[[quoteright:310:[[TheSimpsons http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fbi1_995.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:310:They're not always this subtle...]]

->''"How do you know [[TheMenInBlack they're]] watching us?"''\\
''"Because that pool cleaner's van has been parked out on the street for over four hours. No one's pool is ''that'' dirty."''
-->-- '''Sandra Bennet''', ''Series/{{Heroes}}''

That large, menacing black van pulling over on the other side of the street the moment you go inside. Maybe you dismissed it as [[ConspiracyTheorist paranoid speculation]], just as TheMan wanted you to but you should know what it means -- [[AncientConspiracy They]] are watching you at this very moment from that very car. If {{Lampshaded}} there will be a honkin' big radar dish on top.

These vehicles provide a sense of foreboding mystery to the characters they follow and the audience. The vans appear in the background, and are viewed only from the outside. Unlike SpiesInAVan, it's common that neither the audience nor TheProtagonist ever find out who is in the vans, or what they are doing. Occasionally, both tropes can occur in the same series, if there are competing vans or if the organization operating them determines the heroes are not their enemy and invites them into TheMasquerade.

If they're not only watching you but about to kick your ass, then the black van will be replaced by a black sedan or SUV with tinted windows - the Volga GAZ-21 and 24 and the Chevrolet Suburban, depending on the setting. An important distinction was that in Soviet times and places, black vehicles were entirely reserved for official government fleets while when a black Suburban is seen on American streets in real life, it is assumed to be in soccer-mom use.

See also BlackHelicopter. The title is a pun on TheMenInBlack.
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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime and Manga]]
* Such vans can also be used by protagonists, generally in police/covert military shows. Section 9 in ''GhostInTheShell: Stand Alone Complex'', for example, regularly uses one for undercover surveillance.
* The Yamainu's vans in ''VisualNovel/HigurashiNoNakuKoroNi''.
* These show up in ''Anime/DigimonTamers''. Amusingly enough in an early episode, Takato [[{{Lampshading}} comments]] on how those look amazingly like they'd belong in a GovernmentConspiracy.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The van in ''Comicbook/{{Runaways}}'', although it's white and actually ''is'' fairly nondescript.
--> Chase: Remember those two sniper dudes last year? When everyone in Virginia was looking for one white van? The cops couldn't find it 'cause every plumber and electrician and whatever drives one of these things. [..] That's why I asked my parents for one. I get in this bad boy, and I totally drop off The Man's radar.
* {{Mooks}} driving around in a black van sedate Wallace and capture Esther in ''ComicBook/SinCity''.
* [[{{Hawkeye}} Clint Barton]] thinks he sees one outside his apartment window:
-->'''Hawkeye''': Is it just me, or does that van look like a ''van''.
-->'''Mockingbird''': Even for you that makes no... Oh, wait yeah, that's definitely a ''van''.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* In ''Film/TheGame'', Michael Douglas finds himself being terrorized by various cars marked "CRS." One's a cabbie ('''C'''rown '''R'''oyal '''S'''edans), another a maintenance van ('''C'''able '''R'''epair '''S'''ervices), etc.
* The van used by the bank robbers in ''InsideMan''.
* The Zap 'Em Pest Control van in ''Film/MenInBlack'' ironically serves as transportation for a [[BigCreepyCrawlies big bad bug]]. Somewhat {{Lampshaded}} because half of his spaceship stuck out of the back and top.
* A scene in ''Film/OceansEleven'' involved the team attempting to ''purchase'' a VanInBlack. HilarityEnsues.
* In ''Film/ETTheExtraterrestrial'', the government forces use a van with surveillance equipment to find E.T.
* Played for laughs in ''OldSchool'', when the protagonists use one of these to kidnap their fraternity pledges, complete with Metallica soundtrack.
* ''Film/{{Twister}}''. The opposing storm chasers drive black vans/trucks, fitting their role in the story as the "bad guy" corporate sell-outs.
* Karl Hallzemoff, the Hugos' transport van from ''WesternAnimation/{{Cars}} 2''.
* In a deliberate parody (just like every other trope invoked in the film), the heroes of the first ''Film/AttackOfTheKillerTomatoes'' movie traveled in a car with the words "F.I.A. Unmarked Car Pool" painted on it.
* In ''Film/ThePresidentsAnalyst'', soon after a paranoid Dr. Schaefer flees his job by ingratiating himself to a family of tourists who take him to their home, there's a big service van with a 'TPC' logo on the side parked on their neighborhood street. It doesn't really merit any notice, but toward the movie's end we find out 'TPC' is [[spoiler: The Phone Company, which has been tailing and finally abducting him.]]
* ''Film/ShootEmUp''. After a CarChase Smith's car is suddenly hit by a black van at the crossroads. Any belief that this might be an accident is dispelled when {{mook}}s stick their guns out the side doors. Then three more gunmen pop up in the sun roof.
* ''Best Seller'' (1987) opens with a long sequence of the robbers driving through the streets of Los Angeles in a black van. However they're not trying to be inconspicuous at all, [[HiddenInPlainSight as the van is fitted with loudspeakers broadcasting political slogans]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Also used in ''Literature/TheHandmaidsTale''; usually the [[SecretPolice Eyes]] drive in black vans only notable by the insignia they have on the side.
* One appeared in ''Literature/JohnnyAndTheBomb'', though it was more of a limousine.
* The short story [[http://www.stanleythewhale.com/StW/index.php/issue-1/issue-1-short-stories/45-the-van-on-atlantic-street "The Van on Atlantic Street"]] by Desmond Warzel. Though the van is white, it is in other respects an example of this trope.
* In Anne Fine's ''Old Bones'' the main character is followed around by a van, and is receiving numerous hate calls. As his secretary is very bad at writing messages and as he is quite distracted, he doesn't really connect the dots until after his house is burnt down.
* Parodied by Creator/DaveBarry in "The Columnist's Caper":
-->Some 2,347 miles away in East Berlin, a man and a woman, walked briskly eastward on [[AsLongAsItSoundsForeign Volkswagenkindergarten-pumpernikelstrasse]]. Talking intently, they did not notice the sleek black Mercedes sedan, its windows tinted almost black, as it turned off [[AsLongAsItSoundsForeign Hamburgerfrankfurterwienerschnitzelstrasse]] and came toward them from behind, picking up speed until, traveling at [[UnitConfusion 130 kilometers per microgram]], it roared into a parked garbage truck.\\
"Too much window tint," the woman said.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* The van driven by ''Series/TheATeam''.
* This is how [[BadassNormal Sandra Bennet]] reveals her [[CrouchingMoronHiddenBadass Hidden Badass]] in ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' volume 4, by noticing that TheMenInBlack have been staking out their house long before her daughter does, and gives us the above page quote.
* In the third season finale of ''Series/BurnNotice'', Michael tells Simon that he's seen a certain van circling the block and that it's probably an FBI vehicle watching them. When he goes to it [[spoiler: it's actually just a regular van transporting alcohol. Michael just needed to get out of Simon's line of sight to use the delivery boy's phone to call Sam and Fiona.]]
* Lampshaded with a vengeance in an early ''Series/{{Castle}}'' episode:
--->'''Castle, to an FBI Agent:''' [[DeadpanSnarker I like your van]]. [[SarcasmMode Very nondescript]].
* Frank's "Rape Van" from ''Series/ItsAlwaysSunnyInPhiladelphia''.
* The private investigator in ''Series/{{House}}'' also used an "ice cream truck" for spying purposes.
* The conspiracy in ''Series/{{Jekyll}}'' use a black van full of surveillance equipment to keep track of the protagonist -- who makes a point of mentioning how inconspicuous it ''isn't''. (Which may be the point, since -- although the van isn't just a decoy -- he turns out to also be under surveillance by several more genuinely inconspicuous methods.)
* The Three Nemeseses in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' have a black van, which is rather less stealthy after one has the idea of painting a ''StarWars'' mural on the side.
* Lampshaded in ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', where the heroic team of con-men are amused and astounded to find the FBI performing surveillance on a prominent mobster's home in a black van marked "Plumber." This is only the first sign of said FBI agents' affable incompetence.
* In ''Series/LittleMosqueOnThePrairie'', when an agent of the Canadian Secret Service came to Mercy on holiday, the Muslim community got paranoid, and Baber noticed a delivery truck outside the Mosque. He claims it's a stakeout, and there are three agents there, one of them called "Sarge", and they're drinking coffee out of paper cups. At the end of the episode, the Secret Service really start surveillance on the Mosque [[StrangeMindsThinkAlike there really are three agents there, drinking coffee out of paper cups, and one of them is called "Sarge"]]
* Series/{{Chuck}} has these on occasion.
-->'''Casey''': What is it with bad guys and vans?
* Used in some Earth-centric episodes of ''Series/StargateSG1'', though it's an unusual example because it's Our Heroes in the black vans, as they work for TheGovernment.
* ''Series/TheXFiles''. Inverted in "Dreamland" where TheMenInBlack travel in white 4WD's.
* The SUV in ''Series/{{Torchwood}}''. In "Children of Earth" the bad guys have these; lampshaded when Ianto thinks a mysterious dark van is tailing him -- it turns out to be delivering newspapers.
* The Actives from ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'' were ferried to and from their engagements in black vans. In keeping with the [[SpiesInAVan surveillance van motif]], the vans would remain nearby during the engagement so that handlers could monitor their assigned Active.
** In "Echoes" a team of Actives programmed into believing they're NSA investigators are sent to a college campus. They pull up in a line of three black vans, no doubt to play into this trope for anyone watching.
** Backfires in "Instinct" when Echo (programmed to believe she is a [[MamaBear mother with child]]) notices the black van parked outside her house for the past week and assumes something sinister -- her handler is unable to bring her in because Echo flees whenever she sees one.
* ''Series/{{Community}}'' - in ''Intro To Political Science'', a female Secret Service agent investigates Abed as a potential threat during an upcoming vice-presidential visit, and the two hit it off. Duty prevents her from getting involved, but the end tag shows them on a date of sorts, as he watches a movie on tv, and she monitors and talks with him from a surveillance van outside his window.
* The rumored "TV Detector" vans supposedly used by the RealLife [[Creator/TheBBC BBC]] [[note]]to detect televisions where the property owners had not paid the TV license required in the UK[[/note]] were invoked and parodied in ''Series/MontyPythonsFlyingCircus',' by the man applying for a pet fish license, describing his experience with the "cat detector van from the Ministry of 'Owzinje'[[note]]Housing[[/note]]".
** The "TV Detector" vans were PlayedWith in the ''DoctorWho'' story "Remembrance of the Daleks, in which they ''actually'' held alien-detecting equipment (specifically, its occupants were looking for UFOs. They ended up finding the Imperial Dalek mothership flying above Earth's atmosphere).
* In ''Series/ArrestedDevelopment'', surveillance vans have "Blendin" commercial markings; Blendin Moving and Storage, Blendin Catering, Blendin Electric, and Blendin Pet Grooming are all seen (the latter two apparently on left and right sides of the same van).
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Professional Wrestling]]
* This is how Wrestling/SamoaJoe disappeared when he was abducted by ninjas.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The Cleaners' vans in ''VideoGame/MaxPayne 2''.
* There are some Vans In Black in ''VideoGame/MirrorsEdge'' but seeing how you more often take the roofs, they are much less prominent than {{Black Helicopter}}s.
* The weird black vans throughout the first levels of ''TheSimpsonsHitAndRun''. [[spoiler: It turns out they're only pizza vans.]]
* An absurdly oversized van in ''VideoGame/SilentHillOrigins'' (it's just a prop, but somebody forgot to scale it correctly) is treated as this in a LetsPlay.
* The famous MilkmanConspiracy level in ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'' doesn't have the classical black vans, but it has the next best thing: huge black limos... with radar dishes on top.
* Black Vans appear occasionally in VideoGame/DeusEx, along with Black Helicopters.
* Get a 5-star wanted level in ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoViceCity'' and ''VideoGame/GrandTheftAutoSanAndreas'' and the FBI will come after you in black tinted SUV's. Probably the best time to retreat to a safehouse before [[TankGoodness the army]] shows up.
* Agency vans in ''VideoGame/SyphonFilter 2''.
* After Max becomes president in ''SamAndMax Season 1'', a truck with the label, "Secret Serv-ice Cream" remains parked outside the duo's apartment.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* Lampshaded in [[http://www.sluggy.com/daily.php?date=090519 this strip]] of ''Webcomic/SluggyFreelance''.
* Although the van is not black, the concept is spoofed in [[http://scarygoround.com/sgr/ar.php?date=20080801 this]] ''ScaryGoRound'' strip, where the van has ''[[PaperThinDisguise Unmarked Van Hire]]'' plainly written on its side.
* In ''Webcomic/TheInexplicableAdventuresOfBob,'' Agent Ben And Agent Jerry, the local TheMenInBlack, have a big black van [[OvertOperative plainly labeled "F.B.I. Undercover."]] It has been referred to as "the MIB-Mobile" and "the Paranormal Paddy-Wagon."
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''KateModern'', a black van is the preferred mode of transport of the sinister Watcher.
* In ''WebVideo/LG15TheResistance'', black vans are used by villain groups [=LifesBlood Labs=] and [[spoiler:the Order]], mainly for the purpose of kidnapping.
* FourChan calls it a party van. [[SarcasmMode Sounds fun!]]
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'':
** In the episode ''Bart the Murderer'', a government agency surveillance team is hiding out in a florist van. The florist's name: [[FunWithAcronyms Flowers By Irene]].
** Earlier, Marge had noticed a pizza van that had been parked outside the Simpsons's house for days. After Marge asks 'How long does it take to deliver a Pizza?' it zooms off to be replaced by the van above.
** Parodied again with similar vans labeled CIA, FBI, and ATF, which here stand for "Chinese Intelligence Agency", "French Bureau of Investigation", and "[[Series/TheATeam A-Team]] of Finland".
** In one episode Homer is sent into the Kwik-E-Mart with a hidden camera by the Channel 6 news team, which is monitoring him from a van parked out front, with "Ordinary Van" painted on the outside.
* Crocker in ''WesternAnimation/TheFairlyOddParents'' used a fairy tracking van disguised as an ice cream truck at least once. This proved horribly ineffective since he was immediately mobbed by kids. To drive them away, he converted the van into a spinach truck... and was immediately mobbed by [[{{Popeye}} sailors]] instead.
* ''WesternAnimation/JonnyQuest'' TOS episode "The Quetong Missile Mystery". When the Quests drive away from their ship, we see a van with surveillance equipment inside that was keeping an eye on them. It drives off after them when they leave. It was sent by General Fong to keep watch on them.
* ''WesternAnimation/{{Superfriends}} 1973''/74 episode "The Balloon People". Dr. Noah Tall uses his spy van the "Snoop Wagon" to perform surveillance before he attempts to kidnap the Balloonians.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* The "[[http://www.thenevskywall.com/wp-content/themes/pdawn-10/images/black-ravens.jpg Black Ravens]]" ([[http://www.autogallery.org.ru/gaz-m1.jpg GAZ M vans]]) in which Stalin's NKVD agents moved around.
* The legendary black Volga of Polish urban legends (not a van but a sedan) serve the same purpose.
** A 1990s article in a British magazine tested a metallic-tan GAZ-21 Volga; it was remarked that the car had originally been black and had to be repainted due to black Volgas' association with the KGB.
* The [[http://www.englishrussia.com/images/oldtimers1/chaik1.jpg Chaika]] was a car that looked like a sinister black Checker cab and was reserved for important operations. However, the Chaika was more often used as a limousine for the Party top brass, which is something you don't mess with but not immediately dangerous.
* More often than not, RealLife surveillance vans are ''white'' since that's by far the most common color for commercial vans (being the easiest color for non-surveillance fleet users to put their logo in vinyl tape on dozens/hundreds of).
* There are persistent rumours that Creator/TheBBC once operated -and perhaps still does operate- a fleet of these equipped with sophisticated electronic equipment that could detect an active cathode ray tube in order to catch people who hadn't paid their television license. Evidence gathered by this technology has never been produced in court, and nobody seems to know how these devices could actually work, so the whole story is widely believed to be a complete fabrication to encourage compliance. Magical telly-detectors or not, TV license vans parked outside houses are a common scare tactic.
* The United States Secret Service uses black Chevrolet Suburbans (or similar vehicles) with tinted windows in the Presidential motorcade, as do many other U.S. government agencies like the FBI.
[[/folder]]
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