Robbing the Mob Bank

"Happy": They wired this thing up with, like, five thousand volts. What kind of bank does that?
"Grumpy": A mob bank. I guess The Joker's as crazy as they say.

When a crook robs an individual or organization without realizing that the victim has criminal ties and the ability to hit back with means outside of the law. Realization is typically an "Oh Crap!!" moment.

Depending on the types of ties the victim has, the crooks might get a warning that they've made a fatal mistake. Other times they won't find out until the first drive-by on their mother's house.

This is a subtrope of Mugging the Monster. In that trope, the mugger is typically a mook and the monster is a main character, while in this trope, the robber is typically a main character and the victim is a villain.

For cases where characters are deliberately robbing criminals because they think they deserve it, see Just Like Robin Hood or Karmic Thief.


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     Comic Books  

  • Taken Up to Eleven in one Spider-Man anniversary story, where the elderly Gentleman Thief the Black Fox made the regrettable mistake of stealing the Dragon's Egg, an emerald that not only belonged to Doctor Doom, but an heirloom of Doom's family passed down from his mother. Oh Crap! doesn't even begin to describe the Fox's reaction to this revelation.
  • The main action of Road to Perdition consists of Michael O'Sullivan holding up mob banks, deliberately targeting the off-the-books money the banks are holding for John Looney and Al Capone, as a means to force Capone to turn over Connor Looney, the son of John Looney and the murderer of Michael's wife and youngest son. Furthermore, O'Sullivan tells the crooked bank managers that they can keep a portion of that money for themselves as a "handling charge" by claiming he took it to ensure their cooperation.
  • The French comic Inner City Blues starts when two low-rent brothers in crime steal a car that belongs to the one of the mob bosses in the city. Their fence immediately recognizes it and calls the boss to explain what happened. The two thieves end up given a job as "debt collectors", as the boss was impressed by their skill.


  • Charley Varrick: The protagonists rob a small town bank that happens to be a mob bank, and the spend the rest of the film trying to evade both the police and the mob.
  • Crime Spree: A group of French burglars on a performance tour in USA robs a mansion... at a wrong address. The house which they enter happens to belong to the underboss of the city's major crime family. And he happens to be inside.
  • The Dark Knight: Exploited by the Joker to start an underworld civil war. His gang of gunmen wearing clown masks rob an actual mob bank. Most of the mooks are oblivious, until the manager whips out a shotgun.
  • Road to Perdition: Subverted in that Michael Sullivan, the Irish Mob hitman doing the robbery, knows whom he's robbing: Al Capone's organization. Sullivan (with the help of his eldest son) seizes Capone's dirty money in order to get Capone to turn over Connor Rooney, who murdered Sullivan's wife and youngest son. Capone's men even let him do it because Frank Nitti, Capone's right-hand man, feels that Connor cannot be trusted with running his father's organization.
  • The Sting: A team of con artists (Johnny Hooker, Luther Coleman, and Joe Erie) inadvertently swindle a numbers runner for crime boss Doyle Lonnegan. Lonnegan assigns hit men to find and kill each of them, and the hit men appear and carry out attacks throughout the movie.
  • Beverly Hills Cop: Michael Tandino steals millions of dollars in bearer bonds from a man named Victor Maitland. Unfortunately for him, Maitland is a major drug dealer, who sends hit men to find Tandino, recover the bonds, and execute him.
  • Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000): Kip steals a car. Then they find the trunk full of cocaine and realize it probably belongs to a drug kingpin.
    Memphis: Where did you get this car?
    Kip: In front of a restaurant in Chinatown!
    Memphis: Do you even know why someone would leave a car like that with its keys in it?...Maybe because no one in that neighborhood would be stupid enough to try and rip this car off!
  • In The Bank Job, members of the British secret service need to retrieve incriminating photos of the princess from a criminal who has been using them as blackmail material to stay out of jail, so they set up some criminals to rob the bank where they are being stored. The criminals have no idea of the motive behind their instigator, and are unprepared when the real target, and other criminals who stored their incriminating evidence in the same bank, come after them.
  • The Usual Suspects: Each of the main characters supposedly were involved in crimes where they stole something from Keyser Soze. Since none of them knew who they were really stealing from, Soze allows them to make amends by engaging in a Suicide Mission on his behalf.
  • In Snatch., three of the characters rob an underground bookmaking establishment owned by a London Gangster.
  • In Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, the two main characters try to rob a bank to help a friend save his bar. Unfortunately for them, the bank CEO is involved in the drug trade on the side, and the transport they swipe is carrying the newest designer drug. It goes downhill from there.
  • Drive: Standard's "simple" pawn shop heist was supposed to turn up $40,000. Instead, the crew finds half a million dollars of money stashed by an out-of-town mob. Then things get really bad.
  • In Fast Five, Dominic Toretto and Brian O'Connor assemble a team to rob drug kingpin Reyes completely blind.
  • Hostage: Three teen crooks break into a rich suburban family's house. Unknown to them, the father has ties to the mob. When it escalates into a full blown Hostage Situation, the mob gets involved to prevent the police from stumblin upon incriminating data.
  • The Great Bank Robbery depicts a comedic western variation on this.
  • The Drop has two robbers start the plot by holding up a mob bar, and then plan to come back when it's the drop off for all the mob bars of the month.
  • In Heat, it turns out that the bearer bonds stolen during the opening heist by Neil and his crew belonged to a banker who does business for a drug cartel. On realising this, the crew curiously doesn't panic, but instead calmly approach the banker with what they feel is a reasonable deal — having not known the bonds belonged to him, they offer to sell his bonds back to him at a generous price which will, on top of the insurance he'll receive for them anyway, will see him lose out less than he would have had they sold them to a third party. Unfortunately for them, the banker isn't in the mood to be reasonable and so orders a hit out on them. Interestingly, the hit backfires and Neil, himself now no longer in the mood to be reasonable, promises the banker he's pretty much going to die painfully. The banker is consequently the one who spends most of the movie fretting for his life — until he gets hooked up with Waingro, an Ax-Crazy lunatic with a grudge against Neil, at which point things go From Bad to Worse for pretty much everyone concerned.
  • The title character in John Wick gets his vintage Ford Mustang stolen, his dog killed, and the shit kicked out of him by Iosef Tarasov, the Spoiled Brat son of a Russian gangster, all because John wouldn't sell his Mustang to the kid. When Iosef gets home, his father Viggo informs him that John used to be one of his best and most feared assassins before he retired, and that not only does Iosef deserve everything he has coming to him, he's probably doomed the rest of the organization as well with his stupidity.
    • Later in the film, John strikes back against Viggo Tarasov's organization by raiding an orthodox church that Viggo used as a front to launder and store his criminal gains. Though in this case, it isn't about taking Viggo's money - John burns all of it within the church's vault - it's to force Viggo himself to come out of hiding by doing something that he can't afford to ignore.
  • In the TV movie Good Cops, Bad Cops (1990), corrupt police in Boston burgle the safe deposit boxes of a bank and find a much larger haul than they anticipated, causing them to worry about this trope. The local mob boss assures them it isn't the case; he just wants his cut from their crime. Unfortunately the criminal responsible for fencing the jewels has made off with them.


  • The apparently valuable MacGuffin that drives the plot of The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling turns out to be evidence that Unreliable Expositor J. Rudyard Whelkin has successfully conned a very wealthy, very powerful admirer of Adolf Hitler.
  • Robbing a mob bank is the first stage of Nicodemus's plan to break into the Underworld (the mythological kind not the criminal kind) in the Dresden Files novel Skin Game. It's a set-up.
  • In the Parker novel The Outfit, Parker gets sick of the contract The Mafia has placed on him. He contacts all of his independent operator associates and asks them to put into effect any plans they might have had for robbing outfit operations (which is something he had threatened to do at the end of the first novel The Hunter). The third section of the novel details several of these robberies being carried out. The result is so costly to the outfit that they are willing to make peace with Parker and call off the contract.
  • The Executioner. Mack Bolan does this as a matter of routine, in order to fund his Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Mafia.

     Live Action TV  

  • In the Burn Notice episode "Bad Breaks", Michael Weston convinced some bank robbers that they were in the process of doing this.
  • In an episode of The '80s cop show Hunter, a not very smart crook steals cocaine from a courier, then asks around for someone willing to buy it. He's sent to the man whom the courier was working for, who finds it very interesting that he's being sold the exact amount of coke that's just been stolen from him...
  • Monk: A man attempts to steal coins from a gumball machine in a barbershop. One of them was a rare penny worth millions. Little did he know that that barbershop was a front for a mob family and they all start shooting at him. The man manages to get a hold of a gun, kills everybody in the shop, and attempts to make it look like a feuding mob had attacked them.
  • Ziggy's backstory in Power Rangers RPM amounts to this. A low-level member of the mob itself, Ziggy got the chance to prove himself making a multi-million dollar shipment. But when he realized the shipment was of medical equipment that an orphanage of Littlest Cancer Patients sorely needed, he sent it to them instead (letting the mob think he took it himself so they wouldn't target the kids) and escaped into the wastelands outside the city. When he returned to civilization, he quickly got in with the Power Rangers through his new friend Dillon, which meant he was mostly protected from mob reprisals. Mostly.
  • On The Shield, Vic and the gang rob the Armenian mob's money train at the end of season 2. They then spend much of the following five seasons dealing with the fallout.
  • The Sopranos.
    • In "46 Long", Christopher and Brendan Filone start hijacking trucks. The owner of the trucks pays Junior for protection and Junior orders them to stop, but their need to feed their drug addictions forces them to continue. In "Denial, Anger, Acceptance" Junior orders retaliation against them and Brendan is killed.
  • In an episode of Starsky & Hutch, a small-time crook robs a candy store and then discovers it's a front for the mob. He immediately panics and tries to give the money back, using the show's Information Broker Huggy Bear as a go-between. Naturally things don't go as planned.
  • An episode of White Collar had a teen conman being targeted by one of the criminals he stole from.
  • In The Wire, Proposition Joe manipulates Omar into robbing a poker game attended by Marlo Stanfield, the druglord of West Baltimore. This kickstarts a major feud between them.

     Video Games  

  • The plot of Saints Row: The Third is kicked off by a bungled bank heist; the Saints find out the hard way that the bank they're holding up is Syndicate property.
  • A variation occurs in Grand Theft Auto V. After Mike catches his wife cheating on him, his idea of getting revenge on her lover is blowing up his house, with him in it. Problem is, the house really belonged to the biggest drug czar in the state. So now Mike owes $2 million to this very pissed mobster and has to rob banks and such to pay him back.
  • In Batman: Arkham Origins, Batman heads to the Gotham Merchants Bank, which is owned by crime boss Black Mask, and discovers that the Joker has kidnapped Black Mask and assumed his identity, taking over his operation and his men; the Joker proceeds to escape with a truck full of money stolen from the bank.
    • Two-Face's plan in Batman: Arkham Knight is to rob every bank in Gotham used as a laundering front for the mob, taking advantage of Scarecrow's mass evacuuation to ensure that he'll have no opposition (save Batman, of course). Although his "Harvey" personallity is aware that they're also robbing the honest civilians who just happen to use those banks and there's no real way to sort the "good" money from the "bad", they still see it as fair.
  • While not a Mob bank, In Payday 2, specifically the Firestarter Heist, the Payday gang is sent to rob a bank holding money belonging to the Mendoza Cartel for Hector. However, It's Subverted, as they don't steal the money, they burn it
  • The "Blood Money" level of Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number sees the Son and two underlings attacking a bank belonging to the Colombians.

     Western Animation  

  • Catwoman's introductory episode on The Batman begins with her stealing a valuable jade lion statue from a Japanese businessman. This lands her in hot water because the "businessman" is really a Yakuza boss planning on expanding his clan into Gotham and the statue's real value came from the data disc hidden inside it which charted the clan's hierarchy and business contacts.
  • In the The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "To Steal An Ant-Man", Scott Lang robs a Hydra bank to get the money to ransom his daughter.