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London Gangster

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"The Mafia? Hah! I've shit 'em."
Harold Shand, The Long Good Friday

Since Britain Is Only London, London Gangsters are the British criminals we know best.

The London Gangster is a hard man in a sharp suit with a fondness for Cluster F Bombs and Country Matters. He'll tend to prefer roughing people up with his bare hands to using guns (gun control being very strict in the UK)note , but Cold-Blooded Torture isn't at all out of the question and the really nasty ones in fiction have a tendency to be Knife Nuts. He speaks in a working class East London, Cockney or South London accent, and his dense slang may feature a little Yiddish.note 


The Don of a London gang is usually a Shout-Out to the Kray twins, a pair of famous British gangsters in the 50s and 60s. He's a Self-Made Man and/or Nouveau Riche who's fiercely proud of having worked his way up from the gutter — even if that "work" involved scaring other people into giving him money. He's charismatic and generous when you're on his good side and a terrifying psychopath when you aren't.

Occasionally a particularly transparent Shout-Out to the Krays will go as far as featuring tropes from their lives, like Big Bad Duumvirate, Siblings in Crime, Creepy Twins, Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, and Gayngster. As you might have gathered, the Kray twins are iconic in the UK — Britain's answer to Al Capone.

We almost never see gangsters from Oop North, despite Manchester and Liverpool having considerable levels of organised crime in real life. The Yardies, however (Afro-Caribbean gangs, originally from Jamaica) are bound to get a mention.



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     Comic Books  


  • The works of Guy Ritchie are overflowing with London Gangsters. Often they have Kray-clones as the Big Bad, such as Brick Top in Snatch., Hatchet Harry in Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (which does at least include Scouse burglars and upper-class drug dealers as well), and Bald of Evil hard man "Miami Vice" in spinoff series Lock, Stock....
  • Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. He actually got a letter of congratulations from Ronnie Kray for his portrayal.
  • Michael Caine in Get Carter plays a London Gangster who returns home Oop North for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The film is slightly atypical for showing English organized crime outside of London, but the locals are clearly no match for Jack Carter.
  • Michael Caine in Mona Lisa.
  • The real life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet portrayed the infamous doppelgangsters in perhaps their most famous biopic, The Krays.
  • Most of the characters in The Football Factory, who partake in anti-social behaviour towards rival fans of their favourite football teams, with leaders that act like they're The Mafia.
  • The next major open Kray Twins biopic was Legend (2015), with Tom Hardy playing both Ronnie and Reggie.
  • Ralph Fiennes plays a foul-mouthed London Gangster in In Bruges. Interestingly, his two subordinates are Irish.
  • Many characters in Layer Cake, with the notable exception of Daniel Craig's character, who takes a lot of crap for not being as "manly" as the rest of them. It's deconstructed - XXXX specifically states that he hates the standard stereotype, loud, attention-seeking, wannabe gangsters. The standard example, known as the Duke, causes the entire plot of stealing drugs from war criminals and saying he's working for XXXX's boss because he's a fucking idiot! And things quickly go down the drain for XXXX the second they run into each other. It will also get you killed in the end, as the Duke, Jimmy and Crazy Larry all found out the hard way.
  • Gary Oldman (and several others) in The Firm, about rival football firms (semi-organised gangs of Football Hooligans).
  • This character is Ray Winstone's bread and butter:
  • Vic Dakin in Villain.
  • Narcy in They Made Me a Fugitive. He runs a black market racket and has no problem beating women to get what he wants.
  • Much of the cast of Gangster No 1.
  • The main characters of Nuns on the Run want to leave their gang after their new boss turns out to be too much like this.
  • Despite being an arty hallucinogenic Mind Screw, Performance has been praised as a very realistic depiction of the London Gangster at work. Some of the minor parts were allegedly played by the real thing. (The main gangster character was played by James Fox, very Against Type.) The boss in the film, Harry Flowers, is a Composite Character No Celebrities Were Harmed for both the Richardsons (Cold-Blooded Torture) and the Krays (Gayngster, intra-gang violence).
  • Fanty and Mingo, the twin smugglers from the beginning of Serenity.
  • Darryl in Cockneys vs. Zombies is apparently a retired example, although between his prosthetic leg and the fact that he's outlived all his former "associates", his threats fall a bit flat now.
  • Circus: Bruno and Caspar are based in Brighton, but otherwise fit the trope. Judging from their accents, they may even be displaced Londoners.

     Live Action TV  

  • 'The Firm' in EastEnders was based on this, and directly named after the Krays' gang. EastEnders also features Tough Cockney Twins Phil and Grant Mitchell, (although they aren't affiliated with the proper gangsters) as well as the more obviously Kray-namesaked Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell.
  • The Piranha brothers from Monty Python's Flying Circus, who are a deliberate spoof (with surprisingly little exaggeration) of the Kray twins. The Piranhas' beloved habit of nailing people to furniture (or vice versa) was the Pythons' humorous but understated take on the real exploits of the Richardson brothers and their not-too-merry men. Yes, they really did nail people to the floor (as a prelude to what would follow), and it was not quite as amusing as in the Pythons' version.
  • A regular feature of The Sweeney.
  • "Genial" Harry Grout from Porridge
  • On The Bill, set as it is in an East London police station, you can't throw a truncheon without hitting a London Gangster. One episode from 1995, "Mitigating Circumstances", featured Ray Winstone playing the London Gangster of the episode.
  • Most of the characters in Macbeth On The Estate, a modernisation of Macbeth into a gangster story with most of the original script. In particular, Duncan, a gang boss played by Mr Winstone himself.
  • The Driscoll Brothers in Only Fools and Horses and The Green Green Grass.
    • Also Freddie The Frog.
  • Comedy Duo Hale and Pace's "Da Management".
  • Badger from Firefly is a London Gangster IN SPACE! Complete with East London accent, bowler hat and dreadlocky Yardies. More of a cheeky Cockney sparrow than the usual scary psychopath, though.
  • In Leverage, one of Sophie's recurring personae is a London Gangster; admittedly, a female version.
  • The second series of ITV drama Whitechapel is all about London Gangsters as the apparent sons of Ronnie Kray, Jimmy and Johnny, attempt to take over the criminal underworld.
  • Saturday Night Live: Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro' is a can't-miss London gangster film, if you like movies you cannot understand.
  • Featured occasionally in Hustle, they are often portrayed as bumbling, such as Dexter Gold, the crooked gold-merchant who despite being referred to as "one of The Chaps", is utterly unthreatening, incompetent and even sets himself up for a second con. Typically, the truly brutal psycho-killers are foreigners. The earlier seasons had the more traditional East End villains who despite appearances of being rich and respectable, used brutal violence to get where they are. The cast however do go out of their way to avoid being on the receiving end of even the less threatening gangsters' radars.
  • Benny Barrett from Our Friends in the North, a Soho porn baron who's involved police corruption.


  • The 8th CHERUB book, Mad Dogs featured this nearly exactly. The Afro-Caribbean gang (primarily from Jamaica) called "The Slasher Boys" fighting a gang war against the titular Mad Dogs (fronted by a Football Club).
  • Most of the novels of Martina Cole.
  • Harry Stark in Jake Arnott's The Long Firm.
  • A family of these show up as allies and occasional employers of Amnesiac Hero Nate Garrett in the first book of the The Hellequin Chronicles, with the father being a Pint-Sized Powerhouse who plays the traditional Affably Evil variant to the hilt, while his wife is equally friendly and, when required to be, terrifying, and the son is absolutely psychotic. However, when they encounter the magical world they wind up very much out of their depth, and when Nate himself (a ludicrously deadly nigh immortal master assassin prior to his amnesia) has some of his muscle memory back and is confronted by the father, he has to remind himself not to kill the man on reflex.
  • These show up whenever someone from Time Scout goes downtime to Victorian London.
  • Joe Spork, the protagonist of Nick Harkaway's novel Angelmaker is the son of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, an infamous one of these. Early in the novel, Joe muses about the likelihood of there being makeshift graves and pig farms that his father had a hand in.
  • Rob Toshack, in Shadow Police book 1.


  • An episode of The Magnus Archives centres on one who turns to supernatural means to seek revenge on a fellow criminal who double-crossed him.


  • The BBC Radio 4 serial G.F. Newman's The Corrupted is set in the 1950s, as control of London gangland is moving from Billy Hill to the Krays and Richardsons. The protagonist's uncle with a Hair-Trigger Temper moves from failed boxer, to Hill's heavy, to "protecting" his own patch from the Krays.
  • Reggie "The Gent" Mead from the Big Finish Doctor Who audio drama Project Twilight. The owner of The Dusk, a popular casino in Southeast London, he's a classic Cockney thug with superficial charm, a Hair-Trigger Temper, and a penchant for horribly torturing anyone who gets on his bad side; the twist is that he's actually a vampire, and little more than The Dragon to the real villain of the story. For good measure, said Big Bad remarks that Reggie's violent lifestyle is just his way of living out his fantasies, having lived fairly unassumingly by vampire standards up until being inspired to become a gangster by the example set by his idols, the Krays.

     Tabletop Games  

  • The Champions supplement Kingdom of Champions features both Mystery’s gang (who fall into the trope by default) and Brown Fox (who epitomises the self-controlled but formidable version).

     Video Games  

  • The stereotypical mob family in Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, creatively named "The Family". Though, this could be a subversion, since they act more like an Italian mafioso family than a British one.
  • Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 is filled with these types, including Albert and Archie Crisp, a suspiciously familiar Big Bad Duumvirate of Cockney twins.
  • The Getaway series features plenty of these, as well as The Yardies and the triads. The PSP-exclusive spin-off Gangs of London along with the traditional London gangsters, also contains some more exotic examples for a London setting, including Italian, Turkish, Russian and Chinese gangs.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the Penguin has been re-imagined as a Guy-Ritchie-ish English gangster with a thick East End accent and brutal means of enforcement. If you read his backstory you will learn that he comes from a prominent American family, but was sent to England for his education. Unfortunately he preferred hanging out with the rough crowd in seedy parts of the town over school.
  • The Penguin in Batman: The Telltale Series also has a similar background of being an English gangster, but is in far better physical condition and thus far more brutish and hands-on.
  • Delvin Mallory in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the senior members of the Thieves Guild, has a voice fitting one of these and he oversees distribution for "more personal" Guild jobs.
  • Billy Kane of Fatal Fury is an expatriate Englishman working as The Dragon to an American crime boss, so he fits the trope at least in spirit if not to the letter.
  • There are two gangs vying for control of London in Assassin's Creed: Syndicate: the villainous Blighters and the heroic Rooks, controlled by the Templars and the Assassins respectively. The Blighters are brutish thugs who threaten and harass the general public, while the Rooks tend to act more like Neighbourhood-Friendly Gangsters. Jacob and Evie Frye, the leaders of the Rooks, are generally benevolent figures whose main reason for forming a gang was to bring down the oppressive Templar regime, whereas the leader of the Blighters, Maxwell Roth, is a more traditional portrayal of a London gangster, being a charming yet violent Self-Made Man whose tactics grow increasingly more ruthless as the game goes on.

     Web Original  

  • Terrence of KateModern, in his earlier 'gangster' persona.

     Western Animation  

Alternative Title(s): Kray Winstone


Example of: