Fought like a switchblade so no one could take him down
He had no money, no, no good at home
He walked the streets a soldier and he fought the world alone"
The formal adjective definition of the word "delinquent" describes something or someone who fails in their duty. This sums up its more popular usage quite nicely; a delinquent is someone (generally a young person) who fails in their "duty to society" by being anti-social. They won't be plotting to take over the world or rob banks and they're more likely to be an Asshole Victim of The Aggressive Drug Dealer than an example. They are, however, likely to refuse to turn up to school (or are disruptive if they do), harass people in the street, shoplift and drink or smoke while underage.
If the protagonist encounters them, they're probably going to either be bullied by them, or fall in with them. In the later case they'll serve as Toxic Friend Influence who use peer pressure to encourage the protagonist to join them in their misdeeds (naturally this "friendship" will be short lived, as the protagonist will be caught the moment they try it and subsequently be abandoned by them at best or made their scapegoat at worst). Alternatively, the trope can be played more lightly, with a delinquent acting as a sort of Token Evil Teammate, or as an outright Anti-Hero or Byronic Hero.
Delinquents have come in many flavors in different times and places, but the stereotype tends to attach itself to whatever scary new subculture the kids have come up with recently: greasers in 1950s America, mods and rockers in 1960s Britain, and punks everywhere since the 1970s. In all cases, expect some form of Delinquent Hair or Nonconformist Dyed Hair.
This trope can overlap with Spoiled Brat, Preacher's Kid, or Lower-Class Lout (depending on their family background). Expect them to act as mooks or be the "hat" of a Gang of Hats.
Contrast the Tragic Dropout, who does drop out of school, but was well-behaved and got good grades while in school. This can be a Delinquent character's Start of Darkness, however, depending on just what was the cause.
For tropes and stereotypes about delinquents in Japan, see Japanese Delinquents. Please move the Anime and Manga examples to this page.
- See Japanese Delinquents.
- Adventure Time: Ice King has the Dark Moon Esbats, a gang of unpleasant but not very powerful young wizards who have stereotypical juvenile delinquent personalities.
- The main nemeses of the young protagonist in Omega the Unknown.
- Ghosts of Evangelion: Shinji and Asuka's daughter Ryuko went through a delinquent phase during her teen years: she dyed her hair dark lavender, had her eyebrow, nose and tongue pierced, wore ragged clothes and showed a devil-may-care attitude. Her parents sometimes called her a delinquent, but they didn't really mind.
- Cars featured the "Delinquent Road Hazards" a quartet of troublemaking young cars composing of Boost, a purple and gray car with rocket boosters as their leader, Wingo, a green and white car with an oversized, multilayered spoiler, DJ, a blue van with speakers all over his body, and Snot Rod, an orange drag racer with an oversized engine.
- John Bender from The Breakfast Club, though he's actually a pretty nice guy when you get to know him.
- Carmen in The Color of Money was this before the movie begins. She first met Vincent after she got arrested for driving the getaway car while her (former) boyfriend was robbing his parents' house.
- The Dead End Kids series from the 1930s, switching between the main characters and the supporting players, eventually becoming the Bowery Boys (and sliding into B-Movie territory) when the actors got too old to play teens. They were somewhat more hard-edged in their film debut Dead End, in which they assault and rob a rich kid, and one of them has to be stopped from slicing another's face with a knife. In They Made Me a Criminal they are petty criminals (vandalism, burglary) who have been sent out to a date farm in Arizona in order to get straightened out.
- The teenage leads of Lords of Dogtown are this: growing up too wild in Venice Beach, California, "the ghetto by the sea", skipping school to surf in the early morning and joy-riding behind buses on their skateboards.
- The vampire gang in The Lost Boys.
- Over the Edge is basically about what happens when you build a planned community and make no plans for the fact that 25% of the population is under 15.
- Deconstructed with Rebel Without a Cause, in which the teens act the way they do because they lack competent guidance from adults. In fact, the main character of the film, Jim, wants to be a good person, except society - including his own parents - is keeping him form being so.
- In the St. Trinian's series, the entire school, including the faculty, are delinquents (with the exception of the occasional Naïve Newcomer who inevitably becomes one by the end of the movie). The shoplifting, harrassment, drinking and smoking mentioned in this trope's description are nothing compared to what they get up to.
- John Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. He skips school to steal from ATM machines, play at the arcade, and ride around on his motorbike playing loud metal music. It's basically him venting his frustrations at being taught from a young age that he'll be the leader of humanity in the Armageddon by (from his point of view) his insane terrorist mother.
- X-Men Film Series:
- X-Men: Days of Future Past: Quicksilver is a juvenile delinquent whose favourite hobby is shoplifting.
- X-Men: Apocalypse: Ororo Munroe and her gang of street urchins steal from market vendors in order to survive.
- Older Than Radio: Tom and Huck of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
- Blackboard Jungle, a schoolteacher drama from The '50s that helped codify this trope; the movie adaptation was the first major motion picture with a Rock'n Roll soundtrack.
- Billy Nolan and his friends in Stephen King's Carrie. His girlfriend Chris Hargensen is also one of these, though the film adaptations downplay it.
- Stephen King is fond of this trope, with many versions turning up as bullies and agents of more malevolent forces. Some other examples include Henry Bowers and his friends from IT; Ace Merrill's gang in Stand By Me; the three greaser types from Sometimes They Come Back; and Buddy Repperton and his group in Christine. He subverts the trope with many of his "good kids gone bad" characters, particularly Todd from Apt Pupil.
- Victoria Martin in Hangin' Out with Cici is a rather hard-to-find female example, especially considering when the book was written.
- In the Harry Potter series:
- Most of Slytherin House.
- By the time of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Dudley spends his days wandering the streets with his gang causing mayhem and terrorizing small children, with his parents none the wiser.
- Jason and his friends of Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus are students at a 'Wilderness School', a Boarding School in Nevada for 'bad kids'.
- Middle School: Rafe makes a plan to break every school rule in increasingly huge ways.
- The main characters of the book The Outsiders are a typical greaser gang. Their rivals are the Socs, who are true delinquents that get away with most of their crimes due to being rich.
- Mac and Charlie from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia were this as children / teens (and grew up to become Lower-Class Louts). Flashbacks to them at the age of 8/9 show their main hobbies as throwing rocks at trains / cats and burning trash.
- Two companions in Doctor Who:
- Happy Days: Fonzie is a semi-reformed delinquent.
- iCarly: Sam has been arrested more than once, asks Freddie to hide her backpack when a cop shows up at Carly's apartment, was seen shaking down some kid in the pilot, solves most of her problems with violence, is generally the first (and only) member of the main threesome to suggest criminal action... you get the idea.
- Kamen Rider Fourze has an interesting subversion: Gentarou dresses up like one, but he's the most likable guy out there!
- Mirabelle of The Kicks is a frequent rulebreaker and as such, is constantly in detention. Parker, her best friend, is also one of these. They even met in detention.
- A group is seen in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 short What About Juvenile Delinquency?.
- NCIS: Season 19's "Thick As Thieves" reveals that Alden Parker was a delinquent during The '70s. He and Billy Doyle, who later shows up in the episode, were caught stealing a hub cap from a car shop in Philadelphia. In that season's finale, when interviewing his dad, the elder Parker asks Jessica if she knew that his "son is an ex-con." Mr. Parker will always remember, since Alden is the only child of his to have never served in uniform. That juvenile record prevented him from doing so.
- Northern Exposure: Chris in the Morning was car thief and a con in his youth.
- Open Heart has Dylan and the group was with before her arrest and community service. Dylan still retains some of the delinquent traits, as they help her sneak around the hospital while she's sleuthing.
- Star Trek: Picard: Elnor as a child steals a fruit from a Romulan grocer, so when he's not being directly supervised by the nuns or Picard, he likes a Five-Finger Discount. This may suggest he became a Street Urchin after he lost his parents, and he didn't give up the bad habit after he was relocated to Vashti and was taken in by the nuns.
- In the Supernatural episode "The Things We Left Behind", Claire is in a solitary cell in a juvenile center after running away. Later, we see that she is shoplifting and mixed up with a dangerous man, Randy.
- That '70s Show: Hyde is a lifelong delinquent even after he becomes the manager of his own record store.
- Gotham Knights (2023): Harper, Cullen and Duela are three youths who live on the street, surviving by theft.
- The video for Aerosmith's "Livin' On The Edge" depicts several of these.
- "Bad Kids" by The Black Lips is about this.
Bad kids all my friends are bad kidsProduct of no dad kidsKids like you and meBad kids ain't no college grad kidsLivin' out on the skidsKids like you and me
- "Weird Al" Yankovic parodies this trope in "Young, Dumb, and Ugly"
We got a reputation 'round these partsWe only leave a ten percent tipSometimes we don't return our shopping cartsStay out of our way and don't you give us no lip
- Jessica from the Cool Kids Table game Bloody Mooney is a teenage crook.
- Young George Wagner, before he became Gorgeous George, was a delinquent. Being a deliquent didn't stop him from being a baby face though, until became Ambiguously Gay.
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Sunnydale Finishing School", Miss Brooks' friends think she's going to take a job at the exclusive school - after snoopy Mrs. Davis finds a years-old letter offering Connie employment. Walter Denton seeks to keep Miss Brooks at Madison High School by pretending to undergo a Face–Heel Turn and become a juvenile delinquent.
- Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues:
- Hyeon is a rock-and-roll enthusiast who doesn't care about school, plays in a band, drinks and drives, and drags people into ill-advised nighttime ventures.
- Zia has the style of one, with dyed hair, piercings, punk attire, and a rebellious attitude towards society.
- Nadine and her Gang of Bullies, who terrorise the other kids, smoke, skip school, and are generally anti-authoritarian. The exception is Carlie, who's a genuinely sweet girl who's just enamored with the punk aesthetic.
- The Bloody Fists in Survival of the Fittest version two start out this way, but eventually turn into a full fledged criminal gang. Alexander Stevens, leader of the Hellbirds, also qualifies, though he tends to avoid making trouble in the schools themselves.
- Hellcats and Hockey Sticks, being essentially St. Trinian's with the Serial Numbers Filed Off, has the school being just as bad as its inspiration (and that's without taking magic and weird science into account).
- The Zodiac Order in Psionics: The Next Stage in Human Evolution is basically made of delinquents. Their M.O. is making and dealing drugs, crashing parties, and making as much trouble for the authorities as possible. Artwork in the book depicts them as punks and hippies.
- "Three Juvenile Delinquents" from Noel Coward's Ace of Clubs.
- Basically everyone in Grease, even if they are singing the whole time.
- The two feuding gangs, the Polish-American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks, in West Side Story. Each gang even gets a song about it; the Jets have "Gee Officer Krupke," where they mock how every adult offers up different explanations for "delinquent" behavior without actually doing anything about it, while the Sharks have "I Like It Here In America," where the men of the Sharks protest to their girlfriends how xenophobic New York is.
- Jonny Warner of Zombie Prom is treated as a delinquent. He has a motorcycle, but the most rebellious thing he does is spell his name without the customary "h".
- The Delinquent Cat from The Battle Cats. His in-game description says he's considered the Bancho of Cat School and dresses with the typical cap and open uniform. His attack animation is also directly inspired by Jotaro Kujo.
- Alex of The Colour Tuesday, mostly due to no one taking her synesthesia seriously as a kid, and authority figures generally putting her down even for reasonable things. In reality, she's less an actual delinquent and more the Only Sane Girl in a world where the adults are morons. As it turns out, having the adults be pawns of the Others doesn't help matters. Alex's status as a rebel is a sign of her destiny to break the control of the Others.
- Inverted in Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice. The term is used to describe demons who attend the school that do... "odd" things. Donating blood, picking up trash, attending classes, and even doing homework. Honor Students are the real delinquents; they skip class, cause fights, and so on. Of course this still fits the formal description of the term, as most of the students are aspiring Card Carrying Villains and the school is supposed to train them to be "evil".
- The protagonist Mao is considered the top honor student because he has never attended a single day of school yet. He is deeply ashamed of that one time his rival forced him to perform "delinquent acts" of cleaning up and donating blood.
- The Streetwannabes from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City are this, with one of their quotes proclaiming that they are delinquents. Their turf is at Prawn Island, and are found loitering North Point Mall at night, often engaging in fights against the security guards.
- Growing Up: After trying out weed in elementary, Jake becomes a delinquent in middle school and starts his own gang, and the first thing he does is ask you for help in stealing some booze from a beggar. He chickens out and buys from the store instead, however.
- Akira, from the near-future chapter of Live A Live, is the very image of a delinquent. He even slouches.
- The Mooks of the school level in No More Heroes. Shinobu sort of falls into this until she reforms after Travis defeats her.
- Persona 5: All of the party members beside Morgana are high school students who moonlight as anti-heroic criminals. Ryuji and Ann also have the standard looks down when attending school, with blond hair (Ann's being natural) and extremely Non-Uniform Uniform school clothing.
- Daigo Kazama, Eiji "Edge" Yamada and Gan Isurugi from Rival Schools. Of course, the school they attend is nothing but deliquents.
- In the sequel Project Justice, they're joined by female delinquent Aoi "Zaki" Himezaki and her all-female gang, the Ladies Team. The two gangs even face off against each other in the game's story mode.
- Riki and Kunio (Ryan and Alex) from the Kunio-kun (River City Ransom) series, including Super Dodgeball. Also about everyone else. Well, except the shop keepers, waiters, children, the old man at the sauna, Roxy, and Ryan. But still!
- The Sims 4 has the Renegades, a club (or more accurately a clique) composed of delinquents and thugs led by Max Villareal. Fittingly enough their activites involve causing trouble for Windenburg.
- G-Bankaran in The Second Super Robot Wars: Original Generation is a Humongous Mecha shaped like a stereotypical delinquent, piloted by an actual stereotypical delinquent.
- Masamune Date and his men from Sengoku Basara. Think Sengoku Era biker gang.
- You play as one named Budi in Troublemaker, who often went in and out of of juvenile detention. But after breaking rules one time too many, you're then hauled to the Cipta Wiyata Academy, the strictest institution in Jakarta, only to topple the school's ruling council by way of fists.
- The ZX Spectrum and C64 classic Skool Daze has the player controlling Eric, a delinquent schoolboy who has to steal his report card from the school safe to avoid expulsion. The sequel, Back To Skool, has him trying to return a forged positive report card to the safe. Both games allow you to punch people, fire catapults, get other students into trouble, and in Back To Skool, cause chaos by releasing mice and frogs in the school, dropping stink bombs and more. The non-player characters Angelface and Boy Wander also count as delinquents.
- Cashmere Sky: Arlo becomes this in Volume 2. After recently getting hired at a coffee shop, he makes a cappuccino machine blow up after a (admittedly rude) customer talks down to him, trashing the entire place in the process, and lands himself in a jail cell. He's been there enough times that the station officers are familiar with him and he would've been transferred to prison if Archer didn't keep bailing him out.
- The focus of Korean webtoon Weak Hero is on the various delinquent hierarchies that exist between the various schools of Yeongdeungpo. When Gray arrives at Eunjang and starts to take down the bullies there, it threatens the entire delinquent standing, and so they all start to converge on him.
- In C0DA, a flashback reveals that a teenage Vivec, while dirty and homeless, led such a gang. "They’d do almost anything for money. Kill, steal, whore themselves out. They were catamites with a grudge and a skill set to focus it."
- Arthur: the "Tough Customers" gang is a kid-friendly group of delinquents.
- Terry McGinnis, the new Batman from Batman Beyond, is a former delinquent. This trait is downplayed, however, as it's not brought up until Terry's character arc has been established, so that it doesn't take over his characterization.
- Roger Klotz and his gang of friends from Doug. They play pranks on other people, vandalize things, love to bully others especially Doug, and other stuff that falls under this category.
- The Legend of Korra reveals Suyin Beifong was this in her youth. She skipped school, hung around criminals, and took part in a robbery.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The teenage dragons Spike meets in Dragon Quest are delinquents, and a fairly nasty bunch too.
- The Gangreen Gang from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) is this and more. The time they're sent back to school, in "Schoolhouse Rocked," shows why no school will take them.
- The "Bad Kids" from Recess, usually consisting of Kurst the Worst (who really doesn't take pride in her mean acts), Mundy, Skeens, Sue Bob Murphy, and Lazy Kid.
- Lars and his gang from Rocket Power are this as well. They commonly play hooky, vandalize houses with toilet paper, and stay up past curfew. They also take delight in picking on the main kids (especially with Lars to Twister). Otto Rocket tends to fall into this category as well considering he is the most rebellious and competitive of the main characters.
- Bart Simpson, notorious Anti-Role Model of the 90s, is actually a moderate example even In-Universe, probably due to the fact that he has a relatively stable if weird family who keep him more or less on the straight and narrow, so that he's never worse than a petty criminal and prankster. The same can't be said of area bullies Jimbo Jones, Dolph Starbeam, Kearney Zzyzwicz, and Nelson Muntz, who variously take him into their flock and beat him up.
- Total Drama: Duncan and Mal like to bully, vandalize, seed discord, and cause chaos just because they can. They've been in and out of juvie, which they pride themselves on. Throughout the series, Duncan gets in trouble with the law behind the scenes until he is arrested and sent to jail for blowing up Chris's mansion. Mal obtains a new personality as Mike and lives a normal life until a blow to the head temporarily brings Mal back.