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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.

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.

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.

If the members have superpowers, 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).


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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, after the Gotham City Police Department is disbanded, Commissioner Gordon and his most dedicated officers remain behind to provide safety to the people who can't evacuate the earthquake-ravaged city while undermining the super-villains turned warlords one at a time. Several of them, led by SWAT officer Billy Pettit, form a splinter group due to feeling that Gordon is too soft, allying with Batman's ally Huntress. Pettit gradually begins Slowly Slipping Into Evil, to the alarm of his more level-headed men.
    • 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 safehouses with some costumes and equipment and convinces three colleagues to become a team of Nightwings and fill the vacuum left by their vanished protector.
    • Robin (1993): The Jury is a group of murderers who target petty criminals and those who have escaped extrajudicial imprisonment, claiming to be doing a public service and be heroes.
    • We Are Robin features a group of teenagers who, while (initially) unaffiliated with Batman, dress up in Robin costumes and fight against criminals while Batman is unable to act as Gotham's protector.
  • In The Order (2007), 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.
  • 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 superimposing 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 guy) 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2 Guns: Bobby runs into two men in a Land Rover who ask to see his identification papers, stating they've appointed themselves local border guards. He pulls a gun on them and steals their vehicle.
  • 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.
  • Act of Vengeance: A group of women who have all been attacked by the same serial hockey mask-wearing rapist get no help from the police. So they band together to form a vigilante group called "The Rape Squad" and set about going after the local scum.
  • 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 climactic 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.
  • Birds of Prey: the eponymous vigilante team is formed at the end to fight crime in Gotham City, comprising Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya.
  • 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: Karen stumbles onto a conspiracy of Vigilante Men at 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. Something of a strawman case; the FBI has recognized a pattern of suspicious deaths among acquitted killers and has planted spies in support groups to track down the vigilantes. Karen discovers the spy in time to keep from incriminating herself seriously, but the agent still threatens Karen with life in prison despite being fully aware that the killer she's after has killed again. Ultimately, the FBI is powerless to protect the killer, as Karen pulls off the conspiracy's plan perfectly - make herself the killer's next target, then kill him in self-defense.
  • Frisco Kid: In this film set in 1854 San Francisco, the murder of Ford the crusading newspaper editor leads the respectable citizens of the town to clean up the crime-ridden Barbary Coast by force. They lynch Daley (Ford's killer) and Morra (another murderer and Daley's partner in crime) and then rampage through the Coast, wrecking and burning all the dive bars and sleazy casinos.
  • 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 sheriff's 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!
  • John Doe: Vigilante: John Doe's activities inspires other citizens to form a loose alliance called 'S4D' ('Speaker for the Dead'). S4D emulates John Doe and starts extracting vigilante justice in his name. However, S4D tends to be least directed than John Doe himself, and some of their victims are not criminals, such as the lawyers who defended some of John Doe's victims: an act that John Doe expresses regret for in his final interview.
  • 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.
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016): The opening scene shows a crowd of farmers and merchants beginning to rally together to fight back against the Corrupt Corporate Executive who is Taking Over the Town and has bribed the local lawmen. Said Corrupt Corporate Executive proceeds to interrupt their meeting and guns down several of the would-be vigilantes. The survivors are forced to hire the eponymous gunmen before making another attempt at gaining their freedom.
  • 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, and 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, many local ranchers who fought in the Civil War show up as The Cavalry for the climactic battle with the corrupt sheriff and his Mooks.
  • Seeking Justice has Nicolas Cage play Will, a man whose wife Laura is beaten and raped. When he's in the hospital, a man approaches him offering his help to eliminate her attacker without Laura having to endure testifying even assuming that the man is caught. Will reluctantly agrees, in exchange for later doing the deed himself, so the rapist is shot. However, he can't murder the target (a child molester, they say), trying to warn the guy. This instead ends in the man's death accidentally. It's revealed that an entire group of vigilantes are operating in the city, and the man who he was ordered to kill is actually a reporter who had been looking into them (they murdered a whistleblower earlier too). It turns out they've become corrupted by their leader, who has them kill anybody he dislikes or endangers the group, not just real criminals. Even some local cops and reporters are a part of the group, explaining why they haven't been caught.
  • 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 Star Chamber: Michael Douglas plays an idealistic judge who grows frustrated with clearly guilty criminals being released on technicalities, and is introduced to a group of like-minded judges who have formed a modern-day Star Chamber (based on the Royal British Court of the same name, formed by Henry VII in the late 1400's), through which they organize extrajudicial killings of criminals they couldn't punish through the law. The murders are done by an assassin they contact and pay through proxies for security reasons, meaning he doesn't know who they are, and they don't know who he is. Unfortunately, this means they have no way of cancelling a hit in case new evidence reveals that the victims actually are innocent.
  • Summer of Sam: Joey and his buddies incompetently try to deduce who the Son of Sam killer might be and spend a lot of time threatening and searching innocent people who they suspect for petty reasons. They nearly kill one of them before hearing the real killer has been caught.
  • 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.
  • West Side Story (2021): In this version, the Sharks fight to protect the Puerto Rican community from the harassment and petty thefts of the Jets. It's somewhat Deconstructed as Officer Krupke points out what they're doing is also illegal and it's clear the only reason they're not arrested is because he's a Reasonable Authority Figure who doesn't want them jailed.
  • 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.

  • Alas, Babylon: After the murders of the sheriff and his deputy The Hero Randy organizes a group of his friends and neighbors to plan and execute a trap against the highwaymen who are plaguing the community after World War III.
  • One of the Bob Lee 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.
  • The Chrysalids: There are unofficial militias in the protagonists' hometown who remain ready to defend their land and people by fighting off invaders from the Fringes, who kidnap people and steal crops ready to defend their land and people. Of course, the residents of the Fringes were cruelly exiled to the limits of the known habitable world by the community as a whole, and often by their own families just for having birth defects, so the people who make up the militias don’t exactly have the moral high ground.
  • 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.
  • The Deep: In a bit of Back Story Adapted Out of The Film of the Book, years ago, Treece and some friends found out Cloche was bringing in a boatload of drugs through gossip that Mrs. Treece (a teacher) learned. They were frustrated when the authorities refused to do anything and attacked the drug-carrying yacht as it entered the harbor, scaring its crew away. Mrs. Treece was murdered four days later, causing Treece to sink into depression. During the main story, he's still keen for ways to get revenge on Cloche, but is more of a lone operator.
  • 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.
  • Flashman: During the Indian Mutiny, Flashman runs into a group of civilians who are patrolling the countryside and killing anyone they outnumber who they think is involved in the violent insurrection. Some of them are driven by Revenge Before Reason after losing loved ones and others seem to find the whole thing exciting.
  • Harry Potter: The books have 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).
  • John Putnam Thatcher: In Ashes to Ashes, after a school is bombed (without hurting anyone or causing much damage) during the middle of a community dispute, hundreds of parents organize patrols to guard it and make sure there's no second attack. This only lasts for a couple of chapters before the killer is caught and the concerned parents find out the whole purpose of the bombing was to frighten them and distract them from other issues.
  • 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 of ranchers, shopkeepers, and such) focused on trying to bring down the murderous local drug cartels who are killing their friends and neighbors.
  • The second Kenzie and Gennaro Series book, Darkness Take My Hand, features a neighborhood vigilante group, EEPA (The Edward Everett Protection Association) who were present in the Backstory. The seven EEPA members spent about six months in the seventies beating up hubcap thieves and giving the stink eye to any black or Hispanic people who came into their neighborhood. Then, they stumbled across a pair of serial killers preying on children. They tortured one to death with a blowtorch and framed the other one for his murder. Four of them enjoyed doing so and became permanently emboldened and sadistic afterward (with one becoming a crime boss), one committed suicide, one became an alcoholic, and the seventh was institutionalized. Decades later, the Evil Mentor of the two killers targets several of their children.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 they're 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.
  • 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.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Forty years before “Return of the Ridge Raiders”, the Ridge Raiders were a group of masked moonshiners who carried out robberies and sabotage missions against worse criminals due to being unable to trust the local authorities. All of them besides Jesse go back to their old ways during the episode (mainly by dynamiting Boss’s businesses) after Boss Hogg embezzles money meant for a senior citizens center.
  • Jericho (2006): Following the nuclear explosions and collapse of society, many of the locals (led by the 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:
    • "Indian Wars" follows a group of Seminoles led by a shellshocked Vietnam veteran conducting commando raids on the drug operation encroaching their reservation.
    • "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.
    • "Frenemies" features a vigilante group called Vanguard made up of college students trying to take down Vic Tooner, an infamous local crime lord who remains free after multiple police investigations. Several of them are motivated by Tooner's rape and murder of a girl several of them had classes with (and whom their leader was in love with), while others are drawn in by the leader's charismatic arguments about making a difference to the community. They use their leader's hacking skills to eavesdrop on Tooner's conversations and either film Tooner's men committing crimes or ambush them at crime scenes with flash bombs and leave the goons tied up for the police. The group uses military tactics and codenames, with many of them not knowing who the others are. The Victim of the Week is a Vanguard member who Tooner kills in retaliation for their activities.
    • In "Killer Chat," an investigation into the murder of several pedophiles leads to a group called Parents Stop Predators, who pose as underage girls in chat rooms and try to get pedophiles to arrange to meet the nonexistent underage girls for sex. When they succeed, they turn over their evidence to the authorities. When the pedophiles avoid doing anything actually illegal, the vigilantes urge them to seek counseling and warn the pedophiles' families about their actions.
    • In the series finale, Don's service weapon is stolen and used by various people who know each other from online chat rooms venting about their problems with local criminals (a community watch member who's been unable to stop some drug dealers legitimately, a woman being stalked by her ex, etc.) As soon as one person uses the gun to kill a criminal (or decides not to use it after all), they pass it on to someone else.
  • 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.
  • Romper Stomper:
    • Antifasc are self-appointed anti-fascist vigilante anarchists who attack far-rightists wherever they find them.
    • Patriot Blue set up night patrols to ostensibly be this, though a lot of their activities are simply beating up any people of color they run into.
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "The Grave", the townspeople of Pinto Sykes's hometown initially send a Bounty Hunter after him, but ultimately decide to face him themselves. They spend a week making plans and when Sykes arrives, armed men are waiting to either kill or arrest him.
  • Wellington Paranormal: One episode has a trio of overzealous neighborhood watch members get superpowers from a meteorite. They immediately start chasing petty criminals.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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 no 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.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • Disco Elysium: The Revachol Citizens' Militia is the local police force and is effectively a large, well-organised Vigilante Militia. It is accepted by most of the people, and tolerated by the occupying forces, but is semi-official at best.
  • 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.
  • 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 compose 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 militia's 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.
  • 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 than their main enemies, the Always Chaotic Evil Black Sun criminal organization.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords the militia of Dantooine is an ad hoc force gathered to fight against local mercenaries and predators to keep the settlers safe.
  • The whole premis of the PC game Vigilantes is creating and leading your own vigilante militia in Turn-Based Combat. Like if The Punisher had formed his own version of XCOM instead going solo.

    Western Animation 
  • The Boondocks: Spoofed and satirized in the episode "Thank You for Not Snitching", when Betty von Heusen, a local elderly woman and paranoid gun nut, proposes to the neighborhood watch (which she's the de facto leader of) that they should militarize and take up arms in response to a spree of house burglaries (committed by Ed Wuncler III and Gin Rummy). Tom Dubois is the only member of the neighborhood watch opposed to this crazy plan.
  • Fillmore!:
    • In "Two Wheels, Full Throttle, No Breaks", after the safety patrol fails to stop a ring of scooter thieves, Derrick Minna starts a patrol of skaters and wheelchair hockey players to pursue the thieves. They are decently competent, but mostly just chase the undercover heroes. It also turns out they are Unwitting Pawns, as Derrick is the mastermind behind the thefts and is using them to catch his accomplices so he doesn’t have to pay them and can look like a hero for his campaign to be elected class President.
    • In "A Dark Score, Evened", A group of frequently bullied students set out to subject the school's biggest bullies to disgusting pranks that leave them too traumatized to bully anyone else.
  • The Simpsons: The episode "Homer the Vigilante" has Homer forming a vigilante militia (well, being more specific, Ned was the one who formed it but Homer took over as leader when Ned admitted that he didn't feel comfortable leading anybody) to find a Gentleman Thief who has been going on an unstoppable spree all over town. Then they go on to do everything but enforce the law, bullying random people (at one point, it's noted that while minor vandalism is down 80%, beatings with doorknob-filled sacks (the vigilante group's MO) are up 900%) and at one point where the burglar announces that he will steal from the Springfield Museum and teases Homer to try to stop him, Homer ends up having a kegger with some teens in the middle of his guarding and lets the burglar steal what he wanted. It becomes crazier/worse when Homer reads the list of objectives he's set for the militia to Lisa and he mentions that one of them is world domination.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003): Touch and Go" features a mob of New Yorkers who are roaming the streets and seeking to detain or harm any stranded Triceraton soldiers left behind from the recent invasion of Earth. Later in the episode, they mistake Raphael for an alien and chase him for a while.
  • Wait Till Your Father Gets Home has Ralph Kane's group of fellow neighborhood Right Wing Militia Fanatics, which have banded together to get ready for the inevitable escalation of the Cold War (the series was made in The '70s) and in the episode "The Prowler" they try to deal with a cat burglar who is targeting the neighborhood. They are Played for Laughs in that they are impressively ineffective, coming off (especially Ralph) as a bunch of Nosy Neighbors (in all of their annoying suck) with a more militant bent.

    Real Life 
  • In The Wild West, townspeople would sometimes form their own militia groups to protect against bandits or Indian raids if the local authorities were insufficient for such a task. One of the most notable examples was in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1892, where the infamous Dalton gang attempted to rob two banks on the same day, only to find themselves at war with nearly the entire adult population of the town. The ensuing gunfight proved costly, as the town Marshal and three others were killed, but the final result was the complete obliteration of the Dalton gang. Of the five robbers, 21-year old Emmitt Dalton was the only one to survive, with over a dozen gunshot wounds and a 14-year prison sentence.
  • 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 men who were tired of drug gangs, and fighting back to recover their neighbourhoods. However, to maintain their activities, they started extortion schemes of the locals and providing illegal services like gas, cable television, slot machines, smuggled cigarettes, 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 alleged 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 Japan's Yakuza too.
  • This goes a long way to explaining why Irish terrorist groups enjoyed the support they did from local communities during The Troubles. With the RUC, the official police force, seen as corrupt or compromised, local people looked to the IRA to deal with anti-social crimes such as burglary or minor theft. This was done promptly, efficiently and uncompromisingly, and incidence of burglary dropped a long way towards zero in republican areas.note  On the other side of the divide, the Protestant terrorist groups displayed a no-tolerance approach to, for instance, drug-dealing.note 
  • The 1981 killing of Ken McElroy in broad daylight in the town of Skidmore, Missouri was a well-publicized example of a whole community going full-on Vigilante Man. McElroy was the local town bully with a 20-year record of arrests for theft, cattle rustling, seducing and raping underage girls, and threatening death or worse on anyone who tried to stop him. But McElroy always managed to avoid jail time thanks to his lawyer and the local Sheriff's department being unwilling or unable to confront him, and his talent for threatening witnesses into silence. Finally, when McElroy attempted to murder a local grocer who caught his children shoplifting, the townspeople got fed up and shot him in his pickup truck in the middle of town. All 46 eyewitnesses, except for McElroy's underage wife who was in the truck with him, claimed not to have seen who fired the shots when questioned by police and federal agents. In the 40 years since the shooting, no one has ever been charged for the killing.
  • The Montana Vigilantes tracked ruffians, robbers, and desperados in the 1860s and 1870s 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, who elected to put this symbol on their uniform patch in 1956.note 
  • Various groups in India 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.
  • In the chaos of post-1911 China, the Big Sword Society defended villages against the depredations of warlords and bandits.