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Heroic Bystander

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You don't have to be a superhero to be a hero!
When something bad happens, most people gape in fear and shock. They are the Innocent Bystanders. But sometimes one person decides to help out, and in the doing, becomes a hero. That's the Heroic Bystander.

The Heroic Bystander is not someone who is normally expected to be a hero in times of crisis, such as a police officer or a lifeguard. Instead, it's an ordinary person, with no special training, who happens to save a life through their own inner courage and resolve.

It doesn't have to be a life that is saved. A Heroic Bystander can also defend a person's reputation, distract a villain with a Defiant Stone Throw or help someone out who needs help, when no one else is doing so.

This can be used as a device to show the growth of a character, such as having a cowardly individual show remarkable resolve in coming to someone's rescue. It can show how someone is transformed from a passive outsider to someone who gets involved and tries to help others. Sometimes, it can be used to let a wimp have their day in the sun. Sometimes (especially in real life) a whole crowd will get involved, possibly sparked by one person showing courage to ignite the powder keg.

Of course, those bystanders live in a world that is basically similar to our own. An Anti-Hero of a Crapsack World (who is usually a bystander, not a Knight in Shining Armor) is something different.

A subversion may be to have the bystanders help the villain, particularly if the protagonist is a Hero with Bad Publicity, the bystanders are a bunch of Ungrateful Bastards or they have Torches and Pitchforks and are determined to attack the protagonist no matter what.

See also I Am Spartacus, which sometimes uses this. If he's the protagonist, then he becomes an Action Survivor. Compare Good Samaritan, Badass Bystander, and Hero of Another Story.

Somewhere between this and a Superhero lie The Real Heroes: ordinary people in jobs that require them to do this day-in, day-out without anyone writing a comic strip about them.

Contrast Never Be a Hero.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Rachel from Baccano! spends the majority of the Flying Pussyfoot hijack/massacre saving lives and rescuing hostages entirely unprompted, even though it was her job as an information gatherer to lay low and stay out of trouble. She got an injured leg and hand for her effort, but her conscience is clean.
  • In the first episode of Code Geass, when a truck crashes, the Britannian civilians merely stand and gawk at the scene, with some casually taking pictures with their cellphones. Lelouch is the only person who bothers actually trying to help. Shirley also mentions that witnessing another case of Lelouch helping out when no one else would is what initially attracted her to him.
  • Maybe not directly helping anyone, but in Death Note, when the police surround the news building with their face-concealing helmets, knowing that Kira needs only a face and maybe a name to kill, one reporter on another channel speaks up. "This is right. This is the way a constitutional nation should behave!" He then proceeds to give out his full name on national television.
  • Early in Fullmetal Alchemist, Ed swiftly takes out one of the two hijackers in the train's engine room. When the second hijacker reacts to this, the engineers he no longer has his gun pointed at promptly beat the shit out of him with their shovels.
    • In the Brotherhood version, Pride’s mother pulling this on his behalf is why she’s the only human he remotely loves.
  • Gantz pretty much begins with a double occurrence of this trope.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam Wing: Endless Waltz pulls this in the climax by having a nameless member of the Mariemaia Army shoot Dekim after realizing that he and his fellow Treize loyalists had been manipulated into fighting a war they wouldn't have supported normally.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam SEED:
    • The series ending features Patrick Zala ordering his men to cause The End of the World as We Know It. After a moment of stunned silence, a lone mook questions the order and is immediately shot as a traitor. The wounded mook decides that his boss has gone completely off the deep end, and promptly returns fire.
    • Kira also starts out as one, who tails Cagalli because she's going the wrong way, and just happens to arrive in the Strike's hangar at the exact right moment to save Murrue Ramius and gets thrown into the Strike's cockpit by pure chance.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi has Johnny the airship pilot, who is apparently the Magic World's equivalent of a cross-country trucker. He's earned his stripes by loaning his airship to the heroes and performing some high-intensity stunt-flying for them during the raid on Old Ostia.
  • In Princess Tutu there's Autor, an annoying, geeky character who seems to care very little about other people. However, when an axe-wielding man tries to cut off Fakir's hands to stop him from finishing the story, Autor pushes him out of the way and uses nothing more than a book and his bare hands to defeat the man. ...He appears to faint right afterwards, but it still shows that there's more to him than may meet the eye at first.
  • Puella Magi Oriko Magica: In this spin-off series, Sayaka is not a magical girl and doesn't seem to even know that magical girls exist. Yet the first thing she does when her school gets taken over by a witch's labyrinth and familiars begin to roam around and attack her fellow classmates, she grabs whatever is handy and whacks them away as hard as she can.
  • Rosario + Vampire S2: Fairy Tail kidnaps Mizore and threaten to annihilate her entire species if they fight back. So Tsurara asks for help from people who can fight the organization effectively and supplies them with weapons. Sometimes heroism isn't about fighting evil but helping the people who do.
  • Sailor Moon:
  • Yusuke Urameshi of YuYu Hakusho has his Superhero Origin in a First-Episode Resurrection after he is killed saving a little kid from being hit by a car. He is told that he is being given a chance at resurrection because he wasn't supposed to die then: the Powers That Be never expected a delinquent like him to make a Heroic Sacrifice.

    Comic Books 
  • Various Marvel Comics heroes have gone through this at different times:
    • Obscure 1970s hero Omega the Unknown is battling Electro in a TV studio, with Electro getting the upper hand until one of the children in the audience hit Electro in the leg, distracting him long enough for Omega to rally and knock him out.
    • When battling the crazed Bookworm, a villain who could bring anything he read about to life, Sleepwalker became caught in a stalemate, with the Bookworm able to create new monsters as fast as Sleepwalker could blast them. One of the Bookworm's friends, realizing that he'd gone insane, gave him a book with blank pages, which distracted him long enough for Sleepwalker to finish off the last of his creations and capture him.
    • The Mighty Thor:
    • Upon being attacked by three supervillains at once, Moon Knight manages to defeat two of them but is tied up by Coachwhip's electrical coils. Coachwhip is about to fry Moon Knight when a bystander sprays her with a hose, shorting out her equipment and knocking her out from the feedback.
    • A technologically minded crazed civilian decides to disrupt The Avengers' appearance on the David Letterman show. The villain ends up in a force field with Letterman while the heroes battle the robots threatening others. Letterman takes a prop and wallops the guy on the skull, saving the day.
    • Spider-Man: Averted. As we are reminded every two or three months, Spider-Man is a superhero and not an unbeatable wrestler because he refused to be a heroic bystander and let a thief run away, who killed Uncle Ben afterwards.
      • Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man's former wife, invokes this trope on multiple occasions:
      • Spider-Man is being overwhelmed by a demonic Hobgoblin in the sewers of New York until Mary Jane lights his cape on fire. While Hobgoblin is distracted, Spider-Man throws the flaming villain a large pile of demon-possessed sewage, causing an explosion that defeats both monsters.
      • When Mary Jane is kidnapped by a Stalker with a Crush named Jonathan Caesar in The Amazing Spider-Man (1963), Spider-Man tries to rescue her. Caesar responds by sending a pair of mercenaries named Styx and Stone after our hero, who nearly kill him until Mary Jane escapes from Caesar and his goons on her own and uses the gun she stole to scare away the mercenaries.
      • A fashion show Mary Jane attends is crashed by the White Rabbit, who's there to collect a debt she's owed by one of the partygoers. With no one else willing or able to do it, Mary Jane subdues the White Rabbit herself.
      • In Spider-Island, when a mutating powers virus grants normal people the same powers and abilities as Spider-Man, Mary Jane watches the spider-powered citizens having the time of their lives from the sidelines. When the virus mutates those infected into giant spiders, Mary Jane finally becomes infected with powers and comes to the aid of defenseless citizens. She later joins in the final battle with the villain responsible for the madness, saving Spider-Man and motivating him to use his head and then defending him once he formulates a plan to save everybody.
      • When Aunt May's boyfriend Nathan is attacked by a gang of thugs, Spider-Man intervenes to stop them. It looks like a typical one-sided fight until one of the goons puts a knife to Nathan's throat. There's not much Spidey can do until an elderly bystander sneaks up on the goon from behind and stuns him with her cane, dizzying him and allowing Spider-Man to reel him in with a webline to punch him out.
      • Spider-Man is pursuing the Jason Macendale Hobgoblin, who has just kidnapped his son Jay. They're both pursued by Coldheart, a rogue government agent who's trying to kill them because her own son was killed in the crossfire of a superhero battle. Spider-Man defeats the Hobgoblin and saves Jay, but then Coldheart ambushes him. She's about to kill Spidey when Jay intervenes, pleading for her to leave Spider-Man alone. Jay's pleas are enough for Coldheart to let Spider-Man live.
      • Miles Morales/Spider-Man has this happen to him in the first issue of Spider-Man (2016). The Avengers are battling the demonic Blackheart in the city, and as Spider-Man makes his way to join the fight, an explosion blows an empty car and two school buses full of children into the air. Spidey prevents them from crashing onto the street with his webs, and as he starts to get the children out, a group of bystanders tell him to let them take care of helping the children out of the buses so that he can go join the fight.
    • Daredevil is only, well, Daredevil because he was a Heroic Bystander to a blind man about to be hit by a truck hauling radioactive material.
      • In one issue, Daredevil fights Pyro and the Blob to keep them from abducting a young mutant girl and forcing her to register with the U.S. government. After taking out Pyro, Daredevil attacks the Blob but is quickly knocked down. The Blob is about to stomp Daredevil when the girl he's trying to protect uses her telekinetic powers to pull him out of the way. Daredevil then gets the girl to use her powers to pull a large bell down from a nearby church, knocking the Blob out after Daredevil blinds him and then lures him under the steeple.
    • In the Captain America novel Liberty's Torch, a crazed militia puts the Captain on trial and kidnaps a lawyer, a Mark Gruenwald homage, to give him an ultimately pointless defense. The lawyer even assists (a bit) in the climactic battle, preventing the Big Bad from escaping (and causing that Smug Snake to very satisfyingly break his jaw).
    • One of the most decisive ones is at the end of Civil War (2006). The anti-Registration group is winning, Captain America has defeated Iron Man, and is about to finish him... and a group of mere bystanders join the fight and stop Captain America, who realizes the destruction caused by the fight, surrenders, and orders the others to do the same. The pro-registration side wins, and the anti-registration side is forced to escape and work in the shadows. But if those bystanders did not take action... everything would have been so different. It's also arguably a subversion where the bystanders were villainous, since they were intervening in support of what proved to be a ghastly violation of civil rights, due process and basic human freedoms.
    • Likewise, in the finale of Fear Itself, the residents of Broxton form a ragtag militia to defend their homes and the gate to Asgard against the Serpent's forces. However, all but one of them flees in the face of their assault. Then, after being ashamed of their cowardice, they return to fight side by side with Captain America and the Avengers. News reports also tell of more heroic bystanders trying to fight the disasters the Serpent has caused worldwide, showing that his plan to drown the world in fear has ultimately failed.
    • An especially twisted subversion occurred in Luke Cage: Hero for Hire, when the racist Playing with Fire villain Wildfire tried to burn down the house of a black family that had just moved into an otherwise all-white neighborhood. The black parents pleaded with their white neighbors to call the fire department, but the neighbors all just stood silently and watched their lives burn. One of them even intervened to help Wildfire by warning him that Cage was about to attack.
  • In the Justice League of America graphic novels Syndicate Rules, super-powered villains are trashing a local scientific facility. Many citizens, wrongly believing they are helping the real Flash and Green Lantern, attack the bad guys and give the doppelgangers a chance to defeat the villains.
  • This is a recurring element in Astro City, where ordinary people selflessly take risks to save others in need.
    • In "Newcomers", hotel doorman Pete Donacek does a diving catch to save a four-year-old girl from being crushed by a falling car during a giant robot attack. He sees her every day and doesn't even know her name, but is satisfied knowing that he did the right thing for someone.
      "My name is Pete Donacek. I live in Astro City. I wear a uniform too."
    • In "Pastoral", a team of supervillains take down Roustabout in the middle of a carnival attack. An entire crowd of bystanders piles on with farm tools and two-by-fours, winning him enough time to regroup and turn the tide.
    • In "Victory", an injured teenager named Joey Lacroix discovers the secret base of the mastermind destroying Winged Victory's reputation. Despite feeling helpless and alone and scared, he manages to pass the information along, all to help people he had never met.
    • "And, In the End..." shows that there is a citywide network of civilian volunteers who support emergency services personnel after super-conflicts.
  • Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen:
    • Jimmy rushed to Superman's aid when the hero was overcome by kryptonite fire on his suit. A few burns were nothing when it came to saving his pal.
    • In the early story "The Hunted Messenger", Jimmy rescues a deliveryman from two muggers.
  • Supergirl (2005): In issue #20, Supergirl is fighting a cyclops (long story) and being trounced by the giant monster. Then a bystander hands an arrow dropped by an Amazon (long story) over to Supergirl, and she uses it to blind the cyclops.
  • A heartbreaking example occurs toward the end of Watchmen. In the penultimate chapter, several minor characters from throughout the story — including a friendly newsstand owner, a young boy who hangs out at the stand to read comics, and Rorschach's prison psychiatrist and his wife — notice a young lesbian couple (who have also appeared in several scenes) getting into a brawl. Each of these bystanders decides that they're going to try to help, even though they're living in a Crapsack World where it's easy to walk away. The panels of them reaching out to assist the women are intercut with scenes of Ozymandias unleashing his ultimate weapon on New York City, and readers see everyone on the streets gasping in fear as a massive white light engulfs and kills them, with the newsstand owner using his last seconds to shield the frightened boy from the blast. What makes it particularly sad is that Ozymandias is motivated by a belief that Humans Are Bastards, thinking that only a fake alien threat could possibly unite people... but the citizens choosing to assist suggests that Rousseau Was Right, and there was a way to stop the world's problems without resorting to killing millions of innocent people.

    Fan Works 
  • In Fear No Evil, a My Hero Academia fanfic, when Izuku sees Humarise cultist attempt to kidnap a drugged Eraserhead, he intervenes by attempting to pull the hero away from them, loudly screams and makes a commotion to draw attention. Another bystander calls the cops, which forces the cultists to abandon Eraserhead...only for them to grab Izuku instead.
  • In the Hetalia: Axis Powers fanfiction Human Curiosity, when Lichtenstein finds herself captured by the HCS a second time, the Swiss Guard rallies the people of Vaduz (the capital of Lichtenstein) to storm the building she was being held captive in and rescue her. This incident convinces the leader of the HCS to not try to recapture any other nations since their people will probably try to rescue them as well.
  • letmetellyouaboutmyfeels' MCU Rewrites: In this rewrite of Avengers: Age of Ultron, during Ultron's attack on Sokovia, a little girl stands up to the killer robot by throwing a rock at one of his drones.
  • Cole proves to be one in Burning Bridges, Building Confidence. At first, she's just concerned with helping an elderly civilian get out of the way, but when she discovers that Chat Noir is refusing to fight to try and force Ladybug to admit she needs his help, she arms herself with a bat and other improvised weaponry before charging into the fray herself. This is one of the reasons why Master Fu decides to make Cole a permanent bearer of Trixx the Fox Miraculous.

    Films — Animation 
  • In the first segment of Batman: Gotham Knight, an assailant that Batman has been chasing throughout the episode is sneaking up on Batman from behind when he is hit over the head from behind with a skateboard by a street kid. In response, Batman thanks the kid and says that he owes him one.
  • In My Little Pony: The Movie (2017), three of the four adult Princesses of Equestria have been Taken for Granite, and now an orb is headed for the fourth. Derpy Hooves tries to get her out of the way, and takes the orb for Twilight. In the time it takes the smoke to clear and Tempest to realize she hit the wrong pony, Twilight and her closest friends have enough of a lead to make good their escape and get the help Equestria needs. All those petrified are freed in the end.
  • In Turning Red, thanks to some convincing from Mei's friends, 4*Town use their voices to help power the binding circle to save Ming. The audience at the concert also qualify, since they join in with 4*Towns singing, making the circle even more powerful.
  • In WALL•E, the "defective" robots become this after the title character frees them from the repair bay on the Axiom. When WALL-E and EVE are rushing to get the plant to the Holo-Detector that will bring the Axiom back to Earth, they encounter a fleet of AUTO's defense bots, which almost neutralize them. Thankfully, the Rogue Robots (a name given by the film's soundtrack) come to the rescue. Some are on defense: a beautician robot uses her mirror to deflect some of the sentries' lasers, and a broken umbrella later does the same on a much larger scale. The offense includes a defibrillator who shocks the bots with her paddles, a vacuum who covers them in dust, and a hyperactive masseuse who knocks the chips right out of them. Even M-O, a tiny cleaning robot, tries to "help" by charging one of the sentries (it doesn't do much, but hey, it's the thought that counts).
    • Later, after AUTO rolls the ship to prevent the robots from activating the detector, the obese humans who have become overly reliant on technology start tumbling downward. As part of the movie's message about working together, the humans become Heroic Bystanders to each other by reaching out and catching others' hands. Minor character Mary gets a particularly awesome moment when she notices a group of babies rushing toward her at high speed and saves them by hurling her love interest John against gravity to create a protective circle with their arms.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • This is the entire premise of Dustin Hoffman's Accidental Hero.
  • Ted Striker does this in Airplane!, and again in the sequel.
  • In Angels & Demons, Langdon sees Cardinal Baggia being dumped into the Fountain of the Four Rivers, tied to a weighted bed, and gagged. Langdon jumps in to save him, but is unable to lift the bed on his own; he then surfaces, screaming, "Help, somebody!" before diving back down and finding an aerator in the fountain that grants the drowning man a little oxygen. At that point, Langdon feels a hand on his shoulder and discovers that a random bystander has leaped into the fountain as well; another man and a woman follow suit, and all four work to hoist the bed and save the cardinal, while other people are on hand to move him to the ground.
  • In Tim Burton's Batman (1989), when the Joker gases the crowd at his parade, the only one who tries to help is Alexander Knox, an annoying reporter who'd spent most of the film as Plucky Comic Relief. He doesn't get very far because Vicki Vale accidentally runs him over a few minutes later, but it's the thought that counts. He does cause some of the Joker's minions to lose their grips on their balloons, which probably saves quite a few lives.
  • Chris Evans' character in Cellular is just a random guy on the street, but when he gets a call from a kidnapped woman he's never met he goes to extraordinary lengths to save her.
  • The Dark Knight: The Joker arranges for two ships full of refugees (one with regular citizens and the other the contents of the local prison) to be wired with explosives, then informs the refugees that they have the detonators for the other ship and if one ship blows up before midnight, he won't blow up the other one. The Joker was out to prove that People Ain't No Damn Good, but one man on each ship decides to not blow up the other one, even if it meant their own deaths. Special awesome points to the convict who tossed it while the other side was dithering.
  • Elysium: The little old lady who hides Max from Kruger and his crew by getting him to crawl under her cart of pigs, defeating their FLIR.
  • Jack the Giant Slayer: When an incognito Princess Isabelle is harassed by two men in a public space, Jack steps in to defend her simply because “That’s no way to treat a lady!”. While he ends up on the receiving end of a drunken fist for his trouble, this incident first puts him on the royal household’s radar and arguably reverberates through the entire rest of the plot.
  • In Lawn Dogs, Devon, a 10-year-old kid, witnesses her father, a former police officer, and an adult bully beat on her adult friend Trent after they mistakenly believed him to have abused her. She intervenes by taking her father's gun and shooting the bully, and from there, stops the situation from getting worse and helps Trent escape.
  • Godzilla (2014): The unnamed bus driver on the Golden Gate Bridge. The road forward is barricaded, the tanks on the bridge and the battleships in the water below are firing missiles and artillery rounds with all they've got, bridge cables are snapping, and there's a leviathan of Biblical proportions rearing out of the sea, about to crash into the bridge he and his bus full of screaming kids is currently sitting on. What does he do? He slams on the gas pedal, smashes through the barricade, and successfully gets himself and the kids off the bridge before it's destroyed.
  • The Host (2006): When the monster attacks a crowd in Korea, a random American marine jumps in to attack the creature and defend other bystanders. He's grievously injured in the process, and a news report later announces that he died of his wounds.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Towards the end of Iron Man 2 the Hammer-drones are rampaging and the crowd is fleeing in fright...except for one little boy wearing an Iron Man mask, who then holds up a gloved hand at one of the drones. The drone pauses, uncertain whether this boy is the real deal or not, giving the real Iron Man time to land and blast the drone away. He gives the boy a "Nice work, kid!" before flying away again. In doing this, the boy probably saved dozens of lives. What's even cooler about this moment is that years later, it was confirmed by Tom Holland, that the little boy was in fact, Peter Parker. The kid has been a hero a lot longer than just six months, even if he was only officially introduced in Captain America: Civil War.
    • The old German gentleman in The Avengers. He's just a face in the crowd... but he stands up to a homicidal god, because he's seen this before and won't let it happen again.
    • The unnamed Helicarrier tech subsequently identified as Specialist Cameron Klein. Arguably, as a SHIELD agent, he's not entirely untrained. However, as the movies, not to mention the MCU-connected TV show and the MCU-connected graphic novels make clear, it's a huge organization with a lot of people who aren't trained assassins or special-forces. That includes the valiant Mr. Klein; yet, surrounded by armed HYDRA double agents who are trained assassins or special forces:
      Brock Rumlow: Preempt the launch sequence. Send those ships up now.... Is there a problem?
      Specialist Klein: I'm sorry, sir. I'm not gonna launch those ships. Captain's orders.
  • As well as Stan Lee playing himself in many Marvel movies, usually yanking some other extra out of harm's way. Although he seems to have just as much fun being rescued from such situations (see the Daredevil movie), as well as being turned away from the wedding in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. And getting mistaken for Hugh Hefner in Iron Man.
  • Miss Sloane: Esme is nearly killed by a gun-wielding fanatic enraged by her pro-gun control activism, who's then fatally shot when a bystander with his own legal concealed pistol intervenes. Naturally, the gun lobby gleefully pounces on this, considering it a godsend, as her rescuer is (unsurprisingly) opposed to her views, with the Brady Campaign Esme works for scrambling to respond, noting the bill they support wouldn't affect her rescuer as his gun is legal. Esme finds it suspicious enough that at first she suspects a setup, but the film does not show that was the case.
  • During a chase scene in National Treasure, the heroine Abigail ducks into a deli and hides behind the counter. She tells the employee "I'm just hiding from my ex-husband." Once the employee sees the Mook, she immediately tells Abigail she can stay as long as she likes and then proceeds to intimidate the clearly-armed-and-angry bad guy into leaving. She even adds a sympathetic, "I see why you left him." All for a random stranger who's trespassing in her business!
  • In Red Eye, only one passenger notices that something is wrong about Rippner, or that he's threatening Lisa. At the end, when Lisa stabs Rippner and runs like hell, and Rippner jumps up to follow, this one passenger (not even a blip on Rippner's radar) tosses her suitcase into the aisle to trip him, buying Lisa a few precious extra seconds to get a head start (and thus foil the assassination attempt described below). The kicker? This heroic passenger is nine years old at most.
    • Rippner's entire job is to ensure that the assassination of the Deputy Secretary of U.S. Homeland Security occurs; the Secretary and his family are staying in the hotel that Lisa runs, and she's forced to contact her friend Cynthia and have the group moved into a certain room that's targeted with a missile. When Lisa escapes Rippner and calls again to reveal the truth, Cynthia gets to be a hero by immediately pulling a fire alarm to evacuate the hotel, saving the Secretary, his family, and all of the other people who would have died in the explosion.
    • Heck, Lisa herself counts as one. She's a hotel manager trying to take a flight when she gets caught up in a terrorist plot, and rather than panicking, she tries all manner of plans to alert other people to Rippner's schemes, most of which nearly succeed. When she finally escapes Rippner, she not only calls Cynthia and foils the assassination, but she also finds herself fighting the villain in her own home and successfully fends him off long enough for her father to fatally shoot him. It's not suggested that she has any kind of self-defense or firearms training, either — she's just a woman trying to help people in danger.
  • Spider-Man:
  • Superman II. During Superman's fight with the three Kryptonian supervillains, they smash him with a bus. The citizens of Metropolis join together and charge the villains, only to be blown away by the bad guys' super breath. However, their intervention gives Superman enough time to pull himself together and come up with a cunning plan to lure the villains away from the city.
  • In 2 Days in the Valley, the hitman Woods is killed by Teddy Peppers, an ordinary guy who was dragged into the film's plot by sheer chance. With the very same gun Teddy was planning to use to commit suicide.
  • In Vantage Point, Forest Whitaker's character, Howard Lewis, is a classic Heroic Bystander, up to and including pushing a kid out of the way of a tumbling car.
  • Combined with Badass Bystander in Werewolf (1996). The titular creature near the end of the movie encounters a random bystander and the two go into a fistfight, with the bystander kicking the werewolf's ass.
  • Willow: Ethna is just a midwife trying to do her job. The queen Bavmorda has ordered a baby with a certain birthmark to be found and killed. Ethna delivers Elora, the baby that the queen fears, then immediately flees with her, despite not having any personal stake or even connection to the child. When the Queen sends vicious dogs to attack, Ethna doesn't hesitate a moment to get Elora to a nearby river and send her off to safety — the dogs tear Ethna to pieces, but she dies knowing that she did the right thing.
  • Toward the end of Wonder Woman 1984, the villainous Maxwell Lord is overloading with power from the Dreamstone, which is fueled by the wishes of humans around the world. Instead of fighting Maxwell, Diana calls upon the people of the Earth to recant their requests, pointing out that the cost is far too great. In a stirring montage, every single person who made a wish — including Maxwell himself — recants their request, which undoes all of the damage and destroys the Dreamstone's abilities.
  • X-Men: First Class: When Charles Xavier realizes that no one on the US Coast Guard vessel is willing to help Erik Lehnsherr, he dives into the dark, frigid ocean without hesitation to save the life of a drowning stranger.
  • Pvt. Henry Hook in Zulu does this, going from malingerer to badass.

  • The Brave Lion and the Foolish Rabbit:note  The lion calms down a horde of terrified animals despite having nothing to do with their problem.
    There, below him, he saw all the animals running, running, running madly as if pursued by some terrible danger. Looking carefully, he saw nothing at all threatening them. But he did see that they were running straight toward the edge of a cliff. And he saw that if no one stopped them, they would fall over the edge of that cliff and die.
    "Someone should help those animals," he said quietly to himself, rising to his feet.
    "Why, I'll help them," he decided.
  • Brothers of the Snake: Antoni is an ordinary human, living on a fairly primitive world, who leads a Space Marine to where the Dark Eldar have landed. When one attacks her, she manages to kill it. (The rest appear, and the Space Marine arrives to deal with them.)
  • I Only Wanted to Help: Cole Nichols and his father intervene when they see three men attempting to rape a teenage girl.
  • Journey to Chaos: During the fourth book, Transcending Limitations, Basilard is on his way to his guild's headquarters when he is ambushed by assassins. His neighbors step up to save him and his daughter.
  • King Lear: One of Cornwall's servants sees him blinding Gloucester and tries to intercede. Regan kills him, but not before he fatally stabs Cornwall.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Frodo Baggins, who's just a guest at his uncle's birthday party. He just so happens to be given the One Artifact of Doom. It takes the first 2 out of 3 volumes of the original edition to turn him from Innocent Bystander to a heroic one.
  • Princess Holy Aura: Devika, who first helps to organise an evacuation in a fight around superpowered beings, and then willingly goes back to help the Apocalypse Maidens.
  • Rainbow Six: Subverted during a hostage situation when one of the hostages distracts one of the terrorists, seemingly giving the Rainbow sniper an opening to headshot the terrorist. Later on, the sniper admits in actuality the hostage's action didn't make a difference one way or another, since as a professionally-trained sniper he already had a good shot at that point, but goes to congratulate the hostage anyway because what he did still took major balls.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Bob Ewell attempts to knife Atticus Finch's children to get back at Finch, but Boo Radley saves their lives, slaying Ewell in the process.
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: When the titular ship is attacked by a sea serpent, Eustace Scrubb - who up until this point has been thoroughly stuck-up and unhelpful - is the first to rush in and attack it with a sword. It accomplished nothing but is one of the first major instances of his character development.
  • Wearing the Cape: In the novel Small Town Heroes, Astra's team is clearing out a bar so they could safely take out some supervillains, but she looks less than capable herself. Much to her horror, the bartender — whom she dubs "Galahad" — does not leave but instead obviously goes for some kind of weapon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Near the end of the Criminal Minds episode "Derailed" the unstable villain is incapacitated mid-Freak Out by one of his hostages, who had a concealed gun the entire time. Could be seen as a subversion, considering the guy was apparently on his way to kill his ex-wife when the train was hijacked.
  • CSI:
    • In an episode, a Character of the Day sacrificed himself to stop a bomb from blowing up a building, grabbing it and running as far as he could before it exploded.
    • In another episode, a man was left to die inside a house tented and filling with poison, his neighbor passes by, climbs in, and tries to rescue him unfortunately he's unsuccessful, and nearly dies himself.
  • Some of the companions from Doctor Who can fit this trope when they first meet the Doctor. People like Martha just happened to get caught up in events but rose to the challenge.
    • John Smith, the amnesiac human-doctor. While the Doctor is a brave and intelligent time-lord, Smith is really just an average schoolteacher, who wants nothing more than to live a happy, human life: but he still makes a heroic sacrifice, 'killing' himself.
    • This is actually a very common trope in the Doctor Who universe — so common that Davros even argued in-universe that everything the Doctor accomplishes is really just accomplished with the help of Heroic Bystanders.
  • In the second-season finale of Elementary, the people of the anonymous hacker group known as Everyone get their chance to be heroes. The Villain of the Week tries to intimidate Joan into giving up sensitive information, prompting her to flip on her computer monitor and reveal that some of Everyone's members heard and saw the whole thing, blowing his cover and forcing him to go on the run.
  • Niki from Heroes, who aids the rest of the superpowered main characters in New York during the first season finale largely out of choice, and not because of any knowledge of who the villain, Sylar, is. She beats Sylar with a traffic meter, even though she had never met any of the heroes (except Nathan and Parkman) prior to the final fight. Or Sylar, for that matter. She meets bystander criteria by being little more than just a single mom, albeit with super strength.
  • Jeremiah:
    • Jeremiah and Kurdy have many opportunities to intervene with rapes, robberies, and assaults and save the victims.
    • In the Back Story of "To Sail Beyond the Stars", guest character William witnessed a group of men with flamethrowers burning an inhabited town. While he lacked the weapons to stop them, he did follow them to see where they went and then reached out to a Knowledge Broker tracking the group to try and ensure that their victims got justice.
  • Jericho (2006) practically ran on this. Prodigal Son and self-described "screw-up" Jake Green was the town savior for most of the show's run. Other characters like farmer Stanly Richmond and school teachers Emily and Heather got in on the act as well.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: In one episode, a Serial Killer grabs a woman off the street. A passer-by jumps in to help the woman's boyfriend try to rescue her, but they're unsuccessful. Subverted as it turns out the passer-by was actually the killer's accomplice who was just trying to get into the van. When the killer left him behind, he realized people thought he was being a Good Samaritan and decided to go along with it since it gave him an out.
    • In another episode, a different serial killer attacks a young boy in a public bathroom. When the boy's father comes in, the serial killer goes after him too, and another man who just happened to be there tries to get in between them. Unfortunately, the killer stabs him and then goes after the father anyway.
  • Li Tsung of Longstreet. In his first appearance, he saves Mike Longstreet from a gang of Long Shore-Men. Though it helps that he is played by Bruce Lee.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: The Harfoots are peaceful people who usually prefer going into hiding than facing the danger for self-preservation reasons. But in the finale of Season 1, they decide to fight against three dangerous priestesses of Sauron and save the Stranger from them, despite having zero changes of defeating them.
  • In the Lost episode "Greatest Hits," Charlie is recalling the best moments of his life as he sets out on a suicide mission. #2 is saving a woman from an attacker, and her subsequently declaring him a hero, because three other people had passed by without intervening, and especially because Charlie was terrified and not used to fighting. Coincidentally(?) she was Nadia, love of Sayid's life.
  • One of the unique "hooks" in the very premise of the 60s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was that in just about every episode the U.N.C.L.E. agents would be involved with an "innocent civilian" who would become a prime actor in the episode's plot. While sometimes these innocents would be persons persuaded by U.N.C.L.E. to assist them in their operations, in many episodes the innocent was just someone who happened to be around while Solo (usually) or Kuryakin was implementing the plot of the week, and thus got involved in U.N.C.L.E.'s operations as a Heroic Bystander.
  • Marcy stopped a bank robbery on Married... with Children.
  • A heroic by-''sitter'' appears in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Airplane." As the title suggests, Monk and Sharona are taking a cross-country flight; immediately after boarding, Monk realizes that a fellow passenger has killed his wife and replaced her with a lookalike. Sharona is too busy flirting with Tim Daly (who is sitting in first-class) to pay attention, so Monk turns to the nearest available resource: Warren Beach, an extension cord salesman in the seat next to him. Warren listens to all of Monk's theories, and, in the end, even helps the detective take the murderer's shoes (which prove to be the key to solving the case) by offering him an extra-long extension cord.
  • Power Rangers in Space:
    • A whole city of heroic bystanders appeared in the finale. The Big Bad has invaded the city and threatens to destroy it if the Power Rangers don't show themselves. Bulk and Skull, two comic relief characters that had varying roles throughout the series, step forward and identify themselves as Rangers, and the rest of the civilians follow their lead. This naturally pisses the villain off, but before she can order the city destroyed, the real Rangers announce their presence and morph, and begin to fight her horde of minions. Angel Grove's populace, led by Bulk and Skull, join the fray and help the Rangers successfully fight them off.
    • Bulk and Skull do this frequently in all the seasons up to there as well. Their response to almost any minor monster or minion attack is to attack it head-on, and despite their complete lack of skill being a frequent source of humor they often make a good showing of themselves, often by accidental Drunken Boxing.
  • Sherlock: John's girlfriend, Sarah, fulfills this role in the second episode. She is on a date with John at the circus when Sherlock gets attacked by one of the company while poking about backstage in search of clues. When the fight escalates and bursts out onstage, Sarah grabs a random stick of some sort and beats the crap of out Sherlock's assailant, effectively taking the guy out of the fight and really helping Sherlock out, since he'd gotten knocked over and was lying on the floor at the time.
  • In the Supergirl (2015) episode "Worlds Finest", the people of National City are still reeling from Supergirl's actions under the influence of red kryptonite and have lost faith in her. However, during the climactic showdown between Supergirl (with the assistance of the Flash) and the evil duo of Livewire and Silver Banshee, Supergirl prevents Livewire from shooting down a helicopter (which would've crashed down onto a crowd of innocents) by putting herself in the path of the blast. Seeing this, the people in the park rally around Supergirl and prevent the villains from harming their heroine. Livewire and Silver Banshee are stopped by firefighters, who hose them down with water, shorting out Livewire and, by extension, Silver Banshee. Furthermore, thanks to Barry's experience with retrofitting the Iron Heights prison in his own world to contain metahumans, National City's prison is likewise retrofitted to be able to contain individuals with superpowers, allowing them to be handed over to the justice system.
  • The first episode of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? invokes this trope as a Secret Test of Character. Stan Lee tells the contestants that their challenge for the day is to change into their superhero costumes without being seen, then race to a purple archway. However, a little girl crying for her mother is stationed right by the finish line; the real test is to stop and help her instead of focusing on the race. It's lampshaded by Stan Lee, who explains that while he obviously can't judge a group of people on their non-existent special powers, he can judge their compassion and desire to help those in need, which are the true measures of a superhero.

  • Welcome to Night Vale:
    • The podcast plays with Cecil being one of these. He definitely has the desire to help out in certain situations, but, by definition as a radio reporter, he is always distant from the action. A couple of times his helplessness causes him legitimate distress, but his sense of duty to stay and report the news keeps him at the station. However, he does frequently send out station interns to investigate, some of whom have made it back alive.
    • He leaves the station while on-air during Episode 42. He is the only one who goes to help Fey after she announces her intention to escape her station, but when he gets there she has already been rebooted and he can do nothing to help her. He also leaves the station during the special episode "Condos" to save Carlos from the condo.

  • Our Miss Brooks: Clay City High School Principal Jason Brill plays the part when he saves Miss Brooks from falling down an open elevator shaft. Madison High School Principal Osgood Conklin tries to match this feat with a "fake" heroic bystander rescue. Conklin stages a real rescue when the superintendent, Mr. Stone, himself falls into an open elevator shaft.

    Video Games 
  • Civilians in Assassin's Creed will occasionally grab guards' arms and grapple with them, taking a little heat off the player and giving them a chance to dispatch the guard without resistance. Maybe this could be a reason so many Assassins wear the distinctive uniform: the people know who the good guys are when there's a sword fight in the street.
  • If you do the correct combination in Grow Comeback, one of the hero's supporter (who was the child he saved in the intro) will try to beat the monster himself. He gets beaten but this is give the motivation the hero needed to fight the monster.
  • Civilians in Hatred will occasionally grab a weapon to fend off Jeffrey Cuddletrousers when they're not fleeing in terror, sometimes stopping to pick one up and using it against him.
  • If Cole chooses the heroic path in inFamous, the bystanders will gradually cheer him on until they start taking an active role in your defence of Empire City, hurling rocks at random mooks trying to take him down and providing a useful distraction. This is especially useful on the Dustmen who carry insulated riot shields, forcing them to turn sideways to block the pelting and offering you a critical opening to quickly take them down. If Cole takes the villainous route, mobs of civilians will form to throw rocks at you instead.
  • In a heroic combination of this, the Upgrade Artifact and taking a level in badass, Vent/Aile in Mega Man ZX start out exactly like this. Vent later comments that had he not saved Prairie in such a manner, he'd somehow regret it (despite the fact she's Giro's commander...)
  • In the Overwatch trailer, the older kid in the museum takes the power glove before it could be stolen by Widowmaker, and uses it to punch her across the exhibit before she turns her gun to his younger brother.
  • In the War of the Chosen Expansion Pack for XCOM 2, a few actively pick up assault rifles and actively shoot back at the ADVENT forces during the Terror Site-like ADVENT Retaliation missions. It's not rare for them to score kills on fairly powerful enemies either.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! Reshef of Destruction, when the Neo Ghouls attack Domino City, everyone is either panicking or losing badly to the thugs... except minor manga character Hanaski, who dresses up as the superhero Zombire to stop them. He actually manages to take one out.

  • Josh And Imp is about a regular guy who ends up saving a superhero sidekick's life, so she asks him on a date. We never actually see what Josh did and he doesn't remember since he was running on pure adrenaline, but apparently it involved beating up two men with a fire extinguisher and fleeing the building with Imp in his arms.
  • The Greenhouse: The webcomic has many instances of people stepping up to offer small kindnesses, and this making all the difference in the world.
    • Cal notices that his neighbor Mica looks, in her own words, "like shit", but still has to leave for the night to go to work. Since she couldn't look more like a victim if she tried, he offers to walk her there, just in case. This probably saves Mica's life, since the demon possessing her has just gotten enough power to start affecting the physical world. Cal saves Mica from falling flower pots (fracturing his own arm in the process), breaking store signs, and even a manhole cover moving aside just before she stepped backwards onto it.
      Cal (thinking): Jee... I wanted to walk her to work, but I didn't think the dangers would be so... in-your-face.
    • For a more serious commitment, Liv also steps up to help Mica, at the time a complete stranger (albeit a very cute one), for no better reason than that nobody should have to deal with a parasite draining their energy all by themselves. She initially thought getting rid of 'Red' would be as simple as convincing Mica to drink a smoothie made of salt, holy water, and sage, but sticks around even after learning how much more complicated it's going to be.

    Web Original 
  • Whateley Universe:
    • In the introductory story "Ayla and the Late Trevor James Goodkind", we see Ayla go from being the victim of circumstances to the Heroic Bystander when he and his sister run into Sparkler, a psycho superpowered fireball (literally). He saves his sister's life and does the Heroic Sacrifice, only he doesn't die. He doesn't know how to use his powers effectively yet but still manages to win and to save a couple cars full of police. This proves to be a major turning point in his life.
    • Unfortunately for Ayla, and the rest of Team Kimba, this happens to them ALL THE TIME!...Generally whenever they go to Boston. It also happens to Chou on her vacation. Twice. In two different places! Probably another trope, since they are trained, but...Ayla gets it worse when he fights a Cthuloid monstrosity.
  • In Worm, the supervillain Skitter steps up to fight the serial killer Mannequin, who was attacking civilian refugees, and, in the process, is assisted by a refugee named Forrest, who takes Mannequin's head off with a cinderblock.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Arthur episode "Arthur Cleans Up," Arthur is picking up trash at the park when his dog, Pal, swallows a candy wrapper, causing him to choke. Arthur panics and calls for someone to help when an elderly man, who was playing chess with his grandson, runs up and performs the Heimlich maneuver on Pal, saving him.
    Old man: I knew there was a reason I went to medical school.
  • In the final season of Castlevania (2017), Trevor is about to be killed by a murderous elite vampire, when a woman and her child run up and push the vampire out of the way, giving Trevor enough time to recover and retaliate at great risk to themselves.
  • Common in the DC Animated Universe:
    • Batman: The Animated Series:
      • In "Mad as a Hatter", while fighting to rescue a girl who the Mad Hatter has kidnapped, Batman manages to remove the Mind-Control Device on one of the Hatter's People Puppets. The man Batman saves is the girl's fiance, and he returns the favor by disabling the rest of the Hatter's pawns. They're programmed to only attack Batman, so they ignore him as he removes their own mind control devices.
      • "Trial" features Janet van Dorn, Gotham City's new D.A. and an outspoken critic of Batman's methods. Eventually, she and Batman are both kidnapped and taken to Arkham, where Batman's Rogues Gallery forces the two of them into a deadly game: van Dorn must defend Batman on the charge of making the supervillains into criminals, with said villains as the jury, and the Joker as judge. A guilty verdict means they both die, while a "not guilty" means they live. Though at first panicked, van Dorn proves her legal expertise by manipulating all of the villains on the witness stand into making confessions about their insanity, proving that Batman isn't to blame for their problems. Shockingly, the villains give Batman a not guilty verdict — only to decide to kill them both anyway: after all, they're insane. Batman is trapped in a straitjacket, tied to an electric chair, and about to be unmasked by the Joker, which is when van Dorn gets to pull off another Heroic Bystander moment by throwing a batarang at the light hanging from the ceiling, plunging the room into darkness and allowing the Caped Crusader to escape. Batman himself thanks van Dorn for her help at the end of the episode.
    • Justice League: Every time an incident is affecting large groups of people, the episode will always show at least one nameless bystander being heroic, often inspiring the superheroes to remember what they're fighting for. For instance, in the episode "Patriot Act", General Eiling, a Well-Intentioned Extremist who hates metahumans, takes an experimental serum and transforms into a hulking monstrosity. He attacks Central City during a parade for the Justice League that features either individuals with no powers, those who use magical artifacts, and STRIPE, who uses Powered Armor. The crowd is bored and wondering where the "good" heroes are when Eiling arrives. The third and fourth-string Leaguers do their best to hold him off, but he proves too powerful for them. Shining Knight is the last to fall, and Eiling is about to crush him when the innocent bystanders quite literally stand up to Eiling, making a shield with their bodies to protect Shining Knight. An elderly woman then disarms Eiling with an Armor-Piercing Question, while a young boy points out that Eiling himself is the only individual on the scene who actually has superpowers. This combined effort is enough to stop the general's rampage and save both the city and the rest of the heroes.
    • In the Superman: The Animated Series episode "Superman's Pal", Jimmy Olsen drags an unconscious man out of a crashed helicopter. At the end, he saves the Man of Steel himself.
  • In the Dexter's Laboratory episode "Accent You Hate," a bully named Gary threatens to beat up Dexter and his fellow heavily-accented friends Lucky (who's Irish) and Pierre (who's French) because he doesn't like the way they talk. The trio tries numerous schemes to escape his wrath but end up on the receiving end of Gary's punches regardless. When they start crying, all of the other schoolchildren rush over and start shouting in accents of their own, which overwhelms Gary and sends him careening into a statue, swelling his jaw and making him talk in an odd way.
  • Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero revolves around a set of normal teens that sub in for heroes in other dimensions. While most of the heroes they replace look or act the part (a powerful warrior/knight in shining armor/sword-fighting princess/etc) some are just normal civilians who decided to do something brave.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (1998):
    • One episode had the title characters kidnapped by an obsessive fanboy who added them to his collection of Powerpuff Girl merchandise. The girls are powerless to stop him, and eventually the citizens of Townsville pay the Girls back for continually saving them by going to the fanboy's house, destroying his merchandise to reveal where he hid them, and rescuing the girls before the police arrest him. The end of the episode even credits the "people of Townsville" for saving the day, rather than the Girls themselves.
    • Another episode hilariously inverts this trope. The people of Townsville become so lazy and reliant on the Girls for everything — including changing light bulbs, scooping kitty litter, and, in the Professor's case, passing him the remote control because he doesn't want to get up — that they decide to take a break from saving the day. When another giant monster attacks the town, the citizens are completely unconcerned — but when the Girls tell them to solve the problem themselves, they panic, running around trying to escape the beast. Eventually, the monster gets tangled up in telephone wires, and the girls have to coach the populace in destroying it step by step; this proves difficult when the citizens cannot draw even extremely simple conclusions: when asked why putting a toaster in a bathtub is a bad idea, they respond, "Duh! Because then you'd have to go to the bathroom every time you wanted toast!" Highlights include the townspeople imagining they have superpowers, and one old man, trying to defeat the monster, suggesting, "I could be soggy toast!"
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man:
    • Eddie Brock jumps forward to defend his friends and superiors when they're held hostage by the supervillain Electro. His intervention allows young interns (including Peter Parker) to escape. He later helps by tailing the Lizard, saving Spider-Man from drowning, and baiting the Lizard into a trap set by Spider-Man. John Jameson runs into a room with a timebomb to inform Spidey of its location.
    • Flash Thompson is a subversion, only putting himself in further peril when he tries to help Spidey fight Doctor Octopus, although he later helps Spider-Man by distracting Venom.
    • In the aforementioned Lizard episode, Spidey is briefly knocked unconscious in the train and Lizard is about to take a bite out of his head, when an elderly lady hits the monster with her purse, giving Spidey enough time to recover.
    • Mary Jane and Flash also lent a hand the first time Spidey fought Venom by rallying the rest of the Midtown High football team to rescue Gwen Stacy by improvising a giant cushion for her fall using the parade float while Spidey dealt with Venom.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man (2012):
    • Mary Jane stops Thundra from attacking Spider-Man by throwing a platter of cafeteria food, making her slip. When she is captured by Trapster, she frees herself by slugging him.
    • When Aunt May was taken hostage by the Beetle, she escapes him on her own, and even gives him a face full of jet thrusters.

    Real Life 
  • Truth in Television. In the real world this happens almost any time there is a serious disaster, be it natural (Hurricanes, earthquakes) or manmade (the attacks of September 11th). It seems many normal, average people can find the hero inside when they really need to. In fact, the United States government actually encourages people to be Heroic Bystanders with the Good Samaritan laws.
    • In fact, studies have shown that a surge of adrenaline at the right time can heighten people's abilities far past their normal limits.
    • It's also a rather common occurrence during police chases. There are many instances of civilians helping policemen subdue suspects, while truckers usually collaborate via CB radio to help block rogue motorists.
    • Just watch the news. Any time a reporter or anchor calls someone "a hero," they probably mean this.
  • John Smeaton. Kicked a terrorist in the groin. Told the others that "This is Glasgow. We'll set about ye." The man embodies so many tropes. It bears mentioning that the terrorist was literally on fire at the time of groin kicking, and that he kicked him so hard he tore a tendon in his foot. It makes for one hell of a headline.
  • Tank Man. What can you say about a guy who stops a column of armed vehicles with only his own body?
    • Most copies of the Tank Man photographs show him confronting a column of four tanks. A wider shot shows how the column he stood down was made up of about twenty.
    • Not to mention that afterwards he climbed on top of the lead tank, had a conversation with the operator, and then resumed his position in front of the column.
    • Also the fact that he appeared to have nothing to do with the protests and was just doing some shopping.
  • In the Summer 2004 Olympics, a crazy Irish priest invaded the marathon, grabbed the current leader (Brazilian runner Vanderlei de Lima), and pushed him into the crowd. There, a huge Greek man subdued the priest and helped Vanderlei go back into the race (he finished 3rd). The Brazilian Olympic Committee ended up financing a visit of the Greek to Brazil.
  • Paxton Galvanek witnessed a car crash, and successfully treated the survivors according to military protocol until a real army medic arrived on the scene. Reportedly, he learned how to treat people by playing a game.
  • Reporters:
    • Anderson Cooper, reporter for CNN, saved a kid when covering the Haiti Earthquake.
    • Similarly, Sanjay Gupta, while reporting from a field hospital during the Iraq War, found himself the only person present qualified to perform a tricky surgery on a critically injured marine. The marine survived.
    • Oprah Winfrey and her camera crew were responsible for rescuing several people stranded on rooftops in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
    • In 2016, ABC reporter Steve Campion was preparing to report on historic flooding in Houston when a man misjudged the depth of the water and drove into the flood zone right where the news crew was set up, causing his car to be swept away and then begin to sink. Campion instructed the driver to exit his car and then entered the water himself, on foot, to help the man to safety.
    • Lara Logan probably would have been raped and killed by the crowd that was already assaulting her had a group of Egyptian women not forcibly separated her from them and shielded her with their bodies.
    • Reporter Brandi Smith spotted a man in a truck submerged up to its windows while reporting live in Hurricane Harvey and flagged down a passing sheriff's airboat to rescue him. She and her cameraman remained on the scene to reassure the driver that help was on the way until he was safe.
  • Ballpark attendee Mitch Davie prevented injuries to a fellow fan by catching a stray flying baseball bat with one hand, his beer unspilled in the other. From the photo, it looks like he closed his eyes as well.
  • Hideaki Akaiwa, resident of the port city of Ishinomaki, hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. When his city suddenly turned into a lake, his wife was missing. So he got a SCUBA suit and dove into the water to search for her. In the currents. By night. Among debris and submerged power lines. He found her trapped in their home, water to her neck, and rescued her in extremis. The next day, he noticed his aging mother was still missing. So he searched again the waters for her, too. He also found and rescued her in her home with water to the neck. While most people would call it a day, Akaiwa-sama spent the next several days wading through the mud, searching for more survivors.
  • Reshma Shetty (the actress who plays Divya on Royal Pains) was out shopping when someone nearby went into shock. She took immediate action to save his life, and had to convince the EMTs that she wasn't a doctor, she just played a Physician's assistant on TV.
  • In Logan, Utah 21-year-old Brandon Wright crashed his motorcycle into a car and ended up wedged underneath it. The motorcycle's fuel tank started leaking fuel and it caught on fire. A group of bystanders lifted the car off him and dragged him to safety.
  • Pretty much anyone in Emergency Services when off duty. Even the fact that some states don't cover licensed EMTs and Paramedics under Good Samaritan laws doesn't stop them.
  • There's been about a dozen stories about pro and semi-pro MMA stars using their combat knowledge to stop robberies, muggings, etc. In the right circumstances, a rear-naked choke is far superior to the intimidation of a handgun.
  • On March 25, 1911, Joseph Zito and Gaspar Mortillalo were working their shifts as elevator operators in New York's Asch Building when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, which occupied the top three floors of the building, caught fire. Despite the risks of operating elevators in fire conditionsnote , the pair remained at their posts and continued making trips up to the affected floors, braving the flames to rescue workers who were stranded on those floors (the doors to one of the building's two staircases were locked and couldn't be opened, and the other staircase was on fire and impassable). The elevators ultimately became inoperable, rendering them unable to continue the effort, but it's estimated that between the two of them, they probably saved around 150 workers who would likely have died in the tragedy otherwise. For the record, that's about the same as the number of people who did not survive (146) — Zito and Mortillalo's courageous actions literally cut the death toll to half of what it might have been.
  • When a man walked into an elementary school near Atlanta with an AK47 and 500 rounds of ammo, staff member Antoinette Tuff averted disaster by keeping him in the room with her, empathizing with him, telling him she loved him even if no one else did, and eventually getting him to surrender to police.
  • Similarly to Antoinette Tuff, Parkrose High School football coach Keanon Lowe talked a would-be school shooter down, giving him a hug and showing empathy for him. The gunman was arrested without a shot being fired. When told that he could have died, Lowe responded "Well, I didn't." Lowe would go on to be honored throughout the state of Oregon (where Parkrose High School is located) for this act of bravery.
  • It's a little-known secret that the late member of the Wu-Tang Clan Ol'Dirty Bastard and his entourage lifted a totalled vehicle to pull a little girl from underneath the wreckage. ODB would visit her in the hospital several times, never telling the parents who he really was. Never forget, Wu Tang is for the children.
  • The people at a station in Perth pushed a train (starts at about 11:30) to free a man trapped between it and the platform. Admittedly, it was coordinated, but that doesn't detract from the awesome of moving a train.
  • In October 2014, a drunken man at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport verbally attacked a nearby man — who did nothing more than wear a pink shirt — with homophobic slurs. Eventually, the drunk started physically assaulting the guy — and five people immediately jumped forward, tackling the man and holding him down until police officers could subdue him. Extra awesome points go to a man who fractured his ankle when diving to catch the homophobic man, but still remained in position until the guy was safely cuffed.
  • In 1996, an African-American 18-year-old girl named Keshia Thomas joined a group of protesters at a Ku Klux Klan rally in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As they protested, they noticed that a White man in the crowd had an SS tattoo and was wearing a shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag. The group turned ugly, accusing the man of being a Nazi, kicking him when he fell to the ground, and beating him with their signs. Thomas then jumped forward and shielded the man with her body, protecting him from their blows. Reporters were stunned by Thomas's actions, and she explained, "just because you beat somebody, doesn't mean you're going to change their mind."
  • On Saturday July 18th in 2015, a Kansas City 2-year-old girl was accidentally left in a locked, swelteringly hot car. A teenager noticed the child and began screaming for help; she and other passersby then tried to use whatever they could find—including a screwdriver and a chair—to break the car's window. After three minutes, a woman named Sarah Oropeza was able to rescue the child by repeatedly beating on and eventually shattering the glass with a tire iron.
  • 9/11:
    • During 9/11, a fourth plane was hijacked and headed toward DC. The passengers at first reacted in the way you're supposed to when a plane is hijacked (sit down and shut up) before they found out what happened with the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, when they heard about the other attacks and realized what was likely going to happen to the plane, Todd Beamer rallied some of the passengers to fight back, saying "Are you guys ready? Okay, let's roll." They managed to crash the plane in an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. There were no survivors, but their heroics kept the plane from hitting its intended target (either the Capitol or the White House).
    • After the planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the FAA grounded every plane in US airspace. Tiny little Gander, Newfoundland, Canada (population approx. 10,000) received 42 planes totaling 6,600 people because it's the closest airport between the US and Europe. People were housed in schools, gyms, campgrounds, churches, and regular homes. Local pharmacists called dozens of countries to fill prescriptions because most were stuck in carry-on luggage. The entire town's stock of nicotine gum was brought in to take care of people who couldn't get off the planes due to customs and background checks. The entire striking bus driver union walked back on the job to transport people. They even took passengers moose hunting.
    • The Great Boatlift of 9/11. The largest evacuation by sea in history, to evacuate Lower Manhattan during the WTC attacks.
  • The Cajun Navy (Civilian volunteers) left the safety of their homes in Louisiana and headed to the Texas gulf coast during Hurricane Harvey (2017). They rescued thousands of people from homes that had never flooded before including the previous 2 500-year floods in 2016 and 2015.
  • During intense flooding and hail in Lakewood, Colorado, Stephanie Liddick and her 6-year-old daughter became stuck in their flooded car and were forced to climb out onto the roof. A passing man in a truck named Merle Cordova managed to drive through the rising waters close enough for them to climb in. He dropped mother and daughter off at a nearby school, returned to tow their car out of the floodwaters, and then continued on his way to work, without even stopping to change out of his wet clothes.
  • A famous World War II example: The Little Ships of Dunkirk. During the Battle of Dunkirk, over 300,000 British and French troops found themselves trapped on the shores of the beach where the fighting was happening; naval ships were too large to approach the shore, leaving the men stranded with no way of escaping. Winston Churchill himself realized that if the soldiers weren't saved, morale would sink to an all-time low and the Allied forces might very well lose the war. As such, the Navy put out a call for anyone who owned a small boat to join the cause. The result? Over eight hundred boats, including yachts, launches, sloops, pleasure boats, barges, and fishers were given up (although some were commandeered without getting permission first). The resulting rescue operation saved the lives of the trapped soldiers, became a rallying cry for the British — this was the origin of Churchill's famous "We shall fight on the beaches" speech — and has been credited as a major turning point in the war.
  • When Harrison Ford's private plane crashed in a Santa Monica golf course, several of the people there that day immediately rushed forward to pull him free of the wreck and keep him stable until an ambulance could arrive.
  • When Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed in the Florida Everglades, a man named Robert "Bud" Marquis happened to be nearby in his airboat hunting for frogs with a friend. He helped free several trapped and injured passengers from the wreckage and transported them to safety in his airboat. He also used his airboat to help other rescuers reach the downed plane as quickly as possible. Marquis suffered some minor burns in the ordeal, but he stayed on site until the authorities determined that there were no more survivors left to find.
  • When the Gimli Glider made an emergency landing on a racetrack, the nose of the plane caught fire, but racetrack employees rushed over with fire extinguishers and put it out right away. They also provided first aid to some injured passengers.
  • Shortly before the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, a 10-year-old British tourist named Tilly Smith was enjoying a day on a Thai beach with her parents when she noticed that the water was bubbling strangely and receding from shore. Thanks to a recent science lesson, she recognized the signs of a tsunami and told her parents. Her parents warned the staff at their beachfront hotel, who managed to evacuate everyone from the beach before the tsunami reached shore. This was one of the few beaches in Thailand to not suffer any casualties in the disaster.
  • High school cheerleader Tyra Winters was riding on a float in a homecoming parade when a woman in the crowd started calling for help because her two-year-old son was choking on a piece of candy. Ms. Winters jumped off the float, took the toddler from his mother, and successfully performed the pediatric Heimlich maneuver on him. It turned out that Ms. Winters learned first aid from her own mother, a medical professional.
  • In 1986, an Indian Pan Am flight was hijacked by terrorists. Neerja Bhanot was a senior flight purser who helped the three-member cockpit crew escape so that they could keep the flight ground. When the terrorists made her collect all passenger passports to identify the Americans on board, she hid the passports of 43 Americans on board. She also managed to open the emergency door allowing people to escape. When the terrorists opened fire, she died because she shielded three children from the bullets. India posthumously awarded her India's highest civilian decoration for bravery, and she had a stamp of her face in 2004.
  • Attempted in this chase. A good samaritan seems to help an off-duty cop box in a fleeing suspect-only to be shunted aside. A later attempt at a roadblock only ended up blocking in the police while the suspect simply went around. With no way of communicating with the police or apparent experience in the force, he's a living reminder of how some situations should be left to the professionals.
  • From the November 2020 terrorist attack in Vienna, Austria:
    • In several videos of the shooting at Schwedenplatz, someone can be heard screaming, "Schleich di, du Oarchsloch!" (Viennese dialect for "Get lost, you asshole!") from a window, drawing attention to themselves.
    • Two Turkish-Austrian young men carried an injured police officer to an ambulance through gunfire. A Palestinian-Austrian man rescued another injured officer from the gunfire as well, giving him first aid. A Syrian-Austrian saved three wounded passersby and took them to the hospital in his private car. Especially poignant, given the immediate racist/anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant scapegoating that erupted during and after the shooting on social media.
    • The police was finally able to get a kill shot in because a citizen threw a vase at the shooter, distracting the attacker (who immediately started firing at the window).
  • These people at a Traverse City carniva banding together to keep a malfunctioning ride from tipping over.


Video Example(s):


Stop! Hurting! My! WhiteHouse!

After an afternoon watching domestic terrorists destroy the precious artifacts in his care, tour guide Donnie has had enough.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / HeroicBystander

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