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).
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.
Compare Honor Before Reason, Sudden Principled Stand, Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and Frequently-Broken Unbreakable Vow. Contrast its Evil Counterpart, Just Following Orders. Compare and contrast Resign in Protest.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- This is Batman's thing. The point of him dressing up like a giant bat and haunting the night is because 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.'"
- Most of the anti-registration superheroes in Civil War.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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'.
- 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.
- 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 and trust her because she's been stripped of a title and position.
- 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 in Mortality 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.
- 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. Theyre 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.
- 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.
- In Mulan, 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.
- In Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 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.
- 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 love potion so not to violate her free will.
- 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 protagonist in the Parable of the Good Samaritan as told in The Bible (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.
- 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.
- In Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Domain Tnemrot has Angel helping Dae after his fight, even though she's not allowed in the ring and is almost killed for it.
- 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.
- Also in Freefall, Florence notes that some people are criminals because they're bad, others are criminals because they're out of legal options.
- 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 weaponizaion part of Project Cottontail with Dr. Calway.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 less resources, and would be walking into a deathtrap.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- 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.
- 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 for 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.
- 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 Not So Different, yet the two can't stand each other and would both flip at the thought of being considered similar.