Mysterioso Pizzicato, also known as The Villain or The Villain's Theme, is a piece of music whose earliest known publication was in 1914, when it appeared in an early collection of incidental photoplay music aimed at accompanists for silent films. The main motif, with minor variations, has become a well-known and widely used device (or "cliche"), incorporated into various other musical works, and the scores of films, TV programmes and video games, as well as unnotated indications in film scripts.
Both a character theme (the "traditional 'bad-guy' cue") and situation theme, it is used to herald foreboding or disaster and to represent villainy, sneakiness, or stealth. A version of this theme is contrasted with themes such as the hero's (Play (help·info)).
Various versions have in common staccato notes, or a note-rest pattern, in imitation of the short sustain of string pizzicato. They share a minor key, considered more sad or ominous. They begin with a staccato ascending arpeggio, reach a tremolo or trill on the minor submediant (♭6), and then descend through faster step-wise melodic motion.