"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
—Bernard of Clairvaux
"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim."
The Well-Intentioned Extremist is a type of villain with an overall goal which the heroes can appreciate in principle, but whose methods of pursuing said goal (such as mass murder) are problematic to say the least; despite any sympathy they may have with their cause, the heroes have no choice but to stop them. Taken to extremes, hethey may fully believe that Utopia Justifies the Means. Such an idealistic extremist is likely to be either a Totalitarian Utilitarian or a Principles Zealot, depending on whether he's aiming For Happiness or For Great Justice. The most well-written examples of this trope are the kind that the reader or viewer stops just short of agreeing with.
Other times, the villain may be out for simple Revenge against a person or corporation or other entity that has undeniably wronged them. Again, the heroes may sympathize with their plight, but are obliged to stop him because he cares not who gets in the way of their planned revenge. However, the heroes will often investigate the villain's grievance themselves and will complement stopping the villain with taking down the offending party as well.
Either way, it's a common end result of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope. Their favorite phrase is I Did What I Had to Do—unless they are also the Tautological Templar and believe that what they do is good because a good person like them does only good things. They are not afraid to sacrifice themselves for the cause.
In many ways, this can be among the worst of villains, as unlike the Knight Templar or He Who Fights Monsters, the Well-Intentioned Extremist knows their actions are evil, but is willing to do so for a cause he feels is right.
Often a Tragic Hero that became an Anti-Villain, and sometimes a Worthy Opponent or even Reluctant Warrior. The extreme of this is the Knight Templar who fully believes that they are in the right and the best way to save the world is to remove free will. Vigilante Man is a case where the Well-Intentioned Extremist hasn't (yet) descended to the point of not caring who gets hurt. Often ends up in rivalries with the Knight in Sour Armor. Some of those seeking to bring about a One World Order to end international strife may count as this.
Contrast with Necessarily Evil, where the villain in question has a Heel Realization and recognizes that he deserves punishment (of course, he may always choose to just Ignore That Epiphany). Often The Unfettered. See also A Lighter Shade of Grey. A staple trope of the Master Computer gone mad. If the positive intention is overthrowing an evil government, the Well-Intentioned Extremists will be an example of The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized. If their extremism actually succeeds in making the world a better place, it's The Extremist Was Right.
As this trope often goes hand-in-hand with the Face Heel Turn, expect spoilers.
- Anime and Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Animation
- Web Comics
- Web Original
- Western Animation