"All I hear from you, you spineless cowards, is how poor you are; how you can't afford my taxes, my protection. Yet somehow, you all managed to find the money to hire a professional gunfighter to kill me. Where's all this money coming from? What am I to think? If ya got so much to spare, I'm just gonna have to take some more off ya. Because clearly some of you haven't got the message! This is my town! If you live to see the dawn, it's because I allow it! I'm in charge of everything! I decide who lives or who dies!"Someone who holds disproportionate power over an area, by way of wealth or political connection. Could be a government official, a criminal or just a rich guy, but for all intents and purposes they own the town. Frequently, but it should be noted as not always, a villain or antagonist character. Common holders of the honour are: Corrupt Hick, Feudal Overlord. Particularly flagrant examples may be an Egopolis. Not to be confused with Taking Over the Town, which involves regular (if particularly ambitious) criminals wreaking havoc within the town, not running it.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
- Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower: As part of his plan to Time Travel for Fun and Profit, Big Bad Mukade becomes the Evil Chancellor of the city of Rōran, manipulating the queen of Rōran, and later her daughter Sāra, into becoming Puppet Queens for him. When Naruto ends up sucked into the past along with him, Mukade brags to Naruto that he controls the city.
- Prétear: In the anime, all businesses in town are affiliated to Natsue's business conglomerate. After marrying the protagonist's father, she renames the businesses and the town after him.
- Lieutenant Yoki of Fullmetal Alchemist used the fact that he was his region's primary employer, landlord, and tax collector to rule the area to suit himself... up until the moment when Edward Elric tricked him into selling the local mine for a stack of gold bricks that somehow turned back into waste rock from the mine when his back was turned.
- Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime, remained the ruler of New York's criminal underground for a long time.
- Of course, he has been challenged for that position many times by minor crime bosses like Silvermane, Hammerhead, Fortunado, and his own son Richard in his identity of the Rose; Fisk has gone down a few times, but never permanently.
- In The DCU, Lex Luthor was this in post-Crisis Metropolis before Superman arrived.
- The Big Screwed Up Roark Family are the de facto rulers of Sin City. (Except for Old Town, where the girls are the law, with Goldie and Wendy being the rulers.) The city also has two "normal" criminal syndicates, the Wallenquists and the Magliozzi, but while both are hinted to be powerful, they aren't enough to challenge the Roarks.
- In Kingdom Come, Bruce Wayne/Batman has done a positive version of this to Gotham City.
- In Don Rosa's story "A Little Something Special", Scrooge McDuck is said to own 99.9% of all lands and businesses in Duckburg and yet, he never even tried to tell the Mayor how to do his work. Which is quite logical given his background; as a working-class Scotsman born at a time when the Highland Clearances were still in living memory, Scrooge Mc Duck very likely has Views about high-handed landlords treating their tenants as cattle to be driven.
- In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck, when Scrooge was offered the key to the town, he stated he already owned all locks.
- Oswald King in Robyn Hood. The richest man in Robyn's hometown, he so thoroughly controls the town that his son Cal feels he can commit rape with impunity.
- This comes into play in Old West, which is set an year after the events of Rango. When the Big Bad Dufayel first appears to threaten the townsfolk of Mud (former Dirt), he reveals himself to have been the investor of Tortoise John, the late mayor of the town. He says that the Mayor's death at the hands of Rattlesnake Jake makes him the legal owner of the mayor's business assets, including Mud. While the town secretary Angelique confirms this to be true, the townsfolk refuse the leave their homes when Dufayel offers to reimburse their migration so that he can claim the gold underneath Mud. Dufayel promises to make their lives harder for not co-operating.
- In Batman, crime boss Carl Grissom has this position, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon's vow to bring him down leads to the accident that transforms Jack Napier into the Joker (though another part of it is Grissom setting Jack up to be killed by corrupt cops on his payroll); while this does lead to Grissom's death, it makes Gotham far worse.
- In Batman Returns, Max Shreck has nearly complete control of Gotham, and his only obstacle to gaining complete control is the stubborn mayor. This leads to him attempting to gain enough votes for a recall by causing the public to lose confidence in the city government and elect the Penguin as a puppet candidate. It turns out to be a pretty bad idea because the Penguin has his own agenda for Gotham.
- Each of the villains in The Dark Knight Saga to their own degree.
- In Batman Begins, Carmine Falcone owns Gotham in the typical mob lord sense. He makes a point of showing Bruce Wayne all the cops and government officials in the bar that would do nothing if he shot him right in front of them.
- In The Dark Knight, the Joker manages a more unsettling version, "Come nightfall this city is mine, and anyone left in it plays by my rules. If you don't want to be in the game... get out now. But the bridge and tunnel crowd are sure in for a surprise."
- Taken Up to Eleven in The Dark Knight Rises with Bane, who isolates the city and establishes himself as its warlord.
- Subverted in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: Auntie (Tina Turner's character) initially appears to be the uncontested ruler of Bartertown, but MasterBlaster declares a short embargo on supplying methane to the town to drive home the point that they are the true force to be reckoned with.
- Films like Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars are based on what happens when there are two of these guys.
- Brad Wesley in Road House.
- The character translated as Mayor in Gogol's The Inspector General (a 1949 film based on an 1842 play written by Nikolai Gogol), who is a powerful Corrupt Hick with more powers than a mayor would be thought of as having.
- John Herod of The Quick and the Dead provides the page quote.
- Training Day has Alonzo Harris, a Corrupt Cop who regards the portion of L.A. known as The Jungle this way.
- The Big Bad of the film Walking Tall declares it to Dwayne Johnson during their final confrontation: "This is MY town!"
- Lenny Cole of Rock N Rolla says this of London, and it appears to be true, he having control of much of the building consent process and able to torture and possibly kill people at will although then he is greviously wounded by a man who decides to circumvent him and then he is killed by his right hand man when it turns out Lenny is also an informer.
- In the Resident Evil movie franchise the Umbrella Corporation almost literally owns Raccoon City and has so much clout that it's able to completely block the town off and then nuke it without any repercussions. It's only after our heroes expose them that their influence wanes but by then it's The End of the World as We Know It.
- In the live-action version of Popeye, the hero's father owns every business in the town; he's unimpressed when Bluto suggests using Swee'Pea's talent to make a fortune at the gambling hall, because he owns the gambling hall.
- In Back to the Future Part II's Bad Present, a filthy rich Biff Tannen has corrupted Hill Valley — informally renamed Hell Valley — and is its overlord. He even boasts about having the police in his pocket.
- Desert Heat has a pair of gangs running the town.
- The murder victim of In the Heat of the Night was a more-or-less respectable version of this, and when his widow decides the local Police Are Useless she threatens to pack up his entire business and move it elsewhere unless they keep Fish out of Water homicide expert Tibbs on the case. One of his primary suspects is the next-most powerful businessman in the town, plantation owner Endicott, but his partner calls him out for being biased due to the man's virulent racism.
- The Scarlet and the Black has Colonel Kappler of the Gestapo presence in Nazi-occupied Rome use this line to try and intimidate Monsignor O'Flaherty of the Vatican into winding down his escape organisation.
Colonel Kappler: "I... own... Rome. Not you. Not the Pope. Just because you wear a frock, it won't protect you."
- Suffice to say, it doesn't work. Unfortunately for Kappler, while he may claim to "own" Rome, the Vatican itself is independent and neutral. Naturally, this happens to be where much of O'Flaherty's operation is based.
- John Gillon owns most of Diggstown. His assets throughout the town are worth over $1.5 million, although he tries to keep this fact hidden. Originally the manager of the town's once-famous boxer Charles Macom Diggs, he drugged Diggs during a fight in order to collect his opponent's long odds, resulting Diggs getting permanent brain damage. He has the only man who finds out the truth first put in prison and then killed when he gets out. The sheriff is in Gillon's pocket and is even willing to kill for him, and the warden of the state penitentiary nearby is a good friend of Gillon's. However, he meets his match in Gabriel Caine, a con man, who ends up conning Gillon out of everything he has. As soon as Gillon's broke, even the sheriff is no longer willing to do his bidding (although the only reason Gillon is even considering paying Caine what he owes him is because Caine is being funded by a well-known loan shark who won't think twice at forcing Gillon to cough up the money).
- This is Mr. Potter's goal in It's a Wonderful Life; Clarence convinces George that his life is worth living by showing him what the town would be like if Potter had succeeded because George wasn't there to interfere.
- The Master of Lake-Town in The Hobbit. In the book he doesn't go so far as to fit this trope: he's greedy, seems to care more about his reputation than about the town's well-being, and flees right away when Smaug attacks the town; but he's a capable ruler (at least before falling under the "dragon sickness"). But in the movie, he's extremely greedy right from the start, he has a Yes-Man (Alfrid) and looks down on the "commoner" townsfolk. Furthermore, Lake-town is a dictatorship instead of a republic as in the book ("An election? That's absurd. I won't stand for it."), doesn't allow anyone to enter the town except by the Master's permission, and the justice system not only doesn't have presumption of innocence, but it follows an "arrest first, decide charges later" system. Oh, and it doesn't exactly help that there's a statue of the Master.
- Lawrence Murphy from Chisum is of the Cattle Baron variety.
- George Washington McLintock! Mclintock. He states he owns "a fair piece of it". However, he's also generally well liked and respected by most citizens and that's more the source of his influence than his wealth. Also, certain federal political appointees do a lot more pushing.
- "Big Jim" Rennie of Under the Dome.
- Black Jack McGinty in The Valley of Fear. When his most Ax-Crazy subordinate questions one of his decisions, he tells him to wait and see if he loses his seat on the city council, which sounds very akin to "when hell freezes over".
- Elihu Willsson of Red Harvest has so much power and influence in the mining town of Personville that he's known as the "Czar of Poisonville." He initially hires the Op to clean the town up for him after the gangs he used as strikebreakers start getting a bit too unruly for his tastes.
- Crime boss John Marcone has his hooks deep into much of mundane Chicago in The Dresden Files, and as of White Night is legally the Baron of Chicago - its resident liege lord - under the supernatural world's Unseelie Accords.
- Joe Pickett: In Stone Cold, former Wall Street financier turned rancher Wolfgang Templeton controls all of Medicine Wheel county by process of being the county's largest employer and biggest benefactor. He uses the county as basis for his illegal operations, with local law enforcement paid to look the other way.
Live Action TV
- The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg is Hazzard County commissioner, but he acts more like Hazzard is his personal fiefdom. The only other local authority figures we meet are the sheriff and his deputies, all of whom are in Hogg's pocket. No one ever runs against him for commissioner (or against Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane for sheriff).
- In the Leverage episode "The Bank Shot Job", the villain is a corrupt judge who effectively owns a small town in the California desert.
- The twisted [adult swim] miniseries The Heart She Holler concerns the town of "HeartShe Holler" and its dead autocrat mayor, and his feral son (who becomes mayor as his inheritance). The dead father continues to manipulate the town through a series of eerily accurate pre-taped messages.
- In Once Upon a Time, Rumplestitzkin (aka Mr. Gold) is clearly stated to own the town of Storybrooke and all its inhabitants through a cross of Batman Gambits and elaborate deals. Even the Evil Queen-turned-Mayor is in his back pocket.
- Mayor Wilkins on Buffy the Vampire Slayer has quite a few Sunnydale people in his pocket, both human and nonhuman. He founded the town and was in the middle of a lot of the goings on before he was killed off.
- In Banshee crime kingpin Kai Proctor is stated to own or control every business of any importance in the town of Banshee.
- In Boardwalk Empire, county treasurer Nucky Thompson owns Atlantic City, as did the Commodore before him. Nucky venturing into organized crime makes him face dangerous challenges from newcomers but also gives him a stronger and unprecedented grip.
- Deadwood opens with rival pimps Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver wrestling for this position, while Sheriff Bullock and other characters try to forge a more accountable system. In the second season, mining baron George Hearst arrives on the scene and soon proves to be a much more ruthless and better-resourced contender. The Downer Ending has him succeed utterly, successfully buying the elections for both Sheriff and Mayor for cronies of his and backing himself with a private army of Pinkerton agents.
- Patrick Tyneman in The Doctor Blake Mysteries; which goes some way to explaining why Lawson hates him so much.
- Invoked in All My Children: After he's acquitted for raping Bianca, Michael Cambias proceeds to gloat to everyone in hearing range that he "owns Pine Valley and everybody in it."
- Leverage: The Mark in "The Bank Job" is a corrupt judge who runs the small town of Juan like his personal fiefdom. Eliot even refers to him as 'Boss Hogg'.
- President Shinra of Shinra Corporation in Final Fantasy VII pretty much owns Midgar. So much that he's turned the actual mayor's office into a powerless one.
- In Fallout 3, there's the Republic of Dave, where Dave is always elected president.
- In the Fallout series in general, this is the most common form of government when there's a government at all: the strongest local authority sets the rules and maintains order, often without any formal title beyond "mayor" or "sheriff," and sometimes not even that. Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas is probably the purest example, ruling New Vegas with the power vested in him by a whole bunch of robots armed with machine guns.
- In Mass Effect 2, Aria T'Loak doesn't own Omega; she is Omega.
- In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, David Sarif essentially owns most of the public institutions in Detroit, to the point where a call from him can delay an entire SWAT team's assault on one of his buildings even when hostages are being killed. However, later on his clout seems to not be as big as he thought, as he cannot get access to the body of a hacker who attacked one of his buildings because Homeland Security (under Director Joseph Manderly) placed a lockdown on the police station whose morgue is holding the body.
- In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we have Maven Black-Briar of Riften, and Thongar Silver-Blood of Markarth. Maven ends up as Jarl if you're pro-Imperial, and likewise for Thongar if you're Stormcloak. Though, the Silver-Bloods' grip weakens somewhat if certain quests are taken in Markarth.
- The Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil series was the major employer of Raccoon City and had some form of control over anything of any importance.
- The Player Character in Saints Row 2 goes on to become the criminal kingpin of Stilwater (one character voice even exclaiming "I own this city!"), then of Steelport in Saints Row: The Third, then of the United States (as President) in Saints Row IV, and finally, of the universe (as God-Emperor) by the beginning of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell.
- In Final Fight, the criminal gang the Mad Gears had every official in Metro City bought, until Mike Haggar was elected the new mayor by promising to put a stop to that. This caused them to change tactics and kidnap his daughter, kicking off the plot.
- Parodied in Homestuck's Intermission. Spades Slick says he made the town that the Intermission takes place in. It's revealed that this was quite literal.
- Skitter from Worm eventually ends up in this position in the city of Brockton Bay. As the preeminent supervillain in the city, she effectively controls the criminal underworld, and can exert influence on the civilian population. Notably, she's actually a Villain with Good Publicity, as the previous holders of the role have been literal Nazis, psychopaths, or simply insane by comparison.
- She stole this position from Coil who had planned to control not only the villains but also the mayor and heroes using his civilian identity as a PRT director.
- Freeza in Team Four Star's DBZ Abridged invokes this trope before blowing up Namek in his fight against Goku
- In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns pretty much has this position in Springfield, with the possible exception of the two part episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns" when he really went too far and made everyone hate him. Other times, the only important people he can't seem to bribe or blackmail are the nuclear power plant inspectors, much to his dismay. At one point Quimby ordered doctor Hibbert to give him all the vaccines available to him and his dogs (who are immune but might envy Burns if he is the only one to have it)since he is the only one paying the city's taxes.
- In the pilot for Superman: The Animated Series, Lex Luthor tells Superman, "I own Metropolis. My technology built it, my will keeps it going, and nearly two-thirds of its people work for me whether they know it or not." Indeed, Lex continues to avoid paying for his crimes. It's not until the first season of Justice League that Superman finally takes him down.
- Batman: The Animated Series had a somewhat unusual treatment of this trope in one episode: at the start of the episode a young delinquent is seen proclaiming how he'll someday he'll own Gotham City. Most of the rest of the episode takes place in the present, where said delinquent is Arnold Stromwell, The Don who long held Gotham under his sway but whose family life and criminal empire are collapsing and is losing a round of Mob War with Rupert Thorne.
- Hurricanes: Stavros Garkos rules the Island of Garkos and has his brother enforce his rules.
- Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer: In a more benevolent example, Austin Bucks, the richest man in Cityville, owns almost all businesses there but never does anything unethical to reach his goals.
- Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Hannibal Mc Fist, he even outright stated he owns Norrisville