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Vigilante Militia

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Your town or city has become infested with crime. The Police Are Useless, or crooked, or both. Same goes for the politicians. However, you aren't willing to see your hometown fall into a Wretched Hive of scum and villainy so easily. What do you do? Become a Vigilante Man of course!

However, you may quickly find that cleaning up the streets on your own is easier said than done. Worse, if an organised crime group like The Mafia or The Cartel, or other similar organizations are involved you'll be dealing with armed hitmen who are trained to kill. Luckily, you know where you can find some like-minded individuals to join you on your quest for justice. This is where the Vigilante Militia comes in.

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Subtrope of Vigilante Man, this group is dedicated to hunting down and striking fear into the hearts of criminals. Often they may be either people who have been wronged by criminals in some way, or simply people looking to make their hometown safe for everyone. Sometimes, they may have someone or multiple people in their ranks who are former law enforcement officers. This will be especially true if they were Cowboy Cops who either resigned or were kicked off the force because of their disdain for procedure.

The Militia's size will vary from work to work. Sometimes they will have a small number of people, while other times they may be the size of an entire army. If the group is one of the larger kind then they may set up a certain way their operatives work depending on their style. They can have their members operate as individuals, or in teams. If they are especially large, they may even be able to operate in places outside their normal city. Perhaps sending people to fight throughout the entire country, or even world. In contrast, smaller teams will usually (though not always) stick together so that they have strength in numbers.

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Just like the individual version of this trope, Vigilante Man, there can be both good and bad examples of this. A "good" Vigilante Militia, will avoid confrontation with the police as much as possible, will focus all efforts on safeguarding innocent lives, and will try to capture their targets alive so that they can be turned over to the police and receive a proper trial. They will often have support among the police force, who will often tell the press the vigilantes "escaped" before they could be arrested. In contrast, "bad" militias will have no qualms about killing their targets (although not all militias that kill their targets are portrayed negatively). They will engage in Vigilante Executions and this time they can actually form their own firing squad. Bad groups will also fight with the police as well, sometimes even as much as the actual criminals. And if they are one of the larger organizations, as explained above, they may actually be able to take over a part of the town, or even the entire city, effectively overthrowing the legal authorities and seizing power.

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If the members have super powers, then they become a Super Team, which can overlap with this trope if they operate without any official government sanction.

If a group of ordinary citizens are organized into a crime-fighting group by an official and deputized law enforcement officer, then they are a Posse, instead of one of these as they operate inside the law and will have been deputized accordingly (there may be borderline cases if a group of Dirty Cops form one, but these are the exception rather than the rule). If it's just a mob whipped up into a frenzy against someone, whether they're guilty or not, and usually disbands right afterwards, that's Torches and Pitchforks (although if they have enough organization and time to think things out, they might qualify for both). Generally not a Right-Wing Militia Fanatic, although overlap is possible; in recent history (especially during the Cold War) militias have often been hired by right-wing governments to augment the latter's use of violence against all opposition, Communist or otherwise. On rare occasions, the opponent they form to fight may be a monster instead of human criminals.

See also Vigilante Man, the individual version of this trope. Compare La Résistance (which forms against foreign invasions, not general lawlessness), Torches and Pitchforks (likely to be gathered for a single, sometimes unjustified, act of violence against a hated figure and perhaps even being willing to kill their way past lawful authorities), and The Magnificent Seven Samurai (a group of heroes defends a small community from either bandits or a tyrannical overlord).


Examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman himself has tried to put one together on a couple of occasions, the most recent being "Batman Incorporated" which seeks to recruit other characters to act as Batman-like individuals to fight crime anywhere in the world. They also act as his representatives in this role. Most members have their own superhero names, but Batman is the one uniting them. They operate as individuals, which is fitting as Batman himself kind of likes to work alone or with whichever sidekick he has at the moment.
    • During the events of Batman: No Man's Land, while the Gotham City Police Department is essentially dissolved, many of its members remain in the city to provide a militia that supplies security and law and order for the citizens who couldn't afford to leave after the city-devastating earthquake.
    • The Executioners from Harleen are a small militia of vigilantes who believe that Batman's no-kill policy is too soft and Arkham itself a Cardboard Prison full of monsters who the police are hilariously out of their depth in facing. Thus, they take it upon themselves to capture and kill criminals they deem to be Karma Houdinis. They're later revealed to be members of the GCPD who have snapped and gone rogue, later becoming Two-Face's Mooks.
    • In The Dark Knight Returns, several members of the defeated Mutants gang become true believers and declare themselves the "Sons of the Batman." Unfortunately, they clean up the streets with the same viciousness that marked their prior affiliation, and Batman has to take them under his wing ... if only to train them in a way that protects Gotham City from their idea of "crimefighting."
  • Nightwing at one point, while Nightwing is suffering from amnesia, a cop finds one of his safehosxes with some costumes and equipment and convinces three coulleauges to become a team of Nightwings and fill the vacuum left by their vanished protector.
  • The Punisher:
    • One story has a trio of men inspired by the Punisher's return to join forces. Unfortunately, their methods are too different (one is a rich WASP (Elite), who shoots drug dealers and poor people hanging around his condo, another is a priest (the Holy) who axe-murders people who confess their deadly sins to him with every intention of going back for more, and the third (Mr. Payback) shoots up a board of Corrupt Corporate Executives (accidentally and unknowingly killing a cleaning lady in the process). They're all killed by the Punisher when he finds out, while Elite's son eventually finds his father's diary and tries to avenge him.
    • In a Take That! to several real-life police groups that have begun superimposiong the Punisher logo over the "Thin Blue Line" flag, another story features a couple cops who come across him proudly displaying his logo on their cars, who are a part of a group of other officers who want to emulate Frank's example. Frank is not amused, and tells them in no uncertain terms if he finds out that they've broken their oaths as officers, he'll be gunning for them next because the police are supposed to be better than him, not sink to his level.
    • While the Punisher tends to be a lone gunman (with the occasional informant or tech support) one arc has him put together a special team of three other fighters he's worked with in the past (along with his regular Mission Control Microchip) to try and take down the Kingpin. At the end of the arc, Kingpin is still standing, two of Punisher's companions are dead, and the third cuts ties with the Punisher afterwards.
  • In The Order, the Black Dahlias were originally a gang of vigilantes who attacked pimps and rapists in the Los Angeles area. After the events of Civil War, they turned to assassinating current and former members of the Order, realizing that they would not be able to continue their former non-lethal activities as long as California had a government-sanctioned super-team running around.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Inverted in 5 Card Stud. At the start of the film six men are playing poker. One steps out to use the restroom and while he's gone four of the others discover that the fifth is cheating. This being The Wild West, the only proper response is vigilante justice: they take him out and hang him. Most of the rest of the film concerns a Vigilante Man ( the hanged man's brother, who is masquerading as a minister) hunting down and killing the people involved in the first killing.
  • 6 Underground features a billionaire gathering an underground team of elite fighters to take down a brutal dictator and other untouchable criminals.
  • Andersonville has an unusual example of this ( based on real life events done with actual soldiers. The prison camp is largely ruled over by a gang who steal whatever they can from the rest of the camp and kill those who oppose them. A large group of prisoners led by a man named Limber Jim forms first to protect their territory against the Raiders, and then to strike out and crush them. The main characters are initially loose allies of Jim focused more on planning an escape attempt, but after most of them are recaptured, join Jim's group in earnest prior to the climatic battle.
  • Band of the Hand follows a group of juvenile delinquents being reforged into a vigilante group by their supervisor who uses them to clear out a neighborhood. Once their mentor is killed, the kids go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • The documentary Cartel Land follows both Mexican and American anti-drug cartel militias, albeit not too favorably.
  • In The Dark Knight, Batman's activities have unfortunately inspired several gun-totting copycat vigilantes to take on the criminal underworld of Gotham. At least some of these are working together, as seen when two or three of them try to take down Scarecrow's operation. Bruce is not happy about this, as these average citizens don't have the same resources he does, and are more likely to get themselves killed. Indeed, the Joker starts targeting them in his hunt for the Batman and brutally murders one on camera.
  • Eye for an Eye: The film features a group operating out of a support group. They have very specific requirements: They only target killers whose guilt is obvious yet get Off on a Technicality, and they won't make the kill for someone else. Instead, they teach newcomers how to make the hit themselves.
  • Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers: The local bartender and a dozen or so of his customers appoint themselves as one of these when they drive to investigate a blackout and find that the titular serial killer has killed most of the sheriffs department. On one hand, they accidentally kill an innocent man wearing a Halloween mask similar to Michael’s, but on the other hand they do try to evacuate the main characters from the danger zone and some of the surviving members help gun down Michael at the end.
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1985): An army of terrorists led by a KGB agent infiltrates American society and then unleashes a wave of blood and destruction. Since the terrorists have shown an ability to successfully disguise themselves as police and soldiers, the public is understandably frightened that the officer or soldier guarding the corner might be an enemy undercover. As such, many citizens form armed militias to help guard their communities. A group of them can be seen protecting a convoy of school buses as children are loaded onto them by their parents, who are sending them to the rural areas for safety (similar to what the British did with children from London in World War II). Of course, these militias may not have to worry about too much with Chuck Norris hunting the bad guys!
  • Kick-Ass 2: The costumed crimefighter movement of the first movie has grown to almost a dozen individuals (ranging from pathetic wannabes to genuine tough guys), lead by Colonel Stars-and-Stripes.
  • The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean: Zigzagged. After being beaten and robbed by a group of outlaws, Roy Bean self-appoints himself judge and enlists the group of tired outlaws without their heart in it to serve as marshals. They bring order to the territory, arresting outlaws and building up a community, but they also use the opportunity to line their own pockets with the outlaws loot. Played straighter in the climax when, after being brought to ruin, they go on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the corrupt new boss.
  • Magnum Force: The gruff but honest detective Callahan investigates a series of murders wherein the victims are repeat felons. Callahan deduces correctly that a band of zealous rookie officers have decided to fight crime by acting as judge / jury / executioner as well as arresting officer. Made worse by the chief of the detective division knowingly covering for them.
    Harry Callahan: A man has got to know his limitations.
  • The Mystery Men are composed of three Z-list superheroes: Mister Furious, Blue Raja and The Shoveler. When Captain Amazing gets taken out by The Villain, these three recruit The Bowler, Invisible Boy and The Spleen to the cause of taking down Casanova Frankenstein.
  • The British movie Outlaw involves a disgruntled veteran whose been wronged by the local criminal element gathering up three other like-minded officials (with two tipsters, including a cop) and trying to strike back at the local crime lord. They experience very little success, don't get along that. By the end of the movie one decides to Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and all but one of the others die in an assault against the Big Bad (who that one survivor does manage to kill).
  • At the end of Rio Lobo when many local ranchers who fought in the Civil War show up as The Cavalry for the climatic battle with the corrupt sheriff and his Mooks.
  • Silver Bullet (an adaptation of Cycle of the Werewolf mentioned below) features a more spontaneous, somewhat ineffectual example that's arguably more of a Torches and Pitchforks group. Dozens of locals armed with guns and baseball bats gather, plan out search areas on a map and then head out, thinking that their after the human murderer of a woman and child who the police have been unable to catch. Rather than killing the werewolf (or chasing it out of town for the night like in the book) they simply supply it with more victims.
  • Stake Land: features an almost incidental (although still quite heroic) version. The Strivington Volunteer Militia, whose town the main cast visit is mainly characterized as a force defending their settlement against the roving swarms of vampires but also operate against deranged, militaristic cults like The Brotherhood.
  • The end of Veronica Guerin involves crowds of people forming and chasing drug dealers out of Dublin.
  • Vigilante: Nick leads a neighborhood vigilante group, of himself and at least three other men, killing or roughing up local drug dealers, killers and rapists, while also making rallying speeches for new recruits at secret gatherings and having plenty of locals tipping him off.
  • The Wolfman (2010): With the local constable killed by the werewolf early on and the inspector from London focusing on the wrong leads and being quite the Agent Scully, many of the townspeople (led by a military veteran and a gamekeeper) take matters into their own hands. First, several of them question/threaten a man who was bitten by the wolf, attempting to detain (or maybe kill) him before the full moon. When that fails, they spend the next few days digging pit traps with a tied up pig as bait and during the full moon wait nearby with guns to try and kill the werewolf. The werewolf proves capable of leaping out of the pit once inside though, easily killing most of its would-be hunters.

    Literature 
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The Brotherhood Without Banners combines this with La Résistance in a medieval setting. While they're most remembered for resisting the Lannister soldiers, they work to enforce law and order amongst everyone in the lawless Riverlands, fighting Sociopathic Soldiers on both sides, as well as common bandits.
  • The second The Executioner book has Mack Bolan gathering together several other Vietnam vets to fight back against the Mafia with. By the end of the book, everyone but Mack is dead or in jail, causing him to continue his war alone.
  • Cycle of the Werewolf has local farmers the Zinneman brothers deducing the existence of a werewolf from some slaughtered livestock and tracks in the mud spending the next two months organizing dozens of other locals into hunting parties (made up of a mixture of men who believe in the werewolf and want to kill it or make it hide rather than kill anyone, men who think they're just after a human killer and men who just want an excuse to strut around the woods with their guns) to pursue it once the trees are bare in November and keep the town safe. This just causes the werewolf to drive over to another nearby town before transforming, after which their efforts apparently peter out.
  • Harry Potter: has the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society of skilled wizards made by Dumbeldore in The Backstory to combat Voldemort without the constraints of the Ministry of Magic (and presumably before they acknowledged him as a threat).
  • William Johnstone tends to do this in both Western novels (where a Cattle Baron or outlaw boss tends to have the local sheriff bought off or browbeaten) and modern day stories, most notably in the books Invasion USA note  and Vengeance is Mine, which involve groups of border vigilantes (made up from ranchers, shopkeepers and such) focused on trying to bring down the murderous local drug cartels who are killing their friends and neighbors.
  • Nightfall (1990): In the third act, after maddened people burn down whole cities and forests due to fear of the stars and the darkness, many citizen militias form to stop them. Some are tough but fair, while others accost anyone who lights so much as a cooking fire.
  • Star Wars: Allegiance follows a quintet of stormtrooper deserters who decide to fight the local pirates and warlords and try to bring some order and security to the local people.
  • The villains of the third Stephanie Plum: book are a group of these led by a reverend, killing drug dealers and pimps, and being approved of by a lot of the community. The problem is that their willing to murder or threaten people who stumble across them as well, and have also allegedly decided to start killing all of the drug addicts to eliminate the demand.
  • One of the Earl Swagger novels form the Shared Universe including the novel that ‘’Shooter’’ was based on has Earl gathering a Dream Team of six other gunmen (competitive shooters, Texas Rangers and another WWII vet) to storm a county ruled over by a corrupt sheriff and warden and bring an end to their actions.
  • Deconstructed in The Survivalist series by Jerry Ahern. John Rourke and Paul Rubenstein stop at an abandoned trailer-truck for supplies, only to get arrested for 'looting' by a self-styled vigilante militia who are ready to execute them on the spot until Rourke guns half of them down and makes the rest walk back to their base.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A borderline, Wife-Basher Basher, example appears in the Cold Case episode A Perfect Day where a trio of cops led by Art Baldacci are shown delivering a beating and a warning to a fellow cop whose been abusing his family (and whose wife Art is in love with). Art's dialogue implies that this was a semi-regular occurrence in the days before reliable domestic violence laws, although it's unclear if Art specifically means that he and/or the men who were with him were the ones to do that often, or if different cops did it in different situations depending on their personal involvement in the case.
  • Jericho: Following the nuclear explosions and collapse of society, many of the locals (led by th ex-mayor and his family) form a group of volunteers called the Jericho Rangers to serve as protectors for the town and enforce the laws within it.
  • Miami Vice:
    • The episode Indian Wars follows a group of Seminoles led by a shellshocked Vietnam veteran conducting commando raids on the drug operation encroaching their revolution.
    • "Over the Line" has a group of rogue cops murdering criminals who've been walking in court.
    • "Trust Fund Pirates" features a group of rich yuppie kids gunning down (mainly Latino) drug dealers they feel are messing up the country, although their also motivated by thrill-seeking and at least some of them are taking the drugs from their victims as well.
  • Narcos: Los Pepes are an anti-communist militia who later take the fight to Pablo Escobar's cartel, enacting vigilante street justice against anyone involved with his drug empire. However, they're also sponsored by several of Escobar's rivals in the cocaine business.
  • NCIS has an episode “Secrets” featuring a Real-Life Superheroes group whose activities range from entertaining kids at hospitals to finding building code violations to actually breaking up muggings. One of the heroes boasts of cutting the crime rate in their neighborhood in half and the NCIS agents acknowledge them as being like "a community watch on steroids" after solving the case and finding out the killer was motivated by their effective crime-stopping.
  • NUMB3RS: One episode involving the murder of several illegal immigrants has a border vigilante group whose been turning back immigrants being suspected, but shown to be innocent.
  • Person of Interest: By Season 3 Team Machine is operating this way in a Five-Man Band way, working to prevent murders throughout New York and maybe bring down organized crime in the process.
  • The Purge: While most people take advantage of the Purge to loot and murder, the first season has a group of four women called the Matron Saints who save women from rapists and abusers on Purge night, and then brand said abusers foreheads.
  • In Star Trek: Picard, the collapse of the Neutral Zone in the wake of the Romulan supernova has led to a state of general lawlessness, with various warlords competing for power. In response, a vigilante group called the Fenris Rangers has begun patrolling the area, protecting whomever they can with what little resources they have. Seven of Nine is a member, and makes no apologies for being a Vigilante Woman.

    Radio 
  • The Shadow from the original pulps had an army of agents who assisted him in his war on crime. This may be the Trope Codifier.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the fifth edition Dark Champions book, the sample characters were the members of Libra. This group was a vigilante team formed by the Harbinger of Justice when he realized there were too many crooks in Hudson City for him to take out solo.
  • Blades in the Dark: The third-party supplement "Vigilantes" lets players take on the roles of "deluded avengers" struggling to rid Duskwall of corruption and crime. The supplement adds a new crew type (with three subtypesnote ) but, tellingly, no new character playbooks, suggesting that vigilantes are Not So Different from the gangsters they fight. The main mechanical difference is that proper gangs take on jobs to gain cash (COIN) and their street cred (REP) goes up as a side effect, while vigilantes' main objective is REP, with COIN being an occasional bonus.

    Video Games 
  • Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade has a group known as the Black Fang, formed by Brendan Reed and his two sons, for the sake of killing corrupt Royals and figures. Their forces composed of both people with noble intentions and undesirables, but they still all fought to stop the corrupt from abusing their power. When Sonia comes into the picture however and gets with their leader, they end up becoming nothing but pawns for Nergal.
  • Gotham City Impostors has a group of vigilantes donning Batman-inspired costumes to fight a gang of Joker wannabes.
  • Between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Garrus Vakarian has assembled a group of like-minded vigilantes and former criminals to fight crime on a Wretched Hive that is Omega. Unfortunately, he was betrayed by one of his comrades who lured him to a distraction while all others became sitting ducks.
  • In the original Saints Row, a group of the eponymous district's denizens grows frustrated with their homes being used as a battleground by outside gangs and form a vigilante posse to clean up their 'hood, calling themselves "the Third Street Saints". The Player Character joins the Saints on the eve of their first major offensive. Unfortunately for everyone, once they get a taste for success, the Saints themselves become the biggest gang in the city. In the later installments, they abandon any pretence of vigilantism under the player character's leadership.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic. Republic players on Coruscant have to deal with the Justicars who are a bad example of this trope. An organization of ex-military personnel who came home after the first war with the Sith Empire to find their homes overrun by violent gangs like Black Sun. They banded together to reclaim the streets on Coruscant's lower levels. At first Coruscant's police were happy to have them around, but then the Justicars began fighting them as well, apparently deciding the government was just as guilty. They have the manpower and firepower to seize control of an entire sector on the lower level, where they impose martial law and arrest, or just execute anyone who breaks their rules, no matter the circumstances. Worse, it's revealed that they are secretly supported by the Sith Empire. Still, they are better then their main enemies, the Always Chaotic Evil Black Sun criminal organization.
    • In the second game the militia of Dantooine is an ad hoc force gathered to fight against local mercenaries and predators to keep the settlers safe.
  • The Government can fund one of these in Rebel Inc., the flavor text outright telling you that funding this initiative means you "Hire and arm local untrained civilians to keep the peace." Deconstructed Trope, as the militias lack of training in policing results in many incidents (decreasing support level), and the whole system is prone to corruption (generating a lot of corruption). Reconstruction, as the militias are cheap and fast to train and do noticeably slow down the Insurgents, as well as counting towards Security zone concerns and as a security initiative for setting up a luxury hotel. In short, it's a trade-off that may be useful in specific situations.
  • Certain chapters of the techno-religious militia Brotherhood of Steel in the Fallout series (particularly the East Coast branch under Owyn Lyons), who do focus on clearing out bandits, threatening monsters and other human factions with bad intentions while not always trying to assert their own absolute authority over the people they help.
  • Multiple gangs in Cyberpunk 2077 started as this:
    • The 6th Street gang was formed by veterans of the 4th Corporate War to protect their neighborhood from rising violent crime in Night City. Unfortunately, as time has passed they've severely lost their way and started exploiting the same community they swore to defend; they are now regarded by most as just another gang of criminals, no better than the rest.
    • The Moxes, a gang founded to protect sex workers from abuse. The Moxes was formed after the Tyger Claws' killed "one girl too many", causing several other prostitutes to begin organizing with the goal of protecting sex workers from future physical harm. However, by the time of the game the gang is less interested in being a safe haven for sex workers and more in running a business.
  • Max Payne 3: Supplementary material reveals that the Cracha Preto paramilitaries started out as law enforcement officers banding together to fight criminals the law couldn't or wouldn't touch. By the time they're encountered in the game, though, they've undergone Motive Decay and become little more than goons for rent who take control of turf gang-style.

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • During the ongoing drug war in Mexico, the drug cartels have killed anyone who looks at them funny, much less people who stand up to them. As such, entire armies of armed vigilantes have formed in the affected areas. One issue facing Mexican authorities has been figuring out how to handle them.
  • The Colombian super-cartels faced the same problem in The '80s and The '90s, especially Pablo Escobar's medellin cartel as his terror tactics made him public enemy number one. Los Pepes in particular proved to be a highly effective vigilante militia, having started out fighting communist insurgents in the jungle.
  • The Brazilian Milícias, formed by current or former policemen, firefighters and military man who were tired of drug gangs, and fighting back to recover their neighbourhoods. However, to mantain their activities, they started extorsion schemes of the locals and providing illegal services gas, cable television, slot machines, smuggled cigarretes, loan sharks, etc, and in some cases even allowing drug traffickers back, going full Motive Decay. There's also a very strong link between the militias and conservative right-wing politicians, with multiple local and national figures with proven or alledged connections with them (so it also crosses over with Right-Wing Militia Fanatic).
  • Ironically, The Mafia itself started out as organized vigilantes after the annexation of Sicily when the new authorities couldn't handle the chaos of introducing capitalism to a post-feudal society. It's one of the possible origins of the Yakuza too.
  • The Montana Vigilantes tracked ruffians, robbers and desperados in the 1860's and 1870's Montana. Their symbol was "3-7-77", which they painted on the tents and houses of known troublemakers and which is still used today by the Montana Highway Patrol, which elected to put this symbol on their uniform patch on 1956.
  • Various locales in India formed of women have formed in response to how poorly many women are treated there, taking revenge on rapists that escape justice or just teaching lessons to abusive husbands.

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