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"As many people have noted throughout the years though, Disney has been rather...lax when it comes to adapting books and fairy tales into movies. This is understandable in some cases. Still, it can be a bit galling when one knows that the fire-breathing, demonic witch on the screen was a kindly old lady in the source material."

The villain of an adaptation or retelling of a story is a familiar character who wasn't as bad in the source material. Sure, they may have been annoying at times, or couldn't care less about the good guys, but they weren't evil. Maybe they were even an ally of the main characters who leaned a little too far on the Sliding Scale of Anti-Heroes, or a villain with standards or who was known to show a softer side. Maybe the character rubbed the heroes the wrong way, but never caused any real harm and was otherwise a decent person.

In any case, the character seriously Took a Level In Jerkass in the POV Sequel, The Movie, The Film of the Book, or any other reimagining of the original material. Where he was simply a pest before (and never treated as anything worse than that), or even nice, he now kicks puppies for fun.

This trope can take several forms, depending on the adaptation and the character. The True Neutral figure is actively villainous instead of simply not caring or choosing not to get involved. An imposing and potentially dangerous, but ultimately helpful, ally may become an enemy instead. The Anti-Villain and Tragic Villain will probably lose most or all of their sympathetic side and have fewer, if any, nicer moments. This occasionally happens to characters who were explicit good guys in the source material, and if it does it's sometimes a Take That to an unpopular one or to make the character Darker and Edgier.

This is not always a bad thing, however, and indeed some iconic villains have come about in this way, although it will probably lead to accusations of Adaptation Decay or Character Derailment from purists. Unlike Ron the Death Eater, there is usually more justification for the change in the character. Sometimes Adaptational Villainy is a result of Composite Character - the composite mixes the harmless character and a more villainous one - or Adaptation Expansion, when there is no obvious villain in the original work, and a Ghost or another minor character gets the part. Sometimes it's to make the moral lines of an otherwise edgy story more clear or to simplify a complex character. A Perspective Flip often uses this deliberately to subvert the audience's expectations of who the hero and villain are. If the adaptation does well, the darker incarnation of the character may become more popular and eventually overshadow the original. This may happen for a variety of reasons.

It's not Adaptational Villainy if an entirely new character is created to be the villain. This trope only applies if the villain in question is recognizable from the original work, but was a more sympathetic or tragic figure, had some form of standards or was less menacing, had sympathetic moments, was strictly neutral, or wasn't evil at all.

This trope is Older Than Dirt, since this sometimes happened to religious or mythological figures who, over time, became more malicious then they were in the older versions of their myths due to displacement or conquest.

Compare Everybody Hates Hades, which is this trope applied to certain Dark Is Not Evil gods in mythology, and Historical Villain Upgrade, which is a variant for Real Life figures. Ron the Death Eater happens when a section of a fandom demonizes a character rather than one specific adaptation. Contrast Villain Decay, in which an established villainous character becomes less frightening or villainous over time and isn't taken as seriously by the heroes or the audience as a result.

Examples of Adaptational Villainy include:


Anime and Manga

  • In the Vision of Escaflowne movie, Folken is a psychotic Big Bad, while in the original series, he was more of an Anti-Villain or a Dragon with an Agenda to the actual Big Bad, Emperor Dornkirk (who is absent from the movie altogether). In fact, in the series, he eventually has a Heel Face Turn.
  • To a lesser extent, King Dedede of Kirby of the Stars. While still rarely exceeding a petty comedic Jerkass, his anime counterpart has far fewer benevolent moments than that of the original games (who leans more as an Anti-Villain - he was known to occasionally team up with Kirby against a more serious threat, such as Zero or Nightmare) and usually plays the main antagonist of each episode.
  • Some of the Gym Leaders and Elite Four members in Pokémon. While most of them (with the exception of Giovanni) are basically good guys in the games - Lance and Lorelei even helping out the player character at key points - Lt. Surge, Koga, Sabrina, Agatha, Lorelei, Lance, Karen, Will and Pryce became villains in the manga adaptation Pokémon Special. To be fair, though, Pryce is a more sympathetic Anti-Villain, Lance is a Well-Intentioned Extremist, and most of the other characters listed reform later on, with the exception of Agatha.
    • And occasionally the Pokémon themselves (particularly either Poison or Dark types), such as in the Mystery Dungeon games. In the games and anime, even Pokémon seen working for the antagonists aren't really evil, just doing their jobs.
    • This is utilized to a lesser extent with their anime counterparts. Sabrina is converted into something of a demonic witch who antagonizes Ash and company, while many others are egotistical Jerkasses that have a bigoted or bullying demeanor regarding how they handle Pokémon. Just about all of them make friends with the heroes in the end, however, similar to their manga counterparts (this is something of an important plot point early on, since more often Ash earns his first gym badges out of reformed kindness from the leaders rather than actually winning against them).
      • Cyrus also got this in the anime. While he was already the Knight of Cerebus of the game series, his redeeming qualities were removed for the anime.
  • General Cross of D.Gray-man suffered this. He asks Allen to bring him lions, sells him into slave labor, and at one point, pinned him to a wall to take his money. The scene is reminiscent of a pimp and prostitute, including Allen asking Cross how long he's going to be forced to make money for him. Also, the latter scene happened while Cross was living in a palace with a Maharajah's widow. Thus, he wasn't in dire need of money at that point. Manga-wise, Allen said he gambled if they really needed money. None of the aforementioned scenes happened, or were hinted.
    • There's also the scene where guards drag Allen away from Cross in HQ, and Cross waves him off, while smirking and humming. In the manga, the latter things with Cross didn't happen. All Cross does is watch, thinking it was quick.
    • Episode 27 has another, Cross is said to have taken money from a woman when her boyfriend came after him. He is shown being a lover to a rich widow, and Allen states Cross has a thing for rich women. In the character fanbook, written by Hoshino Katsura, Cross is stated as liking "good" women. So the anime makes Cross look like a gold-digger, who specifically looks to take / use women's money.
  • Gendo Ikari from Neon Genesis Evangelion. In the anime, he is Ambiguously Evil and, before his death, expresses regrets over being a bad father to Shinji. In the manga adaptation, he is unquestionably evil and hates Shinji.
    • To a smaller extent, Kaworu. In the original anime, he was pretty nice (outside of, you know, being the seventeenth Angel). In the manga, he kills a cat. This has been done to the point where fans have nicknamed him "Evil Manga Kaworu".
  • In the Mai-HiME manga, the main antagonists of the first arc are Haruka and Yukino, the latter of whom is friends with Mai and Mikoto in the anime, and the otherwise heroic Akira assists them. By contrast, Shizuru never turns Psycho Lesbian, and Nao (reluctantly) helps the heroes after the teams merge.
  • In the Mai-Otome manga, Tomoe is Demoted to Extra and does not attempt to plot against Arika, and Nina never does a Face Heel Turn. On the opposite end, Sergey goes from a Punch Clock Villain who betrays the Big Bad for his daughter's sake to a Complete Monster Big Bad who is not related to Nina, biologically or otherwise.
  • In the 2003 Fullmetal Alchemist anime, Basque Grand was transformed from the Reasonable Authority Figure and Colonel Badass that he was in the manga into a Colonel Kilgore and General Ripper who just can't wait to commit some more genocide. Kimblee, while an awful person in the manga, had his negative qualities cranked Up to Eleven, and his good ones totally suppressed. Even Hohenheim, the Big Good in the manga, became a Retired Monster. However, all three of these cases were due to those characters not having been well established yet in the manga when the anime overtook it.
    • Particularly justified in the case of Basque Grand, since Hohenheim and Kimblee had the advantage of at least having brief appearances on screen in the manga before their introduction to the anime. Basque Grand was mentioned has having been killed off screen in the manga and nothing else, so the writers of the anime had literally nothing to go on with him besides his name, appearance, and occupation.
  • Done once in a while in Grimm's Fairy Tale Classics:
    • A borderline example in "The Six Swans": the protagonist's husband's attempts to save her from execution when she's framed as a supposed witch and baby-killer in the tale are taken away, which leads many viewers to think that the one from the episode ALSO wants her to die rather than being caught between his love for his wife and his position as the King like in the original.
    • In Hansel and Gretel, the bird that guides the children in the forest is a familiar of the Wicked Witch.
    • The Huntsman in Snow White tries to directly kill her and her Canon Foreigner best friend. In the original, he didn't want to and tricked the Queen into thinking that he did.
    • The Witch in Rapunzel beats her up onscreen when she finds out that she has a boyfriend, then attacks said boyfriend directly and throws him off the window.

Comic Books

  • In The Mighty Thor comics, Loki is generally depicted as an evil god (though some individual writers have made him more of an Anti-Villain), but in the original Norse mythology he's a much more ambiguous figure, usually taking the role of The Trickster.
  • Played with in the case of the Greek gods and goddesses in Wonder Woman. A number of them started out as Lighter and Softer than they were in Greek Mythology. However, Ares, the God of War, is portrayed as so dangerous and Too Powerful to Live that Wonder Woman has to actually kill him in at least one adaptation. Ares in the Greek myths, although The Berserker and ironically a bit of a Dirty Coward, looked after his kids and was worshipped like the other gods. However, the more recent Wonder Woman stories have taken to portraying the pantheon as somewhere closer to what they were like in mythology.
  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Reed Richards, a hero in the original comics, becomes a major villain.
    • This also happens to the Hulk, Hank Pym, several X-Men, Natasha "Black Widow" Romanoff, Deadpool, Magneto and Galactus, who become more villainous characters in the Ultimate Universe than their original incarnations were.
  • John Rockerduck is portrayed as a Corrupt Corporate Executive in several stories but he was by no means this or any other kind of villain in the only story his creator used him.
  • Chaos in Sonic the Comic. He is depicted as an omnicidal monster with no sympathetic backstory, while in the games, all of his friends were massacred by a tribe of Echidnas. He is shown going out of his way to kill and torture people.
    • Both Sonic comics turn Robotnik into a tyrannical Complete Monster who painfully roboticized the people of Mobius whom he has dominion over. After issue 252, Archie was forced to change him back to the game characterization.
  • The New 52 version of Silver Banshee is an inversion. Pre-reboot, she was an out-and-out villainess, but the new version has been introduced as a very sympathetic character who seems set to be an outright heroine or at worst a Tragic Villain. Being Supergirl's only friend and having a supervillain father complicate things.
  • This is the entire premise in Transformers: Shattered Glass, which is set in a mirror universe where the Decepticons are the heroes battling the tyrannical Autobots.

Films - Animated

  • One of the most famous examples is Kaa from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. In the book, he is a mentor and friend of Mowgli, helping to save him when he is kidnapped by monkeys and offering him advice for battle, indeed never harming or threatening him in any way. The other animals in the jungle respect and fear him for his wisdom and powers of hypnosis. In the Disney movie and its sequel, he is a cowardly, greedy villain who only sees Mowgli as potential food. Apparently it was thought by Disney that audiences wouldn't accept a snake as a heroic character. In the sequel, Kaa loses any menace he once had. The live-action remake of the movie portrayed him as a mindless monster who is used as a Shark Pool by King Louie against thieves (in the novel, incidentally, Kaa was the only animal that the monkeys were afraid of); this depiction draws on a different snake who appeared in The Second Jungle Book.
    • Speaking of The Jungle Book, Shere Khan himself is upgraded slightly with each Disney adaptation. In the books, he was an antagonist, but represented as somewhat pitiful, is something of an arrogant fool, and is taken half-heartedly by a lot of residents of the jungle, including Bagheera. In the original Disney film, he is somewhat comedic and playful, but is genuinely feared and implied to be stronger than many animals put together. In Tale Spin, he is given a much more deathly serious and calculating demeanor, but also is rather affable and more of an Anti-Villain in many of his appearances, with a moral code that restrains his villainy. In the sequel to Disney's Jungle Book, he is an out-and-out dark presence whose only goal is to rip Mowgli to shreds.
  • Jenner is quite the Complete Monster in the Don Bluth film The Secret of NIMH, what with destroying Mrs. Brisby's home and killing Nicodemus. However, in the book the film is based on, he is not nearly as villainous, but is a slightly more sympathetic and much less malicious Commander Contrarian who only appears through flashbacks and dies offstage.
    • In the (non-Bluth directed) sequel to the movie, Martin, a good guy in both the film and book, becomes a crazed villain (although as the result of brainwashing).
  • Ivan Sakharine in the Tintin comic The Secret of the Unicorn. While sinister-seeming and a nuisance, he isn't evil, and is victimized by the real villains, a pair of unscrupulous treasure hunters. He even gets an implied Pet the Dog moment - a cameo in Red Rackham's Treasure suggests that he offered his own Unicorn model for Captain Haddock's maritime gallery, and in turn Haddock seems to be on good enough terms with Sakharine to invite him to an exhibition there. In the movie based on the same comic, he is a much darker and more threatening character with a blood vendetta against Haddock's family who takes over the role of the comic's villains.
  • In Disney's Hercules, Hades is a Satan-like villain (again), intent on overthrowing Zeus and taking over Mount Olympus. In Greek Mythology, he was a neutral but just ruler of the dead and no worse than the other Greek gods. Hades had no antagonism towards Heracles, only meeting the hero when Heracles asked to borrow Cerberus for one of his twelve labors. As for overthrowing Zeus, Hades never tried that in the myths: he was mostly content ruling the Underworld. And while Hades did kidnap Persephone with Zeus's permission (though other versions make this a plan between him and Persephone to bypass Demeter's Parental Marriage Veto), he was nowhere near as bad a husband as his brothers Zeus and Poseidon.
    • Inverted with Hercules' stepmother/Zeus' wife Hera, however. In the movie, she is portrayed as Hercules's loving mother. In mythology, she was his main enemy, since he was the most famous product of one of Zeus's "escapades".
  • The Sea Witch in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Little Mermaid is a True Neutral character who shows no vindictive intentions toward the unnamed mermaid, only making the famous tongue-for-legs exchange, even warning the mermaid of the consequences of the transformation. She doesn't go back on the deal or interfere with her relationship with the prince until she is asked to by the mermaid's sisters, and even then only indirectly. In the Disney Animated Canon, she is named Ursula, is an out-and-out villain with a tendency toward Faustian deals, and gets in the way of Ariel's romance with Prince Eric far more than the character in the fairy tale did.
    • Ursula also uses her magic to disguise herself as a girl named Vanessa and take the place of the princess who the prince eventually marries in the original. In Andersen's tale, the princess is a sweet kid who genuinely likes him and sincerely thinks she's the one who saved him (and in a sense, by finding him ashore and helping him, she did); her only "sin" was not knowing that the Mermaid was her actual (read: more active) savior.
  • It may be surprising to learn that Archdeacon Claude Frollo of The Hunchback of Notre Dame was a more sympathetic character in the original novel by Victor Hugo. While driven to evil deeds later by his lust for Esmeralda, he willingly adopts and cares for Quasimodo, instead of threatening to throw him down a well as he did in the Disney version of the story. All while looking after his layabout of a brother, Jehan, and being orphaned himself to boot. He was also more tolerant of gypsies, asking only that they keep their activities away from the cathedral rather than actively hunting them down.
    • Inverted with Phoebus, however. In the book, he is a Jerkass and a Karma Houdini. In the movie, he is a much more sympathetic character who is Quasimodo's ally and marries Esmeralda in the end.
  • The Queen of Hearts is depicted as an Ax Crazy villainess in the Disney and Tim Burton adaptations of Alice in Wonderland. In the book by Lewis Carroll, while she does constantly order executions, the King quietly pardons everybody she sentences to death when she isn't looking and no real harm is done. She never notices this, and the inhabitants of Wonderland just choose to play along with her.
    • The Cheshire Cat goes from one of the nicer characters to the biggest dick in the entire film.
  • In the children's book The Brave Little Toaster, the new appliances in Rob's apartment are friendly and helpful to Toaster and the other older appliances, helping them find a new owner via a radio show, and feel guilty for their role in replacing still useful appliances. In the movie, they are arrogant and cruel to them, even tossing them into a dumpster out of jealousy.
  • The three witches in The Black Cauldron are grasping and sneaky, if not evil, characters who try and trick Taman into giving up a treasure for the cauldron. In the book, they are neutral figures who bend their own rules to help Taran and the others get rid of it.
  • In the movie adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle, the main villain of the book, the Witch of the Waste, is downgraded and drained of power. Meanwhile, two of the book's nice characters, the kindly, motherly Mrs. Pentstemmon (who, in the book, is murdered by the Witch) and the absent and also kindly Wizard Suliman (who, in the book, is captured and cursed by the Witch) are combined into one character and made evil, the real villain of the movie.
  • Inverted in Rock-a-Doodle with Snipes the magpie. In Chanticler, the play which the movie is loosely based on, the Blackbird is a villainous character who plots to kill Chanticler. In the movie, his counterpart Snipes is a Jerkass, but is also one of Chanticler's allies and nowhere near as bad as the Blackbird in the play.
  • Both played straight and inverted in Shrek - Prince Charming, Little Red Riding Hood and the Fairy Godmother are villains while The Big Bad Wolf is one of the heroes, along with traditionally villainous creatures like ogres and dragons. 

Films - Live-Action

  • The Banana Splits in The Banana Splits Movie, which turns the premise into a horror movie In the Style Of Five Nights at Freddy's.
  • Likewise, in the process of turning the premise into an horror movie, Fantasy Island turns Mr. Roarke from a Benevolent Genie into a Jackass Genie.
  • Ellie in the 2019 version of Pet Sematary, since it's her who dies and comes back as an undead monster (Gage is Spared by the Adaptation, and thus receives Adaptational Heroism). This eventually happens to the whole family except for Gage.
  • Happens to the Abominable Snowman of Pasadena in both Goosebumps movies. To be fair, the one in the second movie is a costume brought to life by Slappy.
  • In the original Land of the Lost TV show, Enik the Altrusian was gruff and somewhat self-centered, but was otherwise a good guy and helped the main characters when they needed it, in contrast to his more vicious Sleestak relatives. In the 2009 live-action movie, he is a Manipulative Bastard who wiped out his own people, tries to Take Over the World with an army of mind-controlled Sleestaks, and briefly tricks the main characters into helping him do so.
  • In the book 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke, HAL-9000 is a beautifully-defined and deeply sympathetic character who is so human that he develops a psychosis. The movie, deprived of the ability to use an Author Tract to make this clear, makes HAL seem far more monstrous than the original intent, and sadly the film is often cited as an example of AI Is a Crapshoot.
  • Pius Thicknesse of the Harry Potter books is weak-willed and not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but isn't a villain until he is Brainwashed into becoming one by Voldemort through the Imperius Curse. He's presumably returned to normal after the war, although this isn't shown. In the film series, he is implied to have joined the Death Eaters of his own free will, as he doesn't display traits of characters under the Imperius Curse in the films and is more self-aware.
  • Hades in the Percy Jackson and The Olympians series is imposing and menacing, described as resembling every dictator in human history, but it turns out that he isn't one of the bad guys, and he eventually helps fight against the Titans while his son Nico becomes an important ally of the protagonists. Not so much in the movie.
  • Inverted in Street Fighter, where Balrog is a hero and a friend of Chun-Li and E. Honda. Played straight with Dee-Jay and Zangief, who are portrayed as lackeys of M. Bison (although Zangief pulls a Heel Face Turn at the end).
  • In the short story that It's a Wonderful Life is based on, "The Greatest Gift", Mr. Potter is only the owner of a photography studio and doesn't meet, much less cause problems for, George Bailey. In the movie, he is a corrupt slumlord, Jerkass and all-around nasty piece of work who goes out of his way to make George's life a living hell (and almost drives him to suicide).
  • The movie version of The Dukes of Hazzard has Roscoe and Boss Hogg portrayed as traditional, competent evil guys instead of the goofball minor incompetents they usually were in the TV show. While they were corrupt, greedy jerks in the show, too, they were known to Pet the Dog on occasion, were relatively harmless villains, and had lines that they wouldn't cross - for example, Hogg hated violence and avoided physically harming people as part of his schemes.
  • In Jurassic Park, Gennaro the lawyer, while a bit of a Jerkass, is reasonably brave; he went on to punch out a Velociraptor and become The Lancer to Alan Grant (and survives), while fat Dennis Nedry was a programmer who got shortchanged by Hammond, which gives Nedry a more understandable, if not sympathetic, reason to betray him. In the film, Gennaro is a Dirty Coward who got eaten by a T-Rex while sitting on a toilet, and Dennis is essentially an unscrupulous backstabber who is open to bribes.
    • The movie version of Gennaro inherited all his worst traits (including his depraved cowardice and his violent death) from the character Regis, who appeared in the novel but not the movie. So he's actually a twofer - Adaptational Villainy combined with Composite Character.
    • John Hammond is an inversion. The movie version is a relatively decent man, while novel Hammond is more of a Jerkass (the above-mentioned shortchanging of Nedry being one example of his jerkassery) with traits of Never My Fault, blaming everyone but himself (even his grandchildren) for everything going wrong in the end. Movie Hammond lives in the end, while novel Hammond suffers a Karmic Death when he is slowly devoured by a pack of Compsognathus.
  • Played with in the case of Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. The original novelizations portray him as an ineffective puppet ruler being manipulated by Corrupt Corporate Executives and other bad people. The original trilogy of films hint that Palpatine was likely only pretending to be a puppet, most obviously in Return of the Jedi. The Expanded Universe gave him some Bad Boss moments, such as dealing out an And I Must Scream punishment to the engineer who designed that air shaft on the Death Star. The prequel trilogy expands further on Palpatine's history, revealing that he is a Complete Monster and Manipulative Bastard who completed a 1000-year-plus Xanatos Gambit by the Sith to take over the galaxy and destroy the Jedi. This means that Palpatine, as portrayed in the webcomic Darths and Droids, reverted to his oldest characterization.
  • Scrappy-Doo in the Scooby Doo live-action movie. While previously an ally of the good guys (although disliked by a lot of fans), he has a Face Heel Turn and becomes the Big Bad, trying to kill Scooby and friends by sucking out their souls. The real Scrappy was a Bratty Half-Pint, but otherwise truly heroic.
  • In the film version of Last of the Mohicans, Duncan Heyward, although he has a Heroic Sacrifice, is significantly more of a jerkass than the character in the book.
  • The movie version of Denethor of The Lord of the Rings has fewer redeeming features than his book counterpart, who leaned more as a Good Is Not Nice Anti-Hero until he went mad as a result of using Sauron's seeing-stone, which Sauron used to push him over the Despair Event Horizon.
    • The Palantir was not Sauron's. They all rightfully belonged to Arnor/Gondor. The problem came when Sauron took the one that had been in Minas Morgul (previously the Gondorian city Minas Ithil) after he conquered it and he ultimately used the link between the stones to deceive Denethor and eventually help break him.
    • It does the same to Saruman. The only people able to use the stones without going mad were Aragorn and Pippin. Aragorn was too powerful for Sauron to break and Pippin was... well, a Hobbit. Denethor was probably down the line of his corruption for the sake of storytelling.
    • Faramir, although on the good side in both, is more antagonistic towards the Hobbits in the film version of The Two Towers than he was in the book. He is also tempted by the Ring in the movie - in the book, he's Genre Savvy enough to know that anything made by Sauron is probably dangerous. Word of God says it was because they didn't have enough time to do the complex character development that that scene would require to justify Faramir not trying to take the ring.
  • Jim Phelps in the first Mission Impossible movie. In the original series, he was the main protagonist.
  • Sentinel Prime, in his earliest appearances in the Transformers cartoons, was one of Optimus Prime's mentors and is usually depicted as a good guy. In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, however, he is the Big Bad and has no qualms about killing and enslaving humans to restore Cybertron.
    • Granted, this isn't the first time Sentinel's actions were morally reprehensible, but this is the first time that he's depicted as an outright villain.[1]
    • He was also originally planned to be Ultra Magnus, one of Optimus's closest friends in previous series, but Hasbro didn't want Ultra Magnus's name to be tarnished as a traitor, just like how they also didn't like the idea of making Rodimus a jerk.
  • In the famous movie Dracula, and many other adaptations after it, Renfield is a willing servant of Dracula. In the original book, while Renfield is under Dracula's control, he isn't so happy about it. He even tries to kill Dracula at one point, although unsuccessfully.
  • In the film adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the Whos are for the most part more materialistic and unsympathetic than they were in the book, in part to make the Grinch more sympathetic.
  • October Sky turns Homer's father into a Jerkass, presumably because there wouldn't really be a villain otherwise. In the book it was based on, his father is much nicer and more supportive of his rocketry work.
  • Inverted in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, where Nicholai Ginovaef, the human antagonist in Resident Evil 3 Nemesis, became a good guy.
  • Mombi, the Wicked Witch of the North, was no more vile than any other Ozian witch and Princess Langwidere, while annoying and creepy, was only a nuisance to Dorothy. On the other hand, their composite character in Return to Oz, Princess Mombi, may be the darkest villain in any Oz production.

Literature

  • In Frankenstein's Monster, a POV Sequel to Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, Captain Robert Walton is a Knight Templar who pursues the monster according to Victor's final wishes. In the original book, although Victor does make the same request, Walton feels some sympathy for the monster and allows it to leave his ship without a fight.
    • Victor Frankenstein himself gets this in many modern interpretations, in which he is a Mad Scientist, Card-Carrying Villain, or both. In the book, his mental instability isn't so obvious, and he is a significantly more complex character, more misguided and pathetic than villainous.
  • Mr. Rochester is much less sympathetic in Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea than he is in Jane Eyre.
  • The Doctor Who Expanded Universe novel The Resurrection Casket is Treasure Island IN SPACE! Drel McCavity (the Squire Trelawney character) turns out to be a villain, but not quite as much of one as Salvo (the John Silver character) who's been "upgraded" to a Faux Affably Evil Complete Monster.
  • In the original story of Saint George and The Dragon and most reworkings of it, Saint George is the hero. For example, in The Reluctant Dragon, he becomes the title character's friend. In the Dragon Keepers series by Kate Klimo, however, Saint George is a Villain with Good Publicity who enslaves magical creatures and drinks dragons' blood while the princess he saved is an evil witch. The dragon from the original tale tells his own side of the story, in which he was a benevolent sorcerer betrayed and killed by George.
  • Inverted in Myth-O-Mania - mostly with the help of Hades, encounters with famous monsters from Classical Mythology tend to be resolved peacefully, and many of them are friendly and misunderstood rather than evil. The Hydra becomes one of Hercules's True Companions, and killed humans with her poisonous breath by accident rather than malice. The Minotaur is a perfectly decent vegetarian whose human "sacrifices" are found alive and well, intended as wrestling partners instead of food, while the Calydonian Boar is a down-on-his-luck wrestler who just wants his job back.

Live-Action TV

  • In Forrest Wilson's Super Gran books, the character Tub, while initially a somewhat reluctant henchman to Campbell, becomes a good guy in later books following a Heel Face Turn. In the TV show, he is a Card-Carrying Villain who goes along with Campbell's plans unquestioningly.
  • In the Sky 1 adaptation of Treasure Island, the real villain isn't the Affably Evil Silver; it's Squire Trelawney, who plots to cheat Jim and Dr Livesey out of their share of the treasure, arranges for Mrs Hawkins to be thrown out of the inn while they're away, has Mr Arrow executed, and eventually suffers a Karmic Death by diving after the treasure when Jim throws it overboard. Not much like the excitable but well-meaning "most liberal of men" in the book.
    • Tom Redruth, Trelawney's gamekeeper, gets this, too - in the book, he is an elderly man who accompanies Trelawney to the island and is killed by the mutineers. In the series, he is Trelawney's vicious enforcer back in England.
  • The television adaptation of the Sharpe novel Sharpe's Battle was written before the novel had been finished, resulting in a vastly different second half. So while Lord Kiely gets a much more sympathetic treatment in the adaptation and dies a heroic death (rather than blowing his brains out on realising he's a bit rubbish), Spear Carrier Guardsman O'Rourke, whose main contribution in the novel is to say his name when Sharpe asks him, gets turned into a Turncoat who kills a couple of likeable characters mostly because they're there.
  • The Worst Witch TV series inverted this a lot, coupling with Adaptation Expansion. Miss Bat and Miss Drill each made one appearance in the original books and were implied to be rather strict and unkind teachers. In the TV series, however, they are both much nicer and are more likely to help the girls with whatever problems they have. Drucilla in the books is also the right-hand girl to Alpha Bitch Ethel Hallow, but gets a Heel Face Turn towards the end of the series. Even Ethel is hinted to not be that bad and helps the girls out a few times, something she certainly didn't do in the books. Miss Hardbroom is also much less of a Sadist Teacher than she is in the books.
  • Game of Thrones has a particularly aggravating one with Doreah. In the book, she dies crossing the desert, loyal to Daenerys to the end. In the show, she survives the desert, only to happily betray Daenerys, with the line "He said you would never leave the city alive" being our only hint to her motivation. The sheer pointlessness of it (she ends up just as dead, with no other impact on the story) is really galling.

Mythology

  • Mordred in Arthurian legend went from playing a small but important role as the killer of Arthur (and something of a Worthy Opponent) to becoming Arthur's evil illegitimate son who was connected to Morgan le Fay. In his earliest appearances, it isn't clear whether Mordred and Arthur were enemies at all.
    • Morgan le Fay herself was, in her earliest incarnations, a healer who helped Arthur by preserving his immortality, not the evil witch seen in later versions of the story.
  • Odysseus, while respected by many of his enemies for his cunning and tactical skills in Greek Mythology, was viewed as a liar and a cheat by the Romans (such as Virgil), who treated him as a pure villain and placed far less emphasis on his good characteristics. In The Divine Comedy, Dante placed Ulysses in the hell of evil counselors.
  • Set in Egyptian Mythology, although he feuded with Horus after killing Osiris, was originally the protector of Re from the evil serpent Apep and worshipped in his own right. After Egypt was split between the Upper and Lower Kingdoms, he became an evil god in Lower Egypt and his positive aspects were handed over to other deities. His worship as the god of foreigners almost entirely stopped after the Hyksos invaded Egypt.
  • Loki of Norse mythology, while always a trickster, steadily becomes more and more of a bad guy throughout the different stories. Some of this is assumed to be because of Christian influence.
  • Abrahamic mythology implies that any given Pagan deity is really a demon.

Theater

  • The Wizard in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, although he becomes one of Dorothy's friends, isn't nice in his early appearances (after all, he did have Ozma kidnapped to prevent her from interfering with his takeover of Oz). However, in the Perspective Flip Wicked - both the original book and the musical - he is much worse. The musical version is only a little more sympathetic than the Complete Monster book version, who doesn't shy from personally murdering the Ozma Regent, violently suppressing Animal protesters, and attempting to exterminate the Quadlings just to get at the rubies on their land.
    • It's sort of half-way in the musical, the Wizard is sort of a Well-Intentioned Extremist who is puppeteered by Madame Morrible and generally seems to want the best for Oz, as long as he remains its leader.
  • While he doesn't really become evil, Raoul becomes a drunken mess in Love Never Dies, Andrew Lloyd Webber's sequel to The Phantom of the Opera, while he was one of the noblest characters in both the theater adaptation and the original book.
    • Meg Giry, on the other hand, plays this much more dramatically. She goes insane and kills Christine, her friend in the original.

Video Games

  • In Double Dragon, Jimmy Lee went from being the Player 2 character in the arcade version, helping his brother Billy defeat the Black Warriors, to being the true leader of the gang in the NES version due to the removal of the co-op mode. Whereas the arcade version only has the battle between the Lee brothers occur if both players completed the game together, the NES version simply has Jimmy show up to fight his brother after Machine Gun Willy (the arcade version's final boss) is defeated. Strangely, the NES versions of both sequels feature Jimmy as Player 2 once again and don't even acknowledge his role as a bad guy in the first NES game.
  • Smithers robs a jewelry store in The Simpsons arcade game, a far cry from him being the soft-spoken, sympathetic Yes-Man of Mr. Burns on the show.
  • The Ringmaster in Disney's Villains' Revenge.
  • Darkrai is portrayed as a Dark Is Not Evil Pokemon in the Pokémon games, hiding itself away voluntarily to try and prevent its power to trap other creatures in nightmares from afflicting others. In the Mystery Dungeon series, it is a much more malicious character who plots to plunge the world into eternal darkness For the Evulz. However, this Darkrai eventually loses its memory and can be recruited post-game.
  • Old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video games tended to do this to pad out the villain roster. Metalhead in Turtles in Time might be the best example, but we also had Karai in Tournament Fighters (to be fair, she had only recently (and only somewhat, compared to her adaptations) reformed in the comics) and multiple copies of Fugitoid in The Manhattan Project.
  • Sigma in the original Mega Man X games was a Well-Intentioned Extremist who later went completely insane. His Maverick Hunter X incarnation doesn't have that excuse.

Web Originals

  • This page lists five well-known characters who were re-imagined into villains through Disney movies in this way.
  • The Day of the Barney Trilogy takes Barney and Baby Bop, who are portrayed as sincere and good friends to the kids on Barney and Friends, and portrays them as literally being made of evil, who successfully get the world's children to kill any adult they come across, kill their male Special Friends when they turn thirteen, and take the thirteen year old girls away to fatally mother mutated offspring. They're even revealed to be Really 65 Million Years Old and to have been the harbingers of many of the world's evil dictators and catastrophes.
  • In the movie Downfall, Hermann Fegelein is simply Heinrich Himmler's Number Two man who gets executed by Hitler for trying to leave the bunker and flee Berlin. In the Hitler Rants parodies, however, he's portrayed as a malicious serial prankster whose only purpose is make Hitler's life utterly miserable.
  • SM64's Bloopers have The Teletubbies, who are portrayed as being psychopathic. They're unfortunately allowed to commit crime legally during the Purge, though this successfully pacifies them and prevents them from threatening Mario and his friends outside of it.
  • Dark Simpsons does this with its main cast (namely Homer and Bart), but it also does this with lesser-known characters. For example, George HW Bush outright murders Homer by cutting his head off with his razor-wire watch instead of simply antagonizing him. And of course, Michael Jackson has a fondness for raping Bart in these videos (or rather, his Simpsons counterpart, Leon Kompowsky)

Western Animation

  • In the Sonic the Hedgehog games and most cartoon adaptations, Dr. Ivo "Eggman" Robotnik is villainous, but with a highly affable and clownish demeanor, and in some cases leans into Anti-Villain territory. Robotnik of Sonic Sat AM and Sonic Underground, however, is a monstrous (and far less humorous) dictator who has not only taken over most of the planet, but thrives almost lustfully on having any remaining civilians painfully roboticized. This depiction is drifted in and out for both comic adaptations (although they refer to his more petty, comical personality a lot more).
  • In the song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer, Cousin Mel is mentioned a grand total of once, playing cards with Grandpa after Grandma's death. In the Christmas Special based on the song, she is a Christmas-hating Gold Digger and wannabe Corrupt Corporate Executive who sings one of the oddest Villain Songs ever written.
  • In the book Cranberry Christmas, Cyrus Grape is a curmudgeonly old man who refuses to let anyone skate on his pond, but gets his comeuppance when Mr. Whiskers finds a deed that proves the lake is actually on his property. In the animated special, Cyrus is a much more active antagonist, sneaking around and messing up Mr. Whiskers' house in order to keep Mr. Whiskers from finding that deed (whereas in the book, he had no idea it existed).
  • Transformers Animated actually did this to the character Waspinator from Beast Wars. While Beast Wars Waspinator is portrayed as the lovable Butt Monkey who does nothing but get kicked around by other characters (though he does manage to injure the occasional Maximal, usually not by accident), Animated Waspinator, now renamed Wasp, is downright terrifying, and wants to get revenge on everyone who abused him.
  • Captain Hook of Peter Pan, while usually depicted as a Laughably Evil and relatively mild villain (particularly in the Disney adaptation), is genuinely sinister in Peter Pan and The Pirates. Despite a Freudian Excuse and occasional sympathetic moments, this version of Hook is by far the darkest portrayal of the character.
  • Inverted in Young Justice, where Artemis is a heroine.
  • Rampage, a minor heroine from Superman Post-Crisis comics, is turned into a villain in Justice League Unlimited.
  • Tublat the gorilla from Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. In Disney's The Legend of Tarzan, his character is merged rather confusingly with another, Kerchak. Since Disney decided to make their version of Kerchak (who is ironically more similar to Burroughs's Tublat in personality) more sympathetic, as a consequence they ended up making their version of Tublat more sinister, like the novel's Kerchak.
  • In the TV show Mega Man, Proto Man is one of the main villains. In the games, while he did work for Dr. Wily at first, he had a Heel Face Turn and became an ally to Mega Man, if a distant one.
    • And speaking of Wily, he is a far more wretched and repugnant character in the TV show compared to his video game self.
  • In the Spider-Man comics Silver Sable is an anti-heroic mercenary. While she sometimes fights Spider-Man, they usually team up to fight the real villain. In The Spectacular Spider-Man, Silver Sable is a Mafia Princess and a straight-up villain, since she's the daughter of the mob boss Silvermane in the show.
    • Word of God says that had the show continued, she would have evolved into her usual anti-heroic persona.
  • Anubis is a villain in the TV show Mummies Alive, when he was actually a good god in Egyptian Mythology who guarded and protected the dead. Set is also seen with Anubis, while Set disowned him in the myths for siding with Horus.
    • Ammit, on the other hand, is portrayed as a pet of the Big Bad. In Egyptian mythology, she was a neutral enforcer of order and punisher of evil, although this quality made her feared by the ancient Egyptians.
    • A small number of other Egyptian deities showed up as one-shot foes, including nice ones like Bastet and Bes (though they were shown to be not entirely evil).
  • The Street Fighter animated series made Zangief into one of M. Bison's lackeys, despite the fact that Zangief actually opposed Shadaloo in the games. Sodom, though he started out as a villain in Final Fight, is also a member of Shadaloo in the show.
    • Sagat is a far more repulsive person and a Starscream who wants to usurp control of Shadaloo from Bison. Didn't stop him from pulling a Heel Face Turn in the final episode, though.
  • Morrigan in the infamously bad Darkstalkers cartoon series is portrayed as one of Pyron's henchmen, a literal man-eater, and an outright unpleasant person.
    • Demitri, Donovan, and Anakaris also fell victim to this trope. In Anakaris's case it makes no sense, given he was one of the nicest characters in the original games. Donovan's more positive traits aren't really shown, and he only appears as a neutral figure rather than a fully heroic one with some issues. Demitri's only a little more overtly nefarious than his game counterpart.
  • In Halloween is Grinch Night, the Grinch is a far more brutal character than in the original book or special, and isn't redeemed at all.
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