Follow TV Tropes


Caught Up in a Robbery

Go To

This is when a character or characters are out and about in public, minding their own business, when suddenly the location they are at becomes the scene of a robbery. Typically occurs at a place like a bank, a store, or a mall and with little preamble other than maybe the loud announcement that "This is a hold up!"

What makes this set-up useful is that robberies are a common enough occurence, making them plausible in most contexts. They also can be both low and high stakes in terms of potential danger, allowing for a wide range of possibilities of how events will play out without risking a tonal or genre shift.

Sitcoms and comedies often devote an entire episode to playing this scenario out, our main characters trying a series of increasingly ridiculous and hilarious attempts to address the robber and get out relatively unscathed. Often, in doing so, they might get confused for the robber (or an accomplice) and end up as a reluctant or oblivious negotiator between them and the police. They're likely to eventually blunder their way into saving the day, especially if the robbers are Stupid Crooks. In more dramatic works, the protagonists might morph into Action Survivors and try to find ways to work with others caught up in the situation to varying degrees of success and unintentional death.

If the robbery escalates into a Hostage Situation, 99% of the time at least one of the protagonists will be a hostage. And if some of the protagonists are outside, expect a lot of cutting back and forth between the two situations. If lucky, someone at the scene (if not the protagonists themselves) will reveal themself to be the Right Man in the Wrong Place. Or better yet, the robbers may try to victimize one of the protagonists only to end up Mugging the Monster, leading to their defeat and/or capture.

Note this does not cover personal muggings or a character's private residence getting broken into and robbed. Nor does it cover any and all public robberies; if the protagonists aren't there as it breaks out or if they seek the robbery out themselves, it doesn't qualify. The robbery must be unexpected and disruptive of whatever the characters are already doing and they need to eventually become involved in it in some way, as victims, hostages, hero, or robbers themselves.

Frequently overlaps with Bank Robbery and Bottle Episode. Compare the very similar Stumbled Into the Plot, in which the protagonists find the Inciting Incident rather than it unraveling before their very eyes. May overlap with "Die Hard" on an X or Bruce Wayne Held Hostage. Contrast The Caper and Heist Episode, in which the protagonists are the ones carrying out the theft.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The unanimated Chapter 9 of Castle Town Dandelion has some of the cast shopping at a department store on Christmas Eve when a group of robbers holds up the store. The purpose of this segment is to showcase Aoi's actual Royalty Superpower: within two yonkoma strips, which won't take more than a few minutes in-universe, she orders the robbers to drop their arms and leave, and they heed her with no questions asked. Then she asks all the bystanders to forget what happened.
  • Futari wa Pretty Cure: On Honoka's birthday in episode 10, she and her family are at a jewelry store that gets attacked by robbers. Honoka foils the robbery by lecturing the robbers into repenting and they end up turning themselves in when the police arrive.
  • Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: In "SA: The True Reason For The Unfinished Love Affair ANGELS' SHARE", Chief Aramaki is visiting an old friend in London to discuss a mafia money-laundering scheme involving a wine bank, when two thieves break in to rob the bank and take them hostage. To further complicate matters, Aramaki realizes the responding armed police unit is in league with the Mafia and plans to kill them all to cover up the scheme. Aramaki ends up helping the robbers hide with him while Major Kusanagi works to exfiltrate them all.
  • Love Mode: In Volume 6, Naoya, Haruomi, and Kichi become unfortunate victims during a robbery of a jewelry store. Naoya and Kichi are later taken hostage during the subsequent high speed chase.
  • Moriarty the Patriot: In The Adventure of the Four Servants, William sends Louis, Bond, Moran, and Fred out to retrieve the contents of a safe deposit box. While they're on the errand, the bank is held up by robbers and they have to find a way to accomplish each of their objectives and save the civilians. It becomes clear later that William set up the robbery as a way for Bond to prove what they can do in a real situation and show their worth.
  • Pui Pui Molcar: "Catch the Bank Robber!" begins with Shiromo parked outside a bank while his owner does errands. Just as he's relaxing, two robbers run out of the bank with their haul and force Shiromo at gunpoint to be their getaway car. The rest of the episode is a high speed chase between Shiromo, the robbers, and the police molcars on their tail.

    Fan Works 
  • Wrong Place, Wrong Time: This NUMB3RS fanfiction begins with a robbery breaking out in the bank Don, Terry, and Charlie are at to take out cash for their lunch. Given that they're law enforcement themselves, the three work together to stop the robbers.
  • In Shell Game (a crossover fic), Hitoshi first gets a demonstration of what the Gekko siblings are like outside of school when they're all dragged into a bank robbery without any pro heroes around to help. The second Kei, Hayate, and Hitoshi are in an area free of security cameras, it's a Curb-Stomp Battle in favor of the ninjas.

    Films — Animation 
  • In KikoRiki. Team Invincible, after ending up alone in the city he's never been in before, Chiko finds himself a temporary home at the museum with the guard Pin until his friends can find him. Next night, he meets two robbers trying to steal valuable items and is lead to assume they work at the museum as cleaners, dim-wittingly assisting them in the robbery. After they drive away, the police arrives, mistakes Chiko and Pin for thieves, and arrests them. The rest of the movie revolves around the rest of the KikoRiki gang breaking the two out of jail.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Die Hard: Detective John McClane just happens to be visiting his wife at her workplace at the Nakatomi Corporation when Card-Carrying Villain Hans Gruber and his cronies seize control of the building and take the executive pool hostage in a supposed terrorist attack. This is a façade for Hans and Company's real scheme: breaking into the Nakatomi vault to steal $640 million worth of bearer bonds. John evades capture and becomes a rogue agent, monkey-wrenching the villains' machinations at every turn.
  • Don't Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood:
    • Ashtray is taking a driving lesson, only for his instructor to calmly instruct him to pull over outside a bank, after which he walks inside. Seconds later, the sound of a gunshot and an alarm ringing goes off, and the instructor runs out with a full bag of money, gets into the car holding a gun to Ashtray's head, and shouts at him to "DRIVE, MOTHERFUCKER!! DRIVE!!" making it pretty clear that Ashtray is the unwilling getaway driver.
    • Played for laughs in the convenience store scene. The Asian Store Owners are laser-focused on watching Ashtray and Loc Dog to make sure they don't steal. Meanwhile, a white customer in the store cleans the place out, completely ignored by the owners. He even manages to grab the money from the register without the owners batting an eye. On the way out he kills the owners and tosses his gun to Ashtray before he leaves to frame Ashtray for the crime. It is heavily implied by this guy crossing Ashtray's name off of a list of prominent yet controversy-laden black celebrities like Michael Jackson and O. J. Simpson that he is "The Man" hellbent on keeping otherwise innocent black men down.
  • Eve of Destruction: EVE, a prototype combat android and her handler are out on a field mission when they get caught in the middle of a bank robbery. The robbers kill EVE's handler and damage EVE herself, causing her to go into permanent combat mode. This sets off the rest of the film's events as the government now needs to find a way to stop her.
  • Free Guy: This happens regularly to Guy, as he's a Non-Player Character bank teller in a Wide-Open Sandbox online game based on Grand Theft Auto. Once he becomes self-aware, however, he sets out to stop the bank robbery instead of just going along with it.
  • Hancock: Hancock heads to a liquor store to drown his sorrows, fed up with trying to be a superhero. He's unaware at the time that two armed thugs are robbing the place: one ambles along an aisle like a shopper, the other is crouching behind the counter. The shopkeeper manages to discretely signal his distress to Hancock, who makes a quick assessment of the situation, then makes very short work of the criminals. He ends up taking two bullets to the stomach, which typically isn't a problem as he's Nigh-Invulnerable, but as the blood pours from his wounds, he quickly learns he's no longer super durable, kicking off the film's final act.
  • How to Rob a Bank: The slacker protagonist Jason enters a bank to complain about ATM fees just as it begins to be robbed and becomes a Spanner in the Works for the armed robbers plans because he locks himself in the banks vault along with a bank teller, who is really the robbers' computer expert.
  • In the Marvel One-Shot A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer, Agent Coulson stops to buy gas and is inside the convenience store looking at doughnuts when two robbers come in. He effortlessly handles the robbers, pays for his doughnuts, and makes it back out to his car as it finishes filling up.
  • Pulp Fiction: The film opens with small-time robbers Pumpkin and Honey Bunny working themselves up into robbing the coffee shop where they're having breakfast. The film's end reveals that main characters Jules and Vincent happened to be eating breakfast at the same coffee shop at the same time when the robbery commences. After taking from everyone in the place, the robbers finally get to Jules and Vincent's table. Jules hands over his wallet, but refuses to turn over the briefcase he has with him and ends up turning the tables on Pumpkin (leading eventually to a Mexican Standoff involving all four characters) when Pumpkin tries to force the issue.
  • The Ritual opens with Robert and Luke getting caught up in a robbery at an off-license (liquor store) after leaving their friends at the pub. Luke hides, while Robert is caught and the robbers attempt to take his wedding ring, slitting his throat when he refuses to hand it over. This is also the Inciting Incident for the group's trip to Sweden.
  • SHAZAM!: Billy (as Shazam) and Freddy head to a convenience store to buy beer now that Billy looks like an adult and is likely to not be carded. Two robbers enter and begin to hold up the store. However, instead of being roped in, Freddy encourages Billy to directly intervene so he can film his heroic feat and post it online. Billy does and learns he is completely bulletproof and then proceeds to toss the two robbers out a window.

  • I Am the Messenger begins with Ed and his friends getting caught up in a robbery at a gas station. When he accidentally stops the robbery, Ed's life changes but he has the robber's threat that he's "a dead man" hanging over his head. When the robber reappears at the end, he reveals that it wasn't a threat, but a warning that Ed was wasting his life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Adam-12 has Reed end up wounded and taken hostage when he gets wrapped up in a bank robbery while doing his own business at the bank.
  • One episode of The Brokenwood Mysteries begins with Stupid Crooks robbing a bank while Recurring Character and the Brawn Hilda, Trudy Neilson, is waiting in line to deposit her bar's earnings. One of the robbers steals her money bag, only for her to chase him down, break his arm, and get her money back.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: "Yippie Kayak" is about Jake, Gina, and Charles getting caught up in a robbery at the department store where Jake is trying to buy a last-minute Christmas present for Charles. It's a homage to Jake's favorite movie, Die Hard.
  • Burn Notice: In "Bad Breaks", Team Westen is hired to scare off a woman's stalker. When he turns up outside her workplace, Michael goes there and learns she's the assistant manager at a local bank, and that the Monster of the Week was stalking her as an excuse to case the place for a robbery that Michael, along with recurring antagonist Jason Bly, promptly get caught in. Unfortunately for the robbers, they're now up against an ex-CIA agent who's considered akin to the bogeyman by Russian Spetsnaz operators...
  • Castle: In "Cops & Robbers", Castle and Martha are at a bank negotiating for a loan for Martha's acting school. He takes a break to call Beckett and is on the phone with her when a gang of bank robbers storms in.
  • CSI: Miami: In "Lost Son," Horatio and Speedle discover that some recovered stolen jewelry is actually fake, so they go to the jewelry store that cleaned the pieces and get caught up in a robbery while there. One of the robbers shoots Speedle, killing him, partly due to the fact that Speed was notorious for not cleaning his gun and it jammed when he tried to return fire.
  • In the pilot episode of Dead Like Me, one of George's first experiences with the reapers is shadowing Mason at a bank, which gets held up by a hapless bank robber. Since George and Mason are only there to collect a soul, they let everything play out on its own. Their target, a B.M. Moore, arrives at the bank after the robbery is over, when the jealous wife of one of the bankers shows up and creates havoc with her own gun, creating enough confusion for the ineffective bank robber to actually get away with the bank's money.
  • Diff'rent Strokes: In "The Bank Job," Arnold and Willis go to the bank seeking to just withdraw money when they, along with Mr.Drummond who also happens to be there, are held hostage during a bank robbery.
  • Drake & Josh: In the season 3 episode, "Theater Thug," the eponymous robber is going around and robbing local movie theaters. Naturally by the episode's end, he hits up the theater Josh works at while Josh closes for the day. When the cops quickly arrive on the scene, the robber tries to take Josh hostage but Drake, who was using the bathroom, sneaks up on him and hits him, allowing Josh to pin the robber down and capture him. However, when Drake sends the cops in, they arrest Josh thinking he's the Theater Thug because Josh portrayed him in a televised dramatization earlier that episode.
  • Due South: In "Vault," Ray and Fraser are caught up in a bank robbery when Ray is wrongly declared dead and he goes to the bank to collect his money. They end up locked in the bank vault and it won't open for a while because it's on a time delay.
  • Father Brown: In "The Great Train Robbery," Lady Felicia and Mrs. McCarthy are on their way back to Kembleford when two Stupid Crooks stage a train robbery and hold them hostage.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: For the show's 100th episode "The Gang Saves The Day", the gang goes to a convenience store that becomes the site of an armed robbery. The episode shows how each person imagines they'd deal with the situation and ends with showing what actually happened: like the Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists they are, they all agree to steal as much as they can before sprinting out of the store.
  • Justified: In the second season, Winona goes to the bank after she has suspicions about the authenticity of a $100 bill that she finds in evidence. When she's there though, the place is robbed with Winona being hit and the robbers stealing the bill from her, too. Back at the office, Winona tells an angry Raylan how she lost the piece of evidence.
  • Karen Sisco had an episode where Karen and her father are at a bank when robbers show up, and they have to outwit the robbers.
  • Kenan & Kel: Two in the same season!
    • In " Clownin' Around", Kenan is tasked with looking after the convenience store he works at, Rigby's. During his shift, Kel comes in per usual, but so does a clown, who entertains the boys with some tricks, before tying them up (under the guise of another trick), emptying the cash register, and escaping.
    • In "Ditch Day Afternoon", Kenan and Kel get caught up in a bank robbery while Skipping School, and Kenan's attempts to keep the robbery going so they don't get shown on the news (which would reveal to their families, school, and work that they're ditching) end up scaring the robbers into giving themselves up.
  • Leverage: In "The Bank Shot Job", Nate and Sophie visit a bank to con a Corrupt Politician out of his bribe money, but they instead get caught up in an armed robbery of said bank. They end up sympathizing with the bumbling robbers so much, they actually help them complete the heist and make a clean getaway (except for Nate getting shot for his trouble).
  • The Nanny: In "The Bank Robbery," Fran and Sylvia are at the bank when a Stupid Crook decides to rob it and hold them hostage. Fran ends up bonding with him when she learns he too has an overbearing Jewish Mother, and ends up becoming the man's negotiator with the police.
  • This is the entire premise of the short-lived series The Nine - several strangers, including a police detective, a prosecutor, and a doctor, happen to be in a bank right before it closes when two men storm in to rob the place. After that opening, the show jumps ahead to several hours later, when the hostages have been rescued, and each subsequent episode jumps back and forth between the robbery and the aftermath, when the surviving hostages try to move on with their lives.
  • The Parkers: In "The Hold Up," Nikki and Prof. Oglevee are (separately) at a bank when it gets held up by a man with dwarfism. Both Nikki and the Professor are named as accomplices when edited footage shows Nikki literally holding up the robber at the counter and him drawing his gun. While the footage is correct, this was before he revealed himself to be a robber; at the time Nikki was just trying to help him out as he was too short to be seen over the counter. She eventually saves the day after talking with the robber and getting the cops to bring in his wife to talk sense to him, who he says he's doing this for in an attempt to get money to buy her nice things.
  • An early episode of Person of Interest has Reese get caught up in a bank robbery while tailing the latest titular person of interest (who is one of the robbers). Unusually for this trope, it's an extremely brief robbery- barely a minute between the crew bursting in and waving guns and making their exit- and there's nothing for Reese to do but prevent a security guard from drawing his gun and getting himself killed.
  • In The Pretender episode "Bank" (S2E20), Jarod and Miss Parker end up caught in the midst of the robbery of the bank where they were to meet Mr. Fenigor. The latter dies, shot by a Centre sniper.
  • Psych: Gus becomes a hostage during a bank robbery, only to eventually discover that the robber himself is under duress. Shawn tries to help from outside while keeping the SWAT team from busting into the bank.
  • Quantum Leap: Played with in Season 5, episode 10, "Promised Land," when Sam Beckett leaps into the body of one of a trio of brothers who are in the midst of robbing their local bank. He discovers they're trying to save the family farm. Al the hologram tells him he has to keep all brothers alive to fix "what once went wrong." With tensions running high, that may be easier said than done.
  • Small Wonder: In the third-season episode "Bank Hostages", while Ted and Brandon are laid up with measles, Joan sends Jamie, Vicki and Harriet on an errand at the bank. While the kids are at the bank, two clumsy robbers arrive and hold them hostage.
  • The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer: In one sketch, Pat Wright and Dave Arrowsmith are at the bank when they are held at gunpoint by a bank robber, who tells them to "Stick 'em up!" Of course, Pat and Dave being the "Bra Men", they think he's telling them to stick their breasts up instead of their hands. Once they naturally fail to do a good job of it and lose their patience with him correcting them, they take away his gun and his wig and storm out of the bank, complaining about his rudeness.
  • The X-Files: In "Monday", Mulder goes to the bank to settle a check and is caught inside when it's held up by armed robbers. This happens multiple times as part of a "Groundhog Day" Loop before Mulder and Scully find a way to end the robbery without getting shot and/or blown up.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Shadowrun module "Food Fight", which has been a classic of the RPG since early editions and is often one of two ways a new shadowrunning team gets introduced to the game (the other being the team being assembled by a Fixer or Johnson). The players have all stopped by a Stuffer Shack convenience store to get some food: While they're there, a thrill-gang called the Chiller Thrillers tries to rob the place, and it's up to the shadowrunners to stop them. A series of NPCs are part of the scenario and are designed to provide plot hooks that sends the team into their next adventure, should the game master choose to use them.

    Video Games 
  • Grand Theft Auto IV: The Ballad of Gay Tony: Luis Fernando Lopez gets caught in a bank robbery in the opening scene of the game, which happens concurrently as the Grand Theft Auto IV mission "Three-Leaf Clover", in which Niko, Packie, and Derrick successfully rob the Bank of Liberty. Luis is amongst the hostages taken.
  • Incredible Crisis: Etsuko's plot kicks off when she goes to the bank, only to find the place being robbed. She does make an attempt to sneak out, but gets caught and forced to assist the robbers in their goal — stealing a heavily-guarded golden piggy bank.

    Web Animation 
  • The first episode of RWBY opens with a Dust shop being robbed. Ruby, who is a customer there at the time, is oblivious until one of the Mooks confronts her and makes her take off her headphones. She proceeds to defeat them (except the leader, who escapes), and it is this action that leads to her being accepted into Beacon Academy two years early.

    Western Animation 
  • Beavis And Butthead: In "Citizen's Arrest", the duo get robbed at Burger World but are too stupid to realize the severity of the situation. Butt-Head was perfectly willing to give the robber the money when asked.
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • In "Hamburger Dinner Theater", Linda decides to host a dinner theater event at the restaurant. After the first night centered around a murder mystery bombs, the second night is interrupted by a guy who robs the place at gun point. Everyone besides the Belchers think it's All Part of the Show, which only gets worse when the robber insists on exiting by performing a musical number with Linda.
    • Double Subverted in "Bob Day Afternoon," Bob goes to the bank to apply for a much-needed loan but is comically denied. After he leaves (punching a sign on the way out), the police arrive and the family assumes they've come for something Bob did while he was in the bank. Instead, they learn it is being robbed. The robber takes hostages and requests a meal, so the police get Bob to make and deliver it. He is then taken hostage as well, ultimately falling into the trope.
  • Bugs and Thugs: In this 1954 Bugs Bunny cartoon, Bugs Bunny visit a bank, where he keeps carrots in a safe deposit box. Upon leaving the bank, Bugs mistakes the getaway car of Rocky and Mugsy for a waiting taxicab. Rocky then leaves the bank, fires a couple of shots into the lobby, and tosses in some Stock Money Bags. The loot and the bunny get taken to the crooks' hideout.
  • Chowder: In "Schnitzel Makes a Deposit", Chowder and Schnitzel are in line to make a bank deposit when a rat suddenly bursts in and stages a holdup. Schnitzel, who had been unfairly kicked out of the line several times throughout the episode, snaps and beats up the robber.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Super Mom", Dexter's mom is waiting in line at the bank when a large robber bursts in to rob the place. Thanks to Dexter's latest invention accidently zapping his mom, she has super powers so casually tosses him aside so she can continue waiting in line, then flings him at the wall by his ear and knocks him out when he gets mad.
  • Futurama: In "Insane in the Mainframe", Fry and Bender get caught up in a bank robbery being committed by Roberto. The interactions between the three kicks off the main plot.
  • The Jetsons:
    • George Jetson and Astro happen to be at a bank when the alarm rings. Two criminals dash from the building with Stock Money Bags in hand, and hop into their getaway car. Before departing, one crook asks the other if there are any witnesses, to which the reply is "Yeah, but we'll come back later 'n' rub 'em out." George and Astro panic and leave pronto, not seeing a director yell, "Cut!" The robbery was a staged event for a film.
    • In "Jane's Driving Lesson", Jane wants to get her license and a new car. While practicing, a robber leaps into her car and tries to force her to be his getaway driver. Jane's driving is so bad however that her driving instructor ends up feeling bad for the robber.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Krusty Gets Busted", Homer is buying ice cream at the Kwik-E-Mart when a guy who appears to be Krusty the Clown robs the cash register. Homer is subsequently deemed a witness and gets called by authorities to identify him and testify in court, while Bart believes Krusty is innocent and tries to prove that he was framed.
    • In "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo", Homer establishes an online bank account at an "Internet cafe" when Snake bursts in and robs him with a floppy disc, forcing the Simpsons to start Cutting Corners to save for their family vacation.
    • In "I Don't Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", Marge gets caught up in a bank robbery and gets out of it by promising to visit the robber (who has parental abandonment issues) in jail if he turns himself to the police. However, she gets nervous about setting foot inside a prison to see a bug-eyed maniac, and she goes back on her promise, resulting in Dwight escaping and kidnapping her to be his "mom" for a day.
  • Woody Woodpecker: In "Convict Concert", after robbing a nearby bank, a crook named Mugsy enters a music shop where Woody is working as a piano tuner to hide from the officer hot on his trail. He forces Woody at gunpoint to keep playing while he hides inside the piano and waits for his associates to get him. Though the officer does enter Woody's shop to search for Mugsy, he fails to notice the bag of stolen money and Woody's not-so-subtle indications about the bandit in the piano. Woody is eventually kidnapped with the piano and Mugsy inside of it, but during the police chase the instrument slides out of the truck and off a cliff, right into a penitentiary, leading to Mugsy's arrest while Woody goes crazy from the experience.


Bank hostages

Gus is at the bank when a robber comes in and takes everyone hostage.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / CaughtUpInARobbery

Media sources: