Michael Corleone: My father is no different than any powerful man, any man who's responsible for a lot of people, like a senator or a president.
Scary Italian dudes with guns. Part tight-knit community, part protection racket, these paisani live by a code - which just happens to include vendetta (killing anyone who wrongs la famiglia) and omerta (going to your Don, rather than the cops, when you have trouble with a fellow Italian). Classically known as the Cosa Nostra ("Our thing"), and also called "wiseguys". Although the power of the mafia (at least, the American mafia) has diminished sharply in recent years thanks to most of its bigger players either getting stuffed into prison or simply becoming too old to participate in the game, the mystique surrounding these organizations is so strong that they have almost replaced other established historical figures such as knights as carriers of a romantic ideal.
While the Italian mafia has obvious basis in fact, it has remained a staple of entertainment even as the Yakuza and former Soviet-bloc mafias lapped it for sheer scare value in the real world. It should be noted in Real Life that there are in fact two Mafias: the Sicilian Mafia and the American Mafia. The first has operated in Sicily at least since the unification of Italy (and possibly much longer, though most of their history has been heavily romanticized). It limits its membership to Sicilian males with no police relatives, and despite substantial prosecutions in Italy starting from the 1980s, still has a heavy presence in Sicily today. They accomplished this by sending politicians on their payroll straight to parliament, and sadly the reveal of an MP sitting in the national anti-mafia commission to have ties or suspected ties with Cosa Nostra is not that infrequent...
The American Mafia began with loosely-knit protection gangs known as Black Hands, taking orders from emigrated Sicilian mafiosi. Charles "Lucky" Luciano, both a member of the Sicilian Mafia (under Joe Masseria), and a graduate of the infamous Italian-American Five Points Gang, drew members from other parts of Italy (or rather, other parts of Little Italy) under his umbrella, knocked off the old hats (known in the day as "Mustache Petes"), and reorganized the American Mafia along territorial lines. This structure, along with the "Commission" (an executive body designed for resolving disputes, which included at its inception the five New York City bosses, the boss from Buffalo, and Chicago boss Al Capone; the modern "Commission" is the five New York City Bosses) is generally believed to have held up today, despite heavy law enforcement pressure. Modern-day candidates for "made guys" must be "of Italian descent," which can mean varying things according to which family is making the decision; some families, such as the Chicago Outfit, do not heavily stress the "made guy" role and do a lot of business with associates of non-Italian ethnicity; other families such as the Bonnano family of New York have substantial "zip" (imported Sicilian mafiosi) factions and are more stringent in regards to who they do business with.
Both Mafias (and similar Italian groups such as the Camorra, Sacra Corona Unita, and the 'Ndragheta) generally operate in the same manner: collection of protection money, "street taxes" on independent criminals, union racketeering, out-and-out larceny, and gambling make up most of the income, with drug money and prostitution being big moneymakers for some parts of the family. Each "rank" within the Mafia taxes the one below it (fixed sums for capos, a percentage for soldiers and associates); money only goes from downstream to upstream. Despite the law of omerta and considerable sanctions for speaking to law enforcement, a number of mafiosi in both countries (and one boss, Joe Massino) have turned state's evidence to save themselves from long prison terms.
As a bit of a sidebar, different families have different reputations, accurate or not. These are particularly strong with the non-New York mob (the New York mob being seen as the "vanilla" Mafia): the Detroit Partnership is noted for its brutality and its connections with the unions (that whole Teamsters/Jimmy Hoffa business? Detroit), the South Florida Mafia for its complex relationship with Cubans and longing for the halcyon days of the '50s (when the Cubans were in Cuba as partners), the Los Angeles mob is often seen as weak and incompetent (nicknamed the "Mickey Mouse Mafia"), the Chicago Outfit is inextricably linked in the public imagination to bootlegging and Al Capone, etc. The New York and Chicago mobs (particularly the latter) are often seen as having influence beyond their region; New York families have strong influence in Montreal, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, and Chicago has traditionally controlled everything west of it.
For the laughably inept, PG-rated version, see The Family for the Whole Family. If present as a global player, The Mafia may evolve into The Syndicate. See also Mafia Princess and The Don. Obviously not connected with Legitimate Businessmen's Social Club at all.
Here are the ranks:
- Capo di tutti i capi (the Godfather) - the Boss of all Bosses in a particular area. More a media title than anything of significance in the American or Sicilian Mob; crime family bosses are peers and don't pay tribute to or take orders from each other. The only boss to ever claim this title for himself was Salvatore Maranzano after "winning" the Castellammarese War, and he got to enjoy it for less than six months before his nominal second-in-command Lucky Luciano and his fellow Young Turks retired the title, and Maranzano along with it.
- The Commission: Luciano's answer to the capo di tutti i capi title. Originally consisted of the five New York bosses, the Buffalo boss, and Al Capone, with substantial input from "associates" such as Meyer Lansky. Later pared down to just the five New York bosses (with the Bonnano family sitting out occasionally due to their disunity), with Chicago doing its own thing; the idea worked so well that the Sicilian Mafia created a similar body. Contrary to popular belief, does not "rule" the Mafia (see above re: bosses, orders, and tribute), it's intended to be a body for settling disputes that might otherwise lead to violations of "honor" and all-out war.
In each family:
- Capo Famiglia (Boss) - Crime boss of a particular family. "Don" is an honorific, not a title.
- Capo Bastone/Sotto Capo - The Underboss, usually inherits the Boss title if the Boss is unavailable (death, prison, etc...). In some cases, the underboss may control what amounts to a family within the family (and be given the lucrative position to ensure nominal loyalty), other times, he may be a flunky kept strictly under the bosses's thumb. The latter type are often "knocked down" (demoted), or "whacked" (take a guess) when their patron is no longer guiding their fortunes.
- Acting Boss/Street Boss - With the increase in the number of racketeering convictions since the 1980's, most "official" bosses and underbosses are no longer at liberty to control the day to day operations of their family. Ultimately, responsibility ends up being delegated to a capo (who still operates his own crew in the meantime) who can send a "messenger" to receive orders from the boss and pass along tribute. Even when bosses are free, this structure is maintained as a facade to prevent law enforcement from determining where exactly orders are coming from.
- Consigliere - The advisor/right hand man, only third (or fourth counting the Godfather) is that the adviser keeps the legal face of the family and sometimes acts as the family lawyer. He is the only one allowed to argue with the Boss, when he thinks what the boss is doing could destroy the family. Most "consigliere" types in media (such as Tom Hagen) are actually based on Mob lawyers. Though the Commission specified a counselor in each family to act as their eyes and ears, most Real Life mob bosses treated it as a lower-level position. Chicago would be a subversion, with the "consigliere" being a sort of "boss emeritus" (mobster Tony Accardo held this title, and exercised real control of the Chicago Outfit while letting proteges such as Sam Giancana or Joey Aiuppa hold the title of boss).
- Caporegime - Also known as a captain, skipper, capo, or "crew chief," caporegime may oversee as many soldiers as he can efficiently control.
- Soldati - a soldier, "wiseguy", "button man", or "made guy." This is the lowest level of mobster or gangster. A "soldier" must have taken the omertà (oath of silence), and in some organizations must have killed a person in order to be considered "made." This entitles them to the full protection of the family in question, killing or assaulting a soldier, or even infringing on their rackets without permission of their boss is considered a grievous offense.
- Giovane d'onore - Associate, "cugino", or "connected guy", means man of honor. An associate is a person who is not a soldier in a crime family, but works for them and shares in the execution of and profits from the criminal enterprise. In Italian criminal organizations, "associates" are usually members of the criminal organization who are not of Italian descent, or junior members who may someday rise to become soldiers for the family; this process can take a decade or longer depending upon the family and the individual's qualifications. This can be tricky sometimes; associates with a history of making serious money often command respect beyond their title (Jimmy Burke of Wiseguy and Goodfellas fame, was a de facto capo for the Luccese family in the '60s and '70s due to his high-dollar heists).
- Note: At one time, one had to be full-blooded Italian to be a full member of the Mafia, but rules seem to have become a touch more flexible as time went on.
Anime & Manga
- In Death Note, Mello joined the mafia after leaving Wammy's House.
- Baccano! takes place during the American prohibition era. It prominently featured a Neapolitan Camorra organization. In Real Life, by that time all the Camorra groups in the United States had merged with the Mafia.
- Fridge Brilliance: Real life Camorra groups didn't have an immortal working for them.
- And later on, a whole bunch of them. Including the head of the Martillo family and all three (official) Gandor brothers.
- Fridge Brilliance: Real life Camorra groups didn't have an immortal working for them.
- In one of the Bleach ending songs for the anime series, there are about a dozen maskless arrancar dressed up in black-colored suits, reminiscent of the Mafia, maybe even a Shout-Out or parody, with three of the only female Arrancar introduced (Menoly, Loly and Cirucci Sanderwicci) are wearing Chinese-style or Western-inspired dresses, leaning seductively on the old, wrinkled and fat "Godfather", Baraggan Luisenbarn. The "mobsters" surrounding Baraggan are Gantenbainne Mosqueda, Ggio Vega, Avirama Redder, Choe Neng Poww, Nirgge Parduoc, Charlotte Cuuhlhourne, Findor Carias, and three unnamed background stand-ins.
- The Golgo 13 story "Wiseguys" has Duke Togo called in by a Mafia don over a matter of a blood feud. It opens with an FBI presentation that attempts to strip away most of the romantic myths surrounding the Mafia, and does a decent job at presenting organized crime as just prettied-up hooliganism. In fact, organized crime members are probably the most common Mooks Golgo takes out, and any member whose loyalty to their boss extends to trying to take out Golgo is universally depicted as an idiot.
- Verrocchio's gang in Black Lagoon; in a reversal of the common portrayals, they come off as more brutal and overall worse people than Balalaika's or Chang's gangs.
- "Iron Goldie", the nemesis of Rally Vincent from Gunsmith Cats, and her people. She's from Sicily.
- Interestingly, given that it's set in Italy, Gunslinger Girl has never shown any genuine Mafiosi. Mostly, this is because almost all of the stories happen on the boot. The Camorra do show up quite often and are either called by their proper name or The Naples/Napoli Mafia depending on whether exact accuracy or quick description is called for. The Five Republics separatists tend to act a bit like this trope (including having "cleaners"), but seem to make most of their money more-or-less legitimately.
- The five republics are actually based on the most radical and indipendentists elements of the Lega Nord party
- Pokémon - Although not obvious at first glance, Team Rocket, especially in the games, may be based off of the Mafia. It's masked by the fact that the three you see in the anime so often are basically the bottom rung of the team that none of the higher-ups really give a damn about. (In fact, in one episode another member tells them their memberships have all expired.) In the games, you break into their bases and disrupt or (more commonly) shut down several major operations, among them two hostage situations and a (quite popular) casino. Even in the anime, the protagonists occasionally stumble across a full-scale operation. Also, you know, Giovanni (although this name was deliberately given to him in the English version).
- The premise of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Part 5: Vento Aureo.
- Katekyo Hitman Reborn. A series about a mafia boss who gets shot in the head. A lot. Him and his Harem of Bishonen Although they're pretty much the Girlscout Mafia. The good guys, at least (I'm looking at you, Yamamoto Takeshi!). The antagonists have plans like possessing the body of the thirteen year old wimp and using him to cause World War III.
- In Axis Powers Hetalia, when S. Italy was rushing to save Spain, he ran into the mafia, who demanded that he gave them Spain's imports. Of course, S. Italy just beat them up and continued on his way. He also blames his cold (which is an in universe representation of a recession) on the mafia.
- In Noir, the Sicilian Mafia is the enemy of the eponymous assassin duo in the "Intoccabile" arc. Also, one of the protagonists is the sole survivor of a massacred Corsican Mafia family (never mind that Corsica is French).
- Appears in Japan Inc when the Japanese have to do business in Italy.
- Gunslinger Girl. While the main opponent of Section Two is the terrorist group Padania, Triela is also shown fighting Camorra gangsters in Naples.
- In Illuminati!, the Mafia is one of the most powerful groups in the game.
- And then of course there's Mafia. Where the mafia are the informed minority versus an uninformed majority.
- The Punisher's first of many victims. (The original version has his family being gunned down by gangsters for stumbling onto a gangland execution, while the version told on the one-shot MAX comic The Cell has an attempted coup go bad with both the hitman and the target's bodyguards killing the Castle family in the crossfire.)
- Many of Batman's non-Cape villains. Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, Salvatore "Boss" Maroni, Rupert Thorne and Carl Grissom qualify.
- In Marvel Comics, organized crime has traditionally been represented by a Captain Ersatz syndicate called "The Maggia."
- Not to mention The Kingpin, head of New York City's criminal empire.
- In both the original comics and game of The Darkness, the main character begins as a mafia hitman. And in the comics has had a time as both an informant gone straight, and the Don. A good portion of the supporting cast and villains are connected as well.
- In Astro City, the main crime syndicate is run by The Deacon. The "Dark Ages" story arc included a gang war between groups led by The Deuce, Bamboo, and Josef "The Platypus" Platapopulous.
- Almost every bad guy in Sin City is a part of one mafia organization or another.
- Road to Perdition deals with the Looney mob, the Capone mob, and one soldier who seeks revenge against his former bosses for betraying him and murdering his family.
- The Godfather is the Trope Codifier. Pretty much the genesis of the modern media portrayal, though the actual word 'mafia' was notably absent from the film versions. (Ironically, it would go on to influence real-life mafia culture, particularly the glamorous self-image that would be aspired to.) The producers of The Godfather were able to speak to a real member of the Mafia, who provided some of his 'boys' for crowd-control on-set. In exchange, he made several requests, one of which was that the word 'Mafia' be removed from the script (the director agreed, which was easy enough to do -- considering that it wasn't in the script in the first place).
- Goodfellas. Unlike The Godfather, it concerns itself more with the "working-class" mob, rather than the bosses.
- King of New York
- The original Scarface was about Tony Camonte, an Italian, and based off the life of Al Capone.
- Spoofed in The Triplets of Belleville -- the otherwise entirely stereotypical mobsters are actually French, and obsessed with cycling.
- The book of Man On Fire and the first film had the Mafia being behind the kidnapping that Creasy seeks vengeance for, but the 2004 film with Denzel Washington removed them from the picture.
- Bullitt has the eponymous cop going after Mafia hit men.
- Gomorra (2008) takes a rather more realistic view of the Camorra clans in Naples and Caserta, showing how they create a climate of fear, murder and corruption.
- The Valachi Papers was created from interviews and testimony of Joe Valachi, the first major mob informant.
- Mafia boss Tony T and his henchmen act as the main antagonists of Carlitos Way, opposite Puerto Rican Charlie Brigante.
- The Untouchables (1987)
- Donnie Brasco. Very Loosely Based on a True Story.
- In Married to the Mob, a mafia wife tries to escape the life after her husband is bumped off.
- In Eraser, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks to a Mafia boss when he needs allies to stop a weapons deal. The Mafia boss initially thinks that it's Somebody Else's Problem, but changes his tune when he finds out that the deal is going down on his dock.
- Mario Puzo's novels mostly feature the mafia.
- The Mafia was the major villain in the early stories of The Executioner starring Mack Bolan. Bolan would be a major inspiration for The Punisher above.
- In John Grisham's book The Client, mafia members play a large part.
- In Snow Crash, the Mafia has become a public company and is one of many organizations competing in the marketplace of a corporate-run America. One of their most successful enterprises is Uncle Enzo's Cosa Nostra Pizza, which uses The Don as their mascot. The company guarantees delivery in 30 minutes, or you get your pizza free. Uncle Enzo flies down to your house, apologizes, and gives you a free trip to Italy. It's implied that the failed deliveryman suffers fatal consequences.
- Key figures in the Stephanie Plum books, along with possibly all of the other organized crime outfits mentioned above.
- The Untouchables
- In Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever the mafia was the "bad guy" and Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are ruthless mob assassins, not at all like the camp fools in the movie.
- The Mafia forms a part of the setting of Time Scout. They never explicitly show up, but their control of the construction industry is how they became so powerful after The Accident and helped make the present a Crapsack World.
- Jackson's Whole in Vorkosigan Saga is The Mafia Recycled in Space.
- The Sopranos finally put an end to the popular cliche of mobsters acting like 1940s era gangsters from The Godfather.
- The Mafia makes several appearances in CSI, unsurprisingly considering the location. CSI New York also dealt with a New York branch, and particularly, The Tanglewood Boys, a gang of Mafioso youth. Early on, any Mafia episode usually contains a "...but the Mafia haven't been active in Las Vegas since the 80s" line. Don't want to scare away the tourists, after all.
- The Mafia battles the Yakuza on the fifth episode of Deadliest Warrior. Al Capone's gang battles the James-Younger gang in the third episode of the second season.
- On Caprica, the Tauron Ha'la'tha is an example of this, with elements of The Cartel. Oh, and they speak Ancient Greek.
- The intimidating, social club-dwelling recipients of a huge roulette wheel cake on Cake Boss (filmed in New Jersey) are heavily implied to be the Mafia.
- Parodied in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch where the Vercotti brothers visit an Army base and try to intimidate the colonel by threatening to set fire to his troops. Luigi Vercotti made a few subsequent appearances.
- A few legitimate businessmen have appeared in episodes of White Collar.
- In "Book of Hours," a mob boss asks for the FBI's aid in recovering a stolen bible.
- In "Copycat Caffrey," Peter poses as an enforcer for the Detroit mob.
- The Untouchables
- Boardwalk Empire has an Italian gang (a literal crime family composed of brothers and cousins) trying to move in on the rackets in Atlantic City. Important Mafia figures like 'Lucky' Luciano, Joe Torrio and Al Capone also feature prominently. The main Gang boss, Enoch Thompson and many of his allies are Irish-American whilst the often forgotten but very powerful Jewish Mafia are represented by New York Boss Arnold Rothstein.
- The Law and Order universe includes the Masuccis.
- The Sonozaki Family from Kamen Rider Double act as this. Just replace drugs with Gaia Memories.
- Bud Bundy borrows money from a man named Capone (who operates a bank from his car) to produce a workout video.
- In Community episode "Contemporary American Poultry" the study group becomes the community-college-chicken-finger-running equivalent thereof.
- The long-running Italian drama La Piovra (The Octopus) deals with organized crime in Italy. The title is a metaphor, comparing the Mafia to an octopus whose tentacles are in everything. Interestingly, the show gives equal time to the heroes affected by its dealings, including Detective Carrado Cattani who is killed in a hail of gunfire at the end of Series Four.
- Tracker had 'A Made Guy', where the alien Zin uses the Earth Mafia to reach some of his goals, and Cole goes undercover as a mobster.
- Even the Old World of Darkness had its share, with a few branches of the Giovanni, a vampire mob with necromantic power. As Gary puts it in Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: "Spaghetti and corpses, boss."
- Werewolf: The Apocalypse includes the urbane Glass Walkers, who developed strong footholds in Italy (there really is a breed of Italian wolf). And since Werewolf absolutely loves its cultural stereotypes...
- The telekinetic Spooks' Guild in Wraith: The Oblivion were based on the Mafia, particularly in how they were organized.
- There was a mortals supplement, too: World of Darkness: Mafia.
- Mafia, the parlor game.
- Grand Theft Auto 3 revolves around The Mafia, and the group also shows up in important roles in the other parts of the series. In fact, Liberty City Stories has you play as a mobster who's of some importance in 3.
- In IV, by contrast, The Mafia doesn't really show up until the latter parts of the game and is comparatively weak and racked by infighting, and whom are ultimately played for fools by Dimitri. In The Ballad of Gay Tony, they are secondary antagonists who effectively fade into the background when Luis offs the main antagonists in spectacular fashion.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has the 'Pianta Syndicate', a Cultural Translation of the Japanese version's Yakuza Piantas.
- Mafia the City of Lost Heaven is all about La Cosa Nostra. And it's got a sequel.
- City of Heroes has the Family, who are basically Italian mobsters in nice suits and bowler hats. City of Villains also has the Mooks, who are just the same, except less well-dressed. Both are hilariously anachronistic as well, even the Mooks wear 20s-style fashion outfits in a Twenty Minutes Into the Future world, and wield tommy guns equally as effective as modern assault rifles and lasers. Rule of Cool, folks.
- Parodied in Sam and Max Freelance Police with the Toy Mafia, who all wear colorful grinning teddy bear heads and use a Suck E. Cheese's-style restaurant as a thinly-disguised front for their operations.
- Fallout 2 has 4 different criminal families vying for control over New Reno, with 2 based in family-owned casinos, one in a bar, and the last in an out-of-ways mansion overlooking the old railway station. You can do quests for more than one at a time, so long as they don't involve killing members of the other crime families you work for. Pledging your full allegiance with one by accepting a final quest to test your loyalty will have the others permanently gunning for you. Given that this last quest tends to involve eliminating a rival family wholesale, its not too big of a deal unless you're aiming for 100% Completion.
- Invoked by Mr House in Fallout: New Vegas when he made over a local tribe into the Omerta casino family.
- Mafia Wars, of course, lets you play a Mafia don and do all sorts of illicit stuff for cash and prizes.
- Pokémon Red and Blue has Team Rocket. They were more based on the Yakuza in the Japanese version, but were adapted to be more like The Mafia in the international releases, as best evidenced by the name of their boss, Giovanni.
- Urban Rivals has their own Mafia group known as the Montana, who make money by terrorizing the citizens of Clint City.
- Kingdom of Loathing has the Penguin Mafia. The reason they're penguins is probably partly the resemblance between penguins and men in fine black suits, and partly that penguins are inherently funny.
- Mafiosi play a somewhat major role in the first two Max Payne games as mooks.
- In Conker's Bad Fur Day, Don Weaso and his men.
- The Mafia shows up from time to time in Survival of the Fittest, along with other organized crime groups such as the gangs in Denton, usually in the background but occasionally directly involved. For example, Antonio Franchini is the son of a Mafia Don, abducted to prove a point after the Don reneged on his part of a deal between him and Danya. In v2, Seth Mattlock's father is an enforcer for a Mafia family based in Denton, and Seth himself is not only friends with some of the mobsters but is considered an honorary member, and the mob family helps his gang when they need it (for example, when an all out gang war starts). In the former's file, Danya notes that the Mafia will probably go after him and they're welcome to try, because they won't be able to find him, let alone do anything to him.
- Recently, The Mothers And Fathers Italian Association appeared in Stupid Mario Brothers.
- They're the food of choice for The Veloci Pastor.
- They play a significant role in 1983: Doomsday, the families effectively turning post-apocalyptic Sicily and Southern Italy in general into their defacto empire.
- Fat Tony's gang in The Simpsons.
- Futurama has the Robot Mafia, which is composed of only three members. Passing mention is also made of "Sicily 8, the Mob Planet."
- A gangster planet is destroyed by "love radiation" in the episode where Bender dates the delivery ship.
That's a real nice trope page you got here. Lots of work building this thing up. It'd be a shame if something were to happen to it...
- according to e.g. Desmond Seward, «Before 1860 the Mezzogiorno was the richest part of Italy outside the Austrian Empire; after it quickly became the poorest. [...] the Piedmontese administrators who came in the wake of the Risorgimento [...] ruled The Two Sicilies as an occupied country, systematically demolishing its institutions and industries», thus the locals had an obvious reason to band together and avoid cooperation with hostile government
- From Napoli
- From Puglia, the "heel" and "Achilles' tendon" of the Italian "boot"
- From Calabria, the "toe" of the "boot", particularly noted for its thuggishness, rusticity, and ludicrous influence since the early 1990s. Seriously, though their reputation is more or less "stupid, violent country bumpkins," this is the most powerful gang in all Italy.
- Since talking about killings is considered verboten, there's a bit of leeway with this requirement.
- which was "Hustle, Loyalty, Respect"