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Bus Full of Innocents

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Black Siren: Flash, look!
[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.

Common set ups are for the bus to be teetering perilously on a broken bridge or cliff, and a villain to use it in a Sadistic Choice along with the Love Interest.

Major hero points for the super dude who saves it. It's the hero publicity equivalent of a politician kissing babies.

Not to be confused with "Bus Full Of Nuns", the old name for Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking. Buses full of nuns are popular for this trope, though. Also has nothing to do with Passing Judgment.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Death Note: Deliberately exploited by Light 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.
  • 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.
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • In one filler episode, Goku and Piccolo save a schoolbus of children from falling off a cliff during their driving tests. Of course, they still fail the test.
    • In another episode, Videl saves a bus of senior citizens from a hijacking before "Great Saiyaman" arrives.
  • Marvel Future Avengers: After hijacking the Hulk Buster armor, the Green Goblin shows his callous disregard for innocent bystanders by using the armor to try and kill the people inside a bus.
  • 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.
  • Sailor Moon: In an early episode, the Senshi save half a dozen busloads of victims from a Pocket Dimension.

    Comic Books 
  • Astro City: In 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.
  • Batman:
    • During Knightfall, Azrael has to let Abattoir free so he can save a bus full of children he hijacked. Az-Bats is not happy about it.
    • Batman: Black and White: In "Good Evening, Midnight", an escaped prison inmate hijacks a school bus, and the driver's attempt to fight back causes the bus to veer off the road and end up hanging precariously half off a bridge. Batman is called in to save the day.
  • One issue G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel) had Major Bludd take one of these hostage. The timely intervention of Stalker and Grand Slam resolved the situation.
  • Miracleman throws one bus 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 Shadowpact, Doctor Gotham's introduction has him levitating a bus full of school children as insurance against the heroes doing anything stupid.
  • 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.
  • Superman:
    • Kingdom Come. A tram full of innocents is in the crossfire of a brawl between AntiHeroes when Superman arrives at the place.
    • The Great Phantom Peril: Superman saves several cars full of innocents which were being juggled by an uncaring Faora.
    • In "This Is Not My Life", Supergirl saves a tram full of innocents which was being attacked by Ivo Amazo's flying robots.
    • At the last chapter of The Unknown Supergirl, Linda Danvers saves a couple whose car was careening down a precipice.
    • In Strangers at the Heart's Core, Kara stops a car which is running off the highway. When she checks the driver, who is still asleep at the wheel, Supergirl finds she is one of the students who voluntereed for Sylvia Shadow's sleep experiments. This revelation prompts Supergirl to investigate "Professor" Shadow's "research".
    • In The Phantom Zone, three Kryptonian criminals called Kru-El, Va-Kox and Jax-Ur steal Hal Jordan's Power Battery. When Green Lantern gives chase, they knock over a transport truck driving down the freeway. Hal rushes to save the cars surrounding the truck, and Jax-Ur exploits his distraction by slamming him into the road.
    • Supergirl (Rebirth): In one scene -pictured above-, Supergirl stops a school bus from falling off a bridge.
    • Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom: When the titular villainess starts her rampage across Metropolis, she begins flinging cars full of innocent people high in the air to lure Superman out in the open.
  • The Ultraverse: 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.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Once during the Golden Age Diana was once on the bus of innocents, and had to run up and pull the driver out of his seat when he fell asleep at the wheel due to Saturnian Lassitude Gas.
    • Judgment In Infinity: During the commotion caused by the Adjudicator's appearance, a car careening out of control almost crashes into a school bus, but it is stopped in its tracks by Wonder Woman's lasso.
  • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • Bling features an intense Cable-Car Action Sequence, where the villain willfully damages 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • In The LEGO Ninjago Movie, one of the things Garmadon orders his generals to do is to make a school bus full of little children dangle precariously on a highway. Lloyd later deals with the general trying to push the vehicle into the water on the way to deal with Garmadon and he catches it with his dragon mech when it falls.
  • 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).
  • 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).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Cemetery Man involves a bus full of Boy Scouts crashing. They all come back as zombie Boy Scouts.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Dreaming the Reality begins with the two Dark Action Girl assassin protagonists, trying to assassinate a rival mob leader using a tripwire-activated exploding trap, but unfortunately the trap was prematurely triggered by a schoolbus full of kids and killing everyone on board.
  • The opening scene of the movie High Risk (also known as Meltdown) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Man of Steel, young Clark is aboard such a bus when he saves his classmates from drowning.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • SHAZAM! (2019): Shazam shows off his lightning powers (while singing along to "Eye of the Tiger", no less), which causes him to accidentally fry the tires off a bus and have it fall off a bridge. Thankfully he manages to catch it before it crashes, though he has to wait a minute for a random dog that's standing at the spot where he's going to put the bus down.
    Shazam: Did you see what I just did?!
    Freddy: Yeah, you electrocuted a bus and almost killed those people!
    Shazam: And then I CAUGHT it!
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Spider-Man Trilogy:
    • This happens in the first movie with a tram car, including the Sadistic Choice.
    • The second one too with a train, when Octavius sabotages the controls. Spidey stops the train, which takes such a great physical toll on him that he faints.
  • Superman: The Movie (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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • During the climax of Transformers (2007), Bonecrusher actually rams into a bus, breaking it in half in a fireball of death, and emerges unscathed, Terminator-style.
  • Trick 'r Treat: In "Halloween School Bus Massacre", a group of trick-or-treaters travels to a local flooded quarry where Macy recalls the urban legend of the "Halloween School Bus Massacre," which claimed the lives of eight children with disabilities in a school bus on Halloween. The driver, who had been paid by their worn-out parents to dispose of them, drove them to that place to kill them. One of them broke free and attempted to escape. But instead wound up sending the bus over the quarry edge with the children shackled inside. The children all perished and the driver was never heard from again.

  • 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In "Somnabulist", 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.
  • 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.
  • An episode of Criminal Minds has the UnSubs hijacking a school bus and forcing some of the students into a live-action video game.
  • Doctor Who:
    • Subverted in "Delta and the Bannermen". The 7th Doctor accompanies a space-busful of alien Navarino tourists to Wales in the 1950s, but one of them is the fugitive Queen of the Chimerons. Pursued by her enemies, the Bannermen, they vaporize the bus and its passengers as it is about to take off again, thinking she is aboard.
    • Horrifyingly subverted in "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 later on in "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.
  • The Electric Company: At least three segments of the series' regular animated short "The Adventures Of Letterman" used this, where the evil Spellbinder put school children on a specific mode of transportation in grave harm. One of the segments involved Spellbinder turning a school bus into an octopus. (The others were a train and a plane).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Supergirl reveals herself to the public by saving a plane full of innocents. A few episodes later, in the course of responding to various post-earthquake emergencies, Supergirl arrives just in time to prevent a school bus full of kids from falling off an elevated highway.
  • Supernatural:
    • Played straight in Season 1 when Sam and Dean board a commercial flight, despite Dean's fear of flying, to stop a demon from crashing it.
    • Gloriously Subverted in a Season 9 episode which features a bus full of white-clad church-choir singing women stopping by a biker bar and slaughtering the bikers there.
  • The Tick (2016): To keep The Tick and Arthur from chasing him, Ramses declares he will hit The Tick where it hurts, "Right in the civilians!". He tosses an explosive under a bus, which leaves it dangling perilously over a bridge.
  • The second season of Veronica Mars revolves around the Bus Full of Innocents crashing. A school bus carrying six Neptune High students and a teacher plunges off a cliff, killing all but one passenger. Veronica, who was supposed to be on the bus, makes it her mission to discover why the bus crashed and who is responsible.
  • 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.

  • 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.

    Theme Parks 
  • Used in Fast & Furious: Supercharged, a motion simulation-based dark ride at Universal Studios. One of the riders is actually a crime witness under protective custody, and the leader of an international crime syndicate is after them, kicking off the ride's plot. The Hollywood version is part of the Studio Tram tour. The Orlando version is standalone, and takes the trope more literally; the ride vehicles are 'party buses', and the innocents on board are heading to an after-party celebrating Dom Toretto's latest win.

    Urban Legends 
  • When seat belt-wearing mandates began going into effect in the early 1980s, and some automakers began equipping cars with automatic seat belts – all of which had manual releases in case of an accident or other failure – several stories began circulating citing the new laws and equipment as dangerous, if not deadly. One version of the story had a bus full of passengers – most commonly, either nuns or Boy Scouts – involved in a fiery crash with all of the mentioned innocents killed instantly. More information on the urban legend itself can be found here.

    Video Games 
  • In Little Inferno, one item for sale is the "Celebration Bus." Like everything else, it can be lit on fire for no good reason. As it burns, a gaggle of children's screams issue from it before it explodes.
  • 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.


    Web Original 
  • Happens a few times in RWBY
    • In the Black Trailer, Blake and Adam storm an train filled with Dust to steal. However, when Blake realizes that Adam is going to blow up a train with civilians still on it, this is what leads to her Heel–Face Turn as she cuts the link with the civilians on it and leaves with them, leaving Adam behind.
    • In Episode One of Volume Six, Qrow, Team RWBY, Oscar and "Team JNR" have a train attacked by Grimm due to the Relic of Knowledge attracting them. Ren, Nora and Jaune ferry the civilians to the other end of the train while the others take care of the Grimm.
  • In WarpZone 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.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • On one episode of Clone High, Abe is so sleep-deprived that he almost crashes his car into a bus full of pandas.
  • Danny Phantom saved one of these in the episode "Forever Phantom".
  • 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..."
  • 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.
  • Kappa Mikey: The in-universe show LilyMu had an episode where Gonard holds a bus full of schoolchildren and Lily hostage over the side of a bridge, and Mikey is expected to save both while Mitsuki and Guano deal with Gonard from their airship. He fails to hold both up at once, even though the bus is a prop that even Guano can lift. After an adventure where Mikey tries to prove he's tough, the scene is reshot to a more logical solution where Mitsuki uses the airship to save the bus while Mikey saves Lily and deals with Gonard.
  • 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 (1998) 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.
  • 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).
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: "Shadow of Malevolence" centers around the Republic's efforts to keep a powerful Separatist warship from destroying an unarmed medical center holding only medical staff and badly injured soldiers.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Young Justice: There's a Running Gag of sorts where a school bus full of kids driven by the exact same guy is constantly in danger of crashing into something or falling off a bridge in numerous episodes. Season 4 eventually reveals that this running gag is the result of Klarion possessing the bus and traveling through time and space trying to find Zatanna after he was "killed" by Child, a Lord of Chaos like Klarion, sent to remove him for not being chaotic enough.