the other protagonists, Tommy is not above dealing drugs, and the game's plot mostly revolves around Tommy seizing control of Vice City from the criminals who previously controlled it.
      • By Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the first Anti-Hero protagonist appeared, Carl Johnson. In cutscenes CJ is present as an honourable, even admirable character, and his motivation for most of the game is simple survival as well as keeping his family safe. Notably, CJ is opposed to dealing drugs of any nature, the only protagonist in the series that does so. Out of cutscenes he's just as willing to murder, steal, and destroy as any of the other protagonists.
      • Niko from Grand Theft Auto IV is a strange example. He cares about his family, and part of him wants to live a normal life, but his experiences in the wars in Serbia, in his own words "ruined him." He kidnaps, robs, murders, sells drugs, and in general, does not seem to have anything close to a conscience. Interestingly, he realizes this about himself, and readily recognizes that the things he does are awful. When questioned on it at one point, he says that he considers himself to be completely soulless.
  • The "Dark" story in Sonic Adventure 2 runs opposite in goals to the "Hero" story.
  • Anyone in the MMO City of Villains. It's kind of in the name.
  • Destroy All Humans!, at least in the first game (the second casts the protagonist as more of an Anti-Hero by circumstance and the third has him become an Unwitting Pawn).
  • The Bad Guy, a famous demo game in the Hispanic RPG Maker scene, chronicles the rise of Omaen, an aspiring villain, while parodying every RPG trope. Omaen is presented as downright evil but the Only Sane Man in comparison with both the idiotic "heroes" and the other Slave to PR Card Carrying Villains who fear more the strike of the Weird Trade Union of monsters and minions than anything the heroic characters can do.
  • Warcraft III has a linear storyline that puts the player in control of different commanders from different sides of the war depending on the point of time in the story. The human campaign features Prince Arthas, an idealistic young man fighting a horrific undead army. As the war carries on, Arthas must resort to increasingly reprehensible tactics, starting with the slaughter of a sleeping town when he learns they've received shipments of food from a village secretly contaminated by the undead plague. Out of desperation to save the human population, he acquires, at the cost of his soul, a magic sword powerful enough to defeat his undead nemesis. The player is still in control of Arthas during the next campaign, but now he's a soulless Death Knight leading the undead in their war against the living.
    • Similarly, StarCraft has one campaign for each of the three factions, all of which form a cohesive story. During the Zerg campaign, you're an evil giant brain-slug monster, commanding your evil Big Creepy-Crawlies into killing the good(ish) guys.
    • Likewise in Star Trek Armada, the second to last campaign is the Borg campaign. In the final mission, you successfully assimilate Earth, killing Worf in the process. This is undone via Time Travel in the subsequent hidden campaign, in which the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans join forces to defeat the Borg.
  • Kratos from the God of War series is a berserker whose primary motivation is revenge on anyone who has spurned him.
    • Which by now has been expanded to everyone who crosses his path or tries to stop him doing whatever he's doing. Also a fair few people whose deaths would be convenient for him.
    • To go into more details after the first game where he wants revenge on Zeus, and while Zeus is shown to be evil, him wanting to rid off Kratos doesn't really seem like a bad thing since Kratos is just doing all the stuff Ares was before him. In God of War III, Kratos' personality has been flanderized to the point where he is almost completely heartless and doesn't care that his desire for revenge is destroying the world, and is the real villain of the game since it's revealed that Zeus turned evil because of Kratos opening Pandora's box in the first game; therefore everything Zeus did afterwords (which isn't much compared to Kratos' atrocities) is indirectly caused by him.
  • Subverted with Laharl (Disgaea: Hour of Darkness) and newcomer Mao (Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice) from the Disgaea series—but they are really Noble Demons.
  • Zetta from Makai Kingdom is another Noble Demon example of this trope.
  • Revya during the Demon Path of Soul Nomad and The World Eaters. Unlike other Nippon Ichi games listed here, definitely not a Noble Demon.
  • Agent 47 from the Hitman series borders on this, but his victims tend to be worse.
  • The Brotherhood of Nod in general, and Kane in particular, of the Command & Conquer series, especially in Tiberium Wars where a large part of the Brotherhood's basic motivation stems from economic woes, health problems, and perceived oppression and marginalization by the Global Defense Initiative.
    • Taken up to eleven in Kane's Wrath, where you learn that a previous mission you played in Wars, where you were defending as the bad-guy Nod and were attacked by a rogue group of Nod traitors supposedly led by Killian, where you learn the truth of the treachery. However the perpetrator did it in belief that she would be helping Nod rid themselves of an unbeliever, but unintentionally (however it was planned by Kane) triggering the arrival of the Scrin. What makes this a villain protagonist is that you are now in command of the traitor army. It's hard to understand exactly who she ended up helping in the end, but she's definitely a villain to all factions.
    • The vast majority of Real Time Strategy games have campaigns for both sides. Except when there is No Campaign for the Wicked.
  • TIE Fighter. You play on the side of The Empire, and have Darth Vader as your wingman.
  • Infocom's 1983 game Infidel featured a villain protagonist, making this trope in computer games Older Than the NES.
  • The Force Unleashed features Starkiller, a Dark Jedi who was raised by Darth Vader and has a disturbing talent for killing his enemies in outlandish, yet surprisingly amusing ways. Justified to an extent as he was raised from childhood to believe in Vader's cause and eventually turns against him anyway (canonically).
    • The non-canon add-on missions included in Ultimate Sith Edition take it further, complete with Starkiller informing a captain "You Have Failed Me... For The Last Time."
  • The Star Wars Battlefront games allow players to play as the Separatists against the Republic or as the Empire against the Rebels, depending on the era in which one chooses to play. There's also a level in Battlefront II called Mos Eisley Assault, which features all the important characters in the game—from both eras—doing battle against each other. In this level, players can play on either the Hero side (Luke, Han, Leia, Chewbacca, Yoda, Aayla Secura, Ki-Adi-Mundi, young Obi-Wan, Mace Windu) or the Villain side (Vader, The Emperor, Boba Fett, Count Dooku, General Grievous, Darth Maul, Anakin, Jango Fett).
  • Optionally, the amnesiac Revan from Knights of the Old Republic or the Jedi Exile from KOTOR II.
  • Star Wars the Old Republic, if you go with the dark side on The Empire side. Sith warriors who follow this path will stun many a jedi with their vicious brutality. Then you have the Psycho for Hire bounty hunters, inquisitors with force lightning as way of greeting people, and Imperial agents who take the protocol of Leave No Witnesses to heart.
  • American McGee's Grimm features a dwarf named Grimm who despises the Disneyfication of fairy tales and whose goal is to return them into the dark stories that they were. His Catch Phrase in the ads is:

Grimm: Happily ever after ends NOW!

  • The critically acclaimed freeware game Emily Enough revolves around a little girl who has slaughtered her entire family and who proceeds to kill several innocent people over the course of the game.
  • Saints Row 2 has the player becoming this.
  • The Misadventures of Tron Bonne has you play as Goldfish Poop Gang member from Mega Man Legends, Tron Bonne in her quest to steal one million zenny worth of goods to save her kidnapped air pirate family.
  • Vile Mode in Mega Man X: Maverick Hunter X.
  • Adam Cadre's Varicella has you playing the generally reprehensible Primo Varicella, who attempts to knock off each of his rivals to the position of Regent. Thing is, each of his rivals are worse.
  • In No More Heroes, Travis Touchdown creates the line in the sand for a character who either just barely counts as a Villain Protagonist (he has very few, if any, likable qualities, and kills people for a living) or is not quite evil enough to be a Villain Protagonist (the people he kills are, for the most part, even more sick and twisted than he is, or at the very least other assassins). Which side he is actually on is up for debate. He veers completely away from this in the sequel, however.
  • Servant Avenger from Fate hollow ataraxia is definitely a Villain Protagonist - he is supposed to Evil Incarnate, after all. His soul itself is twisted and Exclusively Evil, and he actively pursues murder and rape to pass the time. This does not prevent him from becoming a character you can sympathise with, especially after the flashback to his horrific Start of Darkness and some very poignant conversations with other characters. Despite hating humanity, he still shoulders the responsibility that was forced onto him - to bear every sin ever committed and will be committed by a human and forever serve as a twisted 'champion' of humanity. The ending is complete with a Tear Jerking Heroic Sacrifice.

"Even if humanity is worthless, the history that has been laid down until now has meaning.
(...) It is not a sin to exist."

  • In Threads of Fate, you can choose to play as either Rue, the hero, or Mint, the Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.
  • The unreleased arcade game Chimera Beast is about ruthless and mindless Horde of Alien Locusts who reabsorb the DNA of what they eat to become stronger... and you play as one of them, digging your way through the food chain of your homeplanet starting from bacteria. If you win against the final boss you end up blowing up the planet and going through a killing spree across the universe, eventually reaching Earth... Even the game mocks you for this. To get the "good" ending, you must lose to the final boss and opt not to continue.
  • Firebrand of Demon's Crest is, for starters, a Red Arremer from Ghouls 'n Ghosts (the original Demonic Spider). The game starts with him as a prisoner of the demon Phalanax, who interrupted his attempt to take over the world and stole the Crests he was using to do so. Once he breaks out, the rest of the game concerns him reclaiming his stolen property and kill Phanalax so that he can Take Over the World as previously planned.
  • In Prototype, the main character, Alex Mercer is quite unrepentant about the horrible things he does throughout the game. Unlike In Famous, a game with a roughly similar premise, Prototype has no Karma Meter, and automatically assumes the player will choose to behave the way players always behave in a Wide Open Sandbox game.
  • Wylfred of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume is one of these on the C path, if you use the Plume to sacrifice more than a certain number of your teammates. Otherwise, he's either a Byronic Hero, or an Anti-Hero.
  • Atlach=Nacha, where the protagonist is a humanitarian Giant Spider who lusts after tender young schoolgirls.
  • In the Silent Hill series, which ending you get often determines whether your main character is a tortured hero or this trope. Silent Hill 4 takes it one step further by having the plot revolve entirely around the Big Bad Implacable Man antagonist instead of the borderline Featureless Protagonist Henry Townshend.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni loves to play with this trope, at least in-universe. Namely, in the 5th Arc, Battler become the Endless Sorcerer while a Mary Sue of Bernkastel's creation takes up the 'protagonist' role. (That is, has a reliable perspective.) In reality, though, no face heels or heel faces occur. The 'protagonist' role simply gets taken over by the two most evil characters in the series while they force the good guys into the 'antagonist' role.
  • In the Rampage games you score points by destroying as much property as possible and eating people, and most of the people haven't done anything to you or are just soldiers doing their job. You can also kick them to death or knock them off building/tear off parachutes and watch them splat.
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has the Dark Brotherhood quest line, in which the player takes the role of an assassin. It mixes in clearly deserving targets (The very first one is lightly implied to be either a rapist or a murderer) with somewhat-deserving ones (A pirate, who's clearly killed people 'on the job' before) with clearly innocent people. You also get to kill your entire 'family' of assassins, which may or may not qualify for the Moral Event Horizon. Several of the Daedric quests in the game are also pretty villainous, ranging from gleeful sociopathy to diabolic evil: In Molag Bal's Daedric quest, the player is asked to goad a Reluctant Warrior into murder. Obviously being a sandbox game it also features Video Game Cruelty Potential aplenty.
    • After you give a Daedric artifact to Martin as part of the main storyline, he assures you that he won't ask what you had to do to get it—as a former Daedra worshipper, he is all too aware of the cruel whims of the Daedra lords. Some are more clearly evil than others (like Molag Bal), some are relatively harmless pranks in comparison (Sheogorath pranking a small village), and others are downright heroic (freeing enslaved Ogres for Malacath, mercy killing vampirized worshippers for Azura, and killing a bunch of evil necromancers for Meridia).
  • RapeLay is about the player character raping women.
  • Evil Genius. No, really? You play a typical Super Villain, sending out henchmen from your lair in a hollowed-out volcano (or somewhere like that) to commit evil deeds, working towards the culmination of Evil Plan, setting off your Doomsday Device or taking over the world.
  • Dungeon Keeper: Build your sprawling dungeon, employ creatures of darkness, spread your dark influence over the land. Don't forget to deal with those adventuring heroes who want to slay your army and steal your treasure. If the imps or the traps don't kill the them, have them tortured.
  • Caleb, the main character in the Blood series, is a psychotic undead cowboy killing his way through his former Evil Cult so he can get revenge on his former god, Tchernobog. What pushes Caleb into true villainy is just how much he loves his Roaring Rampage of Revenge; when he isn't wisecracking or snarking, he's cackling like a madman while chucking dynamite at anything that gets in his way. And then, in the second game, he misuses Tchernaborg's powers so much he begins to unravel the very stability of the universe; he's quite happy to let the totality of existence collapse out of boredom.
  • In the flash game Armed with Wings 2, you play as the exiled king Vandheer Lorde, the main villain of the series, who is undeniably Badass.
  • Updated Rerelease Devil May Cry 3: Special Edition adds the ability to play through the story as Dante's Evil Twin, Vergil.
  • Jin Kazama becomes this in Tekken 6.
  • The Forsaken from World of Warcraft, who are former Scourge who gained free-will away from the Lich King often look like this. Even people as Obviously Evil as Varimathras and Putress blend in perfectly with them, almost completely unnoticed until they double-cross the Horde. Post Lich King and Sylvanas has no problems with using the same method the Lich King himself used to raise the dead for her own army. Even Garrosh, one of the least sympathetic characters in the game was practically spittingly disgusted by this. It reached it's pinnacle when they began massacring and experimenting on entire human settlements, just to see what would happen. Even on the Horde, the questlines lead to you killing the person who was leading these atrocities.
  • Centipede: The comic book adaptation has the playable character (a wizard) in the role of the bad guy, with a boy trying to stop him.
  • Sands of Destruction has us follow the adventures of the World Destruction Committee. Although only one is actively seeking the destruction of the world, the other is tagging along because he likes our crazed lady protagonist, and the third is going with to protect him.
  • Okage's main character is a slave of the evil king Stan, and through the game, you're trying to take the power of the other evil kings that showed up while Stan was in a jar, so he can take over the world. It's not very prominent though, what with Stan being a Harmless Villain who spends more time fighting evil than causing it.
  • The title character in Legacy of Kain is quite the nasty piece of work. The series starts with him becoming a vampire so he can avenge his death. He then decides to destroy the town he was murdered in. And then he gets a list of people to kill, and just settles for slaughtering every man, woman, and child he sees. And right as he's finished, he ruins the whole point of the quest and just decides to rule over Nosgoth's dying remains. In Blood Omen 2, he mind controls bystanders to their deaths, kills every human he sees, and murders his Love Interest when she realizes what a monster he is, all in the name of regaining his empire. It takes Nosgoth itself dying in the Soul Reaver series for him to simmer down, and then, he's a Manipulative Bastard to his vampire offspring Raziel, and is only out to save himself.
  • Scott Shelby in Heavy Rain especially when it is revealed that he is the Origami Killer.
  • Transformers: War for Cybertron has a campaign where you play as the Decepticons, and control Megatron for most of the levels.
    • You get a choice in who you want to play as though. Four of the five levels have Megatron playable, but the first level also has Barricade and Brawl, while the last three have Soundwave and Breakdown. The second level is dedicated to Starscream, with Skywarp and Thundercracker as choices. Whoever you don't control become your (almost useless) CPU buddies.
  • The Descent 3: Mercenary Expansion Pack casts you on the side of the Big Bad Corrupt Corporate Executive Dravis, as the leader of his Black Pyro squadron.
  • Double Switch: Eddie is revealed to be this later on.
  • While people tend to forget about this and usually paint him as a rebel Jerk with a Heart of Gold, Ragna the Bloodedge from BlazBlue was actually a mass murderer even in human form, killing thousands of innocent NOL people, women or even those just to pick up his paycheck and not really attacking him. He's not doing that anymore, but he'll admit his murders without regret so that bounty on his head was really genuinely due to his fault and not because NOL is looking for a scapegoat. Granted, though, he's got reasons and shitty enough past to sympathize with despite such thing.
  • Wizardry IV is an atypical entry in the series: it has the player take control of Werdna, the Evil Sorcerer of the first episode, now resurrected and thirsty for revenge... If he manages to just leave the dungeon where he was buried first, which is not an easy task.
  • Payday: The Heist has you as crook taking part in various heists, complete with taking hostages and shooting a whole lot of cops.
  • Joshua in The World Ends With You especially when it's revealed he is the Composer.
  • Jinkuro, the malevolent ghost possessing Momohime's body, in Muramasa the Demon Blade. He's outright only into the whole ordeal to get his chosen weapon back and find a better target in his Grand Theft Me scheme to live forever, and does a lot of villainous actions (such as invading Heaven) in order to find alternate routes to immortality.
  • The Voinian campaign in Escape Velocity: Override is about as unambiguously evil as they come. The Voinians are a race of vicious alien warlords bent on conquering the galaxy and enslaving everything in their path. The player has the option to help the Voinians break their stalemate with the human United Earth, and crippling the attempts of a previously conquered race to rebel against their overlords. Rewards for doing so include access to a variety of powerful Voinian military vessels and the unsettling satisfaction of committing genocide against your own race.
    • Once you do join, the Voinians never question your motivations for helping them, yet they only seem superficially appreciative of your efforts. One gets the sense that they're stringing you along simply because they know you're capable and willing to wipe out entire UE fleets at a moment's notice.
    • All Escape Velocity games have at least one storyline where the player character can be called a villain: in Classic, working for the Confederation and trying to bring the Rebels back to heel, in Override, the Voinian and the two Renegade storylines, and in Nova, the Federation storyline (after a certain point of no return).
  • Brice, a UFO-obsessed ghost and one of the playable characters in the adventure game, Amber: Journeys Beyond. After you complete his level he is sent to Hell in a particularly horrifying way - granted, he murdered at least 3 people in the game's backstory, so it's not like he didn't deserve it.

Web Comics[edit | hide]


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Looney Tunes:
    • While Bugs Bunny was generally a defensive character, there have been several episodes where he became a straight up villain. Examples of this include "Elmer's Candid Camera" (with a Bugs prototype where he picks on Elmer unprovoked), "Elmer's Pet Rabbit" (where he heckles Elmer for no justifiable reason), "Tortoise Beats Hare" and its follow ups "Tortoise Wins by a Hare" and "Rabbit Transit" (where Bugs is portrayed as an egomaniac who's willing to harm and cheat just to beat a turtle), "Wabbit Twouble" (again, picking on Elmer unprovoked), "The Wacky Wabbit (picking on an unprovoked Elmer again), "Hare Ribbin'" (where he picks on a dog who just happened to encounter him, unlike his encounter with a similar dog in "The Heckling Hare", and assists the dog in suicide[4]), "Buckaroo Bugs" (where he's a flat out thief and bully), and "Rebel Rabbit" (where he wreaks havoc on the US solely because the bounty for rabbits was so low, doing atrocities like tying up a railroad and sawing Florida off the mainland, and by the end of the short gets so out of control that the military is called in to bring him down).
      • And when Bugs softened, the focus often changed to his enemies, with the former often acting as Hero Antagonist. In a lot of his bouts against Yosemite Sam and Daffy, the focus was more on their failings than his methods of dealing with them.
      • Which all led to rabbits becoming the unofficial Jerkasses of the animated animal world.
    • Daffy Duck also had several bouts of this trope, such as "Daffy Duck in Hollywood" (where he causes trouble in a Hollywood studio for the heck of it) and "Boobs in the Woods" (where he heckles Porky Pig for the sake of causing trouble). This only intensified during his later meaner years where he evolved into a genuine villain, albeit still often with the primary spotlight (see above).
    • Wile E. Coyote, so much that Chuck Jones made it a written lore that all sympathy must be directed to him instead of the Road Runner.
    • Other Looney Tunes antagonists such as Sylvester and Yosemite Sam often fall into this category due to their immensely pitiful qualities and humor value and the fact the heroes' warring against them are often too swift and sudden to draw much focus and sympathy on (it can take a couple of minutes to establish a villain and how he sets up a trap, and couple of seconds for the hero to enter and foil it).
  • Woody Woodpecker went in and out of being this and an Anti-Hero in the original cartoons. Sometimes, he just goes about breaking the rules or causing trouble for the mere thrill of it or just out of ignorance, and is clearly shown to be a selfish glutton who will mow down or manipulate anyone who gets in the way of his food. On the other hand, he did occasionally star in a sympathetic light (i.e. "The Hollywood Matador") and by the late 40's his Anti-Hero traits were played up more by director Dick Lundy, especially when Buzz Buzzard entered the series. By the 50's, Woody veered between being a straight up hero, a villain and an anti-hero, and by the mid-50's both of the former traits were dropped altogether in favor of making Woody a straight up hero character.
  • Brain and Pinky of Pinky and The Brain the first is a Diabolical Mastermind out for world conquest -- Once Per Episode, because Failure Is the Only Option, and the other is his Dragon.
  • Zim of Invader Zim, an alien trying to Take Over the World. He is juxtaposed to Dib, a preteen paranormal investigator trying to stop him. One could argue that the issue becomes confused for this show, however; while the majority of episodes focus on Zim, there are so many Villain Episodes that some fans would argue that Dib and Zim could both be seen as the protagonists, and that the show has one Villain Protagonist and one traditional hero.
  • A weird example mixed with Deliberate Values Dissonance in an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Play Within A Show "The Boy In The Iceberg" stars actors playing the Gaang as protagonists, with Ozai as the main anatagonist. As all the characters are exaggerated parodies of the "real" people, the play version of Aang is a Wide-Eyed Idealist with Incorruptible Pure Pureness, whereas Ozai is a flamboyant Card-Carrying Villain; however, at the end of the play, when Ozai brutally kills Aang, the audience gives it a standing ovation. Although the viewers know that Aang is The Hero and Ozai is a Complete Monster, due to a century of propaganda and cultural conditioning, as far as the Fire Nation rank and file is concerned, Aang is the play's Villain Protagonist
  • Eddy from Ed, Edd n Eddy, while not as evil as some of the examples, is still a cynical con artist who will do every dirty trick in the book for money. Including stealing Christmas presents from children. He has his reasons, but still.
  • The main characters of Evil Con Carne, which was originally part of the same show as The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.
  • Billy, Mandy, and Grim of The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.
  • Dick Dastardly and Muttley of both Wacky Races and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
  • Killface of Frisky Dingo is a supervillain protagonist who's way more sympathetic than Jerkass superhero Xander Crews.
  • Cartman from South Park.
    • Also, he either serves as The Dragon for a greater evil, or IS the Big Bad in most episodes.
  • Task Force X are focused on during their mission to infiltrate Justice League headquarters and steal an invincible armor forged by the gods in the Justice League Unlimited episode named after them.
  • Aeon Flux. It is very convoluted but in the MTV adaptation Aeon Flux is the villain of the series and Trevor Goodchild is the hero. It is bizarre because Aeon's actions are noble (normally) even though she is a terrorist whereas Trevor's actions are often very cruel and cold (often sickening) though he does everything for the betterment of the human race. It is sometimes hard to see because of the writing but it is made extremely clear in the final episode where Aeon murders the entire human race save for her and Trevor.
  • Clay Puppington from Moral Orel, especially the fact that season 3 is more focused onto him.
  • Stewie Griffin from Family Guy starts out as a diabolical Villain Protagonist (he still has his moments, but it's more general Comedic Sociopathy).
  • League of Super Evil
  • Early Cuyler in Squidbillies.
  • Dueling Movies Despicable Me and Megamind.
  • Mr. Krabs from SpongeBob SquarePants became one during the Seasonal Rot, though around the start of the seventh season he pulls a Heel Face Turn. As a more conventional example, a good few later episodes focus more on Plankton and his schemes.
  • Resident Alien Roger from American Dad. He started out as a sympathetic, vaguely hedonistic alien, but over time he has established himself as a volatile, dangerous sociopath.
  • Bloo in some episodes of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, although usually he's less evil than some other villain. Usually.
  • Bender in some episodes of Futurama. The Professor in others, and Leela in an alternate reality. Not that the mainstream-Leela doesn't have evil moods.
  • Kuzco from The Emperors New Groove. He's very mean and arrogant, and everyone hates him, but his Evil Chancellor Yzma is way eviler than him.
  • The Blue Racer
  • Zordrak and the Urpneys of The Dreamstone usually act this, in that each episode starts and ends from their perspective and we generally spend more time following them than the heroes. Depending on the Writer however, Sympathetic POV is sometimes given to the actual heroes.
  • Rick from Rick and Morty; Morty is a voice of reason to Rick in some episodes, an accomplice in others.
  1. (she previously portrayed Grendel's Mother in Beowulf)
  2. as of this entry, the game is still being developed
  3. yes, it's genetic
  4. It's even worse in the directors cut included on Looney Tunes Golden Collection Vol. 5, where Bugs himself shoots the dog