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A Militsya patrol stops a passerby a few minutes before the martial-law-imposed curfew. They check his documents and everything seems to be in order, so they let him go. But when the man turns to leave, one of the officers shoots him in the back.
"What the... why'd you do that!?" his colleague exclaims. The first officer shrugs.
"Oh, I know where he lives. There's no way he's getting home before the curfew."
— Old Polish joke
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Totalitarian governments are known for many oppressive means of controlling their citizens: taking Undesirables™ and forcibly removing them from the gene pool, filtering The News such that only information (accurate or otherwise) that makes the government look good can find its way to the eyes and ears of the citizens, collaborating with Mega Corps (of Peace & Love, Incorporated variety) to outlaw the Weird Trade Unions and their La Résistance in their own One Nation Under Copyright, making anyone who disagrees with the government disappear or thrown into Private Profit Prisons, and... making sure everyone goes to sleep on time?

Apparently many writers' favorite way to show that a government is evil and oppressive is to have said government instill on its citizens a practice that many parents would instill on their children anyway. In the minds of many writers, a curfew is the piece of martial law no self-respecting dictatorship can go without. Specifically: the government legally forces everyone to stay inside past a certain hour at night and until a certain hour in the morning. While normally you'd expect the penalty for a rule like this to be a simple ticket or fine, the actual punishments you will find range from immediate jailtime at minimum to summary execution at most. Narratively speaking, the authorities can say that someone is a rebel just for being about; it also means characters can fight in major urban areas without risking innocent lives. Sometimes the curfew isn't targeted at everyone but rather a certain group of people that the government believes is trouble or wants to oppress.

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Other times, a democratic nation may declare a curfew in the wake of a natural catastrophe or epidemic, in order to prevent a nasty situation from exacerbating even further and to prevent looting and outright sabotage. Even so, often this curfew is a good early sign that the democratic government is starting to control people's lives, so they're useful as a sign of benign government turning into a cruel regime.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • One Piece: When Doflamingo took over the island of Dressrosa and made it his headquarters 10 years prior to the current storyline, he installed a curfew on the citizens that forbade anyone being out after 12pm. The reason was because he and his crew specialized in underground Black Market trade of various illegal goods ranging from common weapons to rare Devil Fruits, all of which was kept hidden from the populace in order to maintain his false image as a benevolent ruler.
  • Apparently, Pokémon: The Series has one where people aren't allowed on the streets at certain times (though this was only shown in "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak"). It was because of this that an uncharacteristically strict Nurse Joy wouldn't let Ash go out and save Brock from the Maiden's ghost.

    Comic Books 
  • In V for Vendetta, Evey gets in trouble with the Fingermen over prostitution. And curfew. Toned down to just curfew in the film, though given the punishment they were going to give her is the same, that just makes it worse, and either way, it makes it a relief when Anti-Hero V shows up to kick their asses.
  • Judge Dredd:
    • The insane Cal instituted such a curfew during his tyrannical reign as Chief Judge.
    • As did the Dark Judges during the Necropolis arc. They tried to discourage people getting shot as "there are so many more interesting ways to die."
  • In one Sonic the Comic story, set when Robotnik was still ruler of Mobius, badniks started declaring new, asinine laws around a town, including a curfew set at a time that had already passed, meaning everyone broke the law retroactively.
  • In Runaways, Molly's evil parents enforced a curfew upon her by using their psychic abilities to force her to sleep. This is implied to be the cause of her notoriously low stamina.
  • King Tyrannus from Swordquest prevents threats to his rule by imposing a nightly curfew in his realm. This is enforced with flying four-armed demons wielding flaming swords.

    Comic Strips 
  • Bluto and the Commodore have one over the town in Popeye.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Hangmen Also Die!, the Nazis enforce a 7 pm curfew after the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, which forces Dr. Svoboda to spend the night at the Novotnys'.
  • In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, new Head Peacekeeper Romulus Thread declares a curfew in District 12, under threat of summary execution if anyone breaks it.
  • In The Running Man the Cadres apparently enforce this in what is left of the United States. It's not a major plot point, but announcements in the background talking about a midnight curfew, and violators being "permanently detained" can be made out.
  • In Xchange, everyone is required to carry a dog tag, fitted with a trackable chip, apparently replacing plastic and paper IDs. It is illegal to be out after curfew, if you don't have a proper tag. It is never revealed what the punishment is, though. The government is not a dictatorship, however.

    Literature 
  • Chrysalis (RinoZ): There's no specific curfew in the Colony, but Anthony's admonishments for the workaholic ants to get eight hours of sleep a day eventually lead to the formation of a secret police force, tracking everyone's torpor time and appearing out of the shadows to knock offenders out with special pheromones and drag them away to the cells for rest. Serious breaches might even result in carapace waxing and aromatherapy! (And then they start training humans.)
  • In the Delirium Series, love (called "amor deliria nervosa") is considered a disease and at age 18, all Americans are "cured" of the ability to love. The curfew for "uncureds" is set to add appeal to the procedure and also to stop lovers from meeting.
  • Discworld: Ankh-Morpork experienced this under the rule of Homicidal Lord Winder as seen in Night Watch; it may have occurred under other Patricians as well. By contrast, Lord Vetinari dislikes curfews. They're bad for business.
  • Flawed: The curfew is only for the Flawed, as they must be home by eleven every night. They and their family are horribly punished if they aren't, even if it was for reasons beyond their control.
  • Occurred in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — just in Hogsmeade, though, as it's the only all-wizarding settlement (not for lack of trying on Voldemort's part).
  • In Malorie Blackman's book Thief, this is one of the first things that happen to Lydia when she is transported to the future.
  • Mistborn: Inverted with Urteau, the city run by a repressive revolutionary government. Taking inspiration from the martyr who promised that the night was safe, the citizens are encouraged to go out at night.
  • In Rant, the population is divided into "daytimers" and "nighttimers". Each category is only allowed to be outside their home during their specified half of a 24-hour day (switchover is at 8am and 8pm) unless they have permission for such reasons as work. This is enforced by police.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Mentioned as part of President Clark's declarations as he seizes power in Babylon 5.
  • The Barrier: Madrid has a curfew, during which electricity is turned off in Sector 2 homes as part of the electricity rationing. It's a surprise to Álex and Marta, who haven't been to Madrid before the beginning of the series. The extent to which the main characters respect it varies greatly, ranging from a reason to spend the night somewhere to a good time span during which to have secret meetings. Considering that New Spain is currently under dicatorship, being caught breaking curfew is implied to be something that should be avoided.
  • Doctor Who
    • "Rise of the Cybermen" shows a curfew in the parallel world, but no indication that there's anything wrong with the government.
    • In "War of the Sontarans", Dan Lewis finally makes it back home, but his neighbours refuse to come out and talk to him. He finds out why when a squad of Sontarans try to shoot him as a Curfew defier. Turns out Earth was invaded while he was away.
  • In the Supergirl (2015) episode "Crime and Punishment", President Baker declares martial law and specifically marks a difference in how humans and aliens will be treated if caught after curfew: humans will be "cited", while aliens (who are also US citizens, by the way) will be "stopped by any means necessary". The aliens aren't stupid and see the writing on the wall. Colonel Haley mentions that her daughter's teacher, an alien, has gone into hiding, which caused her daughter to experience a panic attack and Haley to start re-thinking about her priorities.
  • Titans (2018). Gotham is shown to have a curfew in an attempt to keep a lid on the Wretched Hive, and Tim Drake is questioned by police as to why he's out on the street at night—he's a delivery courier for his family's restaurant, presumably for all the people who can't go out to get something to eat now.

    Music 
  • This is one of the theories of the origin of a popular Ashkenazi Jewish Klezmer song "7:40". In Imperial Russia, Jews couldn't show up in Odessa after dark if they weren't registered residents (and even that was the case, they had no right to leave their ghettos after dark). So any Jew from outside Odessa who had business in the city had to arrive on a morning train which entered the city at the eponymous time (7:40 am) and leave in evening.
  • Rebel Music from Bob Marley's Natty Dread tells the story about a man being arrested by the police after three o'clock at night during curfew and taken in custody for possession of marijuana.
  • "Shut Up, Be Happy":
    Curfew is at 7 PM sharp after work.
    Anyone caught outside the gates of their subdivision sector after curfew WILL. BE. SHOT.
  • In Johnny Cash's Starkville City Jail
    They're bound to get you.
    'Cause they got a curfew.
    And you go to the Starkville City jail

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Misspent Youth by Robert Bohl, a game where you play a group of teenage anarchists out to change the world, the group creates Systems of Control that are sci-fi-ish details about the world that The Authority uses to mess with your lives. As in the real world, the authorities frequently use curfews to control children.

    Video Games 
  • You first gain control of the main character of Zork: Grand Inquisitor seconds before the town's curfew goes into effect.
  • In the Konquest mode of Mortal Kombat: Deception, the main character returns to meet his former ally and all-around Knight Templar Hotaru in the town he's just conquered, only to be arrested for breaking curfew. Judging by appearances, he is held in a cell awaiting trial for over a decade.
  • One of the options in political simulator Democracy 2. It will take a lot of political influence and it will make you unpopular very quickly.
  • In Quest for Glory II, it's against the law to be out at night in the fascist city of Raseir, fallen twin to the free city of Shapeir.
  • Deus Ex features a curfew in Paris now that it's under martial law, enforced by twitchy military robots.
    • A fan-made prequel and Game Mod 2027 features Moscow under martial law. Police and bots will shoot at anyone caught out after dark.
    • In the prequel Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Prague which already has a heavy police presence in the area around Jensen’s home and workplace, goes under full-blown curfew when Jensen returns there from a mission in Switzerland. Earlier, the cops would randomly stop you to demand your papers, instantly react with violence if they see you doing anything suspicious and casually insult you, but they’d let you be as long as you behaved. Now, they shoot and kill anyone out on the streets who isn’t a policeman. This forces you to either fight through them or sneak past them.
  • The online video game The Curfew is about a future Britain where this (unsurprisingly) has happened.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4, the town in which chapter 3 takes place is under a very strict curfew, any PMC registered person outside after a period of time is arrested (or in Snake's case, shot at) under suspicion of being part of La Résistance. Naturally you have to tail a resistance member who's breaking curfew - what else were you expecting?
    • However, in an amusing instance of Developers' Foresight, if you wear the Otacon mask you got in the chapter previous and don't carry any weapons, the guards will pat you down and let you move completely freely, passing you off as a citizen on his way home.
  • In Dragon Age II, hallmarks of Meredith's reign as Templar Knight-Commander apparently include curfews and midnight raids on families suspected of sheltering mage relatives. It doesn't stop Hawke and co. from going wherever they please, but most of Meredith's methods tend do more damage than they prevent.
  • In The Sims 3, there's a curfew for child and teen sims. When their curfew is up, child sims will automatically head home or to the nearest adult family member. Teen sims can stay out past curfew and sometimes they even get the desire to do so. If they stay out long enough, a police officer will show up to take them home, where they will be scolded by an adult member of their family. Teen and child sims are not considered out after curfew if they're accompanied by an adult member of their family.
  • In Batman: Arkham Origins, all of Gotham is under a curfew due to the city expecting an implausibly powerful winter storm making it unsafe for people to be on the streets that night. This means the vast majority of people out and about fall into three categories: Cops, Crooks, and Batman.
  • Assassin's Creed Origins: The town of Sais has a curfew, as decreed by Sufetu.

    Web Video 

    Webcomics 
  • Lovely People: The setting's social credit system forbids people with too low scores from being outside their homes past a certain hour.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra, Tarrlok's idea of a sane response to anti-bending revolutionaries is to impose curfews on every non-bender in Republic City. Taking this a step further, he shuts off the electricity to a whole district just to goad them outside, where he can accuse them of breaking curfew and have them rounded up.
  • In Transformers: Animated, new leader Sentinel Prime wastes no time in establishing a curfew on Cybertron, allegedly to protect against the looming Decepticon threat.
  • In an episode of Darkwing Duck, Gosalyn is sent to the future, where the Gosalyn-less Darkwing has become a vicious dictator called Darkwarrior Duck who does this. Gosalyn even notes "Only my dad would set a universal curfew at 8 o'clock."
  • The Smurfs go through this in the episode "Tick Tock Smurfs" when Brainy subjects every Smurf to his own personal time schedule.
  • In the Danny Phantom episode where Vlad becomes mayor of Amity Park, he imposes this as an excuse to protect the children from ghosts when in reality, he's doing it to make Danny and his friends miserable.

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