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It was Voldemort, Harry thought, staring up at the canopy of his bed in the darkness, it all came back to Voldemort. He was the one who had torn those families apart, who had ruined all those lives.
~ Line in the novel, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The following villains are considered "Big Bads," or the main/primary antagonist(s) of the story in which they appear; that is to say the most prominent, influential and powerful of all, the one at the center of the conflict, whose importance in the plot outshines all.

To put it simple, a "Big Bad" ONLY appears in long-running stories with numerous story arcs and antagonists. Villains of a single movie/book/game/whatever or villains of a story without enough antagonists DO NOT COUNT. The Big Bad stands at the top of the villain's hierarchy: being almost always the leader of all the villains, or at least a very strong influence. The "Big Bad" always has a much larger significance in the story than any other villain, including possible "Bigger Bads," being the direct or indirect cause of all the troubles for most of the story if not the story as a whole. The Big Bad is usually also "The Heavy" though this position is often filled by the Big Bad's right hand or enforcer in stories that keep the Big Bad mysterious.

FOR THE SAKE OF CLARITY, THERE IS ONLY ONE BIG BAD PER STORY, EXCEPT FOR THE CASE LISTED BELOW AND ONLY THEM.

When two or more characters working together share the role, it is called a Big Bad Duumvirate. If they are many who oppose each other, it is called a Big Bad Ensemble. The Big Bads are also the Overarching Villain if they influence the story in some way as a major recurring villain for the Myth Arc. There is also the Arc Villain the villain of a story arc they becoming recurring villains if they are the villain for more than one story, the Big Bad Friend where an ally of the protagonist was a major villain, and Big Bad Slippage where the Big Bad starts off normal but eventually becomes the main villain.This also includes Villain based Franchises as it centers around the villain rather than the hero.

  • As long as the central antagonist of a story works for/enforces someone who is directly involved in the plot, then this someone is the "Big Bad."
  • When the story is divided into distinct story arcs, it has several "Arc Villains" one after another, but when a villain appears in several story arcs and/or influences a story arc after his demise, then this villain is the one and only "Big Bad."
  • When there are many recurring villains working on their own, the Big Bad has to be the most recurring and the most important villain in the entire franchise.

For a clear understanding of what a Big Bad is, here are some notable Big Bads: