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Military Maverick
Wedge: "I'm usually pretty good about taking orders."
Iella: "If occasionally reinterpreting them rather thoroughly."

A Military Maverick is one of those service members who often breaks the rules, and regularly annoys superiors: but he/she generally prevails in the end, just because they broke the rules in the first place.note 

Consider them the armed forces counterpart to the Cowboy Cop.

The popularity of this trope is largely because of the Rule of Cool. For in real life, any military needs people they can be certain will stop fighting when ordered, just as much as they need people who will start fighting when ordered. The primary purpose of order and discipline in the military, apart from doing what you're told, is to learn self-restraint, after all.

Still, most instances of this would have far more consequences in Real Life than in fiction (and so does everything). Note that the higher up you are in the chain of command, the more likely you are to get away with stuff. There are no recruits and privates who can get away with acting like a Military Maverick in fiction does. Or at least, if there are right now, give it a few days. You might get away with disobeying orders and regulations on rare occasions or under unusual circumstances, but doing so to the point of recklessness is a good way to end a military career with a plain and simple dismissal at best, or capital punishment at worst. So it goes without saying...

However, this trope is Truth in Television to some extent. However, these folks are much more common and tolerated in non-professional insurgent armies, guerillas, and during civil wars, where the entire society goes bananas.

If they're still competent military professionals, despite regarding following orders and regulations as optional, they might also be a Colonel Badass, a Sergeant Rock, and sometimes even a Four-Star Badass. If they can get away with just about anything, they have Ultimate Job Security.

It's possible they might also be The Neidermeyer, a Colonel Kilgore, a General Ripper, or sometimes all three. Often, they're a Glory Seeker.

Sometimes they're a Bunny-Ears Lawyer in uniform.


Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Air Force (includes pilots from the other services) 

Anime and Manga
  • Isamu Alva Dyson from Macross Plus. Reckless, insubordinate, short tempered and not even punishment details wanted him. Eventually transferred to Project Super Nova as a test pilot since the only thing keeping him in the military was that he was that damn good.
  • Elizabeth Beurling of Strike Witches fame is a maverick herself, taking little heed to the brass and disobeying them at almost every turn (from simple things like smoking and going to the pub late at night to more complex things like refusing to use the new striker units), she is rather skilled in combat and has no ranged weapons instead just uses her kukri and cuts up enemy soldiers, grant she does have a rather gloomy personality to her. The girl has got issues but she can hardly care less. Not surprising given she was at least somewhat based on the real life maverick George Beurling; although he was rather a different kind of Maverick. After failing to join the Canadian Air Force, and the Finnish air force, he hopped on a ship and went to England to try and enlist in the RAF in which he was successful. He was regarded as high strung, brash, and outspoken, and he also never smoked or drank (which when you're a fighter pilot makes you a maverick...). He was a skilled pilot but rejected a commission at first and was reprimanded for attacking targets without permissions several times. He was also known as a loner in the air and was written up for stunting as well. He was eventually discharged even before the war ended more or less for being a pain in the ass.

Film
  • Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, USN from Top Gun. "Your ego is writing checks your body can't cash." — "You don't have time to think up there. If you think, you're dead."

Literature
  • A fair number of people in the Dale Brown novels, most notably Brad Elliot. While the contrast with the politicians and other American leaders has always been there since the first, in Battle Born and beyond it's even more apparent with the more lawful newcomers to Dreamland serving as foils to the old-timers.
    • Lampshade Hung in Plan of Attack, where General Gary Houser claims that McLanahan has been "pulling shit that should have landed you in prison for a hundred years".
  • Wedge Antilles, in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, is a major one of these. He's led Rogue Squadron into defecting (temporarily) from the New Republic itself.note  He was ready to leave again during Starfighters of Adumar, when faced with the choice of doing what was ordered or what was right. But he and the Rogues are the best of the best, delivering the impossible, and they do get called on their behavior. Wedge created Wraith Squadron, an entire squadron of misfits specifically organized for unconventional warfare after seeing how the fleet had become hamstrung by being forced into the role of legitimate government (see the Space section)—and, though not even thirty, found himself feeling like a tired old man when confronted with their antics and tactics.
    Wedge: Wes, they're doing it to me again.
    • The Rogues tended to be pilots with secondary commando skills whose missions meant those skills became important very, very often; the Wraiths were picked as commandos who could pilot snubfighters. The Wraiths were eventually transferred out of the military's Starfighter Command to New Republic Intelligence.
    • In the New Jedi Order, Jaina Solo, leader of Twin Suns Squadron, disobeys orders to save one of her pilots. General Antilles wants to reprimand her, but his nephew - the pilot Jaina saved - talks him down. It's not that hard. Wedge is asked when was the first time he disobeyed an order for similar reasons, and says it was when he was twenty, the first time he had a superior officer.
  • Colonel Temeraire turned into one of these, quickly, much to Laurence's dismay. It resulted in a couple cases of treason and eventually being banished to Australia. Of course, if Temeraire wasn't such a maverick Laurence would probably be dead.
  • Derek Robinson's character of CH 3, in A Piece of Cake. An American pilot and soldier of fortune who for political reasons is posted to Hornet Squadron in time for the Battle of Britain, he becomes unpopular not just for having more combat experience than all the British pilots put together, he is highly critical of the British command an tactical philosophy. It doesn't help that experience proves him right, although not before several pilots are killed in action.
  • Also the foul-mouthed Guiness-drinking cynic and anti-Biggles Major Wooley, in Goshawk Squadron. A working class Brummie who made it into the WW1 officer corps, his superiors would dearly like to sack or demote him, but as he is an accredited Ace, they dare not.
  • Mackenzie "Mac" Calhoun, of Star Trek: New Frontier, was specifically picked to command the Excalibur, the only ship in the sector, because he was basically the Cowboy Cop of Starfleet.

Live-Action TV
  • Battlestar Galactica: Kara Thrace, a deconstruction of the trope whose maverick existence only exists with a messed up life and a lot of favouritism.
    • It's made obvious at the start of the series that the only reason she was able to get away with all the crap she pulls is because she's just that damn good and the Galactica herself was under the command of an officer who was going to be retired soon. Later, she was one of a few dozen fighter pilots left in the whole of humanity in a little fleet almost completely dependent on pilots for defense. There was a good chance she'd get discharged in normal times, but when you're down to 40...
    • Later a major reason for the favoritism shown by Adama (and a lot of the recklessness shown by Kara) is explained by revelations concerning her engagement to Adama's dead son.
    • Subverted with Pegasus Commander Barry Garner, who once made the typical Maverick "Screw the orders, I'm saving my men" decision, complete with his crew backing him against the outsider observer (aka Lee Adama) - only to notice that yes, it was a trap, it very nearly cost the human race its most powerful battleship and it gained them nothing.
  • Harmon Rabb, Jr. from JAG, the Naval Aviator who became a lawyer.
  • Jack O'Neill from Stargate SG-1.
  • John Sheppard from Stargate Atlantis, though to a lesser extent. One of memorable moments in Sheppard's background is his conduct in Afghanistan, when he disobeyed direct orders and took his helicopter to rescue his friends, whose helicopter was shot down. Not only did he fail to save them, but he was court-martialed and nearly kicked out of the Air Force (in an Alternate Universe Episode, he was), instead being relegated to taxi duty. The only reason he was even allowed to accompany the Atlantis mission is because of luck and skill. He was flying O'Neill to the Ancient outpost when a rogue Ancient drone tried to shoot them down. Sheppard's skill with performing a High-Speed Missile Dodge with a non-combat helicopter got him noticed by O'Neill. Still, the mission's military commander Colonel Sumner didn't like Sheppard for his past.

Other
  • In Advance Wars Eternal War, we have the Pink Queen. "Our units are under attack? Who cares? Do you like my new eye-liner?" Robyn too. She'd rather stare at the sky than go to war.

Real Life
  • It's disputed how true this is, but many of the Polish pilots in the Battle of Britain. Prone to recklessness and spamming the radio with discussions in Polish on the parentage of their German opponents (who they, for obvious reasons, loathed), they were responsible for 12% of the Luftwaffe kills in that battle, despite being only 5% of the pilots. The RAF handbook was often ignored even by British pilots. For example, the rules stated that machine guns' should be zeroed (that is, the bullets would cross the path of the guns from the other wing) at 600m to allow newbie pilots to attack from a safe distance. But to be most effective, it needed to be at 200m, so many pilots from different nations changed them.
  • A documented real-life subversion (not merely aversion) was going on with test pilots, at least back in the early '70s. Hunter S. Thompson wrote an article depicting the Air Force's test pilots as almost frighteningly sane, rational, by-the-book, methodical fliers who were as much scientist as warrior—which makes some sense, given their vocation. Hence the old saying: what's the difference between God and an Air Force pilot? God doesn't think he's a pilot.
  • 'Bud' Holland, the pilot of the B-52 that crashed at Fairchild Air Force Base, who had a reputation for aggressive flying and violating safety regulations. One of his superiors was later court-martialed for failing to take action over his behaviour. That's like being so high your friend hallucinates.
  • John McCain, who was more than happy to point this out. This dated back all the way to his time at the Naval Academy, where he graduated 5th from the bottom of his class due to just barely studying enough to pass in classes that he wasn't interested in, and achieving membership in the "Century Club" of cadets who received over 100 demerits. After graduating, he became a bomber pilot and was known for being an extremely reckless flier, crashing several times and once colliding with power lines when he flew too low. It's likely that he got away with more than most junior officers could have because his father and grandfather were both admirals.
  • World War I ace Frank Luke. He was bad-tempered and contemptuous of authority; when he took off on his last flight, the one that earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor, there were orders out to arrest him for being AWOL. His favorite targets were German observation balloons, which most pilots avoided because they were "invariably ringed with antiaircraft guns and often protected by a flight of fighters. Going after one was much like kicking a hornet's nest, but it was just the sort of challenge Luke liked...." Eddie Rickenbacker called Luke "the greatest fighter pilot of the entire war."
  • Colonel John Boyd was one of these. He contributed arguably more to the Air Force than anyone before or since (his Energy-Maneuverability theory revolutionized air-to-air combat doctrine and he literally wrote the book on flying a fighter, and he's credited as the father of the F-15 and F-16 fighters), but had to step on a lot of toes to do so — and took pride in it. In fact, he practically forced the F-16 down the Air Force's throat because they didn't want it — they thought it would take too much money away from the F-15 and their pet bomber of the month. Hell, one time he got a major general fired for scripting a session with a congressman to attack the F-16. It wasn't uncommon for generals to leave one of his briefings muttering, "That fucking Boyd."

Video Games
  • Maniac, from Wing Commander, is generally agreed to have earned his callsign. At times, the protagonist, Christopher "Maverick" Blair, has as well. Some say he's a subversion.

    Army 

Anime and Manga
  • In Edward Elric's early years as a State Alchemist, Roy Mustang made good use of his sense of honor and knack for trouble-making by sending him in the general direction of cowboy-prone situations with rumors of the Philosopher's Stone surrounding them. One assumed he was tolerated for his position as a rare State Alchemist, not doing anything particularly harmful, and passing the mandated yearly combat test with flying colours. It may have also been explained by him being later shown as designated as a sacrifice for the antagonists.
  • Mr. Bushido (AKA Graham Akre in a Paper-Thin Disguise) from the second season of Gundam 00 refuses to do anything except engage the 00 Gundam in battle, and won't even launch for combat unless the 00 is present as well. He gets away with it because 1) he is quite literally Just That Good, and 2) the 00 is Celestial Being's strongest weapon, and keeping it tied up is extremely helpful to the A-Laws.
  • In Maiden Rose, both Klaus and Taki are mavericks at times. And it gets them both in trouble.

Film
  • Likewise, the film version of The Devils Brigade has numerous mavericks on the American side.
  • The Dirty Dozen's Major Reisman. All of the Dozen are actually mavericks (or much worse) but they definitely face consequences for it.
  • Sgt. William James of The Hurt Locker is a deconstruction. Sure, he manages to defuse many bombs in his time at war, but he winds up alienating pretty much everyone in his unit due to his antics.
  • The entire plot of Kelly's Heroes.
  • Mel Gibson's character from Lethal Weapon 1-4 (though most prominently in the first 2 installments) is an extremely reckless cop and ex-army special forces. He routinely places himself in great danger as part of a suicidal deathwish, yet his skills are so great that he continues to live through his adventures.
  • The protagonists in Play Dirty, although the only one of them who is officially in the military is the Michael Caine character, and his commission was supposed to be purely honorary. The rest are a bunch of Boxed Crooks turned into an experimental strike force by an eccentric colonel. Unsurprisingly, their tactics tend to be...nonstandard.
  • Lawrence of Arabia is a British version.

Literature
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novels, over and over again; always crowned with success, which may be why they get away with it.
    • Dorden in Ghostmaker, refusing to leave a field hospital
    • Kolea in the opening of Honour Guard, defying orders to rescue Corbec.
    • Corbec and other wounded Ghosts in Honour Guard defying orders to get on the transport in order to join the honour guard.
    • At the climax of Honour Guard, Gaunt decides to defend the temple rather than remove the relics.
    • Mkoll deserting in Only In Death to recover Gaunt's sword. Unexpected, he also recovers Gaunt.
    • Beldavyr in Only in Death deserting his post in combat — to restart the power source for the xenos guns. Fortunately for him, it worked.
  • Richard Sharpe, who even Cornwell calls a loose cannon. Though rules were a bit lax back then, he still gets in trouble for breaking them at times.
  • The Whistlers of A Brother's Price were a family of soldiers blacklisted from service after a sister's treason, who joined the thieves' guild out of desperation. When caught stealing by General Wellsbury, Tea Whistler had the chutzpah to tell her that they'd make excellent spies. They lied, they stole, they ignored orders, and they turned the tides in the War of the False Eldest, since their duties were expanded from spying to wreaking general mayhem behind enemy lines.
  • This trope is given an extensive treatment in the first volume of Reflections of Eterna: the youthful and overconfident general Oscar Fenschau is manipulated by Marshal Alva to walk right into the enemy's trap in direct violation of his orders, so Alva's own forces can flank and rout them. Afterwards, Alva has Fenschau court-marshaled and executed for insubordination, and when his other officers confront him (reminding him how often Alva himself ignored orders and regulations), calmly explains to them that had Fenschau defied his orders and won the battle by himself, he would have been made Marshal soon (like Alva did in his time), but since he disobeyed orders and lost his men, he is better off dead before he causes any more harm to his own army.

Live-Action TV
  • The entire membership of The A-Team, most notably Murdock, who may or may not be certifiably insane.
  • Firefly's Malcolm Reynolds, in his time as an Independent sergeant, made something of a reputation for himself for unconventional tactics, a distinct willingness to defy the odds, and an absolute refusal to quit...even when, it might be said, he should have. He was an irregular in a nonprofessional insurgent army, so not unexpected.
  • Hawkeye Pierce and, for that matter, about half the cast of Mash. The only reason Hawkeye is rarely, if ever, charged for being such a loose cannon is because they need as many medical personnel as possible and can't afford to lose him as Chief Surgeon.
    • There's also that as doctors directly commissioned (and apparently conscripted) from civilian practice, most of the cast of M*A*S*H can afford to be utterly indifferent about damage to their military careers — they don't have any careers to damage. So long as they can actually avoid being caught in a major felony or committing medical malpractice, there's really not much they need to worry about in the long run. It's instructive to note that the one regular army doctor on the cast, Colonel Potter, is not a maverick. Much.
    • Truth in Television to a large degree, even today; the US armed services have enough of a need for medical personnel that they are given more leeway about their (lack of) military bearing than would be tolerated in combat soldiers/sailors/airmen. Crystallized in a saying going back to Korea if not earlier: "There is nobody as un-military as a military doctor."
  • The Crossing shows George Washington as this, to the extent that absolutely nobody thinks his plan to attack the Hessians will work. Washington's maverick nature was Truth in Television.

Real Life
  • More or less the whole of German Armed Forces up to around 1942. There standard response to an enemy within range, no matter what their orders? Attacking. It was in fact this very aggressive style of conducting military operations that made Germany and Prussia before it so successful on the battlefield.
  • Let's not forget the quintessential real-life maverick General Patton. Rommel serves as a good German version.
    • As generals they were granted more leeway, but Patton did suffer from his maverick ways, consistently being demoted and kept from a higher command, at one point almost being dismissed from service during the second world war due to his 'poor' conduct outside the field of battle. Rommel however was a maverick only in the field, and outside of it presented himself as every inch the perfect officer.
  • Douglas MacArthur, one of the most respected 5-star generals in American history. His loose-cannon ways eventually got him fired when he mouthed off about America's strategy in the Korean war.
    • And by "mouthed off" we mean that he recommended launching a nuclear strike on China.
    • Prior to World War II, MacArthur was sent to the Philippines so that FDR wouldn't have to deal with him. Dwight D. Eisenhower, another 5-star general and also a future President, said that he learned how not to be a good general during his time as MacArthur's aide.
  • To be honest, the Australian Armed Forces, as a whole, during WWI. We HATED being ordered around by British officers and, as such, ignored them. A lot.
    • Likewise, WW2, though not quite as bad. Old joke: in 1943, a British officer complains to a British general who'd served in the last war that a group of Australian soldiers didn't salute as he passed them. The old British general replies, "That's good news. Before, they'd've walked straight over you!"
    • British Field Marshal Birdwood reminisced that an Australian private came up to him, on the officer's first day at Gallipoli, to "complain about inferior bloody materiel." To demonstrate the low quality of equipment, the soldier pulled the pin on a grenade and tossed it near the field marshal. This grenade, not as inferior as the Australian had expected, exploded as they're supposed to, luckily not severely injuring anyone, and the private commented in surprise, "Gawd, Birdie, that is the first bastard that has gone off this month."
  • This was kind of Ariel Sharon's thing. On the one hand, his... stretching of orders is widely held to have won the 1973 war against Egypt, but his habit of leaving superiors in the dark and going far beyond his mandate as Minister of Defense played a large part in the fiasco of the Israeli involvement in the Lebanese Civil War in The Eighties.
  • Andrew Jackson. He led American troops into the then Spanish colony Florida, without an official approval from the Government. This is the very rare case of it working out for the best because the U.S. managed to bargain for Florida and make it an official State, and Jackson is widely regarded as a hero, becoming the first Governor of Florida and then later the President of the United States.
  • On a bit different note, the Order of Maria Theresa founded by its namesake was awarded to commanders who defied orders and yet achieved victory. Although historians generally agree that it was meant to promote not recklessness but rather a healthy initiative on the battlefield.
  • Most smaller White armies in the Russian Civil War consisted from mostly these types. Ataman Semyonov and Baron von Ungern-Sternberg come to mind.

Video Games
  • All four of the protagonists (and their pilot) in Battlefield: Bad Company.
  • Sabres Of Infinity has Sergeant Harlech, a boisterous soldier who has little respect for authority or discipline, and has the lowest loyalty stat of of the available sergeants.
  • Commander Micheal McNiel of Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun, who is defined by his headstrong aggressiveness, most notably in the final mission, where he refuses to obey orders to wait for reinforcements before assaulting Kane's headquarters.
    • Captain Nick "Havoc" Parker in Command & Conquer: Renegade also disobeys orders, but is arrested immediately upon his return from the battlefield. Of course, he doesn't spend more than a few hours in jail, but his boss is explicitly described as unusually tolerant of his quirks, "which makes him the ideal boss for Havoc". Note that while his motives are admirable ("They're torturing civvies, we can't wait six hours."), he hijacked a hovercraft that couldn't really be spared to go off and assault the enemy base single-handedly immediately after a previous attack had failed, and when there was absolutely no reason to not simply wait a mere six hours for reinforcements to arrive.

Other
  • A cartoon by Bill Mauldin in World War II showed two officers walking past an unshaven, scowling U.S. paratrooper who leaned against a lamppost ignoring them. The higher-ranking officer told the other, "It's best not to speak to paratroopers about saluting. They always ask where you got your jump boots."

    Government and Federal Agents (includes spies) 

Comic Books
  • The adults-only MAX incarnation of Nick Fury, who has at one point beat up a General with his belt.

Film
  • MI6 Agent 007, aka Commander James Bond. Spies tend to play things by ear as a rule, but Bond seems to revel in doing things that will give Q, M, and the British government a heart attack. The fact that he saves the world with clockwork regularity tends to offset this.

Literature
  • Bujold's Lt. Miles Naismith (Lord) Vorkosigan, Barrayaran Imperial Security. He is assigned directly to Simon Illyan, the head of ImpSec, because while he succeeds in absurd situations, he repeatedly drives his commanding officers nuts.
    "Hm," Illyan said. "And yet . . . who shall I assign you to now? Which loyal officer gets his career destroyed next?"
    Miles thought this over. "Why don't you assign me directly to yourself, sir?"
    "Thanks," said Illyan dryly.
    • It helps that Illyan knows Miles literally since birth, being his father's long-term aide and then principal political ally.
    • Miles' operating philosophy can be best summed up by this quote, from Brothers in Arms:
      Miles: No, no, never send interim reports. Only final ones. Interim reports tend to elicit orders. Which you must then either obey, or spend valuable time and energy evading, which you could be using to solve the problem.
    • He also counts on the "seniority lets you get away with more" front; when he is first admitted to the Imperial Service Academy, his father admits that "I think he will make a terrible ensign... but he might make a fine Chief of Staff one day." Miles is such an insubordinate ensign that Illyan has to either dismiss him, or shorten his chain of command so he has fewer people to disobey.

Live-Action TV
  • In 24, Counter-Terrorist agent Jack Bauer is the epitome of this trope. Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique is named after him.
  • NCIS: Jethro Gibbs doesn't cross the line with his agency's directives, unless he has to. Or needs to. Or feels like it. Quite frankly, it's amazing that Gibbs has a job sometimes.
  • The X-Files: Special Agent Fox Mulder is considered odd by most of the FBI and outright disliked by a few. However, he is also known to be one of the best detectives and crime solvers in the whole Bureau.

    Marines 

Comic Books
  • Not a lot of Marines on this list, but two that fit, both from DC Comics' Hitman, are Tommy "Hitman" Monaghan and Natt "The Hat" Walls of the United States Marine Corps. Tommy ends up killing two fellow Marines with a sniper rifle (Don't worry, they had it coming....) They ingeniously, if messily, Make It Look Like an Accident and get away with it. Later, during Operation Desert Storm, Tommy and Natt accidentally kill several British S.A.S. troops in a "friendly fire" incident. They get away with that too. Well, for a few years, anyway.

Live-Action TV
  • Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie in JAG.
  • Averted by Greer in Stargate Universe. There's no doubting he knows his job and is willing to give his life to protect even people he dislikes, but he displayed such a temper that an early Fan Nickname for him was Furious George. He also reputedly beat up a superior officer...and so was languishing in the brig waiting to be shipped back to Earth when the attack hit Icarus Base.

Video Games
  • Doom's protagonist is a Marine who was shipped out to the Mars base because he assaulted a superior officer (who himself deliberately ordered the company to open fire on people he knew were probably pacifist monks).

Film
  • If it is a cousin of the Cowboy Cop then Clint Eastwood has to be here somewhere. Gunny Highway from Heartbreak Ridge fits pretty well. At least the part of annoying your superiors. And isn't there some sort of regulation that forbids the drill instructors from firing live ammunition at their recruits?
    • Well, if there is, there'd be two outs: He isn't a drill instructor, and he isn't firing *at* them; he's firing at places he's told them not to be.

    Navy (for space navies, see Space below) 

Anime & Manga
  • One Piece has Former Vice-Admiral Garp and Captain, turned Commodore turned Vice-Admiral Smoker. Though, the latter is the only one known to have risked being kicked out. Interestingly, the naval forces of the One Piece world are referred to as the Marines.

Film
  • Captain Frank Ramsey in Crimson Tide. He's apparently given a lot of leeway due to his combat experience, even taking his dog with him on the boat.
  • Down Periscope is pretty much based on the idea of the main character playing the part of this trope, in fact he is under direct orders to do so in order to test how well other navy units do when the enemy doesn't follow the script. In particular, one of his crew is deliberately trying to be as big a nuisance as possible so he'll be discharged, because he really doesn't want to be in the Navy but his dad's an Admiral and won't hear of it.
  • One of the central members of Team 7 in Wetworks is Jester, a hostile troublemaker who has spent more time in the brig than in the field. His commanding officer, Jackson Dane, is infamous among top brass for his creative interpretations of mission objectives and orders — and is the only CO Jester has ever shown any respect.

Literature
  • Jack Aubrey from the Aubrey-Maturin books and film, and Thomas Cochrane, the real-life British officer he is based on.
  • Dennis effing Silva from The Destroyermen series...where do we start? Asides from fighting the imperial Japanese navy, he fought Chinese gangsters with a jade statue, disobeyed orders NOT to be in a location only to show up guns blazing, sneaking aboard a carrier by jumping into an ocean from an airplane that would normally kill you in minutes if not seconds...all in the name of the greater good. His lack of discipline has been commented to be why he is arguably the alliance's deadliest warrior.

Live-Action TV
  • Another water-based one: McHale's Navy. If nothing else, typical naval crews were probably discouraged from carrying Japanese soldiers on board.
  • Horatio Hornblower had his moments.
    • Novels too. In Ship of the Line, he deliberately sails past a rendezvous at night so he can continue to independantly raid. In Lieutenant Hornblower, it is suggested that he pushed his dangerously insane captain down a ship's ladder. His fellow lieutentants suspect this, but no one calls him out on it.
  • Harmon Rabb from JAG.
  • Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett on Hawaii Five-0. Extra points for being a Cowboy Cop in his regular day job, as he is technically a reservist Navy SEAL and not on full-time active duty. He will break the rules to complete a "mission" (military or police), or to help his friends and family.

Real Life
  • Horatio Nelson. At the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, he was signalled by superiors to withdraw. On being informed of the orders, he put his spyglass to his right eye and declared, "I really do not see the signal." He had been blinded permanently in his right eye in an action at Corsica in 1794. He then proceeded to demolish the combined Danish-Norwegian fleet.
    • The signal was giving him permission to retreat, not ordering him to, and his commander sent it knowing full well that Nelson would ignore it if his situation was still tenable. Still an example.

    Space (not fighters) 

Anime and Manga

Literature
  • Ender Wiggin from Enderís Game was a deliberate Military Maverick - he thought he was being a rebel, but they figured he was smart enough to know better than the rule-makers, and actually intended him to break the rules.
  • Inverted in Jack Campbell's The Lost Fleet. Captain Geary is thought of as crazy because he uses reasonable and not particularly noteworthy tactics. Which baffles his fleet, who are used to simply rushing into the enemy and counting how many ships are left over to determine a victory.
  • Willard Phule of Phule's Company. He gets promoted as a result of accidentally strafing a peace conference after the war had already ended. It wasn't a reward. He was only not fired because the Space Legion never fires anyone, wasn't demoted only because of politics, and winds up in command of an "Omega Company", a dumping ground for troublemakers too stubborn to quit.
  • In a rare example of someone at the top flouting convention, though actually very cultured and refined in a way most Imperial fleet officers only hope to be, Grand Admiral Thrawn spits in the face of conventional strategic and tactical wisdom. He is confident to the point where he bases entire planetary assaults around esoteric uses of obscure or rare technology and other extremely unusual ideas—ideas that are so odd that he and the captain of his flagship once had a barely-civilized argument over his use of a particular tactic. That particular tactic was in fact outright reasonable (and became routine) compared to some of his more inventive concepts. Then again, Thrawn is only one step down in the chain of command from the Emperor: so long as he remains loyal to the Empire and continues to succeed in his assigned objectives, he has the authority to do whatever he damn well feels like. Thrawn was a military maverick among his own people, too. In Outbound Flight, he was the one making preemptive strikes, to the consternation of, well, just about everyone. He actually got exiled for that.
    • Similarly, General Garm Bel Iblis is a slightly more conventional commander, but despite his cunning and ability to make do with less is often politically ostracized. He even resisted an upgrade to his aging flagship's comm center so that secure messages would remain more secure. This has more to do with his time as an independent rebel, as opposed to capital-R Rebel, than his behavior, but he seems quite content to let matters remain as they are.
    • Thrawn's old student and second-in-command Pellaeon, having picked up a bit of that genius and becoming Supreme Commander in time, also manages to utterly frustrate his poor captain with tactics that seem counterintuitive at best and stupid at worst.
    • A sort-of inversion comes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe where the Rebel Alliance fleet, now the legitimate military arm of the New Republic, has to adopt the tactics they once so desperately yet handily worked around. Some try to make the change, but find themselves psychologically hamstrung by being unable to convert to the necessary way of thinking; others take to their new roles with gusto, but forget how to anticipate unconventional tactics. (Operation Emperor's Hammer resulted when New Republic officers took to the Empire's tactics very, very well.)
      • Emperor's Hammer, for those who never read the book, was employed against the Yuzhaan Vong, an alien race that only briefly skirmished with the Empire. Therefore they were not aware that one of the primary uses of a Star Destroyer was orbital bombardment...and with something like sixty times the guns, a Super Star Destroyer is even better at it. Wedge Antilles made the Vong think he was desperately retreating, thus luring a very large ground force into the killzone, and then opened fire.
    • Vader is definitely a maverick within the Empire's military (proper court-martial? what's that?), but he's Vader and more or less an extension of the actual Emperor. His lieutenants can't complain (literally). Then again, he and not the Emperor held the rank of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces...
      • He was a maverick even before he fell to the Dark Side. During the Clone Wars, Anakin was known for disregarding protocol and orders from higher authorities - whether it be from the Jedi Council or the Supreme Chancellor - and still ending up with successful results.
    • In the Wrath Squadron trilogy, General Han Solo, commanding the anti-Zsinj task force, discovers one downside to being a Military Maverick:
      Han: With my history, I'd be the laughingstock of the New Republic if I ever brought one of my officers up on charges of insubordination.
      Wedge: Yes, sir, I was sort of counting on that.
  • Sister Miriya from James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Faith & Fire regularly pisses of her Canoness for her "creative" interpretations of instructions given to her, although she usually doesn't disobey the direct orders of a superior and usually gets good results. However, with her actions in the course of the book included discharging her weapon in a library, disobeying direct orders, postponing the arrest of a psyker to go find a deacon and killing that deacon, so it's a miracle she wasn't executed on the spot, this being 40k and all. As it turns out, there was an assassin in the library, the psyker helped them uncover a conspiracy (and was killed later) and the deacon was hoarding psykers for an experiment to try to turn all the humans of the Imperium into psykers, so in recognition of that, she was just demoted into a line Battle Sister and reassigned to another Canoness.
  • Honor Harrington: Lester Tourville used a mild form of this as a method of Obfuscating Stupidity. His persona as a competent but somewhat reckless officer helped him avoid promotion to a rank where he would be at risk of getting shot for either failing or being perceived as a threat to those in power.
    • Captain Aivars Terekhov was another milder form of this. He never once actually disobeys orders, but in Shadow of Saganami he goes WAY outside his authority, requisitioning every ship in range in order to launch an attack against another star nation without a formal declaration of war - and to boot, he commandeers a Solarian freighter in order to recon said system. He does at least set things up so that if things go wrong, his superiors can disavow his actions. As it is, he ends up promoted and knighted.

Live-Action TV
  • Babylon 5:
    • John Sheridan was such a maverick that he participated in a conspiracy against the (increasingly dictatorial) civilian Earth Gov and finally decided to turn his command into an independent country. He also was not a fan of standard military tactics.
    • His predecessor, Jeffrey Sinclair, was a bit of a twist on this: While he wasn't afraid to fight the enemy in battle (more often than not, he'd lead the attack himself), but he was also a master at diffusing conflicts, often through Loophole Abuse and predicting how others would react to his actions. His style tended to make him more enemies within the Earth Alliance than with outside parties.
    • Captain Jankowski presents a deconstruction of the trope. His fellow officers consider him overly Hot-Blooded, or as Sheridan describes him, a Loose Cannon. When Sheridan is offered the career-making opportunity to be Jankowski's XO on a recon mission into Minbari space, Sheridan refuses. Jankowski ends up inadvertently kicking off the most destructive interstellar war in human history when he overreacts during a standoff with a Minbari task force.
  • In the classic (if short) German SF series Raumpatrouille, Commander McLane and the crew of the Orion are this to the extent that the series starts with their being reassigned to 'boring' patrol duty for a couple of years and saddled with a security officer who's supposed to ensure they tread the straight and narrow from now on. Needless to say, that's not quite how it works out.
  • Most of the captains from Star Trek seem to fit this mold. Even Picard was credited with violating the Prime Directive about eight or nine times, and that's in the middle of the series run.
    • This would have some meaning if the Prime Directive wasn't redefined nearly every episode.
    • Often, the Federation seems to survive more on supreme acts of heroism than any actual organised strategy. Against technically superior forces like the Borg or the Dominion (early on, before the Federation learned to counter the latter's advantages), this approaches Conservation of Ninjutsu; elsewhere, it's more a case of One Riot, One Ranger, with single ships scattered through the galaxy. Said ships usually prevail by some fantastically risky tactic, as often as not a brazen bluff or Making Shit Up On The Spot, many times never to be done again. The lack of effective fleet-level planning may derive from Gene Roddenberry's reported dislike for making Starfleet "too military"—feel free to insert any joke about his Air Force background you wish.

Video Games
  • Sergeant John Forge from Halo Wars apparently had discipline problems (with multiple promotions AND demotions) and a cocky attitude, once punched out a superior officer, and even brawled with a Spartan-II. He makes up for it by being extremely Badass Normal. Avery Johnson is another badass sergeant with a checkered past and a cocky attitude; he also happens be a Spartan-I.
    • Now, now, let's not forget Corporal Kojo "Romeo" Agu, whose only reason for not being kicked out of the military yet is because of his sniping skills.
    • In the Expanded Universe, there's Kurt-051, who does a lot of things behind the back of his superiors in order to help his Spartan-IIIs, and Gray Team, the most unruly trio among all the Spartan-IIs.
  • Revan and Malak in Knights of the Old Republic, before their Motive Decay.
  • In Mass Effect 3, the turian general Adrien Victus is widely mistrusted by the turian military for using unconventional and "dishonorable" tactics. He ends up as the leader of the turians after everyone else above him in the line of succession is killed by the Reapers and turns out to be pretty good at it, if still unconventional by supporting such measures as curing the krogan genophage to secure their assistance.

Web Comics
  • In Far from Home, the lieutenant made a paper airplane out of a briefing. Hence, the scouting mission.
  • While Tagon's Toughs were under Breya's employ in Schlock Mercenary the entire crew from Tagon and downwards (i.e. everyone except Breya) arguably qualified. While the Toughs are still as maverick as they used to be, they now work under Tagon, who encourages this behavior. Besides, they're mercenaries and not a military unit, which justifies it. Schlock is special forces in the mercenary company and is arguably twice as much maverick as everyone else.

    Special Forces (all branches) 

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • Snake-Eyes, G.I. Joe (Reloaded continuity), is pretty much insane—and the most dangerous man alive. (In other continuities, he's simply the most dangerous man alive.)

Films

  • Deconstructed in Pacific Rim. Most action films portray disobeying or contesting orders as a positive trait, but the opposite happens early on in the storyline when Raleigh and Yancy ignore Stacker's orders for them to stay in the Miracle Mile outside of Anchorage. Instead, they venture 10 miles out to sea in order to save a small fishing boat, which gave Knifehead the advantage of deeper water. Coupled with their cocky attitudes, this ultimately leads to Yancy's death and Gipsy Danger's destruction. It also marks the end of the Golden Age of the Jaegers, eventually leading to the Pan Pacific Defense Corps only possessing three Jaegers when they attempt to nuke the Breach.
    • It's specifically mentioned by Chuck Hansen that one of the main reasons the Jaeger Program had been decommissioned was because of mediocre and reckless pilots. Chuck's contempt for Raleigh stems directly from his maverick and Screw This, I'm Outta Here! tendencies, which he believes have hurt the PPDC in the past and could possibly do it again in the future.

Literature

Real Life
  • Truth in Television: Special Forces units do tend to be more lax on the rules. Partly because as elite units their superiors let them get by with more—which is as much because special forces tend to recruit soldiers who are self-disciplined and don't need micro-managing, yet are capable of using their initiative, as out of respect for their capabilities—and partly because they're often assigned covert missions where traditional military behavior can be detrimental.
    • Mark Bowden's book Black Hawk Down goes into detail about how this could cause friction with more conventional units. The Army Rangers at Mogadishu in 1993 practically idolized the Delta unit (reputed for extraordinary autonomy and flexibility) as the top rung of the special forces ladder, but company commander Captain Steele was concerned that Delta's "cowboy" ways would rub off too much onto the younger Rangers (not to mention that he thought that "they could be comically arrogant") who needed discipline, while a Delta sergeant first class had an even lower opinion of the Rangers' basic competence, and of Steele in particular. The movie would allude to the tensions with the "this is my safety sir" scene and then the Delta SFC's Expy arguing with Captain Steele on the battlefield nearby other Rangers. (The movie version left out that the real Delta who inspired the "safety" scene defied Captain Steele in full view of other Rangers, without the immediate urgency of combat as an excuse.)
      • According to the book it was worse than that; both Captain Steele and the Delta SFC generalized the Rangers as having been young and inexperienced and seemed to see the Rangers as not adopting the deeper understandings or self-discipline. Egregious examples would include Rangers unknowingly firing on Delta positions at least twice without checking first, and a trio of Rangers attempting to imitate how he was taking cover, apparently not understanding that he was doing so only because he'd found a spot where the cover let him fire with impunity. Unfortunately one of those Rangers would be mortally wounded while in this position due to being exposed.
  • There is a story about a regulation for "Green Berets" (United States Army Special Forces) in Afghanistan to wear regular uniforms and to shave after a photo came out of a topless Green Beret in a keffiyah on the scene at an averted assassination attempt. Not only would it make them more visible, but the shaving cost them street cred in a country full of traditionalist Muslims...so when one of the brass ordered a team to regularly send photos of themselves with their (changing) radio frequency to show compliance, the team simply kept sending back the first and only clean-shaven photo, with their latest frequency Photoshopped in.

Tabletop Games
  • ''Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Space Wolves (Space Vikings) are this to the rest of the Adeptus Astartes, mostly the Codex Astartes-following Ultramarines which causes no end of Jurisdiction Friction. Even more so since the Armageddon Wars, when they took it on themselves to protect civilians and veteran Guardsmen from the Inquisition, who would exterminate any potentially touched by Chaos.
      • Among the Space Wolves, the Blood Claws are the younger troops who have yet to fully master discipline, seeking only to close with the enemy and grab themselves a trophy.
    • Averted for the most part in the Imperial Guard: if a Commissar judges you to be impertinent, cowardly, heretical or doesn't like your face, he can (and will) execute you on the spot.
      • The Catachans, however, are an entire army of Ramboes (via the jungles of Predator) and as such have a special rule; before starting the game they roll to see whether an attached commissar has suffered an "unfortunate accident" miles away from the front lines.
    • According to Ciaphas Cain (HERO OF THE IMPERIUM!), Sentinel pilots are this, as they spend a lot of time operating independently behind enemy lines, leading to mysterious vox failures when receiving orders they don't agree with. Cain himself regularly has to deal with these guys, notably Trooper Magot, Psycho Lesbian and perennial discipline problem. Not that Cain himself has much room to complain as he tends to ignore his own rule book on a regular basis too.
    • The more organized forces of Chaos tend to have this problem: they try to have tactics and carefully planned-out strategies, which are screwed up when their troops decide they should get into combat right now, think they're better at running the show, or hear the gods speaking to them.

Video Games
  • Army Of Two somewhat takes on the Black Hawk Down example; the first mission is set back when Rios and Salem were Rangers, and their initial awe at the sight of Phillip Clyde whooping ass with his bare hands and free running is tangible. Unlike the Delta operators from Black Hawk Down, he's very condescending to them and rather homicidal.
    • In fact, their awe lasts all of five minutes, after which they join the same mercenary company but refuse to work in the field alongside him. (In contrast, according to the Blackhawk Down book the Deltas sometimes helped out the Rangers on-base, i.e. teaching techniques, or in the case of one Ranger building him a custom machine gun grip.)
  • Though the players only see the units after they go rogue, FOX, FOXHOUND and Dead Cell are considered maverick units.
  • In Mass Effect, the Spectres are considered above all authority but that of the Council, and Shepard still manages to be a Military Maverick. Hell, one of the two alignments is called Renegade. And even playing the Paragon side of things, you end up defying the Council and conspiring to get your ship back so you can save the day. And that's just the first game. In the second one, you can get in double the Bunny Ears Lawyering and maverickiness between the Council and The Illusive Man.
    • Jacob Taylor, one of your squadmates in 2, is a former Alliance soldier who's only working for Cerberus because the Alliance refuses to get involved in the colony attacks due to red tape. Despite Cerberus being Mildly Military at best, and Shepard's squad being an extreme Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, he acts the same way he would at the Alliance, and is the only squadmate who makes it a practice to salute.
  • A minor example only: in Crusader, aside from their armor, Silencers are given free rein to use whatever equipment they deem necessary for an upcoming mission. As they are Silencers, their judgement on what they need is generally considered unimpeachable.
  • Rainbow Six as of Vegas and onward stopped being soldiers who did everything in their power to keep the peace while minimalizing the body count of civilians to having to shoot cops just to stop them from detonating a bomb and ultimately throws the guy off the bridge anyway.
  • Razing Storm has Shin as the team's maverick. He tends to wind up alerting enemy presence, wreck jeeps and get his friends killed because he gets too far out into the open.
  • Axton in Borderlands 2 was a former Commmando in the working for the Dahl Marines. Emphasis on "former" because he was facing the firing squad due to his Glory Hound ways and his preference for doing things that were "awesome" instead of following orders. The incident that got him kicked out involved a mission to protect a dignitary from terrorists - only he allowed the dignitary to be kidnapped by terrorists, trailed them back to their hideout, and blew it up, with the dignitary still inside.
  • British Commandos sergeant Jack O'Hara (AKA "the Green Beret", AKA "Butcher"), from the Commandos series. He was sentenced to fourteen years of hard labour after striking an officer. His sentence was suspended upon volunteering for the commandos. According to the tutorials, he is violent and undisciplined, but is more of a nightmare for the enemy than he is for his superiors.
  • The Republic Trooper player character's Dark Side options in The Old Republic often trend towards this; s/he is still a highly effective commando, delivering critical victories to the Republic — but not in the way your superiors, or conventional doctrine, would suggest. By far the most extreme example is in the quest "Subtle Maneuvers", where the player is called on to attend a Senate subcommittee hearing which has been called by an Imperial mole. Mission Control wants you to wait until the Senator has finished haranguing you, at which point you can testify and present evidence of their treason — or you can respond to his first statement by shooting him.
    General Garza: "Ah, Major. You have truly crossed the line this time. I don't even know where to begin. (beat What made you think you could gun down a senator in the middle of an official hearing? This is the Republic! You are not above the law!"
    Trooper: "Don't talk to me about laws — you break them left and right!"
    Garza: "I've bent the rules a few times in my career, certainly — but I've never killed an unarmed public official in the middle of the Senate Tower! You may think you can get away with anything, since there's a war on, but don't think there won't be consequences for this."

    Other/General 
Real Life
  • The Military Order of Maria Theresa was created by the eponymous monarch during the War of the Austrian Succession to be awarded to Austrian officers who showed "initiative" in battle leading to victory. This was specifically intended to encourage commanders in all branches (usually the Army, but sometimes also the Navy) to take risks, as the Austrian commanders kept losing battles for sticking too closely to doctrine and too conservatively to orders—in other words, the award was intended to create military mavericks. This eventually led to the (untrue) legend that an officer had to disobey orders in order to earn the decoration.

Video Games
  • Eiger from Shadowrun Returns: Dragonfall is an extremely by-the-book ex-soldier. This gets her into hot water when she forgets the "ex-" part, and that her new team consists of one hacker and professional anarchist, an ex-cultist on the verge of cyberpsychosis and a street-fighting shaman, all of whom have not only never even read the book, but think the book is best used as toilet paper on general principles.


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