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I Own This Town

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"All I hear from you, you spineless cowards, is how poor you are; how you can't afford my taxes, my protection. Yet somehow, you all managed to find the money to hire a professional gunfighter to kill me. Where's all this money coming from? What am I to think? If ya got so much to spare, I'm just gonna have to take some more off ya. Because clearly some of you haven't got the message! This is my town! If you live to see the dawn, it's because I allow it! I'm in charge of everything! I decide who lives or who dies!"

Someone who holds disproportionate power over an area, by way of wealth or political connection. Could be a government official, a criminal or just a rich guy, but for all intents and purposes they own the town. Frequently, but it should be noted as not always, a villain or antagonist character.

Common holders of the honour are:

See also Small-Town Tyrant, Feudal Overlord, Privately Owned Society. Particularly flagrant examples may be an Egopolis, or even One Nation Under Copyright.

Not to be confused with Taking Over the Town, which involves regular (if particularly ambitious) criminals wreaking havoc within the town, not running it. This trope is Truth in Television, but No Real Life Examples, Please!.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Naruto Shippuden the Movie: The Lost Tower: As part of his plan to Time Travel for Fun and Profit, Big Bad Mukade becomes the Evil Chancellor of the city of Rōran, manipulating the queen of Rōran, and later her daughter Sāra, into becoming Puppet Queens for him. When Naruto ends up sucked into the past along with him, Mukade brags to Naruto that he controls the city.
  • Prétear: In the anime, all businesses in town are affiliated to Natsue's business conglomerate. After marrying the protagonist's father, she renames the businesses and the town after him.
  • Lieutenant Yoki of Fullmetal Alchemist used the fact that he was his region's primary employer, landlord, and tax collector to rule the area to suit himself... up until the moment when Edward Elric tricked him into selling the local mine for a stack of gold bricks that somehow turned back into waste rock from the mine when his back was turned.

    Comic Books 
  • Disney Ducks Comic Universe examples:
    • In Don Rosa's story "A Little Something Special", Scrooge McDuck is said to own 99.9% of all lands and businesses in Duckburg and yet, he never even tried to tell the Mayor how to do his work. Which is quite logical given his background; as a working-class Scotsman born at a time when the Highland Clearances were still in living memory, Scrooge McDuck very likely has Views about high-handed landlords treating their tenants as cattle to be driven.
    • Paperinik New Adventures has Paperinik (Donald's superhero identity) once make a boast to himself about Duckburg: "By day, this city is my hometown. By night, this city is mine". Thankfully, he means "mine to protect", as he never tries to order around the authorities unless there's an emergency and he needs police help, and he's more likely to simply ask for their collaboration.
  • In Kingdom Come, Bruce Wayne/Batman has done a positive version of this to Gotham City.
  • Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime, remained the ruler of New York's criminal underground for a long time.
  • In The DCU, Lex Luthor was this in post-Crisis Metropolis before Superman arrived. In that continuity, Luthor's animosity towards Superman started over the fact that the Kryptonian took away Luthor's status as the most powerful man in the city just by existing.
  • Preacher: Features Odin Quincannon, owner of the local meatpacking plant which the economy of Salvation, Texas depends (something also present in the television adaptation and uses this authority to let his lawless employees run rampant, while obsessively trying to crush anyone he views as a threat to his power. After he dies (with the meatpacking plant being destroyed in the process), his brother Conan inherits the property and takes over as the towns main employer, but proves to be a Redeeming Replacement, building a fertilizer plant dedicated to helping the environment and showing none of Odin's corruption or megalomania.
  • Oswald King in Robyn Hood. The richest man in Robyn's hometown, he so thoroughly controls the town that his son Cal feels he can commit rape with impunity.
  • The Big Screwed-Up Roark Family are the de facto rulers of Sin City. (Except for Old Town, where the girls are the law, with Goldie and Wendy being the rulers.) The city also has two "normal" criminal syndicates, the Wallenquists and the Magliozzi, but while both are hinted to be powerful, they aren't enough to challenge the Roarks.

    Fan Works 
  • This comes into play in Old West, which is set one year after the events of Rango. When the Big Bad Dufayel first appears to threaten the townsfolk of Mud (former Dirt), he reveals himself to have been the investor of Tortoise John, the late corrupt mayor of the town. He says that the Mayor's death at the fangs of Rattlesnake Jake makes him the legal owner of the mayor's business assets, including Mud. While the town secretary Angelique confirms this to be true, the townsfolk refuse the leave their homes when Dufayel offers to reimburse their migration so that he can claim the gold underneath Mud. Dufayel promises to make their lives harder for not co-operating.
  • Scattered to the Winds: Glomgold claims that, while Ma Beagle has the deed to Beagleburg, he practically owns the city nowadays because he's "got most of the property rights for individual buildings".

    Film — Live-Action 
  • 3 Ninjas: Knuckle Up features Jack Harding, a corrupt toxic waste dumper who employs dozens upon dozens of strong arm thugs, boasts that he "built your city hall, and your town" and has the mayor and sheriff actually agreeing that it's his town and helping him out when he kidnaps witnesses or tries to have a trial to officially clear his name before the other side has time to build their case. Unfortunately for Jack, the one person he doesn't have bribed or cowed is the local EPA agent, who shuts down his landfill once he's exposed.
  • Back to the Future Part II: In the Bad Present, a filthy rich Biff Tannen has corrupted Hill Valley — informally renamed Hell Valley — and is its overlord. He even boasts about having the police in his pocket.
  • Batman (1989): Crime boss Carl Grissom has this position, Harvey Dent and Commissioner Gordon's vow to bring him down leads to the accident that transforms Jack Napier into the Joker (though another part of it is Grissom setting Jack up to be killed by corrupt cops on his payroll after learning that Jack is having an affair with his mistress Alicia); while this does lead to Grissom's death, the Joker and his actions make Gotham far worse.
  • Batman Returns: Max Shreck has nearly complete control of Gotham, and his only obstacle to gaining complete control is the stubborn mayor who is backed up by that "trust fundy goody-goody" Bruce Wayne, a fellow millionaire with different ideas. This leads to him attempting to gain enough votes for a recall by causing the public to lose confidence in the city government and elect Oswald Cobblepot, a.k.a. The Penguin, as a puppet mayor. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a very bad idea because the Penguin has his own agenda for Gotham.
  • In Cannibal Girls, the Reverend Alex St. John has a powerful, charismatic hold on the town of Farnhamville, Ontario and all facets of its operations.
  • Lawrence Murphy from Chisum is of the Cattle Baron variety.
  • Miles Younger uses the money he stole in the stagecoach robbery to become the major power in the town of Coroner Creek.
  • Croc: The Konsong brothers display utter indignation at the idea of a city employee refusing their orders and are able to get her fired.
  • Each of the villains in The Dark Knight Trilogy to their own degree.
    • In Batman Begins, Carmine Falcone owns Gotham in the typical mob lord sense. He makes a point of showing Bruce Wayne all the cops and government officials in the bar that would do nothing if he shot him right in front of them. Unfortunately for him, Arkham is Crane's asylum, and Ra's al Ghul has no patience for a pawn who's usefulness is over and is attempting to blackmail him.
    • In The Dark Knight, the Joker manages a more unsettling version, "Come nightfall this city is mine, and anyone left in it plays by my rules. If you don't want to be in the game... get out now. But the bridge and tunnel crowd are sure in for a surprise."
    • The Dark Knight Rises with Bane, who isolates the city and establishes himself as its warlord.
  • Desert Heat has a pair of gangs running the town.
  • John Gillon owns most of Diggstown. His assets throughout the town are worth over $1.5 million, although he tries to keep this fact hidden. Originally the manager of the town's once-famous boxer Charles Macom Diggs, he drugged Diggs during a fight in order to collect his opponent's long odds, resulting Diggs getting permanent brain damage. He has the only man who finds out the truth first put in prison and then killed when he gets out. The sheriff is in Gillon's pocket and is even willing to kill for him, and the warden of the state penitentiary nearby is a good friend of Gillon's. However, he meets his match in Gabriel Caine, a con man, who ends up conning Gillon out of everything he has. As soon as Gillon's broke, even the sheriff is no longer willing to do his bidding (although the only reason Gillon is even considering paying Caine what he owes him is because Caine is being funded by a well-known loan shark who won't think twice at forcing Gillon to cough up the money).
  • In Draw!, Reggie Bell gets away with throwing his weight around, including trying to have Holland arrested on trumped-up charges when Holland beats him in a poker game, because is the son of the man who owns half of Bell City.
  • Every Last One of Them: From the moment he arrives in town, Hunter is told that the Nichols family controls everything in the town, and that they don't like strangers.
  • In First Blood, Will Teasle seems to think that his position as sheriff gives him the authority keep anyone who he views as undesirable out of his town, even if they hadn't done anything. When Teasle meets John Rambo and puts him through hell, this comes back to bite him in the ass rather quickly.
  • In Forty Guns, Cattle Baron Jessica Drummond, through her wealth and her dragoons, controls all of Cochise County and, by extension, much of the Territory.
  • In Ghost Rock, former bandit Jack Pickett has become the mayor of Ghost Rock and rules it with an iron fist.
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Ivo Shandor founded Sumerville a hundred years before the events of the movie and owned almost every store in town, as well as the local mine. Unknown to his workers, he was less interested in mining minerals than he was in hollowing out the mountain to turn it into a temple for a God of Evil.
  • In The Gunfight at Dodge City, Sheriff Jim Regan is a corrupt lawman who takes cents on the dollar of every transaction conducted in Dodge City, and drives out or kills anyone who stands up to him.
  • The Rancher says this almost word for word in Guns, Girls and Gambling:
    The Rancher: I own this town. Several others just like it, most of the land in-between. Government says I can't own the Indian Reservation, but that doesn't matter, that's worthless anyway.
  • Head Office: Helmes feels this way about New York City! He spends a helicopter ride pointing out al of the buildings he built and/or owns, and serenely comments that he came to the city with "just" $450,000,000 and now all of it is his.
  • The Master of Lake-Town in The Hobbit. In the book he doesn't go so far as to fit this trope: he's greedy, seems to care more about his reputation than about the town's well-being, and flees right away when Smaug attacks the town; but he's a capable ruler (at least before falling under the "dragon sickness"). But in the movie, he's extremely greedy right from the start, he has a Yes-Man (Alfrid) and looks down on the "commoner" townsfolk. Furthermore, Lake-town is a dictatorship instead of a republic as in the book ("An election? That's absurd. I won't stand for it."), doesn't allow anyone to enter the town except by the Master's permission, and the justice system not only doesn't have presumption of innocence, but it follows an "arrest first, decide charges later" system. Oh, and it doesn't exactly help that there's a statue of the Master.
  • In Hobo with a Shotgun, this is the attitude of The Drake, whose control of Hope Town is so complete that he can commit murder in the middle of the street in broad daylight and suffer no consequences.
  • The murder victim of In the Heat of the Night was a more-or-less respectable version of this, and when his widow decides the local Police Are Useless she threatens to pack up his business and move it elsewhere unless they keep Fish out of Water homicide expert Tibbs on the case. One of his primary suspects is the next-most powerful businessman in the town, plantation owner Endicott, but his partner calls him out for being biased due to the man's virulent racism.
  • In Invitation to a Gunfighter, Morally Bankrupt Banker Sam Brewster took advantage of the absence of most of the men during The American Civil War to cement his control of the town: owning a percentage of most businesses, and outright controlling many of them. Matt Weaver's return to town threatens to upset his control, so he hires a gunfighter to take out Weaver: a move that backfires badly on him.
  • This is Mr. Potter's goal in It's a Wonderful Life; Clarence convinces George that his life is worth living by showing him what the town would be like if Potter had succeeded because George wasn't there to interfere.
  • In Johnny Reno, Mayor Jess Yates controls every aspect of life in Stone Junction. Even to the point of organizing a mob to murder his daughter's lover and frame a couple of saddle tramps.
  • In Last Train from Gun Hill, Craig Belden, a rich Cattle Baron, is the de facto ruler of the town of Gun Hill. Belden refuses to turn over his son, forcing Morgan to go against the entire town.
  • Lawman: Influential Cattle Baron Bronson exerts a great deal of influence over the town of Sabbath and the local lawman is in his pocket. He comes into conflict with the eponymous character when U.S. Marshal Maddox (Burt Lancaster) tries to arrest several of Bronson's ranch hands for Accidental Murder. Unusually for the trope, Bronson is an Anti-Villain at worst, who is disillusioned with violence and tries to convince his hands to turn themselves in. When they refuse, though, he reluctantly accepts their decision and does what he can to protect them from Maddox.
  • Licence to Kill: Franz Sanchez is effectively the true ruler of Isthmus. He owns the casino and bank, has access to the military, and tells the figurehead president "Remember, you're only president... for life.".
  • Subverted in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome: Auntie (Tina Turner's character) initially appears to be the uncontested ruler of Bartertown, but MasterBlaster declares a short embargo on supplying methane to the town to drive home the point that they are the true force to be reckoned with.
  • George Washington McLintock Mclintock. He states he owns "a fair piece of it". However, he's also generally well liked and respected by most citizens and that's more the source of his influence than his wealth. Also, certain federal political appointees do a lot more pushing.
  • In the live-action version of Popeye, the hero's father owns every business in the town; he's unimpressed when Bluto suggests using Swee'Pea's talent to make a fortune at the gambling hall, because he owns the gambling hall.
  • John Herod of The Quick and the Dead provides the page quote.
  • In Resident Evil Film Series the Umbrella Corporation owns Raccoon City and has so much clout that it's able to completely block the town off and then nuke it without any repercussions. It's only after our heroes expose them that their influence wanes but by then it's The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Brad Wesley in Road House (1989).
  • Lenny Cole of Rock N Rolla says this of London, and it appears to be true, he having control of much of the building consent process and able to torture and possibly kill people at will although then he is greviously wounded by a man who decides to circumvent him and then he is killed by his right-hand man when it turns out Lenny is also an informer.
  • The Scarlet and the Black has Colonel Kappler of the Gestapo presence in Nazi-occupied Rome use this line to try and intimidate Monsignor O'Flaherty of the Vatican into winding down his escape organisation.
    Colonel Kappler: "I... own... Rome. Not you. Not the Pope. Just because you wear a frock, it won't protect you."
    • Suffice to say, it doesn't work. Unfortunately for Kappler, while he may claim to "own" Rome, the Vatican itself is independent and neutral. Naturally, this happens to be where much of O'Flaherty's operation is based.
  • In Shoot-Out at Medicine Bend, shady businessman Eb Clark controls just about all of Medicine Bend. He has the sheriff and the mayor in his pocket, and owns most of the major businesses, having driven out most of his competitors.
  • Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat: Mardulak is a rare Big Good version. He built the town, supplies the blood substitute that keeps the Vegetarian Vampires fed, and is capable of silencing any bloodlust-fueled dissent against his plans with some reminders about his influence, subtle threats, and You Are Better Than You Think You Are comments.
  • Training Day has Alonzo Harris, a Corrupt Cop who regards the portion of L.A. known as The Jungle this way.
  • The Big Bad of the film Walking Tall declares it to Dwayne Johnson during their final confrontation: "This is MY town!"
  • Films like Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars are based on what happens when there are two of these guys.

  • Boy's Life: Moorwood Thaxter owns most of the big businesses and mortgages in town, and his word can dictate town policy. Moorwood hasn't been seen in public in years, though and his Crazy Sane son Vernon announces his wishes to the town, with Tom suspecting that Vernon frequently lies about whether his dad actually wants something done due to how much nicer and community-minded Moorwood's supposed orders have gotten since Vernon began delivering them.
  • The Caster Chronicles: Initially, Macon Ravenwood isolates himself from the rest of the town and the locals certainly don't feel like he has any power over them. This rapidly changes once they try to have his niece expelled from school in a Kangaroo Court hearing. Macon is happy to remind the school board and the crowd that he owns a great deal of Gatlin County's real estate. He makes it clear that if they give him a reason to, he could force all of the businesses who are renting land from him to close down and sell undeveloped land to people who they don't want in their town (Walmart in the book, and a drug rehabilitation center in the film).
  • Crime boss John Marcone has his hooks deep into much of mundane Chicago in The Dresden Files, and as of White Night is legally the Baron of Chicago - its resident liege lord - under the supernatural world's Unseelie Accords.
    • The tie-in comic Ghoul Goblin features Joseph Talbot, whose import-export business is responsible for the economic survival of his Missouri hometown, who many believe will be the next mayor, and who the local sheriff is constantly toadying up to instead of doing his job. Joseph himself is ultimately a fairly benign example of this trope, being an honest businessman whose sole concern isn't to rule over the town, but to use his recourses to protect himself and his younger siblings from a highly lethal Family Curse that no one in the present generation had done anything to deserve.
  • In The Fallen World Baroness Allya and her partnernote  Pyn bought a title of nobility and the land rights to the city of Rebirth before there was a city there. Their financial backer owns a 15% stake but it is otherwise shared between the two of them. The local business owners cozy up to them to fast-track their development. The only other land there belongs to the dungeon they built the city around, which is the source of the gold rush they are capitalizing on.
  • In the J.A. Johnstone western novel The Family Jensen, Jason Garrand owns the local stage line, livery stable, hotel, bank, and lawman. He has ambitions of expanding his influence, but abandons them after the Time Skip and undergoes a Hazy-Feel Turn after his daughter marries a friend of the main characters. By that point, greedy, bigoted, Cattle Baron Reece Bannerman has eclipsed him in influence.
    • One of the sequels, Hard Ride to Hell, features two such characters.
      • Big Bad Colonel Ritchie has lent all of the local merchants money to start their businesses and has seemingly been treating them leniently when their payments fall behind. It's all part of his Bitch in Sheep's Clothing act. He's trying to wipe out the local Native Americans to bring the railroad through town, and then plans to call in all of the loans and kick out the merchants now that the businesses they've established are worth a lot. Thanks to the heroes, he fails to accomplish either objective.
      • Every big business in the town of Bitter Springs has Oliver McKendree's name on it. When cattle rustlers get traced to the town at the conclusion of a brief subplot, McKendree is seemingly set up to be their boss, but is really a Red Herring who is scared of them.
  • The Protectorate of The Girl Who Drank the Moon is run by the Council families, who claim ownership of the Road and charge for access. Since the Road is the only path through the forest and thus the only access to goods that can't be foraged in the Bog, the Council families stay wealthy.
  • The Great Brain: In Uncle Will and the Fitzgerald Curse, Mayor Haggerty does a decent amount of civic good, but he awards all of the town's construction contracts to a company he owns and uses the portages he and his friends own to keep anyone from subscribing to an Intrepid Reporter's paper until the man kills a story about him.
    Will: Haggerty is the only mayor Silver Plume has ever had. Nobody bothers to run against him because they know they haven't a chance of beating him.
  • Jack Reacher: In the book Worth Dying For, an rural Nebraska town was controlled by Jacob Duncan and his family, who owns a trucking business to cover his human trafficking activities.
  • Joe Pickett: In Stone Cold, former Wall Street financier turned rancher Wolfgang Templeton controls all of Medicine Wheel county by process of being the county's largest employer and biggest benefactor. He uses the county as basis for his illegal operations, with local law enforcement paid to look the other way.
  • Killing Time: Jordan Reed, the corrupt local chemical plant boss, has spent years having all of the city officials in town taking both his orders and his money and is proud of it.
  • The Kingdom Come novelization elaborates that, after being publicly exposed as Batman, Bruce Wayne begins openly exerting influence over his home city in order to protect it from crime. He is still a Fiction 500 billionaire, has armies of robots patrolling the streets, and his endorsement controls who becomes mayor or police commissioner. While Superman is disturbed by how heavy-handed his old friend is, Gotham City is one of the safest places in the country, and Bruce is still acting selflessly.
  • Elihu Willsson of Red Harvest has so much power and influence in the mining town of Personville that he's known as the "Czar of Poisonville." He initially hires the Op to clean the town up for him after the gangs he used as strikebreakers start getting a bit too unruly for his tastes.
  • In Sharp Objects, protagonist Camille's mother Adora practically runs the town of Wind Gap since her family owns the hog farm that is the main economic engine of the town.
  • Stinger: The late Winston Presto was a Self-Made Man and Prospector who found copper in the desert, founded Inferno (named after his mule), and spent over fifty years running the town and backing the election of public officials before dying at the age of eighty-seven. He's described as a fairly benevolent unofficial town leader who saw the town as his "dream" but he wasn't all good, cheated on his taxes, and skirted the occasional safety regulation. The high school, park and various other landmarks are named after him. He named one street after his wife, renamed it "Nameless Street" after their divorce, and renamed it after his second wife when he remarried.
  • Under the Dome: "Big Jim" Rennie is already powerful enough on paper, being the local used car salesman and Second Selectman of the town council, but by involving many of the other prominent businessmen in Chester's Mill in a multimillion dollar meth-dealing operation, he has both a lever over them, and a lot of additional income. The fact that the acting Chief of Police trusts his judgment makes him even more powerful once the disaster starts.
  • Black Jack McGinty in The Valley of Fear. When his most Ax-Crazy subordinate questions one of his decisions, he tells him to wait and see if he loses his seat on the city council, which sounds very akin to "when hell freezes over".
  • Skitter from Worm eventually ends up in this position in the city of Brockton Bay. As the preeminent supervillain in the city, she effectively controls the criminal underworld, and can exert influence on the civilian population. Notably, she's actually a Villain with Good Publicity, as the previous holders of the role have been literal Nazis, psychopaths, or simply insane by comparison. She stole this position from Coil who had planned to control not only the villains but also the mayor and heroes using his civilian identity as a PRT director.

    Live Action TV 
  • Invoked in All My Children: After he's acquitted for raping Bianca, Michael Cambias proceeds to gloat to everyone in hearing range that he "owns Pine Valley and everybody in it."
  • The sixth season of Arrow has Ricardo Diaz (AKA the Dragon) quietly take over Star City by either bribing or threatening most of the cops, the DA, the judges, and most of the city council. He even addresses Mayor Quentin Lance as "the mayor of my city".
  • In Banshee crime kingpin Kai Proctor is stated to own or control every business of any importance in the town of Banshee.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, county treasurer Nucky Thompson owns Atlantic City, as did the Commodore before him. Nucky venturing into organized crime makes him face dangerous challenges from newcomers but also gives him a stronger and unprecedented grip.
  • Mayor Wilkins on Buffy the Vampire Slayer has quite a few Sunnydale people in his pocket, both human and nonhuman. He founded the town and was in the middle of a lot of the goings on before he was killed off.
  • Deadwood opens with rival pimps Al Swearengen and Cy Tolliver wrestling for this position, while Sheriff Bullock and other characters try to forge a more accountable system. In the second season, mining baron George Hearst arrives on the scene and soon proves to be a much more ruthless and better-resourced contender. The Downer Ending has him succeed utterly, successfully buying the elections for both Sheriff and Mayor for cronies of his and backing himself with a private army of Pinkerton agents.
  • Patrick Tyneman in The Doctor Blake Mysteries; which goes some way to explaining why Lawson hates him so much.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Boss Hogg is Hazzard County commissioner, but he acts more like Hazzard is his personal fiefdom. The only other local authority figures we meet are the sheriff and his deputies, all of whom are in Hogg's pocket. No one ever runs against him for commissioner (or against Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane for sheriff).
  • The twisted [adult swim] miniseries The Heart, She Holler concerns the town of "HeartShe Holler" and its dead autocrat mayor, and his feral son (who becomes mayor as his inheritance). The dead father continues to manipulate the town through a series of eerily accurate pre-taped messages.
  • In the Leverage episode "The Bank Shot Job", the villain is a corrupt judge who effectively owns a small town in the California desert. Eliot even refers to him as 'Boss Hogg'.
  • The Librarians 2014: In "And a Town Called Feud" Janet brought the eponymous Dying Town Back from the Brink with Civil War tourist attractions Based on a Great Big Lie. She seems genuinely dedicated to preserving the economy of her neighbors and community but is heavy-handed enough to brag "And this is my town" before having the Librarians arrested for snooping into her dirty secrets.
  • This is the attitude of Ketcham in Nichols. He enjoys throwing his weight around as the eldest son of the richest family in the county, he thinks anything (and anyone in the case of Ruth) is his for the taking). However, the real power in the family is the Evil Matriarch Ma Ketcham.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Trouble in Eden," Real estate tycoon CJ Dobbs owns half the buildings on Main Street, boasts about knowing everything that happens in town, and got the sheriff appointed to a job that is normally for elected officials despite lacking any kind of office himself. When the sheriff investigates him at the end of the episode, Dobbs tries to order him around and then threatens have him fired. He's also the killer.
  • Northern Exposure: Maurice is the richest and most influential man in Cicely and is obsessed with bettering the town or at least preventing a downward spiral. While part of this is due to a desire to get rich by developing the area for tourists, and he sometimes throws his weight and influence around to get what he wants, he is genuinely attached to the town. He does a lot to help out his neighbors and once even gives a newcomer businessman a big discount on the space he wants to buy after seeing that the man has a large family whose presence will bring the population almost back to its old numbers after several people recently moved away.
  • In Once Upon a Time, Rumplestitzkin (aka Mr. Gold) is clearly stated to own the town of Storybrooke and all its inhabitants through a cross of Batman Gambits and elaborate deals. Even the Evil Queen-turned-Mayor is in his back pocket.
  • On Parks and Recreation, the family members of sweets manufacturer Sweetums held an exorbitant amount of influence in the town of Pawnee because of their wealth, owning the "Pawnee Journal" and sponsoring the town Harvest Festival and basically turning it into a Sweetums propaganda machine.
  • Subverted on Schitt's Creek. The Rose family literally owns the town, and all they get are two run-down motel rooms and very little respect from the townspeople.
  • Twin Peaks: Ben Horne owns two of the town's three major businesses, is obsessed with taking control of the third, and has criminal connections. Unlike many examples of this trope, however, he has no authority or control over the local police, and after the Time Skip, has cleaned up his act in The Revival.
  • Yancy Derringer: In "Gallatin Street", Yancy vows to take down Toby Cook; the local crime lord who controls the eponymous Gallatin Street, the most dangerous place in New Orleans' Red Light District. The police refuse to go there, and it said said that nobody can enter or leave Gallatin Street without his permission.

  • Jay-Z and Kanye West have a song aptly named Run This Town.
  • Tenacious D: Jables and Kage become these after overthrowing the horribly oppressive City Hall in the aptly-named song "City Hall". They fail spectacularly.
  • The Lonely Island song "I Run NY" starts with a disclaimer claiming that numerous other artists have claimed to run New York; this will set the record straight, sorry for the profanity. The remainder of the song is arranged as if he was boasting about how great he is, but most of the cursing is about the pressure and week-to-week headaches of trying to manage New York City ("I literally run New York!") in what he perceives as a thankless job. By the last verse he's on a tangent about dressing in armor and going into the subway to battle paranormal threats and it's hard to tell if this is just an exaggerated hardship of running New York in the world of the song, but the tone suggests that either he has turned to drugs and this is the result, or he's mentally cracking without their help.

  • The Six Shooter: In "The Coward", local Cattle Baron Noah Temple is seeking to regain all of the land originally owned by his grandfather, and then lost by his father. Rancher Will Fetter and his wife Sarah remain the only holdouts.

  • In the Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents musical Anyone Can Whistle, the mayor Cora Hoover Hooper lies, cheats, and bribes to keep the town under her control.
  • Near the end of Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Person of Szechwan, Shui Ta has basically the entire town of Szechwan working for him at his tobacco company.
  • The entire city of Hadestown is owned by Hades, naturally.
    Hades: Do you hear that heavy metal sound?
    The symphony of Hadestown
    And in this symphony of mine
    Of power chords and power lines
    Young man, you can strum your lyre,
    I have strung the world in wire
    Young man, you can sing your ditty
  • Urinetown: Caldwell B. Cladwell is the CEO of Urine Good Company. Through this position, he keeps the rich in line by bribing them with money and/or keeping them employed in the Crapsack World of the musical. He keeps the poor in line by controlling how much money they have to pay to use the bathroom, enforcing police brutality, and overseeing the death sentence of every poor person who dares to rebel again their oppression through the euphemistic "Urinetown".
    Mr. Cladwell: I took this town that formerly stank
    I took this town and made it smell swank!

    Video Games 
  • Redd White of the Ace Attorney franchise certainly claims this to be true. However, he doesn't have any control over what gets printed in the newspaper. The threat of someone leaking his history of extortion to the press causes him to fold like wet cardboard. This downplaying is justified, as he is only the antagonist of the second chapter. Players just figured out how to defend people in trials, and they're not taking down a Corrupt Corporate Executive unless he has a crippling Achilles' Heel.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution, David Sarif essentially owns most of the public institutions in Detroit, to the point where a call from him can delay a SWAT team's assault on one of his buildings even when hostages are being killed. However, later on his clout seems to not be as big as he thought, as he cannot get access to the body of a hacker who attacked one of his buildings because Homeland Security (under Director Joseph Manderly) placed a lockdown on the police station whose morgue is holding the body.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, we have Maven Black-Briar of Riften, and the Silver-Blood family of Markarth. Maven runs Skyrim's largest meadery, is a priority backer for the Thieves' Guild (and boasts ties to the Dark Brotherhood as well) and has Riften's extremely gullible Jarl wrapped around her finger, enabling her and her Big, Screwed-Up Family to harass, bully and extort the rest of Riften at a whim. Meanwhile, the Silver-Bloods quite literally own half of Markarth, including its largest inn/bar, the Treasury building and Skyrim's largest silver mine (which doubles as its largest and most secure prison), and have most of the city's downtrodden on their payroll, with an army of mercenaries, corrupt guards and Forsworn assassins to keep them in line (although they don't have quite as much control over the latter group as they think...). Maven even ends up as Jarl of Riften if you're pro-Imperial (and brags that the title's only a formality for her since she was always in charge anyway), while the Silver-Blood family's patriarch Thongvor becomes Jarl of Markarth if you're Stormcloak. And while the Silver-Bloods' grip on Markarth can be significantly weakened if certain quests are played out a certain way and/or you can manipulate both sides of the Civil War just right, Maven remains completely untouchable for the player.
  • In Fallout 3, there's the Republic of Dave, where Dave is always elected president.
    • In the Fallout series in general, this is the most common form of government when there's a government at all: the strongest local authority sets the rules and maintains order, often without any formal title beyond "mayor" or "sheriff," and sometimes not even that. Mr. House from Fallout: New Vegas is probably the purest example, ruling New Vegas with the power vested in him by a whole bunch of robots armed with machine guns.
  • President Shinra of Shinra Corporation in Final Fantasy VII owns Midgar. So much that he's turned the actual mayor's office into a powerless one.
  • In Final Fight, the criminal gang the Mad Gears had every official in Metro City bought, until Mike Haggar was elected the new mayor by promising to put a stop to that. This caused them to change tactics and kidnap his daughter, kicking off the plot.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Aria T'Loak doesn't own Omega; she is Omega.
  • In Master Detective Archives: Rain Code, Yomi Hellsmile, the leader of the corrupt Peacekeepers, rules Kanai Ward with an iron fist and refuses to trust anyone else with this power, as he falsely perceives himself as the city's savior. This eventually comes to an end when he's arrested at the end of Chapter 4 for conspiring with Dr. Huesca in order to gain his power.
  • The Umbrella Corporation in the Resident Evil series was the major employer of Raccoon City and had some form of control over anything of any importance.
  • The Player Character in Saints Row 2 goes on to become the criminal kingpin of Stilwater (one character voice even exclaiming "I own this city!"), then of Steelport in Saints Row: The Third, then of the United States (as President) in Saints Row IV, and finally, of the universe (as God-Emperor) by the beginning of Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell.

  • Parodied in Homestuck's Intermission. Spades Slick says he made the town that the Intermission takes place in. It's revealed that this was quite literal when someone tries to defeat him by shifting to a timeline where he died early on, only to find out that they've stranded themselves in a barren wasteland.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Grand Secretariat of Ba Sing Se Long Feng kept control over all of Ba Sing Se by forbidding talk of the war inside the city, making the Earth King a Puppet King who has no idea the war even exists, brainwashing citizens, and having the Dai Li disappear anyone who causes a stir.
    • A non-villainous example is Suyin from the Sequel Series The Legend of Korra. Suyin and her husband Baatar literally built the city of Zaofu from the ground up, and Suyin's controlling tendencies means she ultimately has power over the city and its residents, even if she doesn't give herself any grand titles and normally doesn't abuse that power. Eventual villain Kuvira, who grew up in the city as something like an adopted daughter to Su, grows tired of Suyin being the dominant voice in town, and leaves in between seasons three and four along with other citizens (including Suyin's eldest son Baatar Jr.), both to attempt to save the rest of the Earth Kingdom and to get out from under Suyin's influence.
  • Batman: The Animated Series had a somewhat unusual treatment of this trope in one episode: in a flashback at the start of the episode, a young delinquent is seen proclaiming how he'll someday own Gotham City. Most of the rest of the episode takes place in the present, where said delinquent is Arnold Stromwell, The Don who long held Gotham under his sway but whose family life and criminal empire are collapsing and is losing a round of Mob War with his rival Rupert Thorne. It's pretty clear that in the present when Stromwell tries to assert that he still controls Gotham or can rebuild his empire, he's in denial and is trying to convince himself.
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer: In a more benevolent example, Austin Bucks, the richest man in Cityville, owns almost all businesses there but never does anything unethical to reach his goals.
  • Hurricanes: Stavros Garkos rules the Island of Garkos and has his brother enforce his rules.
  • Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja: Hannibal McFist, he even outright stated he owns Norrisville.
  • In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns has this position in Springfield, with the possible exception of the two part episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns" when he really went too far and made everyone hate him. Other times, the only important people he can't seem to bribe or blackmail are the nuclear power plant inspectors, much to his dismay. At one point Quimby ordered doctor Hibbert to give him all the vaccines available to him and his dogs (who are immune but might envy Burns if he is the only one to have it) since he is the only one paying the city's taxes.
    • The episode where prohibition is made law in Springfield has this exchange after Chief Wiggum was caught drunkenly partying in Moe's (secret) bar.
    Helen Lovejoy: We demand that you bring in a new chief of police!
    Quimby: Demand!? Who are you to demand anything!? You're all a bunch of low-income no-bodies! I own this town!
    Bodyguard: (whispering in Quimby's ear) Uh... elections in November, elections in November, elections in November!
    Quimby: What!? Again? Ugh, this stupid country!
  • In the pilot for Superman: The Animated Series, Lex Luthor tells Superman, "I own Metropolis. My technology built it, my will keeps it going, and nearly two-thirds of its people work for me whether they know it or not." Indeed, Lex continues to avoid paying for his crimes. It's not until the first season of Justice League that Superman finally takes him down.


Video Example(s):


Darius Betrays the Player

After defeating the three main crews of Palmont City, Darius ends up betraying the player by handing them over to Cross. Not only because they're getting closer to the truth behind the stolen prize money they were framed for years ago, but also to claim all the player's conquered territories for his own crew and own the city.

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / YouHaveOutlivedYourUsefulness

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