Follow TV Tropes


No Honor Among Thieves

Go To

Wolverine: You sold out your kind for a little cash?
Gambit: Absolutment non! I sold out my kind for a large amount of cash. There is a difference.

Evil has a lot of things going for it. It feels great, it tastes great, it looks great, and it's just plain cool. For most of a given story, Evil can be expected to give the heroes a very rough time. And if the Evil Overlord and his Mooks are competent enough, they will come alarmingly close to victory before the end of the story.

But for all it has going for it, Evil is just not very conducive to teamwork.

You see, one of the keys for a team to really work well together is that there has to be at least some level of mutual trust among the team members. People on the same side, Good or Evil, need to know their friends will be there to bail them out in a tight spot, and won't sell them out to the enemy or abandon them for some selfish gain at a bad moment. They need to know that, when the going gets tough, or when some temptation arises, their allies will still be right by their side, through thick and thin. For the most part, such willingness to put the group before oneself is inherently at odds with the whole idea of being a bad guy.

And so we have this trope. Some two thousand years ago, Cicero of the early Roman Empire wrote "Quin etiam leges latronum esse dicuntur, quibus pareant, quas observant." Loosely translated, this means "There are said to be the laws of robbers, by which they obey, and which they observe." Over the centuries, a common plotline throughout fiction has been subverting or averting the meaning behind this phrase to show that there is, in fact, No Honor Among Thieves. Whenever the heroes' Rogues Gallery form an alliance, there is a good chance that this trope will happen, because Evil just can't stand playing nice with anybody.

While the heroes cling to The Power of Friendship and trust in their True Companions to see them through, the villains simply cannot trust one another. Even when their victory seems closest, it seems to always come undone because the bad guys are inherently treacherous and suspicious of one another. If the Evil Overlord is near to victory, you can expect The Dragon to make some bid for personal power at the last minute that gives the heroes enough breathing room to gain the victory. And if you have a team of more-or-less equal Card Carrying Villains in it For the Evulz, expect them to fall prey to this in no time at all, with their momentary shared goals falling by the wayside the second any of them sees an advantage in turning on their 'friends.' This is the reason why trust and willingness to work with each other is one of the Evil Virtues.

In short, this is Chronic Backstabbing Disorder, or even just chronic lack of trust, applied as a persistent Achilles' Heel of the bad guys. Subtrope of Evil Will Fail. Often results in an Enemy Civil War or Evil Versus Evil. Compare with The Complainer Is Always Wrong and Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. The opposite is Evil Is One Big, Happy Family and of course, Honor Among Thieves. May be averted on a personal scale by a Villainous Friendship. Could be considered a form of PVP Balance, to make up for the fact that the heroes aren't allowed to cross the Moral Event Horizon to prevent Too Bleak, Stopped Caring.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Sailor Moon: The third season didn't need the Senshi or a Bad Boss to off the Quirky Miniboss Squad - they ended up saving everyone the trouble quite nicely. However, this only happened between the first three members, -Eudial, Mimete, and Tellu- who took out each other in order. Tellu, Viluy, and Cyphrine and Ptolil were all taken out by the Senshi.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Placido is so rotten he even steals from his partner Lucciano to accomplish his own - unauthorized - plan. (This becomes far more serious when it is discovered later that the Three Nobles of Yliaster - which Placido and Lucciano were members of - are three embodiments of one being, Aporia, meaning Placido was so full of hostility, it even extended towards himself.)
  • One Piece: This comes up quite a bit. With so many pirates, sailors and Marines of differing moralities, how long an alliance lasts in this series is quite up in the air.
    • A flashback to Luffy's childhood shows the Bluejam Pirates being paid to burn a Wretched Hive to the ground by the local kingdom's corrupt nobility. Once the deed was done, the nobles locked the pirates out of their safe zone, leaving Bluejam and company to die.
    • On Fishman Island, Hody Jones and Vander Decken team up to take over the kingdom, but Hody decides to kill Vander Decken when it seems that doing so will destroy Luffy faster. It doesn't work, and Hody Jones still ends up on the wrong end of a Curb-Stomp Battle by Luffy.
    • The focal point of the Whole Cake Island arc is a Villain Team-Up between the Big Mom Pirates and Germa 66. What the leaders of the Germa 66 don't realize is that their "alliance" was a sham to begin with; Big Mom wants their cloning technology for herself, and the Arranged Marriage to seal the deal is a trap.
    • There are a couple of these in the Wano Arc.
      • Played with in another Villain Team-Up between Kaido and Big Mom, two of the Four Emperors. They decide to ally for now to take over the world, and kill each other after that's done. Since they mutually agree on this and make no secret of their intention to go to war, it's not much of a backstab as it is a temporary truce.
      • An alliance that was originally formed well before this arc is revealed during Wano to be an example of this. Three captains from the Worst Generation—Basil Hawkins, Scratchmen Apoo, and Eustass Kid—decided at some point prior to this arc to form an alliance together to take down Red-Haired Shanks, one of the Four Emperors. Or, at least that was the idea Kid and Hawkins had. Apoo was actually working for Kaido since long before this time, and his alliance with Kid and Hawkins was a setup from the beginning to get them under Kaido's umbrella as well. By the time Kid and Hawkins learn about this, Kaido has already cornered them, so Hawkins submits to Kaido out of self-preservation, and makes no effort to help Kid and his crew when they are captured after refusing to do the same. These betrayals from both supposed "allies" have left Kid very bitter and jaded towards the idea of ever trusting anyone outside his crew again.
      • During the Third Act, Kaido announces his intentions to build more factories in Wano, and to use the people of the Flower Capital as workers. When Orochi protests this plan, he gets beheaded on the spot.

    Comic Books 
  • All-Star Comics: The criminals tied to Professor Able's orgainization all start betraying and killing each other at the drop of a hat, which makes it very difficult for the JSA to interrogate any of them since all the ones they manage to capture alive are quickly killed or drugged into insanity.
  • Star Wars:
    • In Dark Empire, Han Solo tries to recruit the help of Mako Spince, the man who helped him out when Han was first getting into the smuggling business, someone he considers a friend. Mako sells him out.
    • Most of Han's old friends sell him out by The New Rebellion. Even Lando had, though Lando had a very good reason and had later doubled back to help him at great personal risk. The smuggler community actually regarded Han, and Lando to a lesser extent, as unrealistically honorable and idealistic even before they went straight.
  • Henchgirl:
    • The very first heist we see has Mary stuffing $3,000 from a bank robbery into her jumpsuit. Her thievery from the Butterfly Gang nets her something, as she survives Mr. Great Guy blowing up the car she was in and stopping the heist.
    • Coco turns the tables on Mary. When Mary turns evil, they execute a subway robbery in Issue 7. Even though Mary saves Coco from being captured by Mr. Great Guy by knocking him out with a crowbar, Coco eventually takes all the loot after Mannequin appears during their getaway and tells the Fly Girls "we need to talk".
  • The Multiversity: The chibi Sivana in The Multiversity Guidebook #1 thinks the Legion of Sivanas are there to help him conquer his Earth. Instead the snake, vampire and torture porn versions attack him and eat him.
  • Astro City: In "A Little Knowledge", a small-time crook discovers the secret identity of local crimefighter Jack-In-The-Box. As he tries to figure out how to use this for his gain, he becomes worried that his colleagues will also find out... and screw him out of the proceeds.
  • The Superior Foes of Spider-Man: All five of the Sinister Six sell each other out about as often as they make speeches about how great teamwork is, and that they see the others as friends. And they seem to be sincere about this, it's just not a reason to not sell the others out.
  • Robin (1993): Dodge puts together a group of criminals with grudges against Robin to get his revenge on the hero and their mistrust and backstabbing of each other makes it clear they were doomed to failure even if Tim hadn't slipped The Mole into their group.
  • Superman:
    • In "The Girl of No Tomorrow", the partnership between the Fatal Five falls apart at the time as their leader's plan, which is because Selene teleports away, abandoning her teammate Magog, when she realizes he's about to be defeated and captured.
    • In The Unknown Supergirl, Lesla-Lar and Lex Luthor join forces to destroy Superman but they don't trust each other, and with good reason. Once Superman is dead, Lesla intends to dispose of Lex before he has the chance to backstab her... which Lex absolutely intends to.
    • In The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Supergirl villainess Lesla-Lar releases the Phantom Zoner criminals from their dimensional prison, and they pay her back by killing her off as soon as she is no longer useful.
    • In The Strange Revenge of Lena Luthor, a scientist hired by the a criminal gang abandons his partners as soon as he realizes Supergirl has figured out his hoax.
      Scientist: "I don't care! When the S.C.T.F. hired me to design this trap for your elaborate hoax... There was nothing in the contract that said I had to take the fall, too— if the operation went sour!"
      Crook: "Desertin' us—?! Why, you dirty—"
    • In Superman/Supergirl: Maelstrom, Darkseid sends out the titular villainess to Earth with orders of killing Superman. However, the Female Furies, who are supposed to be her backup, despise Maelstrom openly and are not willing to stand aside and let her have the opportunity to please Darkseid by killing Superman single-handedly.
    • In The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor, Brainiac, and three members of the Legion of Super-Villains -Saturn Queen, Lightning Lord and Cosmic King- are trying to come up with ways to escape from an asteroid prison. When Luthor manages to salvage the remains of a crashed spaceship and build a spacefaring flying suit, his fellow inmates think he has found a way out for them...until he takes off, gloating he only cares for himself.
      Saturn Queen: "Luthor! Wait! ... The double-crossing rat took off without us!"
      Lex Luthor: "It's every man for himself! There's just enough fuel to propel me to my destination!"
    • Supergirl (1984): Selena, a black magician with world-domination aspirations, constantly abuses her mentor Nigel, turning on him when she considers she does not need him anymore.
    • Girl Power: Darkseid says Luthor he can use black Kryptonite to awaken a Kryptonian's dark side, without clarifying what it exactly entails. Luthor then tests it on Supergirl, assuming she will turn evil and become his minion. When his black Kryptonite creates an evil Supergirl twin, Luthor tries to persuade her that they should obviously be allies, but she wants nothing but killing him.
    • "Superman And Spider Man": Doctor Doom breaks Parasite out of containment and enlists his help, but their alliance is not congenial. Doom treats Parasite as a slave and refuses to reveal his scheme, despite Parasite supposedly playing a key role in it. When Parasite gets mad and attempts to absorb Doom, Doom just blasts him in the chest, reveals he obviously insulated his armor against his power and commands his "ally" to return to his chambers and wait for Doom's summons. Parasite pretends to obey meekly, as inwardly swearing that Doom will pay for this humiliation.

    Fan Works 
  • Ambience: A Fleet Symphony:
    • In chapter 7, Damon witnesses a pair of clashing bandit groups.
    • In chapter 290, Damon mentions that bandit "conventions" were once a thing, but when you get too many crooks in one place, well, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.
  • The Bagges Take Ostania: Katz promises his henchmen to give them half of the profits he will receive from his Westalian group. However, he instead leaves them to be slaughtered by the Thorn Princess citing the trope as a justification.
  • Belated Battleships: Abyssals have no qualms against abandoning or outright turning on each other to ensure their own survival, as can be seen from the Scharnhorsts Missouri battles or the Raider Princess and the Snow Queen.
  • Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: This is noted as a major issue with the Death Eaters. As long as Lord Voldermort was around to enforce order from the top, they work together beautifully. But because they were only loyal to him, not to each other or a unifying higher cause, once he goes down they don't last two weeks, with some backstabbing the group to go back to regular society and others getting sent to Azkaban because no one is willing to protect them.
  • Percy Jackson: Spirits: The dark spirit forces have no coordination among each other, ignoring or sacrificing their brethren to make room for themselves and attacking any of their numbers that Percy wounds to assure their own power, which bites them in the butt quite a bit.
  • Tale of the Sky Maiden: In spite of the Generous Robin's nature, his group doesn't share his personality quirks. This results in Brutalia attempting to betray him. She does this twice, with the result ending the same both times, if not more horribly for her the second time.
  • The Weaver Option:
    • The thirteen pirate admirals of Pavia have no love for one another, with the majority wanting nothing more than to kill the others. The only thing keeping them in line is fear of their "leader", the Dark Eldar Sliscus. When Operation Caribbean starts, the admirals don't cooperate at all which means the Imperial fleet can massacre them one by one instead of engaging in a more risky mass battle. At the same time, two of the admirals surrender rather than die while a third pays a king's ransom for safe passage out of system.
    • Drukhari society encourages opportunism and murder in pursuit of personal benefit over anything else. This proves a major problem during the raid on Commorragh as many soldiers turn on one another in the middle of battle instead of focusing on the Imperial forces. Later Imperial estimates put the total number of Drukhari deaths to infighting at ten billion.
    • While the Ruinous Powers may present a unified front at times, they are still rivals. When Slaanesh overcommits its forces in Commorragh, the other gods waste no time taking advantage and invade the realms of Excess. The battle concludes with Slaanesh severed into six parts, four of which are stolen by other Chaos Gods, ensuring Slaanesh cannot be reborn.
  • With this Ring... (Green Lantern): Star Sapphire and Hector Hammond team up to destroy Hal Jordan but they can't stand each other. Carol delights in deliberately and relentlessly screwing up with Hammond's mind, and Hammond would love turning Carol's brain off telepathically.
  • Worm: More Than Meets the Eye: The ABB self-destructs as soon as Bakuda takes out Lung and starts planting bombs on her underlings so they won't betray her (and one does once Matrix saves her from the bomb Bakuda sneaked on her). Even the Undersiders, who were canonically loyal to each other, fall apart because of Coil's decision to keep Regent on the team after he abandoned Bitch to die and to add Trainwreck and Chariot. Basically the only gang not ready to fall apart to infighting at the drop of a hat is Uber & Leet, because they have a genuine Villainous Friendship.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Tangled, Flynn betrays some fellow thieves, the Stabbington brothers, early in the movie. It is a mark of his Character Development that he tries to make amends, but by that point, they don't just want the goods, they want Revenge. After Gothel uses the Stabbington brothers in her plan, they end up arrested while she leaves with Rapunzel.
  • In Batman: Assault on Arkham, the surviving members of the Suicide Squad fight over a helicopter even though it's big enough for all of them and they'd have a better chance of using it to escape if they cooperated.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The norm in Film: 5 Fingers (1952), as it was in the real life events during World War II that the film loosely depicts. The valet turned spy codenamed "Cicero" is betrayed by his confederate and would have been betrayed by his German spymasters had he not betrayed them first. He betrays his British employer during the main part of the movie, then cheerfully defects back to the British once it becomes clear that the Germans believe he has outlived his usefulness. Then he gives the slip to both sides, taking with him the money the Nazis paid him. The counterfeit money.
  • Accion Mutante: The leader of the kidnap gang tells his accomplices that they will be splitting a ransom of ten million ecu, but it's really one hundred million. He then decides to kill them all, so that he will only have to split the money one way.
  • The Aggression Scale: After Lloyd discovers the stolen cash, Lauren plants in his mind the idea of keeping the money and not taking it back to Bellavance. He then shoots Chissolm—the sole surviving member of the gang—so he won't have to share the cash with anyone.
  • In Andhadhun, the organ harvesters double-cross Akash so they can keep all the money from the Blackmail for themselves.
  • In The Asphalt Jungle, while the actual thieves show trust and generosity with each other, their main financial backer (Emerich) is planning to stiff them and disappear with the goods, and his associate Brannom proves equally treacherous.
  • In Blondie Johnson, Louie is put on trial, Max decides to take over his side of their robbery "insurance" business.
  • Blue Streak starts with Miles Logan stealing a $17 million diamond, only for one member of his crew to shoot his protégé and try to make off with the diamond. After Logan is caught and spends 2 years in jail, the traitor comes back to demand the diamond that Logan hid before his capture. Logan in turn goes back on his word to him at the end and shoots him when the guy goes for his gun.
  • Zig-Zagged Trope in Brannigan which involves an American mobster Ben Larkin being kidnapped by London Gangsters, so his mob attorney Mel Fields arranges a ransom drop. Fields turns up to deliver the ransom, but everyone just smirks when Larkin demands to be released. Fields takes a gun off a London Gangster and reminds Larkin of the first words he said to him: "Never trust anyone." He then kills the gangsters instead and it's revealed that Fields and Larkin set up the whole thing between them. Then Larkin picks up the gun and it looks like he will kill Fields, while Fields in turn admits that he was tempted to betray Larkin, "But where would the world be if you couldn't trust somebody?"
  • Carlito from Carlito's Way, believes there's a street code of honor among criminals. He even did a prison bid by not snitching on the guy who was really guilty and took over as the boss after he was jailed. Unfortunately, this way of thinking leads to his demise after he discovers his best friend and personal attorney was a snake not worth defending.
  • City of Industry: A recurring theme. Roy Egan is a career robber who is betrayed by his newest partner Skip Skovitch because the latter wants to keep the money they previously stole for himself. Skovitch later gets betrayed by some new "friends" of his own when they suspect that he's holding out on them. Egan specifically notes that he's going to retire because the younger generation of criminals don't hold themselves to the same old school standards that he used to.
  • The Con is On: When Harry and Peter arrive in Los Angeles, they approach Sidney looking for a job. He offers them work smuggling drugs. However, as soon as they have left, he calls Irina to claim the price she has placed on their heads.
  • Coroner Creek: After robbing the stage, Miles murders all of his Indian henchmen, as part of his Leave No Witnesses strategy.
  • Cradle of Fear: When Sophie and Emma find the old man's hidden stash of cash, and discover there is thousands of pounds instead of the hundreds they were expecting, Sophie kills Emma so she can keep all the loot for herself.
  • The opening scene of The Dark Knight illustrates the way Joker's henchmen kill each other for a bigger share of the loot.
  • Day of the Outlaw: After Bruhn dies, Tex and Pace decide to kill the rest of the gang and keep the entire $30,000 they stole from the army.
  • In Dead Birds, Joseph and Clyde plan to murder the rest of the gang and keep the gold for themselves.
  • Guerrero is gunned down by the other members of the Blackwater Gang when he disagrees with Red's plan for seizing control of the town in Dead in Tombstone.
  • Death Ring: When Temple learns that he and Iceman are the only hunters left in the contest, he pretends to cooperate with Iceman, and then garottes him: leaving him with a clear run at Matt.
  • Desert Nights: Steve, Diana, and their three fellow jewel thieves rob a diamond mine and escape into the desert. Steve and Diana's three accomplices decide to try their luck heading back rather than crossing the Kalahari, and ask for their share of the diamonds. After they leave, Steve reveals to Diana that he gave them fake glass diamonds.
  • In Diamonds on Wheels, a gang pulls off an Armed Blag on a diamond shipment in London. One of the crooks betrays the others and steals the diamonds.
  • Dick Tracy's Dilemma: When the Claw's henchmen Sam and Fred find him wounded and apparently dying, Sam persuades the reluctant Fred to leave him to die so they can sell the loot and only have to split two ways.
  • Duel For Gold: The main characters are all thieves, marauders, and bandits who forged a temporary alliance to steal twenty crates of gold. When they got the gold and end up in a valley, they start killing each other. Note that two of the thieves are sisters, and two of the bandits are a married couple, the family ties which goes to hell once gold is involved.
  • The hero in Dungeons & Dragons (2000) goes to a Thieves' Guild for help and to get an artifact he needs. When the head of said guild sells him out, he incredulously asks, "What happened to honor among thieves?" Said guild leader basically laughs in his face for having such a silly idea. This is after the hero specifically tells his reluctant partner, a young female mage whose mentor was betrayed and killed by a fellow mage, that a thief would never betray another thief.
    • Surprisingly averted with Prophion and Damodar. They work together, keep their promises to each other and never try to screw over or dispose of one another.
  • In Firestorm (1998), Shaye has no intention of sharing the $37 million in hidden loot with the convicts with the convicts who help him escape. Instead he murders each one once they stop being of use to him. It is later revealed that during the Train Job that netted him the $37 million in the first place, he collapsed a tunnel on top of the train: killing not only the guards and train crew, but also all of his gang.
  • In Goodfellas, one of the reasons Jimmy has almost everyone else involved in the Lufthansa heist killed is that it netted more money than they expected and he doesn't want to share the extra cash.
  • In The Grand Duel, Hole and two of the other Bounty Hunters kill the others in their pack, then ride off with Vermeer, so they will only have to split the bounty three ways.
  • Heist (2001): After the gold heist, Jimmy betrays the others to steal the gold and Fran.
  • In The Hoodlum, the rest of Vincent's gang double cross him: knocking him out and stealing all of the loot.
  • I Shot Jesse James: Robert Ford shoots his friend Jesse in the back to get the reward and a pardon. Granted, he was extremely conflicted about it and felt guilty for several years afterwards.
  • In Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, Lonnie betrays all of the gang, including his brother, to the authorities in order to claim the reward on Jesse.
  • Judas Kiss: The entire kidnap scheme is revealed to have been a ploy by Junior to manipulate Coco into killing the senator's wife. He then gets paid off, kills Ruben, and leaves the rest of the gang to be killed Hornbeck's henchmen as they come to torture Dyson.
  • The Killers, based on the Ernest Hemingway short story, has a payroll heist with double and triple crosses among the thieves.
  • In the 1950 Film Noir The Killer That Stalked New York, Francie admits to her sister Sheila that she and Sheila's husbamd Matt were planning on cheating Sheila out of her share of the diamond smuggling affair. By the looks of it, Matt was planning on ripping Francie off too, keeping all the profits for himself.
  • King of Thieves: The cracks begins to show when Ken decides to use his brother-in-law Billy as fence without consulting the rest of the gang. However, things really fall apart when Terry, Danny and Kev decide to stiff Basil of his share of the take.
  • In Lust for Gold, Walz and Wiser tail Peralta and Ludi into the mountains to learn the location of the lost mine. Once Peralta and Ludi incover it, Walz and Wiser murder them. However, when Walz discovers how much gold is in the mine, he murders Wiser to keep it all for himself.
  • In Matchstick Men, not only does Frank run a scam against his longtime partner Roy, but Angela later reveals that he cheated her out of her cut, as well.
  • Flint's crew (many of whom later became Long John Silver's crew) in Muppet Treasure Island; "Every man on board would have killed his mate/ For a bag of guineas or a piece of eight."
  • In One Foot in Hell: Mitch Barrett intends to murder the other criminals he recruits for his scheme of robbery and revenge so he can keep the $100,000 for himself. He manages to kill two of them, and might have killed the other two if not for a Spanner Inthe Works.
  • Parker: Parker refuses to throw in with his partners and pool his share of the loot with them so they can pull a second job. His partners shoot him, take his share of the loot and leave him for dead.
  • The Mel Gibson movie Payback starts with Porter (Gibson) being double-crossed by his partner for his share of the loot on a job. After recovering from his wounds Porter starts tracking down his old partner to get his cut of the money back.
  • Peninsula: Gangsters tell desperate people that if they can retrieve a truckload of cash from the Zombie Apocalypse, then they can have half of it. Unsurprisingly, the gangsters have no intention of letting the desperate people keep the money.
  • The Phantom (1943): Near the end, two of the villain's henchmen are stranded in the jungle, and one is injured. The uninjured man decides to abandon him to die in order to increase his own chances of survival — only to get shot and killed by the man he's abandoning as he walks away.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean has Will Turner comment "No heroes amongst thieves, eh?" when Jack tells him part of the Pirates Code; "Any man who falls behind is left behind". Of course, all the good pirates ignore this for the rest of the series... except for one big stab or two courtesy of the Gambit Pileup.
  • In Rancho Notorious, Kinch shoots his partner Whitey In the Back when Whitey demands that they split the loot from the Whitlock robbery immediately, rather than waiting till they reach Chuck-a-Luck.
  • Scarecrows starts off with one of the bank robbers parachuting off a hi-jacked plane with a sack of cash, leaving the others to have no choice but to land and find him.
  • The Score: Jack Teller, the Young Gun of the heist crew, decides to backstab everybody and steal the scepter that is the heist's target out of anger at a belief he is not being given enough respect and that he will get a smaller cut of the loot. If he had alloted at least five seconds of the time he was gloating to Nick Wells (the older thief of the crew) about how he's smarter to look into the pouch the scepter supposedly was stored in, he would have started his run away from the biggest manhunt in Canadian history with the real thing.
  • In Son of a Gun, Sam tries to screw the gang over and keep the gold for himself. When Lynch confronts him, he even uses the exact phrase: saying that he did not expect honor among thieves, but he disappointed that there is not even a little remorse on Sam's face.
  • Star Wars. Somewhat in the films, but above all in the EU, the Sith, and later the Empire, have a nasty tendency to gain the ascendancy and then lose badly when they start turning on each other. Darth Bane's Rule of Two was an explicit attempt to mitigate the damage that this could do to the Sith by "legitimizing" it — there were to only be two Sith, the Master to have the power and the Apprentice to crave/take it.
  • The Thieves: The casino heist dissolves into a complex web of double and triple crosses, as the various members of the Caper Crew each pursues their own ends.

    Game Theory 
  • This is the basis for the classic Prisoner's Dilemma. It goes as follows: Alice and Bob have been taken prisoner. The police know they committed a minor crime (with a sentence of one year), and suspect they committed a larger crime (with a sentence of two years). But they need a confession to pin the larger crime on someone. So they offer both criminals a deal: Admit that your partner committed the larger crime, and we'll pardon you for the smaller crime. The best option for both of them is that both stay silent (and thus each get one year), but the best personal option is to betray while the other stays silent (The traitor goes free, the other gets 3 years), and the worst personally is to not betray while the other does. Therefore, the prisoners, who are both thinking only of themselves, will betray each other and each be charged for the larger crime, thus doubling the time both spend in prison because they just can't trust each other.

  • In the Modesty Blaise novel The Night of Morningstar, the villains recruit a team of ruthless killers for a terrorist attack, which is prevented when sabotage by the heroes causes their ship to sink suddenly and catastrophically, leaving those who weren't killed outright floating in open water and struggling with each other for possession of bits of flotsam capable of supporting them. The Big Bad is knifed by one of his own underlings over a lifejacket, and that underling is shortly afterward served the same way by another.
  • Allen Drury's novel The Promise of Joy. The Soviets and Chinese work together against the U.S. throughout most of the book, but near the end they start a limited nuclear war with each other.
  • Redwall has quite a few backstabbing thieves. The most notable is Cheesethief for trying to make himself the leader of Cluny's horde. It does not go as planned, and to add insult to injury, Cluny manages to make it look like the complete accident that killed him off was all according to his plan.
  • The Wheel of Time allows just as much ... individualism among the antagonists as the protagonists. Indeed, one member of the Black Ajah speculates that the Dark One may select for treachery among his servants. Back when there were more than 13 random Forsaken, however, they had apparently worked well enough together to be on the verge of winning the war.
  • The wizard-run British Government in The Bartimaeus Trilogy is vastly corrupt and falling apart, because a wizard's standard childhood and upbringing teaches them to value their own ambitions over anything else.
  • In Matthew Reilly's books The Six Sacred Stones and The Five Greatest Warriors, several factions of bad guys are forced to work together to complete the tasks necessary to save the world and gain Ultimate Power. They are even forced to work with the heroes from time to time. Needless to say, they don't trust each other and try to backstab each other at every opportunity.
  • In the Forgotten Realms Siege of Darkness Drizzt Do'Urden notes that while dwarves will fight tooth, nail, and beard for their brethren, dark elves have no such luxury. Their defeat is partly because they can't count on each other for cohesiveness.
    • Let us not forget how The Dark Elf Trilogy opens: With the Do'Urden House outright exterminating a rival house for political gain. And the destruction of House Do'Urden in Exile.
  • According to The Zombie Survival Guide, bandit groups After the End will inevitably wipe themselves out from in-fighting.
  • "And he wondered, even as the sword came butchering between his ribs, how he had ever thought that the East, whose essence was treachery, could ever stand."
    Empire of the East, Fred Saberhagen
  • Varies among the Death Eaters in the Harry Potter series. Their degree of loyalty ranges from Bellatrix Lestrange, who is literally insanely loyal to Voldemort, to the Malfoys, who while generally dependable are more loyal to each other, to Igor Karkaroff, who ratted out other Death Eaters to avoid Azkaban. Most of the Death Eaters would seem to fall in the middle and will turn their back on Voldemort if it's to their advantage. Mainly because he would do the same to them. Voldemort even sneaks a magical safeguard on Peter Pettigrew (who had betrayed Dumbledore's side previously and was known for being a cowardly opportunist) that would kill him if he ever tried betraying Voldemort himself. Or Pettigrew had a moment of weakness.
  • In Lord of the Rings, Sauron doesn't dare let his orcs know he's looking for the Ring of Power (some orc would likely steal it). So he can't tell his armies, "If you find a hobbit, kill it and send any rings it has back to me." Instead, he orders them to take hobbits alive, and transport them (with all their possessions, even weapons) back to him. Naturally, this lets several hobbits escape from orcs at key moments—especially because while the orcs may not know what's so important, they do know that the captives are very valuable, so they end up fighting over the hobbits anyway.
    • And of course, Saruman may have gone over to Sauron, but they both know that given the slightest chance, he'll grab the Ring for himself—which limits their ability to work together effectively.
    • And this attitude spreads to their minions as well; along with whatever scheming is happening between the two factions in Bree, Shagrat and Gorbag the Orcs come to blows over prisoner Frodo and his possessions.
  • In David Eddings' The Redemption of Althalus, the protagonists are a close-knit group more like a family than anything else, they have a major goddess in their fold (who fills the role of their mother), they have full command of said goddess' extradimensional house (allowing them to go literally anywhere they want), and they have an immense army of the best soldiers the world has to offer. The villains are supposed to mirror them (including having similar supernatural abilities), but they are constantly fighting with each other for authority, their god terrifies them and offers little help, and their house is a horror filled with flames which they do not use to much effect at all. And while they have an army of their own, their commander is obsessed with stone-age culture and at best allows flint weapons, as well as only rudimentary tactics.
  • In the Parker novels, many of Parker's heists go astray when one of his partners decides to betray the crew and take the loot for themselves.
  • In The Pardoner's Tale, the three Villain Protagonists end up killing each other out of greed. They were told they'd 'find Death' under the oak tree, but instead found a large pile of gold. They all ended up killing each other off so they wouldn't have to split it into thirds, therefore finding death under the oak tree.
  • In Jan Guillou's Ondskan (The Evil in Swedish), the story starts with the young Villain Protagonist and his gang running several well-paying rackets at his school, including organized shoplifting at various record stores. Being rather clever, he's laid down a few ground rules for his gang to follow, including never hitting the same store more than once in a row; also, if anyone gets caught in any way, they are to keep their mouths shut no matter what, as the authorities can't punish them very much if they don't have anything solid to charge them with. When the goons end up working alone (as the protagonist is temporarily occupied otherwise), they quickly mess up by sealing from the same store several times in a row (thereby making the staff suspicious an going on alert) and get caught. They then throw the protagonist under the bus by revealing everything they've got going on and holding him responsible, insisting that he forced them to do it against their wills.
  • In Rudyard Kipling's "Rhyme of the Three Sealers," the sealers (all poachers in Russian waters) are ready to bluff, betray, and kill each other for the skins they seek (though they also have a "sealers' call" to summon each other for help).
  • In "Cemetery Bait" by Damon Runyon, Lou Adolia is supposed to arrange to return the stolen jewelry, collect a payment from the insurance company, then split the loot with the other conspirators. He gets as far as collecting the payment.
  • All but the last of the thieving crews that Vin worked for in Mistborn consisted of backstabbers who betray anyone, in or out of the crew. Early in the first book, her crew teams up with another crew to rob some Ministry boats under the guise of genuine teamsters, but her crewleader accepts the down payment early and leaves the others out to dry. The third book reveals that had they properly robbed the boats, they would have been unimaginably rich. When Vin realizes that something was wrong about the negotiation, she tries to run, but not before warning her only friend—who informs on her to the boss. The reason why Vin is attracted to Kelsier's crew is that they're genuine True Companions who don't betray each other; she's shocked when Clubs initially walks away from the job, and nobody tries to have him killed.
  • "The Room in the Dragon Volant" by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: After the Count and Eugénie have counted the contents of Richard Beckett's lockbox, the Count locks their harvest up in a hidden closet and keeps only a bundle of ten thousand francs (a fraction of the entire sum) for Planard, saying he will tell him that it's half of the entire haul. Little does he know that Planard has already made a deal with the police to rat out his accomplices in exchange for exemption from punishment, and is only waiting for them to be arrested.

    Live Action TV 
  • The A-Team, "It's a Desert Out There". Al Driscoll is the former leader of the Scorpions, but is planning on turning state's evidence on them. To prevent this, they're planning on stopping the bus he's taking to L.A. and killing him.
  • Andor: With the understanding that "Clem" is another former convict and thief Skeen tries turning on the rebel group he was part of in order to steal from them by trying to get "Clem" to help, not expecting for a second that he'd take offense at Skeen's backstabbing since to Skeen that's just the way people like them work.
  • Played straight and averted on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In general, vampires and demons will abandon or backstab each other all the time. There were, however, exceptions, usually taking the form of cults. The best example was the Order of Aurelius, the vampire cult that served as the main antagonists in Season One. In one episode, three vampire warriors offer their own lives in penance for failing to kill Buffy. They proved to be the exception, as shown when Spike, rather than offer his own life in penance for failing to kill Buffy, killed the Anointed One, and took over what was left of the Order.
  • Michael Westen discusses this trope in the Burn Notice episode "Seek and Destroy":
    Michael: One of the problems when you're running a criminal conspiracy is that there's no way to avoid trust issues with your employees. If you steal with a man, he knows you're a thief. If you kill with a man, he knows you're a killer. (Beat, as the criminal of the week is shot by his partner.) It's a huge management issue.
  • In Community episode "Modern Warfare", Pierce betrays Starburns while they're stealing from the vending machines.
  • Due South: In the episode "Free Willie", Fraser provides the quote above, explaining why he thinks an accomplice in a bank robbery tricked the robbers by giving them an envelope of blank pages instead of the Bearer Bonds. He also ends up illustrating his family's Cloud Cuckoolander trait rather nicely.
  • Ezel: The only thing that seems to keep Cengiz, Ali, Eyşan, and Serdar from turning on one another at times is the understanding that doing so will likely illuminate their own misdeeds and involvement in a deadly robbery. That isn't enough to stop them from successfully extorting each other for favors, however.
  • Lampshaded by Wynn Duffy, no stranger to using this trope himself, to his bodyguard Mikey in Justified. When confronted by Mikey about how he (Duffy) repaid his mentor Grady Hale by being an informant that resulted in his conviction and likely death years ago, Duffy replies that honor has no place amongst criminals, reminding him that their own bosses Markham and Katherine wouldn't hesitate to betray them if it suited their ends. That said, this doesn't apply between themselves, as while Mikey is originally disgusted with this knowledge and originally intends to let Grady's widow Katherine kill Duffy, he ultimately decides to stop her at the cost of his own life and Duffy, despite Mikey nearly getting him killed, is genuinely devastated by his death.
  • In Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger, Basco teams up with the Zangyack to eliminate the Gokaiger threat. However, Basco intends to obtain the Greatest Treasure in the Universe for himself upon stealing the Ranger Keys. When he and Damarasu team up to have Captain Marvelous executed after Warz Gill is killed, Basco backstabs Damarasu at the first opportunity, which leads to the latter's death.
  • Kamen Rider OOO: The four villainous Greeeds certainly earn their name. Despite working together to reclaim their lost Core Medals, each have no compunctions about hoarding any they happen across that belong to the others, despite having no practical use for them. Even when called out on it, getting them to give up the stolen medals is tantamount to pulling teeth.
  • While the team itself falls under Honor Among Thieves on Leverage, many of their adversaries fall under this, especially Chaos who has Chronic Backstabbing Disorder.
  • In The Mandalorian:
    • The Mandalorian is a member of the Bounty Hunter's Guild but the various members all view each other as competition rather than allies. One group tries to kill him to steal a bounty and the hunters show no qualms about turning on him once he rescues the Child.
    • In the episode "The Prisoner" the Mandalorian takes a job with his old criminal crew freeing a member who has been arrested. After reaching the prisoner, the Mandalorian is sealed in their cell by the rest of the team. He manages to escape and take out his teammates but the prisoner, caring only about his own escape, convinces the Mandalorian to take him to safety. Immediately after doing so the fixer who set the job up tries to kill the Mandalorian and fails.
  • In My Name Is Earl, the criminal community of Camden turns on Earl when he reports the theft of his car to the police, with Earl getting called a snitch. In the old days, the thieves would have returned the car to him as a courtesy to a fellow thief. Since Earl had gone straight, they felt that he was no longer covered by that code. However, when one of the criminals gets picked up on Earl's info, they in turn accuse another thief who has committed a more serious crime in order to get immunity. The cherry on top is that Earl figured out all the thieves giving him grief were snitching themselves because he noticed they each had an item from the drawer of cheap toys the cops offered him as a reward for snitching. So Earl makes sure he's standing outside the police station as they get released to show them he knows that they too have snitched, and that all their bragging of thieves "hanging together" is just that — empty bragging.
  • In season 3 of Necessary Roughness as soon as it looks like the FBI investigation is not going away, Cameron and Taylor turn on each other and try to set things up to make it look like the other one was behind the entire scheme. Cameron had the lead since he let Taylor do all the things that could be traced and Taylor is desperate to turn the tables and get Cameron to incriminate himself.
  • Subverted in the Porridge episode "Happy Release", and heavily lampshaded in the Novelization, in which Fletcher's narration begins by stating there's no honour among thieves, and uses this story as an example. Blanco, thinking he might die, draws Fletch a Treasure Map to his Buried Treasure. Norris, who has been stealing Blanco's stuff already, overhears this and starts searching for the map, and eventually bribes Godber into giving it to him just before he's released. The subversion is that the map was fake, and the three of them tricked Norris into digging up the middle of a football pitch and getting arrested again. In the novel, Fletch's conclusion is that there's no such thing as honour among thieves, but there is among friends, even in prison.
  • In one episode of Power Rangers in Space, Storm Blaster managed to escape from Divatox's minions (having been taken prisoner along with Lightning Cruiser in the previous series. Divatox called Astronema, and asked (nicely) for her to keep an eye out for it, only for the current Princess of Evil to tell her straight out that she would keep it if she did find it. (This turned into a case of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain, because Storm Blaster quickly found Justin who attracted the current Rangers, who were able to rescue Lightning Cruiser too, despite Astronema's attempts to catch the escapee; if the two villains had cooperated, it might have been harder for the heroes.)
  • Supernatural: In season 7, the Leviathans start killing off the other monster races, since they don't feel like sharing their food supply (namely humans).
  • Tales from the Crypt:
    • In "Undertaking Palor", the Creepy Mortician and a greedy pharmacist profiteer through a deadly scheme, with the pharmacist poisoning his clients who are then handled by said mortician. When a group of teenagers delve further into their investigation, they find out that the mortician has been shorting the pharmacist on the profits, the evidence of which they then leave behind for the pharmacist to discover. After realizing that he has been shorted on his profits, the pharmacist goes to confront the mortician personally, only for the mortician to kill him off.
    • "None but the Lonely Heart" stars a sociopathic serial murderer who preys on lonely old women by charming them into marrying him before he kills them and steals their fortunes, with accomplices to help him in his schemes. Once he receives notes that someone might be on to him, he kills anyone he suspects of possible blackmail and/or rattling on him — that includes all of his accomplices.
  • Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? would always launch into the endgame with the villain of the day ratting out Carmen to the players. One even lampshaded it with "Honor among thieves? Surely you jest!" In fact, one can infer that by the time Where In Time Is Carmen Sandiego came out, Carmen replaced her VILE henchmen due to the ones in World constantly exposing her as though they never learned to hold their tongues.
  • Whiplash: In "The Solid Gold Brigade", a pair of bushrangers named Strickland and Logan steal a fortune in gold from a mining camp. Stopping on a nearby beach to divide the gold and go their separate ways, Strickland tells Logan to open the chest. As he kneels down to do so, Strickland shoots him In the Back.
  • Whodunnit? (UK): In "Dead Grass", the Victim of the Week is a thief done in by a fellow member of his gang while they were divvying up the loot from a bank job.
  • A recurring problem in all the criminal operations shown The Wire: underlings like Orlando and Ziggy are dissatisfied with the money they're making and try to supplement it with side hustles, both getting in tragically over their heads; more than once we see street level dealers get caught skimming from the take, and customers like Bubbles and Johnny try to rip off the dealers by giving them fake money.

  • Hare sells out Burke to the gallows to save himself in Macabre's "Burke and Hare".


    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000. Orks and Chaos, especially Chaos. The Dark Eldar avert this: although backstabbing your superior is by far the most common of the very few ways to advance in Dark Eldar society, one of their very few standards is 'No treason in realspace'. Realspace raids are essential to the Dark Eldar as they need to capture slaves to feed on their suffering. Having that collapse due to infighting would just make their whole civilization wither. Once the raid is over, though, anyone's fair game.
  • Warhammer. Chaos, Orcs and Skaven especially.
  • Titan Avatars in Scion are frequently at loggerheads. Muspelheim's avatars (Prometheus in particular) all plan to waylay Surtr once Ragnarok is over. The Drowned Road's two strongest avatars, Mami Wata and Ran, act aligned but will someday go for each other's throats, while Nu sits in the background and makes its own plots. Terra is led by Gaia, but the other avatars are open to offers. Sobe-no-Kumi is led by Mikaboshi... only because he arranged for Erebus to be pinned down in a deep part of the Titan. The list goes on; the only core Titan without avatar issues is Akhetaten, and that's because Aten is its only avatar.
    • Why is Aten the only avatar, you ask? That's because he ate all the rest. No honor among thieves doesn't begin to describe that.
    • This doesn't come up for the non-core Titans, in large part because most of them get only one or two avatars of theirs covered with little to no mention of their relations with each other. Hundun, however, explicitly doesn't have avatar issues since it can't manifest them in the first place, being unable to create defined, unique individuals. Instead, it grants its power to willing gods.
  • Exalted pretty much says flat-out that even if the Yozis' grand attempt at the Reclamation is successful in any way, the Ebon Dragon is going to turn on the other Yozis and try to keep them permanently locked up in Malfeas while he alone escapes. Why? Because he's the Ebon Fucking Dragon. Treason isn't just what he does, it's what he is. If he were to be capable of ever truly aiding others, even if it would benefit himself too, he would not be the Ebon Dragon.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons this is a staple of drow society, whether you're a thief, mercenary, ruler... basically anything. It's hard to find a drow who hasn't double-crossed an ally in order to get ahead. In their society, a drow who isn't good at stabbing people in the back is just going to be killed by someone who is. The ruler of the drow, Lolth, is a Chaotic Evil goddess who actively encourages Chronic Backstabbing Disorder in her people, so it's even hardcoded into their laws. In Lolth's mind, if you were cunning, wicked, powerful, and just plain murderous enough to kill someone in the name of power, then you clearly deserved that power and the vicitm deserved to die for being too weak. The drow captial city of Menzoberranzan is a Wretched Hive as a result, to the point where Lolth has had to personally step in when the drow got a little too murdery and backstabby for their own good.invoked
  • In the Planescape setting, the yugoloths are a race of greedy Lower Planar merchants who work for both sides of the eternal Blood War (or pretty much anyone else who will pay them) and they show no loyalty to anyone. A yugoloth is willing to betray his employer at the drop of a hat if the employer's enemy offers more money, and would abandon the mission in a heartbeat if its life was threatened. The worst part is, this is hardly a secret, but the demons and devils keep hiring them, mostly because no-one else is willing to be their suppliers, agents, and hired troops. (Some stories and sources hint that the leaders of the yugoloths do this because they are engineering the entire Blood War and prolonging it on purpose as a grand experiment to discover which type of Evil is superior.)
  • In Magic: The Gathering, The Orzhov Syndicate (or any White/Black pairing, really) tries to marry Black's greed and individualism with White's selflessness and collectivism by having having a council of ghosts running the guild, but keeping that council small. In theory, this group of individuals each view the other members as an extension of themselves, and act that way in kind. In practice, however, you get this trope; Each individual would gladly backstab the group and strike out on their own, but they can't handle the sudden loss of their power base coupled with having the rest of the group unified against them. So the guild continues on in this mockery of teamwork, because they can't afford not to.
  • The Fiasco roleplaying game is very much built on this trope (for the sake of Black Comedy), with character creation making the players define their relationships with each other and their final goals, and then making it difficult for them to reach those goals without tossing somebody to the wolves.
  • Paranoia: This trope is actively enforced by the rules. All troubleshooter team members have dark secrets and secret goals, and reaching them without attracting the attention of The Computer means that all the other Troubleshooters must die. Repeatedly.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: The Sabbat, the faction of vampires which has renounced all ties to their former humanity, has had no less than three civil wars in the space of its five centuries of history. They also happen to be the smaller, weaker faction compared to their rivals in the Camarilla. These two facts are not unrelated.

  • In The Emperor Jones, the title character tells his stooge Smithers, whom he can barely hide his contempt for: "Dere's little stealin' like you does, and dere's big stealin' like I does." Smithers, in Jones's absence, has nothing but hatred for him.

    Theme Parks 

    Video Games 
  • Knights of the Old Republic. The Sith are rife with this problem throughout both the game itself and the backstory. Of particular note: the encouraged Chronic Backstabbing Disorder of the Sith leads to Malak attempting to kill his own master Revan, which deprives the Sith of their previous Magnificent Bastard leader and replaces him with a Stupid Evil villain who tends to take care of problems with starship bombardments, starting the chain of events that finally leads to Sith defeat.
    • In the sequel, the Sith Triumvirate nearly succeeds in wiping out the Jedi. Then Darth Traya's apprentices, Darth Sion and Darth Nihilus, turn on her and then on each other (this is why the Rule of Two forbids two apprentices - they could cooperate to kill their master before they were ready, then kill the other apprentice to become a Sith Lord much weaker than the former). This allows Darth Traya to help the player in hunting them down.
    • In The Old Republic, the Imperial classes—especially the Sith Warrior and Sith Inquisitor classes—spend just as much time fighting other Imperials as they do the Republic and it's often noted that the Sith's tendency to engage in petty power squabbles is hampering the war effort.
  • Warcraft. In game, merely used as an excuse for Civil Warcraft, the later backstory makes it clear that the Orcish Horde lost the second war because Gul'dan and Orcish clans loyal to him abandoned the Warchief at a decisive moment in favor of Gul'dan's own plans to find Sargeras.
    • To be fair, Gul'dan never planned to stay loyal. He was always the true power behind the previous Warchief Blackhand. Orgrim betrayed Blackhand and then threatened to kill Gul'dan. Gul'dan swore loyalty, planning on breaking his oath the moment he saw fit.
    • In fact, it was Orgrim's own sense of honor that doomed the Horde more than Gul'dan's betrayal. Not wanting Gul'dan to escape unpunished, he sent a huge chunk of his own forces to hunt him down. Not only did it force him to lift his siege of Lordaeron, but the forces sent after Gul'dan suffered heavy losses killing the traitor clans and were then further obliterated on the way back by a surprise attack at sea by Admiral Proudmoore, leaving only a few thousand warriors. Had Orgrim chosen to continue the siege instead of seeking revenge, he would have razed Lordaeron, likely winning the war.
  • In Mega Man Star Force 3, none of the members of the Dealer syndicate have any real loyalty to their boss Mr. King. They all readily betray him as soon as it suits their own purposes.
  • Quest for Glory IV has a literal version of this. The Chief Thief has been turned into a giant cockroach monster, but you can earn his gratitude by finding the Artifact of Doom that did it, making him human again. At that point, you're free to kill him (try when he's a bug and he'll spit acid on you). You suffer absolutely no consequences - except for the fact that your Honor stat drops to 0 immediately. The narration even drops the trope name afterwards.
  • Uncharted:
    • Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (go figure). From the get-go there's all kinds of back-stabbing and betrayals going on, even from our hero, Nathan Drake. Good thing Elena shows up to set him straight.
    • Uncharted 4: A Thief's End continues the trend. There's a lost pirate city named Libertalia Drake and his brother go searching for. Libertalia was a town founded by a coalition of notorious pirates escaping the regular world, bringing the considerable wealth they've amassed with them. This trope is the reason that all went to hell. The colony was a long con by two of the pirates, Henry Avery and Thomas Tew, to rob the colonists and the other pirates of their money. Tew and Avery put down a revolt by poisoning everyone and made to run off with the money, only to kill each other on their getaway ship over it.
  • Mass Effect 2 has a classic case of this when Shepard encounters the "MSV Strontium Mule", which has been recently invaded by a group of Blue Suns mercs. When the commander takes down the group's leader, Captain Vorhess, we soon find out Sergent Bootis deliberately held back his men, so Vorhess would be killed, leaving him in charge and more loot for the survivors. "The fewer men left, the bigger the prize for each of us". Needless to say, not combining all your available forces against Commander Shepard is essentially suicide. His betrayal only grants him a swifter death. This is made into an even stupider move when he notes how big of a threat Shepard is in a datapad.
    • Also shows up with Zaeed's Backstory. His business partner for the private military company the two started had this mindset. He hired terrorists and such, leading to a case of Even Evil Has Standards from Zaeed, resulting in said criminal further cementing his belief in this trope by hiring Zaeed's own men to kill him.
  • This seems to be one of the main themes of Mafia II, with the various intrigues between the 3 major crime families and the many betrayals committed by pretty much every Mafia member against each other and the player character. This is in sharp contrast to the much more idealized vision of The Family seen in the first game.
  • In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Tommy Vercetti believes that among the family nothing is more important than honor and loyalty. However as the story progresses he soon realizes he was very much alone in this belief as Sonny has screwed him at every turn.
    • In the intro, Sonny pretty much states that he intends to come in and take over after Tommy has managed to establish himself in Vice City.
  • This trope is lampshaded in an optional conversation in Grand Theft Auto V's "Hood Safari" mission, should Player Characters Trevor and Franklin flee from the cops together after being lured into a scam drug deal. After he and Franklin are clear, Trevor claims that opportunistic betrayals are part of the gang mentality, and mocks those who try to rely on the criminal element being trustworthy.
  • It's brought up in Diablo III as the reason The Legions of Hell have never been able to win against The Armies of Heaven in the Eternal Conflict — whenever the demons got close to victory, they'd turn upon each other over the spoils they'd had yet to win. When Diablo becomes the Prime Evil, with all Seven Great Evils combined in him, there is no such division, allowing him to direct the forces of Hell with a singular mind and overwhelm the forces of Heaven.
  • In episode 303 of Sam & Max: Freelance Police, General Skun-Ka'pe and Monsieur Papierwaite team up over a mutual hatred of Sam. Max can talk to them both individually and find that there's a bit of tension bubbling under the surface. Exploit this and...
    Skun-Ka'pe: I can't believe I've allied myself to a snivelling irritant like you!
    Papierwaite: Irritant? Do you think I enjoy having my schemes yoked to an uncouth half-naked space-fascist who can't even capture a six foot tall dog in a suit?!
    Skun-Ka'pe: I assume you can do better, you half-witted conjurer?!
    Papierwaite: Watch me.
  • Neverend starts with two members of Agavaen's bandit group making off with the gold and Agavaen's amulet in the middle of the night.
  • Octopath Traveler has an example in which this trope goes both ways. Darius, Therion's former partner-in-crime (literally, as they're thieves), betrays anyone and everyone (Therion himself included) at the promise of greater power and wealth for himself, only to meets his end after Therion confronts, defeats, and leaves him in a battle. He intends to take his wealth somewhere else and start anew, but his lackeys, who hold no loyalty to him, seize the opportunity in his weakened and vulnerable state, deal mortal wounds to him and steal the wealth he's hoarded, making off like bandits. He's left in his final moments Dying Alone, feebly and futilely calling for a long-left Therion.
    Someone... help me... Partner... Please...
  • In the Sly Cooper games, this is what sets the villains apart from the Cooper Gang and their allies. The main trio of Sly, Bentley, and Murray only steal from other criminals and villains. Their foes engage in dishonorable actions like forgery, spice dealings, illegal mining, forced weddings, sinking heritage buildings, selfish exploitation of others and so forth.
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: According to the manual backstory, Ganondorf and his band of thieves found the entrance to the Sacred Realm and the Triforce together. Then, instead of sharing the power, the thieves turned against one another in order to claim the Triforce uncontested. Ganondorf emerged victorious, and touched the Triforce with the blood of his followers still fresh in his hands.
  • It's the name of the game in 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, where Fiddy is told early on to trust no one, and sure enough other than Fiddy and his G-Unit partners, everybody betrays everybody else at just about every opportunity. Wilder even quotes the trope by name when he calls up Leila before the final fight just so Fiddy knows he's been betrayed yet again and she then tells Wilder she's making off with the skull.
  • Despite the fact that the various monsters in Pumpkin Jack are the Devil's making and Jack is on a mission on the Devil's behalf, monsters still make-up the majority of enemies. This is explained that the monsters are mindless and soulless, thus all they care about is causing destruction with no sense of loyalty.
  • Brawlhalla: According to his lore entry, Lucien, the highwayman, used to lead a gang of thieves, until he decided he was better as a lone thief and turned them all in for the reward money.

  • Unsounded: Starfish, a murderer whose buisness is kidnapping people into slavery, gleefully kills one of his own wounded men. Ana and Toby plot to turn on their criminal boss Stockyard, who in turn murders Toby rather than properly question a man who had long been his friend and followed him across borders to start a new criminal enteprise together. In general the criminals are constantly back-stabbing each other, and in Sharteshane, where criminals are running the show, it is common for gangs to be overtaken when their boss is killed by one of their own underlings.

    Web Original 
  • Not Always Legal has a story about a scuffle that ensued when a group of shoplifters were caught, one of them was searched, and it turned out he'd lifted one of the other thieves' wallets. The story is even called "No Honor Among Thieves".

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: Renee Frodgers ditches her goons when Hop Pop outs their robbery to the town.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In the episode "An Inside Job", Sly Sludge is perfectly willing to run out on Dr. Blight and MAL if it means he can save himself. Blight, in turn, is perfectly willing to shrink him along with four of the Planeteers in revenge.
  • Toyed with in The Dick Tracy Show episode "Funny Money". Mumbles pulls a gun on Stooge Viller, who he thinks is welching the money they stole from a theater box office. Stooge pleads his innocence as the briefcase the money was in got mixed with a briefcase full of dirty laundry. Fortunately for Stooge, Hemlock Holmes (the episode's police officer) shows up with the briefcase full of money and gives it to him.
  • Justice League:
    • Throughout the series and Justice League Unlimited, the villains try forming a Secret Society/Legion of Doom multiple times, but it always fails because their bickering and conflicting goals leads to at least one of them backstabbing the others.
    • In the third season of Unlimited, Luthor gets recruited into Grodd's Legion of Doom, but after seeing how incompetent Grodd is (for example, his first mission for Luthor is to retrieve a relic... which he uses as a glorified paperweight) and Grodd's goal just being "Turn everyone into gorillas.", Luthor overthrows him and changes the group's goal into rebuilding Brainiac so that he can become a god. To everyone else, this is just seen as exchanging one dolt for another dolt since they manage to achieve just about nothing from this, which eventually results in Grodd getting broken out by a spiteful Tala and splitting up the Legion in two for an internal war in the penultimate episode. Everyone on Grodd's side is allied with him either because they view Grodd as less stupid, Luthor personally ticked them off in some way, or because more people sided with Grodd, while the ones on Luthor's side are there because he promised to make them his lieutenants in his new world. Luthor's people, ironically, manage to win because they're more willing to work together. Additionally, Killer Frost, who had sided with Grodd, kills the rest of her teammates to get back on Luthor's side when he gives them a chance to reconsider. And on another ironic note, soon afterwards, the remaining members of the Legion work together with the Justice League to stop a resurrected Darkseid and his Apokoliptian army and manage to not backstab them, possibly because they donít want Darkseid to win.
  • The Simpsons
    • In the episode "Lisa's First Word", it is revealed that Grandpa won his house in a rigged 60's game show, and he proudly says, "I ratted on everyone and got away scot-free!"
    • In "Bart the Murderer", Bart gains the favor of the local mafia, making them drinks and even becoming accomplice to some minor crimes. Once they're suspected of killing Bart's principal (which turns out to have never happened), the mob immediately make Bart their Fall Guy, with an absurd amount of success.
  • In one episode of Samurai Jack, the brutal bounty hunter Ezekiel Clench decides to call a truce with his ex-wife Josephine to bring in Jack. Amazingly, they are actually able to subdue the hero, but it turned out to be a very bad idea on Zeke's part; she double-crosses him, and this gives Jack the opportunity to pull one on her too and get away. (In fact, seeing as Zeke is the one who had a restraining order against her, it's likely that she did something like that before.)
  • Superfriends: The Legendary Super Powers Show had one episode titled "No Honor Among Thieves". In that episode, Lex Luthor created a device to steal powers from the heroes and asked for Darkseid's help. Luthor tried to doublecross Darkseid but Darkseid was Crazy-Prepared enough to cover Luthor in kryptonite dust since, with Superman's powers, comes his weakness. Luthor still managed to use El Dorado's powers to send the powerless heroes the means to escape death. He then got a Title Drop.
  • According to Strickler from Trollhunters, Changelings have three rules that they live by, the first rule being that there is Honor Among Assassins, while rule two claims there is no such thing as honor, with the third rule promoting Pragmatic Villainy by seeing everyone and everything as nothing but tools for personal gain.
  • In Xiaolin Showdown, just about all of the villains will only ally with each other out of temporary convenience, and will often gladly take the nearest opportunity to betray whomever they were just working with. But this doesn't stop the bad guys from teaming up with the exact same untrustworthy partners multiple times, especially Jack Spicer.
    Omi: So much criss-crossingnote . This just proves that there is no honor among thieves!
  • The X-Men: The Animated Series episode "Welcome To Genosha": after the attempted mass breakout is foiled, Cameron Hodge reveals the informer who grassed on the entire prison- Gambit! But when he is put into a jeep with two mooks and sent to the other end of the island, he is freed after the jeep is blown up and the mooks killed by...Cable! Who takes his restraining collar off and then TRUSTS HIM WITH THE KEY, telling to go back to the prison and free all the other mutants with it.

    Real Life 
  • The Nazis often ran into a lot of trouble because everyone in the government was trying to carve out their own little fiefdom at the expense of everyone else, even when the war was clearly being lost. Though it can be argued that cases of this have happened in all kinds of regimes throughout human history, the Nazis especially succumbed to this due to Hitler's governing being a mixture of "divide and rule" and an odd form of social Darwinism. See also Fascist, but Inefficient.
    • Subverted obviously on the thief part, but it has been claimed by others before that The Seperations of Powers of the United States Government apparently unintentionally evokes this. The Founding Fathers believed that all forms of government, even a Republic, would eventually be corrupted. The limits on each branch's powers and abilities generally mean that the Government is too busy fighting itself to turn onto the people. In order for anything to happen in the Federal Government, it must meet the approval of a majority of 545 individuals (100 Senators, 435 Representatives, Nine Supreme Court Justices, and One President) to work a law of the land. That's not getting into pleasing constituency that can vote to kick out the bums and put in someone who will do the job proper. And we're not getting into American Federalism that can also gum up the system. Considering that even with a single party majority party rule, it's very difficult to push through changes through.
  • Happens with a LOT of criminal groups in the real world. If they think they can make more money by killing a "friend", or simply need to throw someone to the wolves to save themselves, they'll do so without a second thought. Many criminal organisations are often brought down by snitches who will turn informant the moment they face time behind bars for their crimes.
    John Quiggin: One consequence of all this bloodletting is that criminals must perpetually monitor each otherís statements for subtle intimations of betrayal. As Diego Gambetta, the sociologist of the Sicilian Mafia, put it, they are Ďconstantly afraid of being duped, while at the same time they are busy duping othersí.
  • During the Enron hearings, after years of corporate fraud was discovered, both Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, tried to put all of the blame on their third partner in crime, Andrew Fastow, who himself was putting a lot of money aside and was planning on abandoning Enron. He instead pleaded guilty to a lesser sentence in exchange for testifying against both Kenneth Lay and Jeffery Skilling.
  • A lot of con artists give the marks the impression that they're coming into stolen property or are participating in illegal activity, as well as giving them opportunities to scam the scammers. When the marks do realize they've been taken, very few of them are willing to go to the police, as doing so would be admitting to a crime themselves. This is why so many scammers are able to get away with it. This leads to the concept of a "beat bag": give the mark something worthless in the place of something desired but illegal; they can't complain that they got oregano instead of weed, or that the stolen Xbox doesn't work, or is just a box of bricks.
  • Pirated software is often a vector for malware. Who are you going to complain to if you get a virus from something you torrented?
  • Common romance advice: "If they cheated with you, they'll cheat on you."
  • As the Brazilian saying goes: "Ladrão que rouba ladrão tem cem anos de perdão" ("Thief who steals from a thief has a hundred years of pardon").
    • Or the variation "Ladrão que rouba ladrão leva tiro de treis oitão" ("Thief who steals from a thief gets shot by a .38").

Alternative Title(s): No Honour Among Thieves