Fiona: The Miami gun smugglers and the Miami people smugglers? They don't get along. And I've always been more of a gun person.As we all know, thieves are often found among the lowest criminals you're likely see in any given media. Their gifts, lying outside usual law-abiding social circles, mean little room for real friendship. Yet even among such lowly figures we occasionally see the admirable virtues of loyalty and honor. When most don't want to have their back, they've got someone looking out for them. They could be family, lovers or childhood friends, but in the end outlaws take allies wherever they can find them. Even the more selfish thief may recognize strength in numbers increases his own chances for survival. Over time even the cynic comes to value allies beyond self-preservation and even realizes The Power of Friendship. In rare cases, like-minded individuals may even have formed a guild based on a rough sense of honor and prestige. The ultimate test of this honor usually comes when the chips are down and the law is at the doorstep. Expect Villainous Valour, last stands and even last-minute heroics. All of which firmly seals that rare moment when mere thieves show loyalty above and beyond expectations. Bonus points if this unexpected loyalty comes as a shock to those hunting down said criminal, especially if the thief in question has never cared for anyone but himself. In its purest form this trope sets out to show that deep down even criminals have some good in them. See also Even Evil Has Loved Ones. And usually a case of Moral Myopia. A subtrope of Evil Virtues. Then again, some thieves, having chosen a life of lawlessness and anarchy, elicit no more trust from each other than they do from the general populace. Then there are also those thieves who display loyalty only due to Pragmatic Villainy. If you are known as a dependable competent professional, you get jobs. If you are known as a backstabbing narcing sociopath, no one will work with you or do business with you. Compare Gentleman Thief, Loveable Rogue, Classy Cat-Burglar and Scoundrel Code. Thieves' Guild is this trope made official. For the Sly Cooper game, see here.
Sam: Sure as hell not a people person.
Sam: Sure as hell not a people person.
— Burn Notice, "Truth and Reconciliation".
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Anime and Manga
- Antihero example in From Eroica with Love. Art thief Dorian views his crew as more family than anything else. They even have team t-shirts. The collection of rogues who attend his convention are also pretty civil and protective of each other
- Another antihero one in Lupin III and his henchmen, Jigen and Goemon. The three have evolved over time to become a close-knit group loyal to each other, almost until death in some cases. If one of them does betray the others, there's usually a damn good reason behind it. In contrast is the fourth member and Femme Fatale Fujiko, who usually suffers from Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. However, when things get serious, she can be found right alongside Lupin.
- My Bride Is a Mermaid: The Seto Gang have their own code of honor. In the first episode, Sun tells Gozaburo that killing someone for no reason is just as bad as breaking the masquerade according to the mob code, and in episode 14, Maki saves the kitten from drowning because it saved her from being trampled, saying that she always pays back what she owes.
- Subverted in Birds of Prey as Mafia Princess Helena Bertinelli is more than familiar with the concepts of criminal "honor" and hates the very concept, since all it does is provides excuses and justifications for their actions. This comes to a head when Black Canary and Lady Shiva are forced to fight a duel to the death over an affair of honor involving yet another criminal, the White Canary, and the end result is just that people will die for no good reason.
- All Things Probable Series, Team Probable is a group of mercenaries who hire themselves out to villains, typically to steal something or to run interference while their client steals something. They are also a close-knit group of friends who genuinely care about each other. The author's notes indicate that this was a deliberate aversion of the common stereotype of villains as Dirty Cowards afflicted with Chronic Backstabbing Disorder. Basically avoiding the more common No Honor Among Thieves.
- In Memento Vivere, a Final Fantasy X fanfiction, Rikku has to prove this to Auron several times.
- According to Jen in Princess of the Blacks that there's a sort of "professional courtesy" among black wizards. It seems to amount to not intentionally interfering with each others operations, not selling each other out, and not killing each other. After Voldemort's resurrection, she notes that she would have lied to Fudge and hidden Voldemort's return if he hadn't tried to kill her.
- West of the Kingdom Hearts fic Reconnected is a pickpocket, but largely limits her targets to those who have hurt her; for example, stealing potions and items from enemies in the heat of battle. She is also a perky Genki Girl who serves as Riku's Love Interest and easily fits in with Sora and his True Companions.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, there's a group of infamous criminals called the Seven Brothers of Orre, who made a pact of not to rat the others and not to have any children, ever. The second youngest of them, named Felgrand, is not happy to learn that one of them hasn't been keeping his word on the latter part.
- Borderline in ''GoodFellas". For the most part it's not, but they do appear to bond at times. Like when Tommy asks Henry advice on a bigoted girl she's dating who doesn't like Italians.
- In The Asphalt Jungle, the actual thieves are always honorable with each other even after the "caper" falls apart. Gus is already known as the man who won't squeal, and Dix is as ready to advance money to Doc as Gus was ready to advance it to Dix. The backstabbing comes from their backers.
- Plunkett & Macleane:
- highwayman Plunkett returns to rescue Macleane from hanging despite the latter having spent their hard-stolen cash on hookers and gambling. Not only an example of this trope but also display of outright Honor Before Reason.
- In the films beginning Plunketts young partner refuses to give him up, despite being tortured by Chance.
- The pirates from the Pirates of the Caribbean have laws, policies, a code of ethics, a bureaucracy, and even a Pirate Council that presides over all of this. They're ways are just a clear case of Blue and Orange Morality, since they see killing and pillaging as not just okay, but a way of life. Of course, said "laws" are really more guidelines than actual rules as far as some pirates are concerned.
- Of course, the one time the "Guidelines" aspect comes up, there are still strict rules in play:
- The first time was when the person invoking the Pirate's Code was not a pirate (the person who was was a pirate).
- The next time was the same character invoking this lesson to the other pirates who were about to invoke their rule "He who falls behind gets left behind". Of course, she might not be a pirate, but they are, so they keep to the code.
- The final time was a character using this to justify outright ditching the rules because they are guidelines. Unfortunately, he said this infront of the Keeper and Arbiter of the rules, who promptly shot him, thus shutting up anyone who thought otherwise. Turns out they're only guidelines when there is no one about to see them become guidelines. They are rules otherwise.
- Of course, the one time the "Guidelines" aspect comes up, there are still strict rules in play:
- Neil's team of robbers in Heat are mostly this. Despite some bad habits, they usually watch out for each other. Except for Waingro, who is too inhuman to count. Furthermore, it's Neil's adherence to this trope that makes him abandon his usual self-preserving pragmatism when the law is at his heels in order to avenge his friend.
- Ocean's Eleven. Especially obvious in Ocean's 13.
You shook Sinatra's hand. You should know better.
- The Wild Bunch are hardened criminals with few scruples but in the end decide that they are tired of being treated as if they have no honor and take bloody revenge for the murder of their friend though it gets them all killed
- Played straight in Reservoir Dogs. When White accuses Mr Blonde of trying to rob the diamonds, Nice Guy reprimands him for it, reminding White of the loyalty that Blonde had shown them. Which makes sense because in the end, it's revealed that Mr Orange was indeed the one who was an undercover cop.
- Nice Guy Eddie: "He could've fuckin' walked. All he had to do was say my dad's name, but he didn't; he kept his fucking mouth shut. And did his fuckin' time, and he did it like a man. He did four years for us."
- In Rififi the four jewel thieves are good friends who cheerfully ask each other after the robbery what each is going to do with their share of the loot. César betrays the other three to the Big Bad, but only at the point of a gun, and the other three stick together until the end.
- Parodied in Guardians of the Galaxy, where the Ravagers claim to have a code, which is "steal from everyone else".
- Played straight in the sequel, which explicitly states Ravagers having a code, with "no children trafficking" being one of rules, something Yondu has disrespected in the past.
- The Gentleman Bastards are extremely loyal to other criminals who have the same principles as they do. On the other hand they have no problem being disloyal to and cheating criminals who have gone beyond what the Bastards consider is decent behaviour.
- The Mandalorians in the Republic Commando novels and short stories. Except of course for the evil ones. Likewise, Bounty Hunters have an informal code of conduct and honor among themselves. It helps that many of the bounty hunting traditions in the 'verse originated from the Mando'ade, and that Mandos (including the Fetts) are heavily represented among the best of the profession.
- Kelsier's crew in Mistborn. Vin has been raised to believe that there is No Honor Among Thieves, and spends the first act wondering what Kelsier is trying to pull on her.
- Barbarians like Cohen in the Discworld books have a number of rules of conduct among them, which they rely on to protect them as "heroes" - the sort known for grand deeds, not good ones, since they're perfectly willing to pillage and rob "soft" civilized folk, or rob temples of gods but never rob the grave of a fallen hero. You obey the rules or else they stop protecting you. Even the villains they face follow rules, like hiring the most stupid mooks, have easily breakable dungeon cells, and giving the Hero a chance to escape because by the rules, the villain can exit stage left. If the villain doesn't follow these rules, the hero might just not let them live to have a second go at things.
- In the Parker novels, Parker has a rigid code of honour, in that A) he will absolutely not double-cross another professional criminal with whom he is working, unless B) if anyone tries to double-cross him, Parker will unhesitatingly undertake to exact a thorough and brutal revenge.
- Discussed Trope in Zhuangzi's On Thievery; he uses this trope as an argument that Even Evil Has Standards.
Live Action TV
- Earl and his gang from My Name Is Earl, mostly. (During the Flashback bits when they stole stuff that is). One episode played with this a bit. They establish that thieves don't steal from thieves, but when Earl finds out his former friend stole from him now that he'd "turned good", he figured if he wasn't part of that group anymore, he can break their rule on "snitching." This action is treated by other lowlives as even more of a betrayal than simply ceasing criminal activity. In the end, they all cave from light police pressure and snitch on each other, indicating their thieves' code was never that strong to begin with.
- An episode of Kung Fu in China featured a thief with the qualities of this trope. It works out pretty well for him.
- The crew from Firefly, especially Mal.
Mal: "Now, this is all the money Niska gave us in advance. You bring it back to him. Tell him the job didn't work out. We're not thieves. But we are thieves. Point is, we're not takin' what's his."
- While it is implied that some thieves operate that way, such as Mal's old war buddy Monty, it is also heavily implied that many of them don't, in particular Mal's on-and-off employer Badger. Niska firmly stands behind his own warped version of this trope, making him a very dangerous enemy after Mal returned his money and thus failed to do the job he gave his word that he'd do.
- The protagonists of Hustle have a strict honour system and are loyal to each other and other members of the trade.
- Uncle Jack from Breaking Bad, who, while being a ruthless hardened criminal and leading a gang of Professional Killers, treats his patners-in-crime as a family and absolutely abhors snitches and liars.
- It actually comes up a lot. Walter's own waffling on this trope causes no end of trouble for him.
- Burn Notice
- Michael Weston used to be a spy, or as some call it a thief on the government's salary, and still regularly pushes or even breaks the law to help his friends and the helpless people who come to him. He acts this way from a combination of loyalty to his higher ideals and his own abusive childhood which makes him staying back and letting the little person be hurt very hard to do. He spends much of the series trying to get his job back in the US Government because one, he is innocent of the crimes they burned him for, and two he wants to protect his country and family.
- Fiona Glenanne is a former IRA bombing expert. Much like Michael, she has lines she wouldn't cross even in her worst days after a tragedy drove her to terrorism. This includes not harming kids. While she wasn't on a friendly relationship with both Michael (her ex-boyfriend) and Sam Axe (he ruined one of her business dealings when he was with the government) over the series, she grows to be a very loyal and fierce friends to both. To save Michael from his own desires to do anything to save her from a tragic mistake she makes thanks to a manipulative villain, she willingly turns herself into the FBI for blowing up part of a British Consulate.
- Sam Ax is a former Navy Seal. He is a fierce and loyal man. Threaten his friends and he will get angry very quickly. He will go to many lengths to help his friends or the family of friends, including some not-so-legal phone work to help locate a missing cop buddy, to when he saves a kidnapped Fionna, who was close to escaping anyway, and slams one kidnapper's head into a wall making a head-shape-whole in the drywall. Fionna is very impressed by this.
- In season 4 episode, "Made Man" the villain of the week is a Miami mobster boss Tony Caro. As part of the operation to take him down, the team first makes him think his bosses in New York had gotten to his crew and tried to kill him. When they then try to get him personally involved in a $5 million heist in merchandise, he isn't trusting until Sam is forced into telling him real and very personal story when he stays with a friend in hostile lands when the guy was injured. Tony is moved and agrees to work with the crew. When they set him up and get him driving off with the merchandise and Sam is "captured" by a security guard, he turns the truck around to come back to rescue Sam because he is now fiercely loyal to Sam after hearing that story.
- The crew from Leverage. Oh so much. Their opponents, not so much. Especially Chaos, who has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
- Discussed and dismissed in an early episode of Due South. Fraser's father once told him that contrary to the old adage, there is no honor among thieves, and he proceeds to predict the bank robbers' next move by assuming that they would turn on each other rather than stick together when things stopped going according to plan.
- In season 4 of Justified the Marshals are looking for Drew Thompson, a fugitive whose testimony can put mob boss Theo Tonin behind bars for life. Raylan finds our that Hunter Mosley, Corrupt Cop and convicted murderer knows Drew's current identity and location. Mosley once tried to sell Raylan out to a murderous Miami drug cartel so Raylan figures that Mosley will not hesitate to sell out Drew for prison perks or maybe a reduction in his sentence. However, Mosley not only refuses to tell Raylan where Drew is but also murders the only other person who knows that information. When Raylan tries to force Mosley into telling what he knows, Mosley tries to kill himself by stepping in front of a truck. It seems Mosley has a very specific set of loyalties and Drew is one of the few people he will never betray. In turn when Drew finds out what is going on, he breaks his own cover specifically so Mosley is off the hook with the Marshals and the mob.
- Dragon Magazine:
- An article in Dragon Magazine #115 had a Thieves Guild Code of Ethics.
- Never reveal guild-related information or its sources to the authorities, nor to any non-Guild member. Guild premises, procedures, or personnel may not be discussed with any non-Guild member.
- Never inform on another Guild member.
- Never tell the authorities where the Guild headquarters is.
- Never disclose the identity of the Guildmaster.
- Never rob a business or individual protected by the Guild.
- Never bring a non-Guild member onto guild premises without the Guildmaster's approval.
- Never include non-Guild members in Guild activities.
- Never belong to or work for another Thieves or Assassins Guild.
- Don't enlist the aid of another Guild or a member of another Guild without the Guildmaster's approval.
- Don't get involved in non-Guild thievery within the Guild's territory.
- Guild members must pay all regular Guild dues.
- Guild members must pay the Guild and the Guildmaster their share of all loot before receiving their cut.
- No large heists or robberies may be performed without the Guildmaster's approval.
- Guild members must get the Guildmaster's approval before taking an apprentice.
- Apprentices may not become involved in Guild business without their mentor's or Guildmaster's consent.
- An article in Dragon Magazine #160 had a few Thieves Guild policies.
- Don't kill victims just to rob them. Try to keep your crimes non-violent.
- Never commit treasonous crimes (against the city itself).
- Don't fight with your fellow thieves.
- Pay your Guild dues (percentage of loot).
- An article in Dragon Magazine #115 had a Thieves Guild Code of Ethics.
- Played with in the case of Pinball Dreams. Many Amiga pirate groups promised to not crack or release the game out of respect for the developers, who were originally members in the Demoscene area. It was eventually cracked by a group called Fairlight, though with the message "A GAME WORTH PLAYING IS A GAME WORTH BUYING!" added on their boot screen.
- Dungeons & Dragons. The 2nd Edition Complete Thieves Handbook had these Thieves Guild rules.
- Always pay your dues, training costs and loot percentage.
- Keep all guild information secret.
- Tell your Guild leaders what you're planning and any other information they should know.
- Don't steal in territory or from activities that are "off limits".
- Only commit crimes in your designated territory.
- Only train apprentices with the knowledge and permission of the Guild.
- Be ready to perform any legwork the Guild needs you for.
- Shadowrunners from Shadowrun, or at least most who survive to reach a certain level of experience and infamy, seem to share a set of informal ethical standards. Said standards usually boil down to "limit property damage, try not to make the news and don't sell out your fellow runners". They're more Pragmatic Villainy than anything else, but they ease frictions between high-level runners and also decrease the chance you'll get geeked by employers, coworkers or revenge-seeking victims. Of course, like in everything else there are always those who toss the guidelines out the window.
- The Dark Eldar in Warhammer40000 are backstabbing jerks at home, but are consummate professionals during real-space raids. The raids' success is vital to the Dark Eldar's survival, and Dark Eldar usually aren't stupid enough to risk failure just to get rid of their rivals.
- A lot of the Sly Cooper games are based around this, where the good thieves follow this trope and the bad ones are double-crossers or otherwise deserve to be robbed by the good theives. The third game is even called Honor Among Thieves.
- In Ace Attorney the fact that DeMasque sends out calling cards before his heists and acts like a Gentleman Thief instead of a common crook is what keeps Dessie loving him when she finds out her husband's a thief. Since he 'plays fair' he doesn't count as a normal criminal.
- One could argue that a minor version of this is why Calisto Yew named herself as the Yatagarasu rather than exposing Tyrell Badd as her partner in crime, when she could have neatly gotten him arrested and out of the way.
- At the start of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Tommy Vercetti holds this belief deeply, and he expects it of the rest of the family. As Sonny makes it more explicitly obvious how much he's been set up and used, and how disposable Sonny considers him, Tommy reacts with as much anger over his betrayal as the betrayal of this principle.
- The Elder Scrolls
- In Morrowind, all the main joinable factions have an associated book which outlines their basic ideals and makes the case for why you should join them. The Thieves' Guild's book is actually called Honor Among Thieves, and indeed part of the author's argumentation is that the Thieves' Guild is this trope made official (the major other part is that they aren't the murderous, drug-dealing xenophobic slaver scum the Camonna Tong are).
- Skyrim: The Thieves' Guild in Skyrim is on hard times, but a few still hold out. When the player gets inducted into the Guild, they have the option of saying "Why do we need rules? We're thieves. We do what we want", which earns them a reprimand from the guildmaster Mercer Frey. It turns out to be an act: Mercer abandoned anything resembling principles years ago, murdering the previous guildmaster, framing another thief, and stealing an artifact belonging to the thieves' patron Daedra, Nocturnal — which is believed to be the source of their bad luck. During the final confrontation, Mercer openly mocks this concept, stating that as thieves all that matters is money. You're given the option to agree or disagree with him.
- In The Elder Scrolls Online, this returns as the name of the achievement for assisting four Thieves Guild members in personal matters.
- World of Warcraft has an aura with that exact name, produced by rogues, which granted whole party/raid with some crit chance in exchange of producing Combo-points every time someone crits. Since the release of the last expansion ability got rid of "granting the crit chance" part, so it's sort of inversion though.
- The Thieves' Guild in the Quest for Glory series has the motto, "Thou shalt not steal HERE."
- All that "Sticky Fingers" Gaius signed up for was stealing a bunch of treasures, NOT to get an innocent woman murdered! (And especially not the kidnapped Exalt of Ylisse) He's very unhappy when he finds out, and when Chrom and his Badass Crew arrive, he can be easily talked into joining the group. Not to mention, if you make him support with Maribelle, it'll be revealed that he once was forced to frame her father to save her life... but once she was released, he sent a letter to the judges to save her old man from execution.
- Malva in Pokémon X and Y claims she does possess such honor. It's why she helps you post-story in the Looker quest, she claims.
- In Might & Magic X: Legacy, the Player Characters are Raiders, shady adventurers who are considered thieves by some, treasure seekers by others, and often themselves consider both to be the same thing. However, the first part of the ten-part Raider's Code states that Life is More Precious than Gold, and that no treasure is so valuable that you should choose it over helping a comrade. The second part says that a Raider who violates the first part is no longer a Raider, and that it becomes a true Raider's job to punish the violator with death.
- A Light-Sided Bounty Hunter or Smuggler in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Yes, the Hunter captures and/or kills people for a living, the Smuggler sells black market weapons, and both of them are doing "off the books" and highly illegal privateering missions for their respective factions, but a light side run means they have higher ethical standards than most of their employers.
- Uncharted 2: Among Thieves half-quotes this trope in the subtitle, and is what separates Nate from his opponents in the franchise as a whole; Nate isn't in it for the money or power but more for the journey and adventure. In this game Elena quotes the trope directly in response to Nate saying that he has no choice but to rescue Chloe from the borderline psychotic Lazarevic.
- The Rogues Guild from Final Fantasy XIV is a group of vigilantes who work to dispense justice that Limsa Lominsa's Yellowjackets can't. They uphold an old code from the days when Limsa was a pirates' hotspot that calls for them to stand up to organized criminal groups that would exploit the innocent.
- Tagon's Toughs of Schlock Mercenary are mercenaries rather than thieves (mind, the two aren't exclusive), but the same esprit du corps appears to be in play. Many of the crew are Heroic Comedic Sociopaths, but messing up a fellow crewmate is a good way to end up staring down the wrong end of a plasma gun. They're also considerate of things like preventing civilian casualties and (usually) not dishing out cruel and unusual punishment.
- In Worm, most supervillain teams follow a set of unspoken rules, avoiding targeting civilian identities of their enemies for reasons of Pragmatic Villainy. In addition, betraying one's team is a major taboo, as going up against superheroes requires a lot of trust in your teammates. The Villain Protagonist breaks both of these rules over the course of her career, for what she thought were good reasons.
- This trope combined with Pragmatic Villainy is why just about everyone respects Whateley Academy's status as a Truce Zone. Even supervillains have families, and nobody wants to see their kids dragged into their professional conflicts.
- Batman: The Animated Series:
Penguin: True, he cheated me out of jewel encrusted statue of a two-headed roc... It was worth millions. But my dear Batman, I would never snatch a fellow rogue from his sickbed. It simply isn't done.Batman: Honor among thieves?Penguin: Precisely. If I wanted to attack Harvey, I'd do it face to face... To face, as it were.
- Surprisingly, the Penguin believes in a form of this in the episode "Second Chance". Oswald has standards when dealing with fellow crooks, even when he owes them payback, as he tells Batman when the hero suspects him of ordering Two-Face kidnapped.
- Similarly, Rupert Thorne is one hell of a nasty piece of work who is more than willing to kill anyone who crosses him, but he won't go after anyone's family members.
- The Penguin also shows this slightly in The Batman, despite being portrayed as far more unstable than he is in most versions, getting very angry at the Joker for violating "professional courtesy" by butting in on his robbery. ("You don't see me barging in on your 'gas all of Gotham' schemes, do you?" he shouts.) However, this attitude was dropped the second time the two villains met when they and the Riddler developed a rather dangerous rivalry.
- Red X (not Robin, the other one) from Teen Titans.
Robin: I thought you didn't like playing the hero!Red X: Doesn't mean I don't know how.
- In Argai: The Prophecy, Prince Argai runs into and befriends a trio of noble thieves, who in a later episode assist our heroes.