The prisons and the graveyards are full of boys who wore the crown.
Point is: they wore it. It's my turn to wear it now. Tell our people to tool up.
The friction between two (or more) rival crime factions has broken out and exploded into all out warfare. This can happen between two groups of the same type/nationality (for example two Mafia
families going at it) or between multiple nationalities (e.g., The Mafiya
taking on a Yakuza
group). Two groups of Gang Bangers
getting into a turf war to settle things once and for all also counts, as does The Syndicate
clashing with another Syndicate or group.
This may be portrayed as a organized crime version of Feuding Families
, and as with many portrayals of Feuding Families both sides are evil
Sometimes, the war comes from conflict between two factions within a single group, which tends to be a particularly bitter and usually short conflict. In this case it often doesn't matter who wins or loses
, as the victor usually finds that their criminal empire has been smashed beyond repair by the conflict.
Expect to see at least half of the Guns and Gunplay Tropes
put into effect, as well as lots of Stuff Blowing Up
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Anime and Manga
- In the Cowboy Bebop episode "Ballad of Fallen Angels," Spike's former mentor, Mao Yenrai was killed in Vicious's introduction scene for trying to make peace between the Red Dragon Syndicate and another Mob. Later, the Red Dragons would have a mini civil war when Vicious launched his coup.
- A constant threat in Roanapur.
- Specifically, an all-out war against the Yakuza during the Fujiyama Gangster Paridise arc. However, it is noted that potential mob conflicts solve themselves once a third party gets involved: Roberta in the El Baille de la Muerte arc and Hansel and Grettel in the Vampire Twins arc.
- In the Gungrave anime, the out-of-town Lightning organisation's attempt to take power from Millennion.
- Baccano!! has several, most notably the one between the Gandors and the Runoratas in the Drugs and Dominoes arc. Likewise, there's serious bad blood between Jacuzzi's street gang and the Russo mafia family set up in Chicago, and part of the reason Jaccuzi's hitched a ride on a transcontinental train to New York is to escape their interest.
- Essentially the plot of the second season of Durarara!!, and also a part of the back story for several characters.
- Several arcs of Tokyo Crazy Paradise center on potential or actual mob wars, sometimes with Psycho Serum-fueled monsters.
- Happens in Heat Guy J. The head of the Wei family is not happy that Clair has been made head of the Leonelli family (One, it interferes with the Wei family's power, and two Clair is nucking futz.) He tries to absorb the Leonelli family into his own, and when that fails, slights Clair (and tries to poison him) at a luncheon/dinner. An all-out fight ensues, with great losses on both sides. Clair responds by sending a tanker truck full of napalm to the Wei family's district. Daisuke stops him, though. (In the manga, he dispenses with the napalm and has his girlfriend build a sexy gyndroid to seduce and strangle Wei. There is also no explicit mention of an all-out mob war, though that could simply be because the manga is so short.)
- Common in Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, considering its settings: A pretty incompetent kid who is one day told that he is the next in line to be the Boss of the strongest Family in Italy.
- A rather straight example is the whole of the Future Arc, which spans over four sub-arcs (in the manga; six in the anime).
- After the Genre Shift from Slice of Life Comedy to Shōnen Fighter, this became the majority of the plot.
- The titular "False Love" in Nisekoi between Raku and Chitoge is deliberately set up to avoid a mob war between the criminal syndicates run by their respective fathers.
- Sin City occasionally features this, most notably with the Old Town Girls once resisting attempts from the mob to invade their turf and later striking back at The Mafia for the death of one of their own when she had been just an Innocent Bystander.
- If a hero operates in a city and the series lasts more than 60 issues, this WILL be a storyline. Batman and Spider-Man have both had multiple mob wars in their respective series. Batman's most notable was "War Games", which is started by his own planning used by Stephanie Brown. Spider-Man 's was most likely when the Kingpin was thought to be dead and all of New York was crawling over each other to replace him.
- An early Savage Dragon storyline featured a mob war among superpowered criminals.
- The Punisher's origin came when his family was killed in a botched mob hit during one of these.
- The inspiration of the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles storyline "City At War" harks back to the one done for the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics, concluding its run. However, here, the storyline involved splinter factions of the Foot attempting to gain supremacy in New York before Karai took over.
- This happens in The Godfather when Sonny decides to "go to the mattresses" after the attempt on his father's life, although there is remarkably little violence seen on-screen. The story of the mob war is told through newspaper headlines while Carmine Coppola plays on an out of tune piano.
- Gangs of New York - In the movie it's immigrant Irish gangs vs. native-born Americans. In the book, it's basically every immigrant group vs. every other one. One memorable passage is about a street in the Lower East Side where all the Irish immigrants lived across the street from all the English immigrants. They'd go to work, go to their various pubs, get hammered, and then spill into the street and brawl almost every day.
- Romeo Must Die featured a Chinese Mob and an African-American Syndicate on the edge of war.
- Chicago was being torn apart by the violence between different mobs in The Untouchables. (And in real life).
- B-movie Hollow Point featured a Syndicate with Italian, Russian and Chinese wings that all distrusted each other and, after being pushed by the protagonists, collapsed into fighting each other.
- There are many yakuza movies dealing with these, some outstanding ones are Kinji Fukasaku's Yakuza Graveyard and the Battles Without Honor Or Humanity series and Takeshi Kitano's Sonatine.
- A Fistful of Dollars, the first film of the Dollars Trilogy, features this with the Baxters and the Rojos, two families vying for control in a small town.
- And the remake Last Man Standing does this again, except with Italian and Irish mobs replacing them.
- In Scarface, mob war is part of what allows Tony Montana to rise to the top of the Miami drug trade. Later when Tony's standards get in the way of him doing business with The Cartel, his group gets wiped out in what is not so much a mob war as a Mob Curb Stomping.
- A gang war kicks off in Millers Crossing. Tom Reagan plays all sides against the middle in an effort to keep his friend Leo O'Bannon in the driver's seat. He succeeds, but is beaten up so often it's a wonder he can still walk, and ultimately gives up the girl, his friendship and position in the mob.
- The title character of Lucky Number Slevin becomes the pawn of two mob bosses hostile to each other. The key plot element is that it is still a Mob Cold War and neither is willing to start a shooting war yet. The protagonist is useful since it can be made to look like he acted on his own and not on the orders of one of the mob bosses.
- A major plot point in Yakuza Graveyard.
- One of the first gangster films ever made, The Racket (1928), has a war between rival bootlegging gangs as a plot point.
- Steven Brust's Dragaeran novel Yendi is about an all-out Mob War between Vlad's organization and a neighboring Jhereg crime boss.
- In The Dresden Files: Small Favor, the possibility of a mob war breaking out in Chicago is the least of the problems caused by the disappearance of Marcone, albeit still one of great concern to Dresden, and something which he uses to secure cooperation and a vital clue from one of Marcone's employees.
- Marcone's rise to power was caused by a power vacuum from the aftermath of a mob war.
- Dashiell Hammett's novel Red Harvest, written in 1929, is possibly the ur-example of this trope, and is thought to have inspired Kurosawa's film Yojimbo, which in turn has been remade in different settings many times.
- This is an important running sideplot in the web-novel Domina. Gang politics are not the focus of the story, but multiple characters are still gang members, which influences their actions one way or another.
- The Swedish Stockholm Noir trilogy centerers on different attempts to remove the iron grip the Serbian mob holds on Stockholm's underworld by Swedish, Arabic, Chilean and other Serbian elements.
Live Action TV
- The threat of Tony Soprano's New Jersey mob family breaking out into open civil war or becoming embroiled with one of the New York families hangs overhead in several seasons of The Sopranos.
- A major subplot in the second season of Rome deals with the various groups of the Roman underworld vying for control after a Power Vacuum opens up. This includes an all out showdown between the gang Vorenus created, (but being led by Pullo at that time) and another group.
- Virtually the entire plot of Seasons 6 and 7 of The Shield is the Strike Team trying to start a Mob War in order to use them to kill off the other side. Throughout the series though, Vic and the Strike Team try to prevent mob wars as they obviously produce murders and cost everyone money.
- In an episode of Spike TV's Deadliest Warrior, the 1920s Mafia went up against the late 1940s Yakuza in a five-on-five battle royale. Mafia won.
- A gang war between the Barksdale crew and the emerging Stanfield crew was one of the (many, many) subplots in The Wire's third season.
- Sons of Anarchy has an ever-shifting balance of power between the eponymous motorcycle club, their Mexican equivalents, the local neo-Nazis, the nearby black and Chinese gangs, and a splinter faction of the IRA.
- Keeping the Sons out of a mob war is a recurring theme in the series. They are quite satisfied with the status quo and an open conflict with any of the other factions is likely to severely weaken the club or even destroy it. They are very good at finding out the weakness of an enemy and striking a mutually beneficial deal to avoid a war.
- The Sons were involved in a bloody mob war years before the series began and although they won, they came out of it very weak and still feel the effects of it.
- When Clay gets the Sons involved with a Mexican drug cartel, they end up in the middle of a mob war between two rival cartels and a Son is killed in an ambush.
- Tigs gets the Sons into a mob war when he accidentally kills the daughter of one of LA's biggest drug lords. Subverted in the end because the drug lord finds the Sons to be too useful to destroy, calls off the war and instead settles for personal retribution on Tigs alone.
- The Star Trek: The Original Series episode "A Piece Of The Action" does this in satirical form.
- Hill Street Blues: Frank Furillo spends much of his working life trying to prevent one of these from kicking off in his precinct, with mixed results.
- On Graceland Mike, an undercover FBI agent, inadvertently triggers a mob war when he convinces gang leader Bello to buy his heroin from a different supplier. The Mexican drug cartel who used to supply Bello takes this rejection badly and sends in a group of hitmen to kill Bello and wipe out his operation.
- The main Story Arc in the third season of Boardwalk Empire is a mob war between the protagonist, Nucky Thompson and Gyp Rosetti. Gyp is backed by Joe Masseria, and Nucky gets help from Al Capone.
- Justified has had a number of these. The first season features a three way conflict between Boyd Crowder's vigilante cult, his father Bo's meth runners, and the Miami Cartel. The second season sees Boyd, out to take over his father's business, clashing with the Bennett family. Season 3 sees Boyd competing for influence with Robert Quarles and the Detroit Mob, while seeking to avoid an all out war. Season 5 has numerous confrontations between Boyd, Hot-Rod Dunham, Boyd's cousin Johnny, and the newly arrived Crowe family. In each case, you can count on Raylan Givens and the other US Marshals to be caught in the middle.
- Meldrick Lewis intentionally starts one in the Mahoney organization on Homicide Life On The Street by spreading rumors among the various factions. It actually blows up in the squad's face, although unlike ex-partner Kellerman - who had previously roiled things by killing Luther Mahoney - Lewis keeps his job.
- The Shadowrun adventure Mob War details a civil war between Mafia factions, mixed up with a conflict between the Mafia and other crime groups such as the Yakuza. It takes place in Seattle in the year 2058.
- In Fourth Edition, Seattle's still in the grip of one - Yakuza vs. Mafia vs. the Vory, with the survivors of a purge of Koreans from the Yakuza ranks trying to stay out of the way.
- Baldur's Gate 2 features a war between the local thieves' guild and an upstart guild of vampires.
- Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven is primarily about the mob war between Salieri and Morello families (except the last missions after Morello were defeated).
- The plot of Def Jam: Fight For New York is about the battle between two gangs competing for control of New York's illegal underground fighting circuit.
- Max Payne has the Punchinello mob and Vladimir's Russian syndicate going to war, with the title character caught in the middle of it.
- And the John Woo game Stranglehold has the Golden Kane and a Russian syndicate joining forces against Dragon Claw, an established triad, with Tequila, the main character, caught in the middle of it.
- A common plot device of most of the Grand Theft Auto games (especially Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories, where it's the main plot of the game), as well as being the whole point of Saints Row. Even gangs that are at war with yours won't open fire unless you attack first in most of these games, with Grand Theft Auto III being the notable exception (some of the gangs become so hostile eventually that it's nearly impossible just to drive a car through their neighborhood without having it blown up by shotgun fire).
- In Deus Ex, the Red Dragon triad is at war with the Luminous Path triad. Rather than eliminating one side, the objective is to encourage a peace between the two.
- Basically the point of X-rated PC game Daiakuji, where the player character is a gangster who fights other gangs and the authorities for control of a weird alternate reality version of 1930s Osaka.
- In Shadow Hearts: From The New World, you end up in Chicago... and the game is set in the 1920s. One of your party members is a capo in Capone's mob, while another is in love with Capone's sister. Add some dark magic and the mob war gets weird.
- Recurrent in the Way of the Samurai series.
- The Godfather game lets us see the mob war between The Corleone family and the other mob families up close. It's pretty brutal.
- Noctis' family vs. Stella's family in Final Fantasy XV, in which they compete for the Crystal that Noctis holds. There's a confirmation that there will be a major plotline battle between them, but the trailers imply otherwise.
- Bully has a more family-friendly (and non-lethal) version of this with a conflict going on between the five cliques at Bullworth Academy, with many of the cliches often found in gang and mob stories brought down to a high-school level.
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind features a conflict between the ruthless, murderous native gangsters in the Camonna Tong and the imperial import Thieves' Guild. While all-out war is not something either side can afford, the conflict is still nasty enough that even the usually violence-averse Guild orders Tong operatives killed.
- Lucky Dog 1 features an all-out mob war breaking out between CR-5 (an American Mafia group) and Grave Digger (an American gang) in the third part of the game. CR-5 wins in the good endings, Grave Digger in the bad ones.
- Rose Guns Days is essentially about the confrontation, negotiations and changing alliances between Mafia families in the Tokyo district "City 23", in an Alternate History where China and the United States have remodeled Japan. The protagonist, Rose Haibara, is the head of a club of "ladies of the night" which eventually becomes a Mafia group, and its first antagonist is another Japanese mafia, the Caleb Family. Other groups include the Golden Dragon Society, a Chinese mafia controlling City 22 and part of City 23, and the American occupation army, which plays a important part in the balance of powers.
- Homestuck: The Midnight Crew and The Felt are engaged in a fairly long one; when we first come into that part of the story, it's pretty much at its conclusion as the Crew mounts an assault on Felt Manor.
- Parodied in The Simpsons with a conflict between The Mafia (who are backing Marge's pretzel making business) and the Yakuza (who are hired by the other ladies in town).
- One of the "Goodfeathers" bits on Animaniacs did a spoof of West Side Story.
- Occurs in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' "City at War" arc, with three factions—the local branch of The Foot, The Purple Dragons, and the generically-named "Mob" — fighting for control of the New York City underworld in the wake of the power vacuum created by the Shredder's apparent death.
- The Turtles (and even Splinter) feels they should not be involved, since their interference would only make it worst. But Leo, feeling responsible for it since they're the ones who've taken out the Shredder, just can't ignore it, and takes it upon himself to deal with it.
- The Purple Dragons tried to break away from the Foot, until gang leader Hun returned to stop it, due to his Undying Loyalty to the Shredder.
- Occurs in the Gargoyles episode "Turf", between crime groups led by Tony Dracon and Tomas Brod.
- Occurs in The Spectacular Spider-Man's "Criminology 101" arc, with characters such as Silvermane and his daughter Silver Sable, Doctor Octopus, and Roderick Kingsley (the latter only in the first episode of the arc) fighting The Big Man for control of... well, you can probably guess.
- A much smaller scale version appeared in the second season of Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Here, the aged Silvermane thought the Kingpin was weak (for failing to eliminate Spider-Man, natch) and not fit for his position. The two sides were determined to dispose of the other, though their conflict didn't engulf the whole city.