Follow TV Tropes


The Informant

Go To

This is the character in Cop Shows, Detective Dramas, and Espionage Thrillers that everyone despises. Even the cops who make use of his services hate him. He is beneath the level of more dignified, "honest" crooks. He is a low level version of the Knowledge Broker; perhaps even the minion of one. But where a Knowledge Broker is high status and has an arbitrarily greater reputation, this character is just a stoolie. (This difference is sort of like the difference between a courtesan and a street-walker... they are both prostitutes, but one is considered "high class".)

The Informant lives in a miserable fashion selling information. But he is needed, so he is tolerated. Sometimes a sort of patronizing affection is granted him. In such a case, he is likely to be a Lovable Coward as well as a Lovable Traitor. Probably there are those who will not find him lovable...

A subtrope of Knowledge Broker and Indispensable Scoundrel. Mysterious Informant is a Sister Trope to, and The Stool Pigeon is a Sub-Trope of, The Informant. This trope may be averted entirely if a particular crime boss or criminal empire is considered too scary to inform on.

Not to be confused with 2009 Matt Damon film The Informant!, which is actually about a Stool Pigeon, kind of.

Informants fear prison, since they probably become a Pariah Prisoner, fearing Prison Rape or lethal violence. Compare Baker Street Regular for a more sympathetic version of the trope. If this character happens to be a prostitute, she's a Shady Lady of the Night.


    open/close all folders 

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • Ribs in The Tainted Grimoire makes a living as a streetear. He is on good terms with the protagonists.
  • In For the Glory of Irk, Zeke — an Irken Conspiracy Theorist who self-publishes magazines about his views — eventually reveals that he has a high-level source in the Empire's government who feeds him information for his articles. This turns out to be Vero, the door guard and potential-Tallest, who transitions to being more of a mole for the heroes after The Conspiracy by the Control Brains is discovered.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Juan Martinez in Running Scared (1986). He's a second generation stoolie.
  • The informant in The French Connection is portrayed more seemingly realistically than the norm described in the trope description at the top of this page, perhaps because the film is based somewhat closely on a true story.
  • Clarence Darlington in Lakeview Terrace is a small time drug dealer and Dirty Cop Abel Turner's informant.
  • In the Guy Ritchie movie Rock N Rolla, the London underworld is puzzled by he identity of an informant whose testimony has been putting away multiple well connected gangsters. At the very end of the film it's revealed to be The Don himself, Lenny. Lenny's men quickly and ruthlessly turn on him, especially since some of them, including The Dragon have gone to prison based on that testimony.
  • In The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Eddie (Robert Mitchum) is what can only be termed an aspiring informant. Ironically he's assassinated by a man who turns out to be an informant himself.
  • In Hellraiser: Inferno, Detective Joseph has an ex-con snitch named Bernie running an icecream truck, whom he abuses for information on the Engineer. Then again, Bernie is implied to have been sent to prison for being a pedophile. The Engineer tortures and murders the informant on camera to spite Joseph.
  • In Black Mass Whitey Bulger pretends to be one, but in reality he's mostly feeding the FBI things they already knew, and in any case he's informing on the Italian mafia so he and the rest of The Irish Mob can replace them as head of organized crime in Boston. Later, a real informant rats Whitey out for smuggling guns to the IRA, and Whitey kills him with the contempt usually associated with a rat.
  • Le Doulos: Maurice thinks that his partner-in-crime Silien has become a police informant. He's wrong; someone did rat him out and nearly get him killed during the failed robbery, but Silien isn't the one.
  • Mystery Road:
    • Jay gets a lot of information about Julie his uncle, and gives him some money to play Bingo with afterwards.
    • Later, Jay gives a boy who found Julie's phone some money and permission to god his (unloaded) gun while asking a few questions.
    • Johnno claims that local drug dealer Wayne is his informant after Jay arrested him and later events (Wayne seen being dragged into a car roughly by several other gang members) imply this is true.
  • Fake blind man Sightless in Dick Tracy's Dilemma sells information to Dick Tracy.
  • In My Country: It's mentioned that several victims were identified to the police by informants, then were tortured before being murdered. Dumi turns out to have been such an informant, and gave up a man who'd then suffered this fate.
  • Corky Romano: Leo, Pops' right-hand man, is an FBI informant who's given them evidence about his crimes (some of it's fake) so he can take over the business.
  • Through Black Spruce: Will is thought to be a police informant by Marius' gang, who harass and threaten him for it. It's actually his sister Lisette.

  • Nick the Nose from Donald Sobel's Two Minute Mysteries series.
  • David in China Miéville's Perdido Street Station sells out Isaac to the militia as part of his work as a paid informant.
  • Discworld:
    • Lord Vetinari gets intel from the city's beggars, mostly by way of unfounded rumors that he pays for information. And the City Watch under Commander Vimes gets information from similar sources, as well as some of the pettier of petty criminals, who have an almost jocular relationship with the lawmen. It's mentioned that the Watch House break room is populated by a collection of "petty crooks, informants and ex-watchmen, some of whom were the same people." Vimes signs off on the doughnuts, since the information they bring in is well worth the price.
    • In Night Watch Discworld, Nobby Nobbs started out as one of these, and eventually became a real member of the Watch. Though not a particularly good one.
  • Forest Kingdom: In the Hawk & Fisher spinoff series, the City Guard has them, though Hawk and Fisher don't much approve of such types.
  • Hoshi and the Red City Circuit has Hoshi's tinker friend Kelvin, who went into Shirring Point four years ago after almost getting beaten to death by riot cops and never came out. People will say almost anything in front of him, so he has all the latest news about the upper layers of the underworld.
  • The Fourth Law of Robotics. The Stainless Steel Rat goes to the Wrong Side of the Tracks looking for a man willing to sell him information on the renegade robot. He takes a hundred bucks off Slippery Jim, then pretends to know nothing and refuses to return the money, so Jim forcibly injects him with a Truth Serum to get the information he wants.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Breaking Bad: The cartel member Tortuga, who appears in the episode ""Negro y Azul", lives a luxurious double-life as both drug runner and DEA snitch. He only appears in one episode because... well, let's just say it's a dangerous life ratting out the cartel to the police...
  • Willy the Snitch from Buffy the Vampire Slayer runs a dive patronised by demons, and lives up to his name.
  • In Miami Vice, Crockett and Tubbs regularly called upon Izzy "The Snitch" Moreno and Neville "Noogie" Lamont to get information on whatever big plot was going down. The two cops treated the latter like some unpleasant form of fungus, while the former was treated like a favored pet.
  • In Plain Sight, by its very nature, often deals with Informants who are now on the run from their former employers.
  • While very few of the Informants were ever actually shown, the detectives on Law & Order often had regular informants they relied on. Detective Rey Curtis often referred to an entire network of confidential informants he had from his days as a vice cop.
    • Fin from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit had a number of these as well, most of whom he'd acquired from his time in Narcotics.
    • One or two episodes make it clear the NYPD expects cops to register their CI's with the department, and frowns on officers who keep informants "off the books".
  • In the episode of Fantasy Island with the two old actors who used to star in a cop show together, their characters had an informant they used to rough up when they wanted information. When they get stuck in a real-life version of the show, the informant shows up with a massive grudge against them for the way they used to treat him.
  • The Wire
    • Bubbles is a frequent informant to the police, and on very friendly terms with the officer he worked for. Kima in particular even helps him when he tries to quit heroin. On the other hand, some cops such as Herc just use him as a tool and allowed Bubbles to get beaten within an inch of his life, so Bubbles very deservedly sets up Herc to arrest somebody with connections, resulting in his firing.
    • In the fourth season, Randy's story is used to show the darker side of this trope and illustrate how becoming a police informant can completely ruin your life, even if you're in middle school.
  • Several one-off characters in The Sweeney, whose portrayals ranged from "contemptible but necessary" to actually fairly sympathetic. Of course, one of the show's central themes was that the cops and the cons weren't that different.
  • Guerrilla: One of the black radicals turns out to be a police informant. He points out the leader of the protest for the police, who beat him to death. Pence also has a female one, whom he's involved with and fathered a son by.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise. While battling time agents in WW2 New York, Captain Archer is put in contact with a man who sells information to them. However the informer frankly admits that he makes most of the stuff up.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Intrepid Reporter Carl Kolchak uses them from time to time.
    • Kolchak goes to talk to morgue attendant Gordon Spangler, AKA "Gordy the Ghoul", whenever he needs information about dead bodies and crimes related to them. Mr. Spangler requires Kolchak to bribe him for the information, sometimes by buying numbers in a lottery and sometimes by direct payments.
    • In the episode "The Zombie", Kolchak twice gets information about the local underworld from a tipster named "The Monk".
  • Parodied in Police Squad!. Detective Drebin visits Johnny the shoeshine boy when he needs information. He asks him "What's the word on the street about (whatever he's investigating)?" and Johnny will always say something like "How should I know?" Then Drebin will hand over some cash, and Johnny will immediately supply him with just the information he is looking for, no matter how unlikely it is that a shoeshine boy would know about it. They later expanded the joke by having celebrity guest stars go to Johnny after Drebin leaves and ask him questions about esoteric knowledge in their specialties, which Johnny can always answer, for a fee, of course. For instance, a surgeon asks him how to do a rare surgical procedure, Dr. Joyce Brothers asks him about the Peter Pan Effect, and Dick Clark asks him to explain ska music, and then purchases a magical youth preserving face cream from him.
  • Crazy Like a Fox: "The Man Who Cried Fox" features a former mobster who's written a tell-all book.
  • Hightown: Ray has a few of these, and encourages his team to make use of theirs. His boss also makes him get another one when the first dies.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street: In Kellerman's introductory two-parter episode, he has an informant named Zithead Mazursky who provides him with tips on Baltimore's arson scene. He disappears afterwards, presumably since Kellerman transferred to Homicide and thus wouldn't need an arson-based informant anymore.
  • Young Sheldon: While the details aren't made clear, it's implied that the school where George Sr. previously worked was involved in a recruiting scandal. When he went to the authorities, he ended up being fired and had to move his family to find a new job.
  • CSI: NY:
    • Recurring character Terrence Davis makes his first appearance in "Turbulence." He's an ex-con who agrees to become Flack's confidential informant in exchange for a plea deal on a parole violation for keeping a firearm in the office of the nightclub he now owns. In "Pay Up," he gives Flack the name and address of one of the suspects in the killing of Flack's partner.
    • In "Blood Out," Narcotics officer Robert Hicks has a confidential informant named Raymond Cruz who, at first, impresses Mac by putting them on the trail of a murder suspect they're after, but who eventually turns out to be the culprit.
  • Deputy:
    • Daisy, a kind transgender inmate in the LA County Jail, gives information to the cops about her ex-boyfriend Villalobos, a gangster. After he learns about it and ends up in the same jail, Villalobos nearly kills her for doing this.
    • A suspect in a deputy's murder turns out to have really been his informant, only behaving hostile to him as cover.
    • In "10-8 Firestone" Hollister runs into Valeria, a woman who once had been informant when he worked narcotics. They were also involved, as he admits to his wife while assuring her it's long over. Valeria's now a money courier for criminals and gives him information about human trafficking that she knows of. She gets a new life in Witness Protection because of this, and they have a bittersweet farewell.
    • "10-8 Agency" sees confidential informants being killed all over LA, which the Sheriff's Department starts investigating. It turns out that the names were given by a former Dirty Cop to the DA's Office as a part of his Plea Bargain, then leaked as a plant is working there.
  • The Sopranos: As a Criminal Procedural focusing on the New Jersey mob, this comes up periodically, and rarely by choice, as it's extremely risky business ratting on the The Mafia, especially when the FBI has little to no way to actually protect the informants and is riddled with corruption. The success and survival rate of informants over the course of the show was basically zero.
    • Early in the series is Jimmy Altieri, who returns after being apparently bailed out from an FBI bust. He immediately starts asking incriminating questions about the Columbian drug money Tony hijacked, making Tony immediately suspicious. Tony's suspicions seem to be confirmed when Jimmy calls in a meeting of the capos just to discuss stuff they already know, as even the usually adversarial Junior immediately agrees with Tony after the meeting. For his punishment, Jimmy is lured into a hotel room, has his brains blown out, and his corpse has a dead rat stuffed into its mouth for added poetic measure.
    • More significantly is Big Pussy, one of Tony's closest friends. A dirty cop on Tony's payroll pegs him as the informant, but Tony comes to the assumption that he mistook Pussy for Jimmy due to their similar appearances and being caught in the same FBI. He gradually comes to the realization that Pussy is also an informant, although it's seen from Pussy's perspective that he was forced to be a rat, as he was otherwise facing a life sentence for heroin deal, giving the FBI as little useable evidence as possible and lies about meetups with Tony, basically providing them nothing worthwhile. Nonetheless, Tony eventually realizes the evidence is undeniable and considers it a deep betrayal. Tony, Paulie, and Silvio trick Pussy out onto a boat, get him to confess, simultaneously shoot him dead, and then dump his body in the ocean.
    • Christopher's fiancee Adrianna is coerced into being an FBI informant by a friend who turns out to be an undercover agent. When the FBI pressures her to find more info on Tony or get sent to jail for 25 years for cocaine smuggling, she actually confesses becoming an informant to Christopher, in the hopes that he'll abandon his criminal life and go into witness protection with her. Unfortunately, given the difficult choice, Christopher ends up reluctantly siding with the family, and Adrianna pays the ultimate price.
    • Jack Massarone is a construction company owner who was manipulated into a protection racket by Tony. He eventually gets fed up and becomes an informant, although Tony quickly becomes suspicious when one of his soldiers informs him an FBI car was staking out one of his meeting with Jack. His suspicions turn to apparent confirmation when Jack asks if Tony lost weight in their next meeting, something he never would have dared to ask before. Jack is last seen as a corpse in the trunk of a car with a golf club cover stuffed in his mouth as a message to the FBI.
    • Ray Curto is the most successful informant in the show, which isn't saying much. Unlike the other informants, he was fully willing and cooperative, but dies of a stroke in the midst of a meeting with his handler, right as he's about to impart some damning evidence about Tony, so he ends up giving FBI diddly-squat worthwhile. None of the other mobsters find out he was ever a rat and honour him with great respect at his funeral.
    • Eugene Pontecorvo is a minor character, who gets some focus after receiving a huge inheritance from a deceased relative. Seeing no more reason to keep up his criminal life, his wife pressures him to quit so they can move to Florida. He asks Tony if he can retire, but Tony refuses his request because he took an oath, and this is compounded by the revelation that he was a government informant, and the FBI also denies his request to retire, because they require more evidence on Tony now that their main informant, Ray Curto, died. Feeling there's no other way to escape, Eugene kills himself by hanging.
    • It's indicated in the last episode that Carlo Gervasi seems to have turned state witness against Tony, although this isn't outright confirmed. The implication here is that, even if Tony wasn't actually shot dead at the end, his future is grim either way now that one of his closest capos was going to testify.


    Video Games 
  • The Cohdopian embassy in Ace Attorney Investigations has a slight problem with their employees wanting to snitch and then winding up dead.
  • Ziggy in Laura Bow: The Dagger of Amon Ra. Unfortunately, his dangerous career got the better of him in the end.
  • Ugarte in Quest for Glory II and Quest for Glory V.
  • RoboCop: Rogue City: Pickles is a homeless Nuke junkie that moonlights as an informant for Officer Briggs. He's treated as a lot more sympathetic than most examples in that he genuinely wants to do some good for others, which can be encouraged by Robocop.
  • TimeSplitters 2 has a Prohibition-Era level where you have to protect a snitch.

    Western Animation 
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: Zimbo, see The Stool Pigeon.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Dog Spray Afternoon", Owen reveals he has a tag informant named Gooch who informs him of any graffiti in the park. He's a teenager and Owen pays him in candy.
  • Trader Johann from Dragons: Riders of Berk could often be counted on to provide information if you meet his price. Or just threaten him with trade sanctions.
  • In the Jonny Quest TOS episode "Terror Island", Race Bannon's "old friend" Jade questions an unnamed informant, who pulls the old "more money might help me remember" trick until Jade gets tired of him and pulls a gun.
  • Josh Stone from Recess was closer to this trope than The Stool Pigeon, as not only was he undercover for the Superintendent Skinner, he was also not even a kid. He did such a good job at covering his tracks that TJ and his friends initially thought Randall was behind their being snitched on, despite Randall's insistence that he did not, until they literally chased him into a bathroom.


Video Example(s):


Tagger Informant Gooch

Owen reveals he has a tagger informant named Gooch who informs him of any graffiti in the park.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (1 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheInformant

Media sources: