Follow TV Tropes


Rank Up

Go To
One step closer to the philosopher's stone dream, baby!

Wiggum: Lou, you're promoted to chief of police.
Lou: Sweet.
Wiggum: And Eddie, you're promoted to Lou.
Eddie: Nice. And, uh, who's gonna be Eddie?
Wiggum: We don't need an Eddie.
[Eddie is visibly saddened.]

No matter what country you're from, if you are in the military, there will be a ranking system.

Most of the time, military personnel are required to be in a certain rank for X amount of months or years before they are even allowed to be promoted. This justifies the reason why you don't often see military promotions in television or movies.

But this trope is about when a character is promoted in show. During season one, you may have known him as a newly commissioned 2nd Lieutenant Bob, but by the third season he becomes known as Captain Bob.

After this promotion expect the character, if he is not a protagonist, to go in one of two directions. Either his increase in responsibility makes him a more important character in the series, or his responsibility gives him less time to spend with his friends. The middle ground is rare.

Compare Took a Level in Badass, except this character's badassness has a title.

This is not simply a military trope. Law enforcement agencies are hierarchical and large companies have a ranking system also, but these promotions have little impact on the story, unless the character is striving for it (in which most of the time he never gets it).

Not related to Level Up, where taking a level in badass includes numbers and stats, not titles and authority, although games whose characters are part of a military or paramilitary force may tie one to the other.

Contrast this with Limited Advancement Opportunities. See also Field Promotion and You Are in Command Now. Compare Up Through the Ranks when a veteran enlisted man is made an officer, and Deathbed Promotion, when this is given to honor someone who is dying or dead.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • Attack on Titan:
    • The remaining members of the 104th Trainee Corps after the Clash of the Titans arc are made into the Levi's new squad.
    • Following the death of the 13th Survey Corps commander Erwin Smith during the battle of Shishigana, Hange Zoe is promoted to the position of the Survey Corps' 14th commander.
    • Marleyan captain Theo Magath is promoted to the General of all the Marley military after the Marleyan High Command is destroyed during the raid in Liberio.
    • After Hange Zoe sacrifices themself while fighting colossal wall titans and is killed by them, Armin Arlet is promoted to the position of the 15th commander of the Survey Corps.
  • In Naruto, almost all of the Konoha 12 ninja are promoted in between the Time Skip. Naruto himself averts this, being now possibly the most powerful ninja in the village but having one of the lowest ranks. Gaara, however, takes this further by going from Genin (the lowest rank you can have while still being considered an active ninja) to the Kazekage (essentially president of one of the five major nations of the world), and his siblings and Neji become Jonin.
  • In One Piece, Captain Smoker gets promoted by the Marines to Commodore. Commodore Smoker is not too happy about his promotion as he feels he didn't deserve it, but he does use his new leverage to operate wherever he wants. After the Time Skip, he gets promoted to Vice-Admiral. This time it was by his own merits, seeing as he needed this rank to go chasing after the Straw Hats in the New World.
    • Smoker is an interesting case in that he was an Almighty Janitor. While there is no doubt that he gained that promotion as a result of a cover-up, it can be easily argued that he should've gotten it sooner, by virtue of the fact that he was way stronger than the average captain or commodore already by that point. The only reason his rank wasn't higher when he first debuted was because his Cowboy Cop tendencies.
    • Akainu is another example. In his first appearance, in Robin's flashback to 20 years ago, he's a Vice Admiral. When he first appears in the present, at the start of the War Arc, he's an Admiral. After the Time Skip, he becomes the new Fleet Admiral.
    • Koby is another example. In his first appearance, he was a mere "chore boy" of unspecified rank. After taken under Garp's wings and took several levels in badass, he became a Master Chief Petty Officer. Later sometime after the Paramount War he was promoted to a (Naval) Captain.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the series has warrior and military ranks on both heroes and the villains side:
    • The Demon Slayers have 10 ranks within the field slayers, and after those there's the top slayers called Hashira, consisting of only nine seats. To become eligible for promotion into this elite group, one must kill 50 demons or a Lower Kizuki. The main trio rise through the field ranks throughout the series, later aiming to become Hashira.
    • The demons have the Twelve Kizuki system, which is a brutal race where demons struggle to eat as many humans as possible to become part of that group. The 12 demons are divided into two groups of 6: the Lower Kizuki are the six moderately powerful demons and the Upper Kizuki are the six most powerful demons. The power gap between the Lower Ranks and Upper Ranks is quite large; their leader Muzan urges them to always strive to upstage one another through a Blood Succession Battle where a lower rank can challenge an upper rank for their spot to the death. The Upper Rank Two is the only demon given a proper background on his succession: he once was the Upper Rank Six and killed his way up to the 2nd rank, demoting the former Upper Rank Two to the Upper Rank Three spot.
  • Lyrical Nanoha: Between seasons, the characters go up ranks. The Forwards start out with Subaru and Teana as Privates Second Class and Erio and Caro as Privates Third Class, but by StrikerS Sound Stage X, Erio and Caro are Privates First Class, Subaru is a Corporal, and Teana is an Enforcer with equivalent rank to a Second Lieutenant. By Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, Subaru has been promoted again to Sergeant. In the same time period, Signum and Vita, Second Lieutenants, advance to Captain and First Lieutenant, respectively. Averted with Nanoha, who was offered multiple promotions at the end of StrikerS, but turned them all down.
  • Bleach:
    • Rukia Kuchiki is promoted from a seatless soldier to lieutenant of the 13th Division during the Time Skip.
    • Turn Back the Pendulum begins with Urahara's promotion to captain of the 12th Division from third seat in the 2nd Division.
    • In between TBTP and the main story, Byakuya, Sui-Feng, Mayuri, Aizen, Gin and Tousen all Rank Up to Captain from lower positions.
    • After Everything but the Rain, Hitsugaya is promoted to captain from 3rd seat to replace Isshin Shiba.
    • The biggest Rank Up, by far, goes to Shunsui Kyoraku, who goes from Captain to Captain-Commander after Yamamoto dies and Central 46 appoints Kyoraku as his successor.
    • After the second Time Skip, plenty more of these occur. Isane, Tetsuzaemon, and Rukia all become captains of their respective divisions. Kiyone, Sentaro, Ikkaku, and Akon rank up from 3rd seat to lieutenant (with Kiyone also transferring to the 4th Division), and Yumichika jumps from 5th seat to 3rd seat.
  • In Legend of the Galactic Heroes, most of the main characters were promoted at least once by the time the series ended. An example would be Yang Wen-li, who started out as a Commodore in series 1 and reached the rank of Fleet Admiral by series 3.
  • In Saint Seiya: Episode.G Assassin Shun, Hyoga, Shiryu and Ikki are now respectively the Virgo, Aquarius, Libra and Leo Gold Saints.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Mustang is seen as a Lieutenant Colonel in flashbacks when first meeting the Elric brothers, is a full Colonel for most of the story, and is mentioned to be a Brigadier General in the epilogue. Maes Hughes was also promoted to Brigadier General during the story — posthumously.
  • In Code Geass, Suzaku starts out as a private. In episode 7, Cornelia promotes him to warrant officer due to his valor in battle with the Lancelot. In episode 18, Euphemia appoints him as her personal bodyguard, which comes packaged with a knighthood and a promotion to major.
  • Several pro heroes in My Hero Academia get bumped up in the hero rankings in the aftermath of All Might's battle with All For One and his retirement. This actually irritates the old Number Two hero Endeavor who wanted to surpass All Might after spending his career as his Always Second Best. Interestingly, a couple go down instead of up.

    Comic Books 
  • At the end of Batman: Year One, Lt. James Gordon is promoted to Captain. By Year Two, he's become Commissioner Gordon.

    Comic Strips 
  • Retail examples in, well, Retail:
    • Stuart is promoted to district manager after Jerry leaves the company. This leads to him Commuting on a Bus, as now he has many stores to supervise instead of one.
    • He proceeds to promote Marla to store manager (mainly so he doesn't look as misogynistic as Jerry). Marla has mixed feelings about that, as she had been planning to leave herself to start her own business, but she was also eight months pregnant at the time and needed the money. Later story arcs involve her despondency and everyone else's disappointment at her becoming 'the man'.
    "The longer I'm a manager at Grumbel's, the more I have to become part of a machine I don't like."
    • When Marla finds out that she can have a stockroom supervisor, she promotes Cooper, who at first doesn't take the role seriously. He eventually starts rising up to the task out of loyalty to Marla.
    • Keith Sanzen, although this happened off-panel. In 2014, he was a supervisor for EGRGIS, the inventory service often featured in the strip. When he reappeared three years later, he somehow got promoted to senior vice-president.

    Fan Works 
  • Along Came a Spider: Kai Allard-Liao is promoted several times through the Clan War.
  • Bait and Switch: Lieutenant Commander Reshek Gaarra joins the USS Bajor's crew as operations officer because the ship's previous ops officer, Lieutenant Commander T'Var, was promoted and given her first command.
  • "The Only Way to Go": Sobaru Lanstar is referred to as "Commander Lanstar" in this story, despite having been a lieutenant in Faces In The Flames, implying she was given a posthumous promotion.
  • In Eros Turannos, Firmus Piett goes from Cadet to Lieutenant Commander instantly when Vader promotes him; Piett expresses uncertainty if he's ready for this responsibility, but one of Vader's clone troopers observes that Vader recognises talent and must have promoted Piett because he sees that the man will try to earn his promotion despite his initial inexperience.
  • War of the Biju:
    • Rather than Kakashi or Danzo, Naruto is named Rokudaime Hokage. Unlike in canon, it's acknowledged to be a permanent post (Naruto is even named Supreme Leader of the Allied Shinobi Forces after the Kage Summit) — even after Tsunade wakes up, the only reason she retakes command of the village is because Naruto had to go in hiding for the first juncture of the war. They're basically sharing the title, and it's all but confirmed that Tsunade will formally retire and revert all of her duties to Naruto when the war is over. Throughout the story, those not personally acquainted with Naruto address him as the Hokage — including Edo Tensei Itachi. Even some of those who are address him as such in serious and formal situations.
    • Right before the siege on Konoha, it's revealed that Naruto and Tsunade promoted Konohamaru to chunin, most likely in recognition of his amazing performance during the Invasion of Pein, where he managed to take out one of the Six Paths to save Ebisu.
    • Several members of the Konoha 12 are promoted to jonin after their remarkable performance during the Gedo Mazo's attack. The Raikage himself hands them their new flak jackets.
  • In Son of the Sannin, after the Chunin exams' finals, Naruto, Hinata, Sasuke and Tenten receive promotions to Chunin.
  • Crimson and Emerald: Thanks to the positive publicity of taking down Stain and having better public relations, Hawks ascends to #2 in the hero rankings. While Endeavor is bumped down to #3.
  • Precipice: While it's unofficial, Anakin is considered by Yoda and Obi-Wan to be a Jedi Master and Ahsoka a Jedi Knight well into their conflict against the Empire. Of course, considering the Jedi Order has long since been destroyed with few survivors, it's not like rankings mean much.
  • The Legend of Genji: Eighteen years before the start of the story, Mako was promoted from detective to chief of police by Lin after she finally retired due to a Career-Ending Injury she received while working a case.
  • In What Is Written In Blood, Takashi is promoted to sergeant due to his squad-mates more willingness to follow him rather than their actually squad leader in addition to having their previous sergeant absent for the upcoming conflict. Only a few days later, he’s vaulted to commander after the previous commander died during the attack to stop Red Sky. Thats quite a swift rise through the rankings.
  • Common Sense: Jessie, James and Meowth get promoted to officers after successfully capturing the pink Butterfree in the warehouse in Chapter 24, and are given both subordinates and an airship to use as a mobile base.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Star Wars:
    • Anakin Skywalker rises through the Jedi ranks throughout Prequel Trilogy. He does resent the fact that the Council gives him a seat (at Palpatine's insistence), but doesn't grant him the rank of Master in Revenge of the Sith. In the novelization, he thought that getting the Council seat would give him the rank, then he could access the restricted records in the Jedi Archives that would show how he could use the Force to keep Padmé from dying in childbirth.
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • Darth Vader is strangling Admiral Ozzel.
        Vader: You have failed me for the last time, Admiral. Captain Piett?
        Piett: Yes, my lord?
        Vader: [gives instructions] You Are in Command Now, Admiral Piett.
      • Later, he shows just how tenuous the "promotion" is:
        Vader: [after the Millennium Falcon "disappeared"] Don't fail me again, "Admiral".
      • Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker has been promoted to Commander in the time between A New Hope and the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back.
    • Return of the Jedi:
      • Captain Han Solo becomes General Han Solo, because he is just crazy enough to volunteer to lead the Rebel strike team to Endor's surface.
      • As does his "friend," Lando Calrissian; he goes from Bespin City Administrator/Executive to General.
  • In The Dark Knight, Jim Gordon ranks up to his comic book rank of commissioner. In the previous film, he starts off as a Sergeant and gets promoted to Lieutenant. Unfortunately he's still a Lieutenant at the start of Dark Knight, making this one hell of an overnight promotion to running the entire Gotham PD (mind you, candidates might be in short supply after the last one was murdered in his own office).
  • Johnny Rico in the Starship Troopers film starts off as a private and gets promoted to squad leader, then sergeant, then lieutenant. The same for his ex-girlfriend, who goes from a lieutenant to a captain.
  • Star Trek films:
    • James T. Kirk got promoted to rear admiral sometime prior to Star Trek: The Motion Picture. However, at the end of The Voyage Home Starfleet busted him back down to captain for stealing the Enterprise in defiance of orders in The Search for Spock.
    • All of the series regulars moved up through the course of the movies - Spock, Scotty and Sulu all make Captain, while McCoy, Uhura and Chekov all make Commander. McCoy only moves up 1 rank from where he was in the series, though.
    • Star Trek (2009) ends with the rather ridiculous promotion of James T. Kirk from third-year officer cadet straight to captain. This is handwaved as being because Nero and his crew apparently killed a lot of Starfleet's senior officers during the course of the movie.
    • In the beginning of Star Trek: Generations, Worf, a lieutenant throughout the series, is promoted to lieutenant commander.
    • In Star Trek: Nemesis, Riker is finally made Captain, though it's made clear that it's only because if he didn't take the rank, he'd never get it.
  • Police Academy. Most of the main characters start off as cadets and graduate to officer for the second film. Any of the cadets from the original film still left are sergeants by the third film, justified by the fact that they are now instructors at the academy. Harris starts as a Lieutenant and becomes a captain upon his return in the fourth. Mauser is a Lieutenant in the second film, is promoted to captain midway through and is commandant of the rival academy in 3, while his Bumbling Sidekick, Proctor starts as a sergeant and is promoted to Mauser's Lieutenant vacancy when Mauser becomes a captain. Callahan starts as a sergeant and is promoted offscreen twice between films and Hightower is promoted to Lieutenant in the sixth film. The only recurring characters that don't see promotion are Commandant Lassard and Chief Hurst, though to be fair, Lassard has no interested in being promoted away from the academy, and there's nowhere for Hurst to be promoted to.

  • In The Alice Network, Captain Cameron is promoted to Major by the end of the war. This has no particular effect on his personality or role in the book and was apparently done only because the real life Cameron was promoted.
  • Ben Safford Mysteries: in Murder Sunny Side Up, Ben ends up being made the head of a congressional hearing when the original chairman is poisoned.
  • Catch-22:
    • Scheisskopf is constantly promoted. He begins as a Lieutenant, but by the end of the book, is a Lieutenant General in charge of the whole army.
    • Yossarian gets promoted to Captain for one of his missions and is offered a promotion to Major if he tells everyone that the war is a good thing.
  • The hero of Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love's story-within-the-story "The Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail" got promoted over and over again while never actually doing anything.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers has plenty of examples, but also two inversions;
    • 1st Lieutenant Hassan, a field commissioned officer, chose to go through OCS and become an officer "properly", even though he would be demoted to 2nd Lieutenant after graduation (and that's assuming he passed). As a former ranker without formal education, his prospects for further promotion in a peacetime Army were non-existent, and not good even in war-time. Having gone through OCS and having prior combat command experience, he can pretty much write his own ticket.
    • Colonel Nielsen, who chose to become the OCS Commandant instead of taking a medical discharge. Since he was a General and Commandant is a Colonel's billet, he took a demotion (though it's stated that he will be promoted back up when he retires).
  • Happens lots in the Honor Harrington series, both to the main character (who has gone from a Commander to Admiral of the Fleet) and much of the cast—many characters from previous books reappear promoted. Those that survive, anyway.
  • Likewise her predecessor Horatio Hornblower, who went from Midshipman to Admiral
  • In the end of Animorphs, Ax is promoted from Aristh (cadet) to Prince (an officer of the Andalite army)
    • Elfangor's Prince promotion in The Andalite Chronicles probably also counts.
    • And Visser Three's ascension through the ranks, to eventually Visser One by the end of the series.
  • In Win, Lose or Die by John Gardner, James Bond is promoted from Commander to Captain when he has to return to active duty in the Royal Navy as part of an assignment. He keeps this rank for the remainder of Gardner's series.
  • In the Discworld novel Guards! Guards! Carrot Ironfoundersson joins the watch as Lance-Constable Carrot, who is made a full Constable at the end. By the start of Men at Arms, Carrot has become a Corporal, and by the end he's Captain Carrot and his commanding officer Captain Vimes is made Commander Sir Samuel Vimes. Men At Arms also introduces Lance-Constables Detritus and Angua; Detritus becomes a Sergeant before Feet of Clay and Angua is Corporal by Jingo, Sergeant by The Fifth Elephant and a Captain by I Shall Wear Midnight. And Cheery Littlebottom is introduced in Feet of Clay as a Corporal (she gets extra rank for being an alchemist rather than a beat officer, as long as she doesn't try to give orders to real watchmen) and becomes a Sergeant (and accepted as a real watchman) by Thud!
    • Sergeant Colon gets a temporary promotion to Captain in The Fifth Elephant owing to an absence of higher ranking officers. It doesn't go well. Apart from that, he and Corporal Nobbs are firmly settled into their positions.
  • Over the course of the Phryne Fisher novels, Hugh Collins is promoted from constable to sergeant.
  • Over the course of the John Appleby novels by Michael Innes, he goes from Detective Inspector to Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.
  • Happens to all Knights Radiant in The Stormlight Archive as they keep on saying the Oaths:
    • Kaladin hops from the First Oath to the Second in The Way Of Kings, and then to the Third in Words of Radiance and the Fourth in Rhythm of War. The Third comes with a sweet Morph Weapon as a bonus, the Fourth with magical armour.
    • Shallan is already after her First Oath in the beginning of The Way of Kings, and goes two Oaths up during the course of the book, then goes another Oath up by the end of Words of Radiance. It's implied that she swore most—if not all—of her Oaths as a child, before she was forced to kill her mother, but the trauma caused her to backslide and forget she even had her powers.
    • Dalinar goes from the First to the Second Oath in Words of Radiance and to the Third in Oathbringer.
    • Lift goes from the First Oath to the Second in Words of Radiance, and then to Third in Edgedancer.
  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe novel Thrawn, Thrawn, after being discovered by the Galactic Empire, enters the Imperial Academy as a cadet, but is secretly given a plaque granting him the rank of lieutenant. Throughout the same novel, over a period of just nine years, Thrawn is promoted from Lieutenant, to Captain, to Commander, to Commodore, to Admiral and finally to Grand Admiral thanks to his knowledge of tactics, his connections, and having the personal favor of none other than Emperor Palpatine and despite the prejudice in the Galactic Empire against non-humans. Meanwhile, his aide Eli Vanto is initially the one who bears the brunt of those who are displeased with Thrawn's actions, stuck as an Ensign for a long time. However, he is eventually promoted directly from Ensign to Lieutenant Commander and later Commander. There's also Arihnda Pryce, who is eventually promoted from senatorial aide to administrator to governor.
  • City of Bones by Martha Wells: After opening up the extent of her suppressed powers during the novel's climax, Elen becomes the new leader of the Warder Magic Knights, much to her chagrin. The death of the previous Master-Warder, her mentor, makes it bittersweet.
  • In the Vietnam War novel The Short-Timers by Gustav Hasford (on which the film Full Metal Jacket was based), USMC Corporal James T. "Joker" Davis gets promoted to Sergeant just before being dispatched to the city of Hue. He doesn't want the promotion, fearing that it may eventually force him into a position of command over other Marines, but he reluctantly accepts it. By the start of the sequel novel The Phantom Blooper, he's been busted all the way down to Private (a drop of four ranks) for failing to recover the body of his friend Cowboy from the jungle.

  • In Cactus Canyon, there are five ranks that the player can get (Stranger, Partner, Deputy, Sheriff, and Marshall), with increases coming either from winning Gun Fights or random awards.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dark Heresy uses a system of ranks to represent the characters "leveling up" to a certain extent.
  • In the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons, leveling up past a certain level as a Druid was rigidly tied to the character's position in the druidic hierarchy, meaning that she could not gain a new level until she was promoted to the next rank (which often required vacating the corresponding position first).

    Video Games 
  • Knight Bewitched: The game begins with Stray being promoted to Ruth's Squire. The game ends with him being knighted, and becoming the first Dragon Knight in years. Gwen also gets the title of Lady.
  • World in Conflict:
    • Parker is promoted twice during the single-player campaign: off-screen between the mid-story flashbacks and the beginning of the campaign (from Second to First Lieutenant) and after Bannon's death (to Captain).
    • Also, online matches promote you. Each online player gets a Rank Up after they have scored enough points in online matches, though officer ranks additionally have the "be in the top X% of the global ladder" requirements. While fancy insignia are largely just a Cosmetic Award, online players are much more inclined to follow a star-rank player's lead.
  • The entire Wardog Squadron in Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War is promoted from Lieutenants to Captains following their mission in the Razgriz Straights. Also, Chopper is posthumously further promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.
  • The Red Baron series has a rank system incorporated into its Campaign Mode. By default, you start out on the lowest tier of your chosen air service, and your missions are assigned for you. As you successfully complete missions and receive promotions, you receive more opportunities to lead flights and choose missions for yourself.
  • Between Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3, Ashley is promoted from Gunnery Chief (somewhere between OR-7 and OR-9) to Lieutenant-Commander (OF-3), while Kaidan Alenko goes from Staff Lieutenant (OF-2) to Major (counter-intuitively, OF-5), technically outranking his CO, Commander Shepard, who remains at OF-3 throughout the trilogy. Captain Anderson becomes an Admiral by the third game and commander of all Alliance forces remaining on Reaper-occupied Earth, and while Admiral Hackett remained an Admiral, he went from commanding the Fifth Fleet to commanding all Alliance Forces by the third game, and eventually became the de facto leader of the Systems Alliance, as well as the commander of the combined military might of most of the Galaxy by the end. If you have the Spacer background, Shepard's mother Hannah is mentioned serving as an executive officer aboard another ship, then finally getting fast-tracked to Rear Admiral during 3 after turning down promotions during 2.
    • Between his/her death from the Collector attack and the work with Cerberus and events of "Arrival" during Mass Effect 2, there really just wasn't any time to put Shepard through any proper promotions, and with the character's Spectre status, it's possibly a moot point anyway. But really everyone does what you say because you're Shepard and are very possibly the only thing standing between civlisation and oblivion.
  • Terran units in StarCraft II get promoted based on the number of kills they make. An in-universe example is Artanis, who becomes the leader of the Protoss after Brood War.
  • Some examples happen in World of Warcraft, typically from one expansion to another:
    • In the Stonetalon Mountains questline for the Horde, the player rises through the ranks of Overlord Krom'gar's army, becoming a general by the end. At the end, Garrosh kills Krom'gar for his war crimes and tells the player that his or her rank in Krom'gar's army no longer has any meaning.
    • In the Vashj'ir zone of Cataclysm, players fight alongside an officer of their faction- Taylor for the Alliance and Nazgrim for the Horde. In Mists of Pandaria, that NPC receives a promotion; from Captain to Admiral for Taylor, and from Legionnaire to General for Nazgrim (he had previously been promoted from Sergeant in Wrath of the Lich King), and the player meets them in the Jade Forest storyline.
    • Gryan Stoutmantle of Westfall. In classic World of Warcraft he was the head of a local militia. In Wrath of the Lich King, he appears in Grizzly Hills as a proper Captain in the military. Come Cataclysm, he has returned to Westfall and is now a Marshal.
    • Colonel Troteman, from Redridge Mountains and the Burning Steppes, is now a Marshal in Pandaria.
  • In the Soviet campaign in Command & Conquer: Red Alert, the player Non-Entity General starts out as a Lieutenant and gets promoted all the way up to General with Kane making him Chairman after Stalin is assassinated. Kukov starts out as a Captain and is later promoted to General also. Averted in the Allied campaign, where the player character is a Commander for the duration of the war.
  • In a similar vein, the Soviet player in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 goes from Commander to General to Premier thanks to vacancies in the rank structure.
  • XCOM: Enemy Unknown ties the soldiers' ranks to their Character Level: all recruits start at the Rookie rank/level 1, and progress through Squaddie (2), Corporal (3), Sergeant (4), Lieutenant (5), Captain (6), Major (7), to Colonel (8), gaining a new skill with every rank/level up.
    • The original series had a different rank system: Rookie, Squaddie, Sergeant, Captain, Colonel and Commander. Rookies are automatically promoted to Squaddies after their first combat kill but the rest of the ranks are dependent on the global number of Squaddies you have: 1 Sergeant per 5 Squaddies, 1 Captain per 11 Squaddies, 1 Colonel per 23 Squaddies and a single Commander once the player has least 30 Squaddies. Promotions happen automatically whenever there's an opening, with the maximum number of officers capped at 50 Sergeants, 22 Captains, 10 Colonels and a single Commander. The primary reason for taking an officer into combat isn't their combat experience but because their mere presence on the battlefield decreases morale loss in the team from injuries and casualties - but if the officer is the one who bites it, the entire team loses more morale than they normally would.
  • Star Trek Online similarly ties character rank to Character Level. Depending on whether you're in Starfleet, the Romulan Republic, or the Klingon Defense Force, the player starts at level 1 as a cadetnote  or lieutenant and works their way up to fleet admiral/Dahar Master at level 60 (actual promotions for KDF tops out at General at 55, equivalent to Starfleet and Republic Militia Admiral — Dahar Master is an honorary and highly prestigious title). Your bridge officers can similarly be promoted from ensign up through commander/subcommander.
  • In Uncharted Waters and Uncharted Waters: New Horizons, in addition to leveling up, your character can rise from being a commoner to becoming a duke. In one ending of the first game, you become King of Portugal.
  • Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon: Jim Hawkins is promoted several times throughout the course of the Tutorial and the Campaign. Jim Hawkins starts the campaign as an Ensign and is later promoted to Lieutenant, Captain, and finally Commodore.
  • In Crisis Core, Zack is promoted from SOLDIER 2nd Class to 1st Class after he helps Shinra quell the Wutai resistance force. In the original game, this is purely for plot purposes (and causes Zack to change his outfit), but in the Reunion Video Game Remake, every battle thereafter rewards Zack with Gameplay Grading.
  • In Final Fantasy VIII, there is the SeeD rank, which you gain early in the game upon your main playable characters' acceptance into SeeD following the entrance exam. There are ranks 1-30 and Rank A. Your starting rank can be anywhere from 1-10 based on your initial performance in the entrance exam, though you have to really screw around to get a 1, and similarly you have to really go out of your way to perform well to earn a 10 starting out. Afterwards, there are a number of events throughout the game which can raise or lower your rank, though the easiest way (and easiest to exploit way) is to take a series of yes/no quizzes accessible from the menu, each of which raises your rank by 1. However, once you reach Rank A, your rank will always drop back to thirty if you don't kill at least ten enemies before your next rank payment. In any case, your SeeD rank has no affect on actual gameplay, only on a recurring payment of the game's currency of gil (which is all but meaningless).
  • The main story and gameplay of Atelier Lydie & Suelle: The Alchemists and the Mysterious Paintings is based around the Atelier Ranking System, which is established in the kingdom of Merveille in order to encourage the rise of alchemy within the kingdom. (And secretly in order to train up alchemists to defeat a monster which is threatening the kingdom.) Throughout the game, the player's role is to control the two main alchemist characters, Lydie and Suelle, as they complete objectives and tests to advance in this ranking system with the goal of becoming the best atelier in the kingdom. You start at Rank G and the final task of the game is to take the test for Rank S. Completing it locks you into the game's ending.
  • In Fallout 4 the Sole Survivor Player Character can ascend through the ranks of the Brotherhood of Steel should s/he join them. You are inducted as an Initiate after helping Danse out at the Cambridge Police station. You get promoted to Knight when the Prydwyn arrives and you are introduced to Elder Maxson. As a simple Knight, you are treated with great importance in the organization, with you getting orders directly from senior leadership, bypassing any chain of command. Once Danse is exposed as a synth, you are given his rank of Paladin, apparently bypassing a whole lot of Knight ranks. And if you finish the game with the Brotherhood, you once again bypass a lot of Paladin ranks to be appointed Sentinel and thereby second only to Elder Maxson himself in the Brotherhood command structure.
  • Janes USAF: Any time you create a new profile, you start out at the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. Once you finish the Training and Red Flag missions (highly recommended if you are playing for the first time), you rank up to Lieutenant. About three missions of any kind later, you rank up to Captain. After that, you will continue to increase in rank, the more single missions, historical missions and campaign missions you successfully complete. By the time you are about to finish the final mission of the final campaign, you’ve ranked up all the way to Four Star General. But for some reason, you’re still flying 4, 6, 8 and 16 plane missions like a Lieutenant Colonel would.

    Web Comics 
  • The young Delta Green informer in Ow, my sanity:
    Old agent: Well done, Slick.
    Young informer: "Slick"? What happened to "Sport"?
    Old agent: You just got graduated to Slick.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • Kaff Tagon has a tendency to hand out promotions whenever anyone does anything impressive, which would probably violate military regulations if not for the fact that he owns the mercenary company and is bad about paying attention to procedure. He promotes Kevyn from civilian to munitions commander "on suspicion of supreme competence," promotes Schlock from grunt to corporal when he semi-accidentally saves the day, and promotes Pi to lieutenant when he saves everyone by detonating an infected A.I. (which didn't actually happen, but wasn't particularly out of character for Pi).
      Pi: But I almost blew up the ship!
      Kaff Tagon: Officers can get away with that kind of behavior, lieutenant.
    • Kevyn, in the midst of apologizing to his girlfriend, realizes that since he sent her to take over an enemy ship, that means that she's technically a captain now — the same rank as himself, which means most of the things he was apologizing for are moot. She still appreciates the apology, though.
      Kevyn: Ennesby, if Commander Foxworthy commands the prize crew on a ship she captured, then wouldn't that make her Captain Foxworthy?
      Elf: [tearing up] Apology accepted.
    • Kaff's father Karl eventually promotes Liz from galley chef to lieutenant, after finally realizing that her organizational skills are better put to use elsewhere.
      Commodore Tagon: Your promotion is effective immediately, which means we have a new problem.
      Liz: Nick already knows how to make all the foods you like.
      Commodore Tagon: Solved! You're going to be good at this.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: There is a small ranking system for cats, depending on how useful they are as an Evil-Detecting Cat. Ordinary cats are Grade C, but can gain Grade B with some rudimentary training if they are under five years old. Grade A is reserved for specially bred and trained cats. Since the cat found by the crew during Adventure I is still a kitten, she gets training for Grade B in early Adventure II.
  • In Crimson Knights Geron promotes Sir Mot into Grandmaster of the Aleovohanian Order as the Cralesian army is sieging Brennus Cliff.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • During To Boldly Flee: Phelous gradually takes more and more power and gives himself increasingly absurd titles. Eventually MarzGurl awards him the title of "Jesus".

    Western Animation 
  • In Exo Squad, Lt. J.T. Marsh is promoted to wing commander mid-second season. Appropriately, this coincides with him assuming command over two more mecha squadrons, while Nara Burns becomes the official leader of the eponymous Able Squad. (In practice, however, the two new squadrons rarely appear and Marsh still commands the Able Squad whenever it is sent on a solo mission.)
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Homer becomes a missionary and goes to a Pacific island, he promotes Bart to Man of the House, Lisa to Boy, and Maggie to Brainy Girl. "The toaster can fill in for Maggie." Marge, however, is a consultant.
    • As noted in the page quote, when police Chief Clancy Wiggum is promoted to commissioner, he promotes Lou to police chief, and Eddie to Lou.
    • Parodied when Wiggum tells Lou that he'll promote him to Sergeant. Lou notes that he already is a Sergeant. Wiggum tells him to shut up or he'll bust him down to Sergeant.
  • Spoofed on The Penguins of Madagascar, when Private is promoted to private first class. "Of course, we'll still call you Private. First Class is implied."
  • The season 3 finale of Young Justice has Black Lightning promoted to leader of the Justice League.
  • Happens twice in Star Trek: Lower Decks:
    • In "Moist Vessel", Mariner is promoted from Ensign to full Lieutenant (skipping a rank!) as part of an attempt to force her to resign or request a transfer (due to the bureaucratic monotony her higher rank entails). She is busted back down to Ensign at the end of the episode for insulting an Admiral.
    • In the season finale, "No Small Parts", Boimler is promoted to Lieutenant, Junior Grade, and transferred to a more prestigious posting aboard the USS Titan. By the second episode of the second season, "Kayshon, His Eyes Open", he's busted back down to Ensign and returns to the Cerritos, but only because his transporter clone tricks him.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Zhao is promoted from Commander to Admiral at the beginning of "The Blue Spirit", and it's mentioned he was formerly a Lieutenant and then a Captain before the start of the show.
    • There's also minor character Shinu, who in Book One is a Colonel, but by the time of Book Three received an offscreen promotion to General.

    Real Life 
  • During the American Civil War, Elisha Hunt Rhodes went from private to colonel.
  • Frank Bourne joined the British Army as a private in 1872, aged 18. By the time four years had passed he had been promoted four times, was the youngest colour sergeant in the British Army, and was therefore nicknamed "the Kid". He was instrumental in the British victory at Rorke's Drift in 1879, won the DCM, and refused a commission because he couldn't afford to be an officer. He accepted a commissioned in 1890, and eventually retired in 1918 as a lieutenant-colonel. In the movie Zulu he was portrayed by an actor forty years old: the real Colour Sergeant Bourne was only 24 years old and 5'6" tall.
  • During World War I and the Russian Civil War, the Czech adventurer Radola Gaida got promoted from a civilian pharmacist to general of the Czech army.
  • During World War II, Carwood Lipton enlisted in the U.S. Army as a paratrooper and was deployed to Europe with the "Easy Company" (chronicled in the Band of Brothers miniseries). While overseas, he rose to the rank of First Sergeant (senior non-commissioned officer for the whole company) and received a Field Promotion to Second Lieutenant.


Video Example(s):


In Charge of Building Fabric

Colin gets a promotion from Deputy Manager to Manager in Charge of Building Fabric.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

Main / RankUp

Media sources: