The Punch Clock Villain

Of course. I'm a Terminator.
~ Heroic T-800 to John Connor, revealed that Terminators like himself actually programmed as Punch Clock Villains instead of psychopatic killers from future.

Punch Clock Villain is a term used to describe most henchmen and villains by proxy who, instead of being actually wicked, are doing evil merely because it is their job. More often than not, they are shown as being regular people, who have normal social lives outside of their job, being totally sympathetic in comparison to their totally evil bosses.

Used to be an odd device but has become increasingly frequent due to the popularity of superhero parody, where minions are portrayed as sympathetic employees for unreasonable bosses. In addition, nearly all anime featuring a comedic villain usually has these, who are frequently cute characters.

Conversely, if played seriously, the emotional detachment that the Punch-Clock Villain displays when they knowingly contributes to various atrocities can be chilling, and audiences may see them as a monster. Depending on the nature of the story this trope can make a villain either more relatable to an audience or more hateful. If they are employed in a violent capacity, they may be an Apologetic Attacker or insist that it's Nothing Personal. Many Punch-Clock Villains may execute a heel–face turn at the very, very end of the film, should the Big Bad totally lose it. If they would rather pet an animal, they might be a minion; if they got into evil because the superhero team fired them for misbehavior, they may be a hero. People using this trope as an excuse for their crimes regardless of the truth of their claims, are "just following orders.

The term is a obvious reference to a punch clock, a clock device used on industry to control the employee's workday.



  • After Voldemort's Death Eaters take over the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this led the Ministry workers(whom actually not evil nor antagonistic) become this. They publish anti-Muggle propaganda and persecute Muggle-born wizards, even if they don't believe in it themselves.


  • Clone Troopers: In spite of receiving infamous reputation from commencing Order 66, they simply doing so due to their job in obeying their superior's command. This is justified by nature of their creation where they programmed to follow orders without questions.
    • The same rule also apply on Stormtroopers as well, whether worked for Galactic Empire or First Order. One of them, whom overwhemled by the carnage that they supposedly ordered to do so, chooses to betrayed First Order and taking a new identity Finn as well as join forces with Resistance.
  • Skynet's Terminator units are actually counted as this, given that they are killer robots who commit murders and hideous atrocities simply because they only programmed to do so, not due to either evil intention nor bloodthirst tendencies.
  • Ian Hawke: spends the first two movies trying to export the Chipmunks (first movie) and Chipettes (second movie) for his own personal financial gain. In the third film, he helps Dave search for the Chipmunks and Chipettes on the island somewhat restoring their friendship as the search continues. Ian officially redeems himself at the climax by convincing Zoe to save Dave from falling off a fallen log. Zoe takes Ians advice and they all escape the island. In the end, Ian has his friendship with Dave and the Chipmunks restored. And thanks to Zoe, Ian finally gets his fame and wealth back, because this time, he used the right method to deserve it.



  • Shocker (Marvel): Shocker, one of Spider-Man's enemies, turned out to be one of these: He believes that become a typical supervillains are a better job for life than regular occupations.
  • Batroc the Leaper: Though considered as a supervillain, the mercenary Batroc has but two goal: to be rich and defeat Captain America. He is disgusted by any activity that doesn't involve one of these things.


  • Tom: Some of Tom's antagonistic roles usually have him protecting something by his owners(i.e. a refrigerator of food), with protagonistic Jerry, with various reasons, sometimes desperate ones, tries steal the food inside.

Animated film

  • Wreck-It Ralph: Wreck-It-Ralph is portrayed as the titular main villain in his arcade game Fix-It-Felix Jr, but in reality, he's just a mere punch clock villain who's programmed to be an antagonist and once dreamed to be living/seen as a good guy by everyone else including his programmed nemesis Fix-It-Felix Jr. His insecurities ultimately led to a series of events that not only led him to help his newfound friend Vaneloppe regain her throne in Sugar Rush, but also proved that without any medals, he can be a good guy.
  • Dragoness's reason of redemption and eventually became Shrek's allies and Donkey's wife was because she realized that all this time, the sole purpose of her life was only guarding Princess Fiona and never thought about anything else up until her escape. Once the princess escaped, she fall into depression and doesn't know what to do to moved on until Donkey cheer her up and they became lovers, which resulting her redemption.
  • Iago: Having had enough of his master's abuse, Iago defects from Jafar to the good guys for his own gain, and eventually starts to actually like them. Once Jafar comes back, however, he assumes Iago is still loyal to him and has Iago lure Aladdin and his friends into his evil trap, though Iago's clearly not happy about doing it. Iago foils Jafar's plan to have Aladdin beheaded, though he refuses the gang's requests to fight back against Jafar out of cowardice. At the climax, Iago ultimately redeems himself by kicking Jafar's black lamp into molten lava, causing Jafar to be electrocuted, then explode into nothingness.
  • Colonel Cutter: Even though he was General Mandible's henchman, he started having second thoughts about their plan to liquidate the colony and make a newer, stronger colony. In the end, Cutter finally rebels against Mandible, saves Z and the colony, and becomes the new general.
  • Kronk: Even he's Yzma's right-hand muscle and not-to-bright henchman, Kronk is a sweet guy who only does what Yzma tells him to do out of loyalty. However, after being ordered to kill Kuzco, Kronk finds himself unable to murder the young emperor and refuses to do so, eventually changing sides.

Anime and Manga

  • Zarbon: Zarbon is a symphatetic case as a Punch Clock Villain. In fact, he just seems to follow the orders of Freeza because he says that will kill him if he does not.
  • Kyubey: In spite of his notoriety as Lovecraftian take of animal-like companion for magical girls, Kyubey turns out to be one of the example of Punch Clock Villains, and is willing to go to some pretty serious lengths in order to meet his "quota" of magical girls.
    • To further elaborate the point, in the restructured universe after Madoka's wish removes the need for witches, he is much more open and cooperative, but simply states that is because it is the best way for them to work. He even says that, were things the way he'd been told they once were, he would totally behave the same way.

Live-Action TV

  • Finster: Finster, one of Rita Repulsa's minions, seems not as evil as his boss and allies do, as in fact, he seemed willing to do whatever anyone told him, Rita, Zedd, Master Vile, and even Goldar (he did draw the line at listening to Rito, however). He even once quipped, "Sometimes it's no fun being a bad guy..."
  • Various recurring foot soldiers of Power Rangers villains are portrayed as this, as some were stated to eager in fighting against the titular heroes, while few others prefer his position as security guard of the lair because those who sent against Rangers never returned.


  • Some monsters whom controlled by Las Plagas like Garrador, Verdugo and Novistador were actually punch-clock villains as they mostly given task of guarding various sections and areas of Salazar Castle from intruders and killed them on sight except those whom deemed important for their boss Salazar in spite of them normally behaves like instinctive creatures when no intruders entered their designated area. This was proven from one of the patrolling novistadors immediately snatches Ashley away from Leon upon sees that she has escaped from the traps in the castle.


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