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Finian: America's full of gangsters, you know.
Sharon: I thought you said it was full of millionaires.
Finian: That depends on which newspaper you read.

This might be considered the Urban Hellscape counterpart of Eagleland, the perception (more ignorantly so in other countries) of American cities as crime-ridden Vice Cities. This has much to do with the export of American films. Supposedly, you will find French people, for instance, believing that Chicago is still as it was when Al Capone was alive.

While they all derive from the movies, most versions of Gangsterland do reflect violent periods in the history of various cities — at least if you turn your head and squint a little. New York City stand-ins will have violence courtesy of The Mafia, Chicago from the Mayor's office and Prohibition-era bootleggers, Boston from the Irish Mob and Los Angeles from Black and Mestizo Hispanic street gangs. Note that the first is organized crime, the second is corruption (and organized crime), and the third is street anarchy (though the more successful street gangsters move up into organized crime, or die trying). However in terms of treatment of civilians, the first rarely fits into Totalitarian Gangsterism, the second may fit into it (depending on the government) and the third is this full-on. Pray that the people who run the land are Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters.

Compare Wretched Hive and Totalitarian Gangsterism (the latter is Gangster Land, but the gangsters also oppress the civilians). Can overlap with City Noir in Period Piece settings such as the Roaring 20s and The Great Depression.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Baccano! fits in so far as its milieu is a gangster-ridden 1930s New York. However, it also involves alchemy, and the mobster characters tend not to fit stereotype.
  • Referenced in Azumanga Daioh when Chiyo announces that she will be going to America. Osaka puts on her Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant hat and suggests that Chiyo will be kidnapped and killed there.
  • Soul Eater basically combines old and new versions of this as well as Eagleland with the Thompson twins who were formerly muggers in America until they tried to mug Death the Kidd
    • This trope is directly invoked by Tsugumi in Soul Eater Not! when she and Anya get in a fight with Liz and Patti. Tsugumi turns into a halberd, then Patti turns into a gun.
      Tsugumi: A handgun!? Now that's American... in the worst possible way!

    Comic Books 
  • Tintin in America pits Tintin against Chicago gangsters, including an undisguised Al Capone.
  • Sin City, as the name implies, is a crime-filled cesspool where even the heroes aren't the most law-abiding.
  • The Punisher MAX depicts New York City as a haven for every criminal organization in existence, be it the Italian Mafia, the Russian Bratva, the Irish Mob, the Chinese Triads, Eastern European sex traffickers, Gangbangers, and even the Armenian Mob. Chances are if you think of any real-life criminal gangs, they're bound to show up in the Big Apple.

    Fan Works 


  • Visible in the James Bond series (novels and early movies) in that while non-American villains were more of the megalomaniacal type, when American villains appeared, they were zoot-suited members of organized crime families.
  • For a British Gentleman Adventurer, The Saint seems to bump into a lot of gangsters when he goes to America. Of course, since this is the Saint we're talking about...
  • In Maximum Ride, Fang, Iggy, and Gazzy visit California. They meet a street gang there called "The Ghosts" who offer them a safehouse. Said gang also helps them out by scaring a hot dog vendor into giving free hot dogs to the mini-Flock and helps them fight the Flyboys.
  • Discussed in The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, where a Catholic priest from Italy says that he is hiring Harry Dresden because he does not trust the police in Chicago, thanks to Chicago's reputation as a Mafia hotbed. While Harry is quick to point out that there is a lot of Mafia activity in Chicago, the level of corruption that said priest suspects is mostly fictional since the Capone days ended.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Sopranos: New Jersey is portrayed as this in the series. It's a city filled with drug dealers, Loan Sharks, drug cartels, contract killers, criminal organizations, illegal business, corruption, illegal gambling, and mobsters.
  • Remington Steele seems to invoke this trope in having Steele obsessed with hard-boiled detective stories. He seemingly believed that they presented as accurate a picture of contemporary America and its slang as they did in the 1920s-1940s, when most of them were written.
  • Boardwalk Empire, takes place in Atlantic City and the surrounding areas during the 20's.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series: This is Sigma Iota's hat in "A Piece of the Action."
  • Peaky Blinders dives into the British gangland of the interbellum period, although American gangsters - so far, mostly of the Italian-American Mafia - occasionally show up. Series 4 saw a major vendetta against a Mafia boss played by Adrien Brody.

  • Capcom's unreleased Kingpin takes place in one of these. It's never named, but only referred to as "the Big City".

    Tabletop Games 
  • Necromunda the under hive of the planet are ruled by several gangs who are in constant war with each other over supremacy.
  • Pretty much the main point of White Wolf's World of Darkness setting is that it's like this - the darkest rumours and fears are all true, and then some.


    Video Games 
  • The Grand Theft Auto series, given that it is produced by a Scottish company, is a perfect illustration of the trope. No matter that state, they all share one common setting, they are run by gangs and gang warfare is considered a common sight.
  • Earthbound Beginnings has the gang-ruled city of Ellay. In the original Japanese version, the city is called Valentine.
  • The Mafia series, obviously. Lost Heaven in the first game and Empire Bay in the second game are loosely based on some combination of New York City, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, and Detroit, while New Bordeaux in Mafia III is based on 1960s-era New Orleans.
  • L.A. Noire, to an extent.
  • Saints Row is another straight up example of the trope. Stillwater, Steelport, and Santo Ileso feature powerful gangs that wage war on one another and the local residents (and local law enforcement) are left at the mercy of said gangss.
  • Shadow Hearts: From The New World takes place in the late 20's, and there's a subplot that involves the party visiting Chicago while the city is recovering from a vicious gang war that ended up with Al Capone in Alcatraz and a new hotshot Irish gangster called Roy MacManus in charge of the place.
  • The King of Chicago, a Cinemaware game in which you play an ambitious gangster trying to take over the city after Al Capone is busted.

    Western Animation 
  • The Looney Tunes short the Unmentionables shows a Chicago dominated by gangsters to the point of mobster shoot-outs being the main attraction in the streets. At least they are organised enough to have traffic lights telling them when to start and stop.
  • The French animated film The Triplets of Belleville has American gangsters as villains. It also invokes Eagleland in depicting the Statue of Liberty and Americans as obese in contrast to the svelte (if equally unattractively drawn) French characters. Well, according to a newspaper the gangsters are apparently the (nonexistent?) French Mafia, and insofar as Belleville was a parody of America, the actual geography of the city, besides the statue, seems to be inspired by Montreal.
  • The setting of Slaughter Race in Ralph Breaks the Internet is the Los Angeles variant of this trope, where street thugs race each other in expensive cars, there is no law enforcement whatsoever, everything is dirty and run down, and it's perpetually sunset. This is paradise to Vanellope.

    Real Life 

US Examples

  • A Brooklyn newspaper back during the era gave us this poem (parodying part of "The Star-Spangled Banner"):
    And the pistols' red glare
    Bombs bursting in air
    Gave proof through the night
    That Chicago's still there.
  • Former Chicago mayor Harold Washington lampshaded the city's reputation for crime in a speech to his supporters. The phrase immediately afterwards was "Nowadays, they say 'How's Harold?'".
    • Chicago, to this day, still has among the highest violent crime rates in the country due to all the gangs roaming the street. It's regarded by many as The gang capital of America. And the city that had that reputation before then was Los Angeles.
  • New York City during a period rather close to our times. People's testimonies are a bit chilling...
    • There are some areas of NYC that are still like this. Brownsville, for example, has a very high crime rate. There's also East New York, south Bronx, and even Coney Island, unbeknownst to many people who live outside of Brooklyn. That said, even the worst areas of the city are very much an improvement compared to what it was like in the 70s and 80s.
  • New Jersey has some Gangsterland inner cities. Newark and Camden are the most notable examples. You do not want to walk around there at night (except maybe the Ironbound neighborhood of Newark).
    • In particular Jersey City has historically had a big crime problem. Although the downtown/waterfront area has been gentrified into a yuppie wonderland, the rest of the city has a lot of ghetto areas. The "Greenville" neighborhood is desolate during the day and extremely scary at night. The most frustrating part is that City Hall refuses to acknowledge these realities, and instead claims that crime is "at a 30-year low" despite the fact that virtually everyone in the city knows otherwise.
      • City Hall may well be right. "30-year low" just means that there is less crime now than there was at any one point in the last thirty years, not that there is little crime.
  • Philadelphia has a long history of crime, especially in terms of murder rate, gang violence, and its reputation as being a mafia stronghold. The city of Camden, New Jersey, located directly across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, has frequently been rated as the most dangerous city in the United States.
    • Many of the smaller cities around Philadelphia, such as Reading, Camden, and Trenton, have seen a massive uptick in crime since the steel mills and other factories left the region for cheaper labor abroad. Local coal mining cities and towns haven't been hit quite as hard in terms of violent crimes, but that's mostly due to low and less densely packed populations.
  • The Dying Towns in the Midwestern US are among the best known current examples, with Detroit and Cleveland being the most notorious. It speaks volumes that Chicago, the original Gangsterland, is arguably the most well-off city in the region right now.
    • Murray Hill is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods that's actually in Cleveland, rather than a suburb. It's also home to the local mafia.
  • California has parts of Los Angeles, and further north, Oakland and Richmond.
    • Stockton is also starting to turn into one thanks to an almost non-existent police force.
    • Hell, Central Valley ("The Valley") has the highest grand theft auto statistics in the whole US. In a 2010 report, 4 of the top five spots were Central Valley cities.
  • Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, Ohio has been consistently in the top 25 most dangerous U.S. neighborhoods, actually reaching the top of the chart for some time.
  • Baltimore is notorious for its insanely high crime rate and has been for several decades. Drug trafficking and use run rampant thanks to the high level of gang activity across the city, including the Bloods. It served as the inspiration for the TV series The Wire.
  • Miami was once known as the Drug Capital of the United States. It was Terrorized by drug queenpin Grizelda Blanco back in the 70s and 80s, and served as a massive distribution hub for illegal drugs that were shipped to other US cities. Miami Vice perfectly captured the vibe of the times.
  • Northern Virginia, as affluent as the suburb is, has among the highest concentration of Latino Gangs in the country.

Non-US examples

  • During the Cold War, the Soviet Union used this trope in their anti-American propaganda.
    • So did the Nazis — anti-British propaganda featured tea-drinking Upper-Class Twit-types, anti-Soviet propaganda featured savage looking commies...and anti-American propaganda was all Jews and tommy guns.
  • While Mexico has its fair share of safe areas, some areas and territories are under the control of bloodthirsty drug cartels.
  • Nottingham, despite being a relatively small city, is this for England. The Nickname 'Shottingham' references the firearms offences rate, especially with Shotguns, while drugs are a serious rising problem in the city.
  • Limerick is generally considered this in Ireland; in 2007 nearly 33% of all firearm offences in the entire State took place in the city, in 2008 it offically edged past Glasgow to become the murder capital of Europe and for a while it had the nickname 'Stab City'. Things have improved though as ironically the open feuding between the crime families has seriously weakened them. Parts of north Dublin (like Finglas) are also seen as Gangster Land.
  • Brazil as a whole tends to be seen as this, with its vast slums and poverty-stricken neighborhoods that are a good place for gangs to hide.
  • Much of Colombia during the Medellín Cartel's reign of terror.
  • Much of Northern Ireland - especially Belfast - during The Troubles. The police were nigh well useless and in many cases aiding and abetting sectarian violence. Thus the Provos and UDA in addition to terrorism indulged in drug trafficking, extortion, and protection rackets. They did act as a kind of de facto police force; there was a tacit agreement that each side would "police their own" and anyone found committing a crime would be summarily kneecapped, beaten, or told to get the hell out of town by one or the other according to their religious affiliation.


Video Example(s):


The Greed Ring

The parts of the Greed Ring outside of Loo Loo Land seems to be populated entirely by mobsters.

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