Vinson: The prisons and the graveyards are full of boys who wore the crown.
Marlo Stanfield: 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 and lots of Gorn.
— The Wire
open/close all folders
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.
- 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 plan being used by Stephanie Brown. Spider-Man's was most likely when The Kingpin was thought to be dead and all of New York City 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.
- Family: Silver Odysseus is hoping to incite a gang war that will engulf the city between his brother Gio, the current Don of the Odysseus family, and Cane, an up-and-coming gangster.
- 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 (1983), a 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.
- Scarface (1932) also features a city-wide war, although it's far more violent and destructive than the remake's, with many of the onscreen events being based on infamous gang murders in real life.
- A gang war kicks off in Miller's 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.
- In the Chuck Norris movie Code of Silence, a gang war breaks out between the Colombian Comacho mob and the Italian Luna mob after the Italians kill eight Colombians during a drug deal involving an undercover police officer.
- In another Norris movie, The Hitman, there's a mob war between an Italian gang from Seattle, a French gang from Vancouver, and a recently arrived Iranian gang.
- Black Mass, the story of Whitey Bulger and how he built a crime empire in Boston, starts off with Bulger and The Irish Mob going to war with The Mafia in Boston. Whitey wins, after helping the FBI arrest the Italians, and takes total control of organized crime in the city.
- Meet the Feebles has a brief but action-packed one: Mr. Big has one of his goons, Louie, sell Mr. Bletch borax, telling him it's cocaine. When Bletch finds out, he kills Louie and has his cronies take him to the docks where the actual drugs are. They fight Mr. Big's gang, killing all but one of them, and later kill Mr. Big himself (though not before one of Bletch's goons gets killed as well). In the end, Bletch successfully obtains the drugs and has Trevor deal some to one of their employees.
- Steven Brust's 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.
- A major component of the ongoing plot of web serial Barkwire.
- The second book of The Witchlands has two pirate groups go to war over who gets to claim Owl for the Big Bad.
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. In the last half of season 6, an open war breaks out between the Soprano crew and the Lupertazzi family under Phil Leotardo.
- 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.
- Season 3 of The Wire revolves around a turf war between Avon Barksdale's drug organization and the new organization of Marlo Stanfield. Both sides take heavy casualties, with the war ending when the Major Crimes Unit arrests Avon and most of his gang in a weapons stash house. Season 4 sees Marlo working to maintain his turf, using his enforcers Chris Partlow and Snoop to execute rival dealers as well as associates who have become liabilities.
- 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.
- After many years of casualties and setbacks, the Sons try to get out of the gun trade for good by hooking up their Irish supplier with the most powerful black gang. This shift in the balance of power is unacceptable to the Mexican and Chinese gangs, who soon join forces against the black-white alliance. Jax then provokes a war with the Chinese because of a personal vendetta.
- 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 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.
- Gotham spends most of its first season hovering under the threat of, and having a few near brushes with, one of these breaking out between rival crime bosses Falcone and Maroni. Cobblepot states that such a conflict is inevitable, and that when it happens "blood will run in the streets". And in the penultimate episode, he ensures it happens, staging a False Flag Operation to make Maroni think Falcone tried to kill him, and kickstarting the war.
- The second season of Fargo focuses largely on a war between the Gerhardt Crime Family in Fargo and the Kansas City Mafia. The Gerhardts are trying to keep their territory while Kansas City is trying to usurp it from them. In the end, Kansas City wins through almost no action of their own. The local representative of the Kansas mob is killed and most of their men either dead or arrested, but they win in the end because of the Gerhardts' internal strife and their betrayal by Hanzee Dent at the Sioux Falls Massacre that wipes out the remainder of their gang and leadership.
- Arrow: This is Helena Bertinelli's plan to avenge her fiancé Michael, who was killed by her father because he thought Michael was a mole for the FBI (he wasn't — Helena was the one talking to the feds). She weakens his organization by anonymously assassinating several of his key officers and men, and then kills the head of the Triad (the prime suspects for the assassinations, of whom Frank Bertinelli personally accused right to their faces) to instigate the war. With the Bertinelli Family as weak as it is, they would assuredly be wiped out. Both Oliver and the police want to prevent this, as while a mob war would wipe out one of the organizations, it would also likely involve several innocent lives getting stuck in the crossfire as well.
- Gang wars are a common theme of hip-hop, and some think the massive Bloods-Crips war for Southern California may have led to the murders of Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
- Michael Jackson's "Beat It" music video.
- Hilariously parioded in "Weird Al" Yankovic's video for his "Beat It" parody, "Eat It".
- The 1974 Paper Lace song "The Night Chicago Died" is a fictional account of Al Capone's gang going to war with the Chicago police.
- The Genesis song "The Battle of Epping Forest", describing a London East End gang war.
- 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.
- 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.
- Borderlands 2 has a well-loved sidequest arc where the Vault Hunters start a War for Fun and Profit and break the truce between two Feuding Families (who are both over-the-top stereotypes of Irishmen and rednecks respectively), in a parody of the 1920s "Beer Wars". This starts from simple pranks to piss both families off, then it gets increasingly brutal from there until the final mission, where you have to kill the godfather of whatever family annoys you more and their entire honor guard in a bloody firefight at the local train station.
- Arguably, the "Gravel War" that drives the entire plot of Team Fortress 2 is simply this trope taken to extremes. The war was started in the 1850s by two feuding brothers, who were left with acres and acres of worthless but incredibly expensive land they had bought by their dying father to fight over for eternity. They hired mercenaries and the conflict dragged on, up to 1968. In-game, you can dress your classes up with expensive hats, badges, shoes and shirts, hit-and-run and ambushing are frequent tactics and the teams' main jobs are capturing enemy turf, often industrial areas, stealing intelligence and blowing up important bases with a giant bomb. Or, in the case of the Payload Race game mode, two.
- Watch_Dogs: In the Bad Blood DLC, T-Bone's investigations in the Street Sweeper mission chains uncover a three-way feud brewing between the Fixers, the Chicago South Club and the Pawnee Militia, with each gang targeting one of the other two while being targeted by the other one.
- In Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, the city of London is embroiled in a gang war between the Assassin-backed Rooks and the Templar-backed Blighters, complete with referees for official battle between the bosses.
- 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.
- In The Gamer's Alliance, there have been several mob wars, the most recent ones being the Matheson Crime Family vs. the Nightstalkers in Maar Sul, and the Union Workers vs. the Order of the Black Rose in Libaterra.
- There Will Be Brawl occurs to the backdrop of public unrest due to a mob war going on between gangs controlled by Mewtwo, Ganondorf, King Dedede and Bowser. Also slightly subverted by the fact that neither Dedede or Bowser were trying to fight a war. Ganon eventually brings down all the mobs, only to be killed himself.
- 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 worse. 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.
- The most famous is the Prohibition-era Chicago Gang War that spanned from 1920 to 1931 and only killed 500 to 1300 people in total, but was fought with far more brutality and sadism than World War I. Also, the war wasn't just for the control of all illegal booze, the gangsters were fighting each other for control of the whole city, as the mayor at the time, Big Bill Thompson, was nothing more than a corrupt, insane puppet for Al Capone to control.
- The Castellammarese War was a bloody power struggle for control of New York City's Five Families (and by extension, the entire American Mafia) between partisans of Joe "The Boss" Masseria and those of Salvatore Maranzano, and spanned from 1928 to 1931. It was so-called because Maranzano's faction came from Castellammare del Golfo in Sicily. This turf war began when both factions accused each other of hijacking the other side's alcohol trucks, and soon enough, the Brooklyn-based Castellammarese Clan declared war on Masseria's gang. Outwardly, this war was between the forces of Masseria and Maranzano, but soon enough, a third faction emerged. The "Young Turks", as this new faction was known, was a younger, Americanized and more diverse Italian group who were more forward thinking and willing to work with other ethnic gangs, unlike the "Mustache Petes" like Masseria and Maranzano, who refused to work with other ethnic mobs, let alone fellow Italian mobsters; this faction was headed by Lucky Luciano, Masseria's right-hand man. The war claimed at least 200+ lives on both sides, and dragged on until Masseria was gunned down in April of 1931 at a Coney Island restaurant (it was allegedly orchestrated by Luciano, who wanted to make peace with Maranzano). With Masseria out of the way, Maranzano declares himself the boss of all bosses aka Capo di tutti capi at a secret meeting shortly after Masseria's death, proving that Maranzano was too arrogant and old-fashioned like Masseria before him, despite introducing many of the rules that govern the Mafia to this very day. This provoked a violent reaction, and Maranzano was gunned down at his office on September 10, 1931. With the old guard out of the way, Charles Luciano and his henchmen could now consolidate their own power and establish the modern American Mafia.
- A currently ongoing one is the Mexican Drug War, which has also killed more people than ISIS, and was violent enough that the cartels control whole sections of Mexico, get into firefights with the Mexican army daily, and even have to put up notices to warn citizens of cartel-ruled cities to not to go out at a certain time, because that's when they'll start shooting.