The Con

The Con plot reveals the anatomy of a confidence scheme, usually from the criminal perspective. Less action-oriented than The Caper; while having some action, the main focus is on how The Mark becomes the victim of his own desires.

May contain an A-Team Montage or Avengers Assemble sequence. Commonly uses a Big Store setting at some point. See The Tale and Short Con for descriptions of particular schemes, which may be a Plot Tailored to the Party.

The book The Big Con, by David Maurer, is recommended to the casual reader. An anthropological study of the Con Man circa 1935-1940, it served as partial inspiration for the original Mission: Impossible TV series.

See also Impossible Mission, The Infiltration, One Born Every Minute. While usually a standard of The Caper, occasionally there will be a Caper Crew running or utilizing The Con.

Not to be confused with the colloquial term for a Fan Convention.



Anime and Manga
  • Lupin III is both a gentleman thief and a conman. Think of him as a eastern version of Bugs Bunny.

Comic Books
  • Hellblazer series is an example of this trope, although its plots features supernatural (say fictional) elements. John Constantine, the protag, is known in the DC Universe as the "Ultimate Con Man", which he got from conning his enemies with wit, including the Devil and God themselves.
  • Loki is not far behind, if there is someone in the Marvel universe they didn't con, and they already conned themself, that must be probably part of a con yet to come. This is more evident in series featuring his kid (Journey into Mystery) and teen (Loki: Agent of Asgard) versions who don't have the raw magical power. They're the kind of guy who would con Mephisto to get an inside man for a caper that turns out to be a diversion for a spy mission.

  • Catch Me If You Can
  • The classic movie example is The Sting. In fact, the title is old slang for..."The Con!" And its spiritual remake Confidence.
  • Matchstick Men
  • Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • The Distinguished Gentleman opens with a con man who operates by getting his mark into a sex scandal, then showing up and arresting the "blackmailers", who are part of the con. The mark is so anxious to avoid publicity that he bribes the "FBI agent" to keep it quiet.
  • Many works by David Mamet.
  • Nine Queens and its 2004 American remake, the generically named Criminal.
  • The Brothers Bloom shows three cons, one after the other. The last one gets complicated.
  • Diggstown
  • The remade Ocean's Eleven and its successors are mostly Capers, but also rely on the kind of psychological manipulation more closely associated with a Con.
  • Inception in a weird sort of way.
  • The specialty of the servants in Fitzwilly.
  • The Grifters
  • The Flim-Flam Man contains a lot of little con games instead of one big con.
  • The Spanish Prisoner
  • Gambit follows a con by an inept art curator, attempting to convince his employer to buy a forgery of a Monet painting by use of a confederate. At the end of the film, he seems to have failed, revealing the forgery as part of a show of competence, only for it to be revealed that he was actually after another painting owned by his employer, which he stole and replaced with a forgery.

  • The Twelve Chairs and The Little Golden Calf by Ilya Ilf and Eugene Petrov, being the adventures of a con artist, have lot of these. Ostap Bender, the protagonist, is mostly a master of the short con and uses this to swindle just enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. One day, he's impersonating a White Emigre spy, the other day a repo man, yet another day an artist, the next day he's a chessmaster. His archnemesis Koreiko, on the other hand, is a long con expert and really money-grubbing, not stopping at stealing trains of food bound to famine-stricken regions.
  • In Time Enough for Love: when Lazarus goes back in time he arranges to meet up with his grandfather and when Lazarus starts to avoid questions about his profession, they start talking about the nicknames of common cons used.
  • In The Princes Of The Air, the protagonists run a variety of cons, at first for their own benefit and later as loyal if unconventional servants of Queen and country.

Live-Action TV
  • Mission: Impossible is, of course, the Trope Codifier.
  • Hustle is an entire series of this.
  • Followed up by The Real Hustle, a "consumer" show detailing what to look out for and how to avoid falling for The Con.
  • Leverage, the Trans Atlantic Equivalent of Hustle follows the same general idea, although they do The Caper fairly often. They are also generally using their powers for good and usually don't keep the money they steal.
  • F/X: The Series is about a special effects crew tricking criminals into situations where they revealed information about their crimes.
  • Hawaii Five-0 features one episode where a gang of criminals pulls a Mission: Impossible-style con on a businessman by imitating members of the main cast and having the required perfect replica of the real office in an abandoned building.
  • Several Sawyer-centric episodes of Lost, especially "The Long Con."
  • MacGyver episode "Jenny's Chance'".
  • In Psych, Shawn Spencer is a con man extraordinare. Fortunately, he only uses his powers for good. And the occasional pick-up line. And sometimes because it's really entertaining.
  • In Burn Notice, Michael Westen often gets something he needs out of criminals by pretending to be someone they would associate with for a full episode. In other words, he runs The Con...For Justice!
  • Several episodes of The Rockford Files involve elaborate cons to recover stolen money or avenge a wrong.
  • This (and being a Gentleman Thief) was Neal Caffrey's MO before Peter Burke caught him. Since then, he's often run The Con on criminals for the FBI. Burke himself gets in on the act sometimes.
  • In the episode "Mail Call" of M*A*S*H, Hawkeye and Trapper trick Frank Burns to invest in the non-existing company Pioneer Aviation.
  • Played with on How I Met Your Mother: Lily's breasts are getting large due to pregnancy, and Barney keeps asking to see/touch them. They end up going to dinner at a hibachi grill place (one that Barney hates and always complains about going to, saying that the cooks are not impressive, etc). Eventually he ends up betting Marshal & Lily that he can do the entire cook's routine including the "pocket shrimp" (flipping a shrimp into your shirt pocket) - if he wins he gets to touch Lily's breasts, if he loses he wears the Ducky tie for a year. They agree, thinking there's no way he can do it. But then he starts acting super confidant (flipping a shrimp into his mouth). Marshal also realizes that Barney has been conditioning Marshal to always want to eat there whenever Barney sneezes. They begin to get worried, thinking they've been conned, so they change to agreement to let him see Lily's breasts if they call the bet off. But just before Lily shows them, Marshal stops her saying that no, this is the con and that Barney was just psyching them out so they would let him see Lily's breasts. Cue triumphant gloating as they declare the bet back on. Cut to Barney back in the restaurant cooking up a storm and them about to lose the bet. But then further subverted when, just as Barney's about to catch the shrimp in his pocket, Lily flashes him so he misses the catch, meaning he has to wear the ducky tie for a year.
  • Chuck's missions of the week usually alternate between this, The Caper, and full on action, and a major part of the spy game involves the team assuming identities that get them close to the target. And of course, Sarah's father is a legitimate Con Man, and has used his skills to both help and hinder them, as well as teaching Sarah much of what he knows. Ironically, that still doesn't save Chuck and Sarah from being victimized by another con artist who makes off with their wedding money. Femme Fatale DEA agent Carina also makes heavy use of The Con, and particularly specializes in seducing her targets.

  • Many episodes of The Lives Of Harry Lime.
  • From the opposite side, several episodes of Dragnet — most episodes where Friday and his partner are in the Bunco department that don't involve forgery involve cons.

Video Games

Alternative Title(s): Confidence Trick, Con Game