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Stupid Crooks

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"I did not rob a bank; if I had robbed a bank, everything would have been great... I tried to rob a bank is what happened, and they got me... I misspelled a note."

When it comes to committing crime, (un)fortunately, not everyone is an expert... or even a professional. A good caper usually takes the talent and skill of the likes of a Classy Cat-Burglar or even a Phantom Thief to pull off, and people either have a knack for that or don't. Those who can’t pull off anything on that scale may think smaller, plan a less rewarding crime with fewer risks involved.

This trope is for those who fail even at that.

Criminals in general are seldom the brightest of folks in the first place, but there's something about Stupid Crooks that always distinguishes them from the rest of the pack. Naturally, the very fact that they seek to commit acts of crime doesn't win them any favors or admiration from anyone, but the fact that they can't even succeed at it doesn't do them any good, either. Knowing that, the escapades involving this type of criminal usually amount to one of the greatest forms of Comedic Sociopathy one can find anywhere.


When a Jerkass fails at something, it's funny. When a Jerkass is also an idiot, it's even more so.

Most commonly, Stupid Crooks are low-level burglars and petty thieves; other times, they may be people who don't have criminal records or have never committed a crime before but are suddenly tempted to commit one for fast cash or some other small reward. No matter what though, these guys always get something wrong. They use Paper Thin Disguises (that don't work), they rob a store that they visit daily where all the employees would recognize them, they use their real names to communicate with each other, they do all of those things at once and more! Stupidity has no limits, and that has never been truer than in instances involving Stupid Crooks.

On most occasions, Failure Is the Only Option with the crook(s) either bungling a job that has low risk and is extremely petty (like taking candy from a baby) or one that comes with greater risk in a criminal field that they have no experience with. Stupid Crooks always get caught by the cops (even when Police Are Useless for anything else) or otherwise end up having a price to pay for their idiocy. In either instance, Amusing Injuries are very likely to occur.


The few times when a crook manages to get away with anything, the matter usually comes down to a Contrived Coincidence or two and a hefty dose of subversion that allows the crook to slip by when everyone else is preoccupied with a much larger mess that was made, especially true if the character isn't actually after any plot-crucial MacGuffins and the character only serves to advance other circumstances of a story; in the very rare event that a Stupid Crook does get away with a plot-crucial MacGuffin by the end of the story, expect this to feel like an Ass Pull.

Often leads to Mugging the Monster and Bullying a Dragon. A Goldfish Poop Gang or a Bumbling Henchmen Duo is often composed of these. Weapon for Intimidation can show up in a subverted fashion where brandishing an unusable weapon (i.e. an unloaded gun) draws aggro from people who can fight back with greater force. For one reason or another, such characters are usually Too Dumb to Live. If any such character happens to draw sympathy from their failings, that character is also likely to be an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain.

Truth in Television, obviously, as shown by all too many real reports (or more recently, videos) featuring idiotic criminals failing in amusing ways. In Real Life, this is often exacerbated by drug abuse, which makes many criminals act even dumber than they are by default.

See also: Cut Lex Luthor a Check, when someone with a habit of committing crimes could actually achieve fortune and success through more honest and legal means. A Terrible Trio can commonly evoke this trope (or, at least, the supporting characters can, if the leader is halfway competent). Often The Family for the Whole Family is similar. Stupid Crooks can also be a type of Harmless Villain. If the crook fails because he is foolishly self-confident rather than technically stupid, see Too Clever by Half.

Not directly related to Stupid Evil, although overlap is possible.

No Real Life Examples, Please!


    open/close all folders 

  • The burglars in the Brinks Home Security (later Broadview Security) commercials for some reason never check to see if the occupants of the house are away or asleep before breaking in. An especially painful example involves a burglar attempting to break in right after seeing the father enter the house.

    Comic Books 

    Comic Strips 
  • MAD has quite a few examples of incompetent crooks in various jokes, particularly the parody of Dog Day Afternoon, which exaggerates Sonny's stupidity, particularly accidentally getting flowers out of the flower box that was supposed to conceal their guns, and spraying the cameras with deodorant. After revealing his status as a Vietnam vet, Sonny also proudly declares that "This is gonna be a smooth, efficient, well-oiled operation... just the way us Americans handled the war in Vietnam!" before catching himself.
  • In one The Wizard of Id strip, Sir Rodney brings a criminal before the King:
    Rodney: This idiot was making perfect counterfeit coins.
    King: If they were perfect, why is he an idiot?
    Rodney: He was making pennies.

    Fan Works 
  • The kidnappers in Princess Celestia Gets Mugged. Even if Celestia wasn't a Physical Goddess in disguise and let herself be kidnapped For the Lulz, they're more a threat to themselves than her. They realize too late that, after going through the trouble of coming up with code names to hide their identities, "Sunny Skies" has already seen them in full view for quite some time. Then, after being told of their captive's excellent memory, one of them says the exact location of the safe house they're planning to go to after getting their ransom. Then, to deliver the ransom note, one of them walks up to the castle door to hoof deliver it. Needless to say, he's arrested on the spot.
  • Five Thieves' Guild junior members receiving their initiation to Advanced Thiefcraft get the idea to strike at three women walking around Ankh-Morpork in A.A. Pessimal's The Many Worlds Interpretation. Their teacher lampshades how they could not have chosen worse marks: one of them is one of Lord Vetinari's Dark Clerks, another is an Assassin and Watchwoman (prominently identifying herself as such), and the third, Penny from Pasadena, is a part-time Action Girl. To make things worse, Lord Vetinari likes to have wordsnote  with people who inconvenience his Clerks, and Assassins are exempt from Thieves' Guild attentions.
  • In The Ash the Flim Flam Bros. try to cash in on a disease outbreak by trying their Snake Oil Salesman routine and expect to get out with a slap on the wrist as always when they're caught, the problem is, as Twilight points out, they actually used the dust from the meteor causing the disease as an ingredient in their bogus cure, meaning they can get sent to jail for mass poisoning.

    Films — Animation 
  • The villain of Toy Story of Terror is a motel manager who used his pet iguana to steal toys from kids who stayed at his motel and sell them on the internet. His plan actually worked pretty well, but at the end of the movie, Bonnie's mother catches him in the act and reports him to the police. Realistically, he's probably looking at a fine or community service, but when two troopers show up to talk to him, he steals and immediately crashes their squad car while trying to flee, so he's almost certainly looking at a long prison sentence.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Coen Brothers tend to include criminal characters in a lot of their stories, including a few bumbling crooks who usually, but not always, appear in their comedies.
    • Raising Arizona:
      • H.I.'s attempt to steal baby diapers with an unloaded gun becomes a lot more complicated when all the store clerks and police officers he runs into are packing heat and aren't afraid to use it. Lucky for his sake, they all seem to be graduates from The Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy.
      • Evelle and Gale are even worse. They leave Nathan, Jr. behind at not one but two of their own crime scenes, among other stupid mistakes.
    • Fargo sees Jerry's scheme to stage his wife's kidnapping in order to swindle money from his wealthy father-in-law go horribly awry once the two criminals he hired for the job are pulled over by a state trooper shortly after the kidnapping, who ends up getting killed along with two witnesses, which only complicates things and calls more attention to their actions. Then more things happen that don't go according to plan, and more people die as a consequence of this, including Jerry's wife.
    • The Big Lebowski:
      • The film begins with two thugs breaking into The Dude's apartment to rough him up demanding money (and pissing on his rug as an extra insult) after they manage to mistake him for a multi-millionaire with the same name.
      • The nihilists also try to get ransom money without actually having the person they're trying to get the ransom for (the Big Lebowski's Trophy Wife Bunny). One of them allows her toe to be cut off in order to send the Big Lebowski a Finger in the Mail and pretend it's Bunny's.
      • It eventually turns out that the Big Lebowski isn't that smart either, trying to cover up his attempt to steal money from his own charity when his daughter — the real manager of the Lebowski fortune — will find out what he did.
    • The Ladykillers (2004) were certainly not the best of crooks, either. Even in the original, for that matter.
    • Burn After Reading hinges on a very amateur foray into criminality by two gym employees who mistake a former CIA employee's CD that he accidentally left in his locker for "shit" worth blackmailing him over (the employee is also such a dumbass that he thinks it's valuable data and bloody hilarity ensues — this is a literal Idiot Plot invoked by the Coens, with the Only Sane Man even lampshading it in a "what the hell just happened?" fashion).
  • Guy Ritchie was a fan of this trope in his two earliest movies.
    • Every character in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels qualifies one way or another. The film's tagline is even "A Disgrace to Criminals Everywhere." However, special note has got to be given to Dean and Gary, who are instructed by Barry the Baptist to retrieve antique shotguns from an estate home and keep anything else they can carry for themselves. Even in a mansion decorated with numerous expensive antiques, they rationalize that "old" must mean "worthless". And that's to say nothing about how they sold the guns Barry wanted them to get for quick cash, thinking they were too old for him to want anything to do with. The rest of their adventure follows them attempting to get the guns back, which do end up in the hands of the man who wants them without their help, but Dean and Gary don't know that... Even the way they are introduced lets you know they are stupid. Harry claims he doesn't care who Barry hires to steal the guns, "as long as they're not complete muppets." Cue Description Cut.
    • Sol, Vinny, and Tyrone from Snatch.. Apparently, everything they do was inspired by stories of stupid criminals shared on late-night talk show monologues. While Avi isn't a criminal by profession, he qualifies as well, since he's trying to get his hands on the diamond, and he ends up mucking everything he gets involved with up as well.
  • 12-Hour Shift: Mandy, the nurse who procures organs for a trafficking ring, does not qualify, but her cousin Regina, who transports the organs, does. She kills a patient so she can have his kidney but does it in such a way that the police gets called. Then, she tries removing a kidney from a body despite not knowing anything about anatomy and has to resort to using her underwear to store the organ.
  • American History X: Lamont is hesitant to tell Derek about how he got in prison because it was by robbing a TV store... next to a donut shop. However, this leads into a darker reveal when Lamont tells Derek that the racist cops conspired to get him a very harsh sentence because the stolen TV that Lamont was holding accidentally fell on one of the officer's feet, and they wanted payback.
  • American Animals: The film is a dramatization of a real crime in which four college students robbed a library of millions of dollars worth of rare books. The Caper is a complete debacle, with the robbers screaming at each other, making numerous mistakes, and going completely off of The Plan. Their worst offense comes later when two of them bring their stolen antiques to a legitimate antique dealer and provide their real cellphone number and email address. Another member of the crew immediately realizes that this will surely get them caught, which it does.
  • Disney's film of The Apple Dumpling Gang makes things even stupider by casting Don Knotts and Tim Conway as the hapless crooks. How dumb are they? They get captured by a lawman who took pity on them and told them he couldn't hang them because he didn't have any rope, but if they came back tomorrow with some rope he'd take care of it. After they leave, the sheriff tells his deputy that if they're dumb enough to come back with a rope, he'll hang them for being Too Dumb to Live. The only reason they didn't come back to be hanged was that they couldn't find any rope. Don Knotts noted in the commentary that they were "two men sharing an IQ (point), and it wasn't an even split."
    Theodore: The Lord poured your brains in with a teaspoon and someone juggled his arm!
  • The three bumbling idiots in Baby's Day Out who try to kidnap a baby and hold him for ransom just can't seem to keep the baby from wandering off and getting into situations that get themselves hurt.
  • J.D. and Billy from Barbershop. They steal an ATM from a convenience store and spend the rest of the day trying to break it open, oblivious to the fact that it has no money inside.
  • Beverly Hills Cop II: The Alphabet Bandit heists are done with Hand Cannon pistols for the sake of additional intimidation. While The Dragon Karla Fry uses a recent-model Desert Eagle, one of the henchmen decided it was a good idea to use an Automag (an extremely rare pistol, with ammunition only available by means of cutting down rifle rounds — meaning they need be custom-made to order by gunsmiths to collectors). As a result, this is extremely important evidence and the only reason it is disregarded is that the Chief of the Beverly Hills Police Department is a complete moron that orders (or rather bullies) his forces to follow the Criminal Mind Games that the gang leaves behind (to sucker the cops into capturing their Fall Guy), while Foley and his friends following this clue literally leads them to the Big Bad's office within a single day.
  • Bottle Rocket: The final robbery of the factory is a comedy of errors. No one wears masks or gloves, Dignon screws up the employees' lunch break schedule, Anthony and Bob don't stay at their lookout posts, and Kumar, the guy they brought along specifically to break into the safe, does not know how to break into the safe.
  • In the Chuck Norris movie Code of Silence, a pair of criminals try to hold up a bar they don't know is the local police precinct's hang-out place. The second they pull out their guns, about thirty off-duty officers present their own weapons.
  • Although the crooks in Diamonds on Wheels manage to pull off a successful Armed Blag of a diamond transport, they spend the rest of the film being outwitted by a trio of teens who don't even realize they are being chased for most the movie.
  • Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon. He robs a bank in broad daylight and waits until after the money shipment has left the bank (to be fair to him, it's indicated that he was mistaken about the time this was supposed to happen), doesn't wear a mask or gloves, only thinks to paint over the cameras part-way through (and is too short to reach most of them, anyway), announces to his hostages that he served in Vietnam and was a bank teller at one point in his life and uses his and his partners' real names (so even if it had gone as planned they would have been caught immediately), burns the traveler's cheque registry which alerts the bank's neighbors to something happening inside, doesn't take into account one of his partners' mental stability or the possibility of his other partner getting cold feet and leaving short-handed, doesn't look into the bank's floor plan and doesn't consider the possibility of a hostage situation or a stand-off with police. In fact, if he had arrived before the shipment left, he likely would have been shot by the armored car guards.
  • In the Italian movie Fantozzi in Paradiso, the eponymous protagonist and his friend Filini try to rob the internal bank of the 'Mega-Company' they used to work for before retiring. Not only they need the help of the bank's director to pull it off in spite of their own imbecility, but they're later robbed of the loot by the Mega-Director of the Mega-Company, who noticed them prepare and ordered to let them pull it off to take the money himself (with the bank being refunded by the insurance).
  • In The 51st State, a mob thug kills a crooked chemist after misinterpreting his partner's request to "take care of him" and a Dirty Cop accidentally kills the dude he's shaking down for a bribe. Additionally, it can be argued that since Elmo's super-powerful designer drug is an elaborate placebo, the entire criminal organization that bought it was backwards enough to fall for it.
  • Four Lions centers around a group of five moronic Islamic Terrorists with less than five brain cells to share between themselves.
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight are aptly named; they are terrible at organised crime, whether acting on orders from their mob boss Antonio "Baccala" Vestrummo or trying to kill him for demoting their leader, Kid Sally Palumbo, to personal chauffeur for his ineptitude.
    • The gang are tasked with organising a (rigged) bicycle race, with competitors from twelve countries, on a track on a military base. They discover as the race is about to begin that the track has an enormous gap in it because they couldn't move the motor pool, and the crowd riots when told the race must be postponed indefinitely.
    • After Kid Sally's demotion for the bicycle race fiasco, he and the gang decide to kill Baccala and his right-hand man, Water Buffalo. Their attempts lead to the deaths of four of their own members - two are run over by Water Buffalo when their attempt on his life fails thanks to their refusal to walk through a puddle in their expensive shoes, another is blown up by a stick of remotely activated dynamite that is accidentally set off by a police radio, and another electrocutes himself when he climbs a utility pole and raises a knife to throw at Baccala through his office window.
    • Having acquired a lion in the course of preparing for the bicycle race, the gang decide to use the animal to intimidate an assortment of local shopkeepers for a "protection" racket. At a butcher's, they decide to order ten pounds of steak for the lion. Inevitably, the money and the steak are put in identical bags, and the gang doesn't realise they've thrown the wrong bag into the lion's room until after he's eaten every dollar.
    • When Kid Sally tries to kill Baccala himself as he dines with fake priest Mario Trantino, everything that can go wrong does. The bodyguards wait a ridiculously long time to order the drinks they are planning to spike, prompting the nervous bartender to order them to down them at gunpoint. The van they are using as cover sits outside the restaurant for so long that they are given a parking ticket. And the bullets for Kid Sally's gun barely fit into the chambers, so that when he charges into the restaurant and aims at Baccala's head, the gun blows up in his hand.
  • Gone in 60 Seconds (2000): Kip Raines and his young (and irresponsibly belligerent) thieving crew are all over this Trope. Kip's Establishing Character Moment is breaking into a Porsche dealership in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard by smashing the front window with a brick and then racing like a madman back to the crew's hideout, acting surprised when that brings an awful lot of police attention to his contract with Raymond Calitri (which is gonna get him killed if he can't fulfill it). Later on in the film, the crew does at least four more stupid things: 1) they go get new keys to attempt a second Porsche heist from the very same man that gave them the keys for the first (not considering the possibility of the man being under police surveillance), 2) they steal a car that wasn't on the list just because they saw it as easy pickings (turns out that the car was a drug dealer's and had a load of cocaine on the back — this almost gets them caught by Detective Overbeck, but thankfully it doesn't lead to something worse), 3) they leave the aforementioned Porsche keys lying around in a place where they end up eaten by the team's dog, and 4) they don't keep an eye on the location of the people that they are stealing from, leading to one of the thieves getting shot and forced to run away in plain sight of a Trigger-Happy security guard.
  • Home Alone:
    • Both burglars from the first two movies are dense enough to qualify, but especially Marv. It was his idea to flood every house they rob as his way of leaving a Calling Card, and when Marv wants to make it clear to cops that he and his partner are the "Wet Bandits", one of his arresting officers makes an observation:
      Police Officer: Hey, you know we've been looking for you two guys for a long time. Thanks for leaving the water running; now we know each and every house you guys have hit.
    • In Home Alone 3, the would-be burglars who are alleged veteran super-spies that have avoided capture by every kind of law enforcement organization in the world, are all constantly curb-stomped by one kid and his house laden with booby traps, some of which have a very visible set-up (even if many use that as part of a Batman Gambit).
    • In Home Alone 4, in lieu of set booby traps, Kevin simply triggers the gadgets of his smart home at just the right time and lets the bad guys' bumbling do the rest.
  • In How I Became A Gangster the protagonist/narrator lamments that he is forced to commit a major heist with a crew of idiots. As the robbery takes place, he points out every single thing that the "mastermind" overlooked or was too lazy to do. The masks do not fit and the guns were obtained from a "friend of a friend" and might not even work. The protagonist considers himself to be an idiot for ever agreeing to participate in this farce and considers it pure luck that it succeeds. However, since their operational security was non-existent, the police quickly find out who was responsible and everyone involved goes to prison. When he is released from prison, the protagonist resolves to only commit crimes where he is in charge of the planning and makes sure that everyone of his accomplices is a Consummate Professional.
  • Ritchie's friend Matthew Vaughn continued this trend in Layer Cake with The Duke and his "gang". They seem to think they're some sort of genius criminal operation, when in fact they're just a bunch of loudmouthed wannabe gangsters. They can't figure out the goddamn directions on a road map, they rip off the sort of people (Serbian war criminals turned regular criminals) who will gladly have them decapitated, their heist is amateurish as all hell (including showing their faces and the girl in the gang accidentally discharging her weapon that kills one of the Serbs), and most of them end up dead by pissing off their business partners as well.
  • The Coward, the Goon, and the Seasoned Man, a popular Soviet comedic trio, are cast as these crooks in Operation Y.
  • Daniel, Adrian, and Paul in Pain & Gain. The entire film's plot hinges on the main characters being complete idiots who make mistake after mistake in their gruesome kidnapping and extortion plan. Ed Du Bois alludes to it by name by noting that they were convicted of all the crimes they committed except the biggest one: being deeply stupid.
  • The Producers. In the original, after Max and Leo pull their Springtime for Hitler, they decide to blow up the theater with a little help from Franz. They plant a bomb and begin laying a line of fuse. However, just then does Franz realize that he's not sure whether they're using a quick-burning fuse or a slow-burning one, so he lights the length of fuse that they've already primed for the bomb and then congratulates himself on his skillful determination that it is indeed the quick-burning fuse that wouldn't afford them enough time to leave the building. Naturally, they don't get out of the building before the bomb detonates. (They live though.)
  • Pulp Fiction: Vincent Vega has two moments that are directly in relation to his job as a hitman and enforcer for Marcellus Wallace's criminal empire. Not only is he the Trope Namer for I Just Shot Marvin in the Face, but Vincent also lowers his guard while he goes to the bathroom at Butch's apartment when he's supposed to be waiting to kill Butch if he shows up. Butch does show up, and, upon noticing Marcellus' gun sitting on the counter, picks it up and shoots Vincent dead after he steps out of the bathroom. It's quite likely this is a result of his heroin addiction taking its toll and being out of practice from the four years he spent in Amsterdam (Word of God says he ran a club for Marcellus), where he evidently indulged in heavy drug use.
  • At the beginning of RoboCop 3, a would-be hoodlum pulls out a gun and tries to pull a late-night hold-up... at a local Doughnut Shop. Cue the dozen or more cops/customers whipping out their guns.
    Clerk: How does it feel to be a rocket scientist?
  • Woody Allen movies:
    • Allen's character Virgil Starkwell from his Mockumentary film Take the Money and Run is shown to be pretty incompetent. His idea of sneaking a hidden camera into a bank to scout out a potential place to rob involved hiding the camera in a loaf of bread that he has to hold up to his face to take pictures, just as if it were an ordinary film camera.
    • Allen's later film Small Time Crooks explores this again. Ray (Allen's character) and his wife Frenchy horribly botch their attempt to rob a bank by tunneling into it, but the bakery they open as a front for their criminal activities becomes legitimately successful. Even after the characters decide to pursue the more legal activity instead, Ray still looks to commit thefts, and he's still totally unsuccessful. However, Frenchy, is a bit more successful.
  • Jackie Brown: Louis turns out to be a monumentally stupid crook, which is probably why he spent so much time in prison. During The Caper, he's visibly nervous, sweats profusely, gets lost in the mall, and loses his car in the parking lot. He shoots his conspirator in the parking lot on impulse and manages to stall his car when driving away.
  • The Big Hit: The entire plot hinges on a bunch of dumb hitmen working for a crime syndicate ransoming a rich girl without approval from their boss, only to find out that she's the boss's god-daughter and he wants blood. Also, even if he didn't find out, the girl's father was just going through a bankruptcy. Guys, research?
  • Mega Time Squad: The main character is a slack-jawed drug dealer for the would-be kingpin of a sleepy New Zealand town. All of the kingpin's flunkies are idiots. When the kingpin tries to have the main character executed for disloyalty, one flunky misses his shot from point black range and hits another flunky behind him in the eye with the ricochet. In the commotion, the main character escapes, prompting the kingpin to remark, "Well this is a bloody circus!"
  • In Scream 2, the killer's plan is so stupid that even his partner-in-crime mocks him for it. Specifically, he wanted to get caught so that he could have a highly sensationalized trial in which he'd blame violence in the media for warping his mind and making him a killer, thus earning himself a lighter sentence and the sympathy of Moral Guardians. The other killer was counting on his stupidity, having recruited him as the Fall Guy in her revenge scheme. After taking him out, she calls his motive a product of The '90s and says that nobody would ever believe his story.
  • In Short Time, Burt finds out that "getting killed isn't as easy as it looks" because the criminals he pursues are simply too incompetent to kill him.
  • The protagonists of Villains are a subversion. While they’re easily distracted and seemingly incompetent, the two are actually quite crafty and the only thing keeping them from being truly effective criminals is that they’re too softhearted.
  • In White Men Can't Jump, the central characters challenge a basketball player named Raymond to a basketball game, but Raymond doesn't have enough money on him to meet the bet. To try to raise the cash, he retrieves a gun and a stocking mask from his car and robs a nearby convenience store. That plan fails when the proprietor immediately recognizes Raymond and doesn't believe for a second that he would try to kill him. Raymond backs down from the robbery and instead sells the store owner his gun to get the cash he needs.
  • In Zachariah, the Crackers are a gang of pitifully inept Wild West bandits who get outrun by stagecoaches and fall over while trying to jump people. They don't start having success until Zachariah comes up with the idea for them to create a distraction by doing what they're good at - playing loud music - while he and Matthew commit the actual robbery.

  • The two robbers in The Apple Dumpling Gang who are after the gold the children found certainly count, later turned into a movie, starring Don Knotts and Tim Conway as the robbers.
  • The kidnappers in O. Henry's short story "The Ransom of Red Chief". They're dumb enough to kidnap an obviously evil child, and he's such a terror that they end up having to pay his father to take him back.
  • Discworld:
    • Done-It-Duncan from Men at Arms, an incompetent cut-purse who will confess to anything (including stealing fire from the gods) if it means he can spend a night in the cells instead of out on the streets. Which, due to Suspiciously Specific Denial of how he did it and not someone else, leads to him being a decent informant that gets paid in spending the night in a cell.
    • The unlicensed crooks from Feet of Clay at one point try to rob a bar full of watchmen, and then they try to take one of the officers (Sergeant Angua) hostage.
    • Played with in Interesting Times, when Rincewind becomes the object of a Thieves' Guild instructor's lecture on mugging techniques. The bumbling students can't even bop Rincewind on the head to their teacher's satisfaction, despite several tries and repeated demonstrations of the proper technique.
    • In Guards! Guards!, a thief performs an unlicensed theft from the Unseen University that leads to a dragon taking over. Unlicensed theft is bad enough in Ankh-Morpork because the Thieves' Guild feels very strongly about people who break their rules. Making it worse, he stole from an academy full of wizards, who could easily destroy the world if they weren't distracted by the drama of being at a university. It doesn't help that the UU Librarian is a vengeful orangutan who can use library shelves to travel through time. Finally, Lord Vetinari, the ruler he helped depose, has the most advanced intelligence service on the disc with his own personal assassins. Just because the thief got away in the book doesn't mean he got very far.
    • In Making Money, Owlswick Jenkins is a major counterfeiting genius, perfectly capable of creating forged stamps with a level of detail that shames the actual engravers employed by the Post Office and could have easily made a fortune off them. Unfortunately, he only thought of making ha'penny stamp sheets.
  • Snake and Eddie in Big Trouble, though they do get pretty far on blind determination, aren't bright enough to believe they've stolen a Suitcase Nuke, even when told that it's a bomb.
  • Brandon Leeman in Maya's Notebook gets ahold of a large bundle of forged money and the plates to make it. But instead of selling it as far away from him as he can, he spends it right away in Vegas where he lives and even uses it to bribe a Corrupt Cop to kill his mooks. Instead, the cop (later revealed as the Big Bad) has the mooks kill him.
  • In the Wayside School series, two robbers try to hold up Mrs. Jewls' class thinking they are holding up a bank. When it's pointed out to them that they're in a school, it's quickly revealed that they're illiterate. Todd ends up saving the day by giving them a spelling book and encouraging them to learn to read and write.
  • The thieves in "Stop Thief!" from book 27 of The Railway Series. They drive a car they stole from the Ffarquhar station master, in the area it was stolen from, the day after they stole it. Thomas easily recognizes the car and alerts his crew, who throw a message to the signalman, who calls the police and arranges a roadblock to catch the idiots (which he helps by shutting the gate of the level crossing).
  • The Buffalo Brothers in Relativity. In their first appearance, they leave behind enough clues that the heroes immediately deduce that this trope is in play.
    Sara: Let's assume they are stupid. Who do we know who's an idiot?
  • Shows up among the lesser characters in a lot of works by Elmore Leonard. Among a team of bad guys, there's bound to be one less-than-helpful partner whose idiocy turns A Simple Plan into a mess.
  • Jim diGriz of The Stainless Steel Rat purposely got into jail so he could meet incarcerated criminal masterminds and absorb their wisdom. However, any single inmate there was an example of this trope, which, as Jim lampshades, is the reason they were in jail in the first place.
  • In "A Bad Feeling: The Tale of EV-9D9", a company manufacturing illegal torture droids became exposed after a foolish worker mistakenly put their motivators (combination power sources and CPUs) in a line of legal supervisor droids.
  • The Elder Empire: The reason Calder and his father were caught when Calder was a child is that the criminal who they were dealing with (and planning to rob) filed a bill of sale for the stolen goods he was fencing. Absolutely everyone involved facepalmed at that.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Stupid Crooks are a very popular topic among late-night talk show hosts, especially Jay Leno. Whenever Jay does his "Headlines" segment, you can always expect at least one story about a dumb criminal to crop up.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • The "Non-Illegal Robbery" sketch is about a group of criminals who aren't even plotting anything that's criminal.
    Michael Palin: We don't seem to be doing anyfink illegal.
    Terry Jones: What do you mean?
    Michael Palin: Well, we're paying for the watch.
    Terry Jones: They wouldn't give it to us if we didn't pay for it!
    • The bank robber who held up a lingerie shop by mistake and ultimately made off with a pair of panties.
  • The whole gimmick of Chespirito's characters El Chompiras Y El Peterete.
  • World's Dumbest Criminals, later World's Dumbest..., is a TruTV documentary show about... well, Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Americas Dumbest Criminals is a show about dumb criminals.
  • Dead Like Me:
    • In the pilot episode, one of George's first experiences with the reapers is with Mason at a bank, where we meet Bret, the hapless bank robber. Bret stumbles through a prepared announcement he wrote up before entering the bank and gets upstaged by one jealous wife of the bankers. However, he miraculously manages to get away with the bank's money.
    • Meanwhile, Mason is oftentimes the dumbest of the team of reapers and is the only one who looks to earn his money through theft and criminal misdeeds, while the others hold down jobs on the side. Usually, his stupidity and crimes are unrelated to the other, but one occasion stands out where, after previously giving away all of his possessions when he incorrectly assumed he was finally going to the afterlife, he was caught stealing tips left on tables at Der Waffle House, where the gang always meets and hangs out, and is immediately kicked out and barred from coming back to the diner by the group's usual waitress Kiffany.
    • Mason actually has a fairly high success rate with his stupid crimes because of the fact that he is undead. So while a normal stupid crook would end up dead or massively hurt, Mason merely ends up in a lot of pain until his undead body recovers. When his schemes get the other reapers angry at him, they treat him to a lot of pain so he learns his lesson.
  • The Whitest Kids U' Know once did a skit about a group of would-be bank robbers who repeatedly fail the same criminal plot over and over for many different reasons, ranging from not being able to read the bank's blueprints, bringing friends from out of town along to the robbery, and posting plans to rob the bank on a blog (along with a hyperlink to the bank's website wherever the word "bank" is used).
  • Jam:
    • This sketch features a man holding up a convenience store in order to buy a pack of cigarettes. Apparently, the gun he points at the store clerk was to make sure that he got back change. The clerk tells the man with the gun that he doesn't need to pay for the cigarettes, and the man thinks of this as some sort of unexpected thrill.
    • Not to mention the guy who tries to hold up an off license with a gun hidden in his stomach which he fires... out through his own spine, killing himself and the man behind him in the queue.
    • Or another bungled convenience store hold up where the would-be robber forgets to bring the axe he was meant to be threatening people with.
  • Knight Rider:
    • An episode dealing with car theft has a "false alarm" as two crooks attempt to steal the pimped-out K.I.T.T., and quickly prove not to be the professionals Michael is looking for: They're trying to break in using a Philips-head screwdriver instead of a flat one, and this kind of coat hanger.
    • In many other episodes as well, K.I.T.T. confuses and scares the crap out of random bumbling petty criminals who try to steal/sabotage/damage him, more for the entertainment value than for anything related to the plot.
  • "Liability" Finch from the Hustle episode "The Thieving Mistake". There is a good reason why his nickname is "Liability".
  • The pilot episode of Turks opened with two crooks attempting to rob a cop bar. Leads to a moment when, as they are about to leave, someone calls out to them. They turn around and discover everyone in the bar, except for the bartender and the waitress, is holding a badge and a gun.
  • A scene on The Sketch Show has a group of counterfeiters who realize it's costing them more than 12 pounds to produce a usable 10 pound note. After a few suggestions for rectifying this, they decide to just start circulating actual 10 pound notes.
  • The Eerie, Indiana episode "The Hole in the Head Gang" focuses on the ghost of Grungy Bill, "The Worst Bank Robber East of the Mississippi" ("worst" as in "no good, incompetent"). According to Eerie legend, Bill was arrested twelve times (all for failed attempts to rob the Eerie Bank). When robbing the bank for the 13th time, he forgot to bring his gun and ended up getting killed by the sheriff's posse at the Eerie Mill, where, rumor has it, Grungy Bill's ghost can be spotted trying to look for his gun. The rumor proves to be true when Marshall and Simon uncover Grungy Bill's gun and his ghost returns to attempt to rob the Eerie Bank for the 14th time. This time, he's able to get away with stealing one of the complimentary toasters the bank was giving away to anyone who opens a new bank account. Grungy Bill determines this to be a successful bank robbery and can finally rest in peace.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?:
    • It gave us this gem: "This is a stick-up! Does anyone have a gun that I could use?"
    • Ryan once was a series of dumb criminals on Party Quirks segment, with actions ranging from trying to rob a place by holding a gun to his own head, getting a tie stuck in a safe door, and handing a demand note on a personalized check (also handing in his license if there was "a problem").
  • On The West Wing, when after a several-day manhunt, the criminals are actually caught when pulled over for a random traffic stop after a highway patrolman noticed a busted tail light:
    FBI Agent Mike Casper: In thirteen years with the Bureau, I've discovered that there's no amount of money, manpower or knowledge that can equal the person you're looking for being stupid.
    President Bartlett: We've always had some of the stupidest criminals in the world in America. I've always been very proud of that.
  • An episode of Grimm featured two kidnappers who left the following in the van they used to kidnap a woman: 1. her hair 2. chloroform and a rag with chloroform on it 3. the victim's purse, containing her wallet which had her driver's license in it. A bit of a subversion, however, as all of this evidence was discovered after one of the kidnappers had already been tortured by a vigilante into confessing and who was then killed, while the other one was released from police custody by the vigilante while Hank and Nick were busy being shown the evidence, and was then himself killed by the vigilante.
  • Bob Odenkirk plays a kidnapper on a Mr. Show sketch, who tries sending a Finger in the Mail when demanding a ransom... AFTER he sends the parents back their son. And it wasn't the son's toe, it was his own. And the police manage to trace his location during his phone call when demanding the ransom.
  • Horrible Histories portrays Guy Fawkes and his band of conspirators as this.
  • Air Crash Investigation: The hijackers in "Ocean Landing," who think that their plane can make the trip to Australia since they read it in the in-flight magazines, and refuse to believe the captain when he says that the plane's tanks only had enough fuel for the much shorter scheduled flight to Kenya. (Unfortunately, they end up taking a number of innocent people with them.)
  • The Dutch comedy show Koefnoen had a series of sketches titled Poorly Organized Crime. It featured a gang engaged in all manner of criminal enterprises and screwing them up every time. Examples include a diamond heist where they mix up the diamond and the fake they planned to leave in its place, making a ransom demand while having no plan on where and how the ransom should be delivered, or being tasked to steal a modern art piece titled "No title" and realizing there are several paintings without a title and not knowing which to steal. Once per Episode, one of their members would get killed by accident.
  • Adam-12 has a few:
    • In one episode, a pair of drug dealers, knowing the narco detectives are close to finding them, try hiding their bags of high-grade heroin in the gas tank. One of the bags ruptures, turning their new automobile into The Alleged Car in time for Reed and Malloy to happen by.
    • In another episode, a thief breaks into a synagogue and steals a typewriter—not realizing that it's only designed for typing in Hebrew.
    • There was also a drug dealer who tried to use a laundromat dryer to dry his pot. It wouldn't have worked anyway, even if a cop hadn't come in.
    • At LAX Airport, a thief picked the pocket of a Marine off to a tour of duty at Okinawa, but didn't ask where the Marine was coming or going, and certainly didn't count on him having already changed his money.
      Malloy: Last I checked, three hundred dollars in Japanese yen spends pretty tough in Chicago.
  • Quite a few stupid crooks show up in the first season of Better Call Saul, which is a given, considering that at this point, the not-yet-Saul, Jimmy McGill, isn't involved with the major, high-rolling criminals he later handles in Breaking Bad:
    • Jimmy's clients in the series premiere broke into a mortuary, cut the head off a corpse, and then had sex with it. On top of that, they made a video of the whole event. The prosecutor only needs to play the tape as his closing statement to get them sent to jail.
    • The first episodes has two brothers who try to scam motorists by throwing themselves in front of cars and faking injuries. First, they pull it off on Jimmy, whose beat-up Suzuki Esteem leaves so much to be desired that he very obviously doesn't have any money to be scammed of. After being enlisted by Jimmy to stage one of their stunts on a client he's interested in obtaining, but without memorizing the description of the car, they instead end up targeting Tuco Salamanca's grandmother by accident. After following her, their cultural sensitivity and people-reading skills leave much to be desired. They make the mistake of calling Tuco's grandmother a "bizznatch" in front of Tuco, angering him. If it weren't for Jimmy managing to successfully talk Tuco down from killing them to just breaking a leg on each of them, their fates would have been anonymous, shallow graves in the wasteland.
    • The Kettlemans. After embezzling more than $1.6 million in county funds, they stage their own kidnapping and flee into the woods near their home with their children in tow. They clearly had no plan beyond that and things could have gone very tragically if Jimmy had not found them. On top of that, they did an awful job covering up the fact that they embezzled the money with tactics such as writing government checks to themselves to falsely claim it. Jimmy later lampshades this to Mike and tells him that he thought that criminals would be smarter than that.
    • After Nacho gets arrested for supposedly getting involved in the aforementioned "kidnapping", Nacho threatens Jimmy for supposedly ratting on him. Jimmy responds by pointing out all the elementary mistakes Nacho made, like using his own van in staking out the Kettlemans' house, getting spotted by a neighbor (in a clearly-marked Neighborhood Watch zone), and failing to clean the blood (from the skaters) from the back of his van, which gave the cops the probable cause to arrest him and start to dig into his activities. He essentially framed himself for a crime he had not yet committed. As Nacho becomes a recurring character for the rest of the series, he naturally improves his criminal skills.
    • Mike's former client, Daniel Warmolt (the bald guy who works for a pharmaceutical company, the products of which he steals and sells to drug dealers), uses his ill-gotten gains to buy an expensive and very distinctive SUV. He invites Nacho inside this vehicle during a meet, which allows Nacho to find out his address and later break in and trash his place and take Daniel's stock, money, and anything else he fancies. Daniel then proceeds to call the police, who easily find where he hides his money and begin a highly inconvenient investigation.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • Ted Beneke. He's been cooking his family company's books to keep it afloat after his bad business decisions led it to the edge of bankruptcy. When the IRS inevitably comes knocking, he expects Skyler to magically make the problem go away. Skyler normally wouldn't care because she's not working for Ted anymore, but since her name is on some of the tax papers, the IRS will investigate her as well, potentially exposing her and Walt's criminal activities. She's able to buy him some time and gives him more than six-hundred thousand dollars under the guise of a phoney inheritance from a nonexistent distant relative to pay off his debt. Not only is Ted dumb enough to take the inheritance story at face value, he uses the money to buy a new car and re-open his failing company, instead of paying off his debt. Saul sends two of his men to force Ted to pay off his debt; after signing the check, all he has to do is sit and wait until it clears, but instead he tries to make a run for it, trips on his carpet, breaks his neck, and cripples himself.
    • Saul tries to convince Jesse to purchase a nail salon in order to launder his ill-gotten gains, but Jesse hates the prospect of having to do taxes and run a legal business despite being a criminal. He also gets upset that Gus is earning hundreds of millions every year while they're just given pocket change by comparison despite being the backbone of Gus's operation, even though Walt points out they're still going to be millionaires with Gus's "pocket change". Jesse nonetheless steals some of the excess meth they product to try and sell it on his own. This gets Jesse (and by extension, Walt) into a lot of trouble later on, although for different reasons than Gus being upset Jesse is skimming his product...
  • Buster Brady from Mrs. Brown's Boys is a complete moron who, along with Agnes' son Dermot, spent some time in jail for a prior offence. However, unlike Dermot, he has never learned his lesson and keeps trying to rope Dermot into a get-rich-quick scheme whenever he can. He's even at it during his legitimate work, such as how he stole a €1,000 watch when he was working for Dermot's brother on a New Year's special, causing him to get fired.
  • It's pretty much guaranteed one will show up in any given episode of COPS. Examples include a man who tried to run with his hands cuffed behind his back, a man who called the police because someone stole his marijuana, and a woman who called the police because her neighbor didn't use the money she gave said neighbor to buy her cocaine.
  • British cop show Police Interceptors has had a few as well. One memorable example, that even the cops themselves lampshaded afterwards, involved a tip-off about three people in a car carrying drugs. When they find the car, there are only two people inside, and nowhere near as many drugs as they'd been told. The third person, carrying the majority of the drugs, had been in a nearby shop, and when she leaves the premises to see the others getting arrested for drug possession, what does she do? Walk right up to them and get herself arrested as well. The cops share a good laugh about it afterwards.
  • The Good Place has Jason Mendoza, also known as Jianyu. Among other impulsive crimes, at one point he attempted to stage a burglary by hiding in an airtight safe and having his friend, Pillboi, enter a restaurant (unannounced) under the pretense of installing it; moreover, he assumed that a snorkel would allow him to breathe. Needless to say, this is what sent him to the afterlife. Season 3 confirms that this is inherited; Jason's father is — if anything — even more stupid and venal.
  • A fun aspect of Good Girls is that, while Annie, Beth, and Ruby are usually intelligent women, they are so out of their league as criminals that it's laughable.
    • Annie doesn't cover up her distinctive back tattoo when robbing the grocery store where she works, causing the manager to realize who she is.
    • After being encouraged to "borrow" a car from the dealership where Beth's cheating husband works, Annie figures they can have it back and no one will know it's gone... until she realizes the car's computer has a memory of them driving it over the border and back. Annie also messes things up by syncing the car computer to her phone so she can listen to her songs, which could also lead right back to the trio.
    • Ruby threatens a guy with a gun, assuring Beth and Annie that it's not loaded. However, she's forgotten there's a round in the chamber and accidentally shoots the guy in the leg.
    • The girls decide to "outsource" by enlisting some neighbors into a "Secret Shopper" program to help launder the money. This leads to one guy getting $20,000 worth of merchandise stolen in the parking lot. Then, one woman starts taking some of the money for herself to make ends meet. Hearing of this, Rio clearly cannot believe these gals are doing a money-laundering operation within a money-laundering operation.
    • The gals keep committing what Rio says is the big mistake of a crook: As soon as they get a big windfall, they splurge on everything from a new car to expensive clothing and jewels, ignoring how odd it will seem for three once-struggling women to be able to afford all this.
    • Lampshaded when Annie chews Beth out for leaving DNA at a crime scene on being an "amateur mistake," and Beth retorts, "We are amateurs!"
  • True Blood: Early in season 4, we see Bill sentence a vampire to the True Death for feeding on another human, and makes clear the dude is getting executed for being a complete idiot.
  • The Wire:
    • A double example occurs in the first episode, in which a pair of junkies attempt to pay for their hit with unconvincingly monochrome-photocopied money — which the dealer obliviously accepts because it's slipped in among other, real bills. The dealer's boss is not pleased when he catches the mistake later.
    • In one episode, Major Colvin is going for a late-night cruise around the Western District in uniform and driving an unmarked police car while spotters announce his presence to everyone in earshot. In spite of the warnings, a kid named Justin tries to sell him drugs. Colvin lets out a bewildered "What?" The kid asks again, so Colvin turns up the volume on his police radio. When that doesn't work, he puts on his peaked cap, and the kid finally gets the message and backs off while his friends break out howling in laughter.
  • Escape at Dannemora: Throughout the miniseries, Matt is shown as a big shot in prison. However, the final two episodes reveal that he's a truly hopeless crook on the outside. In the Full Episode Flashback, he commits a heinous and thoroughly bungled robbery/murder that ultimately landed him in prison. During his escape, he immediately becomes The Load and holds his co-conspirator back during their flight to Canada. He panics as soon as the pair reach freedom, tries to hide in someone's yard and gets them noticed by the homeowner, ignores the advice to not drink straight from a river, repeatedly gets drunk on stolen booze, and starts firing on passing cars in a pathetic attempt to steal a ride.
  • The Nanny: The season 4 episode "The Bank Robbery" features one who takes Fran and Sylvia as hostages, but otherwise is so unprepared that he forgets to put on a mask and reveals his real name. When he finally makes a run for it, he takes Sylvia with him... and her appetite leads to him having to stop at a restaurant, where he's caught and arrested.
  • Fargo:
    • Fargo Season One: Don Chumph attempts to blackmail Stavros Milos, even though he doesn't have any blackmail material. Chumph reasons that someone as rich as Stavros must have some skeletons in his closet. Malvo quickly hijacks his plan. He also inexplicably asks for an incredibly specific amount of money, the exact amount he calculates he'd need to found the business he wants to start.
    • Fargo Season Three: Ray Stussy's attempt to have a dumbass criminal commit a crime against a family member, his brother Emmit Stussy, goes about as well as it did for that other down-on-his-luck Minnesotan. And Maurice, the ex-con Ray hires to steal Emmit's stamp, really stands out:
      1. Despite being on parole and having to perform a standard urine test, Maurice turns to drugs seemingly without even thinking about trying to trick the test.
      2. While getting high and driving to the job, he loses the directions out the window, thus ends up going 75 miles out of the way to Eden Valley instead of Eden Prairie.
      3. He assaults the gas station clerk and tears a page out of the phone book so he can get the address (and later tells Ray he "covered his tracks"), which proves that what happens next wasn't random.
      4. After getting to the wrong address, he thinks a man in his late 70s or early 80s is Ray's brother just because the phone book identified him as "E. Stussy", and kills him. Then he brings Ray a set of normal stamps, which is not what he asked for even remotely.
      5. He tries to blackmail his parole officer, which would involve turning himself in.
  • Too Old to Die Young: The cartel in LA hires a Professional Killer to take out Damian, a local drug lord, for $6,000. The killer decides that Damian's security is too tight, so he subcontracts out to a local flunky, offering the man $2,000 to commit the deed. The flunky also decides that Damian's security is too tight, so he subcontracts to a third man, a clueless junky who accepts $200 and a baggie of cocaine. The junky kills the wrong man and gets gunned down in the process.
  • A recurring bit on Saturday Night Live are sketches involving some truly idiotic crooks. Half the time, said sketches will show they get away with it because the cops are even dumber.
    • One sketch has a drug lord pulling a coup on his partner to become the boss. It quickly becomes clear he has absolutely no idea whatsoever how this operation works from prices (he's ready to sell a $30,000 bag for a hundred bucks) to even knowing the difference between cocaine and heroin.
    • Another sketch has the crackerjack elite car heist team totally undone because the supposedly ace "I can drive anything" thief has no idea how to drive a stick-shift.
  • On Family Law, a veteran thief client begs Rex to help his son out of a robbery arrest as the kid is so dumb "he'll never survive prison." Rex looks into the lobby to see the kid honestly believing he can stuff a ten-pound statue under his shirt with no one noticing. The kid is accused of robbing a liquor store with a paper bag "disguise" which he kept lifting up to suck on a helium balloon to "alter" his voice and fled in his own car with a vanity license plate which he had reported stolen from himself. Incredibly, Rex is able to get the kid an acquittal by successfully convincing the jury that there's no way anyone could actually be this stupid.


  • Punt and Dennis's "It's Been A Bad Week" often has 'dumb criminal' examples, usually stories either from Florida or Germany.
  • The John Boy and Billy Big Show has a recurring segment called "Dumb Crook News".
  • The Ricky Gervais Show: Ricky is scammed out of a quarter-million pounds by a fraudulent bank transfer for purchasing gold. The crooks (needing to impersonate him) show up with a fake passport using a cutout of David Brent as the picture.
  • The French history-themed nonfiction radio program Franck Ferrand Raconte has an episode about the Dalton Gang, in which the host struggles to contain his laughter as he describes the Coffeyville Bank Robbery — an ambitious attempt to rob two banks on the same street at the same time in broad daylight that was poorly planned ahead of time (the mastermind of the plan, Bob Dalton, had not been in Coffeyville for several years and did not scout the area before drawing up his plan based on outdated memories of the townscape) and horribly botched, resulting in the violent deaths of all but one of the would-be robbers.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout:
    • Fallout 3 has Mel, an ineffective would-be mugger that the player character can find in a random encounter. He demands that the player give all his/her money to him in a very unassertive tone, stammers, and otherwise shows himself to be nothing short of pathetic. If the player has a high enough Perception skill, he can notice that Mel's gun isn't even loaded, otherwise it is quite easy to intimidate Mel into running away. If engaged in combat, Mel is a totally unarmed pushover.
    • Fallout: New Vegas gives us the Freeside Thugs; they seemingly do not understand the stupidity of luring someone in Power Armor and carrying a Machine Gun/Rocket Launcher/Orbital Death Ray into a "trap" they set, when all they have are pool cues and meat cleavers.
    • There are also Vikky and Vance, a pre-war petty-crime duo styling themselves as Bonny and Clyde-like duo, except not nearly as competent or famous (at least before their deaths, when they drove through a completely unrelated shootout). And then there are Pauline and Sammy, two extremely small-time crooks styling themselves after Vikky and Vance (thus copying two copies) who want to gain infamy by robbing all the casinos on The Strip. With Vance's never-fired gun. Against all of The Strip's combined security.
    • Fallout 4 continues this trend by having a man impersonating Preston Garvey trying to con people out of their caps. When you encounter him, he can be told off by saying that you personally know Preston or that you are the General of the Minutemen.
  • Very early in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, CJ's friend Ryder tries to rob a Pizza Stack where he is a regular customer. He wears a Paper-Thin Disguise that consists of taking his hat off and putting on a nearly transparent mask. The results are as expected. Also, turns out the clerk is better armed than Ryder is.
    Clerk: Ryder? Not this again!
    Ryder: It ain't me, foo'!
    Clerk: No-one else is that small. I feel sorry for your dad!
  • Grand Theft Auto V carries on the tradition with Lamar, who's fittingly an Expy of Ryder. Most notable is when he kidnaps a Ballas gangster (who's known him since childhood) while wearing a Paper-Thin Disguise (which is seen through immediately) and then calls the Ballas to demand a ransom on his cell phone (which gives his position away to the police). This renders the whole caper moot, as he then has to get rid of the phone and let the victim go. And then in the next mission, Lamar goes to do a drug deal with that same gangster he previously kidnapped (who was, of course, setting up an ambush to kill him).
    • The player can do this as well. If you hold up a store with an empty gun, and pull the trigger, the clerk will hear the clicking, call you a wise guy, and gun you down.
    • On the way to the Paleto Bay heist, the protagonists (and their hired backup) reminisce over their first heists, and it turns out that Michael was the only one of the three who wasn't one of these at some point. Franklin's first job, planned out by Lamar, would have netted them a combined take of $2K, but a dye-packet went off and ruined both stacks. Even worse was Trevor's first job, which went very similar to Ryder's robbery of the Pizza Stack above, except he didn't get away with it and spent six months in jail because of it.
    • The Ballas aren't much better. Posting a photo of their drugs and weapons on social media is how Trevor found out about a juicy target to send the online Player Character to rob during the 4th Heist. The photos were geotagged!
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim:
    • One random encounter has you meet a group of bandits along the road dressed in obviously stolen Imperial gear, trying to squeeze "taxes" from you. The stupidity of this (besides the obvious fact that you're practically a Physical God, of course) is that chances are you're either a Stormcloak or — better yet — an actual Imperial officer.
      "I am in the legion and I am damn sure you are not!"
    • There's also a similar encounter with Thieves. Especially egregious if you are both a member of the Thieves' Guild and wearing the standard-issue armor. You can point out this little oversight to them, or even better, if you're the Guildmaster, you can shake them down for having the gall to try and rob their own boss!
  • In Yakuza 4, the pair of incompetent car thieves that Tanimura encounters in one of his sidequests first commit the same crime over and over in the exact same place, in broad daylight, surrounded by witnesses and cops on patrol. Then, they openly and loudly discuss their crimes (both past thefts and the one currently in progress) with Tanimura until he reveals to them that he's a cop, at which point they try to cover up everything they just said with a lame excuse and honestly believe that Tanimura is falling for it when he pretends to play along. When they finally realize that he's not buying it, they try to bribe him with the contents of a wallet they had stolen previously, but then they remember that they spent most of the money in the wallet already and all they have left is pocket change. They try to bribe Tanimura with the change anyway, but by this point, Tanimura is fed up with them and is more or less forced to actually arrest them. Their only saving grace is that they're so stupid that they accidentally Logic Bomb themselves into wanting to reform themselves and become good citizens.
  • Scary Robber Home Clash has Felix and Lester, two burglars who are blatent spoofs of Harry and Marv from Home Alone. They sneak into a home belonging to a very rich family after the parents go on a Summer vacation and send their son Brian to Summer camp. Instead of looting the place right away like they should, they decide to spend the Summer at the house and enjoy the luxuries of it before finally looting and leaving. Brian sneaks out of camp and goes back home for his own way to spend the Summer, and decides to make the criminals suffer during their stay. The two prove to be so pathetic and incompetent that they easily put Harry and Marv to shame. To start, the first level has them failing to notice that Brian replaced the disk of the comedy film they picked out with the disk of a horror movie, despite the disk clearly not matching the cover of the film, and they get freaked out by the film.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: Though the franchise has its fair share of criminal masterminds, you're just as likely to go up against some real dumbasses who for some reason decided that appearing in court to lie badly about someone else doing it is the best way to get away with their crimes.
    • Frank Sahwit, the very first criminal of the series, is a stand-out example. He was a two-bit burglar who killed a woman who surprised him when he was robbing her home. Nobody saw it happen or knew he was there, and he could have easily cleaned off the murder weapon and ran away, but he just had to pin it on Larry Butz. This guy is the only witness you don't need to press; he'll talk himself into a hole as soon as he gets on the stand.
    • Redd White may be a good blackmailer, but he's an absolutely terrible murderer. When he shows up in court, he doesn't even seem to have bothered to make his testimony match the previous day of the trial and is happy to say things he really shouldn't have known. The only reason he gets as far as he does is because the prosecutor hand-holds him.
    • Richard Wellington, the tutorial villain in the second case. He killed a police officer because he panicked about said officer searching his phone (the guy hadn't) and learning he was part of a con artist ring, left his phone at the scene, and when he assaulted Phoenix to get his phone back, he took the wrong phone and apparently never noticed that the phone he was wiping had a bunch of contacts he didn't recognize. And of course, he's a Bad Liar.
    • Though they're not very important, we get to see an image of the robbers that Ron saved Desiree from in Trials and Tribulations. One of them appears to be wearing a clear plastic bag over their head to hide their face.
    • Dahlia Hawthorne in Trials and Tribulations is the Big Bad more out of sheer persistence (and help from a much better schemer) than actual criminal talent. Notably, this person doubles as the tutorial villain (and is as easy to expose as you'd think), and in their chronological first court case, they barely escaped by getting the one person who could provide crucial testimony to kill himself. Even when they're not murdering, they fail at criminal activities- their original crime was faking being kidnapped to steal a diamond, only for the kidnapping to go awry and the diamond to be lost in a notoriously dangerous river.
    • Furio Tigre may be intimidating, but his overcomplicated murder plot just ends up drawing in Phoenix to nail him, and he doesn't make it long in court before blithely falling for a I Never Said It Was Poison gambit.
    • Florent L'Belle created an overly complicated plot to steal a gold ingot (he's bankrupt because he keeps advertising products he won't sell) that ultimately gets him convicted for a murder he committed in the process. Earlier that day, Phineas Filch was able to sneak into the chamber holding the ingot in 15 minutes on a whim, showing that Florent didn't need any of the other crimes to get the ingot.
    • Blaise Debeste from Investigations II may have somehow risen to a high rank as a prosecutor, but he's downright dumb when it comes to covering up his crimes. For example, he wears gloves when doing his criminal activities- gloves that he not only used to work on his oily bike, but have a unique look to them (there are letters on the fingertips, but one letter is partially worn), so Edgeworth can easily connect the imprints the gloves left to Blaise as easily as if Blaise had left actual fingerprints.
    • The Great Ace Attorney has the Skulkin brothers, accomplices to the case 5 culprit who hinder him more than help him with their bumbling, terrible lying skills, and unwillingness to commit outright treason.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, Akira calls out Yakuza lackey Maruhashi on his stupidity when he tries to scout girls right in front of a police station, which is an early indicator that Maruhashi's not the brightest bulb in the box.

  • "Sloppy Joe" Basso and his hired goons from Dead Winter, are definitely an example of this. Joe himself is an old, cranky and possibly the "worst" hitman in the webcomic. Outsourcing his work to some dumb mooks that are easily dispatched by their target. And when he finally tries to do the deed himself, he didn't bother to be careful and watch his back, which allows Monday to get him by surprise and then finally finish him off.
  • El Goonish Shive: The Comically Evil Guy. Granted he only existed so that Dan could kill someone off without feeling guilty, but that is an impressively stupid evil plan.
  • The Good Crook: Jackie always had aspirations of being a gangster. His first (and only) attempted robbery involves him threatening a diner with a gun, then changing his mind mere seconds later. He proceeds to apologize and try to explain himself, at which point an over-eager police officer tackles and arrests him.
  • Freefall
    • Sam Starfall has aspirations of being a renowned master thief but isn't always the brightest bulb in the box. Admittedly, some of his incompetence may be attributed to culture clashnote , such as his selling shares in a meat mine for (worthless on Jean) diamonds.
    • One of the pre-web strips has Helix taken by kidnappers, who start sending parts to Sam in the mail. And for some reason, they just keep on sending them, until eventually, Sam has all of Helix's parts back and can reassemble him, good as new.

    Web Original 
  • Several websites exist for the sole purpose of cataloging unusual crimes and stupid criminals.
  • Not Always Right has a few stories about stupid criminals in its database.
    • In this Not Always Legal story, a burglar orders pizza to be delivered to the house he's broken into. The delivery person (who's delivered to that house before and knows who lives there) realizes what's going on and calls the cops. Two weeks later, the same burglar pulls the same stunt, gets the same delivery person, and gets arrested again.
    • This thief left his resume at the scene of the crime, which let the police track him down. As a bonus, the one who posted this story is the thief's mother telling us how stupid her son is for this.
    • This genius decided to threaten a prosecution witness in front of the other witnesses and the cops right before his trial. It went as well as you might expect.
  • The Darwin Awards also includes some. This being the Darwin Awards, most of the Stupid Crooks mentioned there manage to kill or injure themselves in the process of proving themselves worthy of that site and this trope. One of the very first deaths chronicled on the site, "Wrong Time Wrong Place", had a would-be robber attempt to rob a gun shop full of gun-toting customers... with several police officers standing right there.
  • Most issues of News of the Weird have two or three entries under Least Competent Criminals.
  • Cracked's The 20 Most Secretly Brilliant Stupid Criminals. Includes a perp who revealed that they were violating parole/jumping bail on social networking.
  • These guys are so common on What the Fuck Is Wrong with You? that "Tara Explains How to Be a Better Criminal" has turned into a Running Gag on the live show.
  • In one Jade story of the Whateley Universe, two incompetent crooks attempt to commit a robbery in Dunwich, despite the fact that about six hundred superpowered teens are going to Superhero School within walking distance from the town.
  • In Counter Monkey episode "Shadowrun: The Code", the player characters of a Shadowrun game go about a museum burglary the completely wrong way. Among other errors, when the alarm is triggered, they don't simply grab the artifact and run; instead, they turn it into a hostage situation where all hostages end up executed purely on account of "They saw our faces." It ends with the horrified DM importing the Cyber Psycho Squad from Cyberpunk as a Rock Falls Everyone Dies.
  • All conspirators in Farce of the Three Kingdoms (except Ma Teng). They set themselves on fire, create incriminating paperwork for no good reason, and couldn't act more suspiciously if they tried. Naturally, they all get caught very fast.

    Western Animation 
  • Observed in the Rugrats episode "Ruthless Tommy", where two bumbling criminals kidnap Tommy, mistakenly believing him to be the son of a billionaire after they mix up their real target's house address. Even then, the one-year-old baby becomes too much for the two idiots to handle so quickly that they end up returning Tommy back to his parents before they even realized their son had been missing. However, as the crooks leave, their ransom note flies out of Stu's hands and covers one of the crook's face, causing him to crash their car into a hydrant and send both of them flying headfirst into the back window of a police car.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In the episode "Dumbbell Indemnity", Moe spends so much money on things for his new girlfriend that he decides to come up with a plan with Homer to steal his car, have it destroyed, and collect the insurance money. Homer steals Moe's car and is supposed to leave it on the train tracks, but he gets sidetracked by a showing at a drive-in theater for a movie about a monkey who is president. Having missed the train, Homer decides to drive the car off a cliff in plain view of everyone, including the police, which gets himself arrested.
      Moe: Homer, you moron.
      Homer: Homer, you genius!
    • It's even better than that: when Homer first goes to steal the car, he finds that Snake is already on the job. So Homer pulls Snake from the car, throws him to the ground, and steals the car himself.
  • The Powerpuff Girls:
    • The Amoeba Boys. You can tell that these single-celled organisms aren't neurons.
    • There was one crook that tried to steal a cereal box with a diamond that he had stolen earlier in it from the girls. All of his attempts to steal from them were complete failures.
    • Then there was that criminal that tried to steal from the Powerpuff Girls home. It went about as well as you would expect. At the end of the episode, he's intending to rob Mojo Jojo's house.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force:
    • The Mooninites once stole their uncle's "check from the government for being crazy" so they can cash it on Earth and go on a shopping spree... except the "check" was actually a payment bill for home care which emits radiation when it's overdue, and it's two months overdue. When this is revealed, Err claims that he kept telling Ignignokt that the check was actually a bill on the way down to Earth, Err thought Ignignokt knew something about the bill he didn't.
    • That same episode begins with Igignokt spray-painting graffiti on a school, which Err quickly points out is just a rock.
    • Their first appearance saw them stealing whole assortments of electronics equipment. They also encouraged Meatwad to swallow an entire rack of DVDs, believing he could then walk out of the store with it; Meatwad couldn't do this and tried to carry it instead, which sees him immediately trip the store's alarms while the Mooninites take the opportunity to escape.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Doing Time", SpongeBob and Patrick deliberately attempt to rob a bank in order to try and break Mrs. Puff out of jail from the inside. For masks, both characters wore socks over their heads, which covered their eyes and didn't allow them to see where they were going or who they're trying to hold up. The unintimidated bank teller treats the entire ordeal as a normal exchange, asking Spongebob for his name and ID (which he gladly hands over), pulling up his checking and savings accounts, and bluntly informing SpongeBob that he has no money in either account (either no thanks to Mr. Krabs, or SpongeBob not even using that particular bank).
  • Jake and Butch from Mr. Bogus fit this trope to a T, as their attempts to pull off a crime job wind up getting foiled thanks to the efforts of Bogus.
  • Ed Wuncler III and Gin Rummy from The Boondocks. They'll rob a bank and forget to ask for money, they try to get past a heavily secured area by going through the back door (without checking to see if there's security there too), and generally just run around guns a-blazing without any sense of purpose. They're just lucky that Ed's grandfather owns the police (and, to his utter annoyance, the places they keep robbing).
  • The title characters of Victor & Hugo, in which the premise of the show revolves around the pair's botched crimes; the series is even subtitled Bunglers in Crime. A typical exchange:
    Victor: Did you remember to switch off the alarm, Hugo?
    Hugo: Yes, my Victor. [Victor opens the safe] And no. [the alarm bells ring] Mainly no.
  • The Enforcers from Jackie Chan Adventures got increasingly dimwitted as Flanderization set in. And yet, if they can be believed, each held reasonably stable jobs before turning to crime, and one was even studying theoretical physics.
  • The Haunted Pumpkin of Sleepy Hollow: Grunk and Leo are two bumbling thieves who steal the Sleepy Hollow manuscript and end up having to get it back after hiding it in a pumpkin. Both are quite stupid, especially Grunk. Leo, the short leader, thinks he's smart, but he's only smart compared to his even dumber partner. They both mistook a Halloween zombie puppet for a real zombie.
  • VeggieTales: In the Christmas Special, the silly song "Oh Santa!" features a bank robber trying to rob a bank...mistaking Larry's house for one.


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Alternative Title(s): Dumb Criminals, Stupid Criminals, Dumb Crooks


Chad Wagon

Chad Wagon is the very Fratbro esque owner of a 1950s American styled diner who acts like a character plucked right from The Fast and the Furious.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

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Main / PatrioticFervor

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