To upper middle-class white suburbanites, few things are more terrifying than a roving gang of hooligans, with the notable exceptions of poor fuel economy and the maid stealing decorative soaps.
But even those people would be hard pressed to find too many reasons to fear the following gangs, most of whom would probably be mistaken for dance troupes and second-rate children's entertainers in real life.
The entire Batman franchise is responsible for some seriously awful gang activity. None so heinously combined our fear of gang violence with our terror of carneys as the Red Triangle Circus Gang as portrayed in the second Batman film.
Answering to the Penguin, this gang was a random bunch of freaks who apparently were so moved by a deformed Danny DeVito that a life in the sewers spent strapping cartoony explosives to aquatic, flightless birds seemed all too beautiful a dream for them.
So with clown makeup, fire eaters and a tiny poodle that catches Batarangs, they left their big-top roots behind and went to work trying to fulfill their vision of whatever the fuck it is a group of malevolent circus freaks thought they'd accomplish by making their dumpy leader mayor of Gotham.
Nothing epitomizes badass street cred like rolling with Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise and C. Thomas Howell. Unless C. Thomas Howell is playing a character named Ponyboy, in what apparently isn't meant to be anything overtly homoerotic.
Following the same gang format that has existed since Shakespeare made it popular, The Greasers fall in love with some chicks from the other side of the tracks and that means someone really wants to drown Ponyboy, which is understandable. Instead the Karate Kid does some stabbing and the foolish gang violence is soon replaced with two skinny boys on the run, both of whom look like they'd lose a boxing match to Hannah Montana.
Then it degrades into burning school house heroics and poetry, along with deeply profound deaths and other assorted girly aspects of gang life that make it seem like semi-organized crime really isn't all it's cracked up to be.
While not prominently featured in the film, this gang has a memorable turn as the bad asses that turn Johnny 5 into a streetwise thug. Which, in a talking-robot movie targeted towards middle-class white people meant the gang was a group of singing minorities who live on the streets and commit no actual crimes beyond some graffiti and using the word "balls."
Undoubtedly conceived as cool by some people in a studio somewhere desperate to make teenage girls of the '80s want to watch a western, Young Guns was a veritable Calvin Klein underwear ad of a movie featuring men who were at the time considered young and popular.
Little did anyone suspect that only Kiefer Sutherland would ever salvage something close to a respectable career while both Lou Diamond Phillips and Emilio Estevez would live out their days having cashiers at the 7-11 ask them if they used to be famous while they try to trade food stamps for porno (only Charlie Sheen suffered a worse fate, dying and getting sent to Two and a Half Men).
While we don't want to question their pistol-handling abilities, the fact remains that if these four came up behind us in a dark alley, we'd probably fear they were just going to steal our Chapstick.
Tombstone was a pretty kickass movie that made Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp look like Kevin Costner's The Postman. Even Val Kilmer was good in this movie, something most people can't say about many Kilmer movies with a straight face unless they happen to own a lot of Hummel figurines or let their dogs eat from their mouths.
Unfortunately, for all the bad-ass appearances that the villainous cowboy gang brings to the movie, it's hard not to notice that they're the only thugs in a town of about 1,000 people, and they get their asses handed to them by four men. Four men including eternal ass hat Bill Paxton, septuagenarian Sam Elliot and a tubercular, half-drunk Val Kilmer.
Suddenly the gang of badasses, lead by Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo, seems decidedly less impressive and more like a group of dicks who couldn't shoot Kurt Russel even when they have him surrounded, in the open, just inviting death as he walks across a river yelling, "No!"
An '80s horror movie starring the frightfully mannish Grace Jones that was seen by fewer people than the number that currently have the plague in the United States, Vamp is remarkable for having the most incredible gang fight in the history of cinema: A fight between vampire strippers and asshole albinos.
Scary as shit actor Billy Drago, who you may recognize as not being an albino, leads a gang of albinos who apparently like women with terrible dental work and have no idea there's a club full of vampires next door.
Nothing instills fear quite like a group of people who burn easily in the sun, have observation skills on par with patients from Awakenings and get their asses handed to them by small girls.
Proving John Carpenter is madder than a shithouse rat strung out on Drano, the sequel to Escape from New York is supposed to demonstrate the decay of society and some shit about criminals and whatnot in LA. All we saw was a terrible CG tidal wave, bizarre Bruce Campbell and Peter Fonda cameos and Pam Grier playing a transsexual gang leader named Hershey. All of it makes us feel soiled.
While the rest of his/her gang just appear to be small Asian men, we can only assume they're Thai lady boys and we're far deeper in the rabbit hole than even Snake Plissken realizes at this point. What any of the gangs in LA are up to in this movie is just one of many questions Carpenter never chooses to answer. Seeing Snake and his tranny friend fly into a Disney World knock-off on hang gliders shooting machine guns makes this gang the most flamboyantly ridiculous of the lot.
In fairness, this whole article could be about the Warriors, a semi-classic, full of the worst gangs ever conceived of and put to film.
But in the interest of variety, we'll merely make mention of some of the most egregiously stupid ones. Making only minimal waves in the film are The Hi Hats, a gang of mimes who wear top hats.
Why--in a New York overrun with gang violence, when everyone is at war with everyone else and turf needs to be defended violently--anyone would allow a gang of mimes to exist is a question that cannot be logically answered.
That the Furies, or Baseball Furies, are also allowed to roam free is a mystery as well. On the other hand, when you consider how lame the titular Warriors are, it seems like New York is full of fancy lads so maybe it's reasonable that a gang of baseball fans who take the time to slap on jerseys and paint themselves with random team colors before heading out into the night exists.
The Punks may not be as flamboyantly horrifying as the rest of the gangs, but there's still something off-putting about grown men in tight overalls and roller skates that is hard to express in words.
Seeing this gang roll on screen, all form-fitting denim and early '80s hair, it almost seems like fear would be a natural reaction. Maybe not fear of gang violence at this point, but a real fear nonetheless that somehow, some way, after these punks are through with you, you'll be rolling away in a vibrant blue pair of overalls too.