An artistic license trope that pertains to depictions of the military in film and television. This ranges from minutiae (forgetting which branch of the military uses which ranks) toRule of CoolandRule of Funny(having a character all but assault superior officers with no consequences).
Failing to distinguish between the military and other government (CIA, FBI, Police) and non-government (mercenaries) entities.
Failing to distinguish between different branches of the military (e.g., using army to refer to any military unit), or mixing and matching different military branch ranks into one service (e.g., sergeants in the Navy or admirals in the Army – though note that not all countries make the same distinctions between branches as the U.S.).
Incorrect use of service-specific jargon (e.g., army privates regularly saying aye, aye without being ironic.)
Failing to understand the fundamental concept of the chain of command (e.g., having regular privates taking orders directly from the President in the field, or having a private appealing directly to the President to overrule his company commanders orders.)
Having military fighter pilots fire missiles over the territory of the United States. This
be done unless specifically authorized by the President.
Gettingthe rankswrong, either in form of address, or in who outranks whom.
Having people performing jobs with either atoo highor low rank (e.g. having a colonel leading a platoon in the field).
Not understanding the difference between officers and enlisted personnel in modern militaries (e.g. assuming that all officers started out as regular troopers, with lieutenant just being the next step up the ladder after sergeant).
Getting patches, rank insignia, and uniforms wrong.
Having medals and ribbons inconsistent with the setting, the characters age and experiences (e.g. having Gulf War veterans wearingWWImedals).
Having characters with an unlikely or downright impossible professionalBack Story(e.g. an Air Force fighter pilot and an Air Force Special Tactics operator at the same time).
Using incorrect weapons or incorrect models. Very common in media as its cheaper and easier to useolder weapons as stand-insfor more advanced hardware that might be difficult or impossible to obtain, and vice versa.
Using incorrect radio or communication protocol (e.g., nobody says over and out Over means Done talking, awaiting response while out means Done talking, no response needed).
Handling weapons incorrectlyordangerously.
Getting promotion/demotion procedures wrong.
Making Boot camp either more extreme or much milder than it really is. Its not unrelenting torture, but its not summer camp, either. Depicting ordinary Boot Camp as if it were Special Forces Training, or vice versa.
Making the military justice system appear far more brutal (e.g. having a company commander summarily execute insufficiently enthusiastic soldiers at whim without any pretension to justice) or ineffectual (e.g. characters openly disobeying orders or insulting superiors to their faces and getting no more than a slap on the wrist) than it is.
Having norules against fraternization.
Depictingethnic minoritiesorwomenas accepted members of the military in roles that would not have been open to them in the storys regional or temporal setting (when they are notpassingas ethnic-majority ormale).
Failing to understand the basic organisational setup of the Department of Defense and the roles and functions of its various leaders and component organizations (e.g. jointness and collaboration at the top is unheard of: the military services are fighting their own separate wars and the service chiefs report directly to no one but the President). Though this changes depending on the era (and depending on which nation youre talking about). In World War 2, for instance, the Department of Defense had not yet been established, and the branches of the U.S. military were more independent than they are today.
Beingunjustifiably useless. When not justplain evil.
At military funerals, confusing athree-volley salute
with a21-Gun Salute(generally a mistake indialogue). The former is done by a team of riflemen (ranging from three soldiers to nineteen, depending on the rank of the deceased), while the other is performed by artillery pieces (guns in military parlance) and is reserved for presidents funerals.
There can be various reasons for this. Sometimes mistakes are made intentionally in order to facilitate the storytelling medium. Most often, though, Hollywood simply doesnt know or care about the particulars of the military.
This should probably not be applied to stories set in entirely imaginary cultures, unless they show something utterly implausible, or out of keeping with whats seen in the rest of the culture (eg a supposed libertarian democracy that treats its soldiers more callously than the World War II Red Army, or a culture that is meant to be very hierarchical and repressive having armed forces that are veryMildly Military).
Most current and former members of the military find this more funny than annoying, and military films that make countless errors are still more popular with members of the military than with the general public.
It should also be noted that since media portrayal tends to influence public perception, there are afew myths many people believe about the military thanks to movies.
Related toHollywood TacticsandMildly Military. Subtropes includeThe Squadette. Often averted by works that areBacked by the Pentagon.
Since military customs, rules, and traditions vary from country to country and in some cases, branch to branch within the same country, many times what is seen as wrong by an audience in one country is actually correct for the military force being shown (because of this, please check that any examples are actually incorrect for the military service depicted before adding them to the page.)
Universal for many anime that feature military ranks: Imperial Japan used a unified rank structure for officers, i.e. all branches of the military use the same rank names and structure (
for Second Lieutenant/Ensign/Pilot Officer,
for First Lieutenant/Lieutenant Junior Grade/Flying Officer,
for Captain/Lieutenant/Flight Lieutenant, and so on). This was changed after World War II (JSDF naval, army, and air force ranks use different names and kanji), but it can still cause problems for translators in trying to determine whether fictional military units (such as the UN Spacy/RDF below or the EFSF of
) should go with a naval naming convention or an army naming convention, since Japanese creators seem to prefer the prewar rank structure.
calls Mio a Major (an Army/Air Force rank) in the subtitles. Its the right grade, but as a naval officer she should technically be a Lieutenant Commander. They also call Shirley a Lieutenant in episode 5, but since shes an officer in her countrys Army, she should technically be a Captain. What makes this error more unusual is that the subtitles correctly referred to her as a First Lieutenant in episode 3 (she was promoted off-screen between the two episodes). The actual dialogue averts this, since the characters use the all-forces rank structure of the Imperial Japanese forces (shousa being used to refer to both army majors and navy lieutenant commanders, for instance).
To add to the confusion, the Witches in Joint Fighter Wing holds TWO rank. One is for her native country and branch of service she originally is from, which should be addressed by whatever the appropriate title it is for the serving country/branch. And the other is for the League of Nations Air Force (LNAF), which is generally addressed in British Royal Air Force ranks. For example, in a drama CD, Barkhorn states that she is a Shousa (Major) in Karlsland Luftwaffe, but holds the rank of Taii (Captain/Flight Lieutenant) in 501st due to command structure and such.
is well known for beingBroad Strokesof any thing military. Its worth noting Section 9 in most incarnations is not actually a military unit but a special police squad, though Motoko Kusanagi herself is usually a serving JSDF major and Batou a retired Ranger.
(1995) film. During Major Kusanagis battle with the tank, just before the helicopter pilot covering her departs he says Over and out to her.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex
episode Jungle Cruise has Section 9 tracking down a serial killer who is implied to be an ex-US Navy SEAL. The dialogue mentions he was a petty officer (an enlisted rank) while his photo shows him wearing a very good officer uniform.
manga follows the established canon of Batou being a Ranger during his JSDF days, it nevertheless makes him a JMSDF Commander,
Also ironically making him outrank his own next CO by a full grade: just remember Motokos.
but the only Ranger unit in the modern JSDF, the Western Army Infantry Regiment, explicitly falls under a JGSDF command, even though its soldiers are essentially Marines.
, thanks to the experiences of writer and translator Moreno.
Happens during theMarine Corp graduation
when the Eagle, Globe and Anchor is not depicted properly. This isjustifiedas that symbol is a trademark of the USMC and the authors opt to not use the actual one in the comics.
Moreno also points out any flaw in the depiction of the military in the summary below each page. Such as DIs not being as touchy as depicted and etc.
In the ending credits of the second volume of
, the survivors of the attack on the Hellsing manor salute the dead at their funeral. Despite being a British organization, they use the American salute. An American-style salute given to Seras by the surviving Wild Geese in volume seven may or may not qualify – The Wild Geese are mercenaries, and said soldiers may have been trained to salute according to American traditions long before taking a job in England.
identifiesMauve ShirtLuke Walker in English dialog as a chief petty officer, but his bio in the opening credits gives his rank as sergeant. Every other character uses naval-style ranks, and no, the Japanese words for the ranks arent the same.
Questionable since its acallsign, but everyone refers to Yuuya Bridges asTop Gunas befitting his status as anAce Pilot. TheTop Gun
program is a US Navy outfit whereAviatorspractice dogfighting tactics against master pilots in Nevada and Southern California. Sounds fitting doesnt it? Unfortunately, Yuuya is in the US
The subtitles for the anime give the TSF pilots naval ranks, with Yuuya and his squadron members being said to be ensigns. Leaving aside that this seemingly underranks everyone in the main cast except Yuuya (who is a rookie, though a talented one, at the start of the series) and possibly Yui Takamura
) Takamura is probably not underranked for her age and time in grade, but probably
underranked for her responsibilities. Additionally, a war as long and bloody as the fight with the BETA has been would probably result in more rapid promotions for combat veterans like herselfdue to superior officers getting killed.
, hes (again) said to be in the Army and thus should be a second lieutenant. DittoRed Armyranks (the Soviet Union still existsin
): the Scarlet Twins should both be ranked junior lieutenant (
in Russian) rather than ensign, and Zhar Battalion CO Fikatsia Latrovas rank should be lieutenant colonel (
) rather than commander (which wasnt even a rank used in the Soviet
: the equivalent in the USSR and most ex-Soviet countries is captain 2nd rank). The titles are actually correct for the Japanese characters, however, as Imperial Japan also still exists due to theAlternate History.
), set duringThe American Civil War, occasionally shows American soldiers saluting French-style, or presenting arms in the French way.
comic had some very realistic depictions of the military, (you know, given the nature of
), but was also about a decade behind on a lot of the smaller details. He strived to keep up to date, but he was mostly writing with what he knew from his time in the Army.
: General Ross pretty much embodies theArmies Are EvilTrope in one man. It not only takes Artistic License but a
ofSuspension of Disbeliefon the part of Marvel fans to assume the U.S. Air Force wouldnt have court martialed him, reduced him in rank, and sentenced him to life in Leavenworth after the property damage and civilian casualties his obsession with the Hulk has caused.
For that matter, the military is rarely ever competent inMarvel Comicsat all, unless you count S.H.I.E.L.D. (who are competent whenNick Furyis running them and
Speaking of Fury, his rank is often given as Colonel while as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. when in reality, hed probably at least be a General to command a military organization that large. Fixed in
S.H.I.E.L.D. isnt a military organization. Its aGovernment Agency of Fiction. Colonel isnt Furys rank within S.H.I.E.L.D., its his exit rank from the US Army.
Commented onIn-Universein the Kev miniseries of
. Kev, a black ops veteran for the British government, is headed to a booksigning by one of his buddies, and reads it to the others as they go, pointing out such details as a timeline that would have made him pass selection at the age of
, among others. When they met, the author cheerfully admits its all BS (except what he and the rest of the squad went through), since what the audience wants is fuckingRambo.
Beetle Baileyhas numerous examples.
The outdated uniforms, weapons, open-bay style barracks, etc. usually stand out to most, and nowadays Sgt. Snorkel would be NJPd and removed from command of Beetles platoon for striking a subordinate, if not outright put in the brig for how severely he beats him. Oddly enough, there
been a few strips where Snorkel is thrown in the brig with his stripes ripped off after he does something
stupid (like wreck General Halftracks car in a fit of rage) but thisonly lasts a day at most.
Almost everyone calls Beetle by his nickname (Sgt. Snorkel does almost exclusively). While not completely unheard of, its essentially his first name (he had the nickname prior to the service) and most nicknames a superior would call you would be something you earned in service. Gen. Halftrack and a few of the Lieutenants do occasionally call him Private Bailey, however.
: The saga of Wally Winkerbean saw military protocol and common sense sacrificed to theRule of Drama:
Wally was recalled to a full tour of active duty because he had been discharged
Not only does neither recalls nor AWOL charges work that way, but they simply couldve recalled Wally to ready status within eight years of his initial enlistment. A rule Wally shouldve known about if his recruiter was doing his job
During his tour in Afghanistan, Wallys unit was ambushed and he was considered Killed In Action as another body was identified as his.
At this time – during the post-9/11 second Gulf War, the Army simply would not declare a missing soldier KIA without DNA identification or other proof of death. Wally wouldve/shouldve been declared Missing In Action without that confirmation.
We find out that Wally was actually a Prisoner Of War, held by insurgents for over a decade.
His return home was largely ignored outside of his family and friends.
An American soldier held for over a decade as a POW would be an instant celebrity, with every media entity in existence looking for at least an interview.
On top of that, his actual return was basically Get released by insurgents via prisoner swap, fly back to America, get a physical at Walter Reed, get kicked to the curb.
The Veterans Administration would bend over backwards to give someone like Wally all the treatment he needed, for as long as he needed it.
And all of this is besides theDiabolus ex Machinaeffect on his personal life.
Wally and his new bride, Becky, had just adopted an Afghani girl war orphan when Wally was recalled/press ganged. And he was recalled before Becky finds out shes pregnant. When Wally returns, Becky had remarried to comic book shop owner John, his adopted daughter barely remembered him and his son, Wally Jr. didnt know him at all.
, in a fantasy sequence set on a British airbase, Mitty (Danny Kaye) addresses an RAF officer as Colonel. There is no such rank in the RAF; the equivalent rank is Group-Captain. Incidentally, the officer is wearing the uniform of an Air Vice-Marshal, equivalent to an Army Lieutanant-General, while Mitty, supposedly a Squadron-Leader, wears the uniform of a Group-Captain! Perhaps justified in that the protagonist is a daydreaming civilian whos obviously clueless about the subject.
movie, Colonel ONeil calls Kawalski, his second in command, Lieutenant. Not only that, hes credited as Lieutenant Kawalski in the credits. The problem? Hes wearing silver oak leaves throughout the entire movie, making him a
. While the films treatment of the military is far from accurate or flattering, thats actually a pretty easy mistake to make. After all, hes a
colonel. It can be presumed that Emmerich and Devlin were simply unaware that the appropriate abbreviation of the rank lieutenant colonel is not lieutenant but rather colonel. On the other hand, they did get a detail right that even some people in the
military forget: with the single exception of the sitting President, you do not salute civilians. After the final battle, the Abydonian boys salute ONeil. You can tell he wants to salute back, but instead he waits until his own men join in so he can salute
Many characters wear patches from every branch of the military
The most famous instance laughed at by real Navy pilots is the buzzing of the control tower. A real pilot doing this would be grounded (most likely permanently) and up on disciplinary charges. Thats an INCREDIBLY reckless and dangerous thing to do.
Any pilot/aviator who is described as playing by his own rules and disregarding authority would not be put in the seat of a multi-million dollar jet.
A pilot who turns in his wings is permanently disqualified from ever flying again.
Minor, but pilots (officers) would have their own private quarters for showering and not the open bay locker rooms shown in the movie.
Instances of 1st class petty officers in dress whites serving coffee to officers while underway onboard a carrier border between the strange and the ridiculous. One, wardroom personnel on cranking duty would be very junior personnel. Two, they would almost never be required to wear dress uniforms in such duties; since theyre working in the wardrooms and the galleys, theyd only get dirty for no good reason. Three, theyre serving coffee. Every Navy man from admiral on down knows to get his own goddamn coffee.
The Top Gun trophy is an admitted artistic license by the writers. As their technical consultant says on the special features documentary that if there really was a Top Gun trophy nobody would graduate because theyd all die trying to get it.
Tom Cruises character rides his motorcycle on base without wearing a helmet. No one on a military installation would get fifty feet like that without getting stopped. A pilot would be in special trouble; it takes a lot of money to train one, and the Navy (and Air Force) doesnt want to have wasted that money just because the pilot didnt want to wear a helmet.
One thing they notably did get right was at the insistence of the US Navy. Kelly McGillis character was originally supposed to be an enlisted sailor. The producers changed her to a civilian in order to secure the cooperation of the Navy in the making of the film, since as a commissioned officer Maverick wouldnt be remotely allowed to date her otherwise.
, a film starring Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen and John Travolta featured several errors, including:
A female soldier wearing a Ranger tab. There were no Ranger-qualified females at the time (or female Rangers, for that matter).
The rank of Samuel L. Jacksons character changed (up and down) depending on the scene.
Damon Wayans ismuch too young to have served in Vietnamin
, and also would been at least a colonel by the mid 90s, if not retired.
When Major Rane puts his Air Force uniform on, his U.S. lapel insignia not only are in the wrong location, but are the insignia used by enlisted personnel, not officers. Similarly, despite the character supposedly being a Vietnam War veteran, his uniform lacks the Vietnam Campaign Medal (an award given out to every single soldier who served in that war).
Master Sergeant Vohdens uniform has a Fifth Army patch on the right sleeve. A patch on the right sleeve indicates that the wearer served with that unit in combat during a previous war or campaign. The Fifth Army last served in battle during World War II. Vohden, as a returning Vietnam War veteran in 1973, would have been only a year or two old during World War II, if he had been born at all.
The hair of most of the military personnel shown in the film, including that of Major Rane and Master Sergeant Vohden, is too long for military standards.
features rather rotund actor Maury Chaykin as a sarcastic, back-talking sergeant who wanders through the entire movie with his uniform unbuttoned, his hair uncombed (and too long for the military), and generally looking like a slob. However, the higher-ranking General who assembled theragtag bunch of misfitsof which the sergeant was a member had handpicked them because hewanted their mission to fail.
Rafe wears an Eagle Squadron badge, as do the Spitfires. The squadron code RF is for No. 303 Squadron, which was a Polish unit – a very famous one at that. The only Hurricane seen in the film has the correct codes for an Eagle Squadron, XR-T for No. 71 Squadron.
Rafe claims that he was assigned to an RAF Eagle Squadron prior to American involvement by order of Jimmy Doolittle, but hes lying. In reality, active duty personnel could not be assigned to serve with a belligerent nation while the US was neutral. They would have to resign their USAAF commission, swear allegiance to the British Crown, and enlist in the RAF (usually via Canada). The problem is why Danny believed this excuse.
The Doolittle Raiders scene is how not to be the military.
The main sonar technician wears the crow of a Petty Officer but is addressed as Seaman Jones more than once. The proper forms of address would be either Petty Officer Jones or Petty Officer by those unfamiliar with his rate, or STS2 by those who know, by rate being vastly more likely. Possibly Jones either by superiors or less formally. Even odder is the fact that, in the book and the movie, hes supposed to be a Sonarman 2nd (later 1st) Class.
The film depicts the eponymous subs caterpillar propulsion system as a revolutionary technological advance because it is much quieter than a traditional screw-propeller system. The problem is that the loudest thing on a nuclear submarine, and thus the one most likely to be picked by opposing passive sonar systems, is the reactor. The reactors on Soviet subs were particularly loud as compared to those on American subs. So it really wouldnt matter how quiet the Red Octobers propulsion system is: as long as its being powered by a nuclear reactor, American subs would have been able to hear it. InReal Life, the real concern over stealthy (well, stealthier) submarines comes from an older technology: diesel-electrics. Since diesel-electric submarines only use their diesel motors when on the surface and rely solely on battery power, which is extremely quiet because there are no moving parts, when submerged, they are much stealthier than a nuclear submarine. They are also much slower when submerged and can only stay submerged for limited periods of time, which is why nuclear power has generally been considered a big advance.
This may or may not be true, but Ramius probably would not tell his officers that they are dismissed after eating a meal, since that would be insulting to a Soviet naval officer. Instead, he would say something like gentlemen officers, which would be a hint to get up and leave.
The officers of a Russian sub would probably not walk around in parade uniform all the time. In fact, they certainly
: when the sub is deployed, the regulations require
personnel on the boat, both the officers and the ratings, to wearthe same fatigues
, distinguished only by their position pip on the left shirt pocket.
The whole reason for Ramius to be dissatisfied with the Soviet system is pretty dumb as well. While the Soviet brass
more dismissive of their personnel than the US one, the nuclear submarine COs (moreover, a full captain, that is, a colonel equivalent, is a pretty high rank anyway) most emphatically
a resource they have had reserves of, and thus they were treated much more carefully than the other soldiers. Another matter is that he simply wouldnt be approved for the position had his superiors had even the slightest doubt in his loyalty. (The book explains this a bit better. While Ramius
irritated the Soviet Navy brass with criticisms of procedure to the point where hes unlikely to be promoted to admiral, his criticisms were all of operational matters, not politics: he was at least outwardly completely loyal to the Party until his wife died from a medical error and the doctor couldnt be prosecuteddue to his Party connections.)
, the ghost story is set on a submarine and an incredible amount of artistic license is taken with how roomy the submarine is. Few movies can accurately portray how cramped, crowded, and claustrophobic a submarine is, but this particular submarine is shown to have fairly large rooms, multiple decks, and corridors wide enough for two people to walk comfortably side by side. This was mainly done to allow characters enough room to wander off by themselves so that spooky events could ensue, also its much easier to film in a wider space. Both modern and World War II era submarines are so cramped that all off duty personnel are usually expected to be in their racks so as to stay out of the way of the people on duty. Only the largest boomers could even try to approach having this much space.
also on a WWII era submarine (TypeVI IcU-Boat in this case). The space is so cramped that officers having dinner are forced to stand up against the nearest bulkhead anytime someone needs to pass through.
, officer candidates continually refer to Gunnery Sergeant Foley as Sergeant. Navy OCS candidates refer to their Marine drill instructors as Sergeant Instructor (followed by proper rank and last name if referring to a specific instructor rather than the one yelling in your face). In addition, while the United States Army allows the use of Sergeant for any NCO from E-5 to E-8, Marine Corps etiquette insists on referring to non-commissioned officers by proper rank, and even though the Army doesnt require them to be called anything by sergeant, E-8s are often referred to as Master Sergeant anyway.
: As he is leaving after questioning his client, Tom Cruises Lt. Kaffee turns and says, Whatever happened to saluting an officer when he leaves the room? whereupon Dawson stands up and pointedly shoves his hands in his pockets. Great moment, great scene… except that Marines dont salute indoors, while Navy officers would not expect a salute indoors. (Specifically, in the Navy and USMC, covers (i.e. hats) are not to be worn indoors except for a few rare occasions…and in those branches, you are not supposed to salute without your cover. Therefore, there is a very small chance of saluting indoors for members of those branches of the US military.)
Dawson does finally manage to salute Kaffee (again, indoors) at the end of the film. At this point, he is a prisoner whose sentence includes discharge from the service; such individuals are not permitted to salute or return a salute.
The premise for the entire plot edges on the unfeasible, if only because the personnel details of a junior enlisted Marine would be so far below the paygrade of a full-bird colonel running an entire base that it wouldnt be worth his time and effort to get involved in them directly
theres a chain of command: the colonel commands the lieutenant colonels, who command the captains, who command the lieutenants, who command the non-commissioned officers. Its straightforward delegation
. Indeed, his insistence in getting involved in what should have been a very straightforward matter of discipline easily handled by subordinates is what ended up costing him his job and freedom.
Additionally, Lt. Kendrick admits on the stand that he had a subordinate punished by depriving him of food for a week. Hes not the one on trial, so nothing happens to him. In reality, he wouldve been immediately arrested and, probably, drummed out for violating the Marine code of conduct.
Crossing over withArtistic License Law, there is no such charge as conduct unbecoming a Marine. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman exists as UCMJ Article 133, but Kaffees clients are enlisted Marines and cant be charged with it.
was a bastion of reality in film, but Nick salutes his sergeant at Club Scum. He also has insanely long hair for a soldier fresh out of basic training.
, the Marines saluted officers while in Vietnam. This is a big no-no. You do no