Follow TV Tropes

This entry is trivia, which is cool and all, but not a trope. On a work, it goes on the Trivia tab.


Backed by the Pentagon

Go To

“It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film.”

If you're an American producer and you want to get some impressive combat scenes in your movie, you can call the Department of Defense (DoD) and ask for some of their fancy equipment, plus any of the appropriate servicemen who happen to be free. As the examples show, Uncle Sam can be very generous to filmmakers and help you avert tropes like Artistic License – Military, Improperly Placed Firearms, and Just Plane Wrong.

One reason for this is, if the film is positive about the military, it is good public relations, and thus the movie supports the mission. If the movie is really good — both a positive portrayal of the military and a box-office success — it may even be a boon for military recruiting. Indeed, the Navy stated that after the release of Top Gun, the number of young men enlisting with a desire to be Naval aviators went up by 500 percent.

There's a catch — a Department of Defense project officer will keep an eagle eye on the script and production phases. If they don't like the portrayal of the military in your film, they will yank the co-operation. This was a major reason for the failure of the TV series Supercarrier. Other movies DoD rejected include Forrest Gump (because the army protagonist was stupid), Mars Attacks! (because everyone was stupid), and Independence Day. By the way, that last one should tell you Pentagon refusal isn't always about wanting to look good, but for any number of reasons that may seem arcane to non-DOD personnel; Independence Day wasn't supported not because it made the military look evil or incompetent, but because it infringed on certain (then-classified) facilities that the Pentagon cannot legally either confirm or deny regardless of its dissemination into pop-culture, certainly not in film.

Still, if your film just has to have a full-sized aircraft carrier, where else can one turn? There are options for creative filmmakers. For instance, The Asylum filmed its Battleship knockoff American Warships on a museum ship, and CGI can accomplish a lot. But for sheer accuracy and time-saving, Pentagon backing remains an enticing option.

Note that while production assistance rarely comes from all the military services, nevertheless all projects must, without exception, be approved by the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, or his designee, before any full official support can be granted at all. If a production is for instance primarily about the Navy and Marine Corps, the production team will probably only maintain contact with representatives from the Department of the Navy. Which can occasionally lead to some amusing results. The Navy technical advisors will be very careful about getting Navy details right and making sure the Navy looks good on the screen... but might not care one bit if it makes the Army or the Air Force look bad!

As might be gleaned from that list, movies can certainly succeed and even thrive without the DoD's help. Still, it costs quite a bit more money to go it alone, so some filmmakers give concessions on the script rather than face studio rejection. Sometimes this can be subtle, while other times it becomes almost a form of Executive Meddling. This article covers things in a little more depth.

This is not a solely American trope, of course - it has happened on both sides of the Iron Curtain (the Red Army supplied extras in astonishing numbers to several epics), and elsewhere. The Irish Army lent forces to Braveheart, leading to suggestions that it was their biggest operation for years. Nazi Germany's propaganda minister also got the German Army to loan thousands of troops for extras in use in historical epic films, notably The Great King in 1942.

It’s also not limited to the military. If you're shooting a motion picture or television series about any kind of specialized public profession with either lots of hardware or specific locations; such as a police department, fire department, space agency, or even ocean lifeguards; it can be very beneficial from both an artistic and financial point of view to get help from the real thing.


    open/close all folders 

US examples

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Act of Valor (which started life as a recruitment film) takes this to an even greater extreme, as the main characters are all played by real U.S. Navy SEALS (who were between deployments at the time of shooting), the crew was given unparalleled access to Navy equipment, live ammo was used for most scenes (not to mention a scene where a truck gets blown up with an RPG that was done for real without any effects) all the tactics used in the film are real, and several things in the film are based on real life missions. It's worth mentioning that the film gained a considerable amount of support after Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. SEALS.
  • Apollo 13 received a lot of help from people at NASA, astronauts and ground crew alike, to ensure all the technical details were as accurate as possible. As a result, some of the reproduction shots were so good that they fooled NASA into thinking they were the real deal, with Buzz Aldrin asking where they got such good stock footage of a Saturn V launch. One NASA technical advisor left the set one day looking for an elevator (the set of Mission Control was on the ground floor, while the real Mission Control in Houston is on the 2nd floor of the building it's in).
  • Armageddon (1998), had official support from both NASA and the Pentagon. NASA now uses the film as a test for hiring managers: spot all the inaccuracies in the film.
  • Backstreet Dreams was produced with the cooperation of the police, with some officers even playing minor roles.
  • In Battle: Los Angeles, the USMC provided a number of troops to serve as extras, and lent a huge amount of aircraft such as various helicopters and even V-22 Ospreys. They also allowed the crew to film some parts of the movie in Camp Pendleton. Behind the scenes, the cast were trained at a boot camp run by military advisors to make sure they acted, fought, and spoke like Marines. Aaron Eckhart joked that they were very particular about the terminology they used, such as calling a helicopter a "helo" instead of a "chopper".
  • In the film adaption of Battleship, the US Navy bent over backwards to provide both locations and personnel for the shoot. Those extras and even most of the named characters in the film? Serving personnel, some of them playing themselves.
  • Black Hawk Down did make a major change to the true story, possibly at the Pentagon's behest. The clerk was replaced by a fictional character, for the very good reason that that person had been convicted of sexually assaulting his own daughter.
  • The scene in The Bourne Identity in the US Consulate in Switzerland features a team of US Marines who are the actual guards of US Embassies and other State department buildings.
  • Tom Clancy's Clear and Present Danger Underwent several revisions between book and film at the Pentagon's request. Most notably, a scene in which Ryan convinces the crew of an Air Force helicopter to fly a rescue mission - without proper orders - was changed to him purchasing a civilian helicopter with CIA funds.
    • Similarly, the novel depicts an Air Force F-15 shooting down unarmed aircraft without warning.note  This was changed in the movie to having the commando team blow up a smuggler's plane on the ground.
    • A secondary plot line in which the crew of a Coast Guard cutter conducts a mock execution in order to get a pirate to confess is omitted almost entirely, the film only showing the pirates' capture.
  • In Jack Webb's The DI, active-duty Marines portray all but one of the recruits.
  • In the World War II set film The Enemy Below, the crew of the destroyer used for the film played the role of the ship's crew in the film, including the captain, who played the chief engineer.
  • The Final Countdown features a considerable number of the crew of the real USS Nimitz. About the only thing they couldn't do was ask the captain to actually sail into Pearl Harbor (the Nimitz was stationed in the Atlantic at the time).
  • The French Connection had Eddie Egan and Buddy Rosso, the real-life cops the story was based on, hired as consultants. They were able to use their connections to get a verbal agreement with the NYPD and MTA to shoot the ending chase scene in Brooklyn. The law required trained personnel to operate the train, so real MTA staff, including the conductor, played their respective parts in the film.
  • Greenland: The movie heavily features US Air Force and Army personnel, as well as being filmed on-location at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra featured real Apache helicopters flown by real Army pilots. Odd, as most of the film deals with fantastic vehicles and weapons that bear no resemblance to the real military.
  • The Department of Defense served as advisers for the portrayal of the Navy in Godzilla (2014) while also providing ships and aircraft for use in filming. The DoD wanted the Navy in particular to be used for the film because they had relatively little presence in films of the previous decade compared to the Army and Air Force. It was reportedly a tricky balancing act between portraying the military in a heroic manner and showing them as largely useless against the Nigh-Invulnerable monsters they face. This article also describes some of the behind the scenes things that took place for this film.
    • Notably, military vehicles have no positive effect on the monsters and sometimes a detrimental one to humans (Godzilla taking out the Golden Gate Bridge can be directly attributed to the Navy ships firing on it, the helicopter attack in Hawaii only succeeds in destroying several passenger jets in a crash), but military personnel on foot do make successful strikes or delaying actions.
  • The Green Berets is one of the most famous examples of this. Legend has it that John Wayne personally requested support from Lyndon Johnson.
  • The Hunt for Red October: The film-makers were allowed in the real USS Dallas to take photos of non-classified areas. Scott Glenn (who portrayed the CO of the Dallas), rode and trained aboard an actual submarine at sea. Though the actual USS Dallas was unavailable for shooting and was portrayed by the USS Houston for most scenes.
  • The Interpreter was filmed inside the actual United Nations building, including the chambers of the General Assembly and Security Council, making this the fictional film to be filmed inside.
  • The Georgia Army National Guard provided assistance to Invasion U.S.A. (1985)'s production, including the Patton tanks, Huey helicopters, M113 APCs, and the soldiers you see towards the end of the movie.
  • The US, British and French militaries supplied about 23,000 troops during the filming of The Longest Day.
  • The military was very helpful with their portrayal in Man of Steel, as they ultimately help save the planet alongside Superman.
  • The Martian consulted extensively with NASA to ensure an accurate depiction of the Mars mission, to the point where the Ares missions in the movie are based on actual NASA plans for similar missions in the 2030s.
  • Midway: After the dismal historical failure that was Pearl Harbor, Roland Emmerich had more than a little difficulty getting the Navy Office of Information (the Navy division which provides assistance to films featuring the US Navy or Marine Corps) to help. When he was finally granted an audience, the NOI commander asked what the film would be about, justifiably worried that it would feature another shoehorned Hollywood romance. Emmerich, who along with screenwriter Wes Tooke had done their research, informed him that the main character would be Dick Best (the pilot whose bomb destroyed the carrier Akagi). Emmerich said the commander instantly relaxed, saying "Whatever you need."
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man: The Air Force provided material with the then-new Airman's Battle Uniform's camouflage pattern. Actor Terrance Howard also did some immersion research with airmen to prepare for the role.
    • Captain Marvel (2019) collaborated with nearly a dozen Air Force pilots to teach the cast on flight and military maneuvers.

  • Navy SEALs were involved in the making of Speed 2: Cruise Control. They were inside the underwater tank used for the "underwater kissing" scene.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home got US backing too. The real USN nuclear aircraft carrier USS Enterprise was unavailable and had highly classified and moderately radioactive interiors though, so USS Ranger stood in. Similarly to Transformers, only intelligence officers were portrayed unsympathetically, which is presumably why the two guys who interrogate Chekov are from the FBI.
  • For the film Stealth, the US Navy allowed the crew to film mockups of the fictional F-37 and other scenes on their aircraft carriers such as the USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Nimitz, and USS Carl Vinson. Allegedly, the Russian military initially panicked when their satellite surveillance photos showed a previously unseen, futuristic fighter plane on US aircraft carriers.
  • Amazingly, the Army approved Stripes because they thought it would be a good recruitment tool. Even more amazingly, they were right!
  • In The Movie of Tom Clancy's The Sum of All Fears:
    • the carrier that was attacked was originally to have been sunk, but in order to keep military support for the film, the script had to be adjusted so that the carrier survived, though it was mission killed (that is, couldn't do much of anything except limp away).
    • When the time came to film the nuclear detonation scene, in which the Presidential motorcade is severely damaged by the blastnote , the director used real military personnel that were trained specifically for that situation. All he had to do was point to the overturned limo and tell them "The President is in that car!"
  • Top Gun The Navy wanted some good publicity - and got a huge increase in interest as a result (also on the USS Ranger [CV-61]).
  • Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora! was filmed on the various active military bases around Oahu attacked that day, and featured a lot of pyrotechnics set off on said bases. It also featured a large number of US naval vessels standing in for ships that were there that day, causing a lot of unavoidable anachronism.
  • When director Kathryn Bigelow and producer-screenwriter Mark Boal were making Zero Dark Thirty, about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, they discovered that several highly-placed officials in DoD and the CIA (including then Agency Director, Leon Panetta) were fans of their earlier film, The Hurt Locker, and the filmmakers did receive considerable assistance from those agencies. This actually became a major component of the controversy that surrounded the film, with some feeling that this was the reason for the film's depiction of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. While director Bigelow and writer Boal may or may not have approved of the use of torture, there was a strong chance that the CIA liaisons advising them did.

  • Tom Clancy was a writer rather than producer, and so didn't need military props or extras, but the military still helped him out in a number of other ways, since his books were still good PR for them. Among other things, they let him fly in fighter aircraft, so he could get an accurate idea of how this would feel, and gave him guided tours of an aircraft carrier. When it came to less physical things, they were also generous in assisting him with his library research, as well as providing advice in general.

    Live-Action TV 
  • JAG is notable as a series that had a great deal of Navy & Marine Corps support starting with the third season, and many episodes that were clearly Military On Board.
  • JAG's spin-off series NCIS also relies heavily on official support from the Navy cops it portrays, as does its own spin-off series NCIS: Los Angeles & NCIS: New Orleans
  • Stargate-verse:
    • Originally the Air Force just wanted to review the scripts to Stargate SG-1, but the producers decided to ask for advisors to avoid Artistic License – Military, and actually listened to them (though a few errors still got through - Samantha's hair getting too long, Gen. Landry having his hands in his pockets, etc). Before long, the show was using real Air Force personnel playing many of its extras, and two Chiefs of Staff appearing as themselves: Generals Michael E. Ryan and John P. Jumper. In a testament to how much the military likes the Stargate-verse, the real life NORAD has a door inside the building labeled "Stargate Command"note , and Richard Dean Anderson was named an honorary Air Force brigadier general for his role as Jack O'Neill.note 
    • In Stargate: Continuum, the Navy let them film the outside and inside of a real nuclear attack submarine, in the Arctic, doing a number of through the ice-pack surfaces for it. Not to be outdone, the Air Force let them film inside real F-15's.
    • In-Universe, Wormhole X-Treme! is backed by the Air Force to provide Plausible Deniability to the stargate program. That was the idea, anyway: it ended up getting cancelled after the third episode and then got a movie several years later.
  • Common to pretty much all shows produced by Jack Webb:
    • Dragnet was backed very heavily by the Los Angeles Police Department, and many off-duty officers became extras. Rather than let the producers of the show make mock-ups of the LAPD's distinctive shield-shaped badges, the two main characters were allowed to borrow genuine ones that were brought to the set every day by a police adviser. Reportedly, Joe Friday even had a working phone number. When Jack Webb, the actor who played Sgt. Joe Friday died, the badge number he used, 714, was retired from the LAPD, and is now buried with him.
    • Adam-12 also had lots of LAPD assistance.
    • Emergency! was backed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
    • Project UFO was backed by the United States Air Force.
  • Gunnery Sergeant (Honorary) R. Lee Ermey. A retired Marine drill instructor, he's portrayed similar roles in several movies and served as military technical adviser as well. He's hosted two military-themed shows (Mail Call and Lock 'n Load), and never had a problem accessing military bases and the biggest explosion-making toys they could offer.
  • Due to being filmed in New York, the Law & Order franchise has been able to use the NYPD's Movie/Television Division to full effect.
  • The various incarnations of Top Gear often manage to get the participation of military services and their hardware:
    • The original Top Gear pitted a British Army Apache attack helicopter against a Lotus Exige, to see if the car could outrun or evade it.note 
    • Top Gear (US):
      • They redid the "attack helicopter vs. sports car" scenario with a Cobra and a Dodge Viper, but without official military participation (it was a retired and privately-owned Cobra.) Top Gear Korea apparently did a similar bit, which ended up with the helicopter crashing.
      • Played straight in another episode, where the hosts tried to use a Mercedes G-Class to outrun the 101st Airborne Division. They filmed in an actual military training ground, and the 101st used everything at their disposal, from helicopters to drones to Oshkosh M-ATVs.
  • K-Ville was filmed on location in New Orleans and the show was allowed to use the real-life uniforms and logos of the New Orleans Police.
  • Oddly enough, Paranormal Investigation shows get backing from the military as well. The Ghost Hunters were asked to investigate the USS Lexington and the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base while the Ghost Adventures crew were asked to investigate the USS Hornet.
    • Fridge Brilliance when you think about it. What better way to attract tourists than to have a frequently-watched TV show say your ship is haunted?
  • The documentary miniseries Victory at Sea.
  • For most of the latter half of the 20th century, the city of Chicago rarely permitted television shows or movies to use their police department's insignias, reportedly after The Blues Brothers mucked up their reputation. Shows and movies often had to make due with Captain Ersatz versions of the CPD (Hill Street Blues was supposedly set in a metropolis resembling Chicago that was never named). The Chicago Code, on the other hand, depicted the CPD quite accurately and was filmed on location. One possible explanation for the change was the fact that while the original ban was put into place by Mayor Richard J. Daley, his son and successor Richard M. Daley left office shortly before the show began production. This would be followed by Chicago Fire in 2012, with assistance from the Chicago Fire Department, and Chicago P.D. in 2014, albelt the 2nd series ever to gain assistance from the CPD.
  • The first show produced by Gene Roddenberry was The Lieutenant, about a young U.S. Marine Corps officer. It was filmed with cooperation and technical support from the Marines, who withheld approval of one script that dealt with racial themes (and had Nichelle Nichols, who would go on to star on another of Roddenberry's shows, in a guest star role). The official position, apparently, was that the military did not have racial problems. Roddenberry went ahead and filmed the episode anyway, but it was not aired.
  • The Agency was Backed By The CIA, and was advertised as being the first time filming was allowed inside the actual CIA headquarters.
  • Without a Trace was filmed with the support of the FBI. In exchange, each episode was accompanied by a PSA about a real missing person.
  • Mythbusters had the use of the Alameda Sheriffs' Bomb Range ("the happiest place on earth").

  • The music video for David Bowie's "Day-In Day-Out" features a scene where the protagonist's home is destroyed by battering rams, which were provided by the Los Angeles Police Department. Bowie only told them that they were going to demonstrate how foreclosed houses were demolished without giving away that it was a Take That! towards that very policy.
  • The music video for Cher's "If I Could Turn Back Time" was shot on the USS Missouri, with crew members as extras. The Navy found the video to be such an embarrassment that to this day, they have never allowed a music act to shoot a video on one of their ships.
  • Katy Perry's music video for "Part of Me" was shot on Camp Pendleton, with real Marines as background extras. Perry was also filmed going through the same training the Marines go through. The Marines thought it was a great idea to give the spotlight to their female members, it was good publicity, and they said that the directors were going to make the video anyway, so it would be better for it to be realistic[1].
  • Mariah Carey got to film a video at Edwards Air Force Base and even sing and dance on the back of an F-22.
  • All US military branches have multiple military bands. Many of the top bands have released albums of various patriotic music.

    Video Games 
  • The Medal of Honor 2010 reboot as well as its direct sequel Warfighter received technical advice from actual Tier One operators in the U.S. military. It later turned out that these operators did not have Pentagon permission to advise on the games for both occasions, and they were subsequently disciplined, making this a Subverted Trope.
    • When the series was still about WWII, Marine Captain Dale Dye (who you will recognize as Col. Sink in Band of Brothers) served as a technical advisor.
  • The SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs franchise boasted about having US military advisors inform the game's tactics, terms and gear.
  • The U.S. Army commissioned a special version of BattleZone from Atari as a trainer for the Bradley fighting vehicle.
  • America's Army was developed by the U.S. military for use as a recruitment tool.
  • Sledgehammer Games enlisted the assistance of a "scenario planner" from the Pentagon for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

    Western Animation 
  • In a non-military example, the South Park episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft", which lampooned World of Warcraft, received extensive support from Blizzard Entertainment, including the use of the Burning Crusade test servers to film the in-game portions of the episode.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Non-military example; the series is produced by in part by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who is on the advisory board to provide the science curriculum for the series.

  • The Carrier Classic, a Collegiate Basketball game is played annually on the deck of an aircraft carrier (hence the name), with the agreement of the Navy. Rivals Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina played the first game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson at Naval Base San Diego on Veterans Day 2011 (11/11/11). The visuals alone are freaking epic, especially as the sun sets.
  • Similar to South Park using World of Warcraft, the developers behind PAYDAY: The Heist got help from Valve to recreate the set pieces of No Mercy, a level used in Valve's Left 4 Dead series. This collaboration helped create the No Mercy DLC for PAYDAY which has familiar set pieces like the vending machines and being startled by the Witch.

Non-US examples

    Anime and Manga 
  • Yomigaeru Sora — Rescue Wings revolves around Japan Air Self Defense Force search and rescue operations, and got considerable support from the Defense Agency (now the Defense Ministry). Footage from the show was later used in JASDF recruiting ads.
  • The production crew for Sentou Yousei Yukikaze visited a Japan Air Self-Defense Force base in Komatsu (which, incidentally, is the same air base that Yomigaeru Sora above received much of its military advisors from) and recorded actual jet noises as they took off. Several officers from the JASDF also provided technical assistance on making sure the aerial lingo was accurate.
  • Rocket Girls was written with technical advice from JAXA, which is the Japanese counterpart to NASA. A JAXA astronaut even gets a cameo As Herself in episode 7.
  • Space Brothers was created with advice from both NASA and JAXA. In fact, whenever space technology was shown in the anime it had to be approved by both organizations. By adhering to these rules the series was allowed to use NASA's logo during production. And in fact, JAXA astronaut made two cameos in the anime, one of them recorded while he was on the ISS.
  • The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force provided technical assistance for the anime adaptation of Arpeggio of Blue Steel, and allowed the use of the destroyer Kirishima and their base at Yokosuka to film the music video for the opening theme song.
  • The JSDF capitalized on the anime adaptation of Gate and incorporated it into a recruitment campaign.
  • In 2015, the Japanese government opened a new organization dedicated to combating cyber-crimes related to internet usage and technology, and used Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to promote it.
  • A mostly civilian variant appears in Asteroid in Love. Because of this series' scientific theme, the production of the anime involves the assistance of several Japanese governmental agencies to make sure the science it portrays is accurate. These agencies include the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (and for a smaller degree JAXA) for astronomy, the Geological Survey of Japan for geology, and the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan for cartography.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • WW1 air epic The Blue Max was made with the assistance of the Irish Air Force, who provided pilots and repurposed biplane trainers for background/mass shots where it wasn't completely crucial to have the right model of biplane fighter on camera.
  • The filmmakers of the original Gojira film were denied this support but in an interesting way of getting around that they found out the schedule of a military convoy (on its way to be decommissioned) and filmed it twice along its route without permission. This does explain why miniatures for military vehicles are used here and in later Godzilla movies even in scenes that don't feature any of the Kaiju. It was also filmed in cooperation with the Japanese Coast Guard.
  • The James Bond film GoldenEye was backed by the French navy, who lent the crew a frigate and a helicopter for a scene in which the helicopter is stolen (the helicopter is a model in later scenes though).
    • In return, the French Naval officer who was to be killed by Xenia Onatopp during sex had to be turned into a Canadian.
    • During the production of The World Is Not Enough, MI6 initially moved to block the filming of the scene where a bomb is set off through rigged money, citing security concerns - but were overruled by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, saying "After all Bond has done for Britain, it was the least we could do for Bond."
  • Kingdom of Heaven: King Mohammed VI of Morocco, where the movie was filmed, personally provided the movie with around 1500 military personnel and equipment.
  • The Lord of the Rings movies used the New Zealand army to do tasks from landscaping Hobbiton to filling out their legions of extras. The Mordor and Black Gate scenes were filmed on an abandoned minefield, being the only place in New Zealand with the right amount of ash and desolation.
  • Saving Private Ryan had the help of the Irish Army, Navy, and British MoD reserves for use as extras during the Omaha Beach sequence.
  • Irish Army Reservists also served as extras for Braveheart. Since as Craig Charles put it, "(they) see very little real action and were probably making the best of it", on-site medical personnel were kept rather busy during the fight sequences.
  • The sixties Danish monster movie Reptilicus featured dozens of soldiers and displays of some of the best gear possessed by the Danish army at the time (apparently unusual at the time; most similar movies had to rely on Stock Footage).
  • In Hero (2002), starring Jet Li, the extras playing the soldiers of the Qin army were actual Chinese soldiers provided by the PLA. This was once again done in the Three Kingdoms period pieces Red Cliff and Red Cliff 2 where the soldiers of the Wei, Shu and Wu armies were PLA soldiers.
  • Nazi Germany:
    • Thousands of soldiers, some diverted from fighting positions at considerable cost, were used as extras in the 1945 movie Kolberg, about the unsuccessful (though it was successful in the film) resistance of the fortress-town of Kolberg against the French in 1807. By the time the movie came out there were few theatres left unbombed to watch it in, so its propaganda effect was minimal to say the least.
    • The earlier film Titanic (1943) was likewise made with the full backing of the Nazi propaganda ministry, and consequently with German military support. The filmmakers were given use of the liner turned naval auxiliary ship Cap Arcona to stand in for the titular vessel, provided a number of Kriegsmarine sailors to serve as extras, and were even granted special permission to ignore wartime blackout restrictions when filming at night. This assistance would turn out to have fatal consequences for Herbert Selpin, the film's original director, however. After having numerous takes ruined - and numerous actresses terrorized - by the boorish behavior of the often drunk Kriegsmarine extras, Selpin complained a little too loudly and angrily; when word of his tirade reached Berlin, Selpin was arrested and soon after died in Gestapo custody under suspicious circumstances. In a further tragic irony, the Cap Arcona herself would be sunk in the last days of the war, with a loss of life over three times that of the Titanic.
  • Despite being set in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars films have often had help from real-world militaries.
    • In The Empire Strikes Back, Norwegian reservists played the soldiers in the battle for the ice planet Hoth.
    • In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the Imperial stormtroopers that are stationed on Scarif are portrayed by members of the Maldivian Army. Likewise, the rebel soldiers who emerge from the U-Wing transport ship in the final battle are all U.S. Army veterans.
    • The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi had Irish Navy vessels provide perimeter security around Skellig Michael Island during filming. In honour of the franchise, the Samuel Beckett adopted Yoda as their ship's mascot.
  • French director Abel Gance was able to get military assistance in making the anti-war film J Accuse (1919) by convincing them it was going to be a propaganda movie. 2000 soldiers on leave from the Battle of Verdun played soldiers who rise from their graves to condemn the uncaring civilians. Within a few weeks of their return to the front, eighty per cent of these soldiers had been killed.
  • In The Beast of War, Captain Dale Dye negotiated to get an old Russian tank from the Israeli Defence Forces. The film, set in Afghanistan, was shot in the Sinai desert.
  • Possibly the most epic example: Sergey Bondarchuk's 1968 War and Peace movie, featuring horses and entire military units (as well as a special "cinematographical cavalry corps") provided by the Soviet Ministry of Defense. But then, the Soviet Ministry of Defense was very fond of this trope in general, often providing soldiers for patriotic war films set during the Napoleonic Wars and the Russian Civil War.
    • In fact, the aforementioned last real cavalry regiment in Soviet and then the Russian army - the 11th Cavalry Regiment - was really kept almost entirely for the filmmaking purposes. It is even unofficially called "Mosfilm regiment" after the country's largest film studio is is usually subordinated to. (Today it is the Cavalry Squadron of the Presidential Regiment, reporting as part of the Federal Protective Service.)
  • Sergei Bondarchuk did the same thing in 1971 in Waterloo, where Soviet soldiers were used in huge shots featuring thousands of soldiers. Hilarity Ensues in several known instances where the soldiers panicked and scattered during scenes with cavalry charges.
  • Most of the U.S. Marines who invade the Bashaw's palace in The Wind and the Lion were actually Spanish Special Forces, as the movie was filmed in Spain, with Sevilla and Almeria standing in for Tangier.
  • Many Vietnam War movies, such as Apocalypse Now and the Missing in Action series, were filmed in the Philippines, which has jungles, needs money, and most importantly, uses US military equipment. The Armed Forces of the Philippines often lent vehicles and aircraft such as F-5s and Hueys to the film makers in place of American military vehicles and airplanes.
    • Ironically the helicopters in Apocalypse Now were taken away to fight real-life communist guerillas in mid-production. This, and much more, is shown in the making-of documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse.
    • Speaking of the Philippines The Bourne Legacy featured real-life personnel of the Philippine National Police's Manila Police District in scenes shot in the capital in 2012.
    • Likewise Roger Corman quickly realised the advantage of filming his exploitation cheapies there, such as the Girls Behind Bars movies which - besides the gratuitous nudity and mud-wrestling - also had plenty of action scenes.
  • The Swiss comedy movie Achtung, Fertig, Charlie!' (English: Ready, Set, Charlie!') set in basic training of the Swiss Army was supported by the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport (yes, it is rather odd) by providing vehicles, extras etc. Later on, said department criticised the moviemakers for their "unrealistic, comical illustration of basic training"...a claim most Swiss thought was silly, even if they agreed it was true, seeing as Switzerland has universal male conscription.
  • According to Turner Classic Movies, the castle in Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood was a full-scale authentic Japanese castle, built by US Marine Engineers as a construction exercise for the production.
  • The remake The Karate Kid (2010) got official support from the Chinese government, and features several prominent scenes set in notable national landmarks.
  • Sergei Eisenstein's films are made of this trope. The best example would have to be the film October: Ten days that shook the world in which Eisenstein convinced the powers that be to actually have the Cruiser "Aurora" shell the Winter Palace again. Apparently more people were injured in its re-enactment of the storming of the palace than were in the actual, historical event.
  • District 9 borrowed some Casspir APCs for the film, and also used them as part of the South African advertising campaign.
  • The live-action adaptation of '"Rescue Wings'' was set at the Komatsu JASDF airbase, and featured actual F-15s, UH-60Js and support from both the Air and Maritime Self Defense Forces.
  • Iron Eagle had to make use of IAF aircraft, as the USAF thought the script was so ridiculous that there was no way in hell they'd support it. This explains why the enemy country is using Israeli "Kfir" aircraft.
  • In World War Z, the American aircraft carrier is actually British.
  • The 2005 French air combat film Sky Fighters had all the air sequences flown by actual pilots from the French Air Force; there was absolutely no CGI used whatsoever. Even the film's climax, a desperate race against time to stop a terrorist attack on Bastille Day, was real: the filmmakers were granted special permission by the French government to fly military aircraft over Paris for one day. They made that one day count.
  • In stark contrast to the above, the 2011 Chinese air combat film Sky Fighters (which apparently is also known as Lock Destination) is filled with CGI planes, despite being made with the full cooperation of the People's Liberation Army Air Force (specifically the Air Force Political Department of the People's Liberation Army).
  • Another air combat movie, the South Korean film Soar Into the Sun (internationally released as ''R2B: Return to Base'') was released in 2012. It had the full support of the Republic of Korea Air Force and it shows in the usage of F-15Ks and T-50 fighter jets. It stars Korean superstar/heartthrob Rain as the main character, who after wrapping up filming, immediately enlisted in the military to fulfill his two years of mandatory national service.
  • The Scottish gangster film The Wee Man, about the life and crimes of the notorious Glasgow gangster Paul Ferris (and featuring him as a production consultant) is a spectacular aversion; not only did Strathclyde Police refuse to cooperate, the entire City of Glasgow refused to allow filming in its council ward, forcing the film-makers to use London instead.
  • The first filming of The Unknown Soldier was denied any actual military equipment from the Finnish Defense Forces due to disagreements with the director, with only authentic footage from battles in the Continuation War edited in to the film as well as theater props being used. The FDF however extensively backed the 1985 re-filming despite it being much darker and edgier - and, depending on whom you ask, more realistic and loyal to the book than the 1955's heavily romanticized version. The FDF did the same thing again for the 2017 version, which was on the basis of the uncut Sotaromaani version of the novel, but also was reportedly assisted by French military firm Rafale International, whose fighter planes have been recently in consideration to replace the Finnish Air Force FA-18 Hornets, as movie sponsor and one of the financial backers.
  • Ah Boys to Men, a series of Singaporean-made comedy movies was one of the few films to have ever been completely backed up by the Singapore Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF). The Action Prologue featured real soldiers, vehicles (with slightly-adequate CGI) and tactics used by the Army, Navy and Air Force. Also notable; it is the first feature length film to have ever been filmed on Pulau Tekong, an nearby island used exclusively by the military where most recruits begin training.
    • Speaking of Singapore, the 1991 movie The Last Blood and 1999's 2000 AD featured Singapore Police Force personnel. A 3rd film, 2003's After School, was released by the National Crime Prevention Council to promote teenage issues and to educate viewers about criminal acts affecting teens and students.
  • The Dutch Army backed the production of A Bridge Too Far. Their post-war Leopard 1s play Panthers in the film.
  • The Egyptian Cavalry Corps played the Pharaoh's chariot host in The Ten Commandments (1956). The Egyptian Air Force also helped to create sand storms for the film with their fighter jet engines.
  • Many scenes in Sink the Bismarck! were filmed using real WW2 warships, thanks to producer John Brabourne being the son-in-law of the Chief of the Defence Staff and using this influence to obtain full cooperation of the Admiralty.
  • Yugoslavian WW2 epic The Battle of Neretva was to serve as propaganda piece celebrating the struggle of the Yugoslav partisans. It went in history as one of few films to officially have an unlimited budget. It featured such stars as Orson Welles and Yul Brynner, and a promotional poster done by Pablo Picasso himself! What all this meant in practice was that, whenever the director needed more money, he could ask and get.
    • The most extreme example concerns the destruction of a plot-important bridge. For that purpose, an actual steel-frame bridge was blown up in Yugoslavia, but the resulting shots were not good enough. So the director demanded another, similar looking, steel-frame bridge to be blown so he can film it again. The crew then found such a bridge - in Czechoslovakia. Then the Yugoslav authorities paid the Czechs to get the bridge blown up, got it on camera, and then paid again to have it rebuilt!


    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • In the climactic battle of the serial "The Invasion", most of the UNIT members are actual British soldiers of the Coldstream Guards. Highly impressive, considering Doctor Who's usual budget (a third of a shoestring).
    • "The Sea Devils" saw the Royal Navy waive fees on Stock Footage and many extras were played by volunteering sailors.
    • The new series appears to be getting quite a bit of military backing, culminating in the appearance of Challenger II battle tanks in one of the Christmas specials.
  • A Polish 1960s cult series on WWII called Four tank men and a dog had its equipment granted (free of charge) by the Army. Either through connections or simply thanks to magic of Television. Someone called the general: "Comrade, we need a thousand men and a tank squad for two weeks, it's for TV series", and boom.
  • Top Gear (UK) frequently has appearances from members of the British Army or Royal Marines, taking part in all sorts of hijinks under the guise of car tests. This includes hunting down Jeremy Clarkson in a tank and more recently having the new Ford Fiesta take part in a Royal Marine beach assault.
    • In one episode, the RAFnote  lend a Eurofighter Typhoon jet and pilot to race Richard Hammond's Buggati Veyron.
    • Segments have taken place on the deck of an aircraft carrier at least twice.
  • The production for CCTV's live-action TV adaptation of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms novel had some help from the People's Liberation Army, who provided a few divisions of troops for use as extras.
  • The 1973-77 BBC series Warship was filmed on a number of Royal Navy vessels.
  • The Bill was backed By Scotland Yard and was allowed to use real police logos, actual uniforms and real equipment. When the show ended they bought all their props to prevent criminals getting hold of them.
  • The Mexican show El Equipo (tagline: "They know Good Defeats Evil"), basically a 60-minutes long government ad, used troops of the security agencies. And vehicles. And equipment. And classified locations...
  • In a decisively non-military example: The Australian series H2O: Just Add Water was backed by Australia's Gold Coast tourist board and Sea World, providing much of the Scenery Porn.
  • The Iranian 2012 24-episode series Passion for Flight is a dramatized account of the life of legendary Iranian Colonel Badass Abbas Babaei. It was financed by the Foundation of Martyrs and Veteran Affairs, which is an Iranian governmental entity that receives funding from the government's Revolutionary Guards. The entire series is available on with English subtitles.
  • JAXA (the Japanese NASA counterpart mentioned in the Anime folder) gave their support to Kamen Rider Fourze; best seen with the use of the Tsukuba Space Center in the opening sequence and in a few episodes.
  • 6 Mediacorp Channel 8 Chinese dramas were co-produced with the assistance of the Singapore Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence: Army Series (1983), Air Force (1988), Navy (1990), Be Somebody (2004), The Recruit Diaries (2013) and When Duty Calls (2017).
    • 6 Chinese Dramas on Channel 8 were co-produced with the Singapore Civil Defence Force and were allowed use of equipment, facilities and vehicles for filming.
    • Aside from police documentaries Crimewatch (1986-present) and True Crimes (1982-87), a record 20 television dramas and 2 television movies on Singaporean television were produced with the help of the Singapore Police Force. It also helps that the first ever police drama, the Mandarin Chinese Seletrar Robbery of 1982, is considered Singapore's 1st ever locallly-produced Chinese language TV drama. Its lead actor, the late Huang Wenyong, would later be the first ever Chinese TV superstar in Singaporean history, leading the way for other Singaporean Chinese actors and actresses to follow.
    • Speaking of Chinese language dramas in Mandarin Mediacorp has always made partnerships with Chinese film and TV production companies within the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong SAR inclusive, given that the pioneer generation of Singapore TV drama cast members came from Hong Kong during its British colonial period. Thanks to these and to backing from the national and local governments, Mediacorp's landmark Chinese historical dramas have always been mostly filmed within Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, if not within Singapore itself if the historical drama is set in the city state, given its small size.
  • Malaysia has had the same case as in Singapore. For example, two currently running firefighter dramas are co-produced with the help of the Fire and Rescue Department of Malaysia - Astro Ria's Abang Bomba I Love You and TV 2's Hero. Same case falls for military and police dramas (with assistance from the Malaysian Armed Forces, the Royal Malaysia Police, the Maritime Enforcement Agency and the Ministries of Defense and Home Affairs).
  • Cuba's near distance from the US makes it the only socialist country (and only Carribean country) that makes US-style police dramas, which are co-produced since 1988 by the Film and Cinematic Laboratories of the Ministry of the Interior's National Revolutionary Police (termed as policiaco in Spanish). The first such drama, Cubavision's Dia y Noche (Day and Night), which debuted two years before Law & Order in the US, was a Long Runner, running until the early 2000s.


    Video Games 
  • Similar to the America's Army example above, the Chinese FPS game 光荣使命 ("Glorious Mission") was developed by the People's Liberation Army as a recruiting tool & a means of recreation for active-duty soldiers. The initial version of the game was restricted for use only on military bases, followed by a civilian release sometime later calling itself "Passion Leads Army".
  • Russia's Federal Drug Control Service financed a FPS game titled "Боец спецназа ФСКН Pоссии" ("Russian Special Forces Soldier FSKN ").
  • The World War I-themed game Valiant Hearts was done with the support of Mission Centenaire 14-18, the French government's official commission on remembrances for the Great War's 100th Anniversary.
  • When Namco was developing Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War, Project ACES requested the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force to show them some fighter jets so they could get realistic sounds of the engines. With an F-22, they were only able to fire up 1 engine to about 40% max power before being told that the brakes would no longer hold it in place.
  • The JMSDF has officially displayed KanColle materials on their ships for open day events, including in the presence of none less than then-Minister of Defense Tarō Kōno.


    Films — Live-Action 
  • Crimson Tide depicted a mutiny on a US Navy submarine, so naturally didn't make the cut. To get around this the filmmakers used chase helicopters to follow an actual submarine out to sea so they could film it diving. They also used a French aircraft carrier for some scenes.
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), original version, was another film where the army refused to help- they didn't like the film's peaceful message. The filmmakers ultimately got their tanks and weaponry from the National Guard instead.
  • Very pointedly averted on The Day After. The military was pretty happy to help the filmmakers so long as the script was changed for it to explicitly say that the nuclear exchange that appears on the film was the result of the Russians firing their nukes first. The director and screenwriter refused to do this change (the reason being that the film's message was that it didn't mattered who fired first, those who survived would be screwed by the subsequent devastation anyway). And so the military refused to provide help (meaning that the scenes where we see NORAD personnel detecting incoming missiles and getting ready to fire retaliatory nukes? That was footage from a declassified training film).
  • A Few Good Men did not have Pentagon approval, and had to shoot in alternate locations.
  • The Hurt Locker didn't have military backing, partially because of budget issues.
  • Samuel Fuller was an actual US First Infantry Veteran and he became a major filmmaker but his insistence on telling difficult truths meant that despite being a soldier his films averted this trope:
    • The Big Red One was mostly shot in Israel without American help, and Fuller was quite proud after a screening of his film drove General Patton's son to lament that "the film had no recruiting potential".
    • The Steel Helmet was famous for getting Fuller an invitation to the Pentagon in 1950 for its cynical portrayal of The Korean War which mocked the Cold War propaganda (by highlighting how America's racism back home negated its mission of upholding democracy abroad), as well as showing US Soldiers as boors. One scene in the film showed a US Soldier executing an enemy combatant in custody, which was a violation of the Geneva Convention. This was the main reason why they invited Fuller there, and Fuller insisted that while he knows its a war crime, it happens all the time.
  • Heartbreak Ridge was initially backed by the military, until they saw the amount of profanity/crudity spouted by Clint Eastwood's character (and others). They pulled their support after that.
  • Seven Days in May was pointedly not given any Pentagon backing, due to the storyline concerning a rogue Air Force general (modeled after real-life generals Curtis LeMay, then Air Force Chief of Staff, and recently-retired USAF General Edwin Walker) planning a Military Coup. This led to situations where John Frankenheimer resorted to guerilla filmmaking — they needed a shot of Col. "Jiggs" Casey (played by Kirk Douglas) entering into the Pentagon, a shot that, without DoD's explicit OK, would have been considered close to espionage. Frankenheimer set up a camera in a station wagon and had Douglas, in full costume, walk up the Pentagon steps. The two soldiers who saluted Douglas were giving genuine salutes, not realizing he was a Hollywood star and not a marine colonel. However, the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, President John F. Kennedy, did back the film, to the point of vacating the White House whenever they wanted to film there. It says something about the truths of the film that the President's backing wasn't enough to get the Pentagon to back it (and he's their commander!).
  • Sgt Bilko has a note at the end of the film which gratefully acknowledges the total lack of cooperation from the Army.
  • The Pentagon backed out of supporting The Avengers (2012), specifically because of the ambiguous role of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the movie (part of the U.S. military? An international organization?), and as a result, what sort of Constitutional authority, if any, it would have over U.S. military personnel. The movie's Omniscient Council of Vagueness appears to be multinational, and even if it isn't, it's not clear that they're properly in the military chain of command.
  • Platoon was a success in spite of the Pentagon refusing to supply anything for the film.
  • The Mexican military was going to provide the vehicles for the movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico, but they changed their minds once they found out the villain was an army general. The filmmakers had to make do with donations from private collectors.
  • Lord of War is a subversion. Most of the military hardware - like the rows of battle tanks and the piles of rifles - is real. But, consistent with the theme of the movie, the lenders weren't governments but private arms dealers. In fact, several scenes had to be rushed because the weapons and vehicles being used had found a surprise buyer.
  • Iron Eagle had to make use of IAF aircraft, as the USAF thought the script was so ridiculous that there was no way in hell they'd support it. This explains why the enemy country is using Israeli "Kfir" aircraft.

    Live-Action TV 
  • We Are Who We Are came surprisingly close given its content, with the denials coming only after the production team had extensively toured and taken notes on Camp Ederle. As it is it shows just how far you can get with fictional but authentic-looking insignia (and a Creator/HBO budget), with only the inability to use AAFES Exchange logos and trademarks leading to "Army Store" signage standing out.