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But my dreams, they aren't as empty

As my conscience seems to be
—"Behind Blue Eyes", The Who

Villains commit crimes for many reasons, usually petty and short sighted. Occasionally though, there are villains with a clear goal behind commiting their atrocities; some great, some terrible, all terrifyingly well executed. This is the Visionary Villain, he or she sees "the big picture", and has a clear head about what they want to accomplish and how to do it without juggling a Villain Ball.

As an Antagonist, their morality can be anywhere on the scale from Well-Intentioned Extremist to Complete Monster; all that changes is the motivation for wanting to achieve their goal. The common thread is that they have seen the state of the world and want to change it, whether into something better or worse varies. A sympathetic villain may want to kill the people responsible for his Dark and Troubled Past and Freudian Excuse so it never happens to someone else, perhaps becoming an avenging angel of sorts. A laughing monster of a Card-Carrying Villain on the other hand, may want to Take Over the World (or end it) because she sees society as nothing more than a thin facade, and peeling it away will expose the true face of humanity.

As with most villains, their watchword is Ambition. No matter how noble their intention, fundamentally they want to change things and think they know best. If they assemble a team or organization around themselves, expect them to give at least one New Era Speech to a less ambitious, clear sighted, or bright minion. Because of the great variety of Visionary Villains, their style of leadership is often directly related to their goal. A charismatic Dark Messiah may gather followers and teach them Utopia Justifies the Means, an Evil Overlord will field armies to realize his vision of a peaceful unified world, and a Mad Scientist will create Tree People not for pure science, but to replace a planet-killing humanity. The two powers all Visionary Villains share are a big brain and silver tongue.

Contrast Cut Lex Luthor a Check. The opposite of Punch Clock Villain. Frequently sneer at minor or petty villains who yell "Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!"

Examples of Visionary Villain include:


Anime & Manga

  • Cars from Jojo's Bizarre Adventure wanted nothing more than to help his race overcome their weakness to sunlight and "conquer creation", thereby becoming the most powerful creatures to have ever existed. However, as he needed to sacrifice an insane amount of living beings in order to do so, his own people eventually turned on him and he was forced to kill them all in self-defense.
  • In Code Geass, both the motivation of Emperor Charles and Marianne's Assimilation Plot and the motivation of Lelouch
  • Fate Averruncus's organization in Mahou Sensei Negima. To the point it's questionable whether his goal is actually that bad, and the protagonists are simply opposing the means he's using to bring about that goal.
    • His true ultimate goal is "saving" the Magical World (which will soon suffer complete magical depletion) through an Assimilation Plot, and he progresses towards it: 1-without informing anyone but select coconspirators about the true plan, playing the rest as Unwitting Pawns, 2-by engineering wars, unrest and disasters that cause untold suffering on a massive scale, 3-Stopping at nothing to neutralise anyone who might pose even the slightest threat to his plans, even if that "threat" is the possibility to find out how to Take a Third Option where nobody dies. He's basically a prepubescent Gendo Ikari.
  • Light Yagami, an example of a Visionary Villain Protagonist.
  • Ribbons of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 who sees himself as the benevolent god who lead humanity into a utopia and prepare them for contact with aliens.
    • Quite common in Gundam series, dating back to Gihren Zabi in the original. People like Anavel Gato, Char Aznable, Treize Khushrenada, and others fit this trope perfectly. Anavel Gato chews out Kou for not bothering to understand Zeon's objectives and mindlessly serving the Federation. Char has a very well-organized and detailed ideology he inherited from his father and resents Amuro Ray for not being similar ("Unlike you, I'm more than just a pilot!"). Treize, especially, has a vision of the glories and terrors of war and wishes to drive home to humanity the true horrors of war...but due to his suicide-through-enemy-fire, he escaped responsibility for his actions.
  • Aion from Chrono Crusade is a textbook example in both the anime and manga, even if his goals change depending on the version. The manga version presents him as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who plans to change the corrupt systems of the world. The anime version is much more of a Card-Carrying Villain, but he still has a very clear goal in mind (switching Heaven and Hell) and carefully plans his actions to reach it.
  • Both Pain and Madara of Naruto have clear goals and plans to achieve the utopia they envision. As their plans were mutually exclusive, they danced around each other, trying to advance their own goals faster.
    • If Madara is to be believed(which is debatable) he's had his plan in the works for most of the century.
  • Hattori from Nabari no Ou is portrayed as a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to rewrite history to fix the corrupt world. Thanks to his charisma, about half of the good guys are on his side at one point.


Comicbooks

  • Watchmen: Ozymandias slaughtered half of New York, killing millions, in an attempt to save the rest of the world from a nuclear apocalypse.
  • Magneto, at his most Anti-Villain, wants only to prevent mutantkind from undergoing the same persecution he did in WWII. Sometimes this means creating a private island / satellite for mutants, other times it means actively subjugating the human race to ensure they will never be a threat.


Film

  • Dr. Octavius in Spider-Man 2 refuses to give up his dream of creating fusion-based electricity for "the good of mankind." Too bad his generator always explodes upon activation. And he plans on making an even bigger one when the first one blows up.
  • M. Bison in the live action Street Fighter film wants to create a race of genetically-engineered Super Soldiers to wipe out all traces of race, nation and creed so that the whole world can live in peace under his rule.[1]
  • In The Dark Knight, everyone thinks that The Joker is "garbage who kills for money", or just a homicidal maniac who kills for kicks. However, he is adamant he has grander ambitions- he is out to give the city "a better class of criminal" and sees himself as heralding a new age of supervillainy, as well as working to expose the citizens of Gotham as just as bad as he is.
    • Not necessarily supervillainy as much as anarchy. He wants to tear away the veneer of civilization and watch everyone abandon the moral order they claim to value so highly.

 "I'll show you. When the chips are down, these... these civilized people, they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."

  • Judge Doom from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? made a surprisingly epic speech about his grand Earth-shaking vision of public freeways. Of course, his plan does require Toon Town to be wiped out first.
  • Sebastian Shaw from X-Men: First Class, who wants to start World War III so that mutants can take over the planet.
  • The Operative from Serenity is a Well-Intentioned Extremist who wants to create a utopia free from sin, for which he commits many atrocities. Interestingly, he knows that there's no place for him in that world.
  • Chinatown

 Jake Gittes: I just wanna know what you're worth. More than 10 million?

Noah Cross: Oh my, yes!

Jake Gittes: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What could you buy that you can't already afford?

Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes! The future.


Music

  • A variant on this trope: In The Protomen's album The Father of Death, Drs. Light and Wily work together on a massive automaton network, ostensibly so that everyone would be safe, secure, and not have to worry about dying on the job. Of course, Wily's the one who ultimately gains control of the network, ruining Light's reputation in the process. Not to mention the fact that Light realizes that creating the network was a mistake...

 "They've waited so long for this day / Someone to take the death away / No son would ever have to say / My father worked into his grave..." - Dr. Light, The Good Doctor

  • Mega Man music projects seem prone to this: one of Wily's goals as told by The Megas is to replace humans with robots, which he believes are superior.


Fan Fiction

  • The Villain Protagonist of the Mass Effect fanfic The Council Era, a salarian known as Tyrin Lieph, dreams of uniting the galaxy as a singular utopia. His Worthy Opponent Halak Marr seeks to overthrow the Citadel and establish the krogan as a sole-surviving Master Race. Their conflicting visions eventually erupt into the Krogan Rebellions.
  • Loki, Big Bad of My Little Avengers. While he may appear to be doing things For the Evulz at first, it's eventually made clear that he has a vision of a world ruled by magic (preferably with him in charge, natch), and the entire plot is revealed to be one big Gambit Roulette dedicated to bringing this goal about. When he's defeated and killed, he still manages to die happy, knowing that the magic released by his death will permanently mutate Equestria, bringing his vision to fruition.


Literature

  • Three words: Grand Admiral Thrawn. All right, in his first-written appearance what he wanted to do was crush the Rebellion and rebuild the Empire in a slightly less evil format than it had previously done, but later-written works and a bit of Arc Welding say that he knew that the Vong were coming. By waging war against the New Republic Rebel Alliance, he could either crush them and have time to set up the Empire to rebuff the extragalactic invaders, or he'd force them to toughen up to defeat him. Either way, the victors would be inclined to use tactical skills instead of relying on superweapons or lone heroes, and he had a clone set up in a secret base of his, just in case. Of course, Luke and Mara pretty much accidentally killed that clone while fighing off the base's defenses, but in Survivor's Quest they find evidence that very strongly hints that There Is Another, and this time he's not their enemy.
    • Given that there has never been a canonical life expectancy for Chiss, people will still be expecting Thrawn to show up long into the future.
  • In the Everworld series, most of the villains are short-sighted hedonists who avert this trope, with the definite exception of Senna Wales, who has big plans for Everworld and very definite ideas of what she is going to do to it.
  • In the BattleTech novels, Visionary Villain types are quite different than those that amass power for it's own sake. The bigger heroes generally do things for the good of humanity overall, lesser heroes and some villains generally grab power for their own nation or group, and the real big villains are just in it for themselves. Examples:
    • Hanse Davion fought several wars against the Draconis Combine and basically cut the Capellan Confederation in half. He always saw himself as striking against oppressive regimes run by madmen (Which was true, in the case of the Confederation. Debatable in the case of the Combine). He also saw himself, like many Successor State lords before him, as the fittest candidate for the 300-year vacant title of First Lord of the Star League. He was depicted as a scary man to be against, though with good intentions.
    • Sun-Tzu Liao was willing to do terrible things, but his foremost goal was rebuilding the Capellan Confederation after Hanse broke it and Sun-Tzu's crazed mother all-but-destroyed the remnants. He was generally depicted as villain and very dangerous, but one who's position was understandable and not nearly as bad as some.
  • Sauron started out this way, determined to create peace and order on Middle-earth at any cost. Over time, though, he suffered Motive Decay and became a straight-up tyrant (The Dark Side Will Make You Forget is a recurring theme with Tolkien villains). Sauron's path to villainy is later repeated on a smaller scale with Saruman.


Live-Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • Some leaders in Warhammer 40000 are fighting for a strengthened humanity able to endure the grim darkness of the far future...united under the eight-pointed star of Chaos. Others, however, just want something, and the difference is often academic if they're offering you up to the Dark Gods or raining siege shells on your city.

Theatre

  • Curtis from Dreamgirls just wants African American artists to succeed in America. How moral his methods are is up to debate.

Videogames

  • Seymour in Final Fantasy X wants to end the cycle of life and death on Spira... by killing everyone on the planet.
  • Cyrus from Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, who wants to destroy the world and then re-create it as a world with no emotion, knowledge, or willpower, claiming that these things that make up "spirit" only lead to pain and conflict.
    • N wished to free all Pokemon and create a world where Pokemon wouldn't be enslaved. A lot of Team Plasma shared that vision with him.
    • In Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald are Teams Magma, and Aqua who both are motivated to do what they think is best for the world. By controling Groudon and Kyogre to make more land/water respectively.
  • The Tales (series) tend to be rife with these villains as Big Bads. Of specific note is Yggdrassil from Tales of Symphonia (end Fantastic Racism and the repeating magitek wars by keeping the world in Medieval Stasis while he ascends all the half-elves into 'angels' using exspheres) and Dorian General Grants from Tales of the Abyss ('rescue' a world that is sickeningly dependent on Because Destiny Says So from its eventual destruction by replacing everything in said world with perfect replicas that cannot be predicted in the planet's destiny).
  • Kerghan in Arcanum might be the most well-intentioned and extreme extremist of all. He's traveled beyond the veil of death and knows it as plain fact that the dead eventually do reach a state of perfect tranquility in death. Since he's all too aware of how much the living and the undead suffer, his grand scheme is to permanently sever the mortal ties of every soul in existence. He's quite insane, but there's nothing in the story that indicates that things wouldn't work out exactly as he'd foreseen if given the chance.
    • In the end, you have the option of joining him and helping him to kill every living thing in existence. Whether or not this is the bad ending isn't quite made clear.
  • Andrew Ryan. Some of the other old holdouts down in Rapture count in their respective fields. Though Ryan takes the cake for building an underwater city for purely ideological reasons, going to rather ludicrous ends to preserve it, and fully planning to build it back up to its glory days again even after its become a leaky, ruined mess.
    • Sofia Lamb in the second game has opposite goals (the foundation of a collectivist society), but is probably even more evil than Ryan.
  • The Illusive Man. He dreams of a galaxy where humanity is safe and dominant. To accomplish this, all manner of mad science, assassinations, and manipulations are acceptable. He's sometimes described as being both the best and worst humanity has to offer at once.
  • Kane is probably most famous.
    • Played with in that we never find out exactly what his vision (as separate from the visions he presents to his followers) is. Clearly, he has a plan, but it seems to result in wildly different goals between one game and another (exactly what is the connection between Divination and Ascension?).
  • The Master in Fallout 1. Believes that his Super Mutants are the natural evolution of mankind and the perfect solution to the irradiated, destroyed Wastelands of 22nd-century California.
    • Caesar from Fallout: New Vegas. He thinks that the post-apocalyptic earth is proof that democracy has failed, and sets out to unite what's left as a monothetic dictatorship, replete with slavery, crucifixion and institutionalized sexism (including legally-sanctioned rape). At the game's beginning he's conquered Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado, and is poised to take Nevada.
  • Jacques the Aldersberg, the Grand Master of the Order in The Witcher.
  • The Ur-Quan Kzer-Za from Star Control 2 believe that enslaving every race they meet is in the service of the greater good. The Kzer-Za are protecting themselves from potential threats in these other races (they had a bad experience) and protecting their slaves from their Omnicidal Maniac cousins and possibly other, more sinister threats as well. Any slaves who resent this treatment just aren't seeing the big picture.
  • In the first Geneforge, Trajkov says he is motivated by a desire to emancipate creations such as the Serviles from Shaper slavery and abuse. If you help him use the Geneforge and conquer the world, he does exactly that.
  • Lady Kagami from Tenchu 2 wants to free the ninja from servitude to the samurai.

Webcomics

  • Redcloak, The Dragon from Order of the Stick, is motivated by a vision given to him by his God, of goblins being able to be equal to the other races and building their own proper society and civilization instead of scratching out a living in places none of the other races would want to live. And if one potential consequence of the plan to accomplish this is the unmaking of reality as it currently exists, well, it's all for the greater good, right?
    • Tarquin as well. He runs a conspiracy to control the three most powerful nations on the Western Continent in order to bring it to peace and himself to absolute power
  • Weijuaru of Juathuur uses his position as king -- a position the juathuur are never allowed to take -- in order to give juathuur deserters a place to be free of Meidar and to find a way to travel to the other worlds the gods have made. When you find out how much of a Control Freak and Manipulative Bastard Meidar is, the "Villian" part pretty much gets dropped entirely.


Web Originals


Western Animation

  • Although his vision is not clearly revealed, Chase Young from Xiaolin Showdown fits this trope.
  • Nerissa in the animated series and comic WITCH, who betrayed her teammates and later attempted to conquer the universe, claiming to seek an end to all war and conflict.
  • Fire Lord Sozin wanted to "share [the Fire Nation's] prosperity with the rest of the world." This ended up involving the betrayal of his best friend, the invasion and colonization of the Earth Kingdom, the (near-)complete genocide of the Air Nomads, and raids against the Water Tribes. This "Great March of Civilization" remains the Fire Nation's propaganda, but Sozin's grandson Ozai just wants to rule the world even if it's nothing but ashes.


Real Life

  • Adolf Hitler and most other leading Nazis, who contrary to early political and academic assertions that their entire movement was purely in pursuit of power for its own sake (a so-called "nihilist revolution"), were in fact very much motivated by their deeply racist ideology for initiating World War II. The aggressive conquest of other nations and the industrialized murder of millions of people were ultimately supposed to secure complete domination of Europe for Nazi Germany, and to expand the population of the "superior Aryan race" through the wholesale extermination of supposedly lesser ones, together with that of other individuals they considered "unworthy of life" (Jews, Slavs, Roma, dissidents, homosexuals, the physically and mentally handicapped, etc.)
  • ANY "Great" Villain is this. The other trait that Visionary Villain share asides from Big Brain and Silver Tongue is being a Loser, even if it's only in hindsight. If they won, nobody would dare call them a Villain.

Notes

  1. OF COURSE!
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