''Wanted: Dead or Alive.''

One of the stock WesternCharacters, a fugitive from justice into the wilderness.

The term "outlaw" reaches back to at least Old Norse; it denotes a person who has been declared guilty of a crime in absentia and has chosen to escape for whatever reason, and is thus placed outside the protection of the law. Members of the community were forbidden to aid or abet the outlaw in any way lest [[PunishedForSympathy they suffer the same punishment as the outlaw]], and as they were outside the protection of the law, [[{{Unperson}} they had no legal rights, meaning anyone could kill them with impunity]]. Thus, the outlaw could not live in the community, but was forced to flee to the wilderness or another country to try to survive until their sentence of outlawry expired or their relatives could somehow lift it. At the time, there were no established prisons or dedicated police, so long-term imprisonment was rare. In the medieval age, an outlaw was called a "wolfshead," meaning that he or she was equated to a wolf in the eyes of the law, and was to be hunted down like one.

Several of Literature/{{the Icelandic sagas}} have outlaws as main or supporting characters, and some versions of RobinHood will have this be the explicit status of the Merry Men.

By the time of TheWildWest, prisons and organized law enforcement were in place, so the old practice of outlawry was obsolete, but the term continued to be used for those who chose to flee into the wilderness or other jurisdictions to escape punishment for their crimes.

In TheWestern, the outlaw is not completely removed from the protection of the law, but is wanted for crimes that make it impossible to stay in the community. Often, he will have a price on his head, making him the prey of the BountyHunter. Most outlaws will continue to lead lives of crime while in the wilderness, unless unjustly accused.

An individual outlaw, or the leader of an outlaw gang, will often overlap with TheGunslinger. Other members of an outlaw gang will generally be the Western's equivalent of the {{Mook}}. If the {{Outlaw}} is the protagonist, or otherwise meant to be sympathetic, expect them to be either shown as having a Robin Hood-like code of ethics as to who they rob, being an innocent person [[ClearMyName falsely accused]], or an AntiHero who does "what he has to do" to survive in a lawless land.

The outlaw and the lawman weren't entirely separate, either; some outlaws eventually settled down and tried to go straight, and their gun skills made them useful as law enforcement in particularly violent communities.

As of the Twenty-First Century, the meaning of "outlaw" has continued to suffer linguistic decay; now it is often used by media to mean any criminal, or to add a "rebel" cachet to something (like "outlaw country music" or "[[AllBikersAreHellsAngels outlaw motorcycle club]]").
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!!Examples:

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[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* By the futuristic setting of ''OutlawStar'', the term has decayed even further; "outlaw" means that they don't have a formal allegiance to the government or a pirate gang.
* ''{{Berserk}}'' has the Band of the Hawk being declared outlaw (in the classical sense of the word) by the King after Griffith's indiscretion with Princess Charlotte gets him thrown into the Tower of Rebirth to be put to the torture.
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[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Terra-Man, a SilverAge foe of {{Superman}}, combined the trappings of a Wild West outlaw with alien technology, since he was actually born in the appropriate time period.
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[[folder:Film]]
* ''TheOutlawJoseyWales''
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[[folder:Folklore]]
* RobinHood and his Merry Men are perhaps the most well-known medieval outlaws in fiction.
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[[folder:Literature]]
* Famous heroic outlaws from the [[Literature/TheIcelandicSagas Sagas of Icelanders]] are Grettir Ásmundarson (''Literature/TheSagaOfGrettirTheStrong'') and Gisli Súrsson. Grettir supposedly survived almost 20 years as an outlaw, Gisli twelve years, before they were tracked down and killed by their enemies. Outlaws also occur as villains in other sagas, as outlaws often would turn to robbery, waylaying or even murder to feed themselves.
* From the Icelandic ''Literature/VolsungaSaga'' (a legendary saga): Sigi, the ancestor of the Volsungs, is outlawed in his home country for murder. Generations later, his descendants Sigmund and Sinfjotli, on the run from villainous King Siggeir, live as outlaws in the forest for years.
* Túrin Turambar from ''Literature/TheSilmarillion'' and ''Literature/TheChildrenOfHurin'' and his Gaurwaith gang are modelled after medieval outlaws.
* The Seablite gang in ''Literature/DarkLife'' are undersea outlaws who prey on ocean-floor pioneers.
* The ''Jon Shannow'' books by Creator/DavidGemmell, being set in an AfterTheEnd western, has a lot of them, like Daniel Cade. They're usually the main antagonists of the book until the real BigBad shows up.
* The heroes of the classical Chinese romance ''Literature/OutlawsOfTheMarsh''.
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[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* The heroes of ''Series/WildBoys'' are all bushrangers.
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[[folder:Webcomic]]
* Irregulars from ''TowerOfGod'' who broke the rules of the Tower by entering it on their own volition. But because they were capable of doing that, nobody feels [[TheDreaded an ounce]] [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast of urgency to]] [[OneManArmy pursue them.]]
* Cwynhild in the CattlePunk webcomic ''CwynhildsLoom'' is on the run from the military.
* The {{Pirate}}s in ''Webcomic/QuentynQuinnSpaceRanger'' set out to be this. [[http://www.rhjunior.com/QQSR/00013.html They learned why you want the law to protect you.]]
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[[folder:Real Life (may overlap with Folklore)]]
* The Jesse James gang, of both RealLife fame and many, many movies.
* Wyatt Earp was an example of an outlaw becoming a lawman.
** It seems as though many if not most renowned gunfighters have spent some time as both outlaws and lawmen.
* Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid tried going straight in RealLife as well, working as guards. It was the first time Butch Cassidy had ever killed anyone. In TheMovie, they're given the RobinHood treatment.
* [[LandDownUnder Australian example]]: NedKelly, infamous for the home-made suit of armour worn in his last stand. During Australia's colonial days, outlaws were known as 'Bushrangers', and there's a number of songs about them.
* In the old days, [[RuthlessModernPirates pirates]]: assuming you weren't too scared to fight back or the crew didn't hate you enough to mutiny, you could kill them with impunity, as long as you could prove they were pirates. The only ones with an actual duty to try and get them to surrender before exterminating them were the captains specifically ordered to hunt them down, as some pirates had been forced to join and freeing them was a priority.
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