->''"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."''
-->-- '''Princess Leia Organa''', ''Franchise/StarWars: Film/ANewHope''

It can be a cruel life in a typical fantasy story. TheEmpire rules the land with an iron fist, the EvilOverlord is slowly but steadily taking over the world, or a [[TheEvilPrince new government]] ruthlessly takes power. The people are oppressed and overtaxed, but the enemy is just too powerful for anyone to overcome. What can they do?

Never fear, the Rebel Leader is here! Swinging into action (sometimes literally) with their [[LaResistance band of loyal followers]], they lead the charge against evil and fight to free the people!

Almost every rebel group has one of these, a [[HeroicSpirit heroic]] and [[ChaoticGood free-spirited]] person with [[BeautyEqualsGoodness rugged good looks]] and [[TwinkleSmile a perfect grin]]. Sometimes a series bucks the trend by having a PluckyGirl lead the rebels, or perhaps someone who was the [[GovernmentInExile legitimate ruler]] and is trying to get back their country.

Usually the RebelLeader becomes an ally to the main cast, using their expertise and resources to [[WeNeedADistraction distract the enemy]], [[GondorCallsForAid promise to help out at the final battle]] or [[TheAlliance band together]] against a common goal. There's also a chance of a LoveTriangle with the hero's LoveInterest as she swoons over the RebelLeader's good looks. If the RebelLeader is female, on the other hand, there's a high probability of her becoming the hero's LoveInterest herself.

However, in other series [[SlidingScaleOfIdealismVersusCynicism things may not be as they seem]]. Sometimes the rebel leader may make [[GoodIsNotNice questionable choices]] in the fight against the empire, perhaps they're just using the rebel cause to further their own agenda, abuse the [[HumanShield very people they're trying to help]], or are willing to take down the enemy [[WellIntentionedExtremist no matter what the cost]]. Sometimes the RebelLeader will be [[NotSoDifferent just as bad]] as the EvilOverlord he's trying to take down, often leading to MeetTheNewBoss once they've taken over.

Other variations of this trope include a DarkMessiah, a leader who is a very questionable 'savior', or perhaps a DoomedMoralVictor if the odds are ''really'' that bad.

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!!Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* Lelouch from ''CodeGeass'' leads the Black Knights, but plays the facade of a grand rebel leader when he's actually using them for his own ends.
** Well, is it that huge a difference, when the Japanese just want freedom for Japan, while Lelouch wants to cause the downfall of the Britannian Empire occupying it? "You used us!" sounds pretty hollow in the series, when Lelouch essentially uses them not only to get what they want, but to help all the other oppressed people on the planet, as well.
** And really, the Black Knights "used" Lelouch just as much as he used them. Without his charisma and his strategic skills they would all be separate rebel cells. Not to mention that he did save the lives of the first members at Shinjuku. Their right to claim they were "used" was lost as soon as they stopped wondering what was behind Zero's mask, and he ''did'' tell them he was not Japanese, so they must have known he had ulterior motives then.
* In ''Anime/DigimonAdventure02'', Davis Motomiya is the RookieRedRanger of the second team, which forms the primary resistance against the [[ArcVillain Digimon Emperor]].
* Lacus in ''GundamSeed'' was the leader of a resistance group fighting against the leader of her own country.
** To that point, Lacus counts as an {{Expy}} of [[Franchise/StarWars Leia Organa]] above.
* Kamina in ''GurrenLagann''. Simon and Kittan also show signs of this, although Simon doesn't become the official leader until Team Dai-Gurren are done rebelling.
* "The Revolutionary" Dragon, in the ''OnePiece'' universe. His actions and ideas are so outrageous that he was christened as the "World's Most Wanted Criminal." His importance to the narrative wasn't made clear until [[spoiler:Garp revealed to Luffy that his full name is ''Monkey D.'' Dragon, and that he is Luffy's father.]]
* In the final story arc of ''TwentiethCenturyBoys'' Kanna becomes leader of the armed resistance against Friend.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Card Games]]
* ''MagicTheGathering'''s Mercadian Masques block had a creature type called, well, Rebel. Basically, it involves bringing creatures out from your library. Lin Sivvi, who rebelled against the Phyrexians on Rath, fits this trope, and was actually a bit of a GameBreaker back in the day. More recent Rebel leaders aren't quite so broken: Koth, Jor Kadeen, Melira, and Kemba had so game-breaking about them in the Scars of Mirrodin block.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Princess Sally in the Archie ''ComicBook/SonicTheHedgehog'' comics.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Fanfic]]
* [[Fanfic/HalfLifeFullLifeConsequences John Freeman, Gordon Freeman's Brother and saver of humans.]]
* In ''FanFic/WinterWar'', with the war lost, Seireitei occupied, and Yamamoto dead, this role falls to Captain Ukitake.
* Sothe leads [[LaResistance The Heretics]] against [[spoiler: Vaticus]] in FanFic/TheTaintedGrimoire.
* The ''FanFic/PonyPOVSeries'' has Dima leading the deer rebellion against [[GeneralRipper Makarov's]] [[TheEmpire Hooviet Empire]] in the Shining Armor Arc.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film]]
* ''Franchise/StarWars''
** Princess and Senator Leia Organa. The [[LaResistance Rebel Alliance]] has a number of leaders, from political leaders (Mon Mothma, Bail Organa) to military leaders (General Dodonna, Admiral Ackbar, and others), but there's no doubt, especially after Alderaan's destruction, who the symbolic flame of the Rebellion is.
** Leia's mother, Padme Amidala, probably counts as well, seeing as the deleted scenes from ''Revenge of the Sith'' have her forming the Rebellion with Bail Organa and Mon Mothma.
** To a point, Luke Skywalker--destroyer of the Death Star, founder of Rogue Squadron, not to mention last of the Jedi--qualifies as well.
*** "Not the last of the old. The first of the new." ~the ghost of [[TheObiWan Obi-Wan]]. Luke later becomes Jedi master in the EU.
** There really is irony in the fact that the two people who become the driving force of the Rebellion/Republic are the children of the guy who put them in that position in the first place.
* Nigel "The Torch" in ''Film/TopSecret''.
** Subverted because he is really TheMole.
* Mariana from ''Film/TheRundown'', who leads a group of rebels against the CorruptCorporateExecutive Hatcher and his forces.
* [[spoiler:Malcolm Beech]] in ''[[Film/{{Oblivion2013}} Oblivion]]'' is the leader of [[spoiler:the remaining free humans on Earth]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature]]
* Kelsier from the first ''Literature/{{Mistborn}}'' book. He has the rugged good looks, defiant grin and questionable end-justifies-means morality, and is also something of a DarkMessiah and a self-styled DoomedMoralVictor.
** Given a twist with Quellion, a character from the third book who is in many ways a dark shadow of Kelsier, who shows that it's not always pretty when one of these guys actually succeeds in taking power. In his attempts to eradicate all traces of the old system, Quellion becomes just as tyrannical as the decadent nobility ever were. [[spoiler: Of course, it didn't help that the BigBad was prodding him in that direction]].
* ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheOrderOfThePhoenix'' When [[TyrantTakesTheHelm Umbridge]] actively sabotages any chance of the students learning to defend themselves (not because she's working for the villains, but because the Ministry [[NoMereWindmill refuses to believe Voldemort's back]]), the title character and his friends start a secret defense group. In ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheDeathlyHallows'', Neville, Ginny and Luna take up the role after the villains ''really'' take over the school, turning the group Harry started into a full-fledged resistance movement against the [[EvilTeacher Carrows]].
* Henri Tod in ''The Story of Henri Tod'', part of the Literature/BlackfordOakes series.
* Florian in Lloyd Alexander's ''Literature/{{Westmark}}'' trilogy seems to be genuinely concerned with what's best for the people, but is willing to be ruthless when necessary. His lieutenant, Justin, goes further into WellIntentionedExtremist territory.
* Enjolras - the leader of the Friends of the ABC, the student revolutionaries from ''Literature/LesMiserables'' - is this, down to the possibly questionable choices he makes during the barricades.
* From ''Literature/InheritanceCycle'', there's Ajihad, the leader of the [[TheRevolutionWillNotBeVilified Varden]]. Also his daughter Nasuada [[spoiler: after he is killed]].
* Hereward (and Edric) in Marcus Pitcaithly's ''Literature/TheHerewardTrilogy''. (Obviously, both are drawn from history.)
* The ''Literature/{{Deathstalker}}'' series by Simon R. Green has some wonderfully reluctant rebel leaders -- notably 1) the title character, a historian named Owen Deathstalker, who got dragged into leading a resistance by his dead father's plotting and the evil empress's overreaction, and 2) Jack Random, professional rebel, who's led so many valiant-but-failed resistance movements over the years that he's ready to quit and fade into the shadows. [[RetiredBadass He's still got it, though.]]
* Literature/HardToBeAGod features Arata the Hunchback, a professional rebel leader. He was merely Arata when he led his first rebellion, but despite leaving bits and pieces of himself all over the empire, through many, MANY failed uprisings, he's still willing to shoot as many dogs as necessary to make Arkanar a slightly less CrapsackWorld.
* In ''Literature/TheShatteredKingdoms'', two or three kinds of rebel leadership can be spotted. Daryan is heir to the Shadari kingship (a fact kept secret to the occupying Norlanders), but has a friendship and a romance which cross racial lines in a way that would be unacceptable to most Shadari if they knew, and doesn't really want the burdens of leadership anyway. Faroth, meanwhile, certainly intends to be in charge of the rebellion, but isn't particularly effectual, is obsessed with excluding other potential leaders, and is more like a gang boss than a hero. A third character, Harotha, has a significant role, but tends to manipulate and chivvy rather than lead (a fact which causes her problems when Daryan decides he doesn't want to be lead around by the nose any more). In the end, none of them are really the reason the rebellion succeeds, although they all had some impact on how it played out.
* General Val'gor, from ''Literature/InvasionOfKzarch'', serves as the leader of the combined [[LaResistance Kzarchian and Marine forces]], until [[spoiler:he betrays his men and allies in an attempt to take over the planet]].
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/BabylonFive'': Both Captain Sheridan and Mars Resistance leader Tessa Holloran.
* ''Series/BlakesSeven'': Blake is a Rebel Leader of the genuinely dedicated but morally hazy variety.
* ''Series/{{Revolution}}'': Commander Wayne Ramsey of the Resistance. He only appears in "[[Recap/RevolutionS1E11TheStand The Stand]]", "[[Recap/RevolutionS1E12Ghosts Ghosts]]", and "[[Recap/RevolutionS1E18Clue Clue]]". He doesn't actually do all that much, and the episode "Clue" results in [[spoiler: Jim Hudson killing him off]]. It is clear that the rebel leadership is sorely lacking in tactical and organizational competence and an extremely reluctant Miles Matheson has to step in and take leadership. Ironically, he is the one responsible for creating the situation that he is now rebelling against.
* ''Series/TheRevolution2006'': George Washington of the Continental Army.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Mythology & Religion]]
* [[Myth/GreekMythology Zeus]], against his father Cronus and the Titans.
* Satan, in ''ParadiseLost'' and other works.
* [[Literature/TheBible King David]], although supposedly partly by accident.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* ''7.62 High Calibre'': Has Tanya Tormens as the leader of the rebel group trying to overthrow the coup-established government of Algeira, and you can choose to support her efforts, put her down, or play her against the government until you're forced into choosing sides. Interestingly, she's the daughter of the dictator of Palinero, the neighboring country that was the location of the previous game in the series, who himself came to power in a military coup.
* ''AlterAILA'': White/Hawk definitely qualifies.
* ''VideoGame/BioshockInfinite'': Daisy Fitzroy is the leader of the Vox Populi, who fight against the xenophobic Founders. However, whatever idealistic motive she had has since been worn down by the time of the game to simply blind hatred, to the point that she'll justify killing the children of her enemies as "pulling weeds from the roots". However, the Burial at Sea DLC shows that [[spoiler: she was faking the child-murdering part under the orders of the Luteces in order to [[MyDeathIsJustTheBeginning goad Elizabeth into killing her]], thereby [[ARealManIsAKiller strengthening her resolve]] and in truth was horrified by the idea of murdering children.]]
* ''VideoGame/BlazeUnion'': Pandra is one of the nastiest varieties of the trope; he may have originally rebelled out of the people's interests, but has degenerated into being worse than most bandits. As he intends to thieve, pillage, and rape his way through the country, he has a tendency to get curbstomped by the heroes quite often.
* ''VideoGame/BrutalLegend'': Lars Halford.
* ''VideoGame/DevilMayCry'': Sparda in this series rebelled against the demon emperor by allying with the humans. In Devil May Cry 4, long after he is gone, he is worshipped as a God by the people of a city he supposedly ruled after said rebelling.
* ''VideoGame/DragonAgeII'': Anders wants mage Hawke to be this since s/he is a charismatic individual and one of the most influential people in the city. Hawke can work with him without quite assuming the "leader" bit, actively oppose him, or [[PassThePopcorn joke that they just want to watch with snacks.]] In the endgame, [[spoiler: siding with the mages turns Hawke into a worldwide symbol of resistance against Templars.]]
* ''Videogame/DragonAgeInquisition'': The Herald of Andraste is accused of being this in the beginning, with their detractors claiming that the Herald is taking advantage of the unrest in Thedas to claim power for themselves using the Inquisition. This is ignoring that not only is the Inquisition the only group actively trying to fix the problems in Thedas such as the ''gigantic tear in the fabric of reality'', the Herald isn't even its leader (at least at first).
* ''VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim'':
** Brings us Ulfric Stormcloak. Of course [[GreyAndGreyMorality how evil his enemies are and how moral he is is up for debate]]. While the [[ANaziByAnyOtherName Thalmor]] are ObviouslyEvil and TheEmpire signed a peace treaty, they hardly did it by choice, the conflict Ulfric started [[NiceJobBreakingItHero weakened them further]] (and gave the Thalmor an excuse to ensure the ban on Talos worship, something Ulfric complained about and was initially ignored, was being enforced) and the non-Nords (particularly the [[DarkIsNotEvil Dark Elf]] refuges and [[LizardFolk Argonians]]) of the city are freely abused with FantasticRacism (especially those who don't want to take sides in the war). [[spoiler: His treatment of the Forsworn also echoes his complaints about the Empire and it's implied the Thalmor have manipulated him into starting a civil war (while he was a POW, after being captured while serving in the Imperial army) to weaken Skyrim.]]
** Meanwhile, the Forsworn has their own in Madanach, the King in Rags, who wants to see the Reach and its people granted independence. However, it's quite a stretch to call him a good guy, seeing as he's fully willing to commit genocide on the Nords if he gets his way. The game also implies that his warriors are cannibalistic rapists who wear the skin and bones of their victims as their armour.
* ''EmpireEarth'': Russian dissident Grigor Illyanich Stoyanovich and General Sergei Molotov.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyVIII'': Rinoa Heartilly leads the Forest Owls.
* ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXII'': Princess Ashe leads the resistance.
* ''VideoGame/FreedomFighters'': Has Isabella as the moral leader but Chris Stone (aka, the Freedom Phantom, aka the player) doing the work.
* ''{{Freelancer}}'': [[spoiler:Casper Orillion]] is the head of [[spoiler:the Order]], whose primary purpose is to oppose the [[spoiler:Nomads]] in their plot to pit the four Houses against one another to weaken them.
* ''VideoGame/GrimFandango'': Sal Limones.
* ''VideoGame/HalfLife2'': Gordon Freeman, Alyx Vance, Barney Calhoun, Eli Vance, Kleiner, Magnusson, and Mossman.
* ''VideoGame/{{Halo 2}}'': The Heretic, who is killed by the Arbiter. The Arbiter later takes this role, ironically.
* ''JakAndDaxter'': [[GutturalGrowler Torn]] from the second game.
* ''VideoGame/MechQuest'': Odessa Pureheart, the leader of the Soluna Defense Forces and part of Slugwrath's Elite Guard, who takes up arms against the Kingadent after [[spoiler:Slugwrath, who is actually a [[TheQuisling Quisling]] for the Shadowscythe, had her ship sabotaged, causing it to malfunction]].
* ''VideoGame/MegaManZero'': Ciel from this series.
* ''RedDeadRedemption'': Abraham Reyes is a negative version of this, being an egotistical GloryHound whose talents solely consists of using fancy words to rile up peasants. Of course, [[NotInThisForYourRevolution John doesn't care]] as long as Reyes can get him to Bill Williamson and Javier Escuela (which he does). [[spoiler:In the epilogue, as Presidente he does not improve Mexico in any way and becomes [[MeetTheNewBoss just another dictator.]]]]
* ''VideoGame/ReVOLUTION'': The Resistance has one, and his name is Marcus.
* ''ShinMegamiTensei: DevilSurvivor2'': Has Ronaldo Kuriki, ironically representing the Law alignment.
* ''VideoGame/{{StarCraft I}}'': Arcturus Mengsk originally when he lead the Sons of Korhal against the Confederacy, but later took over as TheEmperor. Raynor later takes this role in ''VideoGame/StarCraftII''.
* ''{{Suikoden}}'': Odessa Silverburg, until Tir (the hero) takes over. The protagonist in most, if not all, of the other Suikodens.
* ''TachyonTheFringe'': Susan Bradley is the unofficial leader of the [[LaResistance Bora]] in their fight against the [[MegaCorp corporate giant]] [=GalSpan=]. Far from being a merely a political voice, she personally leads an elite squadron of {{Space Fighter}}s called Susan's Lance on some of the most daring strikes deep in "Spanner" space. Your MissionControl and LoveInterest Anna Highfall (if you side with the Bora) is absolutely in awe of Susan.
* ''VideoGame/TalesOfSymphonia'': Yuan is one of the more cynical versions of this. He means well, but [[NecessarilyEvil his methods]] [[WellIntentionedExtremist are morally debatable.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{The Witcher 2}}'': [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast Saskia the Dragonslayer]] leads the rebels.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
* The Summoner and the Sufferer from ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' lead two major upheavals in Alternia and are also [[spoiler: Tavros and Karkat's ancestors]]. The former is responsible for Alternia becoming a TeenageWasteland while the latter is so infamous even mentioning the symbols of his rebellion in one's private journal is grounds for execution. Not that this stops [[spoiler: Mindfang]] from talking about it.
* In ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'', the paladin Thanh is 'nominated' to lead the resistance in [[spoiler:Azure City]]. The position originally belonged to Haley, until she and Belkar had to leave in order to [[spoiler: resurrect Roy]].
** In the Empire of Blood arc, HeroOfAnotherStory Amun-Zora plays this role. A large part of Elan's character development involves him realising that it can't be him (whatever [[ArchnemesisDad traditional storytelling tropes might demand]]), because the Order's existing quest to stop Xykon and SaveTheWorld is more important than defeating his small-fry EvilOverlord father.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Web Originals]]
* ''Machinima/CultOfPersonality'' has a villainous example in the form of the oWn Medic. He formed oWn in an attempt to rebel against BLU, the company he used to work with and their rival, RED. He does so by assimilating mercenaries from both companies through propaganda or by [[DefeatMeansFriendship defeating them in combat]], proving his superiority. With a sizable enough army, he invaded numerous territories of RED and BLU, taking in defects from both companies.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* Jet from ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender'' seems to fit the typical rebel hero, right down to causing a love triangle, until the kids learn how far he's willing to go.
* In ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'' (sequel to the above-mentioned ''Avatar'') we have Book 1's BigBad, Amon, who is leading an anti-bending movement.
* [[AllThereInTheScript Lard Nar]] on ''WesternAnimation/InvaderZim,'' though he and the rest of [[LaResistance the Resisty]] only appeared in one episode before the show got canceled.
* [[AlternateUniverseReedRichardsIsAwesome Candace-2]] in ''''WesternAnimation/PhineasAndFerbTheMovieAcrossThe2ndDimension'' is the leader of Resistance in 2nd dimension.
* T.J. Detweiler from ''WesternAnimation/{{Recess}}'' for the rest of the students.
* Kanan in ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsRebels'', and is the leader of the Ghost. He has contacts with Bail Organa, one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance.
* [[BadassNormal Caleb]] from WesternAnimation/{{WITCH}}. When he's 15.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
* OlderThanFeudalism: Spartacus is a classical historical example, as well as Boudicca and Hereward the Wake.
* In that context Assyrian history springs to mind, which mostly consisted of very brutal conquest and the invariable (and even more brutally quelled) rebellions afterwards. [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marduk-apla-iddina_II Marduk-apla-iddina II]], known as Merodach-Baladan from ''Literature/TheBible'' was particularly tenacious.
* The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, especially Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, as well as their successors in TheIrishRevolution, most notably Michael Collins.
* UsefulNotes/GeorgeWashington during the American Revolution.
* Latin American ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertadores Libertadores]]'', such as Simon Bolivar, Jose de San Martin, Bernardo O'Higgins, Francisco de Miranda and Antonio Jose de Sucre.
* [[UsefulNotes/VladimirLenin Comrade Lenin]] during the Russian Revolution. Even if that didn't turn out so well...
* Henk Sneevliet and Paul de Groot during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands very nearly got the entire Communist Party of the Netherlands to rise up against the Nazis. Sneevliet was captured and executed, De Groot became a successful politician after the war.
* UsefulNotes/CheGuevara, though not a very good one in fact.
* UsefulNotes/FidelCastro, Daniel Ortega, Cesar Augusto Sandino and Farabundo Marti in Central America.
* UsefulNotes/MaoZedong was this before he became a power-crazed dictator.
* Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the leader of the Libyan rebels.
* Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the French French Forces in UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. They were considered as rebels by the government of Vichy.
* Many, many, many organizers of anarchist movements, especially Nestor Makhno and Errico Malatesta.
* UsefulNotes/AdolfHitler during the Beer Hall Putsch.
* Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini during the Iranian Revolution.
* Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan. Against the Soviet invasion first, then against Mullah Omar's Taliban regime.
* According to {{North Korea}}n propaganda, Kim Il-sung was an awesome guerrilla leader who single-handedly [[WorldWarII/WarInAsiaAndThePacific kicked the Japanese out of Korea]]. Actually, that was mainly done by the Soviet Union in the north and the United States in the south. In the West, it's generally believed that Kim was an actual anti-Japanese Korean guerrilla (of which there were many) whose importance in the war was wildly exaggerated by later propaganda. However, there's a somewhat fringe theory that Kim stole the identity of a dead guerrilla leader in order to boost his popularity.
* Gustav Vasa of Sweden started out as this. Daring escapes, peasant rallying and [[YouKilledMyFather sufficient motivation]]. After kicking out the Danish occupiers he waged war with on the German merchants that paid for the rebellion to avoid having to pay his debts, broke with the Pope and beat down a dozen rebellions from the farmers that helped him take the crown.He used his 40 years on the throne to bring Sweden out of the middle ages.
[[/folder]]

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