Ragtag Bunch of Misfits

"Steal from everyone."

"Wait, wait. You ARE a rag-tag group of adventurers with unclear goals and good hearts, right? …Yeah, you people are my LARGEST threat."
Galgarion, RPG World

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 commander when they aren't going at each other? Yeah, them.

This is usually justified in one of several ways:

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. Only distinctly less magnificent.

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.


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  • The Charlestown Cougars, a fake women's high school basketball team assembled for the purpose of Nike commercials.

    Asian Animation 
  • 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.

    Fan Fic 

  • 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.

     Tabletop Games  
  • 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.
  • Every Dungeons & 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.
  • What any player group in Twilight 2000 is. By the year 2000 US Army units included lots and lots of personnel who were hardly regular army: other NATO military personnel from defunct units, deserters from the other side, and even local recruits. The 1st edition rulebook recommends that at least half of the group be American, but anything else goes.
  • 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 fan film 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.
    • Commander Farsight's personal retinue, The Eight. Listing them off, there's Commander Brightsword note , Commander Bravestorm note , Commander Arra'kon note , Commander Sha'vastos note , Sub-commander Torchstar note , Broadside Shas'vre Ob'lotai 9-0 note , and Honour-Shas'vre O'vesa note .



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     Western Animation  
  • Played with in Transformers: Beast Wars. The oft-bickering good-guy Maximals are somewhat of a ragtag group, the crew of an exploration vessel forced into battle and joined by a Defector from Decadence, but the Predacon antagonists fit the trope even better, backstabbing, scheming, and jockeying for position constantly.
    • 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 dour Knife Nut and a Cloudcuckoolander acrobat, managed to pull off a coup in a hostile city) and the third time resulted in a crushing, ruinous defeat
  • Stated outright in the Opening Narration of The Pirates of Dark Water: "At his side is an unlikely but loyal crew of misfits."
  • 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 has neither social graces nor an accurate idea of human anatomy, despite being the company doctor for humans.
    • 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.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force focused (or was supposed to be focused at least) on Ben assembling a team from various Half-Human Hybrids to stop an Alien Invasion. In the finale, he assembles said team, which ends up made of himself, his Magical Girl cousin Gwen, his former Nemesis Kevin Levin, Time Travelling scientist Paradox, his Love Interest Julie and her alien pet Ship, Half-Pyronite Alan Albright, Technopath Cooper and temporary allied supervillain Darkstar. And that's just those who are in the battle from the beginning.
    Gwen Tennyson: We're too late!
    Ben Tennyson: It's never too late. New plan!... Working on it.
    Kevin Levin: That's reassuring.
    Ben Tennyson: Got it! We break into the Highbreed Control Room and force the captain to make his ships retreat.
    Darkstar: That's your big plan?
    Ben Tennyson: Hey, how many times have I beaten you?
    Darkstar: Twice. But just at this moment, I don't see how.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Spies Reminiscent of Us" Vladimir Putin notes the reactivation of a Cold War sleeper spy would be an embarrassment equal to, "our 1981 failed Czechoslovakian occupation outpost which was penetrated by Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and their ragtag band of misfit soldiers who didn't even graduate."
  • 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".
  • The Animated Teen Titans, were specifically stated to have been formed because they don't fit in anywhere else. They include the former sidekick of a violent vigilante, a half-man/half-machine hybrid, a half-demon Lady of Black Magic, a green skinned animal shapeshifter, and an alien princess.

Alternative Title(s):

Rag Tag Band Of Misfits