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Armies Are Evil

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"Just miles from our doorstep, hundreds of men are given weapons and trained to kill. The government calls it 'the Army.' But a more alarmist name is: The Killbot Factory."
Kent Brockman, The Simpsons

The military (Army, Navy, Air Force, whatever) is portrayed as being evil, misguided, or just plain warmongers. They're eager to commit to massive attacks which would leave massive casualties on all sides, including civilian, chalking it up to "necessary losses" or some other such excuse.

Furthermore, they pay no attention to the infinitely wiser and more moral civilian experts, who are in the right and are vindicated in the end when they fix the military's screw-ups.

Note: this trope is not when a heroic army is struggling against an obviously evil one (like, for instance, most World War II stories that pit the Allies against the Axis), but rather when the military as an institution (regardless of factional allegiance) is portrayed in a negative light.

This trope is a relative of Ancient Conspiracy, Government Conspiracy, and Nuke 'em, and is often the mirror image of Science Is Bad, unless the science in question was a military research project to begin with. It is often commanded by General Ripper, and formed of Sociopathic Soldiers. This Army will sometimes, in relatively rare circumstances, make use of Human Wave Tactics ... rare because while civilians are cheap and expendable, good soldiers are not. At least, to the Army.


If a Real Life military is portrayed in this light, expect the film not to be Backed by the Pentagon. Most institutions generally prefer to not be party to their own disparagement. This trope can also be an issue for those who have served in the military, especially if it was the one being portrayed as evil in a work. As of late, Private Military Contractors are becoming a popular alternative in fiction, allowing a writer to employ this trope's usual conventions without offending any real-life armed services in the process.

Ironically, it has been remarked by several commentators that in the Real Life United States, the rulers and high-ranking officials who have been in the military often have less warlike policies than other politicians with the same political beliefs. This has been explained by the fact it is easier to send an army to war when you don't really know what an army is than when they are your old colleagues.


An increasingly common variant of this trope draws on Democracy Is Bad; Soldiers try to do their job, which most of them view as "defend my home from threats" as opposed to "smash the enemy at all costs". They may have incomplete information or bad judgment, but most of them want to do the Right Thing, and are willing to sacrifice themselves to that end at the drop of a hat. They just run smack dab into Sturgeon's Law—for every superior that is A Father to His Men, an Officer and a Gentleman or even just a plain old Reasonable Authority Figure, there are dozens if not hundreds of General Rippers, General Failures and/or Neidermeyers looking to pull a fast one—and as soldiers they are supposed to obey all of them. This is sometimes called "Hate The War, Love The Soldier".

Finally, there's the counter to the prior argument; being a soldier doesn't make you a robot, and that means they still deserve all the hate they get when they cross the line—Just Following Orders is not a justification for committing crimes.

Historically, the English-speaking world has been highly suspicious of standing armies, especially as opposed to local citizen militias. Standing armies were seen as the tool of distant and oppressive centralizing despots, while local militias defend the rights of the people. As a result, Britain subjected the Army to very tight budgetary scrutiny and tended to keep it small and largely overseas; the US did much the same thing upon independence. This is part of why Britain has a Royal Navy, but not a Royal Army. Eventually, both Britain and the US were forced by the circumstances of history to adopt the conventional model of large standing armies; however, while suspicion of the military has all but disappeared, traces of the old attitude remain in the form of the US protection of the "right to bear arms", and the tradition in both countries of organized, state-supported but locally-controlled militias lives on in the form of the National Guard in the US and the Territorial Army (now renamed the Army Reserve) in Britain, as well as the British tradition of tying military units to specific locations. Also historically, people in the rest of the world may well see militaries in this light due to the many, many, MANY military dictatorships that were set up in the interwar period in Europe and in Latin America before and during the Cold War. Turns out setting up a Day of the Jackboot in your own country isn't good PR.

See also War Is Hell and Rape, Pillage, and Burn. The (mostly) opposite of Straw Civilian (but also expect the use of this Trope on Scientist vs. Soldier stories to turn a military man into an iron-clad strawman). Not to be confused with the army of Team Evil.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In all adaptations of Area 88, most of the Area 88 mercenaries are greedy, amoral men who have no qualms about fighting in Asran's bloody civil war. Similarly, the anti-government forces are shown slaughtering Bedouin civilians in the manga. Downplayed with the pro-monarchy soldiers at Area 85, who are depicted as patriots.
  • Ralph's motivation in Str.A.In.: Strategic Armored Infantry comes from his viewing the Union as an Evil Army. Part of his concern is justified, but by the time you find that out, you also realize that he doesn't just hate the Union — he hates everyone.
  • Subverted by Fullmetal Alchemist, while High Command is full of General Ripper types, the generals that remained uncorrupted are moved to dead end positions in the East, or North. The soldiers themselves are honorable, brave men who only wanted to protect the civilians but are instead forced to kill them. The general result is that as soon as the soldiers find out the truth they quickly join the resistance group within the military.
  • The army of which the protagonists are part of in Pumpkin Scissors is this. The war that tore the continent apart has been over for a while, but there's no shortage of corruption and decadence that it's a wonder Alice can still be the Wide-Eyed Idealist that she is.
  • The Allied Federation in Eureka Seven.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • The Red Ribbon Army introduced in the originalDragon Ball is stated to be the most powerful army on the planet (with even the rest of the world's armies paling in comparison), and want to Take Over the World. Every one of their officers is an amoral killer at best and a cackling monster at worst. Their villainy is lessened somewhat by how eccentric and incompetent said officers can be, though.
    • Then there's the Frieza Force introduced in Dragon Ball Z, who are effectively the Red Ribbon Army on a cosmic scale, and with several more levels of competence. Controlling 70% of the universe unopposed, the leaders and generals are not only remorseless killers, but among the strongest fighters in the universe.
  • The military in Genesis of Aquarion performs some pretty nasty experiments on Dark Angels they capture.
  • The Golan/God Land/God's Army in Fist of the North Star.
  • Major Aohi of the National Defense Ministry and the JSDF from Deadman Wonderland. To better clarify, Major Aohi is the one secretly funding the titular prison and is perfectly willing to turn a blind eye to psycho prison warden's Tamki's illegal actions in exchange for the production of an army of obedient disposable super-soldiers, the Forgeries.
    Tamaki: What an awfully anachronistic idea. Turning criminals into disposable soldiers. Typical military inefficiency. But... who cares as long as we get research funding.
  • The JSDF in Ghost in the Shell: Arise are shown to be pretty damn shady. True, they're in rather awkward situation (and financial black hole), what with the grand reorganization and mass downsizing after the war, but it's not really a justification for putting their cyborgs into debt peonage, engaging in illegal arms deals, street murder, covert foreign interventions, general corruption and whatnot.
  • The JSSDF in End of Evangelion, although to be fair, the JSSDF were more like misguided than evil. The only reason that they attacked NERV was because SEELE had manipulated them into doing it, and they all died when SEELE initiated Third Impact. Although their take-no-prisoners attitude does cause one to call their morality into question.
  • The Britannian Military from Code Geass qualify. They have soldiers who have deliberately killed civilians in several notable instances, they're willing to purge entire districts if a member of the Royal Family orders it, the Royal Guard willingly tries to kill a student for simply getting caught up in the whole mess, and they're notoriously bigoted towards conquered subjects. Granted, the whole society is like that, but the military are the ones conquering and killing them. One faction in particular, the Purists, are completely against Honorary Britannians joining the army and have no problems with framing people for murder in order to reap the political benefits.
  • Subverted with Yomigaeru Sora — Rescue Wings where the main characters are all JASDF soldiers and portrayed entirely as heroes and rescuers. Quite very much the shining exception that proves the rule...
  • Subverted as well with Zipang - the portrayals of the 1940s era soldiery is somewhat sympathetic, though the upper officers strongly tends in this way for good reason. Subverted by the Mirai's crew. Also notable is that the Americans are also portrayed as sympathetic and tenacious in spite of the superior firepower of the Mirai, avoiding the all-too-easy pitfall of turning alternate history into a revenge fantasy.
  • Played pretty straight in Hellsing: the Letzte Battalion and the Vatican Army are unquestionably evil, and cause equal devastation when they converge upon London. The latter in particular are so evil that Father Anderson ends up killing Maxwell, their leader, after he goes on a maniacal power trip and orders them to murder everyone in the city.
    • Subverted with the Wild Geese. They are all around good guys and lost souls, but will kill for whatever employer who offers coin.
  • In Clockwork Planet the Army is willing to let 20 million people die than reveal their mistake, and then bring in the Meister Guild who they brought in with no time or information to the problem just to use them as Scapegoats. Even when the mistake is fixed they still try to destroy the city and everyone in it to cover up this mistake.
  • After War Gundam X does this in a franchise that usually doesn't (usually it's more "Armies are flawed"). The protagonists are part of a group that's roughly analogous to pirates, and the organized forces in the show are usually misled (Fort Severn's defense militia under the secretly genocidal Nomoa Long) or outright awful (like the New Earth Federation, which casually reignites an ethnic conflict to get their way). Roybea Roy opts to leave the ship rather than work with a standing national army.
  • Gate, simultaneously averts this and plays it straight. Averted in that the JSDF is portrayed as almost universally humane and egalitarian, always helping the people of the fantasy world their occupying; played straight in that just about every military force not the JSDF (on both sides of the titular gate) is portrayed as Obviously Evil, only interested in exploring the fantasy world (never mind it's outright stated Japan intends to do the same), and is constantly subjected to routine Mook Horror Shows.
  • Attack on Titan seems to treat any military that's not the Survey Corps this way, namely the Marleyan military. Their use of human weapons (not that they see Eldians as human to begin with), Child Soldiers (who are also human weapons), constant racism and elitism and them being full of Complete Monsters all make them count. A plot point is that a couple of their Child Soldiers end up realising that they've been brainwashed by their military and that said military's ways aren't as wonderful as they were brought up to believe.

  • Dungeon Keeper Ami: Dungeon Keepers, who are all worshippers of at least one God of Evil, have standing armies, while the God of Good worshipping Surfacers are feudal and don't have standing armies, having guards and recruiting militia from the civillian populace at need.

  • In the Made-for-TV Movie Locusts, General Ripper wants to use VX nerve gas to wipe out the locust swarms, despite their hovering over heavily populated areas.
  • Inverted in In the Loop. The sociopathic Secretary of State is opposed by Four-Star Badass General "Flintstone" Miller.
    Miller: This is the trouble with civilians wanting to go to war - once you've been there, you never want to go again unless you absolutely have to. (Beat) It's like France.
  • Parodied in the film Mars Attacks!! where General Decker's warmongering instincts ("We have to strike now, sir! Annihilate! Kill! Kill! Kill!") prove to be entirely well founded. The Martian army fits this to a T. They attack Earth completely unprovoked and start sadistically killing everyone For the Evulz. The novelization elaborates that there entire society is based around depopulating planets for fun.
  • Played out on a small scale in It Came from Outer Space (1953) with the sheriff who wants to go in with a posse and the amateur astronomer who's willing to trust that the aliens are telling the truth. It does however subvert this trope in that both aliens and humans are paranoid about the others intentions, yet in reality both are reasonable — the humans just want their friends (who are being held hostage by the aliens) returned unharmed, while the aliens just want to repair their spaceship so they can leave Earth.
  • The Irwin Allen disaster film The Swarm (1978) attempts this, with the military wanting to use pesticides that would damage the environment while Michael Caine keeps suggesting other methods. Unfortunately the threat of the killer bees is so over-hyped (at one stage they cause the explosion of a nuclear power plant) that Caine's continuing refusal is hard to justify.
  • The military branch of the RDA (Resources Development Administration) in James Cameron's Avatar ("Give us more time and a peaceful solution is possible." "There is no time!") It was mentioned once in the first part of the movie these guys aren't properly military, more like very well equipped Private Military Contractors (although they are stated to be ex-Marines in the intro).
    • Note, said ex-Marines seem to be disabled (like the protagonists) or dishonorably discharged (everyone else, even Quaritch).
  • In Short Circuit, NOVA Labs keeps a standing army for any... malfunctions. They're portrayed as dumb and trigger-happy, and the lead NOVA scientist fires the head of the army at the end of the movie. On the other hand, Number 5 was, as far as anyone knew, a robotic war machine gone rogue and potentially hazardous. So one can excuse Captain Skroeder being eager to pull out all the stops to eliminate the potential threat (and PR disaster).
  • This trope tends to pop up frequently in the works of George A. Romero.
    • One of the best known examples is The Crazies (1973), where the soldiers are idiotic and trigger-happy (not that the armed civilians resisting them were much better though), threaten a scientist with violence when he asks for better facilities, and apparently don't even know the faces of their own men (a scientist that manages to develop a cure is put in a quarantine area while trying to deliver said cure). The remake implies that most of the ground forces don't even know what their mission IS, and were literally pulled out of the missions they had been trained for to go on a black ops mission at home.
    • Day of the Dead (1985) had this in spades, with Captain Rhodes being portrayed as an Ax-Crazy and cowardly scumbag, Steel and Rickles as violent, crude thugs, Miguel as a barely functioning wreck, and the other soldiers as apathetic stoners. Played with slightly in that its clear they (like the rest of the cast) have been driven slowly insane by the Zombie Apocalypse and isolation, and many of them have humanising moments.
    • Land of the Dead saw them treated slightly better and they try to protect the poor folks outside Fiddler's Green along with the rich people inside. Both examples have the military as incompetent more than evil
  • Evolution features a General Ripper who wants to napalm the aliens and gets mad when scientists get in his way.
  • The US Air Force in Super 8. Their is to recapture the escaped cargo from the train, but they go to many length to make sure it's caught in secret, such as torturing the former scientist who freed the alien, and starting a wildfire so that the entire town evacuates and lets the Air Force occupy the place.
  • Christopher Eccleston's unit in 28 Days Later at first appear to be the saviors of humanity against the Technically Living Zombies. They turn out to have some evil plans of their own, especially in regards to the women. It's at the very least implied that some of them were decent folks until crumbling under the pressure of the whole world ending (as far as they know), however, and Major West's second-in-command Sergeant Farrell is a heroic and noble man who dies trying to save Jim, Hannah, and Selena from the rest of the soldiers.
  • Attempted in 28 Weeks Later when the Army decides the best way to contain the infection is Kill 'Em All!, infected and healthy alike. Of course, the revelation that "healthy" people can be asymptomatic carriers and The Stinger make their decision seem like the best course of action. Whether this was intentional or not is anyone's guess.
  • In Cube Zero, the army consists only of brainwashed super soldiers who work for the evil government behind the Cube.
  • In X-Men: Days of Future Past, all military characters are portrayed in a very unflattering light.
  • Played with in Chappie. Tetravaal, a Private Military Contractor is largely neutral, and the South African paramilitary police force doesn't want Moore's overly destructive robot, instead being happy to rely on the multi-purpose Scouts. Vincent Moore however, is an Ax-Crazy ex-Special Forces operator, who carries a gun to work and causes the worst crime spree riot that South Africa has ever seen (by shutting down the Scouts) so he can force people to accept his idea to demonstrate what his robot can do.
  • Star Trek Into Darkness: Starfleet is usually "good" because its primary function is exploration, and its only forays into military activity are morally acceptable, like evac or defensive combat. They get a lot more questionable (and the crew gets more squeamish) as the Enterprise is gradually pushed into more military actions, like a Black Ops strike on John Harrison.
  • In the Star Wars prequel trilogy, the Republic initially does not have a military. Attack of the Clones has Senator Padme Amidala fighting a "Military Creation Act" and being targeted by assassins for it. The creation of the Republic's clone army is ultimately a ploy by Chancellor Palpatine to manipulate both sides of the war and get the Senate to vote him more power. The clones themselves are mostly decent people but that didn't matter once Palpatine forced them to kill all the Jedi. By the time of A New Hope, this trope is in full effect.
  • The Ottoman army, headed by Mehmed, serves as the main antagonistic force in Dracula Untold. Contrarily, if Vlad even has an army, it is never seen.
  • The Military that took the apes as slaves in War for the Planet of the Apes lead by the Sociopathic Soldier of the Colonel. The movie has been compare to films like Apocalypse Now and The Bridge on the River Kwai due to this. The great performances of Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson certainly helped.
  • In Bats, it turns out that the only bunch of people crazy enough to fund Dr. McCabe's research was the U.S Government searching for a bio-weapon to unleash on their enemies. The government agent that tells so (to the lieutenant in charge of the detachment sent to hunt the bats) even does it with a matter-of-factly "yeah, we did it".
  • Mostly averted in Kong: Skull Island. Aside from the bloodthirsty Packard, the other soldiers are portrayed sympathetically and they never wanted to go on this expedition and simply wanted to go home.
  • * Many, many B-grade monster movies from the 1950's and 60's (example: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), in which the reason Klaatu/"Mr. Carpenter" doesn't survives the film is because for no reason at all they opened fire on him the moment they found him, even when most of the trouble in the plot happens because some random rifleman got scared and trigger-happy on first contact), and many more in the 80's, 90's and 2000's (example: D.A.R.Y.L., who is a prototype for an Artificial Human experiment — the moment the experiment crew gets him back, the Pentagon wants him terminated and a grown-up, Super Soldier version with no humanity worked on immediately, without thinking about what Daryl's experiences may be applied in other potential fields like creating a better infiltrator) and Brainstorm, which has the military taking over the project and immediately get to work on mass-producing it for soldier training and enhanced interrogation).
    • Especially any Syfy Channel Original Movie. Even if there's no real logical reason the American military would be involved in the slightest, they will find a way to take an antagonistic role. Example: the 2010 film "Stonehenge Apocalypse" had them with a secret base near Stonehenge just so they could pounce on any poor, innocent unsuspecting scientists who happened to be around when weird stuff started. Nevermind that the "weird stuff" happens to be The End of the World as We Know It and the scientists are trying to stop it.

  • Inverted in Tom Clancy's work. Being in the military is usually a reliable sign that a character is good - sometimes this is taken to ridiculous extremes, where a character who is introduced only for one scene is given a service background simply to make them slightly more sympathetic.
  • Mijak's army in Karen Miller's Godspeaker Trilogy which was originally just for dueling warlords but formed into one army under one warlord to conquer all.
  • In the Stephen King novel The Stand, the military is portrayed as being willing to gun down civilians with no compunction. In the Complete and Uncut edition, one group of heroes encounters a group of ex-soldiers who've banded together as a rape gang. The first point is somewhat justified, though - having a disease like Captain Trips going around would make anyone paranoid, especially when it's causing civilization to collapse around them.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five contains a depiction of a strawman general espousing the bombing of Dresden as a victory of military planning and ingenuity. This also seems to be Kurt Vonnegut's opinion of the military in general. Slaughterhouse-Five can also be considered a vicious deconstruction of the belief at the time of the novel's writing that the Allies were righteous, just and committed no atrocities, unlike the Nazis. Vonnegut was a POW being held by the Nazis at the time and was forced to participate in the cleanup in Dresden.
  • While the Animorphs novels play with the idea of Always Chaotic Evil races, the Yeerk Empire, the primary antagonists, are highly militaristic, and the Andalite military is full of proud Colonel Kilgore types and brutal General Rippers. The final book even notes that, upon meeting Andalite civilians for the first time, they are much kinder and humbler than the stereotypical racist, sexist, ableist "arrogant Andalite" they'd previously encountered.
  • Works by Eric Flint:
    • In 1632, the Catholic army at the Battle of the Crapper is portrayed as a combination of murderous and violently lecherous criminals, and slave soldiers who defect almost right away. In contrast, the Poles in 1635: The Eastern Front are a Worthy Opponent.
    • Likewise, the Malwa army in Belisarius Series is composed of enslaved peasants herded around by steppe savages. But the Malwa vassels, the Kushans and Rajputs are honorable as well as effective warriors.
  • MARZENA: Wether you are part of the C-Section, the IJS or the Transhuman Army, the chances are good that you will find yourself surrounded with so much evil that evil itself will stop existing.
  • Timeline: This is one of many works that presents a negative view of medieval warfare. One of the team even goes so far as to claim that when castles finally fell after sieges, everyone inside them was killed, and talks of pregnant women being disemboweled (naturally, some historians believe that this was Truth in Television, judging from the chronicles of the time, while others suspect that the chroniclers themselves were actually exaggerating the atrocities, making the Rape, Pillage, and Burn trope essentially the medieval equivalent to the modern Every Car Is a Pinto trope). It was considered acceptable to do this if cities resisted once their walls were breached, but usually not all citizens would be killed. Regardless, cities would be given a chance to surrender once the siege started, which spared them. If the city surrendered after the walls were breached, they would be subject to a milder sacking.
  • Good Omens has strangely nice benign view of this trope. All the military institutions, be they the human or divine forces are generally depicted as doing more harm than good, yet they're not depicted evilly per se. Notably the American soldiers are shown to be generally nice people doing their job...who don't seem to be quite homophobic or racist in all their view points (although perhaps that's just a bit of racism against an acceptable target, ie, Americans). Without the use of exaggeration, it plays the trope for laughs. With it's serious themes it does say that the worst traits of military forces is their unshakable belief that they're undeniably on the right side however.
  • The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor: When Brian, Phillip and Nick find their way to Woodbury during the last part of the novel, they find it under the thumb of a National Guard unit led by Major Davis, who has his men steal, rape and brutalize the inhabitants under the guise of "keeping order" and "making sure everyone contributes". Davis own narration shows he's always been this way, even during his days as the Drill Sergeant Nasty in the army, and is essentially a psychopath.
  • In Black Company a group of rebel soldiers is caught raiding a village, brutally murdering everyone but a deaf child that is later being raped by them. And they are supposed to be the good guys! On the other hand, after signing new contract with Soulcatcher and before leaving Beryl, Black Company silently sneaks into Beryl's army barracks and murders thousands of sleeping soldiers in order to safely leave the city. In the whole series most of the characters connected to the military are either morally black or grey.
  • In The Dispossessed, the government of A-lo brings in the army to supress a labour strike and kills the protestors using automatic firearms and helicopters. Protagonist Shevek, who is from an anarchist society with no organized military, is suitably horrified and realizes that 'armies' exist so that men can be trained to fight and kill people who haven't attacked them first when given the order to do so.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: Only the bad guys are allowed to have an army starting out. The good guys will only raise one as a last retort when it has grown almost too late, strongly implying they are at best a necessary evil. Bad armies will also completely devastate the countryside while marching and foraging.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Blackadder Goes Forth subverts this: Armies are not evil per se, the men who lead them on the other side...
  • The Initiative in Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Doctor Who: Under Russell T Davies, and spinoffs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures (also both under RTD) occasionally veered into this, particularly in Torchwood such as in the Children of Earth miniseries where they were depicted rounding up children to be fed to alien drug dealers. The level of demonisation was usually tied with the level of Anvilicious political messages. However, in most of their appearances the British (and UNIT) military forces are depicted fairly positively either aiding the Doctor or combating the various alien incursions. It's implied that the Doctor has grown to hate soldiers due to his own actions during the Time War, and he is proven wrong about soldiers more than he is proven right.
  • JAG:
    • Subverted Trope. The U.S. Armed Forces (naval service in particular) is portrayed, save for a few bad apples, as the very finest America has ever offered to the world. In fact, it's implied to be the only place in America where a person can be fairly judged without any prejudice.
    • JAG wasn't Backed by the Pentagon for the first two seasons because the Navy, following the Tailhook incident and the controversy of introducing females on combat ships and fighter planes, were in a hyper-sensitive mode and didn't want to be associated with a TV-show dramatizing crimes committed in the service.
    • Played straight with the Royal Ulster Constabulary in an episode taking place in Northern Ireland, mostly so that the IRA could be portrayed as heroic freedom fighters. For some strange reason this line of reasoning was not used Post 9/11 with regards to US forces and various Islamic terrorist groups with similar claims of being "freedom fighters".
  • Revolution: Everyone knows what happens when the militia comes to call. The episode "No Quarter" has Miles saying that you don't fight the Monroe militia... he says this because he was the one who trained them that way.
  • Stargate SG-1: Even though it paints the Air Force is a rather better light, there are still times where, despite General Hammond's best efforts, the SGC receives orders to do some morally lacking tasks, such as mining a rare mineral out from under a group of Native Americans on another planet. Usually, these orders come from the National Intelligence Department or their bosses in the Committee.
  • Stargate Universe: Divides the characters into military and civilians, who are constantly at each other's throats. And both of the leaders are Jerkasses.
  • In Helix Major Balleseros is ostensibly the USAMRIID/Army Corps of Engineers liaison to a CDC rapid response team that's been dispatched to Research, Inc. to contain an outbreak of The Virus. But Balleseros' cryptic conversations with Arctic Biosystems' lead scientist Dr. Hatake and blatant sabotage of some of the CDC's efforts imply the Synthetic Plague from which the virus originated is government-funded, and he's been sent to help keep it secret at any cost. In spite of this, he's out of the loop enough to be taken aback when he witnesses various disturbing happenings at the base, including stumbling onto a group of frozen monkey corpses in the artic snow.
  • An episode of the Time Travel series 7 Days (1998) revolved around a nuclear exchange started at a U.S facility which launched its missiles after a tense international incident led to them losing contact with Washington. Its implied by the scenes set at the base before the time travel jump that the hawkish military commander, one of two officials at the base with the key needed for launch, had started the exchange. Its then subverted when the main character discovers that it was his counterpart, the liberal civilian official, who had suffered a minor breakdown and enforced the launch in a fit of paranoia. Another episode plays this straight, with a General Ripper leading a coup against the President with an amassed army of soldiers loyal to him, with the main character having to go back and take him down at his HQ before the attack can launch.

    Tabletop Games 
  • As per the Tag Line of Warhammer 40,000 ("In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war."), military action is standard as opposed to special circumstances where this trope will usually be used. This mostly removes any other options for any side from the vicious cycle the galaxy is in, leaving combatants relatively grey at best. Every army in this game is an example of this trope. Even the Tau, Imperial Guard and some of the less zealous Space Marine chapters. You know, the armies usually referred to as "the good guys" of the setting. And then there's the "evil" factions... The Dark Eldar are an unholy mix of The Fair Folk, Space Pirate and Combat Sadomasochist who raid remote planets and installations to take captives for slaves, playthings and to harvest our souls for their consumption. Then, there's the Orks, Blood Knights who think nothing of rampaging across the galaxy and slaughtering anyone foolish or brave enough to stand in the their way. Oh, and the forces of Chaos... well, the less said about them, the better.
    • Surprisingly enough for the setting, the Imperial Guard mostly avert this trope (yeah, you heard) because generally speaking your average Imperial Guardsman is just a normal human soldier doing his duty to protect the Imperium. Occasionally the bureaucratic and theocratic elements - civilian rather than military - like the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy (the organisations that direct the Guard) sometimes fall under tyranny, but it's not universal. In other words, the Guard are usually treated as the victims of those running the show, as a way for the reader to experience the full weight of the grim darkness. Of course it all depends on who is in charge of the regiment focused on when it comes to the Guard being evil.
    • The Imperial Army during the Great Crusade played this straighter than the Guard, since its mission was conquest rather than survival. It's hard to ignore the fact that in the course of fulfilling the ostensibly noble goal of reuniting humanity and making it a galactic superpower the Imperial Army destroyed hundreds of human worlds who wouldn't comply. They also enacted campaigns of xenocide as well. Even worse, this was when humanity was at its prime, meaning they were all but unstoppable.
      • That said, they were in their prime relatively speaking to ten thousand years later. The Great Crusade's goal was reunification following the 5000 year long Age of Strife. Lost Technology makes it certain that the old governments army was significantly more powerful.
  • The Praetorian Ministry of Mage: The Awakening is a faction of the Ancient Conspiracy called the Seers of the Throne who invoke this trope to scare Sleepers (Muggles) away from Awakening as a Mage. After all, when war becomes atrocity, seeking enlightenment is the last thing on anyone's mind.

  • This seems to be a tradition in the various Transformers toy lines. Robot characters who turn into military vehicles such as tanks and fighter planes are typically Decepticons, in contrast with the heroic Autobots who have mostly civilian vehicle modes. Autobots with military vehicle modes do exist, but they are not common.

    Video Games 
  • The army of The Empire in Drakengard is made out to be this, but it goes even further when their soldiers start to speak while you travel the castle in the first level. They all speak in a monotone, in a sort of stuttered, robotic fashion, and at times show single-minded obsession for a certain goal. This is the result of the Big Bad mind-controlling them all into being her servants.
  • In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the New Rubinelle Army is seen as this. While the IDS Army is an army of clone soldiers, there is absolutely no redeemable CO nor soldier within the ranks of the NRA. Greyfield's an incompetent butcher, Waylon only cares about his own well-being and Davis is a cowardly sycophant.
  • Fallout
  • In Half-Life 1, the surviving scientists are overjoyed by the arriving United States Hazardous Environment Combat Unit... who immediately commence a savage purge of the facility of everything that moves, alien or human. This gets double ridiculous when you play as one of the Marines in an expansion pack and despite the fact that you never go rogue, a taskforce of government Black Ops agents try to kill you, even though that's what you're supposed to be doing. This is explained by the fact that the HECU failed to contain the alien invasion, and eventually retreated altogether, so Black Ops moved in with orders to destroy everything, including remaining witnesses and Army stragglers.
  • The ur'Guard of Lusternia, who emphasise discipline, unity and absolute obedience over piddling matters like "compassion" or "living".
  • In [PROTOTYPE], the United States Marines are presented as Punch Clock Villains whose primary goal is to contain the Infection. Meanwhile, the Blackwatch organization controlling the occupation are the real villains, and have no qualms with massacring civilians and nuking Manhattan. Their Badass Creed even goes so far as to point out that "nothing is sacred" and "we will burn our own to hold the red line." To be fair, despite their gung ho appearances, Blackwatch is right. Only the random fluke that a particular strain of the Blacklight virus that thinks is Alex Mercer is not bent on destroying all humans (though it is an unrepentant murderer, it doesn't want to destroy the city) makes them villains. The rest of Blacklight is an unstoppable plague bent on destroying humanity and Blackwatch are the sole thing that can stop it, as far as they know. What makes Blackwatch monsters is their willingness to experiment on people (which started this whole mess). The marines, while presented as most definitely gung oh, are almost shown sympathetically, being used as meat shields by Blackwatch, (ultimately left on Manhattan when Blackwatch plans to nuke the island, and being woefully unprepared and uninformed about what they are facing.
    • In addition, Blackwatch's reason for creating such virus in the first place was to make biological weapons capable of targeting specific minorities. Once that caused the Hope incident, Blackwatch switched over to their current practice of shooting first, performing autopsies, and never asking questions.
    • This attitude doesn't work well when a shapeshifter is your enemy. When impersonating a Blackwatch member Alex can freely kill anyone without suspicion so long as he loudly announces that he thinks it's him in disguise and can call Blackwatch airstrikes on their own men and bases because of this attitude.
    • They get worse in the sequel. Heller can collect audio logs left by Blackwatch soldiers and every single one is a recording of some kind of puppy-kicking evil perpetrated by them. It's like sociopathy is a required personality trait for joining Blackwatch.
  • The majority of the antagonists of Xenogears are members of the Gebler Special Forces, the state army of the Sacred Empire of Solaris. Some of their highlights include: Staging a suicide attack on the power plant of an enemy capital knowing full well it would kill thousands of innocent civilians. Menacing women and children with 30 foot tall Humongous Mecha. Attacking a pacifist nation with virtually no standing army of its own. And sicking a gigantic autonomous weapon on the capital of a recently liberated puppet state in order to eradicate it. Interestingly enough, every member of Gebler eventually Heel Face Turns except for two: Vanderkaum and Miang. Vanderkaum is an idiot and dies early on in the game, and Miang is actually the Big Bad.
  • In Beyond Good & Evil you have the Alpha Section, a shady group who always seems to arrive too late to be any good to anyone. And for some reason they've set up barriers all around Hillys. And they don't seem to be doing anything to stop all the recent abductions. This is inverted by Hillys' regular army though, who actually are good and decent, but are being done away with by the Alpha Section.
  • A variant in the F.E.A.R. games. The protagonists in each game are members (former or otherwise) of highly specialized but still official military forces and are decidedly the good guys (F.E.A.R. team in the first game and Delta Force in the second). The enemies, meanwhile, are all private groups, either the cloned killing machines making up the Replica forces, or irredeemably evil corporate mercenaries under Armacham's payroll.
  • Many Final Fantasy games have this, starting with the Palamecian Empire soldiers in II, the Red Wings in IV, the Imperial Army in VI, the Shinra army and SOLDIER in VII, the Galbadian army in VIII and PSICOM in XIII. All of these engage in various atrocities including razing population centres, terrorizing civilians, deforestation, theft and pillaging, scorched earth tactics, abuse of prisoners of war, summary execution and general acts of oppression. Interestingly, the regular Shinra soldiers and the Galbadian army share almost identical uniforms, including the 3 eyed visor helmets, despite being in different universes.
  • Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, provide us with the Borgia army which happens to be the official army. The good guys Ezio can ally with are the Condottieri and Merccenari.
    • Revelations subverts this with the Ottoman Army - whilst they will still (try to) kill you and bully the citizens of Konstantiniyye, they are serving the lawful authority and hate the Templars. After you kill their commander, it is revealed that he was good all along. Played straight with the Byzantine Army.
  • Dead Rising, featuring the standard "scary guys with assault rifles and gas masks who try to kill you to cover up everything" depiction of the U.S. Military that appears in countless other works such as [PROTOTYPE], Half-Life, The Crazies, etc.
  • The Subspace Army from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Subverted with the Ancient Minister and his R.O.B. Squad. While they do side with the Subspace Army initially, it becomes clear as the plot is revealed that they are being forced into doing so. The villains (Ganondorf, Bowser, and Wario) under the guidance of Tabuu, have essentially enslaved them, and the Ancient Minister joins the heroes as R.O.B. for the rest of the game, essentially making him and his kind Tragic Anti-Villains.
  • Grandia:
    • The original game featured an insanely corrupt private military, the Garlyle Forces, which are comman by a infectee of the bug-like Big Bad. The Forces were set up to protect archaeologists as they excavated ruins, but they wound up stockpiling all of the excavated technology for themselves. They've also suppressed information, most notably that there is no "End of the World", and are busy making mischief in defenseless foreign lands. A bunch of tools all around. They do turn face near the end of the game, but only after the mad General has slaughtered many of them.
    • Shows up in the sequel, Grandia II, with the Knights of Granas. Ostensibly there to protect the faithful from the influence of Valmar, they never seem to help any situation they get involved in, with tactics that would fit well in Warhammer 40,000. This is actually important when it turns out their leader, Pope Innocentus, reveals that Granas is dead and attempts to ascend to godhood himself, and sends the Knights out to slaughter any civilians who won't accept him as their new deity. As Mareg put it:
    "Tis murder in their eyes, not madness!"
  • In Skies of Arcadia, the imperial armada is the tool of conquest for Empress Teodora. Unfortunately, the armada is led by a highly-charismatic Grand Admiral who tires of taking orders. He eventually proposes a coup, and nearly all of his lieutenants greenlight the plan without hesitation. (One abstainer is Thrown from the Zeppelin, and another runs home to tell the Empress and become a Grand Admiral himself.) Said plan entails blowing their home kingdom to smithereens, just to show the rest of Arcadia that they're more powerful than even the Empress.
  • In Metal Walker, this happens in the backstory. In contrast to the peaceful Professor Eriko, Professor Xenon wanted to use Cores for military purposes. Cue an explosion and a ruined landscape.
  • In Pokémon Black 2 and White 2, New Team Plasma has changed its outfit from Knight Templar style to paramilitary, with what looks like body armour and military style berets. Obviously, they're not very nice.
  • Sword of the Stars: In-Universe, the Utilitarian sect has this opinion and does not support SolForce or condone its adherents enlisting. On its part, SolForce is quietly patronising of their disdain.
  • The Khadaganian army from Evil Islands definitely falls here.
  • Beyond: Two Souls has this in the form of the US government. Despite multiple experiments that have shown that the Infraworld (the game's term for the spirit world) has inhabitants that are actively malicious and will kill anyone they can get their hands on and no one can stop them, for some reason the military thinks it's a good idea to try and conquer it.
  • The Pigmask Army in Mother 3 serves as the antagonist group of the game. While a lot of them seem to be decent people when they're off-duty, the goals they're working toward are anything but moral. However, it's implied that they might not actually even be aware of what it is that their leader is trying to ultimately accomplish, that is, destroying the world.
  • Every organized armed force is depicted negatively in The Last of Us, including the US Army before the apocalypse, the FEDRA soldiers after it, and the Firefly resistance forces fighting against them.
  • The Thing (2002): Unsurprisingly, the U.S. army wants to weaponize the Thing. Colonel Whitely event shoots Dr. Faraday when he objects, though it's implied that he was already infected by that point.
  • Earthgov in the Dead Space series tends to lean towards this and Militaries Are Useless. Pretty much every time they get involved, they try to kill Isaac Clarke or his allies and proceed to actively make the situation worse. The only real aversion in this is John Carver in Dead Space 3 who proves to be a stalwart ally despite some initial (and understandable) friction between him and Isaac.
  • In the early Doom titles, Doomguy's backstory has him defying this trope by beating his commanding officer to a bloody pulp for ordering him to shoot civilians. Even in the game itself, the Union Aerospace Corporation's mishaps, which cause the demons to invade Mars' moons and later Earth, happen more by accident than by their ambition getting the better of themselves. Even in Doom 3, the UAC is somewhat amoral, but still above the actions performed by the demons and by Big Bad Malcolm Betruger. Played straight though in DOOM (2016) where they have degenerated into a borderline cult of evil in their attempt to find a new power source to save Earth from its energy crisis, and most of them have since been killed or transformed by the Lazarus Wave. Some of the only ones who weren’t were the Big Bad, Olivia Pierce, and your Mission Control, Dr. Samuel Hayden.
    • Although to be fair, it was strongly implied that the whole cult thing began because of the corrupting influence of demons. On the other hand, that sort of thing should have been expected when you are trying to tap into the hell dimension to sap its demonic energy.
  • The Rebel Army in Metal Slug, who serve as the primary antagonists and were formed when General Morden went mad with grief over losing his son in a terrorist attack that could have been avoided had there not been corruption within the Regular Army. As for the Regular Army itself, while they did have issues with corruption (at least, until Morden's actions forced them to get their act together), they're more of an inverted trope.
    • There's also the Ptolemaic Army from Metal Slug 5, who are a cross between this and guerilla forces, with some Cult tendencies thrown in.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: Played with. The one military character seen in the Old World recordings is General Aaron Herres, who was a Reasonable Authority Figure. However, he himself believes this by the end, especially as he considers the legacy of his chosen trade to be the extinction of all life on Earth - and his one redeeming act to be protecting Project Zero Dawn by having humans go extinct first. His final act is to condemn his life's work and beg for forgiveness from the generations yet to be born.
    Herres: My only lasting achievement was the extinction of life on Earth. And my one redeeming act – if any – was to delay that extinction by days or weeks by throwing more death at it. It is my hope that there will be no need for men like me in the world to come. If you are one of the people of that future world, listening to this message, please know that I am sorry, and that I wish you well.
  • Punky Skunk: The BB Brigade is serving Badler by tearing up the islands and helping him expand his empire.

    Web Animation 
  • Deconstructed in Half-Life but the AI is Self-Aware. The U.S. Military starts wiping out everyone at Black Mesa following the Resonance Cascade as in the original game. Since their strategy consists of bombing everything they can and charging in guns blazing at any enemy they run into rather than use actual tactics, and Black Mesa actually providing them with most of their funding and weapons, the whole operation falls apart thanks to massive casualties and quickly burning through their resources.
  • In RWBY, General Ironwood brings a portion of the Atlas Military with him as security for the Vytal Festival in Beacon Academy. Since the actions of the series Big Bad are becoming noticeable, he feels that this is a sign of protection that will deter aggressors. Big Good Ozpin states that a guardian is a symbol of protection, while an army is a symbol of conflict. The masses will be on edge, wonder what threat a force so large is meant to fight, and their negativity will in turn attract the Grimm. This then gets driven Up to Eleven during Volumes 7 & 8 where Ironwood becomes an Arc Villain.

  • Got a massive Lampshade Hanging in this Sluggy Freelance strip.
    General: There are basically two divisions in the collective we call "The Military." There is the heroic military, as represented in most of your early war movies, and the conspiratorial military (filled with subterfuge and deception), as represented in bad sci-fi films and The X-Files.
    Zoe: And you would be from ...
    General: General Mayhem! Pleased ta meetcha!
  • ARES in the Deviant Universe.
  • An unusual example from My Life At War, with PMCs from a libertarian society who have no concept of nationalism views a nationalist army as group of sadist fighting just for the sake of it. Instead for something else that make more sense, like money.
  • Anecdote of Error: Alemi’s armed forces, the Dalgysume, commit war crimes as a matter of course. They consider a school full of children to be a legitimate military target, and their founder was known for killing his captives by tearing them limb from limb. As a result, his killer is honored as a hero everywhere except Alemi. But in Alemi, people believe his victims deserved it, which completely disgusts Yensha when she hears this.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama does this many times for humor, normally involving Captain Zapp Brannigan, but it all goes wrong, leaving the gang to sort things out. This also happens in the movie Beast with a Billion Backs. Of course, Zapp isn't so much evil as a narcissistic, incompetent Miles Gloriosus, who doesn't understand the consequences of his behavior, but that he doesn't care when he sends waves of his own men to pointless deaths is evil enough.
  • This trope origin of the villains in The Transformers. The Transformers originate as manufactured robots-for-sale thaty Turned Against Their Masters after achieving self-awareness. The heroic Autobots were the consumer goods, the evil Decepticons were the military hardware. Both race's culture and mentality remained in those two mindsets - peaceful Autobots, power-hungry Decepticons.

Alternative Title(s): The Evil Army, Evil Army


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