Follow TV Tropes


Taking Over the Town

Go To

"We're takin' over this town!"
— "Cowboys from Hell" by Pantera

A plan for villains who think on a large scale. The bad guys isolate a community from the outside world and then loot it at will.

The typical plan is to cut off communications (e.g. take down phone lines) and then isolate the town (blowing the only bridge in is common). Local law enforcement will be eliminated (often being captured and locked up in their own jail).

Expect at least one hero to stage a "Die Hard" on an X. Compare and contrast Take Over the City and I Own This Town.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Monster has a variation in its finale; Johan plans to give himself the "perfect suicide" where he and some of his accomplices move to a rural town right before it gets isolated by seasonal bad weather, cut off communications with the outside world, provide guns to some of the civilians and then just watch them go crazy with paranoia and kill each other. He is stopped before casualties get too high, but there were still plenty of deaths from it. The tactics he uses are quite normal for this trope, and in a way, he is taking over the town by infecting them with his own nihilism and hopelessness.
  • Shiki: This is attempted by the titular creatures. It doesn't work.

    Comic Books 
  • Stealth example: In the Batman story arc "No Man's Land", Lex Luthor uses his connections in the US government to shut Gotham City off from outside aid after a cataclysmic earthquake so he can swoop in, buy up most of the real estate, and look like a hero.
  • In an episode of Bruno Brazil, a gang of thieves knocks out the entire population of a town with a large-scale Sonic Stunner.
  • This was Blacksmith's plan for taking over Central and Keystone Cities in The Flash. She had Murmur and Mirror Master attack radio stations and reprogram their antennas to broadcast a mirror shield around the twin cities to prevent anyone from coming in or getting out.
  • Cobra does it to the town of Millville in issue 100 of Marvel Comics' G.I. Joe series.
  • In a Golden Age Justice Society of America story, The Injustice Society of the World did this to Washington DC.
  • This is more or less the backstory of Sin City.

    Fan Works 
  • Soul Eater: Troubled Souls has a large-scale variation. After learning from Gilgamesh Anria can potentially evolve, Cancer and Henderson cut off Bermuda from the rest of the world. While they don't exactly loot the place, they do have the Anria run wild over all the country, kill their citizens, and eat their souls to provoke said evolution.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 30 Days of Night (and the original comic it was based on) featured a clan of vampires that essentially invoked this trope on a town on the arctic circle when the sun would be down for a full month.
  • In The Born Losers, the title biker gang incites a reign of terror in a California coastal town while The Hero Billy jack is locked up in jail for trying to stop them.
  • The biker-cult in Cobra take out The Sheriff and set up roadblocks to prevent escape from the small town the protagonists have stayed the night in, though their aim is only to kill a single witness and her police bodyguards. As one of the bodyguards is a member of their cult, one would think there'd be less blatant means of doing so.
  • The Dark Knight Rises has Bane and his army quarantine Gotham City by blowing up every bridge and tunnel leading into Manhattan, then they unleash their modern Reign of Terror.
  • In Day of the Outlaw, the gang holds the town of Bitters hostage while Bruhn, wounded in a recent bank robbery, receives treatment.
  • Day of the Wolves, a 1971 heist movie that could almost be the Trope Codifier.
  • Red and the Blackwater Gang do this to Edendale in Dead in Tombstone, even though it was not the original plan.
  • The M.O. of the Pickett gang in Ghost Rock. They ride into a small town, kill all the occupants, loot the place and leave before anyone turns up.
  • In High Plains Drifter, this is what the gang of outlaws wanted to do.
  • In Lone Hero, the Iron Bandits biker gang takes over the town of Profit and holds the inhabitants hostage until John delivers their leader Bart to them. They cut the phone lines and divert the only road leading to town.
  • The Magnificent Seven (2016): This is what Bogue has done to Rose Creek before the Seven ride into town and kill the 22 Blackstone thugs he had left there.
  • This is Redeye's main goal in Oblivion (1994).
  • In the Australian film Red Hill the escaped convict destroys the communications tower preventing contact with the outside world, and goes on a killing spree with the town's officers.
  • In The Scavengers, the Confederate renegades take over the small town of Haswell to intercept the Yankee gold shipment.
  • The 1942 British World War II drama Went the Day Well? has a group of Nazi soldiers attempting this with an English village.

  • The second Able Team novel, Hostage Island has an outlaw biker gang taking over Catalina Island and holding the population hostage.
  • The planet Ghobindi is found to be blockaded in Galaxy of Fear, with only Imperial ships able to come in or go out. There's only one settlement there, clustered around an elaborate medical clinic. The Empire is actually testing The Virus on it.
  • Auric Goldfinger's plan to loot Fort Knox in the novel Goldfinger has elements of this (the plan in the movie is different).
  • The Gutting of Couffignal, Continental Op story by Dashiell Hammett.
  • In the novel Jericho Falls, the government of the United States does this to an American town.
  • Judge Dee: The Chinese Maze Murders starts with the judge arriving to his new post only to discover it's been in the grip of a crimelord for a while. His first order of business is to take him out, then find out why the actual authorities didn't do anything (because The Man Behind the Man had the previous judge murdered by an Uyghur tribesman from across the border, in preparation for the Uyghur tribes taking over the town). According to the author, this is a common plot in the historical novels the series is based on.
    The ‘framework’ of the present novel, viz. a tale of a distant town where a local bully has usurped power, also is a common situation in Chinese novels. Sometimes a clever magistrate outwits and deposes the usurper, sometimes it is the usurper who is the hero of the story. He takes over from a corrupt magistrate, and subsequently is officially confirmed in his position by a grateful government.
  • In The Lord of the Rings Saruman, a.k.a. "Sharky," does this to an entire country. When Frodo, Sam and the other hobbits return from their epic quest to destroy the Ring to find the Shire under the control of Saruman's evil Men, they gather the rest of the hobbits and take the place back.
  • Merkabah Rider: In "The Dust Devils", a Bandito gang and an evil voodoo sorcerer take over a border town. The sorcerer uses demons to set up a permanent dust storm around the town to keep outsiders out, and turns the townsfolk into living zombies; sending them to toil in the goldmine without eating or sleeping till they drop dead.
  • The Night's Dawn Trilogy. A gang of the Possessed want to do this to a town on Norfolk, but the Possessed who are already there band together to fend them off, finding themselves for the first time in perfect accord with the people they're possessing, who grew up in the town and don't want it overrun by hooligans either.
  • Parker: In The Score, Parker is recruited to lead a crew to take over and loot a small copper mining town. The town has a curfew, which makes things easier, as the crew only has to take over the police station, the fire station, and the telephone exchange—the only places manned all night—before launching their assault.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Combined with Take Over the City in Brick's plan to rule The Glades in season 3 of Arrow. Although his goal is to totally control The Glades, he uses many of the traditional tactics for isolating an area to do so: destroying all the cell towers, disabling the video feeds, etc.
  • On Jericho (2006) this is what the Ravenwood mercenaries do to a town they invade. They take all the supplies and shoot anyone who opposes them. Since the towns are isolated from the outside world, they do not have to worry about anyone coming to help the townpeople. The people of Jericho try to preempt this by blowing the bridge into town themselves before Ravenwood crosses it.
  • The New Avengers: In "Sleeper", a gang uses a secret weapon to knock out a section of central London, then put in roadblocks and cut the phone lines to allow them to loot a series of banks at will.
  • Nichols: In "The Siege", Colonel Alcazar's men take over the town and prevent anyone from leaving while the Colonel receives medical attention.
  • Krane and his gang do this in the Queen of Swords episode "The Hanged Man".
  • Supernatural. Subverted when demon-possessed humans appear to be doing this only for it to be revealed there are no demons — it's only War turning humans against each other with a few hallucinations and blown-up bridges.
  • Whiplash: In "Episode in Bathurst", a trio of American outlaw brothers arrive in Bathurst and quickly cow the townsfolk with their superior gunplay; killing anyone who tries to oppose them. They set up roadblocks on all the roads into town and demand payment from passing traffic.
  • The Butler gang does this to Hopetoun in the final episode of Wild Boys.

    Video Games 
  • Taken to extremes by the Demonlord in Dragon Quest VII. He sealed away nearly every city, country and village in the entire world, subjecting each to a different threat. When the game begins, the only land that hasn't been long consumed by darkness is the Hero's home, and he and his friends must travel through time to Set Right What Once Went Wrong and restore the world, piece by piece.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: A group of Vampires plan to take over Morthal and turn it's people into Thralls. Naturally, The Dragonborn stops them.
  • The introductory questline for Men and Hobbits in The Lord of the Rings Online involves an effort to protect the village of Archet which is having this done to them by the Blackwolds, a vicious brigand gang that has cut a deal with the evil forces of Angmar. After blockading the gate to Combe, the neighboring town, to prevent the people of Archet from going there for aid, they proceed to launch an assault against the town that is only stopped by the intervention of the village leader's son, his band of hunters, and the player.
  • This was the set-up for Mad Dog McCree. The stranger (i.e. the player) is told that "Mad Dog McCree and his gang have taken over the town" and that both the mayor and his daughter are imprisoned in the gunfighter's hideout, while the sheriff has been locked up in his own jail by the gang.
  • Naughty Bear: A one-teddy version; some players attempt this by sinking the boat, disabling the car and phones and setting up traps at the dock that the police use. This is usually successful at keeping the others from escaping.
  • The Darkest Faerie creates a barrier around Meridell in act 3 of Neopets: The Darkest Faerie.

    Western Animation 
  • All Hail King Julien: In "The All Hail King Julien Show", Pancho and Andy are quick to notice that Julien Vision has become so popular that the entire kingdom spends their whole day either watching or starring in shows, and help themselves to everyone's stuff while they're busy.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Just Us Justice Ducks", Negaduck uses an electronic device to create a force wall cutting St. Canard off from the rest of the world.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: The pirates do this in "100 Percensus".
  • Slugterra: In "King of Sling", Locke and Lode do this to the King's home cavern. After being driven out of town, the King returns to drive out Locke and Lode (with a little help from the Shane gang).

    Real Life 
  • Townies often assume this is the plan of a bunch of bikers riding into town, whether they actually do it or not.