of Wretched Hive
, an Outlaw Town is a town (or other settlement) run specifically for the benefit of criminals on the run. It gives them a place to lay low till the heat is off, and spend or store their ill-gotten gains.
Typically the people running the town will demand a portion of the criminal's loot in return for offering safe haven. Paradoxically, these settlements are often not lawless, as the people running the town will crack down hard on behaviour that might attract the attention of outside authorities.
An Outlaw Town differs from a normal city with high levels of corruption in that the Outlaw Town is entirely run by criminals and all of its inhabitants are criminals. Unlike a corrupt city, there will be no honest citizens sick of the corruption, no honest cops battling the system. Any inhabitants who are not on the run themselves will be knowingly providing services and shelter to wanted criminals (which makes them criminals themselves) and any 'law' that exists will be the personal enforcers of the boss of the town. Also Outlaw Towns will often not 'officially' exist on any map; being located in remote locales and their existence known only to the underworld.
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Anime and Manga
- One particular story from Tekken Chinmi Legends revolved around such a fortress town. At the end of the storyline, the leader of the outlaws mentioned that while the town became the hideout of many outlaws, it also existed to 'protect those who lost their place in society'.
- Crash Town from Yugioh 5 DS may qualify as this.
- Roanapur from Black Lagoon is an excellent example.
- Jonah Hex found his father acting as sheriff of an outlaw town, called Outlaw Springs, in "Christmas in an Outlaw Town".
- The Lucky Luke album Dalton City.
- Batman encountered one in "Outlaw Town, U.S.A." in Batman #75.
- Bokos, the Isle of Thieves, which existed on the planet Krypton.
- The Abode of the Damned - a city of thieves, mercenaries and assassins - infiltrated by Conan in The Savage Sword of Conan the Barbarian #11.
- In the western comedy Cat Ballou, "Hole in the Wall".
- In Pirates of the Caribbean III, "Shipwreck" - the city built out of pirate ships used as headquarters for the pirate council.
- Star Wars, Mos Eisley spaceport, a place where people like Han Solo, and Boba Fett can hide and do shady work away from Imperial eyes. Especially since the planet is controlled by the Hutts.
- An outlaw town named Hell featured in two of J.T. Edson's western novels: Hell in the Palo Duro and Go Back to Hell.
- A settlement dedicated to smuggling criminals and illicit goods in and out of the country features in the Doc Savage novel The Mountain Monster.
- Lagrimas Negras in the Young Bond novel Hurricane Gold.
- The Undertaker encounters an Outlaw Town in Canyon of Death, the third book of The Western series The Undertaker by George G. Gilman.
- A subversion in the Honor Harrington books: Erewhon is a planet founded by an alliance of Mafia families hoping to set up shop outside the reach of any existing law enforcement agency. Over the centuries, they evolved into a planet that was still run by those families, and still carried with it many of the old traditions, but which also had some of the strictest law enforcement in the galaxy.
- Dashiell Hammett liked this trope, using it in the short story "Nightmare Town" and later expanding it into Red Harvest.
- Jackson's Whole in the Vorkosigan Saga was initially a hijacker's base and along the way became "governed" by a loose connection of crime families specializing in specific crimes (sex slavery, arms dealing, etc.). It is ultra-capitalist and has no real laws to speak of- a handshake is as good as a contract, and you are as good as dead if you aren't under the protection of one of its crime families.
- Bab-el-Shaitan ("the Gate of the Devil") in the Robert E. Howard story "The Blood of Belshazzar".
- Simon Green's Deathstalker books had Mistworld, an entire planet populated by thieves and political fugitives, left more or less to kill and prey on each other in peace since the empire found an orbital blockade cheaper than the effort required to clean the place up or even nuke it from orbit.
- The Spider novel Secret City of Crime has one hidden below an city block in New York City.
- Deconstructed in Jim Thompson's novel The Getaway. The hidden town of El Rey in Mexico presents itself as such but is designed to extract all the money from the people who go there. Once the money's gone they're forced to do menial labour for the town's owners or to prey on newer arrivals. Sometimes literally.
- In The Candlemass Road, Liddesdale is run by and for the Elliots, one of the most powerful reiver clans. Riccarton is the seat of the Nixons, and several other reiver clans have their own towns as well.
Live Action TV
- Roy and Pat pose as outlaws to infiltrate an outlaw town in The Roy Rogers Show episode "Outlaw's Town''.
- The Lone Ranger faces one in "Outlaw Town".
- Star Trek: The Original Series had a Planet of Hats that purposefully based their culture on the Prohibition Era Chicago Mob.
- The town of Twin Butte, in The Cisco Kid episode “Haven for Heavies”, was run by a sheriff that granted immunity to outlaws that settled there.
- The Musketeers has the "Court of Miracles" where Porthos grew up.
- Justified: Harlan County is a Wretched Hive, but the township of Bennett is a true Outlaw Town, ruled by marijuana kingpin Mags Bennett. With her son Doyle acting as Chief of Police, and her other sons, Dickie and Coover, controlling the town's drug-trade, Mags is the uncrowned Feudal Overlord of the town, using it as a front for her drug operations, which expend throughout Harlan County, Kentucky, and beyond.
- Lawenilothehl in the roguelike Ancient Domains of Mystery is a town run by outlaws. Everyone in there is a bandit of some form.
- In Dragon Quest VIII the town of Pickem is run and mostly inhabited by thieves and bandits.
- Fable I has Twinblade's Camp. Fable II has Bloodstone. Fable III has the Mercenary Camp. (The camps may or may not count, depending — they play and operate just like the towns in the rest of the game, but no one ever refers to them as towns. Bloodstone is a straight example, however.)
- The Den in Fallout 2.
- Paradise Falls in Fallout 3 is a town of slavers. Likewise, Evergreen Mills is a town run by raiders.
- Fallout: New Vegas has the NCR Correctional Facility run by the convicts who took it over. There is also Vault 3, occupied by the drug-crazed fiends. Nipton was one of these before the Legion pillaged and burned it.
- The space station of Omega in Mass Effect 2.
- Red Dead Redemption has Thieves' Landing, a bayou town with no law enforcement at all.
- Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves has Blood Bath Bay, a town inhabited by the most stereotypical, anachronistic pirates you could imagine...and they're also Petting Zoo People.
- Starcraft II features Deadman's Rock, an entire outlaw planet.
- Evolution Worlds: Pine Village, Carcano's hideout, is just a big town over the water fully inhabited by thieves.
- Arabians Lost has Gilkatar, an outlaw nation that's on the map but so dangerous that no one would dare to bring normal justice to it.
- Lunar: The Silver Star has Reza, home of the Thieves' Guild.
- Far Cry 3's Badtown is a shanty village full of shady individuals.
- In Privateer, Space Pirates often operate out of abandoned mining stations, which are often located in an Asteroid Thicket to make things even worse if you're not friendly with the pirates operating out of those stations. However, gameplay-wise their operation isn't really all that different from "legitimate" stations, with the only real exceptions being that you can find illegal commodities to purchase in the market note and the lack of Merchant's or Mercenary's Guild offices.
- Star Citizen: The "planet" Spider, a titanic collection of shipwrecks in an otherwise planetless system run by Space Pirates.
- Regna in the old Might and Magic verse was a pirate country, kept operating because their Empire of the Endless Ocean was the single strongest naval power. When we got to visit Regna Isle proper in VIII, there were exactly two inhabitants who expressed any sort of dissatisfaction with the state of affairs... one of which was an idealist and powerful mage who moved to Regna specifically to try to educate the inhabitants in the wrongness of their ways (beyond his survival, it wasn't working), and one lady who had nothing against the piracy as such, but thought the current top dog and toast of the town was too reckless with his methods.
- Gang Rule Town in A Path To Greater Good.
- The starport and orbital station of Ghanj-rho in Schlock Mercenary are havens for smugglers, pirates, and slavers. It's also where Tagon's Toughs hired most of their non-Terran troops, and it's Sergeant Schlock's homeworld (though he was one of the "primitive natives" and left years earlier as a slave).
- The Adventure Time episode "City of Thieves".
- Blackwater asteroid in Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. It was thought to be an Urban Legend by law enforcement until a delirious Cody Carson (a shady quasi-ally to the Rangers) proved it wasn't by all but kidnapping Doc and Niko and taking them there.
- Port Royal, Tortuga and Libertatia (assuming it actually existed) were "pirate republics" - settlements inhabited almost exclusively by pirates.
- Hot Springs, Arkansas was this through the 1930s. The town had been a center of illegal gambling for a century before Prohibition. When NYC gangster Owen Madden visited the resort town for his health (really; he'd heard about the restorative powers of the eponymous waters), he put the word out that Mayor Leo Mclaughlin's political machine was glad to provide a safe haven for mobsters. These included "Public Enemy #1" Alvin Karpis (leader of the Barker-Karpis Gang — Barker being "Ma" and her boys — that was terrorizing the rural Midwest), Frank Costello, Meyer Lansky and Al Capone.
- The Kowloon Walled City was nominally a Chinese possession surrounded by British Hong Kong, but in reality the densely populated district had virtually no government or police presence. It was a haven for criminals and was for all intents and purposes ruled by Triads. Overtime, increased government utility infrastructure and police raids diminished the presence of organized crime, but it was still a free zone of illegal business practices, mainly unlicensed doctors and dentists.