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"You are part of the Legion to die and the Legion will send you somewhere you can die."
"Marche ou crève." translation 
Unofficial motto of the French Foreign Legion

The French Foreign Legion is one of the most mythologized military units in the world. Its most famous writer was P.C. Wren, but it has had other writers and it has been occasionally spoofed, notably by Charles Schulz. It is legendary as a place where people with a Mysterious Past go to disappear, and of course bereaved lovers, political refugees, and various rogues and scoundrels and the like can always be found there.

The actual Legion existed to provide a body of Cannon Fodder who could fight in dangerous and distant lands without risking the lives of too many actual French citizens, though in recent years it took the role of a far smaller, elite infantry unit, complemented by a light armor regiment. French citizenship is often the reward for a Legionnaire who has completed five years of service or been wounded in action (the latter option being known as becoming Français par le sang versé—"French by spilled blood").

The stereotypical Legionnaire in fiction is represented as a member of a North African campaign in the first half of the twentieth century. They are always depicted wearing white khepis while standing guard at lonely outposts in the Sahara. In real life, the Legion operates in a variety of environments and conflicts (such as French Indochina) and wears camouflage as needed. One of their real-life current deployments is to serve as the security detail for the European Space Agency's space launch facility at Kourou, French Guiana (the European Union's counterpart to Cape Canaveral).

Contrary to popular belief, the Legionnaires are not mercenaries. The Foreign Legion is a regular part of the French Armed Forces, which means the Legionnaires are Lawful Combatants as far as The Laws and Customs of War are concerned.

For more details about La Grande Muette, go to Gauls with Grenades, or Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys.

See also Eagle Squadron, Army of Thieves and Whores and Trading Bars for Stripes.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Area 88 revolves around a unit that is essentially the French Foreign Legion with the serial numbers filed off: a Quraqi air force squadron of foreign pilots, some with dark pasts and some recruited unscrupulously.
  • Crown: Badasses Ren and Jake are former members of the French Foreign Legion.
  • Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu has Sousuke confront Masatami Hyuga's three employees/bodyguards who saw action with the FFL prior to the start of the series.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam 00, former PMC Ali al-Saachez is mentioned to have joined the Advanced European Union's military through the Legion during the second half of season 1.

    Comic Books 
  • Instead of Space Marines, the Aquablue series has a Space Legion, complete with battlesuits and white kepis.
  • In Archie Comics, Archie and Reggie would often plan to join the Legion after accidentally incurring Moose's wrath by kissing Midge. At the end of one story, they actually do it, and are seen speaking to their captain, who wonders why they never receive mail from home. In stories written after 1961, this threat was often answered by Betty or Veronica reminding them that "the Legion's been disbanded" - (it wasn't actually, but 1961 saw the dissolution of their Algerian base and the fragmentation of the rest of the Legion, a real End of an Era.)
  • Asterix: Asterix and Obelix enlist in the Roman legion in the Sahara in Asterix the Legionary, in what is definitely a parody of the French Foreign Legion.
  • The Boys: Frenchie may have been part of it after a breakup, but he's such an Unreliable Expositor it's hard to tell. His badassery, however, is unquestionable.
  • In Garth Ennis' Fury: My War Gone By, Nick Fury is visiting a French outpost in Indochina staffed by the Foreign Legion and other units. The local Sergeant Rock is an Affably Evil former SS Captain turned Sergent-Chef who takes offense to accusations of perpetrating atrocities in concentration camps: he was on the Eastern front, they merely made undesirables dig a ditch, lined them up and shot them.
  • Harvey Kurtzman parodied this setting in the third issue of MAD. Amid the usual motley assortment of Funny Foreigner stereotypes on the run from the law is a recruit who's run away from his hellish wife and kids in Brooklyn.
  • One Marsupilami story has a character constantly bragging of being in the Legion for two decades... none of which helps him against a creature with a prehensite tail and New Powers as the Plot Demands.
  • In the Disney comic book Mickey Mouse Joins the Foreign Legion, Mickey... well, look, it's all right there in the title.
  • The Golden Age hero Neon the Unknown was originally an American member of the French Foreign Legion.
  • Suske en Wiske: Lambik enlists himself in the French Foreign Legion in Het Zingende Nijlpaard (The Singing Hippo).

    Comic Strips 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Abbott and Costello in the Foreign Legion has Bud and Lou somehow enlisting with the Legion in Algiers by accident. They proceed to save the day by accident, and are rewarded with medals and honorable discharges.
  • Adventure in Sahara: After his brother dies as a result of his cruel treatment at the hands of Captain Savatt, Jim Wilson enlists in the Foreign Legion and asks to be assigned to Savatt's command. At the remote outpost of Agadez, Jim stirs his fellow legionnaires into mutiny against Savatt.
  • The archetypal Foreign Legion film is Beau Geste, based on the P.C. Wren novel. The first version was a 1926 silent with Ronald Colman. The best known is probably the 1939 version with Gary Cooper. The novel (and movie) were spoofed to a fare-thee-well in the 1977 film The Last Remake of Beau Geste.
  • Carry On in the Legion with Phil Silvers essentially reprising the role of Sgt. Bilko and a Beau Geste parody named Bo West. (Also known as (Carry On) Follow That Camel!)
  • Then there's the 1913 novel The Red Mirage by Ida Wylie, a runaway bestseller whose best-known adaption is the 1928 The Foreign Legion with Norman Kerry and Imogene Robertson.
  • Invincible directed by Blacky Ko, most likely the only Hong Kong-made film about the foreign legion.
  • Laurel and Hardy also joined the Foreign Legion in Beau Hunks and its feature-length remake, The Flying Deuces.
  • Legionnaire, with the wonderful actor Jean-Claude Van Damme. He's also a legionnaire in Lionheart, who runs away to avenge his brother's death.
  • In March Or Die the French Foreign legion is pitted against Abd El Krim's rebel army in Morocco.
  • In Morocco Marlene Dietrich falls for a moody, American legionnaire played by Gary Cooper.
  • The Mummy (1999): Rick O'Connell and his buddy Beni start off as Legionnaires before the Medji either kill off most of the platoon or chase them back into the desert.
  • It was used to explain the McGann brothers' 40-year-long absence in Secondhand Lions, and the older brother goes back to it after his wife dies during childbirth (along with the baby).
  • A Shot in the Dark: Chief Inspector Dreyfus gets so irritated by Inspector Clouseau's clumsiness that he threatens to reassign him to the Legion, and almost followed through on that threat before talked out of it at the last second.
  • Ouida's blockbuster 1867 novel Under Two Flags has also been filmed many times. The best-known version was made in 1936 and has Ronald Colman and Claudette Colbert.
  • The 1964 French film The Unvanquished stars Alain Delon as a deserter of the French Foreign Legion, bailing after he's forced to leave behind a wounded comrade.
  • Some Legionnaires appear in the opening of The Wind and the Lion, but they're quickly killed by the Raisuli's men.

  • The Trope Makers are the aforesaid Under Two Flags by Ouida: Ida Wylie's The Red Mirage: and P.C. Wren's Beau Geste and its sequels.
  • In Jerry Pournelle's science fiction stories, the Line troops of the CoDominium Marines were formed from the French Foreign Legion and maintained their Badass Creed and many of their customs, including accepting fugitives and criminals into their ranks.
  • Discworld, perhaps unsurprisingly, has its own version of this, the Klatchian Foreign Legion. In Soul Music, Death signs up at one point, under the nom-de-guerre Beau Nidle. It parodies the notion that soldiers enroll to forget: they have forgotten their troubles… and their identities...and their orders...and pretty much everything, really. Except sand. You won't ever forget about sand.
  • The Fifth Foreign Legion trilogy by Andrew Keith and William H. Keith. The French Foreign Legion, IN SPACE!!
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem "Gentleman Rankers" is addressed "to the legion of the lost ones, to the cohort of the damned".
  • Also Legion of the Damned and sequels by William C. Dietz, which also gives the French Foreign Legion the IN SPACE treatment, complete with (returned from the dead) cyborgs, aliens, rebellions, revolutions, and even the odd odd love story.
  • In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's Hoka series, some of the Hokas set up a French Foreign Legion. It includes not only Hokas that want to be Legionnaires, but those who are inspired by certain works of fiction but are unable to get other Hokas to join in.
  • In the Honor Harrington books, starting with War of Honor, The Protector's Own Squadron effectively operates this way, owing to its origins: Many of its initial personnel were escaped prisoners from a Havenite prison, including POWs from conquered worlds and a significant number of Havenite political prisoners. The squadron's first vice-commander was a former Havenite naval officer who had fought the heroes in an earlier book.
  • In Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford. It's the story of a nazi unit in the French Foreign Legion, in Vietnam. It's a perfect example of the none jew killing SS.
  • Legionnaire is an autobiographical account of Englishman Simon Murray, who joined the Legion in 1960 (for extra badass points, he was in the 2nd Foreign Parachute Regiment) and fought in the Algerian War. Finishing first in the Corporal school, he turned down the opportunity to join either the prestigious Sergeant's school and Officer's school and left in 1965.
  • In the comedic novel Love at First Flight by Charles F. Spalding, naval aviation cadet Lester Dowd lost his girl to a The Charmer type. He isn't thinking about women right now, not even any pin-up girls on his locker. (His buddies don't think he's gay, they worry he'll become isolated and depressed.) One of his friends opines, "Some chick gave him the knife and he joined up like it was the Foreign Legion."
  • Robert Asprin's Phule's Company series has the Space Legion, which is the French Foreign Legion Recycled IN SPACE!, complete with false names to avoid problems with the law (and in the case of the titular character, to avoid problems that occurred during his service in the Legion when he strafed the surrender talks because 'they dropped their shield'). The idea of the Legion IN SPACE has been used by a lot of pulp and comic book writers.
  • The Free Corps from the Shannara series.
  • H. P. Lovecraft's The Silver Key mentions that Randolph Carter served in the Legion from the beginning of WW I. He was nearly killed near Belloy-en-Santerre in 1916.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, the Night's Watch is one of these. Made up of men throughout the Seven Kingdoms, they swear an oath upon joining to guard the Wall against threats from the Far North. Once, in the dim and distant past, they were a proud and honored unit, with "taking the black" being seen as a worthy sacrifice. Now, with duty on the Wall being such a hardship against a threat few believe to exist, it's become more of a punishment. Most of its members are criminals, lowborn outcasts and exiles who chose the wrong side of one political game or another. A common treatment of prisoners of war with no expectation of ransom is to allow them to take the black, as opposed to being held captive or executed.
  • In Who Goes Here? by Bob Shaw, the future legion guarantees you'll forget. They wipe your mind!

    Live Action TV 
  • In Kamen Rider Gaim, Oren Pierre Alfonzo / Armoured Rider Bravo is depicted as a former Legionnaire, which has the upshot of making him both one of the most skilled fighters in the cast, and occasionally making him a Drill Sergeant Nasty if the situation calls for it. Of course, he's also a Camp Gay pâtissier, which hardly fits the stereotypical image for a Legionnaire.
  • There was an episode of Keeping Up Appearances in which Hyacinth's (and Daisy, Rose and Violet's) father decided to join, and Hyacinth was trying to stop him... while, of course, admiring him for wanting so badly to join.
  • On an episode of Would I Lie to You?, the German comedian Henning Wehn related an anecdote about how he visited Morocco and jokingly sent his friend Mark a postcard saying that he'd joined the Foreign Legion and they'd probably never see him again, which ultimately lead to his parents putting him on an Interpol missing persons list.
    David Mitchell: "Sorry, so your friend Mark used this postcard to mentally torture your parents. 'I'll make his parents think he's disappeared forever... for a laugh'."
    Henning Wehn: "...Well, it's German sense of humour."

  • "The Legionnaire's Lament" by The Decemberists, which stresses that serving in the Legion was not a pretty job.
  • Dschinghis Khan's "Die Fremdenlegion" is subtitled "Armee der verlorenen Seelen," or "Army of Lost Souls."
  • Frank Sinatra's "French Foreign Legion" has the singer threatening to join if his lover rejects his marriage proposal one more time.
  • "Mon Légionnaire," most famously sung by Édith Piaf, is about a woman's yearning for an unhappy legionnaire she knew for a short time.
  • During his run in Branson, Missouri, Ray Stevens had a live band called the "French Fried Far Out Legion Band" that wore stereotypical Foreign Legion uniforms.

    Newspaper Comics 

  • In one episode of Cabin Pressure, Martin is dared by Douglas to come up with a story about his exploits as an adventurer, having introduced him over the cabin address as the French Captain du Crieff. Martin improvises a tale of his time in the Legion (upon being reminded they are a non-French regiment he claims they made an exception for him) which involves taking on a polar bear armed only with a whisk.
  • The Goon Show ran an episode parodying the film Beau Geste where Ned, Eccles and Bluebottle were duped into running to Marsalis and joining the Legion.
    • Their satire of Under Two Flags is called "Under Two Floorboards." It was so successful, they actually did a remake.


    Tabletop Games 
  • In 2300 AD, the French Foreign Legion defends the "French Arm" of explored space.
  • In Deadlands, units of the French foreign Legion are stationed in Mexico to support Emperor Maximilian's rule. The South O' the Border sourcebook includes a Legion Deserter archetype as a possible player character.
  • Several BattleTech mercenary units are loose translations of the original unit into Space Opera Humongous Mecha-setting versions of the Legion. The devs acknowledge where they drew the inspiration from, as a surprising number of mercenary units have 'Legion' in their name and their members are universally addressed as Legionnaires. As far as nations mirroring the French side of the equation, the Capellan Confederation seems to fall closest to the original system—they prefer to spend mercenaries instead of House troops if at all possible, but reward loyal and long serving mercenaries with Capellan citizenship (which must be earned by every individual, as is not granted from birth) and subsequently valuing them the same as House troops.
  • The GURPS version has in canon a couple of units in obscure places that are distinctly patterned after the French Foreign Legion.
    • One of these is the Vilani Legion of the Frontier in GURPS Traveller: Interstellar Wars.
    • The Foreign Legion is briefly mentioned in Transhuman Space. The 2e Régiment Étranger Spatial is a division that defends France's interests in the rest of the solar system, including a recorded raid on an illegal bioroid factory in Earth orbit. The possibility of a whole sourcebook, Stranger Legion, is on the wish list. Phil Masters even wrote a THS version of "Gentleman Rankers".
  • The Legion Martien from Rocket Age is basically the French Foreign Legion on Mars, including members from every species, caste and race.
  • Traveller uses this as one of the ways a character trains up.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Deathwatch is a similar organization, they take volunteers from every Space Marine chapter to perform special ops against xenos, and many a Marine from a destroyed Chapter has lived out the remainder of his career amongst their ranks.
    • The Imperial Guard's Penal Legions are composed of criminals sentenced to said Legions. The Penal Legions are always assigned to the most suicidal missions, as they are even more expendable than the already expendable Guardsmen. It is worth noting that "criminal" can mean failing to return a library book on time.

    Video Games 
  • Amnesia: Rebirth takes you through an abandoned Algerian fortress used by a French Foreign Legion regiment as a forward operating base. Let's just say that they took a serious hit to their morale.
  • In Battlefield: Bad Company (coupled with Surprisingly Elite Cannon Fodder) the titular B-Company is fashioned like a US Army-only version of the FFL, composed of all the criminals, disgraced soldiers, and other refuse from the Army's ranks to fill a contingent of fodder troops sent in to do the really dirty and dangerous work. The idea is to get them out of the Army's hair faster, as service in the unit also counts faster towards discharge on the off chance someone survives.
    Sarge: An important harbor. The Army's launching an offensive and we're gonna be the first ones in.
    Sweetwater: Haven't they got specially trained guys for that?
    Sarge: We're going in before them. They're too expensive to waste.
  • Budget title Code of Honor: The French Foreign Legion has the player's character, a member of the Legion, fight against African militias all by himself.
  • Dragon Age:
    • The Dwarven "Legion of the Dead" is exactly this. Dwarves, or even nondwarves, from any walk of life and any circumstance may join, including the worst criminals and Casteless, and upon joining a funeral is held for the new recruit and all their past sins are absolved. They are considered to "owe" the Dwarven people a death and usually set about earning it by going deep into the Deep Roads to fight the worst of the Darkspawn infestation there. In the Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening expansion pack, there's a Legion of the Dead member whom you can recruit as a follower, ironically by saving her life after the rest of her squad gets wiped out.
    • Grey Wardens are a milder version of this trope. They take in anyone, from the lowest commoner to the highest king, who has skills and desire to fight darkspawn. If a criminal joins their ranks, s/he will be pardoned, which is used a few times in the actual game, most notably during the prologue. However, not only are Grey Wardens expected to spend the rest of their lives fighting darkspawn, but since they take in the taint their days are numbered anyway. Many Grey Wardens who feel their death approaching go into the Deep Roads, and often fight alongside the Legion.
  • Directly referenced in Hitman: Codename 47. A sharp-eyed player might notice that the four seemingly-unrelated criminals that 47 is hired to kill over the course of the game - a Chinese Triad boss, a Colombian drug lord, an Austrian ex-Nazi terrorist and a Kazakh Arms Dealer - all served in the Foreign Legion in the early '50s. It's heavily implied - and eventually confirmed by Diana - that they served in the same unit, alongside a fifth member, Professor Ort-Meyer. They kept in contact with each other after they left the Legion, signing their letters with 'Blood and Muscle', the slogan of their old unit. It also turns out that they've been using the Professor's research to extend their own lifespans, who in turn uses their DNA (along with his own) to create Agent 47, making them 47's 'Five Fathers'.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • The multiplayer squads, in a manner. They are ostensibly Systems Alliance units and operate under Alliance command, with most of their members being human soldiers and other military specialists, but they also include volunteers and mercenaries from a variety of other races, such as turians, asari, krogan, drell, and quarians. With the additional DLC packs, this lineup includes Cerberus defectors, batarians, geth, vorcha, volus, human-made artifical intelligences, and liberated Collectors.
    • It even plays up the "3-years=Citizenship" angle, as a maxed out character can be imported into the single player story as a War Asset.
  • In Medieval II: Total War, late medieval Central European powers get Forlorn Hope Companies, who are composed extremely resilient (and probably suicidal) veterans armed with Zweihänders, who make great material for head-on rushes.
  • In Sword of the Stars, the entire Liir military is this in that they are so pacifistic that anyone who joins the "Black Swimmers" is considered a sociopath. Most of them never leave the fleet though, they think of themselves as too broken to ever rejoin Liir civilian society.
  • Squad 422 in Valkyria Chronicles III is more or less inspired by this trope. Amongst its members is a convicted murderer, a disgraced noble, an old soldier without a country to call home anymore, a con-man, a repeat arsonist, and people of the "unwanted race".

    Western Animation 
  • Beetlejuice: In one episode, Beetlejuice's tongue gets stolen by a black cat he foolishly mocked, and he teams up with Jacques LaLean and a band of skeletal legionaries, the "Lost Souls' Brigade", to get it back.
  • Count Duckula joins the legion to get away from Igor and Nanny in the episode "Beau Duckula." However they end up enlisting as well.
  • Danger Mouse once encountered a Legionnaire who can't remember what he wanted to forget when he joined.
    Penfold: "Well...nice to see it worked out for you."
  • One Donald Duck short, "Donald's Diary", shows Donald marrying Daisy and leading a very miserable life when his new in-laws also move in. After waking up to see that it was all a dream, he frantically runs from her house and joins the Foreign Legion to escape his potential fate.
  • Exo Squad: Alec DeLeon's Backstory explains that he was a petty thief in Paris in his youth and joined Exofleet to escape the past, meaning that it plays the role of FFL in the setting.
  • Heathcliff & the Catillac Cats: In one episode, Heathcliff flies to Algeria to join the French Cat Legion.
  • In one episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Carl claims he's left to join the Foreign Legion in order to get out of going to investigate a haunted amusement park. Jimmy doesn't buy it and makes him come anyway.
  • One Johnny Bravo cartoon has him join the Foreign Legion by accident, but he spends the entire time trying to "Find the Fort" in the desert with a talking camel before taking a Deus ex Machina back home.
  • Two recurring characters in The Legend of Tarzan, Hugo and Hooft are a pair of former legionnaires who fled to the jungle to escape their General Ripper commanding officer, Lt. Colonel Staquait.
  • In Looney Tunes, Porky Pig was a Legionnaire in a couple of cartoons.
    • Even Pepe LePew joins the Legion to forget in "Little Beau Pepe".
    • Pepe once, in his pursuit of Penelope, accidentally ended up passionately making out with a Parisian man on a park bench. Pepe apologized for the gaffe, and the man wordlessly staggered to the nearest recruitment booth, signed his name, saluted, and fainted dead away. He evidently needed some real Brain Bleach.
    • Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam also had a conflict as Legionnaires.
  • In one Popeye episode, Popeye and Bluto are both in the French Foreign Legion.

    Real Life 
  • Many White Russians went here. Quite a few Jews during the Holocaust (including the future commander during the '48 Siege of Jerusalem) and ironically several former Nazis. All running away from some political disturbance or other, sometimes as in the last two cases from opposite sides. For most of the Legion's history, it got recruits this way, from refugees fleeing to France.
    • Which led to A Nazi by Any Other Name, since after WWII, possibly up to 35% of the Legion's members were ex-German military because they were readily available. Although contrary to some fictional portrayals, the French generally tried to screen out and arrest anyone wanted for war crimes even at the time.
    • This had one ironic result. One Jewish soldier recognised a guard who had been at a camp where he'd been imprisoned and shot him. Then, he deserted and ran to Israel where he received a pardon for having deserted from the Israeli Navy. Which he did in order to join the Legion to track down the guard, whom he knew had joined the Legion.
      • Some Jews joined specifically to hunt down ex-Nazis who were part of a secret organization known as ODESSA, Organisation Der Ehemaligen SS-Angehörigen (Organisation of former SS members)
    • In more recent years, a lot of veterans from the Yugoslav wars (mainly Serbs) joined the Legion.
  • During The Gulf War in 1991, units of the French Foreign Legion had a certain amount of trouble liaising with American troops. 'Yes, I said Foreign Legion.' 'Yes, the guys with the kepis.' 'Yes, we are real.'
  • Other countries, many of them colonies or former colonies, also have units made up largely of foreign recruits, including the Netherlands East Indies and Rhodesia, but none of them had close to the same profile as the French Foreign Legion.
    • There is a Spanish Legion, too, and just like the French one, they are still active.
  • In the wake of the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War, Ukraine formed the "International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine," more commonly known as the "Ukrainian Foreign Legion." The majority of the recruits tend to be ex-military personnel from other nations, pitching in to help Ukraine against Russia. Interestingly enough, a sizeable contingent its members are French volunteers.

Alternative Title(s): French Foreign Legion