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"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power."

Some villains commit horrific atrocities to bring about a better world, usually with the architect taking over to ensure paradise is brought about smoothly.

And some villains just want to take over.

Sometimes the catastrophe you engineered to bring yourself to power was not all for the Greater Good. Sometimes, it really was just to get you into power.

Whether it is to eliminate the competition or to dissuade any future rebellion, you find that World Domination is hard to achieve without crossing the Moral Event Horizon, sometimes just because Evil Is Easy. Now, the world might turn out to be a better place with you running the show, but just to be clear—that's not why you are trying to do it. Nope—you sacrificed your friends and family, your fellow countrymen (and theirs), and perhaps most of humanity in the name of social advancement. It might turn out to be a Crapsack World—but hey, c'est la vie.

Total global domination is the most common of all villainous goals. But with this trope, the Big Bad takes it too far. They will, if they deem it necessary, nearly destroy the world in pursuit of this goal. Power and position are what they are after and they are not particularly fussy about the state of the world insofar as those ambitions go. Ideology and especially morality are secondary, which means examples of this trope often fall into Complete Monster territory.

This is not to say that they will not care what society looks like after they take over, or that they will have no visions for the future. It simply means that power is their primary goal, and they will do anything to achieve that, even sacrifice whatever beliefs they may have. On the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, they tend to be very much on the Cynical side. In other words they may suffer from Motive Decay when it turns out that the Utopia they promised to build has been sacrificed for the sake of their own personal power.

For cases when the created Dystopia really is their endgame, more than power, see Dystopia Justifies the Means. For cases in which the despotism has positive side effects, see Pragmatic Villainy.


Anime & Manga

  • Freeza of Dragon Ball Z only cares about staying in power as "The Strongest Being in the Universe" and will commit the genocide of entire races who threaten his power. That's why he seeks out immortality, so he can stay that way forever.
  • Death Note: Light wants more to be the God of the New World than he wants to make the world a better place.
  • Madara Uchiha, the current Big Bad of Naruto, will occasionally try to say that his goal is for the greater good of the world, but he freely admits that his actions are for an entirely selfish cause to anyone that he isn't trying to manipulate. Since he was exposed as not actually being Madara, he has started to claim that Utopia Justifies the Means really is his goal after all. Presumably, the selfish reasons belonged to the real Madara, who came up with the Evil Plan originally.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Father decides that his final evil master plan to bring a god and his power into his body is a fine trade for the 50 million+ souls of Amestris civilians.[1]
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam, Gihren Zabi fully believes this. He's a Social Darwinist and Adolf Hitler-wannabe, but his own personal power comes first and foremost. His sister, Kycilia, is more ideological than he is, but given her treacherous nature and desire for power, it's likely that she too subscribes to this.
    • Gihren's clone, Glemmy Toto of Mobile Suit Gundam ZZ also subscribes to this trope, nearly destroying Neo-Zeon in his attempts to take it over and reinstate the Zabi dictatorship.

Comic Books

  • Superman: Lex Luthor has occasionally tried to conquer the world, and unlike Doctor Doom, he usually doesn't care quite so much that the world might be better off under him anyway.
    • Also Mongul. He rules, or ruled, the planet of Warworld, where he held brutal gladiatorial games to distract the people from their miserable, impoverished lives under his dictatorship. Originally, he ruled his own homeworld, but was ousted by the native people for his despotic behaviour.

Films --Animated

  • The Lion King. Scar isn't interested in anything but being King, and he was quite happy to murder his brother, try to murder his nephew, and turn the Pride Lands into Mordor to do it, although its implied in the musical that he regrets the last part, especially when its actually going to cost him his kingship.
    • Most Disney villains are like this, actually. Ursula/Morgana and Jafar, for example, care nothing less than becoming ruler, and have absolutely no qualms of backstabbing their current ruler, murdering people (or worse, in the case of Ursula), or killing anyone in their way.
  • The only thing Prince Charming did with Far Far Away once conquering it in Shrek the Third was force everybody to watch a musical he wrote and starred in about what a great person he thought he was. Perhaps if his mother was still around he would have been able to come up with some kind of government policy.
  • In The Prince of Egypt Ramsees is portrayed as a more sympathetic version of this, refusing to be the "weak link" that would destroy their dynasty.
  • Operation: Z.E.R.O.: At first, Grandfather takes over the world without resorting to extreme measures to do it. People simply didn't want to oppose him because he was so powerful, based on how submissive his son Benedict is. But when he is restored to power by Father after his son Monty brings him down to normal, Grandfather decides he'll take precautions to ensure that it doesn't happen again, by turning everyone into his senior citizombie slaves. As an added precaution, he also turns everyone in the world into senior citizombies, not just the children who made his downfall possible in the first place. As such, one can see his second reign of terror is worse than the one before it.

Films — Live-Action

  • You Only Live Twice features a plot to start World War III so SPECTRE (or their shady foreign backers) can rule the post-apocalyptic aftermath.
  • Palpatine from Star Wars orchestrates a civil war (between two armies of "disposable" soldiers with plenty of civilians caught in the crossfire) and commits genocide on his way to becoming the evil Emperor. Darth Vader was never in command but he did some bad things for power too. Vader wanted "to bring order to the galaxy", though, and once naively talked about trying to stop people from dying. Palpatine got him on board by convincing him that this will lead to peace, and he had to convince himself that the Jedi and the Republic were corrupt (not totally unjustified, even though Palpatine was the architect of much of this anyway). He is a very dark example of Utopia Justifies the Means, and he did not want power for powers sake.


  • In Hamlet when uncle Claudius poisons his brother the King and marries his wife. Aside from getting most of the main characters killed, he's not really a bad king.
  • Not to mention Macbeth, a loyal general that murders the King to replace him.
  • And the title character of Richard III (in Shakespeare, no matter what you think of his Real Life counterpart) kills a great many people in order to become King of England, but is at a loss for what to do once he gets there (other than killing more people so he can stay there).
  • Toward the end of Nineteen Eighty-Four, the protagonist has a conversation with a representative of the oppressive government, who asks him why he thinks the government has gone to such lengths to control people's lives. He says that he supposes it's because they're trying to do what's best for the people; the government representative laughs at him and says that really they did it because they wanted power for its own sake.
  • Sauron started out motivated by Utopia Justifies the Means, but while his goal was always to create order, by the time the novel takes place he's suffered Motive Decay so that his fundamental goal was to perpetuate his own power. He did not, however, fall as far as the original Dark Lord, Morgoth, who went completely into Dystopia Justifies the Means- while cruelty was a tool for Sauron, it became an end itself for his master.

Live-Action TV

  • In Doctor Who, the first part of a season finale, The Sound of Drums, ends with The Master taking over the world. His first order of business? "Remove one-tenth of the population."
    • Then, in another season's first part of a finale episode, The End of Time, ends with The Master taking over the world... sound familiar? This time he changes everyone on planet Earth into himself, which effectively makes our species extinct.
    • His main motivation here was never actually power, though—back when he had truly selfish motives, he usually focused on true immortality, to replace the limited Time Lord kind. He messes with Earth like that partly because it's fun, but mostly because it will hurt the Doctor. 'Look, Theta! I can break your toys! Cry!'

Tabletop Games

  • Mage: The Awakening has the Seers of the Throne work to keep the population from achieving enlightenment, because that means mages out of their control.
    • The collectible version of Illuminati offers the Power For Its Own Sake card, changing the goal of the game for its player into simple accumulation of power without regard for the conspiracy's ideology.

Video Games

  • In Bio Shock 1, for all Andrew Ryan's rhetoric about freedom, he certainly ended up resorting to a lot of totalitarian tactics. Up to and including political murder, kidnapping and slavery, and Mind Control. It's a pretty serious case of in-story Motive Decay.
    • In Bio Shock 2 we discover that he was also quite willing to subvert his economic views just as willingly to keep his powerbase from crumbling.
    • This was also mentioned in one of the first game's audio diaries. His decision to put a presumed dead rival's business under government control (his control) prompted a formerly loyal aide to (unsuccessfully) assassinate Ryan.
  • The Shin Megami Tensei series has YHVH, who maintains the crapsack status of the SMT universe at large by involving everyone on his side, be it angel, Messian or whoever, in a Forever War with Lucifer out of an all-consuming desire to create a "perfect world" - a world where people can't do wrong. Not a world where they won't... they simply can't. A world where he can rule, forever and ever...
  • Bowser ultimate goal is to rule over everyone. In most games, he aims to rule the Mushroom Kingdom by forcing Princess Peach to marry him, but in the Super Mario Galaxy series and Yoshis Island DS, he aims to rule the entire universe.
    • To be fair, in the RPG games, it's made clear he also has a weird crush on Peach.
  • Arcturus Mengsk let the Zerg kill an entire planet's poulation so he could create his Terran Dominion.

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • This is the motivation of Fire Lord Ozai of Avatar: The Last Airbender, in contrast to his Well-Intentioned Extremist grandfather Sozin. To drive the point home, he relinquishes the title of Fire Lord to his daughter Azula and declares himself the Phoenix King.
    • T He Fire Lord between, Azulon, who presided over the chronological bulk of the century war, is never given any motivations. His role in the story is to be cold and unpleasant and to die, and that's in a flashback. Mind, Sozin suffered pretty stiff Motive Decay, but it was still from "unite the world and share the blessings of our Golden Age with everyone" to "conquer the fucking world whether my abandoning turncoat of a superpowered best friend likes it or not, no matter what it takes."
      • The actual ruling part was never the issue for him, and anything besides conquering may have gotten a little vague by the time he was actually free to make his ultimate move.

Real Life

  • Napoleon Bonaparte said on several occasions that his primary motivation was power, and though he governed well, he made it clear that he did this as much to stay in power as for any other reason. It was this that drove him to make two disastrous marches into Egypt and Russia, get thousands of men hurt and killed, then high tailed it out of there when things really went south. In the former he left and then overthrew the Republic.
  • Salvatore Riina reportedly killed at least 1,000 people to become head of the Sicilian mafia.
  • Fascism has often been accused of being all about this trope, turning it into a political philosophy. While there is more to it than that, opportunism, self-aggrandizement, contempt for the masses and Chronic Backstabbing Disorder are all Fascist hallmarks.
    • In Nazi Germany, Hitler governed by pitting all the other Nazi bigshots against each other, letting them foster competing political empires and turn the Third Reich into a bureaucratic nightmare (eg. there were at least 3 rival Foreign Offices- one for the Party, one for the State, and one for the SS), so they couldn't unite against him and so he retained a mystical "above it all" authority who could have the last word on anything. He let the country go to hell so he could exercise absolute power. Though, that said, this was all roughly in line with Nazi Social Darwinist philosophy. As much as Hitler loved the immense power he wielded, it was all in the pursuit of fulfilling some sort of racist fantasy by restructuring the world into a hierarchy of "lesser" and "stronger" races. Note: This would put it under the Social Darwinist variant of Utopia Justifies the Means more so that this trope!
  • Boy Scouts. Saddam Hussein rounded up all his followers in a hall after he took power and had a man, clearly tortured and dehumanized, read a list of supposed traitors one by one, a thug dragging them from the hall after their names had been read, until half the hall was empty and then had them kill each other outside (the non-traitors kill the supposed traitors). Not good enough? He had the whole thing recorded and televised. As Christopher Hitchens said, "Hitler didn't think of that. Even Stalin didn't think of that, and he thought about these things a lot."
  • Pick any of the military dictators that took over countries in Latin America in the 60s-70s and governed until the 80s-90s.
  1. Basically the equivalent of killing off all Canadians and Australians or Californians and New Yorkers and then some (as of 2009).