[Flash sees a truck full of dynamite on a collision course with a bus full of nuns, who gasp and cross themselves]
Flash: You've gotta be kidding.
Sometimes, saving an Innocent Bystander from Doctor Demonica just won't cut it: you need more impact to showcase just how dire the threat is and make the scene exciting. Enter the Bus Full Of Innocents.
Despite the name, it doesn't have to be a bus. Any vehicle or enclosure full of Innocent Bystanders will do, and likewise any kind of person can be put at risk, though usually it will be people who are stunningly innocent, defenseless, and respectable to most viewers.
Major hero points for the super dude who saves it. It's the hero publicity equivalent of a politician kissing babies.
- Deliberately exploited by Light in Death Note, when he arranges for a criminal to hijack the bus he's riding on, as part of a scheme to get the name of the FBI agent who's tailing him.
- In one of the funnier Filler episodes of Dragon Ball Z, Goku and Piccolo save a schoolbus of children from falling off a cliff during their driving tests. Of course, they still fail the test.
- Another when Videl saves bus of senior citizens from a hijacking before "Great Saiyaman" arrives.
- An early episode of Sailor Moon turns this Up to Eleven by requiring the Senshi to save half a dozen busloads of victims from a Pocket Dimension.
- Digimon Adventure 02: During the first scuffle with the Daemon Corps, SkullSatamon lifts a bus full of schoolchildren and threatens to throw it. At this point he's pretty much already routed the heroes, so he's doing it for no reason other than shits and giggles.
- In the Pokémon: Mewtwo Returns special, Mewtwo saves a bus full of travelers from falling off Mt. Quena during a storm. He states he was simply ensuring no meddling rescue parties would prod into his and his clones' lives had there been an accident.
- Miracleman throws one at Johnny Bates during the infamous destruction of London. His narration notes that some apologists of his have said that the bus was empty when he threw it, but he himself admits it isn't true.
- In an early issue of Young Justice, Robin found himself riding an out of control superbike towards "Nuns driving a station wagon full of high explosives!" Next to the Great Wall of China.
- Kingdom Come. A tram full of innocents is in the crossfire of a brawl between AntiHeroes.
- In Shadowpact Doctor Gotham's introduction has him levitating a bus full of school children as insurance against the heroes doing anything stupid.
- The Strangers from Malibu Comics. A tram car full of every day people gets zapped by alien energy and crashes into a sports car. Everyone gets super-powers, even the sports car driver (Night Man). Cue start to various series.
- During Knightfall, the Jean-Paul Valley Batman has to let Abattoir free so he can save a bus full of children he hijacked. Az-Bats is not happy about it.
- One issue of Marvel's G.I. Joe had Major Bludd take one of these hostage. The timely intervention of Stalker and Grand Slam resolved the situation.
- In Astro City story "Pastoral", Team Carnivore wants to flush the hero Roustabout out, so they arrive at the carnival and start to menace the crowds there, including threats of violence if he doesn't show up.
- In Shazam!: The New Beginning, Black Adam hijacks a plane full of international delegates after being released from hyperspace, and it's up to Captain Marvel to save them.
- In The Incredibles, several items on Bob's wall of memorabilia are notes from innocents he personally saved. A bus is involved. (Earlier in the film, we see him save a train full of commuters about to speed off a broken elevated track destroyed indirectly by Bomb Voyage.)
- During a chase sequence in the Show Within a Show in Bolt, one of the Mooks placing a Ticking Time Bomb on a fuel truck which is right alongside a school bus.
- Parodied in the opening sequence of Toy Story 3, in which Mr Potato Head gives Woody a choice between catching him and saving a trainful of 'orphans' (Troll dolls with their heads sticking out the train windows).
- In Superman: Doomsday, the Toyman hijacks a school bus full of children and holds it over the edge of a building with his mechanical spider, threatening to dump it if the police don't back off. Lois Lane manages to sneak on board and get most of the children out, but ends up falling with the last child on the bus when the Toyman drops it, only to soon be rescued by Superman (who turns out to be a clone under Lex Luthor's control).
- Bling features an intense Cable-Car Action Sequence, where the villain willfully damage a school bus full of children (and momentarily turned into a cable car) to get the heroes off his back. They have to struggle very hard to avoid the bus to plummet to the ground.
- The Dark Knight has this trope and its inverse as part of a Sadistic Choice: A ferry full of civilians and a ferry full of felons. The Joker gives each ferry the ability to destroy the other, and tells them unless one is destroyed both will explode at midnight.
- The Spider-Man Trilogy:
- Superman (1978). After Lex Luthor triggers a major earthquake in California, Superman saves a bus full of schoolchildren from falling off a bridge.
- Superman II (1980). Ursa and Non throw a bus full of people at Superman during the fight in Metropolis. He's slammed into a wall while stopping it.
- The Siege plays this trope twice. The first time, some Islamic terrorists detonate a paint bomb on an MTA bus, and no one gets hurt. This is a warning. The second time, a group of armed individuals take a different bus hostage with real explosives. Hubbard is able to negotiate the release of a group of children from the bus, but the terrorists proceed to blow up the bus just as a group of elderly passengers are being released.
- In the 2008 movie Traitor, one of the main plots was destroying several buses with suicide bombers. The Mole in the terrorist organization defeats this plot by putting all the suicide bombers on one bus.
- The main action of the movie Speed has the main characters on a Bus Full of Innocents that can't go under 50 miles an hour without going kaboom.
- Cemetery Man involves a bus full of Boy Scouts crashing. They all come back as zombie Boy Scouts.
- Used hilariously in Batman: The Movie. Batman is trying to dispose of a Cartoon Bomb, but there are innocent bystanders everywhere he tries to throw it away.
- Used as a humorous Lampshade Hanging in Short Circuit:
Dr. Marner: What if (Number 5) decides to melt down a bus full of nuns? How would you write the headline on that?
Ben Jabituya: Nun soup?
Newton Crosby: horrified, covers Ben's mouth Ben!
- Played straight in Mighty Joe Young to perfect effect and the added bonus of the title character saving himself from Death Row. Who would want to shoot him after he saves more than a dozen orphans from a burning building?
- During the first live-action Transformers movie, Bonecrusher actually rams into a bus, breaking it in half in a fireball of death, and emerges uncathed, Terminator-style.
- A popular joke is that he actually ran through a literal bus full of nuns.
- "Bonecrusher hate Catholic School!"
- The opening scene of the movie Meltdown (also known as High Risk) has the hero trying to disarm a bomb that's been attached to a bus not only filled with schoolkids, but also has his wife on board. However, he cuts the wrong wire and the bus blows up, killing everyone inside. Yeah, it's not a very cheerful start.
- Dirty Harry used a school bus full of children as the setting for the film's climax, in which Scorpio held them all hostage as our hero chose to disobey orders to pay him his ransom and simply leaps on the school bus himself.
- This trope nearly happens in My Life In Ruins, but the bus is not yet hanging from the cliff, the driver manages to stop it just in time.
- The climax of The Oxford Murders involves a threat to an actual bus full of innocents.
- In Hobo with a Shotgun, one of the BigBads torches a bus full of elementry school children to show that he means business. No, no one saves them, and yes, we do see a tiny charred corpse.
- In Swordfish, the Villain Protagonist has loaded all of his hostages, himself and his henchmen on a transit bus that the police have provided. The absurdity of this is lampshaded by one of the police officers, who point out there's no where the bus can drive that the cops can't follow. At least, until a helicopter shows up and picks up the bus, carrying it off into the air.
- The plot of Demolition Man is kicked-off when the hero fails to save a bus full of innocents. He regains his confidence when he learns saving the bus was impossible no matter what he did.
- In Man of Steel, young Clark is aboard such a bus when he saves his classmates from drowning.
- In the Apocalypse film series movie Revelation, Thorold Stone investigates a bomb explosion that killed a bus full of school children, believing it to be the work of the Haters (the One Nation Earth's name for the group of underground Christians that emerged during the Tribulation), but it turns out to be an inside job by One Nation Earth agents.
- Unsurprisingly this appears in Invasion U.S.A. (1985). The evil communist-led terrorists plant a bomb on a school bus, but Chuck Norris tears it off the bus while driving past.
- Independence Day: Resurgence. Julius Levinson foolishly drives a schoolbus with children into Area 51, figuring it's the safest place to be (the aliens tried to destroy it in the last movie, so he should know better). Instead the bus ends up being chased by a giant queen alien, who's rather pissed off after its spaceship got destroyed and is apparently intent on taking it out on the first humans it sees.
- One of Graham Masterton's Manitou series books has a yellow school bus being taken over by a Native American spirit of evil. The hostage situation does not end well either for the kids, the police trying to rescue them, and certainly not for the grade-school teacher who meets a particularly horrible death trying to defend her pupils.
- Possible Trope Namer — an episode of All in the Family had Archie injured in a minor accident, which was as much his fault as the other person's. Thinking that the only person who would really be out would be a "giant insurance company," Archie rejects a settlement offer and instead contacts a lawyer, pushing a very skewed version of the incident. The lawyer later comes by the house to tell him the bad news: they're gonna have to drop the suit and take a much-reduced settlement. When asked why, the attorney notes that there were witnesses that dispute Archie's story. Archie still wants to try, but:
Lawyer: Mr. Bunker, let me give you some free legal advice: In a court of law, you can't beat —
The rest of the cast in unison: A STATION WAGON FULL OF NUNS.
- Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer had a bus with five innocents, one a little kid, murdered by a vampire. Not one, but two, of said innocents later became Trick Bosses.
- Angel encounters a vampire Serial Killer who's planning this. It turns out he's taking advantage of this trope to send Angel off on a false trail while he attacks Angel's Friend on the Force. Angel realises this however.
- The second season of Veronica Mars revolves around the Bus Full of Innocents crashing.
- Used as backstory to 24, where Jack Bauer capturing and torturing a terrorist who had hijacked a bus carrying innocents becomes a plot point in season seven, where the Department of Justice is filing charges against him for it.
- Subverted in an episode of Smallville. Metallo explains the reason that he hates Clark: Clark saved a bus from crashing, but later, one of its passengers murdered Metallo's sister.
- An episode of Kamen Rider Fourze had the titular Rider try to save a bus full of cute high school girls from a Zodiart who was jealous that they all ignored him in his human form. Though Fourze stopped the monster, it was Shun with the Powerdizer who stopped the bus.
- Doctor Who:
- Horrifyingly subverted in the episode "Midnight". The Doctor is trapped in a Bus Full of Innocents when an unseen alien thing invades. Since he's the only one with enough knowledge to deal with the alien, the passengers suspect him of being the cause of their trouble, and eventually nearly manage to murder him simply to save their own lives. They're all normal, good, innocent people, and none of them were prepared for What You Are in the Dark.
- Played With in the later episode "Planet of the Dead", in which the Doctor is (once again) trapped on a bus with innocent passengers while trying to get rid of dangerous aliens. He remembers "Midnight" and shudders for a bit, but quickly manages to convince everyone that he can be trusted and saves the day without too much effort.
- In Season 2 of Luther, a Serial Killer who plans to set himself up as a modern-day Bogeyman is found to have got hold of a bus via his underworld contacts. He uses it to kidnap some schoolchildren whom he plans to have disappear so no-one will ever know what happened to them.
- An episode of Walker, Texas Ranger finds a bus full of schoolchildren buried in a muddy pit dug out of a field where not only will the kids die but clues to the bus's location will be erased.
- In the pilot of The Equalizer, Robert McCall's estranged son Scott is complaining about how his father was gone for most of his life on missions for his No Such Agency. But once he heard a news report about someone who got a busload of kids to the airport as a country collapsed into civil war, and likes to think that his dad did that. It's implied that his father was in fact the Mysterious Protector concerned.
- Attempted in Gotham with a bus full of cheerleaders. Thankfully, it failed. The point Jerome Valeska tried and failed to prove with that bus? Every Car Is a Pinto, even those that are yellow and have a long wheelbase.
- Person of Interest. At the start of "Dead Reckoning", John Reese wakes up wearing an explosive vest placed on him by the villain. When it looks like Reese is about to attack her in anger, she tells Reese to look around. They're on a bus with women and children.
- Mission: Impossible: In "Banshee", an Arms Dealer blows up a bus full of old age pensioners in order to stir up The Troubles and increase sales of his product. It is this heinous act that gets the IMF sent to shut him down.
- Country singer/storyteller Red Sovine likes this trope. 'Phantom 309' had a hitchhiker picked up by a trucker who turned out to be a ghost-he'd given his life by swerving off the road to save a camper full of kids in a snowstorm. Another one, 'Little Joe', had the driver swerve to miss the bus full of kids and end up blinded after falling down the mountain.
- One of the random street crimes in True Crime: New York City involves rescuing a hijacked bus. Interestingly, the bus is one of the few vehicles in the game you can't drive.
- Milla's delusions in Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin are that she is trapped in a bus full of orphans stuck on train tracks, and is forced to hold back the train with her telekinesis.
- Played quite literally in the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, during a fight between the Supreme Six (a team of heroes generally considered second-tier) and the Fatal Four (a team of villains generally considered not second-tier at all), when Urania of the Fatal Four used her gravity control powers to hold a literal bus full of innocent bystanders hostage.
- In Warp Zone Project, a Card-Carrying Villain that is being held up by a super-hero that supposed to let him go sooner or later asks if the emprisonment will last any longer because he's late to take a school bus hostage.
- Superman: The Animated Series: In "My Girl", Superman crashes a weapons deal by one of Lex Luthor's lackeys. Despite the guns being futuristic laser guns that cause things to explode, they prove to have the same effect on Superman as any other gun. The lackey then spots a train in the distance heading towards a bridge and uses the gun to blow that up instead, forcing Superman to save the train while the lackey gets away.
- Justice League: In the episode "Legends," a literal bus full of nuns is on a collision course with a truck full of dynamite. Rescuing the nuns distracts the Flash enough to get him captured by Dr. Blizzard after he had easily won their fight. However, given the reveal of the next episode, the actual villain had likely warped reality to make it so Dr. Blizzard wouldn't lose before he was supposed to. Or the actual villain warped reality to prevent the Justice League from figuring out the truth.
- Danny Phantom saved one of these in the episode "Forever Phantom."
- SWAT Kats did this twice.
- In "The Giant Bacteria", the titular monster actually eats the subway car full of passengers.
- In "The Deadly Pyramid", a giant mummy threatens a bus full of tourists.
- On one episode of Clone High, Abe is so sleep-deprived that he almost crashes his car into a bus full of pandas.
- In a Ben 10 episode, Kevin (as Upgrade) cuts the brakes of a cable car with people and sends it to fall into the ocean. Ben saves them.
- In X-Men: Evolution episode "Growing Pains", a car hanging over the side of a bridge is about to fall on a school bus full of kids. Scott, Kitty and Kurt start arguing over whether or not to help, because they're afraid of revealing themselves. In the end they decide to help after seeing the car beginning to go over the edge. They end up saving the kids and the man in the car.
- In The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror IX, one of Snake's three strikes is for blowing up a bus full of nuns (but he insists it was self-defense).
- Family Guy parodied this. Peter has to take over as Death while he recovered from an injury, and does such a bad job of it, Death decides he has to do something big to be taken seriously. He decides Peter needs to kill the cast of Dawson's Creek. He gets on the plane, but when he sees the other passengers, he has second thoughts, and finally says he can't do it when he sees a group of Girl Scouts singing "We like being alive. Oh, we like being alive..."
- The New Adventures of Superman: In "The Wisp of Wickedness", the possessed hat causes a crane driver to attempt to drop a school bus into a metal crusher.
- The Powerpuff Girls had to save a school bus they were currently riding in from crashing when Mr. Mime (Not that one) removed the color from the traffic lights. In "Him Diddle Diddle," they had to save another school bus from falling off a cliff.