FBI Depicted as Incompetent

Table Of Contents

Explanation of Conservative Trope

Whenever the FBI is not the protagonist of a movie or TV series, it's a cliche that they are often depicted as incompetent in some way to make local law enforcement protagonists look good. It happens far less the other way around. Hollywood loves to use the FBI as foil.

Conservative Trope Examples

  • Live Free or Die Hard (2007)
    The FBI cyber division has trouble handling a massive cyber attack on the country, but a lone hacker Matthew Farrell is able to figure things out and help save the day instead.
  • After the Sunset (2004)
    FBI Agent Lloyd is constantly outwitted by jewel thief Max.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) concocts an elaborate scheme where he convinces a group of aspiring female flight attendants that he's an airline pilot and that they will be accompanying him on a two-month tour of Europe, but what he's really using them for is to avoid being captured by FBI agents waiting for him at the airport. He confidently walks in to the airport with the ladies surrounding him, breezing past the countless FBI agents and police officers there to nab him, with all of them instead freezing and gawking at the beautiful women as they walk through the airport, allowing Frank to walk right past them onto his flight.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) convinces Carl (Tom Hanks) to let him go to the bathroom alone on the airplane because he's "going to be sick" after finding out that his father has passed away. He still hasn't come out of the bathroom as the plane begins its descent, so the agents break in to the toilet only to find Frank has vanished. They quickly realize Frank crawled through the space below the toilet and into the cargo hold below. As the plane lands the FBI agents feverishly run through the cabin telling people to stay in their seats, but it's too late and Carl hopelessly watches as Frank jumps out of the plane and escapes from the FBI yet again.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    Carl (Tom Hanks) catches Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) red handed in his hotel room, but Frank talks his way out of getting arrested by convincing Carl that he's a member of the Secret Service. He even gives Carl his wallet to prove he's a Secret Service agent, but instead of opening up the wallet and verifying Frank's story, he inexplicably keeps it closed and chooses to believe him. Frank then tells Carl that he needs to take some evidence down to his car and asks him to stay in the room to make sure nothing is tampered with. By the time Carl opens up the wallet to find it full of random clippings Frank is stepping into his car and driving away.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    Frank outsmarts FBI agent Carl Hanratty in multiple embarrassing episodes until he is caught much later with the help of French authorities.
  • Die Hard (1988)
    The FBI takes over the local police handling of the hostage situation in Nakatomi tower and one agent says, "when we commandeer your men, we'll try to let you know". Later while in a helicopter one agent estimates that 20-25% of the hostages may die during their raid and the other agent flippantly replies, "I can live with that." They engage in some cocky banter as their helicopters swoop in to land on the roof to start a hostage rescue. But it is a trap and the terrorist set off an explosion that blows up the helicopters. John McClane on his own saves the hostages instead by leading them away from the roof so they can run downstairs and escape the building.