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The rank of Major is one often overlooked in works of fiction. It is neither quite as cool as 'Colonel', nor does it have the same ring as 'Captain', nor does it have the same air of authority to it as 'General', and so for the most part is an ignored rank. But occasionally a character comes along, who happens to hold that rank, and do so while being a major badass. This trope covers those people.

Major is the junior-most field officer there is. This means that, while a Major can be bossed around by higher-ranked officers, they also have the most room to grow. This makes them ideal protagonists. Among field officers, a Colonel Badass may be more of a leader and authority figure, but it's the Major who gets his hands dirty, shows what he's really made of, faces the music head on — and is affected by the consequences.

Therefore, while a certain amount of badass is almost expected from higher ranks (that's why they got promoted, after all), Majors will likely take levels as the plot moves along, and become leaders in their own right.

More likely than not they will be a Blue Blood though oft times they will be an Officer and a Gentleman.

If we're talking about naval officers, the equivalent in rank and awesomeness would be a Lieutenant Commander. For Authority Tropes in general, the next step down is arguably Dean Bitterman. The next step up is Commanding Coolness.

In various Japanese media involving pilots or an air wing, invariably the senior pilot will be a Major or a Lieutenant Commander; due to the IJN's heavy reliance on enlisted pilots, it was common for a carrier's air wing to be commanded by a Lieutenant Commander, as opposed to a full-bird Captain in the US Navy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Lagoon gives us US Army Major Shane Caxton. Leader of the elite black ops unit Gray Fox. Also notable for being an extremely rare positive depiction of an American soldier.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist runs the gamut of military rank tropes, but features quite a few awesome majors. Anyone who qualifies as a State Alchemist starts at this rank.
    • Edward Elric. not that he does much with it. He's a Child Prodigy capable of great feats of alchemy and is instrumental in stopping the villains' plan.
    • Alex Louis Armstrong, a vibrantly emotional bruiser renowned for his kindness, combat prowess, and muscles.
  • Major Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell is not only a Major Badass but also a major badass! She fits the trope perfectly as she can behave like a lady if she wants to, but usually rather disables tanks with her bare hands or fight of several cyborgs in her dress uniform, complete with skirt and high heels.
  • The Major from Hellsing. An interesting case in that, while he is not physically imposing or even skilled at combat, he becomes awesome through his sheer tactical brilliance, awesome speeches, and Magnificent Bastard status. For that reason, he's one of the most memorable things about the series.
  • Major (formerly Captain) Misato Katsuragi from Neon Genesis Evangelion is pretty badass when she isn't drowning her sorrows or being The Alcoholic.
  • Lieutenant Commander Roy Fokker, Commander Air Group of the SDF-1 Macross air wing.
  • Lieutenant Commander Mu la Flaga, from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED.
  • Lieutenant Commander Mio Sakamoto from Strike Witches.
  • Major Bernd Baltzar from Gunka No Baltzar.
  • In the Area 88 manga, Hoover Kippenburg was once a major in the West German air force and a NATO air commander.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A Bridge Too Far exemplifies this with Major Julian Cook. His reaction to being told he and his men are going to have to row across a river covered by enemy machine-guns in order to make an infantry assault on a heavily defended position and they're no longer going to be able to do it in the dark. He takes a Beat to absorb this terrible news and then says "Better by daylight."
  • Major Chip Hazard from Small Soldiers, even though he's a toy. The guy's literally programmed to be one of these. That, and he's voiced by Tommy Lee Jones.
  • Major Payne, though in this case his badass status is Played for Laughs.
  • Major "Dutch" Schaeffer of Predator.
  • Chuck Norris' character in the first The Delta Force movie.
  • Major Reisman in The Dirty Dozen (pictured above).
  • T.E. Lawrence is promoted from lieutenant to major in charge of leading the Arab guerilla forces against the Turks after successfully taking Turkish-held Aqaba in Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Korben Dallas from The Fifth Element, though he was retired by the start of the film. He was a major in the Federated Army's Elite Special Forces Unit.
  • Subverted to a degree with Major Gates from Three Kings. Although he is a decorated Ranger/Special Forces officer who is serving with Delta Force during the events of the film. He's also voracious, crass, extremely apathetic, and overall not what one imagines when they think of a fabled officer who holds the rank of major.
  • In both X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: Days of Future Past, William Stryker is at the rank of Major.
  • The Antagonist Major König from Enemy at the Gates. Some of the kills he pulls off have to be seen to be believed. Notably, based on historical records, he seems to be completely fictional.
  • Major Mitchell in Independence Day. He's head of security for Area 51 and gets the first confirmed kill of an alien invader. Later, when the base comes under attack and thousands of civilians are still outside, he personally oversees their evacuation into the underground laboratories.
  • Lieutenant Commander Thomas Dodge, captain of the SS-161 Stingray in Down Periscope, takes on the US nuclear navy in an old diesel sub and wins!
  • Major Claremont in Breakheart Pass. Although he initially appears to be The Neidermeyer - with his over officious attitude and insistence on doing things 'by the book' - but ultimately every decision he makes is shown to have been for the good of the train and his men. And when the chips are down, he shows himself to be highly skilled with both pistol and the sword.
  • Major Dan Kirby (John Wayne) in Flying Leathernecks commands a squadron of US Marine fighter pilots. He hits pretty much every note of this trope, from leading his pilots into the fight to being torn up inside over ordering men into battle when he knows some of them won't come back.

  • Major Pronin is a stock character from Russian Humour, first invented by the writer Lev Ovalov. His "hat" is getting into absurdly dangerous situations and badassly handling them.

  • Catch-22:
    • Nobody knows the first name of Major ______ de Coverly because he's so Shrouded in Myth that nobody dares to ask.
    • Subverted by Major Major Major Major, in the same book, who is fairly incompetent and was promoted to major because a machine thought it would be funny that someone whose name was "Major Major Major" be ranked as a Major. Any further attempt at pro- or demotion is blocked by the mail clerk Ex-PFC Wintergreen, who finds it hilarious.
  • Major Rawne from Gaunt's Ghosts.
  • Major Broklaw from Ciaphas Cain, the 2IC of the Valhallan 597th. He quickly develops into the gruff, responsible Blue Oni of the command staff and once called an Administratum meeting to order with his bolt pistol.
  • Richard Hannay in Greenmantle.
  • Sharpe: Sharpe becomes a Major in Sharpe's Enemy.
  • Anytime a Long Patrol major shows up in Redwall.
  • The Major from Daemon is objectively pretty badass.
  • Major Grodin Tierce spends most of his on-page time strategizing and trying to make the Big Bad Triumvirate hold together, but he does have a few very memorable action moments - and some of that strategy was damned impressive, too. Amusingly, many people are surprised at just what he can do and how much he knows, for a lowly major. A number of other characters in the Expanded Universe books top out at major, usually ones who don't have their eye on wider command but are pretty badass; among them Wes Janson and Hobbie Klivian.
  • In Rats, Bats and Vats, the two competent officers end up promoted to major.
  • Lt. Commander Nimue Alban and her alter ego Major Merlin Athrawes in Safehold.
  • Star Wars has a few badass majors who appear in the novels.
    • Bren Derlin, who appears briefly in The Empire Strikes Back, is one of the Alliance's top intelligence operatives who commands commando teams.
    • Lokmarcha, a Dressellian commando of the Alliance, was originally supposed to command the ground mission on the Forest Moon of Endor before his death during Operation: Yellow Moon in the novel Moving Target.
  • These Broken Stars: Major Tarver Merendson. Gained his rank at eighteen for unspecified heroics against insurgents on the planet Avon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The protagonist of Major Dad is Major John McGillis, USMC, a decorated Vietnam veteran who demonstrates impeccable military bearing at all times.
  • Major John Casey for Season 1 and most of Season 2 of Chuck. He was promoted to colonel in the episode "Chuck vs. the Colonel".
  • Major Hochstetter from Hogan's Heroes, at least from the bad guys' POV. Klink (Colonel) and Burkhalter (General) both outrank Hochstetter but act completely subservient to the man. But then Hochstetter was Gestapo and those two were regular German army. He was also pretty much the only recurring character that was actually a threat to the operations that Hogan and his crew pulled. And yet he still found time to chew just about every piece of scenery that he could get to.
  • M*A*S*H:
    • Major Charles Emerson Winchester III might be a stuffed shirt and a bit of a prig, but in the operating room he was generally considered a medical badass. Hawkeye once even acknowledged (though not to the man's face) that Winchester was the most talented surgeon at the 4077.
    • Major Margaret Houlihan was a Nursing Badass throughout — even in the beginning of the series, when she was almost a Battleaxe Nurse, no one ever questioned her competence.
    • Her fellow Major Frank Burns, on the other hand, was a total aversion of this trope. Absolutely incompetent and spiteful.
    • Major Sidney Freedman was the psychiatrist equivalent of this. The 4077 considered him the best in his field, so he was their go-to choice for mental cases and he always seemed to know what to do.note 
  • Major Briggs from Twin Peaks.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • Samantha Carter begins as a Captain, before being promoted to Major, and later Colonel.
    • Dr. Janet Fraiser, the SGC's chief medical officer, held the rank of Major.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • Major John Sheppard in Season 1.
    • After Major John Sheppard's promotion, Major Evan Lorne takes up the role as his adjutant.
  • Major Zod, Big Bad of Smallville's 9th Season. Though he does promote himself to General in the last few episodes of the season.
  • JAG: Sarah "Mac" Mackenzie has the rank of Major in seasons 2, 3 & 4.
  • Band of Brothers: (Eventual) Major Dick Winters.
  • Sharpe: Richard Sharpe spent most of his TV series as a Major in the army of The Duke of Wellington.
  • I Dream of Jeannie:
    • Major Nelson (Larry Hagman). An astronaut with a hot female genie.
    • Averted with Nelson's best friend Major Healey.
  • Horatio Hornblower:
    • "The Frogs and the Lobsters": Major Edrington comes from Blue Blood and The Proud Elite, and he's a smirking Gentleman Snarker. He's a very competent leader and soldier, too, and his general coolness endeared him to fans and made him very memorable despite the fact that he appeared only in one part of the miniseries.
    • Major Côtard is a French soldier who collaborates with the British because he strongly opposes Napoleon Bonaparte. Even though he has French Jerk vibes and is suspected of disloyalty, he proves himself a worthy ally and his fighting skills are badass.
  • Star Trek:
    • Janice Rand seems to qualify. A 'mustang officer,' she went from an enlisted yeoman in the Original Series, to master chief petty officer (an achievement in itself, which many NCOs spend a career trying to earn) in the script of Star Trek III, to lieutenant commander by Star Trek VI. Many fans speculate that in the Star Trek: Voyager episode Flashback, she was Sulu's XO, but this is never confirmed in canon.
    • Data, second officer and operations manager of the Federation flagship. The only android serving in Starfleet, he routinely displays his genius-level intellect and super strength. Also, he can hijack a Galaxy-class starship singlehandedly at a moment's notice.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's pilot episode begins with then-Lieutenant Commander Ben Sisko fighting at Wolf 359.
      • Major Kira, a former guerilla fighter, is strong, passionate, and fully capable of beating the shit out of you. Though she does get promoted to Colonel towards the end of the show's run, becoming a Colonel Badass.
      • Lt. Commander Worf has a habit of killing Jem'Hadar Super Soldiers with his bare hands.
    • Major J. Hayes, the commanding officer of the MACOs on the NX-01 during the Xindi mission in season 3 of Star Trek: Enterprise.
  • Major Cedric Daniels in The Wire. He starts as a Lieutenant, and becomes Majorly Awesome, Colonel Badass, and finally Da Chief, before realizing he doesn't want to be at the head of such a flawed police department. The fact that he immediately starts getting blackmailed doesn't help. He quits and becomes a lawyer.
  • Cases of the 1st Department:
    • Maj. Tomas Kozak is a cool and competent policeman who should be head of the department, however, he's his deputy but at times he must do his boss's duties. He's one of the most charismatic people on the show though he looks moody.
    • Maj. Vaclav Plisek is the oldest and most experienced policeman on the team. He has a great ability to read the crime and connect leads. He has awesome knowledge of the history of crime and he knows the criminals' psychology. His ideas prove right most of the time.
  • The Major from The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "Five Characters In Search Of An Exit" is the only one of said characters who was ever truly determined to escape the room they're trapped in. He succeeds, but not for long.
  • In the first season of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, one of the final three contestants was a goofy guy known as Major Victory, who was very popular with the fans and his fellow super-wannabes. According to the man who wore the cape, he conceived of the character as Captain Victory, and Stan Lee himself changed it to Major before filming because he thought it sounded better.
  • McHale's Navy was about the adventures of Lieutenant Commander Quinton Mchale, the commanding officer of PT-73, and his crew as they spent time in the Pacific theater of World War II alternating between fighting the Japanese and throwing huge parties.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Iron Kingdoms: in her Epic form, Victoria Haley has earned a promotion to Major.

  • The Major General from Pirates of Penzance has a whole song where he sings about how amazing he is. Apparently, being very good at differential calculus is a big part of being a Major.

    Video Games 
  • BlazBlue's Jin Kisaragi is a Major of the NOL armed forces. Well, before the NOL tries to kill him off and he defects, anyway.
  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater has Major Ocelot.He's kind of a huge dork though, fanboying over Snake, eating his food. Not to mention the ridiculous meow to call his troops.
  • Major Jackson "Jax" Briggs from Mortal Kombat. In the alternate timeline, Sonya Blade occupies the rank during Shinnok's invasion of Earthrealm. After the events, she's promoted to colonel.
  • Major Burrows from Super Mario Galaxy. He's an evil mole (possibly working for Bowser) who hates rabbits, and is the boss of the "Gusty Garden Galaxy" level.
  • The Aggressors from Super Robot Wars Original Generation. They were the guys who invented mecha combat in that universe:
    • Sanger Zomvolt, the Sword That Smites Evil!, the walking living embodiment of badass;
    • Elzam von Branstein, a genius pilot always hits, never misses and whose theme overrides all;
    • Gilliam Jaeger, a dimension-hopping Intelligence Officer;
    • And last but not least, Kai Kitamura, a Badass Normal Team Dad with an awesome 'stach, who regularly punches out Cthulhu using a mass-production mecha.
  • Lieutenant Commander Shepard of the Systems Alliance Navy from Mass Effect. It's outright stated that s/he's an O-4 in the first game, but s/he never gets a chance to advance past this rank, not even after what s/he did.
    • As of Mass Effect 3, Kaidan Alenko has been promoted to Major, and also lives up to the Officer and a Gentleman trope.
    • Ashley Williams is also a Lieutenant Commander by game 3.
    • As of Mass Effect 3 Kirrahe is promoted to Major.
    • Remember "Big Ben" from the third game's first trailer? He turns up during the endgame as one of Anderson's right-hand soldiers, where we learn his name is Major Coates.
  • Majors Strickland and Laurence Barnes from Crysis. Second name doesn't ring a bell? They call him... Prophet.
  • Rosch from Radiant Historia.
  • Player Character Kyle Brennan of X: Beyond the Frontier held the rank of major in Earth's United Space Command, at least until a test flight of a jumpdrive-equipped starship went horribly wrong and deposited him in the X-Universe with no way home.
  • Major Manson in Battlezone II. He leads from the front lines, is a very moral officer, and since he took place in the Biometal wars of the 1960s, he's also an Old Soldier, being in his late 60s to early 70s.
  • Lieutenant Commander David "Section" Mason from Call of Duty: Black Ops II who leads his team of Navy SEALS through the near end of the modern world - and if you get the right ending, manages to prevent it.
  • The highest rank the Trooper can reach in Star Wars: The Old Republic, at the end of chapter 2/beginning of chapter 3, is Major.
  • Phillip Bromley, the SOE agent from Medal of Honor: Rising Sun. He specializes in sabotage which causes the Japanese to fear him.
  • Major Blackmore from Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts. We overhear some British soldiers talking about an Offscreen Moment of Awesome where he took on seven Germans by himself.
    • Company Of Heroes 2 features a Major as a deployable unit for the Americans. Deploying him is required in order to access the American heavy vehicle units, and he has the ability to order both recon flights and off-map artillery strikes. Additionally, despite his "squad" consisting of only two men in addition to himselfnote  it still has the same two slots for equipping heavier weapons as any other squad - in fact, the first weapon picked up is usually grabbed by the Major himself!
  • Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown has Major Deanna McOnie, in command of the Osean Ground Defence forces tasked with restoring the remaining Stonehenge railgun so it can shoot down Arsenal Bird, a rogue drone Cool Airship. It's rusted from years of neglect and barely functional, it can fire only one shot before breaking down, and the targeting computers are wrecked. So the Major has to calculate the firing trajectory herself, taking into account the Coriolis effect and other atmospheric conditions as well as the visual distortion from the Arsenal Bird's deflector shield. And of course, her shot is a dead bullseye that cleaves the Arsenal Bird in half. Beauty, brains and badassery all in one. No wonder she is an Ensemble Dark Horse.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • Major Smedley Darlington Butler was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice: once in 1914 during the Vera Cruz expedition, and once in 1915 during the Haitian rebellion. He later retired from the US Marine Corps as a Major General. He also have the distinction of being the only badass in history to be named "Smedley". Did we mention that this man had a huge tattoo of the Marine Corps "eagle, globe, and anchor" symbol on his chest, starting at his throat and extending to his belly-button? He wrote a nice book which aired a lot of dirty laundry about the Banana Republics which the US used military action to ostensibly "help" during the early 20th Century. The title, War Is a Racket makes it quite clear which conclusion he was drawing about letting corporate and economic interests dictate military policy. Partially ironic, since every war in history is dictated in some (or whole) part by economic interests (yes, even that one was heavily influenced by economic realities).
    • Later, Butler would become something between Colonel Bad Ass and Four Star Bad Ass, having been promoted to a two-star general and the commandant of the Marine Corps.
  • Commandant Pat Quinlan (the Irish Army uses 'commandant' instead of 'major' for the rank) who commanded the Irish company during the Siege of Jadotville. Despite being engaged by an enemy force 20 times their size, Irish soldiers, under Quinlan's leadership, fought hard for five days straight and inflicted disproportionate casualties without losing any of their own.note 
  • Invoked by Nikita Khrushchev upon Yuri Gagarin, who was just a First Lieutenant when he was being hurled into space. Khrushchev decided that that rank was not awesome enough for the first man in space, so he forced an immediate promotion to Major against all military regulations by the time Gagarin landed.
  • Major Richard D. Winters, a real-life badass (though he'd be the last person to call himself that) and the man most people in E Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division would cite as their inspiration. See Band of Brothers for more information.
  • In the Commonwealth military, it's common for company commanders to be majors rather than captains.
  • In WWII, Australian commandos were organized into "independent companies," significantly larger than a line company but with all the support necessary to operate independently of a battalion structure (medical, communications, engineers, and so on) that a normal company wouldn't have. This basically made them pocket battalions, which meant the majors in command were really junior battalion commanders.
  • It used to be common for Marine captains to be addressed as "major" when aboard ship, as this prevented confusion in a crisis ("Where's the captain?" "Do you mean the ship's commander or the Marines' commander?")
  • A number of flying aces, such as Mick Mannock, James McCudden, Eddie Rickenbacker, Tommy McGuire and "Ace of Aces"note  Dick Bong were Majors. This was because it was the highest rank for combat pilots, and anyone that senior would have a lot of experience.
    • Including the most successful ace of all time, Major Erich Hartmann of the Luftwaffe, who shot down over 350 enemy aircraft over the course of WWII.
  • Most WWII submarine and destroyer captains were lieutenant commanders, though lieutenant and full commander were also common depending on the size of the vessel and the officer's seniority. Since these ships were on the front lines and saw the most action, their commanders were at the forefront of the war.
  • Major Allison Digby Tatham-Warter, who was at the Battle of Arnhem (his expy appears in the film of 'A Bridge Too Far') just is this trope. His many exploits and eccentricities included leading a bayonet charge against tanks, and disabling a German armoured car with his umbrella.
  • Major René Jalbert of the Royal Vingt-deuxième Régiment encountered a soldier shooting his way through the Quebec Parliament, where he served as Sergeant-at-Arms. He confronted the man, found out that they served in the same regiment (though many years apart), and convinced him to let everybody go and allowed himself to be taken hostage in his office. They had an hours-long chat, and Jalbert convinced the gunman to surrender.