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Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass

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"As soon as I find my pants, I'm going to kick your ass!"

Vlad Plasmius: It's not possible! You're an idiot! An idiot!
Jack Fenton: Maybe so, but I'm the idiot who beat you.
Danny Phantom, "The Million Dollar Ghost"

At first glance, they're The Fool. The Ditz. The sort of person you wouldn't trust to screw in a lightbulb without hurting themself or someone who continually makes a fool of themself around others who find them a total embarrassment. And no, it's not the act of just Obfuscating Stupidity — they're really like that.

Most of the time.

Then someone pushes the right button at the right time translation:  and things suddenly change. The goofy smile disappears. Their eyes start glowing. An aura of energy surrounds them. Little pieces of rock start floating up from the ground. They begin to speak with the Voice of the Legion. And they proceed to demonstrate the fine art of the Curb-Stomp Battle on everyone involved.

It doesn't really matter what makes the character badass when they switch gears. They may display enhanced speed, strength, and martial skills. They might demonstrate latent competence, leadership skills, and courage completely inconsistent with their normal personality. They may Hulk Out, manifest Psychic Powers, MacGyver together a plasma rifle out of a toaster and a tv remote, unleash an Angst Nuke, or even become an One-Winged Angel.

Similarly, the reasons for this deceptive outward appearance vary. They may be a genuinely good-natured moron or a kind-hearted idiot who only fights when they have no other choice. They might be a Retired Badass who's gone a bit senile. They may be handicapping themself in some way that reduces their overall abilities — for instance, the Inept Mage may fumble with Functional Magic because their true strength and skill lies in dangerously uncontrollable Wild Magic. Occasionally the character even has a Power Limiter that seals away from their full strength until needed — they might not know they have the power, let alone how to control it.

The main point is not the powers, but the personality shift that comes with them. No matter what their exact situation is when these characters find themself in a situation where a badass is needed and they are the only ones available, the guy who's been written off as harmlessly incompetent grits their teeth and becomes a One-Man Army.

Common triggers include a friend or loved one in danger (see Mama Bear and Papa Wolf), a Million to One Chance scenario, or just a "worthy cause". Sometimes, just getting 'em really, really pissed off will do the trick — although their easy-going personalities make that a rare occurrence.

Inevitably, after the dust settles they're right back to smile goofily, tripping over their own feet, and just generally acting like the Plucky Comic Relief once again — while their teammates are rubbing their eyes, and trying to figure out what just happened. Often, the character doesn't actually know himself.

In some cases, the character will gradually learn to control his power — although he'll usually still need to Freak Out a bit to use his full power — and may evolve into an Idiot Hero, or more rarely, a straight-up Messiah.

In other cases, things will go bad. The badass powers are required too often, and they gradually take their toll on a previously cheerful individual. It might even turn out that the individual was once like their badass side all the time, but somehow 'sealed' that part of themself away — or it was sealed away by someone else — to keep them under control. Usually results in a Knight in Sour Armor or, in the case of females, an Emotionless Girl or Broken Bird, and their friends wondering if Saving the World was really worth the price. In the worst cases, this can end up as a full-blown Superpowered Evil Side or Jekyll & Hyde scenario. The Japanese term for this is "dame elite" ("dame" meaning no good).

Contrast Obfuscating Stupidity, where the incompetence is just an act; and Minored in Ass-Kicking, where the character acts like The Smart Guy instead of The Fool; and Mistaken for Badass and Leeroy Jenkins, which are essentially two forms of Crouching Badass Hidden Moron. Compare/contrast Weak, but Skilled, The So-Called Coward, Beware the Silly Ones, Genius Ditz, Heroic Resolve and Eccentric Mentor, which can overlap. If the body count they rack up is unintentional, then we're dealing with Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds or Non-Malicious Monster. See also This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman, where their badassdom occurs because they're in an environment where their abilities stand out relative to everyone else's. Crouching Moron Hidden Badass will sometimes occur as a result of Giving the Sword to a Noob or putting The Load in the right situation.

Please do not confuse this with Let's Get Dangerous!, which is when a seemingly ditzy or harmless character also demonstrates fighting skill, but without the change in personality and may not involve powers.

Check out the index for sub-types of this trope.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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  • Happy Heroes: Careless S. is very forgetful and slow. He's also really good with guns.

    Comic Books 
  • Chin-Kee from American Born Chinese is a pitch-perfect example. Superficially he appears to be a clueless Funny Foreigner, a deliberate Ethnic Scrappy encapsulating every negative Chinese stereotype available in broken Engrish. But when Danny attacks him for being an embarrassment, Chin-Kee turns into an unstoppable martial arts badass. Justified in that he's secretly the Monkey King, Great Sage Equal of Heaven.
  • Though often Depending on the Writer, Bruce Wayne is sometimes seen as a foppish Upper-Class Twit that many Gothamites believe couldn't put on his own pants. This is, of course, all part of the plan.
  • Sonny Tuckson in Buck Danny is a constant Butt-Monkey, bordering on The Ditz or even The Load in some stories. He is also one of the best pilots of the U.S. Navy, and on more than one occasion manages to save the situation by himself. In fact, a good indicator of how Sonny is going to shine during a story is how much he screws up at the beginning: if he embarrasses himself in front of the entire crew of the carrier, accidentally punches the admiral out, have a practical joke of his backfire with spectacular results, or falls for a Honey Trap, chances are he will have achieved some impressive feat by the end.
  • Rasputin in the Corto Maltese series. He's a Foil to the title character and a Sociopathic Hero sidekick. Totally unpredictable, too.
  • Sheemie in The Dark Tower prequel comics is the village idiot who gains incredible psychic powers and rescues the lost Gunslinger princes.
  • Deadpool sometimes slips into this, Depending on the Writer. His Cloudcuckoolander tendencies and ability to both shake off bodily harm and make a joke of it tend to obscure the fact that he is an immortal, unstoppable, superhuman killing-machine with a penchant for inventively torturing and/or brutally slaughtering anyone who manages to get on his bad side. In the Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe miniseries, he singlehandedly slaughters nearly every superhero and villain on the planet. This is caused when Psycho-Man fiddled with Deadpool's brain until something clicked, turning him into the perfect killing machine with a penchant for nihilism. He resolves to destroy reality itself, believing that it never mattered anyway, due to him being aware that he is a comic book character. This is proof that he isn't just capable of fighting A-list Marvel heroes and villains, he is capable of murdering every single one with ease.
  • The Flash villain and member of the Suicide Squad Captain Boomerang is a comedic Butt-Monkey with a goofy gimmick who people keep on forgetting is also extremely dangerous and by far the most ruthless of the Rogues.
  • Larfleeze, the wielder of the orange light in the Green Lantern universe. Most of the time, he comes off as completely insane, with a Gollum-like drive to own everything and a tendency to talk to himself. At one point, Sinestro and Atrocitus get so annoyed by him they suggest just killing him and taking along whoever his ring goes to next. Despite his Cloudcuckoolander tendencies, however, he's incredibly powerful, as his light represents avarice, and is at its most potent when wielded by one lone ringslinger. In terms of sheer raw power, he's probably the strongest Lantern as his ring is capable of charging to 100,000 percent energy — in comparison, Hal Jordan's maxes out around 210% under certain circumstances, and it's explained any more might blow up the ring and take his hand with it. Insane? Yes. Take him lightly, though, and you're dead. All those Orange Lantern constructs he has hanging around? He killed them and took their identities to serve him.
  • Groo the Wanderer, though the badass part isn't really hidden. Most of the time, Groo is a complete Ditz who can be easily confused by polysyllabic words. But when there's a fight — against anyone — he's an unstoppable killing machine, and if you're in his sights, your only hope of survival is to try and direct him towards anyone else.
  • Impulse may be a cloudcuckoolander with ADHD but he is also a speedster with access to the Speed Force, training by a Golden Age hero (Max Mercury) and a photographic memory.
    • His cousin, Wally West, the third Flash/original Kid Flash, was initially mostly known for being the first Flash who isn't a genius, instead being a college drop-out who had a Hot-Blooded temper and a childish personality. Even today, he's still the most comical Flash, the one most likely to make snarky comments and joke around, and generally acting as The Heart. But he's also the Fastest Man Alive, being the person who has both the strongest connection to the Speed Force and the most instinctive understanding of it, and subsequently his status as The Heart means he can use The Power of Friendship to overpower the Speed Force's Power Limiter and use it's power for speeds that would make other speedsters lose themselves to the Speed Force's pull.
  • Marvel's Hercules became this around The Incredible Hercules. At first glance, he's a second-rate Thor with an IQ on par with brine shrimp, whose strategy in every fight is to club his opponents until they stop moving. As it turns out, this is mostly because Herc is a Boisterous Bruiser in all incarnations. Far from unskilled, he's one of the best hand-to-hand fighters out there, being a superb wrestler and boxer with millennia of experience. Additionally, though he's not super-smart, he's very perceptive and great with puzzles and thinking on his feet. All that, on a guy who's strong enough to fight Thor to a draw.
  • Monchito from Negation. Most of the time he does little more than eat a lot and get underfoot, but in a highly stressful fight scene late in the series, he hulks out and gets uber-powerful for a brief moment, clobbering one of the bad guys and expending all his power in one blow before reverting to normal. Even the bad guys were shocked.
  • Plastic Man has been largely considered this due to the non-serious nature of most of his appearances. One must not forget that he is a trained FBI operative, can go toe-to-toe with many other big names in the DCU (he can take punches from SUPERMAN without so much as batting an eye!), and survived dismemberment for thousands of years. In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Batman has contingency plans for dealing with all members of the league should they go evil...but his plan for Plas, on the other hand, is "Just hope it doesn't happen".
  • Scott Pilgrim. Face it, you too thought he was just a 23 year old hipster video gamer slacker without any shame or glory, hanging onto his gay roommate to pay for everything, and just being a bad bass player on a semi crappy band. Then, the first evil ex of Ramona came, and we learned that not only is he capable of fighting, he's the best fighter in the province. Dumb and with a little OCD, yeah, but don't mess with his girlfriend or his friends.
  • Squirrel Girl, hands down. Cute. Fuzzy. Talks to squirrels. Lips taste like hazelnuts. Defeated Doctor Doom note , The Mandarin, Giganto, M.O.D.O.K., Thanos, Terrax, Bug-Eyed Voice, Bi-Beast, Deadpool, Pluto, Fin Fang Foom, Baron Mordo, Korvac, and Ego the Living Planet...
  • The entire population of Metropolis is pretty much this trope. Of course, when you've Seen It All the way they have, it's taken for granted that you should look both ways for invading nuclear fission-powered Nazi clone armies before crossing the street, and be handy with a crowbar so you don't have to bother that good ol' boy Superman with all your problems. Isn't it YOUR turn to give back to the community?
  • In the Superman story "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" by Alan Moore, every single joke villain does this. It's chilling, if not bordering on outright terrifying.
  • Ultimate X-Men: Bobby is usually just the token teenager, the young guy shoehorned into a superhero world he does not fully understand. But when Weapon X attacks the mansion... he freezes everybody (and "freeze" is not an easy pun, he reduced the temperature and actually turned all the villains and soldiers almost to ice). If not for Rogue, who took the powers of Jean, he would have won the day single-handily.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: "Glitch" is a tiny Amusing Alien who is known to be an amazing mechanic but is otherwise apparently a harmless little thing that really likes pop culture. Then the over twelve foot tall aliens that had once enslaved his race show up on earth, and he proves that despite being smaller than the average house cat he is a very accomplished fighter when the situation calls for it, using his speed and ability to jump and swing from things to his advantage.
  • The X-Men's Jubilee. On the surface she's a somewhat ditzy, very 90s mallrat, and especially for those who only know her from the animated X-Men: The Animated Series her pafs come across as a joke. And it certainly helps that Jubilee never really learned to develop her powers to their full potential. But then you read why she didn't: Jubilee is capable of manipulating and detonating matter at the sub-atomic level, and once leveled The Mandarin's castle when she cut loose because she thought Wolverine had been hurt. And that still wasn't the full extent of her powers. Emma Frost more or less likened her to a walking fusion bomb. Keep in mind she manipulates plasma. As in the most pervasive state of matter in the universe. The sun is a big ball of plasma. It's what outer space is made of. And Jubilee can potentially control any of it.

    Comic Strips 
  • In an early Bloom County strip, Opus serves as the bouncer at a New Years Eve party. Seems pretty stupid, until he drags a particularly large, menacing looking guy down under the bar, then asks for some rope. And if you are a mime, do not taunt Opus or he will beat you down. With a salami/an olive loaf.
  • Satchel from Get Fuzzy. The guy has about half the IQ of a rock, but as Bucky is often reminded, pushing Satchel too far is a very bad idea.
  • Typically, the Crocodiles in Pearls Before Swine are Too Dumb to Live (oftentimes literally so). But on one occasion, Rat, in a variation of the Pied Piper, used music to lead stupid people to a lake to drown them. When he attempted to do this to the Crocs, he gloated about this, and in an uncharacteristically angry (but characteristically badly-pronounced) reply, one croc mentioned "We can sweem." This could be Canon Discontinuity (which Stephan Pastis is infamous for), because an earlier strip had one of the crocs drown in a kiddie pool because he couldn't swim.

    Fan Works 
  • Essentially applies to The Blacksmith's Apprentice, as Hiccup takes the entire village by surprise when he proves to be a skilled enough combatant to defeat Thuggory in a duel even after three years as essentially the village thrall.
  • In Polarity, as Shocker starts to attract more attention, characters note that his gauntlet technology is actually rather impressive, and he's only never tried to do more with it because he's content where he is and doesn't have the patience for more regular work.
  • Such a Doting Father turns the canonically serious and intimidating Endeavor into an utter goofball of an embarrassing dad who shows off pictures of his kids to criminals he apprehends and drops classic anime references everywhere. It does not, however, reduce his hero rank- he's still the #2 hero in Japan, and is entirely as powerful and clever as his canon counterpart.
  • Unbreakable Red Silken Thread: Duncan, of all people, shows this on occasion very subtly, especially when it comes to his relationship with Gwen. The fact that he was at one time on par with Heather during TDI at manipulating and instigating all manner of mischief and misery makes it less of a surprise and more a case of played straight.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Jaune Arc is mostly a goofy idiot with No Social Skills, and despite his ridiculously high Aura reserves he has no sword skills whatsoever and can't even dodge properly... in human form. In Grimm form, he is easily one of the strongest characters in the series, only coming in slightly behind some of his older sisters. Not to mention that while in Grimm form, he is affected by the negative emotions of those around him, and prone to falling into an Unstoppable Rage.
    Mercury: No offence, but he doesn't look particularly strong.
    Cinder: He could rip your legs off with his hands tied behind his back.
  • For the Glory of Irk: Vero is a lazy hedonist who doesn't appear all that bright. But he can be dangerous when he gets serious as shown when he matches Xia in a one-on-one duel during the Final Battle.
  • Donald Duck in The Secret Biography Of Donald Duck. The fic essentially takes his Crouching moron, hidden badass status from the reboot and cranks it up to eleven by combining all of Donald's other epic incarnations into one timeline; making him a superhero, a navy vet, a secret agent, a crusader, a wizard, and an adopted father of three all at once.
  • Spiny the Spinosaurus in Dinosaur King Retold is portrayed as a rather dim member of the D-Team, which usually earns him Dope Slap from his teammate Tank. However, he has his moments of action, such as working with Zoe to outmanuever the Suchomimus with fish bait and even rallying an Alpha Droid rebellion when the D-Team was trapped on Alpha Island.
  • Murderer's Row: Donut is kind and somewhat ditzy, making him seem like a harmless inmate. However, he quickly turns out to be a vicious Combat Pragmatist who's able to take on people like O'Malley and Maine and come out victorious.
  • The King Nobody Wanted:
    • Garth Tyrell is a flatulent, overly talkative hedonist, but he is one of the main political minds behind Viserys and is quite astute behind closed doors. He deliberately cultivates this image in order to make his opponents underestimate him.
    • Luthor and Curgen Crabb seem like boastful, somewhat dim Lower Class Louts (by most noble standards, anyway) but do a decent acting job to divert a party of pursuers and fight well against them once the deception is exposed through no fault of their own.
    • Glarius Glyn Glesai is a vocally dramatic and self-deprecating Qartheen merchant who, after being found stranded alone in the Dothraki Sea, joins Drogo's khalasar as essentially comic relief. As it turns out, he's also a Sorrowful Man and a very deadly assassin.

    Films — Animation 
  • Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (2011) is a perfect example. He's a complete idiot, but his brute strength comes in handy. He crawled out of the cockpit of a seaplane that was running out of gas while it was flying in midair and breathed into an exhaust pipe so that his alcoholic breath could fuel the plane on its fumes for a little while longer (even if it didn't exactly work as planned). He also Took a Level in Badass in the climax, when he duels with the film's villain, who is the descendant of his great-grandfather's enemy.
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: The only nice cat, who gets repeatedly pushed around, abused, and chased (either by dogs, native american mice, or even dog fish!) all the way to the American west, takes a level in badass when he gets trained by a reluctant aged, canine gunslinger. When he sees his love in danger, he goes into a literal barking rage and takes down almost the entire Big Bad's cat mook army.
  • A Bug's Life: A goofy, greedy Bad Boss he may be, but P.T. Flea has no compunctions about attacking (what he believes to be) a bird with fire just to save his circus act.
  • Cars 2: Mater, oh excuse me Sir Tow Mater. He spends most of the movie being his lovable bumbling self. Then he finds out Lightning McQueen is in trouble. Lesson when dealing with Mater, NEVER threaten his friends, just ask the three or four bad guys he took BY HIMSELF.
  • The Incredibles: Jack-Jack (not a moron, but a baby) demonstrates a startling array of powers (which, by most reckonings, are probably more badass than those of the rest of the cast) when threatened by the Big Bad, Syndrome.
    • Or the babysitter. In the fairly amusing short packaged with the DVD, Jack Jack Attack, Jack-Jack reduces the babysitter to a stress-overloaded wreck by spontaneously generating anti-gravity powers, teleportation, the ability to shoot Eye Beams, and Human-Torch-esque flame powers. Since the whole film seems to be a Homage to the Fantastic Four, he might be a sly reference to the fifth Fantastic: Franklin. The writers, for their part, note that the reason they gave him so many powers he flips through like he's channel surfing is because he's a baby: he hasn't defined himself yet. What this means for the world of The Incredibles as far as power development goes...
      • The babysitter herself qualifies for this trope. She starts out just seeming to be a typical teenage ditz. She not only gets though the short alive, but able to counter most of the effects of Jack-Jack's powers (albeit with some minor property damage).
  • Po from Kung Fu Panda. While not inept, he's a bumbler and a daydreamer. After some focus and hardcore training, however, he not only managed to take down the Big Bad, but his idols are so impressed, they kneel before him. In the sequels, he is more consistently badass, having become a very skilled martial artist who can at least keep up with the Furious Five in battle and is quite good at using his weight and bulk to his advantage, but he is still a big-eating goofball, his fanboyishness is still showing a lot, and he still can't handle stairs.
  • Pumbaa from The Lion King, shown when he goes bowling for hyenas. And anyone who calls him a pig will get pork-chopped. Also, Ed, when he shows his dark side at the end.
  • Subverted with Scuttle from The Little Mermaid. He has a total misunderstanding of things from the surface world and is the comic relief for most of the film, but it seems like he will become one of these. In the end, however, he is nearly strangled by Ursula at the wedding. Although it is double subverted, as he did managed to stall the wedding and destroy Ursula's amulet, restoring Ariel's voice and breaking Eric from Ursula's spell, and therefore leading to Ursula's defeat.
  • The CGI movie The Magic Roundabout (2005), in which the affable stoner rabbit, Dylan, suddenly snaps and opens up a can of Whup Ass as demonstrated when he takes out the skeletons in the temple.
  • Ratatouille: Linguini is a complete failure as a chef, but is quite possibly the fastest and best waiter in France, when he needs to be.
  • Jeremy the Crow from The Secret of NIMH. Despite spending much of the movie as The Load, he is the only character who directly attacks Dragon, successfully rescuing Mrs. Brisby from it. After she is left distraught at losing Timmy's medicine in the process, Jeremy seems to just lose track of conversation when suddenly:
    Jeremy: Oh by the way, you dropped this back there.
  • Captain McCrea of WALL•E goes from the typical clueless, near-helpless human aboard the Axiom to the first human to stand under his own power in centuries, deactivating the mutinous taser-wielding Autopilot.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010) is a Cloudcuckoolander with a side order of The Woobie. However, he doesn't hesitate to put himself in danger to save Alice, or the White Queen. Not to mention fighting the Knave of Hearts, The Dragon of the Red Queen, and kicking his ass.
  • In the 1986 film Aliens Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) would like to be viewed as a badass but is constantly slapped down by his more-badass companions and spends much of the film whining and complaining — until the chips are down, when he goes into full badass mode and mows down countless aliens before falling.
    "Come on you bastard! Come on, you too! Oh, you want some of this? Fuck you! FUCK YOU!"
  • Loren Visser, the private detective in Blood Simple, comes across as a goofy, loudmouthed, dumbass joke at the start of the movie...until he shoots Julian, the man who hired him. From then on, he's a nigh-unstoppable killer.
  • Natalie Voss, the rich girl in The Chase. Kidnapped at a convenience store, she begs for her life, vomits in terror, and shrieks so loudly and shrilly that her suave, dark-haired kidnapper (who else but Charlie Sheen?) can just barely tolerate her. As the getaway car heads to Mexico and Natalie gets to know her captor a lot more, learning that he's actually an unjustly accused criminal acting out of desperation, she not only grows to like him but realizes that he's her ticket out of her stiflingly buttoned-down existence. When Sheen's character is finally caught just short of the border, Natalie sees him getting hauled into a police car in handcuffs and, realizing this is her last chance to escape her former life, and despite never having handled a gun before and in fact finding guns repellent, steals a gun from one of the police officers, puts him in a headlock...and after her father scolds her for pretending to defy him, shoots a nearby hovering helicopter right out of the sky with one shot from the pistol. This sudden feat takes everyone aback - not least of all Natalie herself, who for a moment can do nothing but stare saucer-eyed at her handiwork as if to say, "Did I do that?"
  • Zen from the Thai film Chocolate is an autistic girl who looks 90lbs soaking wet, yet has the ability to watch a martial-arts fight and absorb the various movements. In a point of awesome, the martial-artist playing Zen really does learn at least a dozen separate fighting styles for the movie, and displays them flawlessly.
  • Danny Kaye's character Hawkins in The Court Jester is The Fool. Literally, since Hawkins is playing the character of Giacomo, "King of Jesters and Jester of Kings," in-universe (it's that kind of movie). Then he gets hypnotized into believing he's essentially Don Juan and Musashi all rolled into one. Pity that the switch between Hawkins (who barely knows how to hold a sword) and his hypnotized alter ego is the sound of a finger snap. Cue the most epically hilarious swordfight ever filmed.
    Hawkins: And now, Ravenhurst, your life isn't worth that *snap*! Ooooh...
  • Mamiya in Cure: seemingly unaware of his identity or surroundings, but a master of hypnotic suggestion who is capable of taking command of another person's will in a matter of seconds. He's accused of Obfuscating Stupidity, although this is never made explicit. The fact that the detective's wife definitely suffers from such an ailment adds to the uncertainty.
  • Danny the Dog stars Jet Li as the slave-enforcer of a British gang boss, raised as something approximate to an attack-dog, leaving him with the mind of a child. In fact, the character only achieves contentment when he is able to abandon his history of violence and embrace a life of non-badassery.
  • Abby in Death Proof. She disapproves of Kim's gun and whines a bit. Until the Big Bad attacks them that is. She's the one who suggested killing him and later stomps in his head after beating him up
  • Wikus van de Merwe of District 9 is a sniveling, naive corporate pencil-pusher with a silly mustache — and when the chips are down, he climbs into a suit of alien Powered Armor and proceeds to vaporize the local voodoo gang as well as the psycho PMC troops sent to retrieve him.
  • DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story has Gordon Pibb, a bumbling loser whose mail order wife hates him and who can't get angry or throw a ball with any force to save his life, making him the weakest link on the Average Joes team. However, that changes during the semi-finals. By himself against almost the entire opposing team, he sees his wife having fun with another guy and gets super pissed, going psycho and single handedly taking out the entire opposing team. The scene in question may be a homage to the original Rollerball. The film climaxes its over the top sermon on individuality vs. collective thinking and sports fixing by having the hero's team deliberately killed off all around him, until the quiet rebel in said hero snaps and he brutally destroys the entire opposing team by himself before scoring a goal nice and slow to drive the point home.
  • Evil Dead: Ash is for the most part a total idiot; but if there's one thing he's good at it's making dead things deader.
  • Newt, the protagonist the of Fantastic Beasts series, is a mild-mannered, socially awkward wizarding zoologist. He's also a Hufflepuff compared to the adventurous, bold Gryffindor Harry Potter. All that being said, he's no pushover and is Dumbledore's (Mr. Manipulative Bastard himself) hand-chosen man to go to New York to take on the Big Bad, Grindlewald, because he can't. He also fights Grindlewald himself in the climax of the first film. He also looks Grindlewald directly in the eye when he won't do it with anyone else.
  • Galaxy Quest:
    • Sir Alexander Dane spends most of his time complaining, about the degeneration of his career from classically trained Shakespearean actor to being most famous for his role as the token alien in a cheesy space opera. But when an alien trooper shoots his biggest fan, the character dies in his arms while saying that he always thought of Dane's character as a father figure. Dane then utters the alien vow his character is known for (which he had utterly hated up to this point), swearing vengeance, and lunges out of cover. The alien trooper takes aim at him but he charges, bare-handed. The alien's gun fails just in time for Dane to leap on top of him and start beating him to death bare-handed — which in turn gives the rest of the Thermians the courage to join in the fight.
    • Then there's Jason Nesmith, the star of said cheesy space opera. When the film begins, he's a drunken egotistical Jerkass who is looked down by everyone as a Nice Character, Mean Actor. But when the gravity of the situation finally dawns on him, Nesmith ascends to become a badass Guile Hero, first by improvising an escape plan and rallying his colleagues into defeating an army of invaders, then navigating a Death Course through the bowels of the ship (that he was completely unfamiliar with), and culminating with calling the Big Bad's bluff in the face of death and saving the day with an unarmed spaceship.
  • Get Smart: Maxwell Smart is ridiculously skilled and resourceful, an excellent marksman, and really damn lucky. Except for when it's funny for him to be an idiot.
  • Tuco, "The Ugly" from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, is a hairy, goofy, scruffy, slovenly klutz compared to the more mature, soft-spoken and reserved Man With No Name and Angel Eyes (not unlike Daffy Duck, actually), but is capable of shooting with incredible speed and accuracy, escaping from an armed guard by cunning use of the train tracks, as well as nearly killing Blondie several times only for him to be saved by luck (or cannonfire). When he first meets said armed guard, he threatens to take him down. We think he's just blowing smoke until it actually happens.
  • Tuco's Expy, Tae-goo from The Good, The Bad, The Weird, is a massive goofball in conspicuously eclectic clothes who is still incredibly dangerous and the one who cut off Chang-yi's finger.
  • Green Room:
    • Reece, who at first doesn't seem any different from the other members of the band, turns out to be the most physically imposing and strongest among the protagonists. He's the most willing to handle a firearm and shows more proficiency than anyone else, including the bad guys, in a number of submission-grappling moves.
    • Pat as well, who, despite seeming flaky and unreliable and being the first band member to get wounded, kills several of the neo-Nazis, including Darcy, and survives the film.
  • Radagast from the film adaptation of The Hobbit. Though eccentric (he lets birds nest in his hair, and Saruman is convinced that eating so many mushrooms has affected his brain), he is able to bring recently deceased animals to life, outrun wargs on his sled, and even defeat the Witch King in hand-to-hand combat without breaking a sweat!
  • The Sandford PD from Hot Fuzz. For all their weird ways of doing things, and their almost naive, Cloudcuckoolander personalities, they excel at armed response.
  • Subverted in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Indy has given his father's Grail Diary to Marcus Brody, an apparently goofy, harmless professor. The villains indicate that Brody will be easy to find, but Indy tells them that Brody fits this trope.
    Walter Donovan: He sticks out like a sore thumb. We'll find him.
    Indiana Jones: The hell you will. He's got a two day head start on you, which is more than he needs. Brody's got friends in every town and village from here to the Sudan, he speaks a dozen languages, knows every local custom, he'll blend in, disappear, you'll never see him again. With any luck, he's got the grail already.
    • The camera then cuts to a scene of Brody in a crowded market, conspicuously wearing the same thing he always does, calling out "Does anybody speak English?" He eventually redeems himself by clonking a Nazi unconscious with an empty tank shell.
    • Played straight with Indy's father Henry. Throughout much of the movie, he comes off as comically aloof, but he takes down a Nazi fighter plane by scaring some seagulls with his umbrella.
      Henry: I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne: "Let my armies be the rocks and the trees, and the birds in the sky!"
  • The titular character from Johnny English played by Rowan Atkinson. Sure, he's a screw-up, constantly gets the wrong end of the stick and is ridiculously naive and accident-prone, but he's also the only one who figured out the Evil Plan, sabotaged and stopped it from happening and is actually a very good fighter and Action Survivor (especially in the sequel). It's also shown that while he's not good at executing plans, he's very good at forming them, being the main planner for several of the large-scale missions in the movies and they only go wrong because of his hubris and clumsiness. Word of God even said the core joke of his character is that while he actually is good, he's not as good as he thinks he is and that's where the screw-ups come in.
  • In Josie and the Pussycats, Melody uses some serious Kung-Fu on the villainess' henchmen.
  • Kwan-Yin from the Journey to the West TV film kicked demon ass without breaking her Goddess hand gesture.
  • Juan of the Dead: The Slacker Juan becomes a zombie-killing machine, using his fishing oar as a weapon. It is revealed that he participated in the Cuban intervention in Angola.
  • Kung Fu Hustle:
    • Sing, the hapless hero, starts off as a complete failure of a small-time street crook. Then he double-crosses the Axe Gang, gets beaten into a bloody pile of meat — and wakes up as an indestructible kung fu god.
    • Just about the entire cast fits this trope. Ranging from the pervy landlord and bitchy landlady, to a secretary geek wearing golden glasses kicking both Sing and his partner's arse, and the farmer lady who managed to make Sing vomit blood with a punch — there are loads more.
    • And then there's The Beast. He's built up like some kind of monster when Sing is sent to recruit him, and when the audience finally sees him...he looks like a balding homeless man in a wifebeater, boxers and flip-flops, and acts very silly and nonchalant. The Axe Gang are torn between taking him seriously and thinking they've been had...until he kicks everyone's ass and usurps the position of Big Bad.
  • Laurel and Hardy were quite fond of this. Their characters may have been Too Dumb to Live and (mostly) harmless Vagabond Buddies, but they were certainly badass.
    • At the end of One Good Turn, Stan snaps and starts physically attacking Ollie while shouting threats. The boys added this in because Stan's little girl was scared of her "Uncle Ollie" (she thought the way he bullied Stan in the films was real); seeing a movie where her dad finally stood up to him completely fixed the problem.
    • This was also an example of Serendipity Writes the Plot: The ending was improvised because Stanley's daughter was actually on the set that day and he wanted her to be happy.
    • In Block-Heads, the boys have a run-in with a bratty little kid (played by Tommy Bond, aka "Butch" in The Little Rascals). This leads to the kid's father twice kicking Ollie in the rear...for which Stan retaliates in turn by landing a punch on the guy's chin that knocks him out cold.
    • In Two Tars, they push a man hard enough to send him flying into his car-which then falls over.
  • At the start of Lawrence of Arabia, T.E. Lawrence is stationed at a humdrum position in Cairo, and most of his fellow officers view him as insubordinate and quite the eccentric. It's only after he's sent on a mission to Arabia that he reveals himself to be a superb military commander.
  • Elle Woods from Legally Blonde. She starts out appearing to be The Ditz, but apparently superior knowledge of fashion and haircare do not preclude intelligence.
  • A Man Called Horse: John's guides Ed and Bent are lazy, disrespectful drunks, but they grow more alert when they see signs that the Sioux are about to attack. When the attack happens, one of them manages to stab a Sioux to death before dying while the more competent Joe fails to accomplish the same thing.
  • Miss Piggy in The Muppet Movie seems like a ditzy wannabe actress...until Kermit gets threatened, upon which she goes berserk on a pack of Doc Hopper's goons. Of course, fans of The Muppet Show would know that Piggy has a bit of a temper (and is quite dangerous when provoked).
  • Mystery Men's Mr. Furious, when his love interest was threatened, wiped the floor with Casanova Frankenstein.
  • Nurse Betty: Sheriff Ballard spends most of the movie being The Lopsided Arm of the Law, but the he kills Charlie during the final shootout.
  • In Pixels, Sam and Ludlow are considered to be useless civilian idiots for the first act of the film, but once they get their hands on photon guns and rush to fight the aliens, they completely surpass professional soldiers and the enemy.
  • Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach had Commandant Lassard being kidnapped and held hostage by the Big Bad. He mistakenly thinks it's all a game being put on for the media, and when someone points out that it's not, he rather quickly frees himself without breaking a sweat.
  • The Power of the Dog: Peter is kindhearted, sensitive, and gentle, but proves to be far more cunning and unscrupulous than he seems. He's fine with dissecting a rabbit for his studies and after witnessing how much of an alcoholic mess his mother became because of Phil's emotional abuse and how terrified she is of him, he murders Phil in order to protect his mother and her husband.
  • Count Vile from Press Start spends most of the movie acting like a complete dolt, leading many to question how he managed to assume total control, only revealing his true power and psychopathic ferocity in the final battle.
  • Secretly, Greatly: Invoked and justified. Ryu-hwan is a Deep Cover Agent whose supposedly innocuous cover is the village idiot Dong-gu. In reality, he is one of North Korea's top spies, a Cunning Linguist who is incredibly adept at reading people.
  • Both Scooby Doo AND Shaggy step it up at the end of Scooby-Doo: Monsters Unleashed, although they tried (and failed) throughout most of the movie. Eventually turns into a Let's Get Dangerous! moment for Scooby in the climax when his friends are threatened. He quite easily takes out every Elite Mook the Big Bad has with nothing but a fire extinguisher.
  • In Shaun of the Dead, Ed is a dumb Fat Slob, but he proves to be a fairly adept zombie killer. He is the first of the "heroes" to kill a zombie (and he does so with an ashtray) and latter when the pub is overrun, he busts out the Molotovs. However he doesn't notice some zombies coming up behind him and they bite him. He apparently still killed several zombies offscreen while Shaun and Liz were outside, before he finally turned.
  • Used in more than one Shaw Brothers movie. See The New One-Armed Swordsman and Death Duel for examples. That clumsy, harmless-looking waiter who gets bullied by punks in a tavern? He's actually an expert swordsman and killing machine who can take names by the dozens when push comes to shove.
  • Karl in Sling Blade is a quiet and usually passive mentally handicapped man. However, he's very strong and more than willing to use that strength when pushed. Suffice to say that when Doyle, the abusive stepfather of Karl's friend Frankie becomes more violent and threatening toward the boy, Karl sees to it that things don't end well for Doyle.
  • In Spaceballs, when Vespa takes a laser beam in the hairdo, she goes all Rambo and takes an entire platoon out.
  • In The Spy Who Dumped Me, Morgan may appear to be just an actress whose career has never taken off, but she picked up a range of interesting contacts and skills over the years, allowing her to call Edward Snowden for help and perform on a complex trapeze display as part of an improvised cover.
  • Star Trek (2009). James T. Kirk is a brat, a chronic juvenile offender, a wanna-be ladies' man, and he seems to excel only at getting beat up. He is also the baddest mother in all of Starfleet, and not even killing his dad or blowing up planets will change that. You may now go to warp.
  • Star Wars:
    • Jar Jar Binks (who else?) — Anyone else remember how essentially all of the droid kills he managed to get during the Battle of Naboo were entirely by accident and a result of his incompetent screwing around? As long as he is free to be a complete klutz, that guy is a walking, er, stumbling disaster zone.
      • The Gungan commander tries to toss him a booma (plasma grenade ball), which he juggles around for a second or two before dropping it onto a droid driving a tank (of which Binks is straddling the cannon), causing said tank to crash.
      • When he's on the ground, he gets his foot caught in some exposed wiring from a droid that's been torn in half (but still semi-operational), and his attempts to shake it free cause the droid to fire its weapon at other droids, scoring some kills.
      • When the Gungan forces retreat, Binks tries to grab the tailgate of an ammunition wagon in a desperate attempt to avoid being left behind, but instead causes the tailgate to fall open, spilling the plasma balls down the hill and onto the advancing droid armies.
      • Jar Jar further proves himself a competent politician in Attack of the Clones, instrumental in giving Supreme Chancellor Palpatine emergency powers he requests to fight the Separatists.
    • Also from The Phantom Menace, Ben Quadinaros is introduced as an inept Podracer who previously raced on only the safest tracks and mocked by the other pilots for trying to take on the dangerous Boonta Classic. Not helping his reputation is that his Podracer malfunctions and falls apart before he can even pass the starting line. He seemed to have manned up following the Boonta Classic, however, as he has since become highly skilled at navigating the Inferno, a course considered difficult and extremely deadly even by Podracing standards, and after that, winning races on locations taken seriously by high-level Podracers that he achieves status comparable to celebrity champion Sebulba. He is still incredibly meek and timid off the racetracks though.
    • Yoda seems this way at first in The Empire Strikes Back, but is largely considered the philosophical heart of the franchise.
  • Per canon, Michelangelo in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), who even manages to kick ass on accident. It's Mikey who suggests playing a game of "Buck-Buck" on Shredder. Vernon also qualifies due to his driving skills and confrontation with Sacks.
  • Perpetually horny CIA operative Colette Dubois (Anna Nicole Smith) in the unbelievably cheesy erotic thriller To the Limit is a bit of a question mark. Most of the time, she seems to almost have the mind of a child and doesn't even try to come off as anything but The Ditz. When it's time for action, however, she can inexplicably hold her own in fights with ninja assassins and coolly kill whole carloads of villains. It's all very bizarre even by the standards of a bizarre movie, and leaves one wondering whether Colette is actually this or another practitioner of Obfuscating Stupidity. But considering Anna Nicole's real-life persona...
  • Lance, the token white temp in Undercover Brother. NEVER CALL HIM A SISSY!!!
  • Les Visiteurs: 12th century squire Jacquouille (Christian Clavier) might be a Medieval Moron from The Dung Ages by all accounts, especially in the 20th century, but he seemingly knows how to survive in the wilderness, as he holds his own against a pack of wolves without a trace of fear and "smells the tracks very well" according to his master Godefroy. He also knocks one of the ransacking Burgundian knights down with a mallet during their raid on Godefroy's lands, and doesn't hesitate to chase a dreaded inquisitor with a hot red iron as the lives of his master and his descendant are on the line.
  • When the Last Sword Is Drawn: As "Nambu Morioka", Yoshimura puts on the air of a silly coward who's Only in It for the Money. Actually, he's sending most of his earnings home to his family and simply dislikes fighting, only doing it when he feels he has no other honorable and/or practical choice.
  • Without a Clue: Kincaid is a drunken fraud and Know-Nothing Know-It-All, but he also boldly faces down a thug pointing a crossbow at him in the opening scene, boldly fires at Moriarty during the dock shootout (although he misses by a mile), and leaps into the river to try and rescue Watson after he's apparently shot while swimming away from Moriarty. Finally, he's shown to be a decent fencer in the climax.
  • Zombieland: Double Tap: While Madison is a bumbling Dumb Blonde with very little common sense, she still proves herself to be a competent fighter against the zombies. She pepper sprays one and drops a bunch of heavy objects on them in the climax. Wichita even compliments her for it.

  • Inverted with Japanese singer GACKT. He often portrays himself on TV as a stoic badass with few emotions and exceptional martial arts skills...until he answers a silly or private question, thus revealing himself as a hidden dork with a habit of saying goofy or embarrassing things. This is especially evident in Gackt's later "Platinum Box" DVDs. No matter how hard he tries to remain serious and stoic, his bandmates will always reduce him to hysterics with their shenanigans, shattering his well-practiced persona.
  • Public Enemy hype man and human cartoon character Flavor Flav. He may seem like he doesn't know his back end from a hole in the ground, but the man has deeply underappreciated musical chops—for one, he (taught himself how to) play(s) fifteen instruments, and consequently took away the DJ's need to look for appropriate samples. Even Chuck D, by his own admission "can't play lotto."

  • From Welcome to Night Vale, the bumbling Steve Carlsberg of all people. In episode 49, when Kevin suggests that Steve's wheelchair-bound step-daughter needs "fixing", an enraged Steve picks up Kevin by his lapels and throws him through one of the Old Oak Doors.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Drew Hankinson's Festus gimmick ran entirely on this. Most of the time, he was little short of catatonic, staring blankly into space with his tongue hanging out as his tag team partner Jesse dragged him around. However, when the ring bell rang, he would wake up and destroy all of his opponents, and would not let up until the bell sounded the end of the match.
  • Pro Wrestling has a long-standing tradition of mental retardation as a gimmick. Interestingly, they always "mark" these wrestlers through behavior or attire.
  • Maria Kanellis initially in her run as a WWE diva was so vapid she could leave viewers wondering how she hadn't died from forgetting to breathe, but she apparently possessed an impressive breadth of knowledge about law. She got better over time, simply being naive about people towards the end of her WWE run, then becoming a downright queen of manipulation on the independent circuit since leaving WWE.
  • Santino Marella is probably one of the silliest guys on the roster, but the man does have genuine wrestling skill and took a few levels in badass, cleanly winning quite a few matches and even becoming US Champion.
  • The GZRS of Progress Wrestling come across as a pair of idiots but, Sebastian is currently in the semi finals of The Natural Progression Series (The Prize is a title shot) and has held his own against Zack Sabre Jr. Tom Irvin has pinned a former Progress Champion as well.
  • Toru Yano of New Japan Pro-Wrestling is this trope personified. He's generally more interested in promoting DVDs on the way to the ring than his actual match. His entire moveset pretty much consists of running away, rope breaks, hair pulling, removing turnbuckle covers and low blows. However, he's always seen as an unpredictable, tough opponent in big tournaments and has frequently held belts within the promotion.
  • Toru has nothing on Orange Cassidy, who was one of the biggest stars of the American indies before breaking out as a megastar in All Elite Wrestling in 2020. His gimmick is that of a complete slacker, often executing moves with his hands in his pockets and his trademark offense being "kicks of doom"... i.e., light taps to his opponents' shins. He's not called "The King of Sloth Style" for nothing. But woe be to the wrestler who snaps him out of his lethargy, as he can break into a series of mind-blowing technical moves at any moment. Oh, and he's responsible for Adam Cole getting his first loss in AEW.
  • In retrospect, 3MB. They were a Terrible Trio during their run but years after they split, two former members (Jinder Mahal and especially Drew McIntyre) would end up becoming WWE World Champions.

  • Subverted with Arthur Williams in Survival of the Fittest, who shoves aside his shyness and fear, charging an armed player in order to save a hostage, and gets shot in the face for his trouble. Paul Smith, also from Survival of the Fittest is usually a Chivalrous Pervert, pretty goofy and laid back — very much a comic relief character. However, from time to time, he almost seems to "switch on" and become one hell of a lot more dangerous. And try lethally dangerous.

  • Pick any sportsperson who occasionally excels in a discipline within their sport that they aren't expected to.
    • Australian cricketer Jason Gillespie once famously scored 201 not out after being temporarily promoted in the batting order as a "nightwatchman" — the only batsman with an average under 20 ever to achieve this milestone. The very important qualifier is that this was against the highly unskilled Bangladesh, but that doesn't explain how he was able to outperform the other five batsmen who batted before Australia's declaration, all of whom had averages roughly two and a half times that of Gillespie. To top it off, Gillespie took 3/11 in his professional role as a bowler in Bangladesh's first innings.
  • Cliff Young. One day in 1983, this Australian potato farmer showed up at the 550-mile long Sydney to Melbourne Ultramarathon. Wearing overalls and rain boots, Young shuffled off the line while the highly-trained, corporate-sponsored distance runners left him in the dust. But Cliff Young had two things on his side: one, his goofy running style was actually very efficient; future race winners would adopt his technique. Two, he had no need for sleep. He completed the five-day run without stopping to rest, crushing the field of super-athletes by 10 hours. By the way, he was 61 years old. Young entered the race the next year; while only finishing seventh, he had an excuse: he dislocated a hip during the race. Then in 1997 at age 76, he attempted a charity run around the entire perimeter of Australia, a total of 16,000 km. He presumably got a little sleep during the attempt. Sadly, he didn't make it, being forced to drop out after 6,520 km... because his only support crew member got too sick to follow him.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Autistic Psychic Savant class in Palladium's Beyond The Supernatural game pretty much has to be this trope. Most of the time, they can barely communicate, but in the presence of supernatural evil they prove to be smarter and more powerful than anyone else.
  • Jerry-R-Igg, one of the characters in the Paranoia Second Edition sample adventure, is a total coward, constantly freaking out at the slightest thing...while anyone's looking. Truth is, all of that's a front. As soon as he's sure nobody can report it back to the Computer, he becomes Captain X-Cess, standout in Deth Leopard and lover of Stuff Blowing Up (one of his possessions is a set of explosives disguised as snack food).

  • In Lyle Kessler's Orphans, Harold is introduced as a drunken buffoon singing and dancing at a bar as he leaves a briefcase full of money unattended. Treat, a young delinquent, thinks Harold will be an easy target for robbery and kidnapping, until Harold (who turns out to be a powerful mob boss) sobers up, unties the ropes used to restrain him, and proceeds to punch out and disarm Treat.
  • Leaf Coneybear from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is an airhead until he is asked to spell a word, at which point he turns into a scary blinking robot and gives the right answer.

    Visual Novels 
  • Phoenix Wright himself in Ace Attorney. He is a Butt-Monkey, he bluffs a lot, young him could barely see through his murderous ex, and he is willing to argue about ladders and stepladders. He is also a legendary defense attorney who trained two more competent lawyers himself, has won several cases with little to no help, in his biggest defeat he was trying to lose without Maya dying, which worked, he beat a prosecutor who was cheating his way to victory for fourty years, and when a bastard attorney got him disbarred, Phoenix got even by sending him to prison, and in their final conflict drove him insane.
  • Taiga in Fate/stay night is a silly Sensei-chan who spends most of her time at the house of one of her students, begging for food. When a random girl shows up, apparently freeloading, Taiga demands they duel for Shirou, at which point it is revealed that she is a world-class kendo champion. Subverted, since she's up against someone literally superhuman.
    • And played straight with Shirou, for that matter, whose mental disorder makes him eccentric, helpful, and self-sacrificing. And also means that he has enough Heroic Willpower to break reality.
  • Kazuhide in Fragment's Note, despite appearing to be a lazy, insensitive slacker, is actually quite perceptive and analytical. He's the first one to notice that Yukitsuki is putting up a facade, and miraculously manages to obtain a petition to prevent Mischa's deportation, and get 90% of the school - including faculty — to sign it, all without Yukiha's or Mikiya's knowledge.
  • Bark in Tick! Tack! is a complete doofus and the butt of numerous jokes, but apparently he's actually a powerful and decorated soldier.

    Web Animation 
  • Hercule/Mr Satan from Dragon Ball, according to DEATH BATTLE!. Yes, he is a bumbling idiot in his own series... compared to the Z Fighters, that is. Compared to aliens as well as fighters trained in using Ki for powerful martial arts magic he simply can't compare, but as a completely normal human without Ki he is one of the best fighters in the franchise. This is why he beat Dan Hibiki who is a complete joke of a martial artist.
  • Homestar Runner is one of the most idiotic characters to hit the Internet. In "The Strongest Man in the World", he bicycle kicks the Cheat, while upside down, into the far horizon. In 4 Branches, it's mentioned that Homestar's stupidity occasionally reaches such heights that it "flips back to smart", and shows him answering the calculation "2 + 2" by defining Coulomb's law. When this is pointed out, he reverts to normal, revising his answer as "22".
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Caboose is usually a complete idiot who loads his gun with crayons and keeps killing his teammates, however in episode 40 Caboose thought about everything that made him angry (spiky kittens, Red bull and Babies) and was able to kill every single one of the flag obsessed zealots in about 10 seconds.
    • This also happens to Tucker. He's as useless as anybody else until he gets his sword and, even then, he only shows brief moments of competence. However, in the final few episodes of the Blood Gulch Chronicles, he manages to defeat Wyoming and Gamma, quickly becomes a master sniper, and actually proves to be a pretty good leader for the blue team (a job which he was too lazy to accept previously). By the time he reappears in Recreation, he's mastered his sword as well and is able to destroy C.T.'s Warthog with one well-timed swipe. At this point, he's one of the most competent non-freelancer characters in the series. All without losing his ("Bow Chicka Bow Wow") annoying/endearing original personality traits. Not to mention going toe to toe with Tex, Maine, more Texes, and now running through an active battlefield with no cover, cutting down soldiers and not taking a single hit. At this point, the "non-freelancer" part is redundant. He's one of the most competent characters in the series. Bear in mind the amount of pain and major injuries he's sustained during the entire series. Early on he takes a rocket to the back and still manages to recover; an alien ambushes and attacks him brutally, yet he recovers quickly afterwards; not long after he goes through the (excruciating) miracle of giving birth to an alien baby. He even manages to crack wise while Tex is beating his ass, suggesting he can shrug off her punches better than most non-freelancers.
    • As the series progresses, all of the Blood Gulch Crew end up becoming this. They were the lowest grunts of the UNSC military, constantly bickering with each other and deliberately kept away from major conflict, and thus should be completely unprepared for the super-soldiers and conspiracies they encounter. Except they repeatedly defeat them — with quirks and all.
  • RWBY:
    • Penny's first appearances paint a picture of a mild mannered girl, who appears slightly touched in the head. Although she makes it clear from the outset that she's "combat ready", she turns out to be far more capable a fighter than Ruby has ever seen. When Torchwick lands a cheap blow on Ruby, Penny not only wipes the floor with the White Fang, she single-handedly downs three armed airships.
    • Jaune qualifies to some extent. He's the least fit between friends and allies, but give him proper guidance and he'll show himself pretty capable.
  • In Smash King, Dedede is the definition of this. Wario also applies as he only fights when he has to, and because of his split personality disorder, Meta Knight fits this trope like a glove. During Act II however, the "badass" side becomes much more prominent.
  • Shrapnel: Downplayed with the Ugandan Knuckles because you have to stretch the definition of "badass" a bit, but they can be more capable than their goofy appearances suggest.
  • Mario as he appears in Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers is profoundly stupid and is usually more preoccupied with getting naked, downing nightmarish amounts of spaghetti, and whatever else he feels like. But as far too many adversaries have found out, when he's sufficiently motivated, Mario can and will get rid of them by any means necessary, be it through combat or trickery.

    Web Original 
  • Inevitable Whateley Universe example: Generator (Jade Sinclair) looks like a joke character, with her adorable child-like appearance, silly-looking techno-toys, endless pranks, and love of Hello Kitty. She is also the battle-hardened tactical genius who gives the combat instructors nightmares, strikes fear in the hearts of super-powered school bullies, and once wiped out a Syndicate hard-site pretty much single-handedly.

    Web Videos 
  • Achievement Hunter, with the exception of Ray Narvaez Jr. and Ryan Haywood (whose in-series persona is very crazy), are all rather quirky and have regular moments of stupidity. In spite of this, every single one has pulled off some crazily impressive stunts, being good gamers when push comes to shove. Of special mention is Gavin Free, who for the most part speaks in a somewhat unusual manner and serves as The Load.
  • Linkara from Atop the Fourth Wall is a nerd who reviews comic books for a living. He also has the power to manifest, invent, or contact any fictional person or thing. His standard weapon is his magic gun, but he's also found often using his Power Rangers Morpher, a Star Trek phaser, the giant robot death machine Neutro, a Pokéball with Pyramid Head in it, and several other things. He has used this to defeat Vyce, a Multiversal Conqueror, amongst other enemies.
  • Rebecca Stone from Demo Reel comes off at first as a ditzy Cloudcuckoolander with no empathy and no clue how to look after pets. Turns out? She's a Gun Nut security guard who won't hesitate to beat the shit out of anyone who hurts her best friends.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Goku is a Manchild whose Idiot Hero tendencies from the original series get taken to ludicrous heights. That said, he's still Goku, and can mop the floor with the most powerful warriors in the universe without breaking a sweat.
    • HFIL, this doesn't just extend to Goku. Nappa, Vegeta, Frieza, the Androids, even Cell all have their moments of incompetence that get balanced out by their moments of badassery. And that's just to name a few.
  • Hat Films enjoy frequently verbally abusing one another, constantly end up hurting or killing themselves by accident and often impede their own progress, but they've designed very efficient mob grinders and ways to retrieve underwater gear, won many PvP maps and regularly manage to give Sips and co a good run for their money.
  • Paul of LoadingReadyRun. Ridiculously techy, he can make anything from time machines to nerf rocket launchers from the junk in his garage.
  • Essentially the entire core cast of Mega64, but special mention should go to Sean and Horatio. Do not make them mad.
  • When he's not reviewing movies, The Nostalgia Critic is a mix of The Ditz and a loser. But apparently he's a good enough gamer to absolutely whup Angry Joe's ass at Marvel Vs. Capcom.
  • The Runaway Guys: Tim tends to die the most in games because he's usually not paying enough attention to the screen because of his sleep apnea. However, he excels in their Wheel Of Fortune side series, with many a good guess being met with Jon and Emile telling him that he needs to get on the show. One particular highlight is him solving the puzzle (Denzel Washington) with only ONE LETTER REVEALED.
  • SeaNanners often goofs off, jokes around, embodies Bond Villain Stupidity and laughs like there's no tomorrow. In spite of this, he regularly beats opponents in-game handily and gets to gloat afterwards.
  • Sips is one of the go-to goofballs, frequently spelling things wrong and neglecting his grammar, while making bad jokes. He's also one hell of a gamer when he decides to stop messing around.
  • Turpster is goofy as hell and has a tendency to break the rules on a ridiculously frequent basis. However, when he's the murderer in Garry's Mod, or a traitor in Trouble in Terrorist Town, he's surprisingly resourceful.
  • Simon Lane and Lewis Brindley of the Yogscast usually play quirky Idiot Heroes. And then you hurt someone they like, and they will kick your ass. Not to mention that despite their usual stupidity they both have studied advanced sciences in Real Life.
  • Tristan from Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series. A ditz to the max — however, as he puts it, "My voice gives me super strength!" And "Yeah, I can break necks with my mind."

    Real Life 
  • The Cast Members at Disney World. They're a bunch of endlessly-smiling employees in funny outfits and costumes who talk about magic and being "on stage" at work, they're seemingly just hospitality and entertainment workers, and some of Jungle Cruise operators joke that they couldn't get into college. On 9/11, with barely 10 minutes' notice of the emergency, they safely evacuated every single theme park using a "human wall" and without causing a panic, and kept guests at the hotels relatively calm and occupied in the aftermath.
  • Clowns are used to invoke this trope, when one realizes they are not simply comic reliefs, but are often actually quite capable acrobats. An egrogious and recent example is Henry Ayala, known as "the Prince of Clowns" who is extremely funny as a clown and extremely capable as tightrope walker, with he and his team of tightrope walkers and acrobats -the Troupe Ayala- winning the second prize at the 44th Festival de Monte-Carlo for their stunts.
  • Oda Nobunaga was nicknamed the "Fool of Owari" in his youth, due to his bizarre behavior and disregard for his rank in society. Then came the Battle of Okehazama, where Nobunaga led an army of a paltry 3,000 against the warlord Imagawa Yoshimoto and his 25,000 soldiers, and won, placing him in a key position to unite all of Japan under his rule. After that, no one dared call him a "fool".
  • Xu Zhu was known as "Tiger Fool" or "Sleeping Tiger". Noted to be a kind, humble, and quiet man off the battlefield, in battle, he turned from gentle giant into terrifying figure, often compared to a tiger.
  • Guy Chabot, more known as the "Baron of Jarnac" (despite being the second to hold that title) was a peaceful young noble with no battle experience nor martial education. Unfortunately, his sister-in-law being one of the lovers of François 1er, he became the target of nasty rumors spread by the Prince, future Henri II. Honor demands it, Jarnac seek a duel with whoever spread said rumors, but as the future king cannot be mingled to such things, Henri ask someone to take the blame in his stead. Who does he sent ? One of his three closest retainers, François de Vivonne, more known as "La Châtaigneraie", who is not only a blood knight war veteran and proeficient with all weapons, but also the one considered the best swordmaster of France at the time. Basically, he's The Dragon and Final Boss doing a preview. François 1er, being reasonnable, refuse that the duel takes place, and stand his ground for the rest of his life... but Jarnac still obtained that fight from Henri II, once he became the new king of France. Everyone, God and probably Jarnac included, expected Châtaigneraie to win, but Jarnac, having been trained in the meantime by a retired badass, manage to win with a one-hit kill.


Dylan beats up skeletons

Faced with skeletons in the temple, Dylan takes them down with martial arts.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass

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