"The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will roll even stones along in its course."You've got a massive army at your disposal, but people need to see its size, not only to show off your power, but to hurt morale of anyone who stands against you. So you have them march, either in a straight line that takes all day, or massive formations that cover even the largest fields. Of course, The Empire can be expected to show this off. Of course it's important that they actually fight well, and many Evil Overlords heed that advice, while the logistics of providing food and toilet facilities for such a huge army are usually ignored or Hand Waved. Also, doesn't work if the heroes are using a bottleneck, like a narrow bridge. Or, god forbid, a thin path between the mountain and the sea... In fact it's surprising how often this trope goes south. Truth in Television, going back to most ancient armies. If an Evil Overlord isn't careful, they become Cannon Fodder. Compare Flaunting Your Fleets. Contrast Suspiciously Small Army.
— Sun Tzu, The Art of War
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Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
- Happens at least once in every part of both of Peter jackson's Middle Earth trilogies:
- In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Thranduil's army marching up a hill overlooking Erebor is shown in a flashback.
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug ends with Azog's legions leaving Dol Guldur.
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies shows the armies of Azog, Bolg, Thranduil, Dain and Bard marching in formations.
- The army of the Last Alliance in The Fellowship of the Ring as a flashback.
- Saruman's army in The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers as well as Sauron's soldiers leaving Minas Morgul.
- Sauron's army outside the gates of Minas Tirith in The Return of the King and the Rohirrim coming to Gondor's aid.
- Happens at least once in nearly every Star Wars movie:
- In The Phantom Menace, where battle droids are marching in formation on the Trade Federation Control Ship shortly after the movie begins, and later as they march into battle outside the city on the planet near the film's climax.
- In two scenes from Attack of the Clones: Once on Kamino when the clones provide a display for Obi-Wan (seen in the page image), and again at the end when the clone army marches in formation on Coruscant as they depart for war.
- In Revenge of the Sith, where a battalion of clone troopers marches into the Jedi Temple, led by Darth Vader.
- In The Empire Strikes Back, just before the Empire attacks the base on Hoth.
- In Return of the Jedi when the Imperials greet Palpatine.
- Pretty much the entire point of Triumph of the Will, the most well-known Nazi propaganda film.
- The Qin army in Hero.
- The White Witch's army in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
- Done in Ilya Muromets. It actually has a world record for extras.
- In the teaser for Kung Pow! Enter the Fist's sequel, a massive army charges over a hillside... and the Chosen One just stands there trying count how many's coming at him.
- Played for laughs in Conan the Destroyer:
Jehnna: "Conan! There are six of them against her!"
Conan: "One, two, three...I think you're right!"
- In Spartacus the disciplined cohorts of a Roman legion appear over the horizon and march down in formation to take up position on the hillside opposite Spartacus's slave army. Then a second legion repeats the process - then a third also marches onto the field.
- The Imperial Order in the later Sword of Truth books fields an army that numbers in the millions. To put this in perspective, before they showed up, 100,000 troops was considered a large army.
- In Ayn Rand's We The Living, one of the new Communist movies consists entirely of this.
- In The Silmarillion, at the Great Battle of the War of Wrath, Morgoth's army of Orcs, Trolls and Balrogs has grown so large that it fills the entire plain on which the previous battles were fought.
- In The Wheel of Time The Dragon Reborn has armies numbering in the hundreds of thousands. In The Path Of Daggers, one character thinks to himself that he can remember when 5000 men was a large army, before the coming of the Dragon. Several scenes describe the tiresome logistics of marching and supply, though that gets (much) easier with the advent of Mass Teleportation.
- However, military parades are given very little attention in the series.
- Jesus' army of saints at the Battle of Armageddon in the Left Behind book Glorious Appearing. Of course, they're mostly there to praise the Lord while Jesus does all the work of slaying His enemies with the Word Of God.
- Also the 200 million horsemen that sweep across the globe during one of God's Trumpet Judgments, looking for those that do not bear the Seal of God on their foreheads to slay.
- The Tyrant's army from Chronicles of the Emerged World. Partly justified as 1) the troops are artificially-created soldiers. 2) he has five lands out of eight under his command. From the second book onward, this is brought Up to Eleven as he summon an army made from the ghosts of all those who died in battle.
- The children's novel New World Order takes place in a timeline where invaders from a parallel universe attack Britain during the English Civil War, using WW1 era technology; including radio, rifles, supply trains and zeppelin air support. At the end the majority of the invaders are finally repelled after almost a decade, the general leading the army is imprisoned and the portal to the other world is closed, but a large number of their forces are left behind. The remaining invaders invoke this by converging on Windsor Castle and start marching around it and performing parade manoeuvres, literally under the noses of King Charles II and Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell, the message being "You can crush us but we'll take a whole mess of you down with us. Let our leader out of jail and let's negotiate". They do.
- Ungatt Trunn's Blue Hordes in the Redwall book Lord Brocktree do this when they march, and number enough to be able to intimidate his enemies by causing earthquakes by jumping in sync, making the stars "fall" by lighting torches and concealing the stars in the sky, and making the land "disappear" by standing on it. Of course this is one book where Easy Logistics is averted, the good guys attacking foraging parties in an effort to make them starve. For the most part they succeed, to the point where the "siege" that happens once Brocktree and his allies are in possession of Salamandastron again is more the woodlanders pretending that they're partying it up inside while the Blue Hordes sit and wait for scraps of food to be chucked out the window.
- Cao Cao's army that was set to invade the region of Wu in Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Conveniently, always referred to as a million-man-army.
- Jamie Hewlett's music video Monkey Bee is a remix of a song from his Monkey: Journey To The West album. As expected, it is loosely based on Journey to the West. At the end of the video, the Monkey King is faced with a massive amry of the undead, resulting in a Bolivian Army Ending. The video can be seen here.
- Warhammer 40,000 art likes to do this with the Imperial Guard, Space Marine chapters, Eldar warhosts, Ork hordes, etc. (though in the case of the Tyranids it's more like a Billion Bug March). One Imperial Guard codex even used photo-editing tricks to show just how large a single regiment was, resulting in a two-page spread of four thousand toy soldiers all lined up in formation.
- The Chronicles of Narnia video game battle sequences featured endless swarms of enemies marching past in the background. The developers actually wrote a software app called Battlemarch to produce the effect.
- This trope is invoked by the Sligs for an animation test for the canceled Oddworld game, Hand of Odd. Done infront of a picture of a burger.
- Invoked in cutscenes of Rise of Legends by both Giacomo and the Doge of Venucci. Clockwork spiders and mechanical soldiers, bonus.
- Done at the beginning Gears of War 2, complete with an inspiring speech.
- It's not actually an entire army, but when the US task force tries to arrest Liquid Ocelot in Prague in Metal Gear Solid 4, it takes over three minutes for several dozens of trucks, ten patrol boats, six helicopters, and hundreds of soldiers to come out of their hiding spots and surround his boat on the river. But even with just three mooks and himself, Ocelot doesn't think about surrendering. Instead, in a terrible subversion, he already has the master password to shut down all their equipment and when the soldiers are ordered to open fire, nothing happens. Then Ocelot's mooks mow down the entire Task Force in a few moments.
- Both Rome and Medieval II of the Total War series end the intro videos for factions with this tropes.
- The intro cutscene of Final Fantasy XII features the forces of Dalmasca doing this at one point, with ground troops, cavalry, and transport airships filling the main plaza of Rabanastre in front of the palace.
- Happens several times in the Dawn of War series, most often when invading the faction HQ in Dark Crusade and Soulstorm. Especially when the faction is the Imperial Guard.
- Be very careful about using this in Civilization V. Obviously the best way to keep your rivals informed about the size and state of your armies is to have them visible, and the best way for them to be visible is for them to be right on the border. But if an AI player sees a force mustering on its border, it may call you up and straight-out ask if you're declaring war or not. If you answer "no" and subsequently end up fighting that rival civilization anyway, you'll take a diplomatic penalty when interacting with leaders.
- The Order of the Stick makes use of this trope, with several strips showing the vastness of the hobgoblin army (30,000 strong) before and during the invasion of Azure City.
- Animaniacs had one of these. Episode: 'King Yakko', a thinly disguised parody of Duck Soup with Yakko in the Groucho Marx role. He and his siblings search for the invading army, until it's pointed out. Yakko ends up seeing one of these. He figures it'd take a commercial break to come up with a viable battle plan.
- The opening sequence of Avatar: The Last Airbender contains a shot of a huge crowd of Fire Nation soldiers in front of an armada of ships.
- ReBoot's pilot episode has Megabyte's mooks marching across the underground lair. They aren't going anywhere (yet, as they are waiting for Bob to open a portal), but it looks awesome and is meant to intimidate Bob.
- Military Parades, most famously, the Red Army. China, India and Russia continue to mount the largest military parades in the world.
- Subverted when the communists did their victory parade after taking Saigon, ending the Vietnam War. Having fought mainly as guerrilla fighters the NVA and VC forces had never been trained to march, so they had to do the parade in trucks.
- James Oglethorpe used a forest that hid where his army had come from and where it was going, and marched a small army in a circle to make it look much bigger.
- Rommel succeeded in pulling off the same "unending loop" trick, without the benefit of forest cover and with tanks.
- Improved upon, perhaps by others in the same desert, who used trucks disguised as tanks, tanks disguised as trucks, the truck and tank disguises left behind in the front line where they would be seen, trucks pulling trailers that left the tracks of tanks, fake airfields with fake aircraft (sometimes bombed with fake bombs), fake railroads and railheads 100 miles south of the real railheads, ammo, water and fuel dumps that were sometimes fake covering the real ones. All this constructed to a realistic timetable that indicated an attack several weeks later than the actual attack. Job done. Nazis lose.note
- The Soviets used this trick with strategic bombers during their military parades in the 1950s, deceiving American observers and creating the myth of the Bomber Gap. Believing their long-range bomber fleet to be massively inferior to the Soviet one, the Americans promptly invested as much as they could in research and production of ICBMs. Yes, much of the Cold War arms race was due to this ploy.
- The trick is Older Than Feudalism. Military manuals written in Greece before the birth of Alexander the Great already feature passages detailing how to make your army look bigger than it is. Ploys include the "unending loop" as well as alternating spears to make formations seem twice as wide, marching in single file to make columns stretch endlessly, marching in hollow formations using dust clouds to hide true numbers, and dressing up women as soldiers ("though you should never allow them to throw missiles, for a woman immediately betrays her sex when she tries to throw").
- Another classic tactic is to set a lot of fake campfires when your army bunks down for the night, so your forces look much bigger than they really are
- This sort of trick has been used in other ways as well. Soldiers in a castle under siege in Austria were purported to have paraded their one cow on the battlements again and again each time painted to look differently. It supposedly worked, convincing the hostile forces outside that the castle had so many resources stocked up that it was pointless to try and starve them out in a siege. It was more of a million moo march though.
- Victorious Roman generals would be feted with "triumphs", enormous festivals meant to honour the conquering hero of the Republic. An enormous parade would begin at the Field of Mars, winding its way past shrines while crowds of plebeians roared "Io Triomphe!", before finally reaching the great Temple of Jupiter. The general was followed by his soldiers as well as a host of toga-clad senators and priests, families of prominent patricians, and the Vestal Virgins. Chariots bore the plundered loot of subjugated tribes and captured barbarians were yanked along in chains. The general, at the head of the procession, was followed by a slave who held a laurel wreath over his head while whispering "remember, you are mortal" into his ear. Later, during the Empire, only the Emperor was feted in this manner - whether he had led his troops in the field or not.
- The Trooping of the Colour can look suspiciously like this.
- The elite fighters of ancient Persia were known as 'the Immortals' not because they were particularly invulnerable, but because the fighting column was so deep as to seem never-ending to their opponents.
- Also helped that each individual dressed the same (and covered most of their body) and all generally acted stoically before battle, meaning if one did actually fall another would take its place the next time they got in formation and it would appear to be the same guy.
- The introduction of conscription during The French Revolution meant swelling of the size of the armies into up to tenfold which they previously had been. The sheer size of the armies made up what they were sorely lacking in skill.
- Mongol armies of Genghis Khan and his successors zigzag between this and Suspiciously Small Army. On the one hand, Mongol armies were rarely exceptionally large, if only because there weren't that many Mongolians to begin with. However, as a nomadic people, Mongols could divert much larger proportion of their small population into armies. Since Mongols, due to their nomadic culture and exceptional discipline, could advance far faster than any other army of the period, they could appear seemingly everywhere at once multiplying the appearance of their numbers—and in fact could ensure that their armies could converge where they were needed when they were needed in a manner that their enemies could not match. Finally, as each Mongol warrior had five or more horses, each Mongol army was accompanied by a vast herd of horses when horsed cavalry was relatively uncommon among agrarian peoples.