• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

The Big Bad, as everybody knows, is the ultimate evil in a work of fiction (or not). But, what exactly makes him such a threatening villain? Is it because they're cunning? Eviler than anybody else? Or maybe because they're powerful? In practically every work of fiction centered around action, the latter is the case. Well, not always.

Enter the Non-Action Big Bad, which is Evil Counterpart of Non-Action Guy.

This guy has zero fighting skills. He isn't interested in becoming stronger or more powerful either, but probably has a lust for conquest or something similar and will rely on a second-in-command or a Quirky Miniboss Squad to do all of the dirty work that needs to get done. Compare The Man Behind the Curtain. In a video game, they may be The Unfought. For Big Bads who have power, but act like this until the climax, see Orcus on His Throne.

Compare Dragon-in-Chief, where The Dragon serves as the de-facto Big Bad for the story, though not necessarily because of this trope.

Examples of Non-Action Big Bad include:

Anime & Manga

  • The Major from Hellsing. For an Omnicidal Maniac enamoured of war and carnage, he noticeably lacks any combat involvement and limits himself to inspirational speeches.
    • Hilariously, he can't even shoot a disobedient soldier standing right in front of him, despite emptying an entire clip of ammo at him. Eventually, he just has his more loyal Mooks do the killing for him.
  • Spandam from One Piece is the leader of the Cipher Pol 9, an elite group of government assassins. He's also physically weaker than a single common fodder soldier.
    • He actually does have a Cool Sword: The Elephant Sword. The problem is that he can hardly use it properly. When he unleashes it on Franky, Franky convinces the Elephant to squish SPANDAM
  • Nagi dai Artai in Mai-Otome, albeit largely because males can't become Otomes.
  • Gato in the first arc of Naruto, which ended up being his undoing after he tried to dispose of Zabuza for failing to defeat Kakashi, only for Zabuza to return the favor by killing Gato himself. After that, every other Big Bad in the series has fully embodied Authority Equals Asskicking.
  • Sakyo of Yu Yu Hakusho is head of the antagonists in the Dark Tournament Saga, even if Toguro overshadows him in plot importance. He also knows he can't fight, despite being the fifth member of Team Toguro, so he says that the outcome of Toguro's match will decide the outcome of his, thus enabling whoever wins it to win the tournament.
  • Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex never fights or even has any weapons, and even his mooks rarely use any violent means. Which doesn't stop Aramaki to have him riddled with exploding bullets when he refuses to be taken into custody.
    • Though it happens offscreen, it's made clear that he has numerous innocent people "disappeared" because they saw something inconvenient, and further it's implied that he did that solely to annoy Section 9 who would find out anyway. And that's not even accounting the attempted nuking of millions of people.
  • Kyubey from Puella Magi Madoka Magica. He never actively bring the girls into harm, he simply gave the girl their wishes and let them fight witches as magical girls as payment. There are only two reasons to consider him a villain at all: he doesn't value individual human life at all (and doesn't even understand the idea), and he is directly or indirectly responsible for just about everything bad that happens in the series. The reason it's all arguable is that he's doing it to prevent total universal destruction due to entropy.
  • Dr. Tenma in the 2003 version of Astro Boy.
  • Johan Liebert. Tell that to him not doing anything physical except for using his gun, poisons, and manipulation on making people go suicide.
  • Light Yagami from Death Note. Although it is shown he can throw punches to L, this is never shown as the series progress.
  • Neither Degwin Zabi or his son, Gihren were up to much physical action in the original Mobile Suit Gundam. As the political (and military in Gihren's case) rulers of Zeon they didn't need to be.
  • Dragon Ball:
  • Daibazaal from GoLion / Zarkon from Lion Voltron. The ONE time he goes into the battlefield, it doesn't end well for him. Fatally, in GoLion.
  • Monaca Towa, Kazuo Tengan and Ryota Mitarai in Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak Academy, all of whom get defeated by the heroes relatively easily.

Board Games

  • The opposing king in Chess. It's barely superior to a simple pawn, and spends as much time as possible hiding and fleeing

Comic Books

  • Sin City baddies tend to invoke this trope. The Roarks, Ava Lord, Wallenquist and even the Colonel never get their hands dirty and are likely incapable of doing so. Instead, they send dirty cops, mooks, hitmen and assassins to do their jobs.
  • Lex Luthor most of the time. He does have a battlesuit, but he tends to get in fistfights a lot less than he uses his Manipulative Bastard and Corrupt Corporate Executive aspects.


  • Cutler Beckett from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He loves to sit and enjoy his tea while he watches his armies fight against the pirates.
  • Judge Claude Frollo. What makes him so deadly to gypsies is not his fighting skills, but rather his position as Minister of Justice. That is not to say that he isn't a threat when he's alone... he's personally responsible for killing Quasimodo's mother.
  • Gaston is a downplayed example. While his most threatening ability is that he can inspire others to do what he wants (such as persuading others to help him kill the Beast), he's actually a very strong man with a decent shot with a bow. Not as strong as the Beast himself, but still impressively strong.
  • Another downplayed example is Lord Shen. While he's a decent fighter, the biggest threat that comes from him comes not from himself, but from his army.
  • In Recess: School's Out, there’s Dr. Phillum Benedict. Most of the threat the character represents comes with the vast amount of scientists and soldiers at his command. He does arm himself in the climax though.
  • Scar from The Lion King is a subversion. While at first it appears that he isn’t a threat when alone (at least, not compared to Mufasa, who single-handedly takes down Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed), he does quite well fighting Simba in the climax. It’s later revealed that he used to have the Roar of the Elders in the past, but he lost it.
  • Another downplayed example from Disney is Shan Yu. Most of the threat that comes from him is his army, but he's eventually willing to get his hands dirty when he fights Mulan in the climax and does pretty well.
  • Dieter von Cunth in MacGruber, for all his fearsome reputation, just stands there and gets his ass kicked when the finale comes.
  • Sauron from The Lord of the Rings film series is a partial case. He does come out, and he DOES do some major damage in the prologue against the Last Alliance. But he never comes out to play again during the main story arc; in the film explicitly because his form is just an eye on his tower.
  • Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars Episode IV - A New Hope
  • Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me. One of the least physical Bond villains, he prefers to let his employees deal with his enemies while he kicks back and listens to some Bach.
  • Christo from Act of Valor doesn't even try to resist when his yacht is boarded.


  • President Snow in The Hunger Games.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn from The Thrawn Trilogy. He's actually implied to be at least a decent fighter, and is described as being powerfully built, but he has no interest in engaging in combat himself- it's strategy and trickery that hold his interest, not brawling. The Thrawn Trilogy Sourcebook gives him ridiculously high stats, but then again it's made so that fans can roleplay through the events of the trilogy, and they might be able to force a physical confrontation.
    • Explicitly averted in one of his later (but chronologically earlier) appearances. One of Thrawn's intricate plans includes a requirement for an elite bounty hunter's involvement. The bounty hunter is the linchpin of the plan, and would have to be given more information than such an inherently mercenary individual should be trusted with. Thus, Thrawn simply puts on a suit of Mandalorian armor and assumes the role himself.
  • Lord Straff Venture in the second Mistborn book- he's a thoroughly evil man, but is middle-aged, out of shape, and a Tineye (meaning that he has magical abilities, but they involve Super Senses rather than anything physical). As such, he prefers to work through his army and his Ax Crazy Dragon and illegitimate son Zane.
  • Lord de Worde in The Truth doesn't hit people. He hires people to do that.
  • The title character of Artemis Fowl, largely because he's twelve years old. It's Butler who does most of the action.

Live Action TV


  • Dr. Wily in The Protomen's albums. It's lampshaded in Act I.

Video Games

  • Cyberswine: Vice-President Bryce Gets. He sits in his chair watching the action, fiddling with controls on his chair and lets his Healthex, NetCops and Cyberbird do the work for him. It is only at the very end of the game that he finally takes action, and that involves holding Lieutenant Sarah Lee at gunpoint and trying to rely on his Cyberbird to kill Cyberswine.
  • Doctor Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog games. You'll never see him fighting outside an Humongous Mecha.
    • Even more so, Dr. Wily from the Mega Man games. Every lesser baddie is a fighting robot built or commandeered by Wily himself. Since Mega Man himself is this kind of fighting robot, of course Dr. Wily can only be a match for him by fighting in a Humongous Mecha in the final Boss Fight.
      • King Cepheus and Lady Vega in the first two Mega Man Star Force games tend to rely on their ultimate weapons, Quirky Miniboss Squads, and minions to do the fighting for them. In both games, the final boss isn't the villain, it's the device they planned to use to take over/destroy (delete as applicable) the world.
  • Queen Brahne from the first half of Final Fantasy IX
  • Sofia Lamb from Bioshock 2. Andrew Ryan of the first game as well, until you deal with him and Frank Fontaine takes over the show.
  • Bob Page from Deus Ex. Although he's in the process of becoming a god, at that particular stage in the process he's so vulnerable that effectively all you do is turn off his life support.
  • Gabriel Roman from Uncharted: Drake's Fortune.
  • Lord Lucien in Fable II.
  • Henry Leland in Alpha Protocol. He can be the final boss, but the fight is a joke and its made clear that this is just an act of desperation. Sergei Surkov is also one.
  • The head of the terrorists in Silent Scope.
  • John Brightling in Rainbow Six. Once you reach his lab, he surrenders.
  • The Kilrathi Emperor and Admiral Tolwyn in Wing Commander.
  • In the arcade version of The Combatribes, the main heroes spent the last two stages chasing after a man in a suit who fits the image of a stereotypical crime boss. When the crime boss is cornered in the final stage, he is betrayed and killed by his female bodyguard Martha Splatterhead, who proceeds to fight the player in her boss' place.
  • Dr. Curien, Goldman, and the Mysterious Man in House of the Dead series.
  • Baron Alexander in Amnesia the Dark Descent.
  • Dr. Harlan Fontaine in LA Noire.
  • Caesar of Fallout: New Vegas does not fight in the game unless you decide to assault his fort, preferring to let his Dragon Lanius take command of the military campaign. It's justified in that he's an aging man with a brain tumor and doesn't put up much of a fight by himself, though statistically he is equivalent to an Elite Mook with nonexistent armor since he wears ceremonial robes and is surrounded by Praetorian Guards.
    • In the Old World Blues DLC, there's Dr. Mobius. While he spends the entire DLC siccing his Robo-Scorpions on you in as maniacal a manner as possible, when you actually meet him he turns out to be a heavily senile and grandfatherly old brain who can barely remember half of what he says. Most of his more maniacal rants are due to him taking Psycho. You can fight him, but he's hardly a match for you. Similarly, The Think Tank at the end are equally pitiful in combat, though it's made clear early-on that without their pacification field there's nothing stopping you from curb-stomping them.
  • Ozwell Spencer of Resident Evil is a crippled old man in a wheelchair. Needless to say, without the Undying Loyalty of his Dragon-in-Chief, Colonel Sergei Vladimir, he wouldn't be very dangerous.
  • Ratchet and Clank has Gleeman Vox. Despite not having any special powers outside of his robot arm (which can produce holograms), he’s a serious threat to superheroes everywhere, as he’s been kidnapping them and forcing them to compete in his show, Dreadzone. In the climax, he fights Ratchet with a robot.
  • Marian Mallon in Dead Rising 2: Case West (and later Dead Rising 3) is an Evil Cripple in a wheelchair. General Hemlock in contrast is a pretty good fighter... he's part of the military, so it’s to be expected that he would have some sort of fighting skill.
  • Ripto from Spyro the Dragon turns out to be a subversion. While at first it seems his bigger subordinates do most of the heavy lifting, it eventually turns out he can hold his own in a fight.
  • Major General Nikita Dragovich from Call of Duty: Black Ops. The best he can muster against Mason and Hudson when he confronts them directly at the end of the game is to try and shoot the former with his sidearm, before being easily beaten up and choked to death.
    • The same can be said of Imran Zakhaev from the original Modern Warfare. Without his Ultranationalist armies to protect him, he's just an angry old dude with one arm. The only reason he manages to kill Gaz and most of Soap's other squadmates is because they previously had a tanker truck explode in their faces. The moment Soap gets hold of a gun, he's done for.
  • After spending the second game in an uneasy alliance with Shepard, the Illusive Man becomes this in Mass Effect 3, with Kai Leng acting as The Heavy. It's kind of like they split the role Saren had in the first game into two people - Shepard and the Illusive Man constantly try to talk the other around to their way of thinking, while Leng is an exclusively physical threat who ends up being gutted like a fish by Shepard's omni-blade.
  • Dr. Breen in Half-Life 2.
  • In Evil Genius, the Evil Genius character is unable to attack enemies (though that doesn't stop him/her from dispatching Mooks).
  • Dr Neo Cortex of the Crash Bandicoot series, he's a super genius and at least arms himself with a deadly laser gun, but he's also a weedy midget with a head almost bigger than his stick-like body. Granted Rule of Funny applies on occasion, in Crash Twinsanity he actually brawls with Crash toe to toe.

Web Comics

Western Animation