This mission is important. The fate of the battle, nay, the war, nay, the entire world rests on the outcome. Who has the capability to stick it out, to give the good guys the victory they desperately need? This calls for a special team. The group of experienced, highly skilled, professional, team-oriented experts? Not them. The assorted group of ex-con lowlife inexperienced jerkasses who are trying to off their commanderwhen they aren't trying to kill each other? Yeah, them.
This is usually justified in one of several ways:
If trouble blew up at a remote outpost, and there isn't time to get help, those characters who were Reassigned to Antarctica have to deal with it. Since they all did something to get themselves Reassigned to Antarctica, they tend to be a miscellaneous bunch.
The villains, no fools, took out everyone that looked like they could stop their Evil Plan; this is what's left.
They're random survivors of some apocalyptic event who more or less stumble across each other.
Fate has determined that these misfits are The Chosen Ones, and they are destined to save the world no matter what.
Your basic Ragtag Bunch Of Misfits consists of a Hero, a Sidekick, a Big Guy, a Smart Guy, an Old Guy, a Young Guy, and a Funny Guy - But you can call them The Magnificent Seven Samurai.
Of course, the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits will eventually have a Misfit Mobilization Moment to get their act together and win the day. Most often it produces casualties: typically, the guy forced to go on the mission despite being the Convicted Innocent, or the Officer and a Gentleman who's been stodgy and uptight just before making a Heroic Sacrifice.
If the characters were not forced on the team — Condemned Contestant, Boxed Crook — they often join to be Lonely Together. To contrast their diversity, their enemies will likely be all homogenous in one way, typically by being highly collaborative professionals.
Compare with Character Magnetic Team and Hitchhiker Heroes.
In the world of sports, this trope counts double. Last year's Super Bowl champions don't stand a chance against a random group of ex-cons, couch potatoes, and farm animals, with Improvised Training, who are almost guaranteed to pull out a last-minute win.
Also where the trope is shown in the context of sports, you will typically find a three-game arc of progress. In the first game, it's Murphy's Law. The game is a comedy of errors for our ragtag gang of misfits, and they lose. Bad. Ridiculously bad. In the second game, the team sees notable improvement; usually they'll play well enough, only to lose at the last minute. Occasionally, they might even win on a freak play. By the third game, however, everyone has clicked and is playing at the top of their game. From that point on, it's all smooth sailing until The Big Game. (Often times, their opponent in The Big Game will be the same team that blew them out in the first game, just as a ways to show how far they've come.)
See also Army of Thieves and Whores for when this trope is magnified to the size of an army.
The Charlestown Cougars, a fake women's high school basketball team assembled for the purpose of Nike commercials.
Dreamkix is about a group of Funny Animals working to overcome their physical disadvantages and personality clashes in order to become a champion soccer team. Pretty notable when your team members include an adorkably determined Dachshund, a surly Scottish sheep, and a chicken who often forgets he's playing soccer in the first place.
Mötley Crüe got its name from this trope. Mick Mars recalled playing in another band in which a fellow member had described the group as "a motley looking crew".
Christian singer/songwriter Rich Mullins recorded with a group known as the "Ragamuffin Band", who continued to perform together after his death. The opening track of A Liturgy, a Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band features a bit of Studio Chatter in which one of the band members admits he's barely ready to do this, which gets a laugh out of Rich and gives the listener the impression that the recording sessions were impromptu and fairly laid-back.
The Savoyard march Gironfla, where the Duke of Savoy musters an army of eighty peasants armed with halberds and wooden swords, gives them four cast iron cannons for artillery and twenty donkeys laden with turnips as baggage train, and nominates a 21-year old Ensign Newbie to lead the "army" to conquer France. Miraculously, they succeed. The song is based on historical events.
Blood Bowl gives us the Motley Horde, a Blood Bowl team that fits this description to a tee. Not even the coach knows what kind of lineup he will see each game.
EveryDungeons & Dragons party ever, with few exceptions. See also the Video Games section and how they talk about the various RPGs; this is where they got the idea. It's possible to coordinate a non-ragtag adventuring party with some pre-game work, but a Ragtag Bunch of Level 1 Misfits spontaneously joining up for mutual adventure and profit is the default assumption.
A lot of Solar, Abyssal and Infernal circles in Exalted would qualify. For Solars, if you're a reborn god-king with about half the world gunning for him, you tend to associate with others who can help you punch that half the world in the face. Infernals and Abyssals tend to end up in these through a mix of that desperation and the details of the assignments they receive from their bosses.
Taken to an extreme, as is everything in the Warhammer 40,000 universe with entire penal legions, where the worst of the worst of the Imperium's convicted felons are sent on literal suicide missions in return for a general pardon in the unlikely event they survive. Think Dirty Dozen in battalion size. This trope is best exemplified in the novel Kill Team.
Hell, the entire 597th could be considered a ragtag bunch of misfits. Of course, given the 40k universe's casually lethal nature, it's a good thing that they get constant reinforcements from Valhalla...
Colonel Schaeffer's Last Chancers. Recruited from penal planets and given the opportunity to redeem themselves by dying for the Emperor.
The 40k fanfilm Damnatus follows the same idea, centering around a squad of mercenaries conscripted by the Inquisition to root out a suspected Chaos cult. There's the leader von Remus, sidekick Corris, big guy Wodan and their resident tech-priest Oktavian, all kept under close watch by more straight-laced PDF sergeant Adeodatus and his sidekick Nira.
A lot of Inquisitors' retinues tend to end up as this as well since Inquisitors frequently recruit people that they meet during their work with the only criteria being competence and loyalty.
It should also be noted that the people they recruit can be of any social status or have any kind of occupation, too. For instance, one member of Amberley Vail's retinue used to be a fast food seller.
Mordechai Horst ends up temporarily recruiting a prostitute desperate to escape from the societal role she was forced into as a guide. And his boss inducted a pair of Guardsmen simply because they were eyewitnesses to a major breach of security, and the pilot whose shuttle they were shot down in just because.
The employees at Maraczek's Parfumerie in She Loves Me could qualify.
Comedy musical Starship features a crew including a robot that wants to kill all humans but can't, a battle-scarred emotionally unstable Commander with a mortal fear of robots, his violent and unsympathetic second-in-command, a Non-Action Guynerd, a hyperactive idiotic recruit, a recruit from FarmPlanet, a science officer whose relevant skills don't even extend to the ability to pronounce 'science', and the bratty son of the company boss. At first it seems to just be Played for Laughs in a parody of the sci-fi genre, but it is revealed later that Junior is evil and he needed the crew to be dysfunctional enough that they wouldn't notice his evil plan.
Last Res0rt sees this and raises you a Reality Show. Of course, they don't really DO anything of worldly importance (yet), but still, there they are.
Lampshaded and subverted in 8-Bit Theater, especially with the second party of worthy warriors always arriving too late to do any good or be hired for the quest.
And again in Episode 1163 'Semantics' when they face Sarda. Red Mage confronts him and The Wizard Who Did It says "You and what ragtag band of adventurers with humorously conflicting personalities who learn the true meaning of friendship?" RM points behind him. They ran off.
The Last Days of Foxhound portrays FOXHOUND (the Quirky Miniboss Squad of Metal Gear Solid) this way. It is played with a bit, as everyone, including the misfits themselves, readily acknowledge how unstable and insane the team is, but also recognize that they are able to accomplish feats that would be impossible for any other group.
The Order of the Stick crew certainly qualifies. Roy is pretty competent in his own right, but his band consists of a dwarf who is convinced that trees are evil, a childish bard who is completely useless in battle until he takes a prestige class that depends on puns to be effective, a greedy rogue who constantly steals from the rest of the party, a megalomaniac elf wizard with an unknown gender, and a bloodthirsty halfling who defines Heroic Comedic Sociopath. Their evil counterparts aren't any better, either...
And for that matter, pretty much all of the comics in the fan comic section of the forum do this too.
Roy at one point refers to his team as trained professionals before adding "Well, semi-trained, quasi-professionals."
At one point General Tarquinaka, Elan and Nale's father, despite being initially unaware of the composition or existence of the Order of the Stick, deduces that it is a team almost immediately upon meeting all the individual members, largely because he recognizes that when a bunch of weirdly competent but oddly diverse individuals show up out of nowhere "it's safe to assume they're an adventuring party until this assumption is disproven".
Big Bad Xykon never directly addresses the Order as such, but when he's off buying some new magic items he asks if he can get insurance that will cover the loss if his lair is destroyed by a ragtag team of heroes.
Clerk: How ragtag are we talking, here?
In No Rest for the Wicked, November acquires anthropomorphic cat Perrault (intentionally), the Ax-Crazy Red by accident, and Claire after they happen to rescue her from being burnt at the stake.
Mindflayer: Adventurers? I thought we were a bunch of outcasts banded together in hopes of increasing our odds of surviving to the next day. Lomylith: That would be the definition of the word "adventurers", flayer.
Contra Farce features one competent mercenary and three incompetent goofballs. They were the best Deputy Mayor Simmons could afford.
The five protagonists from the web fiction serial Dimension Heroes, despite their increase in power and skill over the course of the series, have yet to fully separate themselves from this trope.
The main characters of Red vs. Blue. They are all fully armed soldiers who were hand pick for being one lowest scoring grunts in the military, they are also the least qualified people to be handling the various omnicidal maniacs that cross their path.
With the exception of Tex, who is pretty much confirmed to be the single best fighter in the series.
Not that she's without her own very special issues, however, as season 8 reveals. She's essentially cursed to ultimately fail at everything she tries to do. The most normal person they meet (Wash) still has issues, what with Epsilon's memories being beamed directly into his mind and all.
The heroes of The Nerdy Show's pen and paper adventure podcast, Dungeons & Doritos, hurt each other and their allies or employers about as much as they hurt their enemies. However, over the course of the adventure, they learn to care for their teammates and become increasingly competent at working together. Except when they aren't, and then Hilarity Ensues.
The members of "Team Templar" from Shadow Of The Templar are the first type of this, all the way. Extremely talented but mostly crazy, their general rule of thumb seems to be that "standard procedure" is a good Plan B. All the same, they have a reputation for getting things done.
The whole bunch of convicts living in the Paracelsus' Sword in the world of Einsteinian Roulette count as this, ranging from mercenaries, petty criminals and discarded experience subjects to farm boys, spoiled brats and crazy doctors.
Then there's The Deviant Universere's premeir Super Team The Thunder Force. The first incarnation consists of a government agent with a dark past and robotic enhancements to his body, an invisible gun toting ex-news anchor, a rich treasure hunter with a magic bone necklace and a tiger striped costume, a female super speeder, a strange girl in a school girl outfit, Canada's only hero who is powered by the internet, a living beat'em up video game chick, a symbiote who is similar to both Nightcrawler and Venom only with no angst about his situation, and a chibi computer program who is programmed to destroy the world himself. The second incarnation consists of a jerkass archer secret agent, an animal shapeshifter teen boy, a male Captain Americaexpy who uses guns and is kept alive through cloning, a female Captain America and Wonder Woman combined expy, a hero with thunder powers combined with Flying Brick abilities, and a mermaid heroine with legs joined up with the aforementioned treasure hunter in tiger print and the symbiote guy.
Hell the Occult Society can pretty much be a Ragtag Organization of Misfits. The latest arc had just introduced an overly conceited Fighting Narcissist and a Anthromorph with multiple personalities of the Western Zodiac in the secondary cast.
Similarly invoked in Transformers Animated, in which the job of saving the day lands on a repair crew with barely any real weapons who've mostly never been in combat before, while the Decepticons also spend a large time disorganized and spread apart. Of course, when the team of experts does show up, they're not a lot of help...
Parodied with the elementary school dodgeball team in the South Park episode "Conjoined Fetus Lady", who make it all the way to the finals much to their own shock and dismay.
In Avatar: The Last Airbender , the responsibility of defeating the Fire Nation and saving the world rests entirely with a 12-year-old goofball of a Messiah and the various other children he picks up along the way. These include a fourteen year old untrained water-bender, a fifteen year old wannabe warrior, a twelve year old spoiled runaway earth-bender and the angsty banished prince of the enemy. Three attempts were made by various characters to have actual armed forces involved, but the first two times were stopped before they started (the second when a fourteen year old princess and her two handmaidens, a dourKnife Nut and a Cloudcuckoolanderacrobat, managed to pull off a coup in a hostile city) and the third time resulted in a crushing, ruinous defeat
Referenced and Parodied in Futurama, when Fry attempts to destroy a giant brain with a Quantum Interface Bomb. He's found by a squad of smaller brains that try to destroy him. When their brain rays fail, one of the brains say, "But we're an ambitious young squad, with everything to prove!"
The Planet Express crew in general; the main delivery crew is a goofball from the 20th century (Now known as 'The Stupid Ages'), a selfish robot who spends his time drinking booze and making wisecracks, and a social outcast cyclops who tries to be professional, maybe a little too much. The rest of the company is a century-and-a-half-old mad scientist, a Jamaican paper-pusher who likes to limbo and fill out forms, a ditzy Chinese girl from Mars, and a lobster alien who lacks neither social graces or an accurate idea of what the human body is, despite being the company doctor.
Also Scruffy, the janitor.
The Robot Chicken sketch parodying Armageddon, where the leader was chosen by call-in votes. The winner was Harrison Ford, who protests "I'm just an actor! I'm 62 years old!" but everyone expects him to act like a movie hero. Aerosmith fill the remaining slots on the team because the mission needs a cool theme song. They die trying to land.
Reporter: Don't we have highly trained astronauts?
Senator: Oh, that's something of a myth.
G.I. Joe: Renegades invokes this hard in the first episodes, with the team only tolerating each-other for the mission, and getting much worse for a bit until the end of the second episode when they're able to come together to stop a threat. They're still at odds for the next few episodes, but gradually seem to come together as everyone gets to know each other.
The ThunderCats, both the original series and the 2011 reboot, were survivors of a great catastrophe (in the original series, it was the destruction of their home planet Thundera while in the reboot, it was the destruction of the kingdom Thundera). The original group consists of a young inexperienced prince with a great destiny, an old soldier, an Action Girl, a scientist (original series)/arrogant prince (reboot), two Tagalong Kids, and the Team Pet.
The "Mane Six" of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. They're a graduate student taught by a Physical Goddess, a stubborn apple farmer, a hyperactive baker, a brash sound barrier-breaking flyer, a prim and proper fashion designer, and an overly shy animal caretaker. Princess Celestia, said Physical Goddess, seems to consider them to be the best team to deal with powerful threats to Equestria like Nightmare Moon and Discord (due to the Elements of Harmony) and a stubborn dragon whose smoke threatens the well-being of their country (which they must deal with without the Elements of Harmony). Nightmare Moon was defeated by the Mane Six after they had known each other for less than a day.
In The Simpsons episode "Moneybart", Lisa tries to apply this trope to Bart's baseball team, ala the Oakland A's, but it doesn't quite work.
Bart: We're not losers! Last year we finished six and five.
Nelson: And we're not lovable. We had a tall freckle-faced kid on the team that we picked on 'til he quit. Hey, Splatterface, how's the weather up there? It's too bad, cause he's a great hitter, but it's worth it.
Phineas and Ferb: At the beginning of the second Meap episode, the animators who made the trailers to it were described as a "ragtag group".