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"Excuse me, could I just distract you for a brief second?"
Kryten, Red Dwarf
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The user of this trope need a distraction, often in order to infiltrate the enemies' lair, a secret organization, to enable an escape, etc. Pyrotechnics are not uncommon.

Specific variants include:

Often the job for the Hero Secret Service. Infraction Distraction sometimes falls under this but usually just dissuades the enemy from searching further. Is sometimes part of a Xanatos Gambit.

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See also Right Under Their Noses, Trojan Prisoner Ploy, Why Are You Looking at Me Like That?. Contrast Hidden in Plain Sight.

Compare The Bait, Draw Aggro. Contrast Deus ex 'Scuse Me, where the plot gods distract the character.


Examples (that do not fit into the subtropes):

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom:
    • Phase 1 of Class 3-E's revenge plot against the students who bullied Maehara: Nagisa and Kayano, disguised as an elderly couple, distract the bullies at a cafe while Hayami and Chiba sneak homemade laxatives into their drinks.
    • When it seems like Koro-sensei is about to discover Kataoka's plan to assassinate him in the water, Nagisa steps in to take advantage of his weaknesses ("he's very worried about appearances") by taunting him about some fan-letters to a big-breasted actress he found on Koro-sensei's desk.
    • The "Assassination Island" arc employed this trope several times. Makes sense, since they need to advance quietly to their goal on the top floor of a hotel. Irina uses her feminine wiles to distract a group of guards to buy time for her students; Kimura insults two guards to make them chase him.
  • In Attack on Titan, every single operation against the Titans involves a large "decoy" force to attract the Titans in one place in order to destroy them, seeing how Titans are predictable enough to reliably go for the largest cluster of people. This series being what it is, it usually doesn't go so great for the distractions.
  • In the eighth episode of Strawberry Marshmallow, her Look Behind You failing, Miu tries this, and fails. Then she recruits Ana to try, and being cuter, Ana succeeds in distracting Nobue with her cuteness, upon which Miu strikes with a plastic sword. In a partial subversion, Nobue doesn't even notice, so distracted she is by Ana's cuteness that all she does is offer Ana suggestions on how to make her pose cuter.
  • One Piece:
    • Spoofed when Dr. Hiriluk and Chopper are running from a mob trying to arrest them, Hirluk screams "We need a distraction!" and promptly kicks Chopper into the crowd, telling him to fight for himself.
    • In Movie 9, Chopper does a similar thing to Sanji while they're fighting Wapol, Chess, and Kuromarimio, even saying the same dialogue to trick him.
  • Dragon Ball Z: As things look grim in the fight against Nappa, Piccolo devises a Combination Attack that involves Krillin charging at Nappa, creating a distraction so that Piccolo can grab his tail, and then Gohan attacking. Unfortunately, elite Saiyans train themselves so that their tails aren't such an easily exploited weak point, and the whole plan falls apart.
  • Angel Beats!:
    • One mission requires that certain members of the resistance create a distraction for an entire classroom full of students. After Look Behind You, taking off one's shirt, and a Love Confession fail, Yuri simply sends Hinata and Takamatsu flying into the ceiling using rockets on their seats. Infact this happens so often in the episode that they get resigned to the fact that they WILL be shot into the ceiling, no matter what.
    • "Girls Dead Monster" is an entire band created for the purpose of distraction.
  • Pokémon:
    • This is one of the subtler Running Gags, which always falls on Brock's shoulders. He would always perform Takeshi's Paradise to appease the audience, but they would eventually tire of it, causing Brock to shout, "It's the only song I know!"
    • In the third movie Spell of the Unown, Brock and Misty serve as distractions for Molly so Ash can reach his mom while they keep Molly occupied with battling them.
  • Rebuild World:
    • When Shirakabe hires Akira to help fight a Spider Tank Kaiju, his plan hinges on other members being there to be the distraction, while his two veteran buddies on their heavy weapons laden motorbikes deal the real damage. So, he hacks the control units of their vehicles before the battle in order to force them to be distractions if need be. Thanks to Akira and Nergo’s efforts, it’s not needed.
    • As part of a Batman Gambit when cornered by a group, Akira sets his guns to a pre-programmed firing pattern and throws them spinning through the air shooting everyone in the room, including himself, to serve as a distraction while he kills their leader with his sword.
    • During The Siege, in one phase, the enemy use cheap remote controlled Mini-Mecha to try and delay Akira while forces bypass him to attack his Home Base.
  • From Sailor Moon, the is the strategy the Senshi used to defeat Jadeite; Moon and Mercury run around in the open while Mars, concealed in the fog, slips a Paper Talisman on his back that screws up his telekinetic control of an airplane, causing it to almost run over him instead.
  • Kaiju Girl Caramelise: When Rairi falls in the lake at Okutama and gets her makeup washed off, Kuroe resolves to undergo a Partial Transformation to provide enough of a distraction for Rairi to reapply her makeup. Unfortunately, Kuroe fully transforms into Harugon and makes things worse.

    Comic Books 
  • Exiles: In the first issue, in order to bust into a maximum security prison, the team decide they need something to distract the bulk of the guards. The narration compares it to a magician making a noise at one end of the stage while his assistant is replaced with a tiger, finishing with "in this case, they had a big tiger". Namely, Thunderbird smashing through the walls.
  • Superman:
    • In Bizarrogirl, Kara Zor-El and Dr. Light come up with a way to stop Bizarrogirl: Supergirl will engage and keep her Bizarro counterpart busy as Dr. Light gets ready to shoot a depowering energy blast.
    • Villain Prankster makes a business of this trope. For money he will distract police and Superman with his pranks so his clients can do their own crimes without any problems.
    • In War World, Superman keeps the eponymous satellite's weapon systems distracted and focused on him while Supergirl gets ready to attack.
    • Occurs in Superman/Batman: Public Enemies:
      Batman: We need a distraction.
      Power Girl: What's everyone looking at me for? How am I supposed to distract... Oh.
    • In The Killers of Krypton, Supergirl needs to escape from a squad of Green Lanterns surrounding her, so she looks up briefly before rocketing downwards, succeeding in catching off guard the Lanterns who expected her to fly off upwards.
    • In Superman vs. Shazam!, Supergirl and Mary Marvel are deliberating how to attack Karmang's castle, when Supergirl's X-Ray Vision tells her Karmang has become so engrossed in the furious battle between Superman and Captain Marvel he has overlooked her and Mary as they tracked his agents down and headed towards his lair. Quickly, Mary Marvel asks the Wizard Shazam to tell Billy to prolong his battle with Superman as she and Kara storm Karmang's castle by surprise.
      Supergirl: I'll use my combined X-Ray and telescopic vision to see what [Karmang]'s up to on Mount Olympus! Great Krypton! He's watching Superman and Captain Marvel as they battle— and he seems almost hypnotized! If he stays that way, Mary and I can launch a surprise attack—!
  • In Gotham City Garage, Kara Gordon slips in Lex Luthor's city-state to get her sister Barbara out of there. On their way out both girls are being chased by Batman, so Kara's biker gang provides several distractions to force him to give up the chase: Big Barda and Harley Quinn blow up a chunk of the wall surrounding the city and Zatanna and Silver Banshee sneak in the city and wreak havoc.
  • Notfunny Cartoons loves playing around with this one. The characters always end up picking Ernesto, despite his protest ("Why do I always have to be the distraction?!"). In all fairness, he's a gigantic octopus in a business suit. Yeah, it's a rather strange sort of comic.
  • From Suicide Squad:
    Flagg: Deadshot, distract the guards.
    Deadshot: Okay. (shoots the guards.)
  • In issue #4 of The Awesome Slapstick, a cup of coffee is used as this for the Neutron Bum (no, not a typo).
  • In the Sin City story "A Dame To Kill For", Dwight employs Marv specifically to distract the guards while he attacks a crime boss. A 7 foot tall, 300 lbs. grinning psychopath running down the hall, beating people up certainly makes for a good distraction.
  • In issue 26 of Paperinik New Adventures, Paperinik, Lyla and the two villains of the week are stuck in prehistoric times. The Evronians are also here and capture everybody except the hero, so he needs a way to distract them and rescue the others. So how does he do it? By sending a group of Tyrannosaurus Rex against their base.
  • Batman:
    • Red Robin: The villains pull off a devastatingly successful distraction when they attack multiple League of Assassins members out on assignment while Goliath and Sac infiltrate The Cradle and systematically kill every League member present.
    • In The Attack of the Annihilator, Batgirl hurls a smoke bomb to keep the Annihilator confused and distracted while she picks an unconscious Supergirl and runs away.
  • The Transformers: Dark Cybertron: Shockwave manipulates Optimus into finding a Titan and reactivating it so Shockwave can bring it back to Cybertron and turn it into an undead monstrosity just to distract everyone from his real plan.
  • The Simpsons: In order to rescue Mr. Burns from highly aggressive turkeys, Mr. Smithers has Homer distract the birds... then he reveals the containment suit Homer's wearing is filled with bird feed to actually draw their attention.
  • Green Lantern:
    • Lights Out: In order to evacuate Oa, John Stewart rounds up a squad of recent recruits to distract Relic. They do it by making the biggest constructs they can to fight him.
    • Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps:
      • Hal's single-handed assault on Warworld turns out to be this, buying time for Soranik and the good Yellow Lanterns to evacuate the Fear Engine captives. Once that's done, Hal pulls a Taking You with Me on Sinestro and the entire planet.
      • Also how the Corps manages to get away from Larfleeze. The Greens and the Yellows were being overpowered by his Orange Lanterns, until John gets the idea to start freeing all of his collection. Larfleeze subsequently panics, and leaves the other Lanterns to try and get his "stuff" back.
  • The Great Darkness Saga: In order to rescue Child Izaya from Darkseid, the Legion of Super-Heroes attack the Master of Darkness and his Servants head-on and keep them distracted while Shadow Lass and Light Lass sneak into their base.
  • In Wonder Woman: The True Amazon this is played for horror when Diana unleashes monsters to win a chariot race, which leads to several deaths, injuries, and destruction.
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    Comic Strips 
  • In a Modesty Blaise story Modesty and Willy have the final fight on a chairlift in Italy. Modesty tosses the new character Marge a gun and asks her to distract the next guy coming up. She hides the gun behind her back and asks (in broken Italian) 'What is the way to Mandalay'. It works nicely.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: "What if Tobias wasn't stuck in morph?" starts with a group of Hork-Bajir (including Jara Hamee) in the Yeerk Pool tipping their cage over, alerting the attention of the Controllers and giving Tobias time to escape before the two-hour limit is up.
  • In 3 Slytherin Marauders Draco throws a tantrum and Lucius demands the Ministry workers stop whatever they're doing and assist him so that Arthur Weasley can sneak in to find evidence that Rufus Scrimgeour and Dolores Umbridge are plotting to steal Harry away from his family.
  • Examples from the Calvinverse:
    • Retro Chill:
    • Calvin gets Bob to wave his arms around so he can escape his cell again.
    • In order to get some tuna to put in his famous tiger trap in Calvin and Hobbes: The Series, Calvin bribes a kid with two bucks to call his mother to distract her from the kitchen.
  • In Point of Succession Light engineers a Bavarian Fire Drill in order to steal evidence for L's investigation in which he pretended to be from the Japanese embassy and instigated a loud, self-righteous shouting match with the police over burial rights while his accomplice broke in.
  • In Seigikan when L wants to search Light's room he has Mogi call the Yagami house pretending to be a telemarketer. Light finds this blatantly obvious scheme to be an insult to his intelligence.
  • In Sophistication and Betrayal, the protagonist and Rarity discuss ways to distract Slate so they can break into his house and look for evidence of his stalking activities. After much debate, they eventually agree to use Rarity herself as a lure.
  • In Tales of Flame, Blacky is sent to distract Scarlet as Fervo and Squirt get to matchmaking. When Scarlet questions Blacky's intentions, Blacky eagerly replies with, "I'm being a distraction!" Squirt's reaction is completely understandable, considering Scarlet's personality.
    • Later on Squirt proves to be a much better distraction.
  • In The Thing from Another World from the Eleutherophobia series, Jake tells Cassie to morph into an elephant and wreck the air force base so the soldiers won't notice the boys sneaking back onto the Skrit Na ship.
  • In Those Who Stand for Nothing Fall for Anything L and Light get into a quarrel over how Light wants his steak cooked so that they can storm out of L's dinner party together and get away from their "friends".
  • A villainous example in Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race. The plot of Episode 13 is Splash Woman causing havoc in Hawaii so Wily can pull off a bank robbery in Hollywood.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness has two villainous examples:
    • In Act II, Fairy Tale attacks the Shuzens' homeland and is forced out. It's later revealed in Act III chapter 46 that during the attack, they remained on the outskirts of the town without really engaging in a fight, and Issa's guards took them out with little trouble; as it turns out, the attack was nothing more than a diversion so Akua and Kahlua, who had joined Fairy Tale right under Issa's nose, could break into Issa's secret archive and steal the forbidden Chrono Displacement spell for Kiria's Evil Plan without interference.
    • In Act III, it's also revealed that Hokuto, playing the role of a Big Bad Friend, orchestrated Kuyou's return to Yokai Academy to serve as a distraction, allowing him to steal an Artifact of Doom from the academy unhindered while Tsukune and the others were occupied with taking Kuyou down.
  • In Rocket's Rising, one of Team Rocket's plans involves Jessie and James stealing several Pokemon from Pokemon Tech students right in front of Ash and company. Predictably, said victims and the heroes chase after them. When Jessie and James get cornered, they willingly give up the Pokemon. They go on a tangent, talking about how it wasn't a great loss and Ash's own losses in the past, until Meowth calls in, confirming that he'd stolen all of the Pokemon from the Pokemon Tech building.
  • RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse: The story Nightmares Yet to Come has the Canterlot opera house burnt to the ground by the villains, apparently just for the sole purpose of distracting Princess Luna while they abduct Trixie and Twilight Sparkle. It doesn't work.
  • In Rainbow Dash Presents Captain Hook the Biker Gorilla the foals need a distraction that won't bring any attention to them. So Aurora starts a riot.
    "OH MY GAWD THEY'RE GOING TO GRIND US INTO RAINBOWS!" [Beat] "EVERYBODY PANIC!" [Foals start to panic]
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged:
    • Episode 2:
      Piccolo: You'll need to distract him while I gather energy.
      Goku: Well, that's not so ba—...
      Piccolo: [interrupting] For five minutes.
    • Swapped Roles occurs in episode 29.
      Goku: You'll need to distract him while I gather energy.
      Piccolo: Well, that's not so ba—...
      Goku: [interrupting] For five minutes. And considering how bad he was kicking my butt... eh, I'm sure you can handle it.
      Piccolo: ...Di... did you just hold a grudge?
  • A Diplomatic Visit: In the sequel Diplomat at Large, this is effectively the whole point of the attack on the Storm King's fortress, the united armies drawing out the Storm King's army so another team can go in and deal with the Storm King. Unbeknownst to anyone but Discord, it's actually Twilight and Tempest Shadow, sneaking in to steal the Staff of Sacanas from him. It works, though Twilight and Tempest - with the unexpected aid of Pharynx - wind up facing the Storm King himself in the process.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: In "The Baseball Game," manager Jimmy Braun sends honorary bench coach Mittens out to the field to stall the umpire for time while relief closer Dave Burkitt finishes warming up. Mittens has trouble fulfilling the manager's order to get herself ejected from the game until her earlier chili cheese fries snack triggers a sudden bowel movement.
  • In Maybe the Last Archie Story, Salem is sent to distract Mad Doctor Doom -no relation with the Marvel Universe villain- while Archie's gang rescue Sabrina. When they rush into the basement, Archie and his friends find Doom trying to stop Salem from scratching his face and hands further.
  • What Tomorrow Brings:
    • Marco distracts the Controller guarding the Dapsen Lumber Company by being really annoying so Ax can sneak into the cabin as a squirrel.
    • When Visser Three threatens to fire on the Pool Ship with the Animorphs on it, Elfangor steals a Bug Fighter and flies it around the Blade Ship so he'll be fired at instead.

    Film — Animation 
  • Aladdin: Jasmine tries to distract Jafar by pretending she's been made to fall in love with him, so Aladdin can grab Genie's lamp back.
  • The Land Before Time: "And now we need some bait..."
  • Cinderella': when Lucifer the cat is blocking the door to outside, Jaq comes up with the idea to have one of the mice get his attention while the others get breakfast. Unfortunately, when using their tails to choose who would do it, Jaq ends up picking his own tail''. While Gus shakes his hand in congratulations, they other mice feel for Jaq.
  • Well done in Disney's The Lion King.
    Timon: Hyenas. I hate hyenas. So what's your plan for getting past those guys?
    Simba: Live bait.
    Timon: Good idea... [Beat] Hey!
    Simba: C'mon, Timon, you guys have to create a diversion!
    Timon: What do you want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?
    [Gilligan Cut to Timon doing exactly that]
    • Used again in the P.O.V. Sequel, where Timon and Pumbaa have to stall the hyenas while Ma and Uncle Max set up their tunnel trap below.
  • The Emperor's New Groove: While at Mudka's Meat Hut, Pacha overhears Yzma and learns of her plan to murder Kuzco. To distract Yzma so he and Kuzco can escape, Pacha lies to the waitress claiming that it's Yzma's birthday and asks for a celebration. Yzma's suddenly mobbed by the diner staff singing "Happy Birthday" to her while Pacha drags Kuzco away.
  • Parodied in Monsters University. Once Mike gets locked in the human world, Sulley and his friends try to rescue him. But since the door is being guarded by police, Don Carlton tries to distract them with a deal. Unfortunately...
    Don Carlton: How many times have you asked yourself the following question?
    Dean Hardscrabble: Arrest him.
    Don Carlton: Pardon? (gets tackled by the police)
  • Invoked in Piglet's Big Movie when Rabbit orders Pooh to distract Kanga, which would work if Pooh was actually good at distracting people on purpose. Ultimately results in Throwing the Distraction when Kanga picks up on Pooh's later attempts even as Pooh fails to realize it.
    Rabbit: Talk to her! Very hard! So that she doesn't notice anything!
    Pooh: laughing softly Of course. Humming Oh, Kanga. Um.... whispers Talk to her very hard about ''What?''
    Rabbit: Horrified reaction Anything!!!
  • The Simpsons Movie does this - Cletus Spuckler, better known as "Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel", distracts Russ Cargill with a thumb trick while dozens use a rope to escape Springfield.
    Cletus: Guess how I do it!
    Russ Cargill: Four generations of inbreeding?
  • The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie: SpongeBob and Patrick have to go into the Bad-Guy Bar to get the key to the Patty Wagon. At first the plan is for SpongeBob to do the distraction while Patrick gets the key, but Patrick wants to do the distraction. So while SpongeBob tries to get the key, Patrick stands in the middle of the bar, and... announces that he has to use the restroom.
    SpongeBob: Patrick! You call that a distraction?!
    Patrick: Well, I had to go to the bathroom.
    SpongeBob: Well, I got my hands dirty for nothing!
  • The Jungle Book (1967): In King Louie's temple, Bagheera tells Baloo to distract and dance with King Louie by dressing up as a female ape so he can rescue Mowgli.
  • The Bad Guys: As seen in the official trailer, part of the gang's heist operation at a formal party involves getting the security guards to leave their posts, so Mr. Shark (who is Disguised in Drag) does the honors at the request of Ms. Tarantula (who even quotes the trope name verbatim). Despite Mr. Wolf's advice to "keep it subtle", Mr. Shark hams it up by flipping a table and then pretending "she's" going into labor, and specifically calls upon the security guards to leave their posts and help "her".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Alien: Resurrection. Although it's a mystery just how smart the aliens are, they appear to wait until security on the ship is occupied with the mercenaries and communications are cut off before implementing their escape.
  • Animal House:
    Otter: Look at my thumb, Greg. (he does; Otter knocks him out) Gee, you're dumb.
  • When the KGB is assaulting Carlos the Jackal's lair in the climax of The Assignment (1997), a KGB agent distracts the gatehouse guard simply by turning up as if for a routine visit and showing his credentials. While the guard leans in to inspect them, an Alpha Group operative slips in behind him with a silenced gun and blows his head off. The KGB man pockets his ID and enters the building without even breaking stride.
  • A deleted scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember involves Mini Me killing an uncooperative prisoner. When the guards come for an inspection, Dr. Evil and Mini Me proceed to quickly cover it up while a fellow prisoner does an impromptu dance to distract the guards.
  • In Beethoven's 2nd, Ted and Emily need to sneak Beethoven's puppies in the house past their dad, knowing full well he would say no to keeping them. Ted tells Emily to distract him by asking him a question that would cause him to go into a long lecture. She goes up and asks where babies come from.
  • Blazing Saddles: "Hold it! Next man makes a move, the nigger gets it!" Notable in that the character needing a distraction takes himself hostage.
  • This is the entire premise of Bodyguards and Assassins; Sun Yat-sen, in Hong Kong to discuss revolution against the Qing Dynasty, is targeted by imperial assassins and the heroes have to run a decoy in order to draw the foe away from the real Sun while he discusses his plans.
  • Dog Soldiers: "We need a diversion... something fast and loud." Cue them looking at Spoon, who is both, plus a heavy dose of crazy.
  • Escape to Athena (1979) has any number of examples being used when the Greek Resistance seize the POW camp, ranging from the 'pull-up-at-the-gate-with-an-accident-victim' trick, to laxatives in the guards' food, to a full-on strip-tease by a female internee.
  • Harbinger Down (2015). When a student wants to sneak down to the hold to catch a look at the Human Popsicle they're taken from the ice, she has a crewman distract her Jerkass professor by asking for advice on his psychological issues. The professor explains he's Not That Kind of Doctor, but being a Know-Nothing Know-It-All can't resist giving his opinion anyway. Gilligan Cut to the crewman finding the bottom of a bottle of vodka as the professor rambles on, until he gets too drunk to keep up the facade.
  • In The Killing, Nikki's part in the caper is to shoot the leading horse in the race to guarantee that everyone's attention is focused on the track while the robbery goes down.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • During the climax of Guardians of the Galaxy, Starlord starts dancing to his mix tape to distract Ronan the Accuser, buying Rocket Raccoon enough time to fix his BFG. Ronan is so (understandably) confused by this that it actually works.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Hawkeye causes an explosion outside of the Avengers compound in order to distract Vision. While the android goes investigating, Clint sneaks inside to join with Wanda and set up a trap for Vision (who comes back sooner than expected).
    • Likewise, in Avengers: Infinity War, Ned provides a distraction for Peter by screaming that everyone was going to die. Notable in that Ned was not part of a plan: he just had a Freak Out when he saw that aliens had returned to New York.
    • In Avengers: Endgame, Tony pulls this on Alexander Pierce and various unnamed HYDRA agents that were trying to stop his past self from leaving with the metal briefcase containing the Tesseract cube which eventually ends up in the hands of Tony from the year 2023 before Hulk knocks him out, causing the Tesseract to fly out of the briefcase and end up near Loki's feet allowing the trickster god to grab it and make his getaway while Thor, the HYDRA agents, and Alexander Pierce are too distracted to notice he escaped.
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: After Ethan's car is ambushed and crashes into the river, he attaches a flare to a body and floats it downriver to distract the mooks shooting at them. The success of this tactic makes no sense at all, as is lampshaded later, but the mooks were too fired up to stop and think about why someone would be swimming downriver under fire with a light source attached to them.
  • In Neighbors, to get Teddy downstairs and away from the door, Jimmy jumps from the balcony and breaks his leg.
  • Rags: In order to buy Charlie time to get back inside in time, Diego and Martha frantically distract Arthur with pointless questions and a lot of stalling.
  • Race for the Yankee Zephyr (1981). The hero tells the Damsel Scrappy to shoot a captured AR-10 rifle in the air while he sneaks in and rescues her father. The rifle's recoil (it's a 7.62mm version of the M16) unbalances her and she ends up machine-gunning the villain's encampment.
  • A Running Gag in the Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road to ... pictures of the 1940s was the "patty-cake" routine: When faced with a foe, Bob and Bing start playing patty-cake, and while the bad guy watches in bemusement, they each punch him out simultaneously. Occasionally, the villain is on to them and hits them first, causing Hope to point out that "he must have seen the picture."
  • In Star Trek V, Uhura does an impromptu fan dance to distract the locals.
  • In the Olsen Twins' vehicle Switching Goals, where they are both in co-ed youth soccer teams, the sister who is no good at soccer uses other tactics to help her team - she simply starts chatting up one of the boys on the opposing team to stop him from noticing a goal being scored by her teammates just metres away.
  • Stealing Heaven: To sneak out of the house with the city watch on alert, Abelard students cause a street disturbance which draws their attention off.
  • The Suicide Squad. Amanda Waller pulls a nasty one when most of the Suicide Squad are massacred after they land on Corto Maltese only to find the military waiting in ambush. Turns out Waller was expecting this as we then cut to a second Suicide Squad landing unopposed on another part of the island, who turn out to be the real protagonists of the movie (along with a couple of survivors of the first Squad).
  • Telefon (1977). Charles Bronson plays a KGB agent sent to kill a Renegade Russian, whom he finally corners in a Texan bar. Because there are witnesses (including two police officers) Bronson can't just shoot him, so the woman he's working with knocks over a glass container holding a pet rattlesnake. While everyone is screaming and the police are blasting away at the snake, Bronson bursts into the phone booth the renegade is using and throttles him to death.
  • A favorite strategy of The Three Stooges. Curly would taunt some bad guys who would chase him, either to give Moe and Larry enough time to foil the bad guys plans or lead the bad guys to Moe and Larry, who are waiting to knock them out.
  • In To Rob a Thief (Spanish:Ladrón que Roba a Ladrón), while the team is preparing for a heist, one of the head con guys tells the tomboy mechanic that they'll need a distraction, and looks pointedly at her. "How am I the distraction?" she asks. In response, he unzips the top of her jumpsuit, revealing impressive cleavage.
    Later...
    Rafaela: Why should I have to wear a dress?
    Alejandro: Because none of us would fit in it.
  • Tremors. The Graboid monsters live underground but can sense vibrations and use them to hunt humans. Several times characters try to distract the Graboids away from their prey by stamping on the ground. The last Graboid "Stumpy", however, eventually figures this out and merely pretends to act like it's fooled by sliding back into the ground and hoping one of the heroes will fall for the counter-trick. They have to resort to one last desperate gamble to take it down.
    "Hey, Melvin! Wanna make a buck?"
  • In Triple 9, the gang decide that they only way that they can pull off the second heist is to create a 'triple 9' ('officer down') call. This will make every available police unit converge on the scene of the call, drawing them away from the gang's target.
  • In Voyage of the Unicorn, after the main characters reach the camp of the trolls who have captured a powerful artifact that they need, Alan, the father of the two kid heroes, says "we need a distraction." Without saying a word, Cassie, the younger of the two daughters, rushes off, runs right in front of a troll, and removes her disguise. "Hi guys!" What follows next is her being chased and ultimately captured and tied up. Probably not her intent, but it did help the rest of her family retrieve the artifact while the trolls were distracted - while trying to rescue her, that is.
  • White Sands (1992). Lane Bodine (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) offers herself to (married) protagonist Sheriff Ray Dolezal (William Dafoe) while he's in the shower. The next scene has an FBI agent listening with amusement to the sounds of passionate sex over his hidden microphones... until Dolezal kicks down his door, whereupon we see Bodine sitting in the shower faking the whole thing.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: What do Jean Grey, Scott Summers and Kurt Wagner do to escape from Stryker's guards? Release a brainwashed Wolverine.
  • Psych-Out: When the police come to the pad looking for Jenny, Ben distracts them by starting a brawl.
  • In Trouble Man, T visits the record office at the police station and has his girlfriend Cleo call the office, pretending to be a college newspaper journalist researching for an article about government jobs for graduates. While the officer who works there talks to her, T steals his gun from the evidence cabinet. At the end of the movie, he persuades a policewoman to pretend to misunderstand the codes she works with. While the officer is explaining them to her, T places the gun back in the evidence cabinet so no one will suspect anything.
  • The Sea Wolves (1980). To remove most of the crew of three German merchant vessels interned in Goa harbor so they can be boarded and sunk, British Intelligence arrange a reception at the Governor's palace (to which the ship's officers are invited), a carnival with plenty of loud fireworks (to cover any explosions or gunshots), and the services of a local brothel to offer free sex to any sailor for three days.

    Literature 
  • In Animorphs:
    • In book #16, they need to distract the staff at the AOL expy to hack into their databases, so Rachel, Tobias, Jake, and Cassie, all in their battle morphs, provide a distraction by mopping the floor.
    "Is that a bear?"
    "Yeah."
    "Is it mopping the floor?"
    "Uh-huh."
    "Have we gone nuts?"
    "I'm not nuts. It's the bear who's nuts. That's carpeted up there."
    • In VISSER, Visser One asks the Animorphs for help disrupting her trial. Turns out a few apex predators bursting into the room is a good distraction.
    • A much darker example in the penultimate book, where Jake flushes 17,000 unhosted Yeerks into space. He and the other Animorphs try to justify it by saying they needed a distraction, but it was really just an expression of raw revenge for everything the Yeerks and the war had taken from them. They also used the Auxiliary Animorphs and the U.S. military as Team Cannon Fodder.
  • In John C. Wright's Chronicles of Chaos, any problem that can't be stunned by the girls' showing some leg is inevitably Colin's part. His most successful performance? Having a "conversion experience" during a crowded Christmas service.
  • In Jeramey Kraatz's The Cloak Society, the Beta Team learns that their bank robbery was a distraction. Later, in Fall of Heroes, Alex and some others distract from a rescue.
  • Discworld:
    • The Silver Horde in Interesting Times. They twice encounter warriors who demonstrate their prowess by breaking wood with their hands and cutting falling silk with their swords. Each time, a Horde member prepares to do the same, and then attacks the distracted opponent. (Then he breaks the block of wood over the ninja's head, so technically he did break it himself...)
      Caleb: You watching this hand? You watching this hand?
      Ninja: [trying not to laugh] I am watching.
      Caleb: Good. [groin attack] Cause you should have been watchin' this foot.
    • In The Truth, William De Worde wants to get past a few Watchmen, and has his photographer/vampire provide the distraction by taking a picture. As a vampire, the flash is enough to send him into excruciating pain, and William notes that a vampire writhing and screaming on the ground is always the center of attention.
    • The second book in the series, The Light Fantastic, has Cohen, an eighty three-year old barbarian hero, tell an enemy that they're holding their sword wrong. He then proceeds to demonstrate that you're supposed to use distractions to put a sword in your enemy's leg.
  • The Dresden Files: In Fool Moon, Tera volunteers to distract a group of police officers so Harry can get his magical equipment. She does this by dancing naked, in the rain. Harry himself almost got too distracted to get away.
  • Girls to the Rescue:
    • In "Skateboard Rosie and the Soda Kids", Rosie distracts a pair of ferocious pit bulls long enough to get her brother behind a fence by yelling and then throwing a skateboard down an alley.
    • In "Young Maid Marian and Her Amazing, Astounding Pig", Marian sets up the pig as a fortune-teller to distract the Sheriff of Nottingham's tax men while Robin sneaks the taxes back out of their cart.
  • In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the Weasley twins are more than happy to provide Harry with a distraction so that he can break into Umbridge's office when Ginny tells them he wants to talk to Sirius. They do so by turning an entire hall into a swamp in a bit of magic Flitwick is so impressed by that he refuses to remove the entire thing and ropes off a bit to preserve as a permanent installation in the castle. They had been planning this prank for a long time, but Harry's need helped them decide where to put it.
  • In The Jungle Book story "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi", Rikki persuades Darzee's wife, the female tailor bird, to hop around pretending to have a broken wing. While Nagaina the Cobra chases her, Rikki raids her nest and destroys her eggs. Once she has bought enough time, Darzee's wife simply flies away.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings:
    • When Pippin starts getting too chatty and comes close to revealing Frodo's real name at the "Prancing Pony", Frodo diverts everyone's attention the first way he thinks of: jumping up onto a table, making a rambling and nonsensical speech to the room, and singing a nonsensical song (which naturally makes everyone think he's a highly entertaining drunk). Then he does way more damage than Pippin ever could have when he falls and the Ring jumps onto his finger.
    • Aragorn's actions through the end of The Two Towers and the beginning of The Return of the King are an extended version of this, played deadly serious (which is to say... "A diversion!"). His plan is to lead a giant army up to Sauron's front doorstep to make him think he's mounting a Final Battle, while Frodo and Sam sneak in the back to kill Sauron for real.
  • Nick Velvet: In "The Theft of Leopold's Badge", Sandra Paris creates a distraction during an art gallery heist by seemingly setting fire to Van Gough (actually a copy she had placed when she swiped the original) so she can escape in the confusion. However, another thief takes advantage of her distraction to steal two other paintings, hoping to pin the thefts on her.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Honor Among Thieves:
      • Chewbacca is already attracting stares just by being a Wookiee on an Imperial world, so just to ensure that all eyes are on him, Han suggests he sing while Han retrieves Rebel spy Scarlet Hark's instructions on how to contact her from a nearby fountain. Chewie very grudgingly complies.
      • In order for the Millennium Falcon to land on the planet Seymarti without the Star Destroyer in orbit shooting it down, Luke and his Red Wave squadron of X-wings engage the Star Destroyer in battle while the Falcon sneaks past on minimal power. Afterward, the X-wings conduct an airstrike on the Imperial ground troops so Han's party can get past them, again.
    • Razor's Edge: It takes multiple layers of distractions to allow the Aegis to escape the Space Pirates' clearinghouse by ensuring that the pirates are too occupied to attack it.
      • Han suggests setting off an explosion in another part of the clearinghouse, far from the Aegis, to draw the pirates away, and Leia decides to blow up the command center—and possibly Big Bad Viest herself, knowing that there will be pirates who want to seize power from her whether she survives or not.
      • To convince the pirates in their ships around the clearinghouse that they are under attack, she rigs up a transmission suggesting a large force of Imperials have arrived, by doctoring the Aegis's recording of the Death Star and its support ships arriving in Alderaanian space before it destroyed the planet.
      • When neither of those are enough to scare away most of the pirates between Leia's party and their ship, Han calls Luke and Chewbacca in the newly arrived Millennium Falcon and has them actually attack the clearinghouse to convince the pirates to run.
  • In the To the Stars trilogy, Jan Kulozik asks the captured rebels to stage a fight while he's MacGyvering the door lock, in case there are hidden cameras in the room. However the rebels aren't particularly warlike, so one of them puts on a display of gymnastics instead.
  • Warhammer 40,000 novels:
    • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel First and Only, while on a Navy ship, Gaunt needs some security codes. His Ghosts had just been attacked by Jantine Patricians, other soldiers on board the ship. In a Xanatos Speed Chess level distraction, he punches an ally so he can complain to the (psychic) captain, and joins him, blaming the blow on the raid, which he had blamed on his ally but now realizes was the Patricians' fault; he sends off Ghosts to raid the Patricians, killing them in retribution and to ensure it just looks like a feud; he sends other Ghosts off to get medical supplies for a man wounded in the raid and to get the codes. When they are caught in the last, they bring down the Navy man who found them, and announce that the Patricians had raided again and take down the man. They get their codes.
      • Used much more in the later novel Traitor General, where Gaunt says this so much (except calling them "diversions") that, on meeting the resistance leader in Leafring, Cirk comments that "he'll probably ask you for a diversion, too. He's quite fond of them."
    • In Graham McNeill's Ultramarines novel, Pasanius manages to free himself because the Chaos torturers cut off his arm. Vaanes, realizing this, argues with, questions, shouts at the torturers to keep them from noticing.
    • In Lee Lightner's Space Wolf novel Wolf's Honour, Ragnar is stunned when Bulveye says he must be the distraction and so Ragnar and the other younger Space Wolves will have the honor of facing down Madox and retrieving the Spear of Russ; he had assumed that the older Space Wolves would claim the privilege.
    • In Ben Counter's novel Chapter War, the Howling Griffons send the 901st Regiment onto the Brokenback first, as the distraction.
    • In Chris Roberson's novel Sons of Dorn, Captain Taelos suspects something when they arrive to find the Chaos forces gone and an attack being launched on a neighboring planet.
  • Bounders:
    • In Earth Force Rising, the protagonists want to break into a restricted area of the space station. Lucy distracts a guard by sobbing to him about her made-up relationship problems.
    • In The Tundra Trials, Lucy distracts Regis by asking him about how he'd want to be photographed if he was in the aeronaut calendar while Jasper dumps excessive amounts of foot warmer powder into his boots as a prank.
  • Planet Earth Is Blue: During a baking elective, Mallory tells Nova to make a distraction by screaming. While everyone is looking at Nova, Mallory gets revenge on two bullies by turning their oven up to 450 degrees, ruining their cookies.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Agatha Raisin: In "Agatha Raisin and the Vicious Vet", Agatha says they need a distraction so they can extract a suspect off the dance floor in a nightclub. DI Wilkes announces that he will do it and then proceeds to provide one. By dancing.
  • In the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episode "Fractured House", Lance Hunter needs to distract Marcus Scarlotti and his Mooks for a minute or so, to buy time for May and Bobbi to get into position. So he walks straight up to them, claiming to be another mercenary working for HYDRA, like them, (he is a mercenary, just one loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D.) and offers them beers. While Scarlotti and his team don't buy Hunter's claim for a second, he keeps them confused long enough for May and Bobbi to catch the villains off guard.
  • Angel.
  • Are You Afraid of the Dark??: The girl in the often co-ed heroic duo of the story would usually be the distraction, with the implication this was the far more dangerous job.
  • Battlestar Galactica. Baltar uses the And Another Thing... gambit to make the marine guard turn his head away from the cell for a moment so Cylon prisoner Gina can Neck Snap him.
  • Blake's 7.
    • Vila does a memorable example in "Seek-Locate-Destroy" by walking up to a pair of Faceless Goons and doing a Sarcastic Confession, while Blake is sneaking up behind to clobber them.
      Vila: Hello there. How are you? Excuse me wandering about your premises but I wonder if you can help me. I'm an escaped prisoner. I was a thief but recently I've become interested in sabotage, in a small way you understand, nothing too ambitious, I hate vulgarity, don't you? Anyway, I've come to blow something up. What do you think will be most suitable?
    • In "Space Fall", Vila entertains a bored guard with sleight-of-hand tricks while others crowd around as an audience, blocking his view of the prisoners removing a wall panel. Later they're given a genuine distraction when a nearby space battle keeps buffeting the ship with shockwaves.
    • In "Gambit", Cally and Jenna stage a Cat Fight in a dive bar so Blake can slip into the back room.
    • In "Killer", Avon plans to start a fire so the technicians will evacuate to their fire stations, leaving the coding room unmanned. As in "Space Fall" a genuine emergency then occurs, making this unnecessary.
    • In "Stardrive", Avon demonstrates his Anti-Hero credentials by sending Tarrant and Dayna to find a gang of space bikers, not mentioning the area they teleported down to is covered by security cameras. Meanwhile Avon lands Scorpio elsewhere so he can sneak in from a different direction.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer:
    • Subverted in "When She Was Bad":
      Angel: We need you to distract the vampires.
      Buffy: Right.
      Xander: What are you going to do?
      Buffy: I'm going to kill them all. That oughta distract them.
    • Played straight in "Who Are You?" There is a police cordon around a church being occupied by vampires. Giles pretends to be a distraught family member long enough for Buffy to get inside (though his acting could use some work).
    • In "Halloween", Buffy strikes up a conversation with Giles to distract him while Willow sneaks into his office and steals his Watcher diaries.
    • In Season 9, one of Faith's Slayers picks a fight with a soccer team. Faith looks like she is going to flash them, only to draw attention to the drinks she bought so they'd lay off.
    • While in Japan, Buffy says they need a big distraction before taking on the vampires. Giant Dawn is magically teleported to the site and does her best Kaiju impersonation.
  • Michael Westen from Burn Notice states that the best distractions make people more curious then worried, such as a truck that slowly rolls forward (with a bomb in the bed).
  • Daredevil (2015):
    • Wilson Fisk is fond of schemes that hinge on people being distracted. When he kills Anatoly in season 1, he plants evidence to ensure Anatoly's brother Vladimir will think Matt is responsible for it. By pitting Matt against the Russians, Fisk ensures both parties are occupied while he makes plans to eliminate the Russians by blowing up their bases of operations.
    • In season 3, Fisk scapegoats Matt as an "accomplice" so that Ray Nadeem and his FBI colleagues will be preoccupied while Fisk is busy laying the final touches on his plans to corrupt Benjamin "Dex" Poindexter.
    • When Matt and Nadeem figure out that Dex is the fake Daredevil that Fisk has used for his attack on the Bulletin, they break into Dex's apartment, with the intention that if they find any incriminating evidence, they'll pull the fire alarm so as to circumvent the need for a search warrant (so that Fisk won't have time to cover his tracks). But since Dex is currently suspended from work (as a result of Fisk's manipulations), they need him out of his apartment, so they arrange for a lawyer to meet Dex at the FBI offices on the pretense of helping him appeal his suspension. Unfortunately, Dex figures out the ruse and comes home early, forcing Matt and Nadeem to flee via a fire escape. Matt is unscathed, but Nadeem gets shot in the chest as Dex opens fire on them.
  • Doctor Who:
    • From "Genesis of the Daleks": "Hello, could you help me? I'm a spy."
    • The classic "Hello, I'm the Doctor, I believe you want to kill me." ("Silver Nemesis")
    • "The Doctor Dances" lampshades the trope:
      Jack: They got Algie on duty. Must be important.
      Rose: Are the words "Distract the guards" heading in my general direction?
    • "The Doctor's Daughter": The Doctor uses a toy mouse he was carrying in one of his pockets to distract a guard at one point. Jenny then knocks him out, to the Doctor's considerable displeasure as he was just planning to sneak past.
    • "The Pandorica Opens": "LOOK AT ME I'M A TARGET!"
      • One or Two does almost the exact same thing, with different words, at one point or another.
  • The Equalizer. In "China Rain", Robert McCall and Mickey Kostmeyer must rescue a child being held hostage by Triad thugs. McCall tape-records himself firing a micro-Uzi, and sets up the tape player with a speaker in an abandoned building down the street from where the boy is being held. He then calls his Friend on the Force claiming he's rescued the boy and the criminals are holed up in there, then turns on the recorder by remote control when the police turn up. McCall and Kostmeyer then enter the real building while the Triads are distracted by the police 'shootout' down the street. The police aren't happy about being used, but as our heroes rescue the boy they let it slide.
  • Subverted in the Firefly episode "Shindig", when the crew, planning an escape attempt that would work "if we only had a distraction", is just as stunned and distracted as the bad guys by River's impromptu performance. So much so that they completely fail to enact the escape during the window of opportunity.
    Jayne: That there? Exactly the kind of diversion we coulda used...
    • And subverted again earlier, when Jayne suggests showing some leg -- or more:
      Jayne: What we need's a diversion... I say Zoe gets nekkid.
      Wash: No.
      Jayne: I could get nekkid.
      Everyone: No!
  • In an episode of The Fugitive (2000), Richard Kimble deliberately lets himself get caught on camera shoplifting in New York City because he's actually planning to go to Philadelphia to visit his dying father. Gerard isn't fooled and stakes out his father's house anyway.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: When the Mayday resistance are rescuing children, the Guardians have been alerted to this and search for them. June and the others distract some on the road near where the children are by pummeling them with rocks, at the price of some being shot. Then later June leads another Guardian in the woods away from them, who shoots her in the back. She shoots him in turn after playing dead and then forcing him to give the rest an all clear on his radio.
  • Used Once an Episode in Hogan's Heroes.
  • JAG: In "War Cries", the Shining Path operatives have a pair of pretty girls wave at the Peruvian soldiers standing guard outside the U.S. Embassy so an old lady can walk past them and leave a bomb.
  • In the first episode of Leverage, the mark shows up a few minutes before he's supposed to. Clearly a fan of Weston's teaching, Nathan starts smashing car windows outside the building, intentionally drawing the attention of all the security guards, who go running out the door. Everybody in the lobby, including the mark, becomes curious what's going on and stops what they were doing to look out the window.
    • In a later episode, they use Hardison's violin skills to distract everybody... unfortunately that includes themselves and they aren't finished with the heist by the time he is done with his solo.
  • In Superhero drama Misfits, Nathan's ludicrous (but successful) attempt to prevent his probation worker Sally from finding the corpses in her car-boot consists of hurling a brick at her windscreen and screaming desperately: "It's just pure, mindless vandalism!"
  • Pulled by Satyarani in one of the Raven: The Secret Temple "cut scenes" — Satyarani conjured a bunch of birds to distract Nevar while Raven sneaked up from behind to smash the spyglass Nevar had been using to spy on the contestants.
  • The Professionals. In "Long Shot", an assassin wants to get into CI5 headquarters, so tells his mook to distract the guard at the back entrance. The mook knocks on the door holding a London A-Z as if asking directions, whereupon the assassin shoots the mook so he falls into the guard's arms, then kills the guard while his hands are full.
  • Red Dwarf, "The Inquisitor":
    Kryten: Excuse me, could I just distract you for a brief second?
  • In Seinfeld, Elaine distracts George's boss so that George can drug him by using the line "So I was thinking about going to this nudist colony..."
  • Deconstructed during the mid-season finale of Stargate Atlantis' final season. McKay and Jackson have been captured by a group of rogue Asgard who missed the extinction of the main species by hiding in the Pegasus Galaxy. After escaping, McKay suggests they blow up something on the far side of the base from the device they were trying to shut down to draw the guards away. Jackson replies that he never understood how that was a good distraction. His first instinct would be to send more guards to the thing worth protecting.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Best of Both Worlds", the Enterprise puts on a distracting light show for the Borg while Data and Worf sneak in with a shuttle and rescue Picard. And it was epic.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Waking Moments", the crew has been captured and a distraction is needed for an Air Vent Escape. Seven of Nine responds by beating up Ensign Kim while loudly proclaiming their capture was all his fault.

    Podcasts 
  • The Distractagon from Fallout Is Dragons is a flying music playing novel reading disco ball that occasionally explodes, created explicitly for this purpose.

    Roleplay 
  • Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
    • To get out of the auditorium and away from the principal, Barbra suggests starting a fire to set off the smoke alarms. Ciro and Jacob quickly shoot down the idea.
    • Nadine's plan to sneak out of finals includes kowtowing Ciro into acting as a distraction for her. A wrench is thrown in her plan when the finals teacher is revealed to be the government agent that's after the kids.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer 40,000, there's the concept of DISTRACTION Carnifex.note  To put simply, this is a unit that is expendable, durable, and scary, ...In That Order, designed to spook the enemy into over-committing their firepower to take down the DISTRACTION, allowing the smaller, but destructive units to do their things.

    Theatre 

    Video Games 
  • In RuneScape the player says something along the lines of the page quote to a white knight so another player could steal a painting of him.
  • Parodied brilliantly in Sam and Max.
    • Sam needs to break into Stinky's display case, so he asks Max to distract Stinky while he does so.
      Max: Oh my God! Stinky, look!
      Stinky: What?
      Max: Somebody's trying to break into your display case! [points at Sam]
    • Another instance has the two trying to distract Hugh Bliss.
      Sam: Distract Hugh Bliss for me!
      Max: Oh dear, I seem to be completely naked. I hope I don't have to bend over provocatively and—
      Sam: That's enough Max.
  • In Sa Ga Frontier, the shadow spell Hidebehind creates an illusion of the caster behind the enemy to provide the distraction.
  • Damian Wolfe in Mega Man Star Force 3 volunteers for this role without any outside input when Jack Corvus attacks Echo Ridge Elementary, even calling out to Geo and his band over the intercom to get their asses to the roof while he acts as a decoy. Pretty badass considering [A] he doesn't have too much combat experience, [B] he's the gardener and thus doesn't get into hot water that often, and [C] he's vulnerable to fire, which comprises much of Jack's arsenal.
  • One of the abilities you can pick up in Prototype directly invokes this: you can accuse someone else of being you in disguise, and then have the military open fire on them, all as a distraction.
  • Hitman makes use of this trope, especially in Blood Money, ranging from throwing coins near guards, to planting remote explosives and detonating them to slip past, it's a very useful game feature.
    • And as in all stealth games, the ever popular "Its a corpse. I'd better investigate"
  • In Hotel Dusk: Room 215, Kyle convinces Louis to invoke this trope.
  • In Assassin's Creed II, you can distract guards by using thieves or courtesans that you hire, throw money around them to gather civilians, or use a smoke bomb and assassinate them, all to get a chest or codex page. Who here keeps using the last one?
  • The Monkey Island series often used the "Look! A three-headed monkey!" line.
  • Can be utilised as a strategy in Team Fortress 2. For example, a common variation is to harass a target so that a Spy can get behind them to backstab them.
    • Spies and bonked Scouts can be very effective in distracting sentry fire (and their Engineers), so that other team-members can take them out.
    • The Spy's often-overlooked ability to disguise as a member of his own team can let him create a diversion for himself, disappearing behind a corner while disguised as a Medic or Sniper and waiting for the victim to give chase.
  • Before Scenario 29 of the Space Route in Shin Super Robot Wars, Londo Bell concocts a plan: create a diversion to let their forces sneak inside. The diversionary squad includes Ryusei, for whom making a big scene is a specialty.
  • In Warframe, this is the rationale for Survival missions - the player's cell has to distract the stage enemy while another group of Tenno, "Alpha Team", conducts a raid offscreen.
  • In Mass Effect 3's Citadel DLC, the team has to infiltrate a casino, and in order to disable some security devices, Shepard's teammate will distract guards to allow Shepard time to work. Distractions range from teammates turning up the cuteness, pretending to be drunk customers, recruiting the guards as possible Spectre candidates, standing in as food inspectors, berating the guards for being terrible at guarding, asking about a volus brothel upstairs, ranting about inhumane treatment of varren, pretending to cry, or in Javik's case, insulting their entire species, declaring that everyone in the building would be killed in his cycle because games of chance were illegal, or telling them that he is a Prothean, and demanding to know what they think of that.
    • Another example was during the Tuchanka arc, where's the team needs to distract a Reaper in order to release the Genophage cure. That distraction comes in the form of Kalros, the biggest Thresher Maw in the galaxy's history. It turns out far better than expected; Kalros doesn't just distract the Reaper, she kills it.
  • Ace Attorney: In the final case of the second game, Maya is kidnapped by a hitman who demands Phoenix gives a non-guilty verdict to Matt Engarde. As a result, Phoenix and Edgeworth intentionally drag the trial out as long as they can, to find the truth and give the police enough time to try and locate Maya and her kidnapper.
  • In the Zorro mission of Pulp Adventures, one of the objectives is to blow the Spanish garrison's supply of powder for this reason.
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel IV, the Orchis Tower from Crossbell is emitting a beam of light, powering the barrier to a shrine that Rean and his party need to go in order to have a duel with his and Arianrhod's Divine Knights and they need to take it out. But because the operation is unsanctioned and the fact that most of the group are wanted men in the empire, they decided to hold a concert at the largest theater in Crossbell, distracting the guards from their jobs while Rean and a select few go in and take out the machine that's emitting the barrier.
  • Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom: In the penultimate cutscene (just before the final battle), uncle Nabu rushes in and pelts the big bad with bottles, drawing his attention while Zeke rescues you and Pepelogoo saps his power.
  • This serves as a battle mechanic in World of Horror. If you have allies, you can have one of them distract your opponent, drawing their attention away from you so you don't have to worry about taking a hit that round. However, if the enemy successfully manages to hit them instead, they're Killed Off for Real.
  • In Henry Stickmin Series Henry (and later Ellie) do this twice. The first one famously fails, while the other works.
  • In Red Dead Redemption II, the gang likes to use these just prior to a heist to draw the attention of the law elsewhere. In the Valentine bank robbery, Karen will provide a distraction with the nature of it depending on the player. In the Saint Denis heist, Hosea and Abigail trigger an explosive several blocks away. Unfortunately for the gang, the Pinkertons were tipped off about this distraction and managed to capture and kill Hosea and laid siege on the bank, forcing the gang to flee. Later on, Charles distracts a group of armed men into chasing him so the rest of the group can board a ship to leave Saint Denis.

    Web Animation 
  • In Krentz and the Hand of Shame 3, Arona leaves one scene by shouting "Diversion!" as an airplane walks by, and jumping away while the title characters are, rather understandably, distracted.

    Webcomics 
  • Bob and George:
    • Excellent example during a fight with the titular Bob:
      Bob: Who are you?
      Mega Man: I'm a distraction!
    • And getting George into the time suit.
    • And while saving alternate Mike from the non-alternate Mynd, George explains to Mynd that he has to keep stalling him to let Protoman do his thing.
  • Another great example appears in this Ozy and Millie strip.
  • Yet another example of the same ilk, from Cheshire Crossing.
  • Looking for Group: In this strip, the (undead sociopath) Warlock Richard falls out of the sky (after being thrown by a minotaur) and lands face-first in the middle of a castle courtyard full of enemy soldiers. He stands up, dusts himself off, says "Excuse me, this is a diversion", and then proceeds to kill everyone within reach. While holding a bunny. What a jerk. Magnificent.
    Richard: Good evening. This is a diversion. (snaps his fingers and kills three soldiers by setting their heads on fire.) Say hello to my little friend. (holds up small innocent looking rabbit.) Now say hello to his larger, angrier friend. (points at huge Expy of a Tauren clobbering soldiers with a hammer bigger than they are.)
    Benn'joon: Very subtle. I wonder if they'll be able to figure out what our plan of attack is.
  • Narbonic:
    • Dave, Artie and Caliban are being chased by demons when Dave remarks, "We need a distraction!" Just then, the phone rings:
      Helen: Dave! Found you! How's things?
      Dave: I meant a distraction for the demons!
    • Mell provides a distraction in the early strips by putting Dave's boxers on her head and singing the highlights from Funny Girl. Helen and Dave are just as confused as everyone else.
  • From Flintlocke's Guide to Azeroth
    Flintlocke: What am I s'posed ta do?
    Bloodrose: Honestly, Flintlocke, you're a warrior spec'd for PVE. At best you're a distraction.
    [two minutes later, Flintlocke is undressed]
    Flintlocke: LOOKAT ME YEH SONSABITCHERS!!
  • In Norm Scott's Violence Man, the titular Violence Man is leading a group of thugs at gunpoint away from a restaurant they were trashing previously.
    Thug Leader: Psst! Ronald! We need a diversion!
    Ronald (another thug): We have "Scrabble" in the car.
    Thug Leader: Not for us, Ronald! For Violence Man! Distract him!
    Ronald: Got it. [deep breath] WE HAVE SCRABBLE IN THE CAR!!
    Violence Man: What? Where??
    Thug Leader: Close enough! Cheese it!
  • Seen in The Heroes Of Middlecenter, as the quotes page shows.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Ashley and Elliot need to make a quick exit from the middle of a busy mall without being followed. Tara the griffin also needs to leave, but it's a good deal less important if people see which way she went. The solution is to have Tara make the loudest, showiest exit she possibly can, drawing enough attention that no one realizes Elliot and Ashley have left until they're already long gone.
  • Largo of Megatokyo provides the most epic distraction here and here. Yes it was intentional. He had just let Yuki take his phone and was giving her an opportunity to slip away.
  • Sequential Art:
  • In Anti-Heroes, Kaal attempts to provide a distraction so that Lana can get away from a vampire hunter. He does so by pointing in the same direction Lana is in and saying "Look over there!" Naturally, this is completely ineffective, but Kaal counts it as a success.
  • In a Girl Genius subplot, Gil and Tarvek distract Castle Heterodyne by pretending to fight one another for the hand of Agatha. Somewhat subverted in that for the last 26 pages they've done nothing but express interest in killing one another, and thus the pretend fight rapidly turns into an all-out brawl.
  • Florence in an early Freefall: "Helix Look! It's an obvious distraction!".
  • Roza: screams for help, and then climbs a tree while he's looking for the helper.
  • In Endstone, Herrik tells him not to look at the bottle.
  • In Minion Comics, Dingus uses a prostitute to distract guards while the base is on lock-down.
  • In 8-Bit Theater Red Mage casts EVERY KNOWN SPELL IN EXISTENCE to distract Sarda the sage long enough to give Black Mage time to cast Hadouken at him.
  • In Tales of the Questor, while the Junior Questors are madly fleeing the mad scientist, they stumble on his lab and the poor animals there. They regret that they can't free them, and think on how they need a distraction — and then realize that they can kill two birds with one stone.
  • Varden and Lei'ella do this in Inverloch when Acheron goes to talk to Aydensfell's Archmage and inadvertently takes they money they need to get rooms at an inn. Lei'ella reluctantly agrees to let Varden steal the fee and awkwardly tries flirting with the innkeep; Varden steps in pretending to be her exasperated husband.
  • In one Oglaf arc, this is achieved by releasing a rodeo bull dressed a giant penis into the crowd.
  • Ozy and Millie: This strip has Millie and Islode stealing a truck, and Ozy distracts the driver by telling him that his truck is being stolen.
    Ozy: My hope for you is that eventually you'll appreciate the irony of my distraction technique.
  • Guilded Age: Turns out killing the entire crew is an efficient distraction.

    Web Original 
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-539, a small metallic disc which causes a distraction when thrown, with the distraction becoming more extreme the harder to distract the watchers are. The distraction can range from people's clothes vanishing into thin air to dangerous wild animals appearing from out of nowhere (from a pack of komodo dragons to a bull shark). It also works on proxy observers: when used to "distract" a security camera, the camera's monitoring computer suffered a fatal error that caused the security feed data to become irreparably corrupted.
  • Things Mr. Welch Is No Longer Allowed to Do in an RPG bans some of Mr. Welch's more "creative" attempts at distractions, such as:
    450. When told to distract the villainess, they didn't mean with a surprise marriage proposal.
    678. Distract the bad guy does not mean with a recreation of the Apollo landing.
    1669. When told to distract the bad guy they didn't mean by setting him on fire.

    Web Videos 
  • In the lonelygirl15 video "Mission Possible", Sarah is sent to distract a security guard, an operation which Spencer titles "The Siren Call © Spencer Gilman". The guard bursts into tears - apparently, his partner just left him and took everything. Although it didn't go as planned, the distraction is still a success since the guard is now "emotionally compromised".
  • In the KateModern video "Charlie's party", Gavin dances the "funky chicken" to distract Kate and Steve while Tariq searches Steve's bag.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall: "I'm distracting you so she can stab you."
  • The Legend of Neil: Neil does this in the episode "Gettin' High in Hyrule" by pointing and shouting "I'm distracting you!"
  • Taken Up to Eleven by To Boldly Flee, in which Nostalgia Chick and Oancitizen put on a musical number with a song in which they declare themselves to be a distraction. And it is actually the villain who asks them to sing it (he even joins in!). The best part is that the song's existence in-universe (and said villain's attachment to it) actually makes perfect sense. See While Rome Burns for details.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Stan needs to access a computer to find Francine's birth parents, so he sets Roger on fire for a diversion.
  • Arcane: Oh sure, Jinx could just set a fire to draw away the Enforcers so she can steal from Jayce's laboratory. But where would be the fun in that? Luring Enforcers into a burning building rigged to blow with fake cries of help from what sounds like a little girl, now that's properly hilarious to her.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "The Clock King", the villain's "distractions" include tampering with the city traffic system and causing a subway crash, acts that could quite reasonably be considered a main plot in and of themselves.
  • Played with in the Batman Beyond episode "Where's Terry?". Bruce Wayne and Max Gibson trace a missing Terry McGinnis' whereabouts to an abandoned subway system and need to make their way down a particular tunnel that is being zoned off by a construction crew. Bruce tells Max he will be the distraction and give her a chance to sneak in. Max agrees and goes off. Bruce then walks up to the construction crew and momentarily gains their attention by playing the part of a senile citizen while Max stealthily sneaks her way down the other tunnel. Just as Max is almost out of sight, Bruce 'worriedly' points her out to the construction crew who all then chase after her while he casually strolls through the construction area to finish the rescue mission by himself.
  • The Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers episode "Adventures in Squirrel-Sitting" had Chip and Dale doing this. In drag. Singing "The Fat Cat Stomp". So Gadget could sneak around.
  • Danny Phantom in its first episode where Danny initiated a Food Fight as distraction in order for him and his friends to sneak out and stop a ghost.
  • In Dan Vs., Chris had to make a diversion. This is what he came up with:
  • Danger Mouse tells Penfold to distract Wufgang Bach, the dubious composer who has stolen all the world's music—including the background music of the episode ("Play It Again, Wufgang"). DM is using a cassette of music cues which he's trying to cue for the moment so Penfold sings (quite badly) until DM finds what he's looking for: The 1812 Overture which causes Wufgang's castle to explode.
  • Used on Darkwing Duck when Gosalyn needs to save her dad from being killed by a primitive tribe's champion (she forgot to clean the quicksand out of his gas gun):
    Gosalyn: We need a distraction.
    Honker: Don't look at me. (Gilligan Cut to him popping out of a bush with a flashlight) Look at me! Look at me!
  • In Drawn Together, "Clara's Dirty Little Secret", Foxxy Love successfully distracts the other housemates from chasing Clara by putting on a neckbrace and holding up a pie while illuminating it with a flashlight. This eventually prompts the response: "Ohhh, it's the old neckbrace-well-lit-pie diversion!"
  • Family Guy:
    • Inverted in "Wasted Talent", Peter needs to be drunk to play piano and they ran out of beer, so he and Lois crash an underage drinking party. The cops show up and bust them in the back yard. Peter handles it by telling Lois "Look over there." She does. He then tells the cops "Run!". They do.
    • A common gag on the show is to have Peter piss off one of the main characters so furiously that it looks like hell is about to be raised. Peter then responds with a "Yikes! Looks like I need a distraction! Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Conway Twitty!", followed by a Cutaway Gag to a live-action music video of a song being performed by country singer Konway Twitty.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, Jimmy uses a phone app to distract the Schwatzentiger so the others can escape.
  • Kaeloo: In one episode where Kaeloo, Stumpy and Mr. Cat are surrounded by Olaf's Mecha-Mooks, Stumpy mentions how in movies people create distractions to escape from situations like this. Mr. Cat uses a golf club to send Stumpy flying into the distance, and all the Mecha-Mooks follow him away.
  • Kim Possible: Sidekick Ron Stoppable is the perpetual distraction, in yet another of this show's subversion of gender roles in action series.
  • In A Pinky and the Brain Christmas, the titular mice are at Santa's Workshop, as part of their scheme. They're found out by an elf. How does Pinky divert him? 'Look! A decoy!'
  • In The Problem Solverz episode "Magic Clock", the gang plans to distract Katrina Rad and destroy the magic clock by having Roba kiss her. Roba refuses to do this and instead performs a highly surreal rap number to get the job done.
  • Ready Jet Go!:
    • In "Mindy's Mystery", the kids try to infiltrate Mitchell's backyard in order to find the source of the mystery smell. In order to distract Mitchell, Jet and Sunspot stop him in his tracks and perform circus tricks while Sean, Sydney, and Mindy search Mitchell's area.
    • In "Ice Moon Enceladus", the kids run out of ice for their sno-cone stand, so they decide to fly to Enceladus to get more. However, the Propulsions need to keep secret that they are aliens, so in order to distract the angry customers, Mindy sings a cute little song of hers while hula-hooping to distract them.
  • In the many iterations of Scooby-Doo, plots would often involve this trope, often invoked word for word by Fred.
  • The Simpsons:
    • As another example, in "Lisa's Rival" Bart's diversion is jumping up and down shouting "Hey everyone look over here at me!" Response: "It's Bart!" "And he's doing stuff!" Skinner even went on to say "Bart! Stop creating a diversion and get out of here!"
    • The episode "Bart the Fink" also has one with Superintendant Chalmers and Agnes Skinner returning home, and see Principal Skinner answer the door. After noticing the two of them together:
      Skinner: What I wouldn't give for something to distract this awkward moment...
      (Krusty comes flying by in his plane, screaming. Agnes and Chalmers both turn to look)
      Skinner: That'll do nicely!
    • In "Mother Simpson", Abe Simpson does this on his own initiative when the FBI raids the house to arrest Homer's long-lost mother. No one is totally sure if it was a distraction or senility, least of all Abe himself.
      Abe: All right, I admit it! I am the Lindbergh baby! Wa! Wa! Goo goo. I miss my fly-fly dada.
      Agent Joe Friday: Are you trying to stall us, or are you just senile?
      Abe: A little from column A, a little from column B.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In "Cloak of Darkness", Ventress sets off explosions in the engine room and lures the Jedi there to fight her so that Argyus can spring Gunray free with much less difficulty.
  • Star Wars Resistance: In "The First Order Occupation", Kaz, Synara, Neeku and BB-8 are heading for the Colossus' underwater escape pods, but have been spotted by stormtroopers looking for Synara, which prompts Kaz to suggest that they need a distraction to shake off their pursuers. Neeku, hearing this, promptly opens a valve on a nearby pipe, sending steam into the hallway and getting some of it in his eyes, causing him to scream and run off. This has the desired effect of making the troopers follow Neeku, allowing Kaz and Synara to get to the turbolift unseen while BB goes after Neeku.
  • In the Superfriends episode, "Rub Three Times For Disaster", the villain needs to recover a magic lamp which would make him invincible, but the Super Friends have in it their possession at that moment. That leads to the question, how do you draw the attention of such megapowerful Super Heroes away from their headquarters? By causing four nuclear missiles to launch and have them target scattered major cities around the world to force them to scurry all over to stop them, that's how!
  • In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, at one point the plan calls for April to get inside a building so she can access their security system. Since this means the guards have to not be paying attention, Casey is assigned the job of distraction, which he accomplishes by smashing up the lobby in his best crazed-loon persona.
  • The Tick, "The Tick Vs. Arthur's Bank Account": "My name is Arthur, and this is my diversion: 'The Itsy-Bitsy Spider went up the waterspout'..."
  • Played with on Transformers Animated. Sentinel Prime tells Jetfire and Jetstorm that he needs a diversion to get past the villain's guards. The twins aren't very firm on the concept of "diversion" but seem to have the idea that it means for to be blowing something up, so they opt to blow up the guards they are supposed to be distracting (although in the end they settle for exhausting).
    Jetfire: Are they looking distracted enough to you, brother?
    Jetstorm: Big one... still wriggles a little.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: In the New York special, Hawk Moth wants to get his hands on the Eagle Miraculous formerly owned by the Marquis de Lafayette and currently on display in a New York museum. So he akumatizes one of the local supervillains and... has him go steal Lafayette's sword on display right next to it. Then, while the local superheroes (plus Ladybug and Cat Noir) are busy chasing him around the city, he strolls in, grabs the Miraculous, and leaves, completely unopposed.

    Real Life 
  • In 1907, baseball player Germany Schaefer was part of an attempted double steal (with runners on first and third, the runner on first tries to steal second, hoping to draw a throw whereby the guy on third can steal home). The catcher didn't bite, so on the next pitch, Schaefer, now on second, turned around and stole first base, again hoping to distract the defense so the guy on third could score. As with the Firefly example above, it didn't work; the guy on third just stood there, as bewildered as everyone else. No problem; the pitch after that, Schaefer just turned around and stole second again. Supposedly, it finally worked on this attempt. (MLB rule 7.08(i) now disallows running the bases in reverse to confuse the opponent [or to make a mockery of the game]; if it were tried nowadays, the umpire would call "time" and declare the runner out.)
  • Yet another example: at the end of a college basketball game, with one team up by one and ten seconds left on the clock, one player dropped to all fours and started barking like a dog, distracting the other team's thrower enough to allow a teammate to intercept the pass and lay up the game-winner.
    • There was another version of this wherein one player began to perform a complex gymnastics routine at half court, while the rest of his team scored a goal behind the backs of their stunned (and distracted) opponents.
    • The Harlem Globetrotters occasionally used their routines for this purpose when they still played "straight" games (before they switched to only playing the Generals).
  • The Portias Spider hunts other spiders. One of its tactics is to grab an insect and throw it into another spider's web. While the other spider is busy biting and wrapping up the insect, Portias attacks it from behind. It will also attack two spiders in the middle of mating. Better yet, this is only one of many tactics the spider will use. It tailors its strategy to each individual victim, and they all fit under this trope.
  • As a snowboarding instructor, a favorite method of helping someone figure out their stance is the "which foot do you step forward with when pushed" method. Of course, the method has to be explained so the instructor doesn't come across as a Jerkass by randomly shoving a new snowboarder. Once they agree to being pushed over, it is explained that it won't work now that they know it's coming while another instructor sneaks up behind the new snowboarder and pushes him/her forward. It Only Works Once per lesson though.
  • Late in World War II, American and Filipino forces launched a raid at Cabanatuan to rescue 500 POWs being held by the Japanese. Part of their approach required them to cross a field that would leave them exposed, so a twin-engined USAAF P-61 Black Widow buzzed the camp to draw the guards' attention. The pilot first shut off and restarted one of his engines, causing it to backfire while he lost altitude, giving the impression that the guards were about to witness a plane crash. After repeating this a few times, he decided to just do some aerobatics over the camp, captivating the guards' attention until their still unnoticed attackers had gotten into position.
  • As shown in the documentary Full Color Football: In 1959, the National Football League was catching heat from Congress about why they were refusing to expand to new cities, with rumblings about anti-trust suits. Then-Commissioner Bert Bell used the announcement of the founding of the American Football League as a shield. ("See? We don't have to expand! There's eight new teams right there!"). They expanded to Minneapolis and Dallas the next year anyway (plus moving the Chicago Cardinals to St. Louis), in an attempt to undermine the AFL.

 
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Alternative Title(s): We Need A Diversion

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The Gelatin and Lollipop dance

Gelatin and Lollipop's "elimination prevention plan" involves trying to get more screen time for them to not be voted out, so Gelatin wings a dance.

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