All Bikers Are Hell's Angels
"When we do right, nobody remembers. When we do wrong, nobody forgets."
— Official motto of the Hells Angels
Whenever motorcyclists are depicted in movies or on TV, with few exceptions they are portrayed as brutish thugs and criminals. This stems from the mystique of the classic "outlaw biker" of American culture. After World War II, motorcycle clubs became increasingly popular, especially with returning soldiers and airmen. In 1947, unruly bikers attending a rally in Hollister, CA caused the so-called Hollister riot
. Sensationalized stories of the event resulted in the public perception that packs of bikers were looting and pillaging small towns across the country. The stories inspired the classic 1953 film The Wild One
, which launched Marlon Brando
's career and permanently ingrained the outlaw biker into pop culture.
The classic outlaw biker is a big, burly, grizzled man wearing a leather jacket and riding a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Outlaw bikers almost always belong to a biker gang. Members of biker gangs wear the colors of their gang: a vest over their jacket that displays their gang name, insignia, and area of operation. Most gangs also have a system of patches that indicate members' various accomplishments and duties. White supremacist beliefs and symbols, while fairly common, are not ubiquitous. Female outlaw bikers are called "mamas" or "old ladies" and tend to occupy a second class position. Bikers live for wild parties and extremely hard drinking. They support their nomadic lifestyle with the drug trade. Classic weapons of an outlaw biker include clubs, chains, and knives. Many real-world bikers carry large maglights because legally they are not considered weapons. The best way to piss off a biker is to wear your own "colors" displaying another gang's turf as your home city. The ultimate crime, however, is knocking over their motorcycles
Contrary to public perception, most bikers are normal, law-abiding citizens. The American Motorcycle Association famously insisted that only one percent of motorcycle riders are troublemakers. Outlaw bikers quickly adopted the phrase "one percenter"note
as a badge of honor, choosing to see themselves as members of an exclusive elite. And even amongst one-percenter motorcycle clubs, only four have been designated by the FBI (and Canada's CIS) as actual organized criminal gangs: the Bandidos, Hells Angels, Outlaws, and Pagans.
It didn't take long for the outlaw biker trope to be exported to other countries. Currently the Hells Angels boast membership across 27 countries, though additional regional variants on the outlaw biker do exist. In The Sixties, British "Rocker" gangs made headlines for their violent clashes with the scooter-riding Mods, but quickly faded away. Modern European bikers tend to fit closer to the "sportbike punks" style and are usually dangerous only to themselves. Japanese "Bosozoku" gangs mostly just enjoy making a lot of noise.
One staple subversion is the grizzled old biker who's really a softy
; likely with a tattoo declaring his love for his mom
. This is really closer to Truth in Television
than any sort of subversion.
See also Badass Biker
Note: The name of the Hells Angels gang has no apostrophe. They are also very proactive when it comes to asserting their various trademarks, using the law to protect their outlaw image.
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Anime & Manga
- Even in Anime, bikers are often seen as much more bark than bite. Yousuke Eguchi, hero of the old-school anime Shonan Bakusozoku has two loves, bikes and knitting.
- Ken Nakajima's dad from You're Under Arrest! is a biker to the bone and tends to hang out with large groups of other bikers (much closer to the American version than the Japanese one). But he rides a Ducati.
- 80% of the enemies Kenshiro faces fall into this trope. With the added bonus of being, on average, at least ten feet tall. The series was partially based on Mad Max.
- AKIRA features two violent outlaw biker gangs: Kaneda's gang of delinquents and the Clowns. The general suckiness of the world justifies the trope somewhat. Due to being set in Japan, they are based on Bouzoku gangs more than the actual Hells Angels.
- Encountered in Cromartie High School on several occasions: Masked Takenouchi defeats a whole bike gang at Cromartie using the art of pillow-jutsu, and the real Takenouchi, on overcoming his own motion sickness, manages to devastate one of them, to the point where its leader quits and tries to get revenge on Takenouchi on his own.
- While Keiichi Morisato is a motorcycle enthusiast, this is Keiichi Morisato we're talking about. Of course, some argue he's a scary character for other reasons.
- Beelzebumon from Digimon Tamers (irony included in his name). Leather jacket? Check. Monster motorcycle? Check. Badass? Check. Topping it off, he's got a pair of shotguns.
- Averted... oddly, in Eye Shield 21. When the Devil Bats are on their Death March across America, Sena gets separated and meets up with a thuggish trio of bikers. Turns out the trio are actually middle-aged adults who love Asian dramas and take a liking to Sena because he reminds them of a certain Korean film, and are more than glad to take them to where (they think) he needs to be.
- An early story arc of City Hunter has the Blue Oysters, who both invoke and parody the trope. They invoke it in being a delinquent gang on bikes, but parody it by being a bunch of idiots, put together by the son of a Yakuza boss in the attempt to impress the girl he's supposed to marry. The girl Face Palmed upon finding out who led the Blue Oysters, and treathened to put him in the hospital again while calling him a moron.
- In Me and Joe Priest, the bikers roving around infertile and slowly dying America are mostly former U.S. soldiers looking for "experiences". One of them is the narrator and co-protagonist (i.e., "Me").
- Lobo embraces this trope wholeheartedly, but in space!
- Wolverine of X-Men rides a couple. In X-Men: Evolution he has two that change with his costume. While he is an X-Man, he is an Anti-Hero so he's no goody-toe-shoes, either.
- Ghost Rider is a hellish incarnation of your basic motorbike thug.
- Man-Thing has to fight a few of these when they threaten Steve Gerber's unlucky Author Avatar.
- Ronin features two racist motorcycle gang rivals. The comic takes place After the End where this trope is often played out heavily.
- The main cast of Joe Bar Team are bikers, but definitely not Hells Angels. The opposite, in fact.
- The bikers who hang out at Hawg Waller's in Knights of the Dinner Table seem to fit this stereotype. They're mostly confused by the gamers who have adopted the place as their local watering hole.
- The bikers who works as 'kidnappers for hire' in the Modesty Blaise arc "Samantha and the Cherub".
Films — Live-Action
- Subverted in one of Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, possibly Inca Gold, in which Dirk and Loren run into a biker gang in Mexico, who turn out to be members of an American law firm who are on retreat.
- In Coyote Blue, Calliope's ex-boyfriend is a member of a Hells Angel's-type biker group.
- In Charles de Lint's Jack of Kinrowan, the Wild Hunt incarnate in modern-day Ottawa as black-clad, mirror-visored bikers on Harley-Davidsons. Subverted when Jackie frees the Hunt and discovers that they are decent beings, righteously angry at the Big Bad about being used for cruelty.
- Outlaw biker gangs (along with Dirty Communists) are the standard villains in The Survivalist (an After the End series of adventure novels by Jerry Ahern). However, when Paul Rubenstein makes a derogatory comment about bikers, the hero John Rouke points out that they're also on motorcycles.
- Good Omens has its literal "Hells Angels," the four Bikers of the Apocalypse: War, Famine, Death, and Pollution (Pestilence having retired due to penicillin). The Four Horsemen end up with four actual Hells Angels tagging along for, as it was, the ride. However, it's noted that not all bikers are Hells Angels. "If there's one thing real Hells Angels can't abide, it's weekend bikersnote ".
- The second Able Team novel had an outlaw biker gang seizing control of Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles. A later Mack Bolan informational book published a letter from two biker fans complaining about how all bikers were portrayed as outlaws.
- Hunter S. Thompson wrote Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, for which the gonzo journalist spent a year in close association with the Hells Angels. Thompson even invited members of the gang into his home. Ultimately he was beaten up by several members of the gang. He still maintained friendly relations with some of his closer contacts. Ironically, Thompson misspells the Hells Angels gang name throughout the book.
- The protagonist of Damnation Alley is the last survivor of a post-apocalyptic Hells Angels stand-in.
- In A Phule and his Money, Chocolate Harry has some trouble with a biker gang call the Renegades for messing with their hovercycles, back when he himself was still a biker. They fit the trope to a 't'.
- The A-plot villains from Brigand's MC and from the start of Shadow Wave were this trope; violent bikers who controlled a seaside town through fear, got into large battles with other clubs at rallies and were involved in gun running. Also the gun runner/technology thief from earlier book Maximum Security built her criminal empire up from one of these.
- In The Millennium Trilogy, Lisbeth Salander runs afoul of a Swedish biker gang that is acting tough in an effort to be "patched over" as an Angels charter.
- The PCHers from Veronica Mars.
- Subverted in an episode of Northern Exposure, where the elderly Ruth-Anne falls in with what appears to be a gang of Hells Angels, who are later revealed to be a bunch of middle-aged professionals.
- In The Fugitive episode "The Devil's Disciples", the title characters were a Fictional Counterpart of the Hells Angels.
- Subverted by "Sid's Cycle/Psycho Show", which follows the titular Sid around North America. While he is quite large and has a custom bike, he's a nice guy who often enters bike competitions for charity.
- As the season 6 opener to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sunnydale was ravaged by a demon biker gang.
- The episode "Hog Wild" from The Greatest American Hero features Bill and Ralph running afoul of a biker gang. Something of a subversion in that the gang-leader proves himself to be quite shrewd and cunning.
- The Sons Of Anarchy features the eponymous California-based motorcycle gang, which finances itself in the blackmarket arms trade. The members of the Charming chapter are completely capable of violence and murder, but are also more moral than other outlaw bikers, having formed a truce with the local police and community. Other chapters of the gang, as well as other gangs in the area, are little more than thugs. The show occasionally shows the contrast between outlaw bikers and regular bikers. Real Hells Angels members, including Sonny Barger and Chuck Zito, have appeared in the series.
- Two desperate biker gangs, both of the Hells Angels variety, invade a town in Knight Rider. Among their badness is that they trash a local bully's van and terrorize the community. Of course, when they try pushing around Michael Knight, they should have gotten the hint when they try trashing the indestructible KITT that they are taking more than they can handle. Averted in another episode involving motocross (there's one villainous biker in the whole bunch, and he's not a Hells Angel), and any episode featuring RC3's elderly motorcycle.
- In an episode of the Disney Channel original series Good Luck Charlie, P.J. and Bob meet a gruff biker couple who threaten to gut them like fish when they try to steal their motorcycles. Subverted when the man starts bawling like a baby when Bob explains that they need the bikes to get to the hospital for the delivery of his newest child.
- One episode of The Sopranos had Tony and Christopher coming across two bikers stealing fine wine. When they decide to steal the wine from them, the bikers arrogantly proclaim, "We're with The Vipers!" Tony and Christopher are naturally unimpressed.
- Subverted in an episode of Big Wolf on Campus. Tommy and Merton spend an episode trying to protect a nerd from a scary-looking biker guy. Turns out, the nerd is a demon who wants to open the Gates Of Hell and the scary biker guy? He's a professional demon hunter.
- On Intelligence, a Vancouver biker gang called the Disciples are the main competitition of the criminal protagonist. They are portrayed as being in all ways worse than he is: meaner, greedier, more violent, and involved in worse forms of criminal conduct (for example, dealing cocaine).
- Subverted on the short-lived show Drive. The badass-looking people riding the black Harley turn out to be an old couple once they take off their face-concealing helmets.
- Subverted with BBC 2's The Hairy Bikers. Dave and Si look the part - but they're presenting a cooking show.
- In The Straits, the Montebello's main suppliers for drugs are a biker gang.
- In Burn Notice, this is subverted in the final analysis. The show does feature outlaw bikers (Fiona gets some information out of them in the season 3 finale), but our heroes deal mainly with Miami's seamy underside. Carla, Michael's handler in season 2, rides a cruiser bike, and Mike "borrows" motorcycles a couple of times (the second time from a good-size parking row containing bikes of all shapes and sizes).
- Double Subverted in a weird way in the season 2 premiere of Person of Interest. The people hunting John and the POI on motorcycles aren't Hells Angels. They're Aryan Brotherhood instead.
- In the Supernatural episode "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" (S09, Ep01), Castiel tells a biker with a bandana, beard, and vest with embroidered patches, to hang up so Castiel can use the phone. When Castiel's angelic smiting powers fail him, the biker says he will stab Castiel as soon as he is done with his call.
- The subject of the song "Leave the Biker" by Fountains of Wayne is described as a crass, unlettered thug . . . by the singer who envies him his attractive girlfriend.
- The Austrian bikers in the music video of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus" were the local chapter Hells Angels.
- Since mid-2012, a gang of bikers has been invading TNA going by the identity and calling card of the Aces and Eights.
- The Car Wars setting is After the End (sort of), when the roads are so dangerous that giant packs of bikers will group together for mutual protection.
- In the Shadowrun game's version of the future, Combat Biker is a professional team sport with a continent-wide following. It resembles capture-the-flag, but played on motorcycles, in an arena chock full of obstacles and half-pipes ... and with weapons. Many top-scoring players are recruited from violent biker gangs, and bring their brutal street-tactics to the field.
- In the Lucas Arts adventure game Full Throttle, the bikers mostly follow the Hells Angels variety, showing a great deal of disregard for traffic laws and personal property, and the main character is a wanted man. The Cavefish, however, are a bizarre subterranean biker cult riding crotch-rockets.
- Hitman (by Eidos Interactive)... lots of rather amusing biker stuff in Hitman: Contracts. The gang itself is Dutch, as many American biker gangs have spread their membership into Europe.
- Francis from Left 4 Dead is a riff on this trope, being a grizzled biker who's itching for a fight and treats the Zombie Apocalypse as the world's largest bar fight. He also has a professed hatred for cops (and doctors, and lawyers, and small towns, and Ayn Rand, etc.) Like any good Hells Angel, however, he sticks with his pack, and sounds particularly upset when his fellow survivors die.
- Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned follows a One Percenter outlaw gang that Niko interacts with during the main storyline. Mostly played straight, but the game does show some of the wannabes. Also true to the trope, Johnny meets and befriends a black biker who prefers crotch rockets, and the two trade insults about their choice of ride.
- In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Tommy can receive sidequests from a very Hells Angels-esque biker gang.
- Kanji from Persona 4 single handedly beats up an entire biker gang because they kept his mother up at night. You specifically find this out when a big-city news network tries to do a spot on the gang. ...Only to get yelled at and threatened by Kanji. The network naturally assumes that he's one of the gang.
- In Pokémon Fire Red and Leaf Green, a gang of bikers takes over one of the islands and the player has to get rid of them. However, a few of the biker-trainers you encounter are actually pretty friendly. One of them in HeartGold and SoulSilver even prefers to battle using the cute Teddiursa rather than the standard Koffing or Muk.
- The final pet of the Thugs powerset in City of Villains has a summon animation of riding a motorbike. Gets really weird when he rides it in places he shouldn't like office buildings, night clubs, sewers, and ancient cities.
- The Fire Barons of Brütal Legend are molotov-chucking Bikers that are actually on the side of the heroes. Inverted with the Kill Master and his men, who are bikers that heal friendly units and do not have any damage-dealing capability at all.
- Police Quest has a group of rude bikers hanging at the bar that you, a cop, has to force them to move their motorcycles out of the neighboring business' parking space. Not using the nightstick on the leader gets you beaten to death.
- The biker gangs of Rogue Survivor, to a man. Their motorcycles are nowhere to be seen, but they have the requisite leather jackets, melee weapons, and psychopathic disregard for all other forms of life (or unlife).
- The Vulture in Starcraft features two variants on this; in Starcraft the Vulture pilots were young, obnoxious punks with delinquent trappings, while in Starcraft II they were replaced with older, more laid-back bikers; still trouble. They also give a nod with the "Hel's Angels", a group of Viking pilots who are pirates and mercenaries.
- Also referenced with the picture of "Heaven's Devils" on the board of the Mar Sara bar. This was Raynor's old unit when he was in the Confederacy, as well as the title of the novel about Raynor's back story. It's also the name of the music that plays during Terran missions. Raynor's hero unit in SC 1 is usually portrayed as a vulture.
- One Survival mission in Saints Row The Third has you fighting off a biker gang.
- Subverted in Wapsi Square, the young Monica encounters some bikers who turn out to be decent folks.
- Averted in real life by the overwhelming majority of motorcyclists who obey the law, as well as by a number of motorcycle organizations that do charity work.
- A notable example would be the "Patriot Guard," a group of riders who go to military funerals picketed by the odious Fred Phelps and proceed to merrily picket him, drowning out his group's rants with the sound of their engines.
- Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are easily Hollywood's most famous bikers and both used their lengthy trips to support UNICEF's work in Asia and Africa.
- The group Bikers Against Child Abuse take full advantage of the mean, tough-as-nails image of the biker, by befriending children who have survived abuse and taking them under their leather-bound, spike-studded wing. That means staking out at schools or even all night at a house, always being on hand if the child needs to talk to someone, and attending trials and law proceedings. It's harder to feel scared when the scariest-looking people in the room are on your side.
- And even amongst one-percenter motorcycle clubs, only four have been designated by the FBI (and Canada's CIS) as actual organized criminal gangs: the Bandidos, Hells Angels, Outlaws, and Pagans. While racial homogeny is common, only some have connections to white supremacist organizations. And although few women are patch-wearing members of the club, they are generally protected by their own men.
- Truth in Television to the degree that outlaw motorcycle gangs do in fact exist and have spread across the world. Outlaw gangs are often highly active in the drug trade, well-armed, and very violent. Some of the more infamous incidents involving biker gangs include:
- The Altamont Free Concert, where Hells Angels provided security and have been blamed for agitating the crowd, which ultimately resulted in a young man drawing a gun and getting stabbed to death by an Angel.
- The Milperra massacre in Sydney in 1984.
- Incidents in the Scandinavian gang-war between Hells Angels and their rival Bandidos have included RPG's being fired at rival houses.
- In 2006 six Canadian Bandidos and two associates were killed near Shedden, Ontario. Six other Bandidos were found guilty of the murders while a seventh testified against them. The six convicted bikers included a neo-Nazi, an ex-police officer and a black belt martial artist. The killings were an internal feud between the Toronto and Winnipeg chapters that escalated out of control, with the disarmed victims being executed one at a time.
- Rival Hells Angels and Mongols crossing paths in a Laughlin casino sparked a gunfight that left three dead.
- Satan's Choice are famous for trafficking cocaine and blowing up a police station in Hamilton Ontario Canada around December 15th 1996. They have ties to the United Nations gang from Vancouver, British Columbia and to a Gravelle Family that apparently was responsible for a lot of the country's crime.
- Terry Pratchett once illustrated the wide variety in his readers by saying that he was once at a signing where a little old lady told him she'd been chatting to two Hells Angels and they turned out to be really nice people. "I think she meant the two guys behind her in perfectly respectable biker gear, but it cheered me up."
- The Australian biker groups Rebels and Outlaws, while likely maintaining the 1-percenter tag, have a history of violent criminal clashes and gang wars, though individual members and the God Squad more accurately fit the real life mold of bike: tough men and women who are motorcycle enthusiasts but decent folk.
- Oddly averted in Mexico, despise the country's closeness with the States, for some reasons:
- Unlike Americans, Mexican bikers prefers smaller bikes, like scooters or cheaper Chinese models, since those bikes are more practical and faster than Harleys for everyday work.
- In Mexico, the Badass Biker stereotype is normally someone using a faster, Japanese-made bike like Honda, Suzuki and similar ones. The most famous ones sold in Mexico are the Kawasaki brand, especially the Kawasaki Ninja model.
- On the other hand, while the Harley-Davidson brand is not unpopular there, the stereotype is different: Since Harleys are more expensive than their Chinese and Japanese peers, not to mention being slower than those bikes, it's normally used by older people who only love to use those bikes just for the fun of it, rather for the thrill of using a faster one, like many younger people do with the Asian models.
- Other stereotype related with the Harley brand in Mexico is because those bikes are commonly used by Mexican patrolmen, rather than fanboys or criminals. And you can thank Pedro Infante for that.
- In fact, while there's some biker gangs there, they are normally are engaged in minor crimes, like theft. Mayor criminal gangs prefer to use cars and SUVs instead, since using a bike is an easy way to get you killed in a gunfight, especially against drug cartels.
- In Germany the different Biker Gangs have come to broader attention after several turf wars. Several Chapters have been outright banned, others dissolved themselves and reformed somewhere else. Also the newer generation has a different stance on loyalty, several chapters have swapped sides if the other gang made a better offer.
- William Queen's work infiltrating the Mongol biker gang.
- In South Africa, was once Truth in Television, but after some unproductive conflict, most of the 1% clubs decided to keep a lower profile. Should you encounter a one-percenter, you shouldn't have any sort of trouble as long as you behave curteously. Simply put, don't mess with them and they won't mess with you. Unnecessary/unprovoked violence - especially against non-bikers - is frowned upon by almost all of the 1% clubs. That being said, there are plenty of clubs known as "social clubs", which are simply groups of people who enjoy riding motorcycles together.