Top 10 Notorious Real-Life Gangs



Top 10 Notorious Real-Life Gangs

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
These notoriously bad gangs are the worst of the worst. For this list, we'll be ranking organized crime groups and gangs which have garnered particularly nasty or notorious reputations over the years. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Notorious Real-Life Gangs.
Script written by George Pacheco

Top 10 Notorious Real-Life Gangs

These are the baddest of the bad. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Notorious Real-Life Gangs.

For this list, we'll be ranking organized crime groups and gangs which have garnered particularly nasty or notorious reputations over the years. We'll be taking into account gangs from around the world, so long as their reputations precede them in a particularly infamous way.

#10: The Mungiki

We open with one of the more recent gangs on our list, a mysterious and secretive sect known as The Mungiki. The aim of this group seems to be tied to fiercely rejecting Western influence and promoting the return of traditional Kenyan tradition. Attracting a remarkable number of young people, the Mungiki also have been known to engage in such criminal activity as extortion and murder, all the while displaying a combative, militaristic attitude. Questions have also been raised with regards to how connected the Mungiki are with local police and government, some of whom have been accused of looking the other way in exchange for a cut of the gang's profits.

#9: Triads

The term "Triads" is often used as a blanket term for Chinese organized crime, but the truth behind this gang, or association of gangs, is much more complex. The Triads are branches of a very large and diverse overarching Chinese crime syndicate, with especially strong operations in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The everyday business of the Triads has included everything from smuggling and forgery to pornography, kidnapping and murder. Today's Triads tend to focus more on white collar crimes and also place less of a focus on ritual. Often members have been required to commit to 36 oaths of honor as part of their initiation process.

#8: Sinaloa Cartel

Drugs are the name of the game when it comes to the Sinaloa Cartel, a notorious Mexican outfit which specializes in trafficking and money laundering. Cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines have all made their way into the United States thanks to the Sinaloa Cartel and its former head "El Chapo" Guzman. The DEA even named the cartel as the most active smuggling and trafficking operation when it came to getting large amounts of these illicit drugs into neighborhoods across the country. Bribery, extortion and murder are also high on their laundry list.. Their bloody rivalry with Mexico's Tijuana Cartel has resulted in deadly shootouts throughout the country. Although with El Chapo in a US jail as of 2019, the narcotraficante landscape is always shifting.

#7: Hells Angels

There are a number of outlaw motorcycle groups around the world, but arguably none of them with a reputation as fierce as the Hells Angels. The specific origins of the group are up for debate, but the Angels' profile rose tremendously during the 1960s and ‘70s, coinciding with the era's drug, rock and counterculture activities. While authorities have tackled the gang’s extensive involvement in prostitution, drug trafficking and murder, the group maintains that any criminal actions do not reflect the club as a whole, but instead are the actions of bad apples, and claim fundraising and charity efforts Hells Angels have sponsored as proof.

#6: The Aryan Brotherhood

Surviving any prison system is challenging and complex, and this next gang on our list keeps it that way. The Aryan Brotherhood features members both in and out of the prison system, with their influence stretching far beyond walls, barbed wire fences and armed guards. The white supremacist group focuses on day to day criminal activities within various prisons, including inmate prostitution, drug smuggling and assault. They have also been known to put out murder contracts on those living on the outside. These neo-Nazis have also been a common focus on film and television, being featured on such shows as "Sons of Anarchy" and HBO's "OZ," as well as the film "American History X."

#5: Bloods and Crips

It's likely you've heard of the Bloods and the Crips, even if you're not familiar with the criminal underworld. Their well known feud, with both gangs both fighting for supremacy of their Los Angeles turf, has received a lot of play. The Crips are slightly older, having been established in 1969 via an alliance between leaders Raymond Washington and Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Early incarnations of the Bloods were adversarial to Washington and Williams even back then, while today that relationship has become something akin to a deadly gangland legend. Indeed, the Bloods and Crips are among the most violent of gangs in the United States, engaging in everything from robbery and prostitution to murder.

#4: Los Zetas

This Mexican cartel was formed when deserting Mexican soldiers sought out employment as hired muscle for one of the country's oldest criminal organizations, the Gulf Cartel. It wasn't until 2010 that Los Zetas officially struck out on their own, however, making them the most recently formed gang on this list. Still, the group has managed to cause quite a stir despite their relatively recent appearance on the world radar. Los Zetas have been efficiently brutal in their dealings with rivals, utilizing beheadings and execution to punctuate their empire of sex trafficking, protection rackets, drugs and murder. As the original leadership has been picked off, however, they have lost some of their effectiveness.

#3: MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha)

Speaking of Los Zetas, the next gang on our list were actually employed by that group to fight against their rivals. The members of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, were likely hired for this purpose due to the reputation of vicious violence which precedes them in the criminal underworld. Members of MS-13 are often heavily tattooed, and are primarily of Central American descent, specifically from El Salvador. Ironically, MS-13 originally intended to protect L.A.-based Salvadorans against other local gangs of the time. Today, however, the crimes of MS-13 range from larceny and human trafficking to the most unspeakable crime of all, child prostitution.

#2: The Yakuza

The Yakuza are another gang primarily known for their operations in one country, in this case Japan, but are actually active on an international scale. The Yakuza origins date all the way back to the 1600s, and even today harbor a strict code of behavior and ritual which ties into this time period. Full body tattoos are also not uncommon within Yakuza culture, while the group is notable for their semi-legitimate business ventures within Japanese society. Various clans within the Yakuza hierarchy have been known to delve into everything from sex trafficking and loan sharking to gun running, although street level crimes such as armed robbery tend to be shunned by the group.

#1: The Sicilian Mafia

Although the Sicilian Mafia, a.k.a. La Cosa Nostra, isn't the only organized crime syndicate in Italy - the Camorra in Naples is another notorious group - it's inarguably the most famous. This is thanks to the wealth of cinematic representations the Mafia has received over the years in such films as "Goodfellas," "Casino" and "The Godfather" franchise. The structure of La Cosa Nostra has shifted somewhat over the years, but generally revolves around the dividing of power between various familial groups. While they wax and wane, clan rivalries and violence have always been par for the course, with many gangland shootouts drawing front page news. Other illegal activities of the Mafia have included extortion, racketeering, smuggling and prostitution.

Los Zetas is the best!