Badass Bystander

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"Do you have any idea who you're stealing from?! You and your friends are dead!"

"In the end, the world didn't really need a 'Super' man. Just a brave one."

Movies, anime, cartoons, even books have an unspoken (or in some cases, explicitly stated) fighting power curve where the hero and villain are at or near the top. The Muggles and Innocent Bystanders? They're waaaay down there at the bottom, duh! Otherwise they wouldn't really be Innocent Bystanders in need of protecting, now would they?

Except for this guy. The Badass Bystander is a background or minor character who shows significant or surprising fighting prowess or strength against a major threat. Whether it's a doddering old man beating the DeathWalker 9000, going toe to claw with a werewolf, or purse-whacking the Giant Mook into submission.

Shows up frequently in martial arts movies, Western Barroom Brawls, and various Tabletop RPG's, in which random wandering monsters or random NPCs occasionally kick a PC's or villain's ass, depending on how the dice roll. NPC shopkeepers are pretty tough too.

This can result in Fridge Logic. Why aren't they helping you, The Only One who is trying to save the world? It's Up to You only. I guess.

Frequently done for comedy, with the Bystander being either Weak but Skilled or otherwise seemingly harmless. These minor characters Fighting for Survival may be so powerful they qualify as Sidekick Ex Machina's, with the hero "beating" their opponent by tossing him to the Badass Bystander to finish them off.

By their nature, plots involving Zombie Apocalypse tend to include Badass Bystanders—out of the normal civilians in harm's way, the only ones left standing are likely to be unusually badass.

This is a subtrope of Badass Normal, related to Heroic Bystander. See also Suddenly Always Knew That and Let's Get Dangerous. Often a resident of the World of Badass.

If you have a whole crowd of armed Badass Bystanders, you get Everyone Is Armed.

Examples of Badass Bystander include:

Anime and Manga

  • Talos from Anatolia Story.
  • One is played for laughs in the Hyper Dolls manga when she appears; one of the title Lovely Angels duo teases the other that the Badass Bystander is a possible Sixth Ranger... one of many to come... "Just like Sailor Moon..." "NOOO! (Knocks out bystander)"
    • ...which may be a reference to Sailor Jupiter's debut in the Sailor Moon anime. She initially appeared to be just some random Huge Schoolgirl who held her own against one of the Quirky Miniboss Squad with just her bare hands. (To the viewers who ignored the clues. Her debut episode even mentioned Sailor Jupiter in the title)
  • The Taxi Driver in Canaan.
  • Yuuna 'the Kid' in Mahou Sensei Negima starts decimating robot invaders during the Mahora school festival to the utter astonishment of everyone around her. When the really really big stuff starts coming out, she does get outclassed though. Just like everyone except Negi, really.
    • And even with all that, she only got fourth place out of all the Mahorafest participants. Meaning there were three other bystanders even more badass than she was.
  • From the perspective of the two gangs fighting each other, Hayato from Oretachi ni Tsubasa wa Nai is this.
  • In the fourth chapter of Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed is fighting terrorists on a train in a hostage situation. When he makes it to the coal room, he quickly takes out one of the two terrorists, but the other manages to aim a gun at him... when the two stokers (the people who shovel coal into the train's furnace) suddenly come out of nowhere and start bashing the guy's head in with their shovels. It's to be expected from a World of Badass.
    • Ed's involvement itself is an example of this. Originally, the trainjackers' purpose was completely unrelated to Ed and Al... and then one of them made the mistake of calling Ed "short."
    • And in the 60ish chapter of Brotherhood, while Wrath is hanging from Greedlings leg, a nameless mook (with a Badass Mustache) manages to shoot him in the shoulder. This a man who was never even touched throughout the first 59 episodes out of 64.
  • Henaro in The Tower of Druaga is just a random tavern patron who's forced to go along with the main characters when the military raids the building, and proves to be quite capable of standing up for herself. Ultimately subverted, as it turns out she was planted there to infiltrate the group.
  • Rurouni Kenshin: A sumo student left the academy after being bullied by a combination of School Bully and Jerk Jock. Rather than taking down the bully, Kenshin encouraged the bully's victim to stand up.


  • In the JLA arc "Syndicate Rules," the Antimatter Universe Johnny Quick and his teammate Power Ring (disguised as the Flash and Green Lantern) are having their asses handed to them by Computron and the Rainbow Raiders. The civilians are thoroughly stunned to realize the two "Leaguers" are having a hard time with these D-List (at best) supercriminals, and immediately rush in and beat the crap out the Raiders with makeshift clubs, shovels, and two-fisted bystander action.

Bystander 1: They're--
Bystander 2: --losing??
Bystander 3: GET EM!!

  • In What If: House of M, every superhero and villain loses their powers. This leads to the Red Skull, with the combined forces of the Hand, A.I.M, and Hydra to try and take over New York, now that they have no competition. Iron Man tries to save the day, with the help of the other un-superheroes in new iron suits, but gets their asses handed to them. This leads Peter Parker, formerly known as Spider-Man, to jump into the fray with a Badass Speech and, with his old web shooter, smashes the cosmic cube the Red Skull is holding. The result: the ENTIRE CITY OF NEW YORK Zerg Rushes the Red Skull and his minions.
  • In Final Crisis: Revelations, Cain (yes, that Cain) is about to unmake reality with the Spear of Destiny by forcing The Spectre to say the Anti-Life Equation. He then gets tackled by the three men who killed Sister Clarice, giving Renee Montoya enough of an opportunity to save The Spectre. Also falls under Dying Moment of Awesome and Redemption Equals Death.
  • In the X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, main villain and Sinister Minister William Stryker is about to shoot Kitty Pryde after she gives him a Reason You Suck Speech on live tv. In the book's climax, Stryker aims his gun and the X-Men stand their ground. A shot is fired, but it's Stryker who falls over, as he was shot (non-lethally) by a police officer working security. The cop states rather obviously that Stryker was about to shoot an unarmed little girl, which is not the Word of God.
  • In one Thor story, tired after a destructive fight, Thor is sitting by an ambulance when a paramedic walks up to him and passes him Mjolnir, telling him that they found it in the wreckage. Thor only realises once the man walks away that he spoke to a rare mortal capable of lifting the hammer, and thus worthy of "the power of Thor".


  • Spider Man
    • In the first film, Spidey is about to be finished off by the Green Goblin when his bacon is saved by... a crowd of New Yorkers throwing bricks, pipes etc at the bad guy.
    • Subverted in the second film when Spider-Man nearly kills himself stopping a tram from driving off the rails. After he's pulled back inside the tram by the passengers, Doctor Octopus shows up to finish him off, at which point everyone in the tram car stands up and proclaims that he'll have to get through them first. He casually knocks them all aside. At least they tried!
  • There's the black guy in From Dusk till Dawn, a random guy who can punch a vampire's chest and pull out his still-beating heart on the first try. It turns out that this badass grandpa is Fred Williamson of 70s exploitation movie infamy. His war story about how he chopped up an entire enemy platoon with a bayonet (after getting his face blown off by a land mine) probably sheds a bit of light on how he could rip fat vampire's heart out, bare handed and throw vampire Tom Savini through an oak door. Meanwhile, the named characters still needed to use weapons to slay their vamps.
  • In Kung Fu Hustle, low-life crook Sing discovers too late that everyone in Pig Sty Ally could kick his ass all goddamn day. Then the shy, effeminate tailor turns out to be the most badass martial artist of the lot. Later on, Sing and his accomplice harass a salaryman on a trolley until he grabs both of them by the collar and starts pounding their heads into the seats.
  • In Shaolin Soccer the main character envisions a world where everyone uses kung fu in their day to day lives. In the end, we see a bunch of random people in the street performing amazing feats of Wire Fu.
  • The grandma from Madagascar beat Alex, a tamed lion, which is only amped up in the sequel into an all devouring Deus Ex Machina Grandmachina.
  • The Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode Werewolf, which includes a random citizen that can kick a werewolf's ass.
  • Two bloodsuckers assault an ambulance in The Vampire Effect that holds the heroine. Thinking the vampires are hurt, the driver stops and gets out to help them, not understanding what the heroine means by "undead". Despite his ignorance, the super humanly strong duo with the power of flight prove to be no match for the ambulance driver. At least not until they decide to attack together, then they manage a stalemate. The ambulance driver was played by the film's producer, Jackie Chan.
  • The Badass waitress Vicki from Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday. Who valiantly tried to defend the patrons of the dinner from Jason, by whooping his ass with a barbecue skewer and a shotgun!

Vicki: (after being impaled on the skewer and right before getting her head crushed) "Go to hell!"

  • The priest from Braindead, who just ran into some zombies by complete accident: "I kick arse for the Lord!"
  • Diary of the Dead has the dynamite and scythe wielding, deaf, Amish zombie killer Samuel who introduces himself amidst blowing up the undead. Likewise the female paramedic who karate-kicks a standing zombie in the head.
  • The page pic is the nameless banker, played by William Fichtner, in The Dark Knight Saga who takes on the Joker and his goons with a shotgun until he runs out of ammo. It turns out the bank is run by the mob. It's a good attempt, but the Joker still gets away. He only lives because the Joker preferred to scare the crap out of the guy rather than kill him, lodging a fake grenade in his mouth instead of a real one.
  • The bathroom brawl scene in Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter involves one of the vampires being killed by some random guy on the toilet. Using a plunger.
  • In X 2 X Men United, one of the random kids at the school turns out to be Siren. When the spooks invade the school, she starts screaming and everyone in the entire building starts bleeding from the ears.
  • When a gang of Yakuza pull swords on Bae-dal in Fighter in The Wind, some guy in a hat (later revealed to be an old friend) leaps out of the crowd and fights them to a standstill - despite only having one hand.
  • In the So Bad It's Good early 90s Cyberpunk film Nemesis, protagonist Alex Rain is fleeing some heavily-built, cyborg assassins on the streets of Shang Loo, "a low-tech Asian shithole". After he ducks around a corner, one of his pursuers runs into an old lady crossing the street and tries to muscle her out of the way. She mutters, "goddamned cyborg!", produces a Desert Eagle from her handbag, and shoots the assassin dead.
  • The Avenging Disco Godfather has the title character (played by Rudy Ray Moore) yell to a random jogger while fighting drug pushers, "Howard, these men are angel dust dealers!" The jogger replies, "Okay, Godfather," and joins the fray. "Howard" was actually Rudy Ray Moore's martial arts instructor in real life.
  • In the Jim Jarmusch film, Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, the title character witnesses a gangster trying to rob an old man, only to see the old man respond by flooring the youth with elaborate spin-kicks... while carrying his groceries. Then he merrily goes on about his business, and out of the movie. We never see him again.
  • A random ninja takes out 4 or 5 mooks with guns at the climax of You Only Live Twice.
  • Gabby Johnson, the resident drunkard of Rock Ridge in Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles, can take out bandits simply by grabbing them by the collar and breathing his "beer-breath" on them.
  • The scientists in the first chapter of the Commando Cody serial "Radar Men From the Moon" are surprisingly good fighters. They hold their own for a while against a pair of hired thugs as seen and commented on in this MST3K episode.
  • Most of Paris gets to be this in Disney Animated Canon's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, when in the climactic battle scene the crowd that had gathered to protest Esmeralda geting burned at the stake undergoes a mass Took a Level in Badass as a result of a Rousing Speech by Phoebus; they all join Phoebus in kicking the tar out of Judge Frollo's goon squad while Quasimodo is busy tending to Esmeralda (who is fighting for her life after having inhaled too much smoke). And we had actually seen hints of this earlier at the Festival of Fools, when Frollo orders his guards to arrest Esmeralda and the Street Performers in the plaza do their part to help her escape.
  • In Battle: Los Angeles, one of the civilians being evacuated by the Marines, Mr. Rincon, is doing his best to help the troops as they escape. During the freeway battle scene, he spots an alien flanking the Marines. Despite his lack of training, he grabs a fallen rifle and sprays the alien from the hip, taking it out, but taking a shot to the gut in the process. He eventually dies a few hours later.
  • At the end of Hitch's Strangers on a Train, a merry-go-round is careening wildly out of control, endangering the lives of dozens of people. The hero who volunteers to crawl under the rapidly spinning death trap, reach the mechanism at the center, and switch it off is... some random old guy who was never seen before and who is never mentioned again. We don't even find out if he survives.
  • In Thor, Jeremy Renner plays one of these. Also counts as a Genius Bonus and Early-Bird Cameo, as Marvel fans will recognize this character as Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, a member of The Avengers.
  • In Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend, some random African tribesman in the climax guns down a half dozen of the villains.
  • In the Korean film The Host, when the monster first rampages through a public area, an American man takes it upon himself to mount a valiant attack on the monster before getting mauled. A news report later reveals that he's a soldier. This is probably done to compensate for the otherwise anti-American slant of the film.
  • The Avengers gives us an old man credited simply as "Old German" who would rather be Defiant to the End against Loki rather than Kneel Before Zod.
    • It's cooler if you think about it. The guy could have been alive when Hitler ruled and he refuses to bow down to another man like that.
      • Word of God was that the Old Man was a Holocaust survivor. He's seen Loki's brand of shit before and he recognizes the stink no matter how much perfume the god tries to cover it with.


  • Used a few times in the Badass-saturated Malazan Book of the Fallen, sometime to introduce a character that will become important a few books down the line. The most prominent example is that of Traveler, who first shows up in House of Chains accompanying a group of nameless soldiers, defeats a hundred elite mooks off-screen, and leaves the narrative by the end of the chapter that introduced him.
  • In the last Percy Jackson and The Olympians book, Percy's mom and stepdad are surprisingly badass when faced with a horde of monsters. This despite the fact that neither has any kind of supernatural fighting skills, and Percy's stepdad can't even see the monsters thanks to the Weirdness Censor.
    • A straighter example from the same series is Rachel Elizabeth Dare, who covers for Percy (who at the time was a perfect stranger) and puts the pursuing monsters on a false trail.
  • Invoked in The Wheel of Time, in which the world's most famous swordsman is said to have only been defeated by a random farmer with a staff. This is used as a lesson not to underestimate your opponents.
  • Meg Cabot's American Girl examines this from the point of view of the bystander. She just happens to be present at the scene of an attempted presidential assassination, and tackles the assassin, injuring herself in the process. She does nothing else heroic or extraordinary over the course of the book, and does not view herself as a hero, but the resultant fame changes her life in a variety of ways, good and bad.
  • Klaus Rosenthal and Francis De la Cruz from Rainbow Six (the novel, not the game). One's a seventy-something Holocaust survivor, the other a theme park employee and former Spanish soldier. Klaus, while being taken hostage, hides a paring knife up his sleeve, and when the Rainbow troops set up their ambush, he spots them lying in ambush (something the highly-trained terrorists failed to do, mostly because he was intimately familiar with the landscape, being the estate's gardener). When the Rainbow troops pull the ambush, he stabs one of the terrorists with his knife, giving them a clean shot. Francis De la Cruz, meanwhile, is dressed up as a Roman centurion when the terrorists start taking hostages, and he goes after them with his sword. Note that this is not a prop blade, either; this sword is made from genuine Toledo steel, and he cuts up one of the terrorists pretty well before another shoots him in the leg. (seriously, the last thing anyone expects while a terrorist plot is unfolding is for a freaking Roman centurion to flip out and start chopping the bad guys up) In both cases, the Rainbow troops honestly consider both of their actions to be pretty damned badass.
  • In Executive Orders, Terrorists storm the day care where the presidents' pre-school aged daughter is being held. The only man there to pick up his kids that day is an armed FBI agent in plainclothes, who manages to kill both of them.
  • Robin Hood ran afoul of one of these men in the course of his adventures; when waylaying a beggar with a large bag because he was curious what was in the bag, Robin got pissed off by the beggar's insolence and nocked an arrow to threaten him. The beggar proceeded to take his staff and, in rapid succession, break Robin's bow, numb is sword arm, and knock him senseless before proceeding on his way. When Little John and George-A-Green attempt to avenge Robin's injury, the beggar pretends to surrender, offering them the money in his bag; Instead it turns out to be full of meal, which the beggar throws at their faces before beating the crap out of both of them. The nameless beggar, who never appears again, remains one of the few to soundly thrash the outlaws and walk away unscathed.
  • In Monster Hunter International a highly trained professional monster hunter is saved from a gargoyle by a farmer who is positively delighted to have had a legitimate use for his expensive elephant gun. He is promptly given Monster Hunter International's business card and offered a job.

Live-Action TV

  • Played with to great effect in the original Whoops Apocalypse. A major sub-plot in the early episodes has the Soviets brutally interrogating a sweet, harmless elderly husband and wife whom they believe to be undercover agents for the West. The audience laughs merrily along at this, until suddenly...they beat the crap out of their interrogators, produce various spy-tech gadgets, and stage a jail break.
  • In Chuck, Big Mike ends up, on two separate occasions, completely owning enemy special agents that had been giving Team Chuck major problems earlier in the episode.
  • In Merlin an undead wraith crashes into Camelot and throws a gauntlet down before King Uther and Prince Arthur's feet. Though it is clearly intended for a member of the royal family, on two separate occasions a knight of Camelot grabs it before Arthur can in order to protect him.
  • In Jonathan Creek, a little old lady witnesses a group of men nailing another man into a coffin and attacks them with a tree branch and pepper spray. She takes down four men, and knocks at least two of them into an open grave before using her security whistle to call for the police. It's just a shame that she was actually interrupting a perfectly innocent magic trick...
  • In Desperate Housewives, a nameless extra is the one who ends up taking down and killing the insane gun wielding murderer holding a grocery store full of innocents hostage, after all evidence seemed to be implying that one of the main characters was going to.
  • Hikonin Sentai Akibaranger has a scene possibly inspired by the Bike Thrower example under Real Life below, with some differences - the bike belonged to Akagi Nobuo, who tried to help but couldn't, and the bike was hurled at the robber by the victim herself.

Tabletop Games

  • GURPS Supers mentions these as one possible way of saving the heroes if the villain is getting the upper hand, pointing out that to avoid stealing the heroes' thunder it's better not to let the bystander beat the villain on their own, but rather contribute just enough to turn the tide.
  • Every Hunter: The Reckoning character started out as one of these, it's their willingness to be so that persuades their mysterious patrons to give them a level or two in Badass.
  • In second-edition's version of Dark Sun - by definition, EVERYONE that isn't a specific monster or named NPC falls into this category. To whit: in all other campaign settings, average NPCs had no level and anything done to them was basically "critical fail or total success." In Athas, a world where Everything Is Trying to Kill You is as literal as possible, the average person on the street is a level 3 Fighter. Later editions toned this down rules-wise, but it's still generally accepted that, with levels and such being a "relative" thing, everyone walking the blasted desert of a planet is functionally tougher than anyone from any other D&D world.
  • There's Justice Hobos a High Concept /tg/ homebrew [1] [dead link], possibly inspired by COSMIC BUMFIGHTS Unknown Armies (that's close to how some games run anyway, apparently). As in, PCs are hobos minding their own business, such as it is, and then - "what the?.. whoa, that's messed up, man".


  • Older Than Steam: In King Lear, when Cornwall is brutally gauging out Glauchester's eye on stage, one of his servants challenges him to a sword fight, and actually delivers a wound that would eventually kill him. The only way he's beaten is to be stabbed by Regan when his back was turned.[1]

Video Games

  • In Max Payne 2, Payne gets attacked by assassins in his own apartment, and has to fight his way through the tenement building to safety. On his way, an elderly woman shotguns one of the assassins through her door and gives Payne her other rifle. Then Payne rescues a hobo from a burning corridor, and said hobo unpacks two pistols, claiming to be an ex-cop himself. Then Payne encounters a random prostitute who got locked in the lobby by the perps. But she also draws a gun of her own, and so both she and the hobo proceed to help Payne to take down all the assassins.
  • In L.A. Noire, you come across shop owners once and a while who have actually managed to scare the shit out of their robbers beforehand. Also occasionally pulled by ordinary beat cops.
    • In one occasion, if you spend enough time chasing a perp, a random resident standing on his lawn will throw a decking punch and stop him for you.
  • The Wastelanders in Jak 3 qualify, as not only will they shoot at you if you hit them, but when Spargus is overrun by Dark Makers, they fight back.
  • Blue in Red's quest in SaGa Frontier. When the Cool Ship gets attacked by pirates, Blue easily takes out the one who charges into his room. But because he's kind of a dick, he refuses to help Red because he doesn't like his name. In fairness, it differs only in language from his Evil Twin. His Good Twin, actually.
  • 3-13 Archer. While most of the time in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn the other army units are useless, one archer in this level is able to take on three laguz at once without dying.
  • In Mafia II, if you rob a store there's a distinct possibility (which increases, the rougher the neighborhood) that some civilian will pull a gun and try to take you down. They just might, too, if you're not quick enough getting into cover or shooting them down.
  • Space Rangers allows you to pull off a version of this. You can hail pretty much any ship in a system to joint attack a target. They won't always agree, but situations where a trader, passenger liner, and diplomat team up to help you take down a troublesome Space Pirate are fairly common. Attacks by a Klissan/Dominator fleet tend to make even the pirates drop everything and pitch in.
  • In Super Mario Galaxy 2, there's a Gearmo who purposefully stands in the path of rolling Chomps and lets them collide right into him. The Chomps invariably explode apart on impact, but the Gearmo remains unscathed, despite enduring god knows how many Chomps.
  • In Dragon Age, Bodahn Feddic's adopted son Sandal is just an Idiot Savant with unusual skill at enchantment. Except at the endgame, he murders over a hundred Darkspawn, including several Ogres, by himself. In the sequel, he does it again, and then adds a pile of massacred demons on top of it. Precisely how this happens is not clear.

Warden: What happened here?
Sandal: Enchantment!

  • In the Fallout series, as well as Oblivion, random people will try to take you out if you try to do something evil close to them, and will pick up random weapons like assault rifles and submachine guns lying around nearby to do it with. Sometimes (especially in Oblivion) ties to Shoplift and Die.
  • The willingness of random people to take on the dragons in Skyrim has reached memetic levels among fans. It is quite distressing (or perhaps heartening) to note the number of people who will charge straight in a torrent of flame in order to beat a dragon to death with their bare hands. Though this might explain all the random people who tell you they think they might be the Dragonborn.
  • Sakupen, creator of the Dad Series, appears in the Dad Game as a random bystander in the middle of a panicked crowd in an early level. If you attack him enough times, he suddenly turns into the hardest boss in the game.
  • The giant pig at Link's home island in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. Pigs are pretty much Wind Waker's replacement for Cuccos in that they attack Link if he attacks them enough times, and the giant pig acts the same way, only he does more damage to Link in a single hit than any other enemy in the entire game.

Web Comics

  • Officer Tod from Sluggy Freelance, a seemingly useless cop, actually manages to go toe-to-toe with the assassin who killed Oasis.
    • Yeah, but everybody kills Oasis eventually.
      • True, but Oasis tends to be very good at killing people when she sets her mind to it, especially when they aren't main characters. This particular assassin managed to go toe to toe with Oasis in his first appearance, lose, and still come out alive without being bailed out by someone else.

Web Original

  • In the third RP of Darwin's Soldiers, the heroes end up getting ambushed by Dragonstorm soldiers. They are assisted by some nearby loggers, who do remarkably well in battle against them.

Western Animation

  • Subverted in the Justice League Unlimited finale. Wonder Woman, Shining Knight, Vigilante, and Sapphire are having a difficult time fighting an army of Parademons when one of the Chinese bystanders stops running, says goodbye to his wife, and runs to help. Wonder Woman tries to talk the old man out of it, until he one-hit K.O.s not one, not two, but THREE parademons, turns into a dragon, and whups several more, much to the heroes' surprise. The subversion comes in when the old man turns out to be J'onn J'onz, aka Martian Manhunter.
    • Played straight several times earlier in the series, though. The most memorable episode is "Patriot Act".
    • And even earlier in the DC Animated Universe when Dan Turpin single-handedly turns the tide against Darkseid in Superman: The Animated Series. With Superman captured and publicly humiliated in order to cow humanity into hopelessness, Dan Turpin alone flips off the triumphant Darkseid and rallies the crowd behind him. Dan leads a counterattack, singlehandedly frees Superman, defeats several Parademons, and helps fend off the forces of Apokolips until the forces of New Genesis arrive to liberate the Earth. Now, while it's true that the viewers already knew Turpin was a tough cop, Darkseid had no clue who this guy was and basically thought he'd conquered the Earth by defeating its greatest champion. Unfortunately, this also counts as a Dying Moment of Awesome, as the fleeing Darkseid kills Turpin out of spite, prompting Superman to deliver the quote above at Turpin's funeral.
  • Played for laughs in an episode of The Simpsons when a hired assassin tries to kill Grampa with a machine gun. When Grampa runs to the retirement home's nurse and begs her for help, she initially reacts by trying to double his medication, but when the assassin bursts in and continues firing the nurse pulls a shotgun out of nowhere and repeatedly blasts him, yelling "OUR RESIDENTS! ARE TRYING! TO NAP!"
    • Note that each exclamation point is a shotgun blast.
  • In an episode of The Powerpuff Girls, one day the girls get tired of always saving the townspeople from monsters and invoke this trope by spending the entire episode getting them to actually figure out HOW to destroy it. Granted, for quite some time they were total MORONS, having reasoned that soggy toast would fend off the monster, but finally figure out how to destroy it.
    • There is also the sleepover episode, where Mojo Jojo takes away the girls' powers and starts taunting them. The girls' normal friends soon become angered as he makes fun of them for being "normal girls" and proceed to beat him up. With pillows.
  • One episode of Static Shock begins with the Quirky Miniboss Squad of metahumans robbing mallgoers. One promptly gets a faceful of pepper spray from a little old lady.
  • In Batman Beyond two-part episode "The Call", Inque caught a bystander to use as a hostage and Terry tried to talk her out of using innocent bystanders like that. In a similar subversion as the one presented at the finale of Justice League Unlimited, the bystander turned out to be a disguised Superman...unfortunately for Inque.

Real Life

  • This guy, a Mixed Martial Arts practitioner who defended a cashier from an irate customer.
  • Ronald Reagan once saved a 22 year old nurse from a mugger in 1933. He scared away the mugger by pointing a 1911 pistol at him, saying "Leave her alone or I'll shoot you right between the shoulders". Later, he would tell the woman he saved that the gun was empty.
  • John Smeaton, who kicked a burning terrorist in the balls so hard he injured his foot.
  • A Delaware woman told USA Today that she had been walking home from church when her purse was snatched. A nearby man who had witnessed the attack jumped out of his car, chased the purse-snatcher through several backyards and over fences, and got the purse back. The man in question? Just happened to be her senator, Joe Biden.
    • I knew there was a reason Obama picked him to be Vice President. Biden is immune to conventional weapons.
  • A Milwaukee man picked the wrong time and place to get into a "domestic dispute" when Mayor Tom Barrett was nearby.
  • Rukhsana Kausar, a farmer's daughter from India, living near the Pakistani border. After three armed militants invaded her home and began beating her father, she attacked the leader with an axe, disarmed him, and shot him dead with his own gun while his gang ran away in pants-wetting terror. The dead man turned out to be a high-profile wanted terrorist commander. Kauser was shortly therafter named Badass of the Week.
  • Elvis Presley was on the way to his hotel after arriving in Madison as part of a concert tour in June 1977. He spotted two guys attacking a seventeen year old gas station attendant, and grumbled "Look at those two punks, I don't like this two-on-one deal." He got out of the limo, assumed a kickboxing pose and said "If you want a fight, let's fight." The three young men were so astounded they stopped immediately and began to ask for pictures and autographs instead. Before leaving he said "I found you as enemies; I leave you as friends."
    • It's really impossible to picture that scene without envisioning Elvis as played by Bruce Campbell.
  • Mayor of London Boris Johnson encountered a woman being attacked while out riding his bicycle. He proceeded to take their pipe and chase them down the street calling them "Oiks"
  • Professional wrestler Perry Saturn, a former US army ranger, once passed an alley with three armed men attempting to rape a woman. By the time the police arrived, he had beaten all three men unconscious but had not even realized that he had been shot in the neck during the fight.
  • The "Bike Thrower" in China. He stopped his bike in the middle of the road after seeing a lady being mugged by two assholes on a motorbike. Then as the robbers rode past him, he threw his bike at them, knocking them down and leaving them for the cops. Then the hero just picked up his bike (trashed by the throwing) and walked away carrying it.
  • A retired Gurkha soldier was sitting quietly while forty bandits robbed the train he was in, until the bandits decided to try and rape the young girl next to him. Bad Move. He pulled out his service Kukris Are Kool and proceeded to kill 3 of them, and injured 8 more, until the rest ran for their lives.
  • UFC fighter Jon Jones chased down and apprehended a mugger in New York, then went on to win the Light Heavyweight title that same night.
  • Adam West one day was chilling at the beach. He saw a man swearing at a topless girl and chasing after her with a knife. As West tells it, while he knew it probably wasn't going to help his reputation for mental stability, he still managed to take the attacker down. By hitting him with a beach-chair.
  • Daniel Lewin
  • This is the idea of the Right to Carry movement, which is about letting law-abiding citizens carry weapons on their persons. The idea is that if the carrier is attacked by criminals, or if they observe an attack on someone else, then they have the ability to fight back. It normally works, and civilians who use firearms to protect others or themselves both have much greater accuracy than the Police, but they also shoot the wrong person by mistake much less frequently.
    • To be fair to the police, the police make a living out of showing up to confusing situations and having to guess what the hell's going on, with insufficient clues and under extreme time pressure. A bystander being attacked, however, has had the major problem re: accidentally shooting the wrong person already solved for them -- they can clearly and unambiguously know that they actually are being attacked, and who their attacker is.
  • Richard Ramirez (AKA the serial killer known as The Night Stalker) was caught when he tried to steal a car. The car's owner, along with two neighbors and their sons, chased him down. As they ran, they recognized him from police photos that had been airing on the news and realized just who they were chasing. Once they caught him, they proceeded to beat the crap out of him in the street. When the police showed up, they did stop the men from outright killing him, but didn't bother to arrest any of them for the assault. Nobody was the least bit upset.
  • Adam Kinzinger. For the record, he has since been elected a U.S. Congressman. Just goes to show, everyone loves an Action Hero.
  • During Bill Clinton's term as President a man with a semi-automatic rifle shot at the White House. When the gun jammed, several bystanders tackled him to the ground. Including a man in a white cowboy hat.
  • Newark Mayor Cory Booker was on his way home one night when he saw that his neighbor's house was on fire and their daughter was trapped inside. He immediately ran into the flaming building and carried the girl out safely. People immediately started joking about the new standard for government service.
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  • When a British man was thrown out of a pub for smoking, he came back with a chainsaw for a weapon. The other pub patron responded by looking for any item they can find and went after the chainsaw welding hooligan.
  • If you're going to be drunk, DON'T DRIVE. If the police doesn't get you, some random bystander will. This drunk driver found this out... IN TEXAS, of all places.
  1. In his essay "The World's Last Night", CS Lewis references this scene, and states that if "it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted."