There's nothing more awesome than an evil wizard. Commanding the forces of darkness, chewing the scenery, wielding objects of terrible power... it's a great gig. But it's not one with a lot of job security. Here are 12 terrible mistakes that evil wizards always end up making, which prove their downfall.
Note: For the purposes of this article, we're using "wizard," "witch" and "sorcerer" interchangeably, and not putting any kind of gender connotation on any of those terms.
Depending on which version of the story you go by, Morgan le Fay falls in love with either Merlin or Lancelot. And this love is generally something that gets in the way of her ability to screw with Arthur and take down Camelot — she's too busy imprisoning and/or stalking the object of her love to hatch any other plans. Meanwhile, in Legend, Tim Curry wants to destroy the last unicorn, but he gets sidetracked into giving Mia Sara a gothy makeover.
In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, the Foresaken are the most feared villains — evil sorcerers with the Dark One's mark on them. They're pretty much unfuckwitable. Originally there are 29 of them, and then they get whittled down to just 13. And then those, too, get dealt with. But none of these evil masterminds is taken out by the Light — instead, they're killed by the Dark One, who worries they might betray him. Or they kill each other as part of their endless infighting. As Verin explains in The Gathering Storm: "The Chosen are like a bunch of squabbling children, each trying to scream the loudest and attract their father's attention. It's easy to determine what they want: Power over the other children, proof that they are the most important."
This applies across the board, since mystical villains are really fond of terrible death traps. But it's especially true when you're ordering someone to kill a baby. How often does that actually work? Inevitably, the baby gets smuggled away or replaced with another baby, or they kill a decoy baby made of lunchmeat instead, or whatever. If you really want that baby dead, you'd better see a tiny mangled (but still identifiable) body afterwards. Otherwise, you can be pretty sure they'll be back, in a dozen years or so.
Everybody falls into this one. Evil magic-users always want more power, and this inevitably leads to Hell's bargaining table. Even Doctor Doom did it at one point, which leads to him getting trapped in Hell for a while. From Faustus onwards, making a "Faustian Bargain" is one of the sorcerer's go-to moves, and it generally turns out about as well as you'd expect. In the animated movie Anastasia, Rasputin makes a deal with the devil for eternal youth, but finds that if his mystical vial is damaged, he'll still die. (See item #6 for more on that.)
From the Emperor in Star Wars to Horvath in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, any time an evil wizard takes on a student or helper, they're pretty much bound to be betrayed or otherwise horribly let down. It's hard to find good help — see item #10 for more on that — but also, it's hard to teach an apprentice the ways of evil wizardry without also teaching the lesson that being a monster involves never treating the people around you with honor. Maybe if you're an evil wizard and you take on an apprentice, consider treating him/her as a friend and comrade, and save the nastiness for your actual enemies? Also, if you've gone to huge lengths to manipulate someone into being your bitch, don't throw it all away by ordering him to kill his own son.
Say your power comes from an amulet, or a crystal, or a fancy wand, or some kind of evil goat face. DO NOT WEAR IT AROUND YOUR NECK. Don't put it on display. Don't flash it around. That goes for fancy magical ballet instructors who force ballerinas to do the same dance over and over again — just don't wear the medallion that's the source of your power around your neck, people. Wear it under all your clothes, or better yet hide it somewhere on your person. Don't put it where everyone can see it.
This is like every Disney fairytale ever — usually, the loophole is "true love's kiss." If you're an evil magic user and you decide to put a curse on someone, and you have to include an escape clause, make it something like, "You will sleep forever, or until someone finds a mint-condition original 1985 Yak Face action figure with electric broom attachment, still in the box." That way, your curse will never be broken.
This is basically the Voldemort clause — you hear a prophecy of your own destruction, and then you get so obsessed with it, that you basically cause it to come to pass. Voldemort doesn't need to go after Harry Potter's parents, but by doing so, he seals his own eventual doom. But it's a common failing for evil wizards — they try so hard to thwart a prophecy of their own death, they cause it to happen. Likewise, Bavmorda the evil queen in Willow tries to prevent the birth of Elora, but just causes Elora to be sent into exile where she's taken in by Willow. Basically, if you hear of a prophecy of your own downfall, just ignore it — if it's true, it'll happen anyway, but anything you do to try and stop it will just give it more weight.
Often, an evil wizard will have a limited amount of power — and all too often, the use of power drains the wizard's own life-force, causing him or her to grow old prematurely when it's used. Like poor Tom Baker in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, who gets all shriveled up when he uses magic — but he still goes around showing off, animating statues and doing cool tricks for people. This is a common problem for evil wizards — they can't help giving a show. And then later, when they really need their power to finish off their enemies, they've almost run out. See also the Wicked Witch of the West, who only gets three uses of the Golden Cap of power and then runs out at the worst possible moment.
This is HUGE. Every evil wizard has a terrible hench-human, who screws up everything. Don't hand it off to the flying monkeys! Don't leave it to the Stormtroopers! Don't just assume the Orcs — or Saruman — will be able to handle whatever comes up. Underlings always underperform. It's just a fact of life. The only way to win, as an evil wizard, is to get your own hands dirty.
To some extent, dressing like a wizard pimp is part of the perks of being an evil sorcerer. What's the point of having life-and-death (mostly death) powers, if you can't wear an awesome cloak, a cool hat, and lots of bling? Nothing says "I have the power to turn to people to stone and I don't give a fuck" like puffy pants and pointy shoes. But there's also something to be said for the element of surprise: don't let them see the darkness coming! Maybe consider wearing cargo pants and sensible shoes, and don't whip out the Stone of Ormmuu until people have let their guard down?
At one point, Gargamel the evil wizard decides it's time to get serious about wiping out the Smurfs. At first, he comes up with a plan for a huge forest fire that will reduce the Smurf forest to ash, and force the little bastards to flee into his nets. But then he decides that's just too simple. So instead, he creates... a female Smurf, the Smurfette, to sow confusion among them. Wait. What was wrong with the forest fire idea? This is typical of evil wizards — they have the power to strike their enemies down, but instead they hatch Rube Goldberg plots. (See this Cracked article for details on how Skeletor never uses his full power against He-Man, because that would just be too easy.) This partly comes back to the "delegating too much to terrible henchpeople" thing, as well.