London Gangster

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Reginald "Reggie" Kray and his twin brother Ronald "Ronnie" Kray.
"Do you know what 'nemesis' means? 'A righteous infliction of retribution, manifested by an appropriate agent'. Personified in this case by a 'orrible cunt... Me."
Brick Top, Snatch

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

The London Gangster is a hard man in a sharp suit with a fondness for Cluster F Bombs and Country Matters. He'll tend to prefer roughing people up with his bare hands to using guns (gun control being very strict in the UK), but Cold-Blooded Torture isn't at all out of the question and the really nasty ones in fiction have a tendency to be Knife Nuts. He speaks in a working class East London, Cockney or South London accent, and his dense slang may feature a little Yiddish [1]

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

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

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

Examples of London Gangster include:

Comic Books


  • The works of Guy Ritchie are overflowing with London Gangsters. Often they have Kray-clones as the Big Bad, such as Brick Top in Snatch, Hatchet Harry in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (which does at least include Scouse burglars and upper-class drug dealers as well), and Bald of Evil hard man "Miami Vice" in spinoff series Lock Stock.
  • Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand in The Long Good Friday. He actually got a letter of congratulations from Ronnie Kray for his portrayal.
  • James Fox in Performance.
  • Michael Caine in Get Carter plays a London Gangster who returns home Oop North for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. The film is slightly atypical for showing English organized crime outside of London, but the locals are clearly no match for Carter.
  • Michael Caine in Mona Lisa.
  • The real life brothers Martin and Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet portrayed the infamous doppelgangsters in perhaps their most famous biopic, The Krays.
  • Ralph Fiennes plays a foul-mouthed London Gangster in In Bruges. Interestingly, his two subordinates are Irish.
  • Many characters in Layer Cake, with the notable exception of Daniel Craig's character, who takes a lot of crap for not being as "manly" as the rest of them.
  • Gary Oldman (and several others) in The Firm, about rival football firms (semi-organised gangs of Football Hooligans).
  • In Sexy Beast, Ray Winstone plays a former London Gangster who doesn't want to come back for One Last Job.
  • In The Departed, Ray Winstone plays a London Gangster in Boston.
  • Vic Dakin in Villain.
  • Ray Winstone plays a gangster in Ripley's Game, who is presented as an uncouth thug with pretensions to class who is pretty much the Butt Monkey of John Malkovich's Diabolical Mastermind take on Tom Ripley.
  • Trevor Goddard's portrayal of Kano in Mortal Kombat may seem like this until you learn Goddard was Australian.
  • Much of the cast of Gangster No. 1.
  • The main characters of Nuns on the Run want to leave their gang after their new boss turns out to be too much like this.

Live Action TV

  • 'The Firm' in Eastenders was based on this, and directly named after the Krays' gang. Eastenders also features Tough Cockney Twins Phil and Grant Mitchell, (although they aren't affiliated with the proper gangsters) as well as the more obviously Kray-namesaked Ronnie and Roxy Mitchell.
  • The Piranha brothers from Monty Python's Flying Circus, who are a deliberate spoof (with surprisingly little exaggeration) of the Kray twins.
    • Not to mention their nemesis, Police Inspector Harry "Snapper" Organs—in turn a spoof of Insp. Leonard "Nipper" Read, who brought the real-life Kray brothers to justice.
  • A regular feature of The Sweeney
  • "Genial" Harry Grout from Porridge
  • On The Bill, set as it is in an East London police station, you can't throw a truncheon without hitting a London Gangster. One episode from 1995, "Mitigating Circumstances", featured Ray Winstone playing the London Gangster of the episode.
  • Most of the characters in Macbeth On The Estate, a modernisation of Macbeth into a gangster story with most of the original script. In particular, Duncan, a gang boss played by Mr Winstone himself.
  • The Driscoll Brothers in Only Fools and Horses and The Green Green Grass.
  • Comedy Duo Hale and Pace's "Da Management".
  • Badger from Firefly is a London Gangster IN SPACE! Complete with East London accent, bowler hat and dreadlocky Yardies. More of a cheeky Cockney sparrow than the usual scary psychopath, though.
  • In Leverage, one of Sophie's recurring personae is a London Gangster; admittedly, a female version.
  • The second series of ITV drama Whitechapel is all about London Gangsters as the apparent sons of Ronnie Kray, Jimmy and Johnny, attempt to take over the criminal underworld.
  • Saturday Night Live: Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro' is a can't-miss London gangster film, if you like movies you cannot understand.
  • Featured occasionally in 'Hustle, they are often portrayed as bumbling, such as Dexter Gold, the crooked gold-merchant who despite being referred to as "one of The Chaps", is utterly un-threatening, incompetent and even sets himself up for a second con. Typically, the truly brutal psycho-killers are foreigners. The earlier seasons had the more traditional East End villains who despite appearances of being rich and respectable, used brutal violence to get where they are. The cast however do go out of their way to avoid being on the receiving end of even the less threatening gangsters radars.


  • The 8th CHERUB book, Mad Dogs featured this nearly exactly. The Afro-Caribbean gang (primarily from Jamaica) called "The Slasher Boys" fighting a gang war against the titular Mad Dogs (fronted by a Football Club)
  • Most of the novels of Martina Cole.
  • Harry Stark in Jake Arnott's The Long Firm.
  • These show up whenever someone from Time Scout goes downtime to Victorian London.


  • Warren Zevon's one hit single Werewolves of London.
  • Guns of Brixton by The Clash.
  • Madness's "Drip Fed Fred", and more seriously "NW5".

Video Games

  • Grand Theft Auto: London 1969 is filled with these types, including Albert and Archie Crisp, a suspiciously familiar Big Bad Duumvirate of Cockney twins.
  • The Getaway series features plenty of these, as well as The Yardies and the triads. The PSP-exclusive spin-off Gangs of London contains some more exotic examples for a London setting, including Italian, Russian and Chinese gangs.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, the Penguin has been re-imagined as a Guy-Ritchie-ish English gangster with a thick East End accent and brutal means of enforcement. If you read his backstory you will learn that he comes from a prominent American family, but was sent to England for his education. Unfortunately he preferred hanging out with the rough crowd in seedy parts of the town over school.
  • Devin Mallory in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, one of the senior members of the Thieves Guild.

Web Original

  • Terrence of Kate Modern, in his earlier 'gangster' persona.
  1. the East End of London traditionally had a large Jewish population, and some London Gangsters, like Jack Spot and the fictional Harry Stark are Jews.