Follow TV Tropes


Terrorism Tropes

Go To
Let's hope he gets it right this time, 'kay?

Terrorism is defined by Wikipedia as "the use of violence, or threatened use of violence, in order to achieve a political, religious, or ideological aim". Some things associated with terrorism include murders, bombings, shootings, hostage-taking, and other threats. There are numerous real-world terrorist groups that make an appearance in fiction and countless fictional ones. They are usually portrayed as villainous.

While terrorism has appeared in fiction for years, the 9/11 attacks made terrorists, specifically the Islamic Fundamentalist type, as the main villains in Hollywood movies, replacing the Dirty Communists of the Cold War.

Compare Rebel Tropes, The Only Righteous Index of Fanatics!, and Organized Crime Tropes for another kind of terrorists.


Terrorists (by ethnic/national origin)

Terrorists (by ideological motives)

  • Animal Wrongs Group: Eco-terrorists who are specifically targeting people for causing harm to non-human animals.
  • Apocalypse Cult: A religious cult which attempts to help jumpstart doomsday through terror attacks on the public.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Militant anarchists who want to violently overthrow all forms of centralized government and state authority.
  • Church Militant: Religious extremists who wish to enforce their super-strict theocratic laws upon society.
  • Dirty Communists: Militant socialists who want to violently overthrow all forms of capitalism and privately-owned businesses.
  • Eco-Terrorist: Militant environmentalists whose motivation is to punish people they blame for destroying the natural environment.
  • Evil Malthusian: Militant Malthusianists who take it upon themselves to control or reduce the population and avoid an Overpopulation Crisis.
  • Evil Reactionary: Ultra-conservative extremists who intend to regress society backwards in accordance to their traditionalist ideology.
  • The Extremist Was Right: Not only are the terrorist's beliefs proven correct, but their methods may be justified too.
  • Fantastic Terrorists: Extremist militants whose political ideology can only exist or make any sense when they live in some sort of sci-fi/fantasy world. They're most likely motivated by some form of fantastic discrimination.
  • The Fundamentalist: Religious extrememists who openly antagonize other religions and other people who oppose it.
  • The Klan: The Ku Klux Klan, an infamous white-supremacist terrorist organization which originated from the United States.
  • Not-So-Well-Intentioned Extremist: A terrorist claims that they have good intentions, but it's rather obvious that they're only committing their crimes for more self-serving motives.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Any terrorist who strongly believes in some form of ethnic nationalism, racial supremacism, or religious sectarianism will likely try to commit violent hate crimes against any "undesirable" people around them.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic: A far-right-wing militant, usually some sort of homegrown extremist from the United States, who is a member of a private paramilitary group.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: Criminals who commit violent acts which may resemble terrorism, or may have (nominally) ideological motives, but their end goals are mostly apolitical.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: (Neo-)Nazis and other militant fascists who wish to violently impose "Aryan" racial supremacy in their countries.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A terrorist who commits their crimes out of a genuine (if horribly misguided) belief they are fighting for something good.

Terrorists (other types)

  • Child Soldiers: Many paramilitary terrorist groups have been known to recruit young minors (underage teenagers and even prepubescent children) to fight for them. Oftentimes, these kids were forced to join these militias as expendable cannon fodder.
  • Demolitions Expert: Someone who is skilled at producing improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
  • Mad Bomber: A terrorist who plants a lot of explosives and blows up anything they can.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: A terrorist organization that does and promotes evil things across a vast area in the name of a common goal.
  • Private Military Contractors: While true mercenaries are motivated primarily by money rather than ideology, a private army of paid volunteers can be recruited by the villains to help them carry out acts of terrorism.
  • Renegade Splinter Faction: A terrorist group which split off from another older organization that wasn't radical enough for them.
  • Spree Killer: ‚ÄčA terrorist who commits a homicidal rampage at a crowded (public) place, trying to massacre as many people as possible with whatever weapons they have (blades, firearms, explosives, vehicles, etc).
  • The Syndicate: An omnipresent terrorist organization.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: One person's evil extremist may be another's heroic rebel.

Other tropes

  • Assassination Attempt: Terrorists will often try to kill any important figure whom they believe to be an enemy to their cause.
  • The Coup: An attempt to forcefully overthrow the established government through illegitimate means other than full-scale rebellion, mostly through violent terror attacks.
  • Dirty Bomb: An IED that is designed to scatter radioactive materials around the blast radius.
  • Empty Quiver: When a nuclear weapon falls into the wrong hands (such as a ruthless terrorist organization).
  • External Combustion: AKA car bombing, a classic terrorist tactic in which a motor vehicle loaded with explosives is detonated to kill people or destroy a targeted location.
  • False Flag Operation: A group executes a staged terrorist attack with the goal of framing their enemies or rivals for doing it.
  • Hostage Situation: When terrorists abduct people and threaten to kill them, while making demands to their enemies involving political goals or ransom money, in exchange for the captives' safety and freedom.
  • Hostage Video: Terrorists record a threatening video message featuring someone they've kidnapped, using them as a bargaining chip to make political/ransom demands.
  • Martyrdom Culture: Many terrorists are willing and often expected to die for their cause.
  • Mistaken for Terrorist: An innocent person is maliciously accused of or misidentified as being some sort of dangerous extremist (or at least a sympathizer).
  • Post-9/11 Terrorism Movie: Political action-thriller films about America's War on Terror.
  • Ransom Drop: A discreet way to deliver a ransom to terrorists holding hostages.
  • Restrained Resistance, Reckless Rebellion: Where two (or more) resistance movements have the same objective (most often opposition to a tyrannical regime); but one faction is much more willing to resort to ruthless actions that would be considered terrorism.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: Rebels and revolutionaries engage in a Reign of Terror against anyone who is (perceived to be) a counter-revolutionary or loyalist of the old regime.
  • Snuff Film: If terrorists holding hostages lose their patience or just simply want to instill fear in their enemies, then they'll murder the hostage execution-style and upload the gruesome footage to the internet.
  • Suicide Attack: Some terrorists are so devoted to their cause that they'll go far enough to get both themselves and others killed, usually through the use of explosives.