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Carnival of Killers

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A Carnival of Killers occurs when a villain either hires the best assassins from around the world and sends them after the hero, or puts out an open contract on the hero's head that attracts a variety of assassins. A typical Carnival of Killers will involve a large collection of assassins with radically different styles (e.g. a Cold Sniper, a Mad Bomber, etc), and sometimes will include last season villains that have since fallen below the Sorting Algorithm of Evil's current threshold. The assassins may work together, albeit with a tendency to eventually betray each, or be in open competition from the outset.

In a story that wishes to evoke an "international" flavor, all the killers may make no secret of their creepy foreignness and might even dress as mildly absurd ethnic stereotypes. It's not unusual for some of them to be political radicals or even terrorists who are taking a break from their usual "hobbies."

Compare Legion of Doom and Quirky Miniboss Squad. Not comparable to Circus of Fear, unless being chased by the world's top assassins posing as clowns is the hero's worst fear.

Compare and contrast Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, who are usually the protagonists and/or the focus of the story who are just as radically different individually as this trope.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Describes the rest of the world for anyone who puts on the Number 2 Headband in Afro Samurai: Afro routinely fought gangs of heavily armed killers determined to take the headband from him, even when he was just minding his own business.
  • Akame ga Kill! is a subversion of the usual formula since the Carnival of Killers are the protagonists. Night Raid accepts assassination contracts on the corrupt and powerful.
  • Akuma no Riddle is about a girl who's the target of twelve assassins, until one of them decides to defend her instead. From that on, it's "only" eleven.
  • In Arachnid, Alice Fuji is made the target of such a game by an organization of insect-themed assassins. However, the reward for killing her gets increased for every assassin that dies, implying one purpose of this is to set them against each other and weed out the weak members of the organization.
  • The many and various groups and individuals trying to kill Bambi and retrieve the stolen child in Bambi And Her Pink Gun, which include a gang of smuggling truckers in rigs bigger than most battleships, a powerful mafia family, a posse of biker cowboys, a cyborg luchadore, and psychopathic rock star Gabba King.
  • In Berserk, we have the "Bakiraka" an elite group of Kushan Assassins led by Silat. Then there's the "Black Dog Knights", a not so elite group of murdering scum led by the biggest murdering scumbag of them all: Wyald. Both are employed by the King of Midland to track down the outlawed Band of the Hawk.
  • Happens twice in Black Lagoon, once in response to the Vampire Twins, and once in response to Greenback Jane. In the second example, one of the episodes of the arc is even called "The Roanapur Freakshow Circus". (It sums up a lot about Black Lagoon when you point out that several of the characters involved then end up working with the heroes in the "Baile de la Muerte" arc.)
    • It sums up more when you realize that two of the characters defending the target during the second carnival participated in the first.
  • The aptly-named "International Assassins" story arc from Chainsaw Man plays with this in typically offbeat, subversive faction. Of the four assassin units hired to capture protagonist Denji, one is taken out largely by accident, the second forms a temporary alliance with the protagonists against a common enemy, and the third party turns out to actually be a non-sentient puppet for the fourth and most insidious assassin, who then becomes the common enemy the second allies with the protagonists against.
  • Happens in the Yorknew City Arc of Hunter Hunter. After the Phantom Troupe has proven to be too much for the Mafia to handle alone, by killing their Praetorian Guard, the Elders call in the most famous assassins in the world to finish them off, including Killua's father and grandfather.
  • The villains in Part 3 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure embody this concept. The main villain, Dio, hires a group of assassins in order to kill the heroes, or at least slow them down long enough for him to reach his full strength. These assassins come from all over the world, have a large variety of backgrounds (one habitually crashed planes and trains For the Evulz, one was a habitual gambler) have a large variety of ways in which they kill (stealing your soul by beating you in a high stakes game, killing you in your dreams, or simply shooting you with a gun with seeking bullets), include some incredibly strange individuals (including a sentient sword, a bird, and a baby), and some even embody stereotypes (like Hol Horse, a modern-day cowboy).
    • Part 4 contains a lighter version of this. The early villains were all empowered by one man, but his goal wasn't to assassinate the heroes and most of the early villains fought the heroes for their own reasons. This changes in the latter half of the story, where the new villain's father is empowering people on the fly in order to find someone who can stop the heroes from tracking down his son. This ends up including such characters as a gangster granted the power to drain people's life forces, a cat that comes back from the dead as a plant, a kid who can steal your energy by winning in rock-paper-scissors, and a man who can fold you into paper if he sees your fear.
    • Part 5 contains its own variant, where the group of assassins are all from a mafia family that the protagonists also belong to. The heroes want to overthrow the boss and create a nicer mafia, but they're tasked with guarding the boss' daughter who becomes a target for everyone else. While the villains mostly belonging to a single Italian gang means less variety in certain aspects, the villains still showcase a wide variety of approaches and designs.
  • Frequently ended up on the wrong end of Oogami Itto's sword in Lone Wolf and Cub. Hired by the Yagyu clan, until the situation got desperate enough that they revealed themselves to wear this mantle as well.
  • A favorite trope of Lupin III:
    • The Lupin III: The Italian Adventure, plays with it by having the colorful group of assassins include Goemon. They are secretly assembled by a rising Italian politician to kill a ruthless African dictator. Turns out the politician just wanted unrestricted access to the dictator's oil fields, and he has his own mole within the assassins turn on their cohorts to keep his secret.
    • Lupin III: Part 5 plays the trope straight in the first part of the series when the dark web site Marco Polo sets a wild band of killers on Lupin as revenge for him stealing the hacker behind their success.
  • The Seven Warlords of the Sea in One Piece — to a degree, as not all of them are antagonistic towards Luffy. CP9 probably counts as a straighter example, and they're actual assassins as opposed to the Warlords...
    • Baroque Works plays this straight.
  • Spy X Family: Yor is assigned to protect Olka Gretcher and her infant son from dozens of assassins sent to kill them as they escape Ostania on a cruise ship.
  • The second half of the anime Trigun is about Vash trying to stay alive while keeping the 12 Gung Ho Guns at bay as they come at him.
  • In Until Death Do Us Part, one of these was called against Mamoru by Edge Turus. Notable in that the "target" then spread the word that he'd be in a certain location at a specific time, and when they gathered there, took out the assassins all at once.
  • In Yaiba the Seven Revenant Swordsmen summoned by Onimaru during the Ryuujin Orbs arc, who are all famous warriors from the past, including monks, ninjas, samurai, and a Warrior Poet assassin.

    Comic Books 
  • The first story arc in All-Star Batman (not the Frank Miller one) has Batman targeted by one after Two-Face puts a bounty on him. Notable participants include Killer Moth, Firefly, Killer Croc, and Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. Also a variety of ordinary citizens, the Gotham P.D. and Alfred Pennyworth, all of whom Two-Face is blackmailing to some extent. And then Penguin, Black Mask, and Great White Shark join in by hiring the KGBeast to kill Batman and Two-Face.
  • Hawkeye was subject to one of these in Avengers Spotlight #24-25 when Crossfire put a bounty on his arm.
  • One of the Batman Versus Predator mini-series had this running as B plot. An open bounty on Batman brought a variety of hitmen to Gotham to attempt to collect.
  • Button Man: When Harry's leverage on Senator Jacklin becomes useless after the latter's death, the Voices organize a massive game by sending thirteen other Button Men to go after Harry in a cross-country hunt. They get into each other's way to get to Harry a bunch of times, which is handily exploited by him.
  • In the "Run Like Hell" arc in Catwoman, the Penguin puts out a $1 million contract on Selina's head. This attracts a large number of Gotham's costumed criminals out of the woodwork to take a shot at her.
  • In the 14th issue of Daredevil, after word spreads about Ka-Zar's vibranium medallion, a motley crew of "agents from every nation and killers without a nation", in addition to the Plunderer and the police, all start gunning for Ka-Zar and Daredevil.
  • In the New 52 series of Harley Quinn, a $2 million bounty is placed on Harley's head, bring a veritable army of hired killers out of the woodwork to try to claim it.
  • I Hate Fairyland: In Issue #15, a group of Fairyland's best mercenaries are hired to kill Gert before she can finally make her way home. They briefly argue over who gets to kill her, but that's brought to a quick resolution when they're told that they'll all be paid equally regardless of who finishes her off.
  • In the "6 Gun War" arc in Jonah Hex, Quentin Turnbull recruits a variety of assassins from around the world to bring him Jonah's head, including an Irish boxer, a Persian assassin, a Masai lion-hunter, and a Mexican Dual Wielding machetes.
  • The Gray Riders, a group of twelve mercenaries and assassins hired to hunt down and kill Red Sonja in the Legends of Red Sonja mini-series.
  • In Lex, a secret society aims to dispense justice where they think the legal system has failed. Their chosen method is to capture serial killers and other interesting types and offer them the choice of working for them or death. The comic's main team is a diverse group of assassins, including a gentleman bomber, hacker, SM-mistress, and Punisher-like ex-cop. By the third album, an escalating conflict with The Mafia makes Lex concentrate its forces and they call in every killer they control. Technically, Lex aims to be the good guys, but their morality is questionable and their assets approach can be quite brutal.
  • Marvel Fanfare #10-#12 had Black Widow dealing with a Gender-Equal Ensemble of six, internationally diverse assassins employed by the main villain. They were:
  • This happened to Moon Knight a few times too. One incident had "the Council of Five" hire five assassins, including a sniper called Ice, a demolitions expert going by Boom-Boom, a knife specialist called Shiv, and a nunchaku-wielding martial artist going by Dragon.
    • Another case involved Moon Knight trying to protect two businessmen from a trio of assassins called Gun, Fist, and Blade. In a twist, the assassins turned out to be the good guys, the businessmen were millennia-old cultists who had to regularly sacrifice children to keep their immortality.
  • An early arc in Punisher: War Zone had the New York mob hiring the seven best assassins in the world to hunt down the Punisher. Such things are something of an occupational hazard for The Punisher.
    • Deconstructed in The Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank, where a gangster employs three badass killers to take out the Punisher. The first guy is a Martial Arts expert "with a black belt in anything you care to name." Punisher says that he "knows a little myself", but settles on simply shoving the guy onto a subway track. The second guy is some kind of Neo-Cowboy Gunslinger, famous for a firefight with a police officer, where he ducked the bullet fired at him and shot the cop dead. The Punisher riddles him with an UZI. note  Lastly we have an ex-Marine sniper and Desert Storm veteran. Punisher runs him over with a car.
  • Red Robin introduces the Council of Spiders, a spider-themed carnival of killers that decides to take on another carnival of killers, the League of Assassins.
  • The Scorpion: In The Mask of Truth, Cardinal Trebaldi puts a 1,000 gold coin price on the Scorpion's head. Every assassin in Rome tries to claim it.
  • These groups get sent after the Secret Six all the time. In fact, the roster of the Six themselves read as a veritable carnival of killers:
    Deadshot: World-class marksman with a death wish.
    Catman: Feral tracker and knife expert.
    Scandal: Strategist with a healing factor and great at close combat.
    Ragdoll: Contortionist and thief with surgically augmented flexibility.
    Cheshire: Assassin and poison expert with a penchant for killing members of her own family.
    Knockout: Superhumanly strong former gladiator and enforcer for an evil space god.
    Parademon: Mindless drone of aforementioned evil space god who gained sentience.
    Jeanette: Practically immortal banshee dominatrix with super strength.
    Mad Hatter: Head wear and Lewis Carroll-obsessed murderous dwarf with mind-control technology.
    Bane: Legendary mercenary who's been on and off an experimental steroid that makes him insane.
    Fiddler: Genius musician who kills with hypersonic violin.
    Harley Quinn: Crazed psychologist, gymnast, and Joker's ex-girlfriend.
  • In Silverblade, Vermillion hires a trio of assassins to hunt and kill Milestone for his Snuff Film. He even holds auditions, and disposes of the one who doesn't make the cut. The three selected use a laser, an electrified sword, and a flamethrower.
  • In the Sin City tale, Hell and Back, the protagonist deals with one assassin after another. All of the assassins belonged to the same guild, however.
    • Also done in the first story. Marv has to deal with a SWAT team, two hitmen, a cannibal Serial Killer, and a group of federal agents all assigned to take him down.
  • The Spider-Man storyline "Identity Crisis" is about Spider-Man being framed for murder and a $5,000,000 bounty on his head, dead or alive. Eventually he assumes several different costumed identities so he can keep up the superhero game without being harassed, but before he thought of that he was fighting off dozens of bounty hunters every day. The guys after the 5 mil ranged from mundane gun nuts and thrill-seekers (like the Hunters) to professionals (like Shotgun) to actual costumed villains (like Override and Aura).
  • In Teen Titans Annual #2, a mob boss hires one to protect him from the Vigilante and kill the Titans. It included Scorcher, Spear, Bazooka, Tanker, Slasher and Cheshire (the only one to survive/catch on and make subsequent appearances.)
  • In World's Finest #8, a mob boss puts an open contract on the Huntress's life, causing a large number of assassins to start targeting Helena in an attempt to collect.

    Comic Strips 
  • In his final appearance in the Dick Tracy strip, "Big Boy" Caprice created an open contract: an offer of one million dollars to anyone who killed Tracy. This led to multiple attempts on Tracy's life. (New writer Max Allan Collins used this storyline to kill off Moon Maid, Creator's Pet of the series; killed by a car bomb meant for Tracy.)

    Fan Works 
  • In Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat, All For One decides to significantly augment the suffering Izuku Midoriya is undergoing after all the villains in Japan have escaped and he has driven society to its knees by placing the biggest bounty the High Table has ever seen: $280 million and three Markers to anybody who captures Midoriya alive. The result: anybody who can commit murder or is a major schemer in the John Wick film series coming to Mustuafu with full intent of catching Deku and getting the money and the power to command All For One thrice. And one of said killers is the Baba Yaga himself...
  • Lost to Dust: A bounty is put on Yang Xiao Long and several bounty hunters attack her group, including Billy the Kid and Beowulf.
  • The New Adventures of Invader Zim: In Season 2, Episode 3, Nyx decides that the best way to help Zim is to eliminate Dib, and so puts an open bounty on him, causing several alien bounty hunters to descend on Earth in search of him. Among them are a Spider Person Trap Master, a centaur with Super Speed, a Vortian Combat Pragmatist, a cyborg Blood Knight, and a working pair of a robot and a flying goblin. This all ends when Zim finds out about the contract and, enraged by it, orders Nyx to call it off, which she does.
  • The Weaver Option: The pirate captains/admirals of Pavia are a disparate bunch and would happily kill one another given the chance. Despite this they will all answer the call of Duke Sliscus when he summons them, if only so he won't slaughter them and their crews.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Accident Man: After Mike kills Cliff, Big Ray orders the rest of the Murder, Inc. crew to hunt down and eliminate Mike. This consists of ex-special forces soldiers Bash Brothers Mick and Mac; Master Poisoner Poison Pete; finesse killer Finicky Fred; and katana wielding vamp Jane the Ripper.
  • In Alita: Battle Angel, as the titular protagonist starts growing to become a problem for the Big Bad, a group of cyborg bounty hunters and criminals, all with their own unique armaments, is hired to assassinate her in the course of a Motorball match.
  • The Assassination Bureau is about a member of a Carnival of Killers who challenges his fellow assassins by putting a bounty on himself. Things do not bode well for those other assassins.
  • Austin Powers: Among the various killers hired by Dr Evil are an Asian man using his shoe to kill people named Random Task and a vaguely Middle-Eastern man who angers Dr Evil but will just not die.
  • The Red Triangle Circus Gang in Batman Returns is about as literal as this trope can possibly get. True to their name, they are indeed ex-circus performers and continue to dress as clowns, acrobats, and various other circus people while serving as the Penguin's shock troops, apparently because Crime Doesn't Pay. More to the point of this trope, they function as a sort of highly anarchic guerrilla fighting force with every weapon known to man: machine guns, rocket launchers, ninja weapons, and various incendiary devices.
  • Birds of Prey: After Harley goes to retrieve Cassandra from the police station, Sionis posts a $500,000 bounty for bringing Cassandra to him alive and sends it to every hired gun in Gotham, who converge on Harley and her cargo.
  • Invoked for laughs in Blazing Saddles:
    Hedley Lamarr: I want rustlers, cutthroats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers, and METHODISTS!
  • In Bring Me the Head of the Machine Gun Woman, gang lord Che Longana puts a bounty of 300 million pesos on the head of the Machine Gun Woman, which attracts all kinds of killers; from common street thugs to elite hitmen.
  • The Superposse in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which includes Indian tracker Lord Baltimore and lawman Joe leFors and which has been paid to stay on the trail of the outlaws till they are dead.
  • The Car: Road to Revenge: Not as classy as many other examples of this trope, but Telar offers bounties on anyone who brings him the car, the girl, or the chip. As these bounties include free access to his arsenal of weapons, and free cybernetic enhancements, every gang in the city mobilizes in an attempt to claim them.
  • Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers: Recognizing how useless his own thugs are, Dragon hires a group known as the Five Nation Bounty Hunters to take out the Chai Lais. The group consists of a Scary Black Man, a meido wielding a katana, a martial artist with a bladed staff, and a rhythmic gymnast wielding ribbons as weapons.
  • The bounty hunters in The Empire Strikes Back, although the only one who actually gets anywhere with hunting the occupants of the Millennium Falcon is Boba Fett.
  • In Flag of Iron, an old Shaw Brothers kung-fu film, the main character is hunted by the Ten Killers of the Underworld. One of the killers is The Accountant who uses a weaponized abacus. Another is a Hitman with a Heart who ends up aiding the hero.
  • In The Grand Duel, most of the Bounty Hunters chasing after Vermeer for the $3,000 reward are little better than hired killers, and none of them have any intention of bringing him alive.
  • In Guns, Girls and Gambling, a motley cluster of outlaws, fortune hunters, assassins, frat-boys, Elvis impersonators, and 21st Century cowboys seek a prized Apache war mask that's been swiped from an Indian casino.
  • Grosse Pointe Blank: Martin Blank, a disenchanted hitman, attends his high school reunion only to cross paths with an assassin union who thinks he's trying to steal their hit. The hitmen we see are mostly just mooks, though Blank and the union leader do conversationally mention some colorful assassins.
  • John Wick: Chapter 2: Retired killer John Wick has One Last Job where he helps an old associate, and this ends with him having a large bounty on his head through his former guild. Earlier in the film, an open bounty was also put on his head by the villain, resulting in Wick having to deal with killers gunning after him on every street corner. This theme continues in John Wick: Chapter 3 Parabellum, which deals with John Wick trying to survive the aforementioned massive bounty on his head, and John Wick: Chapter 4, where John has a chance to get the bounty lifted... but only if he makes it to a certain place by a certain time, and the villain has a vested interest in making sure that John arrives late if at all.
  • In Kill Bill, the protagonist is a former member of a Carnival of Killers, all with their own specializations and codenamed after different snake species. She ends up massacring most of the other members on her way to, well, kill Bill, the leader of the organization.
  • The finale of The Last Dragon, where Bruce Leroy fights off everyone from a wrestler with a white Mohawk to an acid bath murderer...
  • In Machete Kills, Mendez puts a $10 million price on his own head, and $20 million on Machete's, causing a veritable army of freelance killers to assemble between them and the US border. These include Dirty Cop Sheriff Doakes; Desdemona and her gun-toting prostitutes; and Master of Disguise el Chameleon.
  • Pretty-boy gangster Dorian Tyrell promises $50,000 to whoever can kill the title character in The Mask (no mean feat, since the green-faced creature is practically immortal).
  • In Masters of the Universe, Skeletor hires a group of mercenaries to follow He-Man and the others to Earth to recover the Cosmic Key. They consist of the Master Swordsman Blade, the Beast Man, the reptilian Saurod, and the hook-handed Karg. When they fail in their first mission and return empty-handed to Skeletor, he kills Saurod and forces Evil Lyn to join them.
  • The Three Stooges face one in The Outlaws Is Coming. The eponymous outlaws called in to wipe out the heroes are Rob Dalton, Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Bat Masterson, Cole Younger, Wild Bill Hickock, and Belle Starr.
  • The Pink Panther:
    • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus demands that Clouseau be killed or he will destroy the world. Several nations send assassins to kill Clouseau at Oktoberfest in Munich, only for the assassins to wind up killing each other by accident or to stop their rivals from getting the credit.
    • In Revenge of the Pink Panther, the main villain's henchman hired a whole Carnival Of Killers. When the Big Bad saw them, he said "are these the men you have hired to kill Clouseau?" The henchmen replied he had hired these men to kill Mr. Chong. The Carnival of Killers had been hired merely to test the skills of the real killer they were sending after Clouseau…
  • The Hassansins in the Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time who comprise of; a man that controls snakes, a man that shoots darts, a guy with two deadly whips, and finally a guy that throws explosives.
  • John Lee, the protagonist of The Replacement Killers, is being chased by a group of assassins that are vying for his position, after he refused to perform a hit on the young son of the cop who killed his former employer's son, while Lee attempts to get back to China to save his family from the vengeance of the mob boss.
  • The lineup of killers sent to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man includes a homicidal hockey player, a chainsaw-wielding biker, an opera-singing lightning-man, a pyromaniac with a jetpack, and a wrestler/fitness TV show host. Although, he doesn't confront the latter for real.
  • In Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty imports a cadre of ruthless foreign killers from New York, Paris, Berlin, and Madrid to help him eliminate Holmes and take over the London underworld.
  • Shoot 'Em Up: Smith and Oliver get pursued by every freelance assassin in the city (which is a surprisingly high number).
  • The eponymous characters in Slashers, which include Chainsaw Charlie, Preacherman, Doctor Ripper, Pirate Pete, Slasho the Clown and... Switchblade Sam.
  • The whole premise of Smokin' Aces is that a huge bounty is placed on a mob rat and a whole lot of colorful assassins swarm on his location at the same time trying to collect.
  • This premise is repeated in Smokin' Aces 2: Assassins' Ball, except this time the target is an FBI analyst who has a massive price placed on his head several days before his impending retirement.
  • Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead — the reason our protagonists are dead is that they know they can't survive long against a Carnival Of Killers sent by Christopher Walken.
  • The Umbrella Coup: Several hitmen line up to get a shot at Grégoire but he manages to foil all their attempts on his life.
  • Boss Level has its protagonist Roy hunted by one while trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with no idea why either situation is happening to him. His day starts with a suited guy with a machete trying to stab him awake, followed minutes later by another mowing the apartment down with a minigun from an helicopter, and then the assassins only get weirder and more lethal after that.

  • The Carnivale in Agent G: Infiltrator is a literal example of this. Albeit, the name just reflects that they tend to be more colorful than other assassins, giving themselves badass names and being less careful about collateral damage than other groups.
  • Best Served Cold:
  • The Destroyer: The Last Alchemist had an interesting variation of this. The Dragon as part of his backstory participated in an open contract on a crimelord. After he killed the target, he was given a job as the personal assassin of the Big Bad who had placed the contract simply to find a suitable person for the position. The trope appeared in a few other books in the series as well.
  • In Kill Dusty Fog! by J.T. Edson, General Trumpeter offers a $1,000 bounty on the head of Captain Dusty Fog, despite this being against the rules of war. Several guerrillas make attempts to claim the bounty before Dusty decides to confront Trumpeter directly.
  • Monster Blood Tattoo: Europe and Rossamund have to fight their way through a number of hired killers at the midpoint and at the climax of Book Three.
  • In Nobody Lives for Ever, the dying leader of SPECTRE places (literally) a prize on the head of James Bond, which brings opportunistic killers from various organizations after him. However, SPECTRE has no intention to pay any of them, and instead uses them to find and herd Bond to their base in Florida, where they are going to claim his head by themselves with a guillotine.
  • This is what happens in No Country for Old Men after Moss steals the money. He has numerous Mexican mooks, Professional Killer Carson Wells, and Psycho for Hire Anton Chigurh after him.
  • In the Roger Zelazny book Roadmarks the antagonist declares a "Black Decade" on the protagonist, legally permitting ten attempts to kill him. Agents may be employed... and so ten highly skilled assassins/hunters have been hired from the entire range of Earth's histories (including alternate pasts and futures). This includes an assassin robot, a genetically enhanced and cybernetic super-soldier, and a martial arts master.
  • In Matthew Reilly's Scarecrow, Majectic-12 sets a bounty on the 15 people who could possibly foil their plan. Various groups respond, including Professional Bounty Hunters, Mercenaries, AWOL Military Units, Corrupt Corporate Executives...
  • In The Shotgun Arcana, Ray Zeal has a horde of serial killers, rapists, and cannibals working for him. Among them is a demigod and one of the Thuggee.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin Lannister employs a carnival of killers for "foraging" missions, which is essentially sending armed men to plunder and murder the enemy's peasants. His troupe includes a mercenary gang called the Brave Companions but nicknamed the Bloody Mummers, which is almost literally a carnival of killers, right down to a Monster Clown, the fool Shagwell who kills people for not laughing at his jokes. In fitting with the spirit of the trope, the group is also extensively multicultural, and individual members often have their own signature derangements. They are led by Vargo Hoat, his long beard and helmet with horns lead to him being nicknamed the goat. However he's a sadistic psychopath who enjoys cutting off limbs, and even his laughable Speech Impediment is sinister, due to it coming from him catching a disease from raping someone.
  • In The Spirit Thief, as the combined bounty for Eli, Nico and Josef eventually exceeds 600,000 gold standards, everyone and their dog is out to get them, including master swordsmen, unnoticeable men, spiritualists, League of Storms, random bounty hunters and one very angry empress.
  • Spy School: In Spy School: Project X, a bounty on Ben attracts many professional and amateur killers. They include most of the recurring villains from earlier books, a Mafia goon, a pilot in a stolen military jet, an eyepatch-wearing woman who legally changed her name to Myrtle Combat, an arrogant couple who drive a sports car and wear bodysuits, two hunters who believe a Conspiracy Theory the Big Bad started claiming that Ben is an evil alien (which eliminates any moral qualms they have about Hunting the Most Dangerous Game), a ninja, a woman who looks like a suburban mom, a woman in a fancy gown, and a man dressed like Mad Max.
  • Warhammer 40,000: In the Gaunt's Ghosts book Sabbat Martyr, the plot centers on the Ghosts defending the reincarnated saint Sabbat from nine would-be assassins, dispatched against her by the Arc Villain Enok Innokenti. They range from a lone wolf Cold Sniper, to alien mercenaries, to a psyker and his attendant Creepy Twins, and culminates in a berserk Chaos Dreadnought.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the The Amazing Extraordinary Friends episode "Quality Time", Renfield hires the 'world's greatest super assassins' (the Invisible Ninja, Captain Tardy, Geyser Girl, and the Easter Bunny) to eliminate the Friends.
  • The A-Team:
    • The episode Deadly Maneuvers had a syndicate of crime lords pay Major Douglas Kyle to assemble a Dream Team of mercenaries to hunt down the A-Team.
    • The episode "Waiting for Insane Wayne" had Insane Wayne and his team of mercenaries-for-hire who the team briefly impersonates then ends up fighting.
  • Babylon 5 had another protagonist example. In "Objects in Motion", Garibaldi learns, but can't prove, that the board of Edgars Industries is trying to have him assassinated. As part of his response, he arranges to put large bounties on all their heads if anything happens to him or Lise.
  • Barry: VERY briefly used in "a nice meal" when Hank hires the F.U.B.Ks (Four Unstoppable Badass Killers), including a knife fighter, an explosives expert, and a sharpshooter. He sends them to take care of Fuches... who promptly sends their boxed heads back to Hank's office.
  • Unusually used in the Blackadder episode "The Black Seal", where it's the protagonist who assembles a team of the biggest bastards in all of England (including himself, naturally) to carry out a fiendish plan. They all turn on him in favor of an even BIGGER bastard by the end of the episode.
  • Blindspot: In the Season 3 episode "Clamorous Night", Roman puts a hit on the FBI team. The only specifically unique assassin in the group is one who likes using poisons; the rest stick to good old-fashioned guns and knives.
  • There was an episode of the 80s Bret Maverick TV series where an author who writes westerns hires a Carnival of Killers to take out professional gambler Bret Maverick, so he'd have an ending to his latest book that's more exciting than "And he retired with a saloon and a cattle ranch."
  • At least Once A Season on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. For example, in season 2:
    Dalton: Uh, yes, but... The Order of Taraka, I mean... isn't that overkill?
    Spike: No, I think it's just enough kill.
    • In "Homecoming", the Carnival Of Killers is combined with Hunting the Most Dangerous Game. Several killers are hired to hunt Buffy and Faith (accidentally replaced by Cordelia), including Cain the werewolf hunter, vampire Lyle Gorch and his wife Candy, and the blade-throwing demon Kulak.
    • A nice subversion is in the episode "Angel", where the Master hires the Three, three apparently badass vampires to take down Buffy. In their first encounter with her, she manages to barely escape with Angel's help (who kills one of them)...and the Master, incensed that they failed, has Darla kill all of the Three, making their scenes a total of two. They weren't the real threat of the episode; that happened to be Darla herself.
  • In The Cape, the Big Bad Chess occasionally hires members of an assassin order called Tarot, each of whom specializes in a different skill. Cain is a poison expert, while the Goggles and Hicks duo (brothers) specialize in surveillance. After one too many failures, Chess refuses to have any more dealings with the Tarot. Ironically, he does this moments before Hicks would have revealed the true identity of the Cape. However, since he no longer works for Chess, Hicks feels no obligation to hand over the information and, instead, uses it to bargain with the Cape for the location of his captured brother.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "Death Warrant", John Pike—a ruthless, hard-bitten bounty hunter carrying the Dead Man's Gun—accidentally kills an innocent young man in a shoot-out. The mother of the dead boy puts a bounty on Pike's head, and he finds himself being hunted by every bounty hunter, hired gun, and chancer across three states.
  • Max faces one in the Get Smart episode "Someone Down Here Hates Me" when KAOS puts a $250,000 bounty on his head (and later ups it to $500,000).
  • Gunsmoke, In "Reward for Matt", a woman offers a $1,000 reward to the man who kills Matt Dillon after Matt killed her husband while attempting to bring him in for murder. This was a Recycled Script from an episode of the radio show (see below).
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi. After her fellow Inquisitors cut Reva out of the hunt for Obi-Wan, she sends out an open contract on Obi-Wan to every bounty hunter in the city. However Reva doesn't think the bounty hunters are good enough to kill or capture the legendary Jedi—it's only meant to flush him out into the open so she can take him down herself.
  • Person of Interest
    • In "The Crossing", John Reese and his Friend on the Force Joss Carter have to flee an open bounty placed on them by HR, an organisation of corrupt police.
    • In "4C", Reese has to battle five assassins from three different organisations (Mossad, The Cartel, and his former employers in the US government) who are trying to kill the Victim of the Week in four separate ways.
  • Sherlock: In "The Reichenbach Fall", a group of international assassins appear around Sherlock, although initially they appear to be keeping Holmes alive. Ultimately, it is revealed they have been hired by Moriarty to kill Holmes' friends if Holmes refuses to kill himself.
  • White Collar had one of the protagonists calling on a carnival of killers, when Mozzie places a six million dollar bounty on Keller who killed one of their friends and was threatening them.

    Music Videos 
  • The Aaron Stewart-Ahn video for The Decemberists' "O Valencia!" features Colin Meloy protecting a woman from assassins.

    Pro Wrestling 

  • Was the general idea of the Gunsmoke episode "Reward for Matt". Mrs. Hornby gets pretty mad when Marshal Dillon kills her husband. She offers $1000 to anyone who kills Dillon. The script was later reused for an episode of the Gunsmoke TV series.

    Video Games 

    Web Comics 
  • Cassiopeia Quinn: During "The Big Race" arc, Headhunter siccs a small horde of his mercenaries after Cassiopeia, including Clawlossus, Mercy, and Old Salt.
  • Dead Winter: One of the main characters, Monday, is involved in one of these as a subplot.
  • In the Extraterrestrial Mob Assassins storyline in Get Medieval, Mafia boss Broat hires a trio of these.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons has the Pursuers, an unaffiliated mob of 108 Guild mercenaries and independent warriors hunting the Key of Kings lodged in Allison's head. While they work together to chase Allison, whenever they get close to actually catching Allison they start killing each other in a free-for-all brawl since only one would be able to actually claim the Key. New Pursuers join up at about the same rate as they get killed, keeping the number constant.

    Web Original 
  • In the backstory of Worm the Slaughterhouse 9 used to act as this for gangs such as the Teeth. By the current story, they seem to have abandoned these side jobs in favor of straight mayhem.

    Western Animation 
  • On The Boondocks, Gin Rummy tells the tale of Bushido Brown fending off a group of these hired by the beef industry to take out Oprah Winfrey, including pastiches of Walker, Texas Ranger and Billy Jack.
    Gin Rummy: Apparently only one guy actually managed to get his hand on Oprah's door, they say Bushido Brown kept that hand.
    Ed the Third: Dang, I think I just shit myself.
  • Also the various groups that tried to catch Danny Phantom after Vlad put out a bounty on him, including the Guys in White and the Extreme Ghostbreakers.
  • This was common enough in Samurai Jack that eventually an episode is told from the perspective of the disparate group of Bounty Hunters searching for Jack. note  Another example is the endless progression of hunters facing Jack head-on in "Jack and Mad Jack" (most notably, "Crazy Round Man" and Huntor).
  • The Simpsons: Spoofed in "Sex, Pies, And Idiot Scrapes." Homer becomes a bounty hunter with Ned Flanders as his partner. When Flanders decides to leave the business, their boss tells him his last bounty is Homer himself. And if Flanders won't do it, one of the other hunters will. Cue a room full of thugs, including a knife-wielder, a psychotic man with a chainsaw, a girl with a machine-gun leg, and a grizzly bear practicing the nunchaku.
    Ned Flanders: I'm sure they're all competent professionals, but you'd best leave it to me.
  • At the end of The Venture Bros.' third season, Jean-Claude LeTueur, Russel "Go-Fish" Sturgeon, and Herr Trigger are hired to track and kill Brock.
    • All of them manipulated by Molotov Cocktease into getting killed by Brock so that her Black Hearts assassins agency would be the only game in town for high profile assassination jobs.
  • In the Wander over Yonder episode "The Bounty", Lord Hater gets tired of Peepers' repeated failures at capturing Wander and Sylvia and hires three bounty hunters to do the job: Rongroffle the Huntress, Killbot 86, and... a potted plant (one that turns out to be of the man-eating variety).
  • The Young Justice episode "Infiltrator" dealt with the heroes protecting a scientist from a group of assassins.
    • However, all of the assassins were working for the same group—The League of Shadows—and operated as a team with zero infighting.


Video Example(s):


The F.U.B.K.S.

NoHo Hank hires "four ultimate badass killers" with different specializations to try and kill his enemy Fuches.

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Example of:

Main / CarnivalOfKillers

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