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Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!

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He doesn't go out of his way to disobey laws, but if he has to choose between "right" and "lawful"...

"I recognize that the council has made a decision. But given that it's a stupid-ass decision, I've elected to ignore it!"
Nick Fury, after the World Security Council orders him to nuke Manhattan, The Avengers

So the Big Damn Heroes are about to set off to Save the World. Not so fast, red tape and bureaucracy are standing in the way of the world's last hope. Well, there's only one thing to do. Ignore the orders of the Obstructive Bureaucrat and/or Corrupt Bureaucrat, then go Save the World anyway. This is, after all, a Matter of Life and Death.

Other, less dramatic examples are usually helping someone out when the rules say that you shouldn't. Or obeying your Curious Qualms of Conscience rather than your careful instruction in right and wrong.

However, when a Lawful Good character has to choose between order and what's right, they may break Lawful rather than Good and end up on this path. Some particularly scrupulous types will even willingly accept punishment afterward; this is called "civil disobedience". More often, though, they're Saved by the Awesome.

Applying this trope does not mean that the ends justify the means, but rather that the person acts compassionate and follows his conscience even when the rules would forbid it (or to put it another way, they do justify the means, but the means usually aren't very terrible). When a Knight Templar attempts this, they are likely to go Jumping Off the Slippery Slope Doing What They Had To Do instead — see Tautological Templar and Totalitarian Utilitarian (formerly named The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions).

A good aligned Cowboy Cop/Military Maverick will almost certainly invoke this trope at least once. Doing this is often the way to pass a Secret Test of Character.

Since other characters may justifiably believe that law and order is a good thing, this trope can result in a Good Versus Good conflict.

Can be the cause of Awakening the Sleeping Giant if a group's new leaders decide to break with tradition. If the rules are such that the character is already on the run from the law, see Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help. If it involves directly disobeying a direct order of a superior officer in the armed forces, it's The Mutiny. The Chaotic Good are the personifications of this element. Neutral Good characters consider this trope in their options but may or may not elect it. Lawful Stupid may ignore this to a fault.

They can go even Beyond the Impossibile, if they are powerful enough to surpass the almighty laws of an Omnipotent Being.

Compare Honor Before Reason, Sudden Principled Stand, Screw This, I'm Outta Here, Screw the Money, I Have Rules!, and Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow. Contrast its Evil Counterpart, Just Following Orders. Often overlaps with Legalized Evil and Inherent in the System. Compare and contrast Resign in Protest.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • This is Batman's thing. The point of him dressing up like a giant bat and haunting the night is that he would never get anything done playing by the rules. Especially when the rules are made by corrupt officials who are connected to criminals. In fact, this was what lead to the creation of Batman and the Outsiders.
  • Captain America:
    "Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world — 'No, YOU move.'"
  • Chuck Dixon's Avalon: The Superhuman Protection Council takes the Vendetta case from Detective Lt. Church because Vendetta is superpowered. King Ace, who works for the SPC but is becoming suspicious of them, goes behind their backs to help Church work on the case off the books.
  • Most of the anti-registration superheroes in Civil War.
  • Clone Wars Adventures: One comic, "Salvaged," has a clone pilot decide not to help execute Order 66 and lie to some other clones that a ship is devoid of Jedi passengers, both because said Jedi are children and because the ship's pilot saved his life.
  • Uatu, the Watcher is an observer sworn not to interfere in the affairs of Earth, but there's just something about humans... (Note that Uatu has frequently gotten in trouble for this from the other members of his species, and is apparently currently on some form of probation.)
  • In Devil's Due's GI Joe vs the Transformers, the Joes defy orders to capture Wheeljack and Bumblebee, who were already working with them, and take them to Area 51 for study when they find out that the nukes the government plans to hit the Cobra base with are going to have an adverse effect when combined with the Energon that Cobra is trying to produce.
    • Heck, under Larry Hama's pen, the Joes regularly went against orders from more corrupt organizations like the Jugglers in order to do the right thing instead. One story arc even featured Destro saving the Joes after they were framed by a corrupt General.
      • The Animated Adaptation had Destro do so during the "Synthoid Conspiracy" two-parter when Cobra Commander had the Synthoids impersonate Duke and other military figures, as well as Congressional Budget Committee members (in an effort to undercut G. I. Joe and disband it). It failed miserably when the Commander tried to make a Synthoid of Destro and made the real Destro believe the Commander went that one step too far.
  • The dawn of the Bronze Age pretty much happened when Hal Jordan, following a lecture from Green Arrow, disobeyed the Guardians' orders and set out to stop a crooked businessman who was putting poor families out on the streets.
    • This is a fairly common theme in Green Lantern, period. The four human lanterns, and often a number of the alien ones, will go against a direct order from the Guardians or their Justice League teammates if they believe it will serve a greater purpose. Kyle Rayner sends a prisoner to Zamaron instead of Oa, John Stewart tells Batman to shove it when Bats disrespects Hal, the aforementioned Hal Jordan example, and Guy Gardner...well, he's freaking Guy Gardner.
  • Judge Dredd: An early comic has Dredd monitoring a cadet Judge's final exam, and when the cadet has arrested the perps, tells him to get out of the way so Dredd can execute them. After the cadet refuses several times, Dredd tells him he passed, in this case the conflict not being between Lawful or Good but Lawful and Obedient.
  • Pretty much what happens with most of the superheroes except for Superman in DC Comics' Legends when the President of the United States has to enforce a ban on superhero activity, seeing that the supervillains would take advantage of this ban to commit crimes without any interference.
  • New Avengers (2015): Hacktivist Rick Jones blew the whistle on SHIELD's increasingly shady operations, which led to him getting detained by them. He sent an SOS out to A.I.M., a villainous organisation that was bought out by Sunspot and restructured into the Avengers science division. If Sunspot and his New Avengers helped Rick, then they would be branded international terrorists and enemies of SHIELD. Sunspot takes a vote, which is unanimously for saving Rick, and then teleports out the dissenters so they don't get in trouble with the rest of A.I.M.. As he says, 'a call for help is a call for help'.
  • This trope is pretty much the reason that Nick Fury made Secret War happen.
  • In The Smurfs comic book story "The Smurf Menace", Papa Smurf orders his little Smurfs not to respond to the Gray Smurfs with violence when the Gray Smurfs ward them away from the dam with weapons during their protest of the Gray Smurfs hoarding all the water. Later on, when the Smurfs see that the Gray Smurfs were harassing them and robbing them of food that they were harvesting from the forest, Hefty decides to pick a fight with the Gray Smurfs and send them back to their village with nothing but bruises. The Smurfs applaud Hefty for his heroic act, but Papa Smurf still scolds Hefty for going against his orders...which immediately afterward he smiles, realizing that Hefty's decision to do so has resulted in his little Smurfs being united together again.
  • Deconstructed in Supergirl story Bizarrogirl. Previously Supergirl illegally extradited super-villain Reactron. She thought she was doing the right thing when she took him back to New Krypton so he answered for his crimes, but he got a Kangaroo Court and got tortured. And then he revealed that he was a human bomb set to blow the planet up. Which he did.
  • Superman:
    • Despite his "Big Blue Boyscout" reputation, Superman is willing to tear straight through any laws in his way if lives are on the line. He'll also willingly turn himself in afterward.
    • In Kryptonite Nevermore, Superman does not go out of his way to break laws, but he doesn't feel inclined to obey unjust ones.
      Superman: I can't let that happen! If worst comes to worst, I'll have to defy Harker — and take the consequences! Because there's a moral law that's above some man-made laws! I've fought tyrants before... thought it meant defying their inhuman decrees!
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana loses the right to act as the Amazonian champion Wonder Woman to the redheaded Amazon Orana fair and square in a contest, which should have kept her on Paradise Island. It did not as her responsibilities and history acting as a hero meant she went back to protect man's world even if it may cost her powers to do so.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): After the events of "The Contest" see Diana replaced as Wonder Woman by Artemis her Queen Hippolyta and the laws and customs of Themyscira intend/expect Diana to remain on Themyscira and remove herself from interacting with and living in the outside world. Diana immediately leaves to continue being a superhero as she's not just going to abandon people who have grown to rely on and trust her because she's been stripped of a title and position.
    • Wonder Woman: Tempest Tossed: Diana disobeys her mother the queen, and Amazon custom, in order to rescue refugees drowning just outside their island's barrier even though she knows it's possible she'll never make it back home as a result:
      When the rules are wrong you have to break them. Especially when little ones are in trouble. Mothers Five keep the children alive.
    • Wonder Woman: Warbringer: Diana chooses to save Alia and return with her to the mortal world to save it even though she knows the Amazonian rules and laws she's breaking are banishment-level offenses.

    Fan Works 
  • All Assorted Animorphs AUs: In "What if there was a zombie apocalypse?", Tobias suggests arming the populace by giving them the morphing power. The other Animorphs point out that they'd be breaking several species' laws... but they don't have any other options.
  • A Growing Affection: This is the impetus for two of the major arcs. In the second instance, Tsunade gives Naruto and company an order knowing it will invoke this trope.
  • In Things We Don't Tell Humans, this occurs when the NEST soldiers take Optimus Prime's body to Egypt during the Revenge Arc, and when Optimus authorizes nanite therapy for Dana.
  • Watson does this to Mortality in the Deliver Us from Evil Series when Holmes gets captured (and tortured) with an inch of his life. Way to go, Smith. You've just succeeded in seriously pissing off a mild-mannered doctor. Now you're going to wind up lying in a pool of your own blood.
  • In Destiny, Lauren disobeys an order from the Ash by helping a pregnant Fae come to term and delivers the baby. Unlike most other examples, there are serious consequences: the Ash throws Lauren in solitary confinement, but only after having some thugs beat her within an inch of her life. Despite the permanent physical discomfort, nightmares and psychological/emotional damage, and partial loss of movement in an arm, Lauren comments that she would do it again.
  • Essentially Tom's frame of mind in Fairy Tales and Hokum after he's forced to betray Jonathan. His fellow agents, not so much.
  • This is quite possibly the patron trope of Knight Commander Sir Valkron of Warriors of the World: Soldiers of Fortune, to the point that he very nearly loses his job because he disobeyed an order to not disobey.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, Akio breaks safety rules to save Miho from accidentally being run over after she gets shot.
    Kay: That boy broke safety rules dismounting to get you... but I think they'll overlook that, since he saved your life. I think he should get a medal for doing it, myself.
  • MLP Next Generation: Know Fear!:
    • Sunny Skies chooses to sacrifice her own career in the Royal Guard in order to free Starburst from the Canterlot dungeons because it's the right thing to do to win the war.
    • Starburst ultimately does this as well, going rogue and letting herself be declared a criminal, if that's what it takes for her to fight the war the way she needs to.
  • The Only Way to Go:
    • The Federation had the events of the Battle of Goralis declared classified (the cover story is a training accident), but Tia broke the rules to tell Sobaru's parents the real story. This is acknowledged as being illegal both in-universe and out- (StarSword compared it to Viper telling Maverick about Duke Mitchell's death in Top Gun), but everyone's in agreement that the decision to cover it up was plain insulting to those who died. (The question becomes moot in the next story, after a hacker dumps about a jillion bytes of classified Federation data onto The Alternet.)
    • Meanwhile, General Elwar Murin, the Commandant of the Bajoran Militia, is not a member of Starfleet and due to her position has the authority to tell Starfleet what it can go do with itself on a limited basis. Word of God is that she told the real story to everyone at the funeral partly because it was right, and partly just to give the finger to Starfleet Command.
      Elwar: I know damn well what the official story said, Corporal, and as far as I care Starfleet Command can piss up a rope. They’re not my boss and they'd bloody better find Commander Kojami a medal before I break protocol and name her to the Order of the Five Moons.
  • Summer Crowns: The magisters of Pentos learn how much Robert respects a truce banner when you present him with the heads of fourteen slave children as a warning.
  • In the Bones fic "We Are Legend" (essentially a new take on I Am Legend), when Brennan becomes Patient Zero of a virus that turns the infected into zombie-esque creatures, Booth is ordered to kill her to try and stop the spread of infection, but faced with loyalty to his country and loyalty to Brennan, Booth chooses instead to turn on the rest of his team, unable to kill his partner despite every reason he would have to obey his superiors' orders.
  • Avengers: Darkness in Kingdom Hearts sees Spider-Man and the Scarlet Witch travelling through the realities of various Disney films to protect a young Sora from Xenohart and the Heartless. While Spider-Man respects the warning that he and his allies can't change the fates of these worlds, when they find themselves in the events of Revenge of the Sith, Peter immediately resolves to do what he can to change the original outcome of events, both for the moral reason that he won't let Anakin fall to the Dark Side and the practical dangers of Palpatine becoming aware of the other worlds he could conquer.
  • In the Personality Conflicts series fic "Zordon's Trial", it is revealed that if an interdicted world like Earth that has had no official contact with the wider universe is attacked, a Ranger team should be chosen from the nearest Council world in the name of limiting cultural contamination (never mind that the original invasion does that all by itself), so Zordon actually broke the rules when he chose humans to serve as his Rangers when Rita was released. While Zordon affirms that he had grown to care for humanity and developed an affection for Earth during his time there, and concedes that his first choice was made out of a mix of admiration and desperation, he also points out that there were several practical issues in selecting a new team of Rangers from Aquitar (the nearest affiliated planet) to defend Earth when Rita was first released, ranging from the long-term risk of dehydration to just finding five appropriate natives and getting them to Earth in time to stop Rita's first assault, all with the time-lag on communications to overcome in the process.
  • The Power of Seven: The only way to save Harry's life and destroy the horcrux in him without just killing him is through a complex ritual that involves Harry bonding himself to seven different witches through a sex ritual. Technically, the magic involved in such a ritual is illegal in magical Britain, but so far only Hermione, Susan and Dumbledore have explicitly acknowledged the illegality of it, and while Dumbledore believes this thus ensures nobody will use it, Hermione and Susan have explicitly stated that they don't care about the legality of it so long as Harry's life is saved.
  • Crimson and Emerald: The police try to have Hawks take sole credit for taking down Stain to not embarrass the police and Hosu pros that they were outdone by three high-schoolers. Hawks refuses for three reasons. One, it would imply that Hawks abandoned his intern in the middle of a battlefield. Two, the public will find out the truth eventually due to Stain's fanatical fanbase. Three, Hawks had his office give the news a press release already.
  • In And the Unethical Binding Contract, all three of the other champions do their best to help Harry after he's entered into the Triwizard Tournament despite being only eleven, including both informing him as to what the next task is, improving his plan for the first task, and guiding him to the goals of the second and third tasks.
  • Fate/Harem Antics: Servant Ruler/Saint Martha tells her Master Taiga Fujimura that they are not supposed to interfere with the battles unless a rule of the Holy Grail War is violated. Taiga says that if Shirou, Rin, or Sakura are hurt, no power in the universe will stop her from helping.
  • Fractures (ATLA): During the Toph Interlude, Toph and Piandao break Azula out of prison to get her the psychiatric help she so desperately needs.
  • Star Wars vs. Warhammer 40K: Shortly after their arrival to the Star Wars galaxy, the Imperium of Man conquers Axum, a Core World located practically next door to the Republic capital of Coruscant. Faced with this new extragalactic threat, the Galactic Senate reacts... by entering political gridlock as they bicker among themselves over what should be done. After weeks of senatorial inaction, the Jedi Order finally becomes fed up with waiting and launches an unsanctioned military operation to liberate Axum, knowing that the Senate will be under increased pressure to send aid once news of the Jedi counter-invasion gets out.
    • Also, the clone troopers from the 327th Star Corps and 501st Legion all volunteer to join in on the Jedi counterattack despite the Senate having forbidden the Clone Army from attacking the Imperium without their authorization.
  • Those Who Hurt You The Most: Even though Hollis never gave them the authorization for a mission, Milla and Sasha don't even think twice before joining Lili, Frazie, and Dion on a rescue mission once they figure out where Raz is.
  • There Was Once an Avenger From Krypton: At the start of The Royal We, Nova Prime orders the Nova Corps and everyone connected to it, including Captain Marvel, not to get involved in Morando's coup or his pursuit of the Tarron siblings, for realpolitik reasons. Carol's immediate reaction to this is to alert S.W.O.R.D. to what's happening and the siblings' impending arrival on Earth, because they need help and it's the right thing to do.
  • In Three Strikes, Like the Osean forces at Archorhead the ones on Tyler Island have orders that Trigger is a traitor and must be killed but they refuse to follow those orders after she has just saved their asses as no traitor would do that.
  • Vow of the King: Several hundred years after the first Quincy war, some of the Quincy tried to take their revenge on the Shinigami. Though he was ordered to exterminate them to the last, Yamamoto took care to only kill those part of the antagonizing faction. This is in stark contrast to the first Quincy war where he had to be talked out of exterminating even children too young to fight.

    Films — Animated 
  • Disney Animated Canon
    • Mulan:
      • Mulan takes her father's uniform, disguises as a man, and takes his place.
      • By law, Shang should have executed Mulan once he discovered she was a girl disguised as a man. But because she had earlier saved his life, he drops his sword and lets her go. Despite the protests of Obstructive Bureaucrat Chi Fu, the army rides off without her.
      Shang: A life for a life. My debt is repaid.
    • The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
      • Claude Frollo orders Esmeralda not to free Quasimodo. Esmeralda promptly takes out a knife and cuts the ropes holding Quasimodo. And then Esmeralda publicly humiliates Frollo — and in effect, calls Frollo a racist, to his face — for his hypocritical use of religion for his racist mistreatment of Gypsies.
      • Frollo orders Captain Phoebus to burn down a windmill — with a couple and their two children locked inside of it. Phoebus objects, saying that he was not trained to murder innocent civilians, to which Frollo replies, "But you were trained to follow orders". Phoebus then put out the torch that he was given by dunking it into a barrel of water. After that happens, Frollo accuses him of cowardice and starts the fire himself. Phoebus promptly breaks into the windmill to get the family out safely and is arrested immediately afterward. Frollo comments on how he expected better from such a decorated officer. Needless to say, Phoebus is now branded a traitor.
      Phoebus: Consider it my highest honor, sir.
  • The Incredibles: This is a defining trait of Bob; he's determined to use his powers to help others even if he has to break the law to do it. Best exemplified in this conversation with Frozone:
    Lucius: What are we doing here, Bob?
    Bob: We're protecting people.
    Lucius: Nobody asked us.
    Bob: You need an invitation?
  • In Shrek 2, Harold decides to go back on his promise to the Fairy Godmother after seeing that Fiona will not change her mind about Shrek and will never be with Charming on her own free will. He decides last minute not to give her a cup of tea laced with a Love Potion so as not to violate her free will.
  • Coco: After Miguel returns to the living, he decides to ignore the "no music" rule and performs "Remember Me" for Mamá Coco to make her remember Héctor.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: After Finn gets in one fight too many with his sister Bianca and destroys her creation, their parents order them to put all their LEGOs away into storage. Eventually, Finn decides to repair his relationship with Bianca by playing with their LEGOs together. The mother is happy to see them finally getting along and she doesn't try to scold them for breaking the rules.

  • Leslie Fish's ''The Day it Fell Apart'' is about a woman who runs a small-town general hospital suddenly finding herself with a thousand wounded men from a local explosion at a factory, with outside help several hours away at least. The narrator breaks any law she needs to in order to keep them alive, including lying that everyone in town was legally obligated to follow her orders, commandeering various supplies, and even forcibly extracting blood for transfusions from the Corrupt Corporate Executive whose negligence caused the factory explosion in the first place.
    "When that day was over, and we'd saved all that we could,
    We saw that law and politics would hang us where we stood.
    We'd saved eight hundred lives but shattered all authority.
    I told them, "People, save yourselves, put all the blame on me."
    I took my books and instruments, and a few supplies beside,
    Packed my car and ran away to open countryside.
    So now I live an outlaw, condemned by righteous men,
    But for all the lives I saved that day... I'd do it all again."
  • Sabaton's "Hearts of Iron" is about the German 12th Army defying its impossible orders to stop the Soviet advance into Berlin at all costs. Instead, at great cost they forced open a corridor to American lines that saved tens of thousands of lives.
    "It's the end, the war has been lost
    Keeping them safe 'til the river's been crossed
    Nicht ein Schlacht, ein RettungsaktionGer.: 
    Holding their ground 'til the final platoon
    'Hurry up, we're waiting for you'
    Men of the 9th, and civilians too
    Dispossessed, surrendering to the West"

  • In episode sixteen of The Fallen Gods, when Mara demands the party return to their quest after disappearing for six months. They refuse, as they've just discovered a Tower of enslaved merfolk that they are adamant about liberating no matter what.

  • The Bible:
    • The protagonist in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) could be considered the Ur-Example, although Jesus probably didn't base the character on a real person.
    • Jesus himself fits this trope in many respects, blatantly altering or disregarding then-common interpretations of Mosaic law when he felt the rules had gotten in the way of doing what was right. (If you believe he's God made manifest in the flesh, he does seem to have the authority to interpret the laws as he sees fit to do so.) A prominent example is in Luke 6:6-10, when he calls the Pharisees out for not helping the man with his right hand withered during the Sabbath and heals the man afterward.
  • Judaism has Pikuach nefesh, which means saving a life. If it’s in the interest of saving a human life in danger, then any biblical law may be broken in that interest except for the three unforgivable sins — murder, illicit relations, and worship of other gods.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the classic Character Alignment system (first featured in Dungeons & Dragons), this is generally how Chaotic Good is interpreted. When it's not, Neutral Good tends to step into the breach (Chaotic Good has tendencies towards ignoring rules as a matter of course — Neutral Good will ignore the rules when necessary, but make no special effort to flout them when it's not). Lawful Good characters can sometimes get away with this to avoid falling into Stupid Good territory.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: In 3.5th Edition, grey guards are paladins who experienced a Heroic BSoD and have decided to take this trope as their creed. They will protect the greater good, no matter what laws might restrict them ordinarily, and no matter what it might take. Some players think this class completely misses the point of being a paladin, since it advocates an I Did What I Had to Do attitude. On the other hand, it gives the player more freedom to use their powers of smiting evil and injustice. Even outside of the grey guard class, the rules state in more than one place that, if the choice is "law" vs. "good", "good" wins.
  • In Nomine: The Archangel Dominic has an interesting relationship with this trope. On the one hand, he normally has very little patience for those who go against Heaven and Judgement's rules. On the other hand, he cares far more about justice than he does about law; his followers are to respect mortal laws insofar as they are morally correct and can and should ignore them if they cease to be so, and Dominic hates it when his angels try to hide behind legalisms and loopholes. Even in Heaven, of the few ways to dodge his harsher judgements is to provide a strong justification for why whatever landed you under his eye was the morally correct course of action.
  • Warhammer 40K: The period aptly known as the Months of Shame was a civil war opposing the Space Wolves chapter of Space Marines and the Inquisition shortly after the first war for Armageddon. After the events of Armageddon, the Inquisition wanted to kill the Guardsmen and civilians who'd participated in the conflict to prevent knowledge of Chaos from spreading, something which the Space Wolves (one of the nicer Chapters) objected to. This combined with an incompetent Inquisitor way out of his depth led to the Space Wolves and the Grey Knights fighting a full-blown war, resulting in more damage to the Wolves' home planet than the entire Horus Heresy, and only ended when Grey Knights' Chapter Master and the Inquisitor were killed.

  • This trope is pretty much the point of a lot of Greek tragedies, making this trope Older Than Dirt. A good example is Sophocles' Antigone: shall she bury the body of his brother, as divine laws prescribe, or leave him unburied (and as such cursed to a miserable afterlife) as King Creon ordered? She does what she feels is right. Tragedy ensues.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Daughter for Dessert, even though he knows that the protagonist committed a crime, Moe Mortelli chooses loyalty to his friend over loyalty to the law after he breaks into Cecilia's hotel room to confront her about Lainie, because the protagonist only did what any “real man” in America would have done (in Mortelli's opinion).
  • In the secret ending of Mystic Messenger, when Seven asks Vanderwood to help the two of you get Saeran to safety away from Mint Eye, he initially vehemently refuses, since the espionage agency he and Seven work for has ordered him to capture Seven for slacking off on his duties too much, and if he were to disobey their orders, he would be in just as much danger. But when Seven makes it clear just how serious he is about helping Saeran, and tells Vanderwood that he already has a brand new identity ready for him if he's willing to abandon the agency to come along, he throws caution to the wind and double-crosses the agency, electing to stay Vitriolic Best Buds with Seven and doing what's right for the first time in a long time.

  • In Anecdote of Error, Luntsha breaks Zeya out of her prison cell awaiting her execution because she doesn’t think she’s a bad person, since she spared them during their attack. She gets expelled for this.
  • Domain Tnemrot has Angel helping Dae after his fight, even though she's not allowed in the ring and is almost killed for it.
  • Exiern: Following some epic-level Rules Lawyering and Loophole Abuse, Coriander (a Corrupt Church official outed as a pedophile) is about to walk away scot-free — with promises of retribution to those who exposed his crimes. Gender-Bent hero Tiffany decides enough is enough, publicly resigns her position in the royal court, then castrates Coriander. And follows it up with a The Reason You Suck speech to the assembled court:
    Tiffany: "If the Alliance thinks that squabbling over arcane traditions and legal loopholes, while a provable child molester walks away, is civilization then you have all failed at it. Miserably. My people, who you call savages, know better. This is not a land of reason, it is institutionalized madness, and I'll have no part in it."
  • Follower: Colonel Harren is a downplayed version of this. He is respectful to his superiors and follows orders given, but he is doing whatever he can to actively subvert the weaponization part of Project Cottontail with Dr. Calway.
  • Freefall:
    • The Mayor's assistant deliberately goes against the Mayor's decisions to help Florence stop Gardener in the Dark, noting that there are some things worth risking your internship for.
    • Florence notes that some people are criminals because they're bad, others are criminals because they're out of legal options.
  • Manly Guys Doing Manly Things: The main reason why Commander Badass never became Captain Badass was that he repeatedly went off on unauthorized rescue missions. That he often came back from said missions with his body and cybernetics in a shape that necessitated enormous amounts of medical intervention and repairs didn't exactly endear him to his superiors, either.
  • Lord Shojo of The Order of the Stick felt the restrictions on the Oaths that prevented them from seeking out the other Gates were too restrictive, especially since two Gates were destroyed within the last 20 years. However, his plans all involved disregarding his Oaths, going behind the backs of his paladins, and contacting foreign mercenaries. While Shojo is portrayed sympathetically, Rich points out that Shojo never considered trying to convince the paladins that the Oaths were outdated (plus, one of the locations was heavily booby-trapped in case Soon or his followers decided to do this, the trapper believing this trope in the hands of paladins would only be a self-righteous justification).
    • Miko actually said the phrase "The laws have no meaning... Only honor and the will of the gods matter now". Granted, it turned out that she was doing the wrong, incredibly stupid thing, but she was convinced that killing Lord Shojo was the right and necessary thing to do.

    Web Original 
  • While Jeremy of CinemaSins normally makes it a rule to never refer to the source material when sinning a movie adaptation of a video game or book, and wears this as a badge of honor, he's egregiously broken this rule twice. Once to call out Dragon Ball Evolution, as he feels it's such a terrible and thoughtless adaptation that it deserved it (and even then he holds off the main review is over), and once to call out the controversial underage sewer sex scene in It that both film adaptations wisely didn't include:
    (On the ending of It (1990)): Awww, it's a sweet, completely innocent promise to defend each other in the future. So moving. I wonder if it reads as moving in the original book? <Reading> <reading> Sweet Jesus, Stephen! What the fuck, man?! (Adds 30 sins)
  • This is what kicks off the major conflict of Volume 8 of RWBY, as RWBY refuse to follow Ironwood's orders to abandon Mantle to secure Atlas and, eventually, even a few of his own soldiers decide he's not worth following after he threatens to bomb Mantle.
  • The Weather: One subplot in "Tornado" involves a pair of scientists forced to detonate a nuke, in order to destroy a tornado. They both have a tearful discussion over the implications before agreeing not to do it...which gets one of them killed. The government official holding the gun tells the remaining scientist they really want him to press the button... to which the scientist ends up agreeing to.

    Western Animation 
  • Jacob from A Tale Dark And Grimm. In the penultimate episode, despite repeatedly being told that he's forbidden from actually helping or even interacting with Hansel and Gretel, Jacob is the one who decides enough is enough and interferes in the story to save the kids from danger. Kind of doubles as a Heroic Sacrifice, because he knows that breaking the rules means he'll be stuck as a raven forever.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
  • In The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Captain America suspects something is mind-controlling the Hulk to go berserk, who is currently captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. and General Ross. When nothing can be done to convince them to let the Hulk go, he then proceeds to break into the underwater base and breaks all sorts of rules to rescue Hulk, which is against his otherwise extremely lawful persona.
  • The titular character from Batman: The Animated Series, natch, but Detective Harvey Bullock really shines as an example of this. He's a rude, uncouth, disgusting, truly unpleasant individual who frequently breaks the law, employs Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques (at least to the extent a kid's show could display), and even goads criminals into opening fire so he can respond with lethal force to save paperwork. He also happens to be one of the few truly uncorrupt cops in Gotham and consistently uses these illegal tactics to get results and bring criminals in, with even so much as being hinted at being on the take enough to make him snap. The irony is his methods and Batman's are similar, yet the two can't stand each other and would both flip at the thought of being considered similar.
  • In Bravestarr one episode has a prospector stake a claim on Star Peak after he finds the Kerium deposits under the mountain. Tex Hex attempts to steal the claim for himself and evict Shaman who lives on the land. Bravestarr is torn between the law and his friendship to Shaman, and eventually quits as marshal. To help Bravestarr, Shaman reminds him of a time as a child when he got into trouble for swimming in a lake sacred to the tribe. Young Bravestarr states he wasn't swimming for fun, he saw a young bird had been injured and was drowning and swam in to save it, even questioning if a life is more important than the tribes rules. Shaman tells the adult Bravestarr to think again about if the rules are more important than a drowning bird.
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Rival Busker", after seeing Owen and Cole stuck up in a tree with an owl attacking them, Birdie rushes in to help, ignoring Griffin’s warning that he could be forced out of the story altogether if he interferes again. Despite breaking the rules twice, whatever cosmic narrative force the narrators serve approves of Birdie’s selfless act and reinstates him as narrator (much to Griffin’s dismay).
  • In Code Lyoko, the Lyoko Warriors are often forbidden by the faculty from leaving class or traveling off the property of their boarding school, Kadic Academy, in order to reach a factory housing a supercomputer so as to neutralize the attacks of the highly-dangerous artificial intelligence, XANA, mainly when an attack has not noticeably surfaced, and because only the Lyoko Warriors know about the supercomputer and XANA. However, there have been instances where they use (or attempt to use) going to the bathroom/infirmary as an excuse, attempt to barter for release, or even outright escape when the teachers have their backs turned.
  • Dan Vs.: While Elise is perfectly willing to go act in line with her shadowy employer (and has a history of Disproportionate Retribution), in "Technology," she ditches her mission of enhancing the site's security when she realizes Ditmer's plan to operate a wide-range mind control device on society - against her boss's orders.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Screams of Silence: The Story of Brenda Q.", police officer Joe was initially against Quagmire's suggestion that they kill his sister's abusive boyfriend since it would be murder. But when he witnesses the abuse for himself, his response is...
    • And in "Thanksgiving", a flashback shows Joe chasing a homeless man who stole some food, but he lets the guy off the hook when he sees he stole it to feed his starving family. This even, in turn, inspired Joe's son, Kevin, an Iraq War veteran, to abandon the war effort.
  • Hal tends to do this in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, much to the annoyance of his bosses, the Guardians (save Ganthet, who seems to follow in Hal's belief in this). Lampshaded by Kilowog when Hals shows annoyance at Aya for doing the same after learning it from his example.
  • Iron Man: Armored Adventures: In the episode "Fun with Laser", Iron Man goes against Nick Fury's order to stop the Living Laser and save the SHIELD space station after Nick's first plan fails spectacularly.
    • Pretty much Pepper's reason for every plan of hers, despite some plans including destroying the enemy's entire company.
  • The contest to send an Amazon out into Man's World that's key to most versions of Wonder Woman's origin was Adapted Out of Justice League with Hippolyta instead deciding to ignore a crisis and telling Diana not to interfere, and Diana deciding to ignore said edict. This tropenote  is eventually deconstructed in a later episode where she is forced to bring her fellow (male) Justice League members to Themyscira in order to save the day, and is banished by Hippolyta — her own mother — from the island.note  This gets reversed in a later Justice League Unlimited episode, where Hippolyta tells her that (paraphrased) "[Themyscira] is [her] home, and nothing will change that", later saying that the Gods will have to "talk with [her; meaning Hippolyta]" about it.
  • Kion from The Lion Guard is told by his father Simba that to be a true Lion Guard, his patrol must be all lions. Kion later says that it doesn't matter that his friends aren't lions; what matters is that they protect the Pridelands together.
  • In one episode of Popeye And Son, Popeye and his son are in a father/son contest, and one of the rules forbids the use of spinach. They end up breaking this rule when they have to save Wimpy and his nephew.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • One episode has Squidward file a restraining order against SpongeBob, but it causes problems with his job. Then when Squidward has an allergy and Patrick mistakes him for a monster and attacks him, SpongeBob decides to go against the order for the sake of stopping the fight. Squidward sees how much SpongeBob cares for them both and decides to take him off the restraining order and replace his name with Patrick's.
    • In another episode, Squidward tells SpongeBob to serve only one side of a concert so he doesn't follow him backstage; when he ends up feeding his entire section and sees the other half starving, SpongeBob decides to go against Squidward's orders and feed them for their sake.
  • In Star Trek: Lower Decks, this is Beckett Mariner's thing and it's completely Deconstructed throughout. She wants to help people out, no matter who they are, but absolutely hates the bureaucratic work Starfleet does to get that help, thus she jumps right in, damn the consequences. However, by the time of Season 3's opener, she's so far gone that she's willing to commit crimes in order to "be right".
  • In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode, "Cat and Mouse", Anakin decides to engage Admiral Trench after he sends bombers to bomb the command center where Bail Organa is, because Anakin wants to not have Obi-Wan risk his fleet by engaging Trench, because he has fewer resources, and would be walking into a deathtrap.


Video Example(s):


"I am the Ghost."

When Jin's less honorable tactics become too much, Shimura tries to get him to pass the blame onto Yuna. Having taken such extremes to protect Tsushima and unwilling to out his friend, Jin embraces his new self.

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / ScrewTheRulesImDoingWhatsRight

Media sources: