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The Captain

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"Both parties of the Edit War are within weapons range, sir."
"Very good, Mr. Worf. Attack pattern Banhammer—engage!"

"O Captain my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring..."
— "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman, on Abraham Lincoln

The Captain — from the Latin caput, meaning "head" — is in charge. The Commanding Officer of The Squad or the Command Roster. It's good to be the Captain. Whether this character is the Mission Control or actually working in the field, he/she is clearly the one running things. Any Cool Ship must have The Captain — no matter whether it's a Cool Boat, a Cool Starship, or a Cool Airship. He is expected to stay with that ship no matter what. And any Captain must have a Captain's Log.

The Captain will almost always hold said actual rank, even if their performance would allow the Captain to move up the chain of command. (Also true in non-naval branches of the armed forces (Army, Marines, etc.), since Captain is the highest of the Company Grade ranks, i.e. the officer ranks that participate in actual combat. From Major onward, officer ranks are more administrative.) This is sometimes confused by the naval convention that anyone in command of a given ship is referred to as "captain", no matter their rank (for most vessels smaller than a cruiser, the Captain is Commander, and smaller vessels like minesweepers can be commanded by a Lieutenant) — and all other officers on board who actually hold the rank of Captain receive a (honorary) promotion for the duration of their stay and are addressed as "Commodore" (or non-navy Captains (O-3, in US terms) get addressed as "Major"). Horatio Hornblower actually becomes a captain for the first time while still a Midshipman as he is put in charge of a vessel that was captured in battle.

Regardless of actual rank held, however, under most modern and historical laws the captain of a naval vessel is the Omnipotent Being on it when out in sea, since it is his personal responsibility to return to land with his crew complete and his ship in one piece. And not even the God-Emperor of the Universe can give orders past him in this case.note  To this extent, portrayal of The Captain as a Reasonable Authority Figure, an Officer and a Gentleman (sometimes in contrast with officers from other military branches) is undoubtedly Truth in Television.

Assuming he is a part of the main cast, The Captain (often along with his senior officers) is often depicted doing things that really should be delegated out to lower-ranked, more expendable personnel in order to have some tangible things to do (unlike in real life where officers are often doing lots of important but boring "office work"). However, since there's no drama in conferences, meetings, and paperwork, most writers would rather have him behave unlike a real captain and hope no one notices. Often his participation in minor issues serves as Character Development, so that when a grave decision has to be made, he will be able to say "I Did What I Had to Do" without alienating the audience in the process.

Sometimes, however, The Captain is instead a background Reasonable Authority Figure, while the narrative focuses on people under his command. It's a road less taken because it's dramatically tricky to carry off, at least in a visual medium. Star Trek: The Next Generation tried a form of it in the early days, leaving Picard on the bridge and having Riker be the 'field guy'. While it made sense, it just didn't work in regards to drama. Indeed, this approach works best when The Captain is considerably older and noticeably unsuitable to physical action for reasons such as age or infirmity. This leaves a younger, less mature character to act as the "deputy" who is allowed to run around, get in and out of trouble, make mistakes, get involved romantically, learn valuable lessons, discover new things about himself, and do all sorts of things that The Captain would have already done to be where he is today, the general perception being that by the time a character reaches the point of becoming The Captain, his character has little room left for development. This approach is occasionally taken in anime but in many such cases, The Captain is often fated to die sometime before story's end so that the younger character may truly develop into a mature character and live up to the hope his mentor had for him.

A median approach between the two is to imply that available personnel are in a relatively small number, thus forcing and justifying the presence of the Captain and senior officers in field situations, or to outright establish that The Captain's skill and experience are just that indispensable due to Rank Scales with Asskicking, thus making him the best one to handle the Monster of the Week.

Compare The Hero, The Good Captain, Supporting Leader, Commanding Coolness, Colonel Badass, Majorly Awesome, Captain Superhero. Contrast Da Chief. Do not confuse this with the Captain in Commedia dell'Arte, who's a Miles Gloriosus.

Also not to be confused with the German live-action film of the same name, whose protagonist is decidedly not this trope.

This trope concerns captains of ships and vessels of all kind and is almost exclusively a Navy trope. A Captain in the army is a lower-level officer who might at most command an infantry company of 120-160 men, or a tank squadron, or an artillery troop. He is higher than a lieutenant but lower than a major, and the rank equates to a Navy lieutenant (a few grades below a Navy captain). An Army captain might be viewed as a Rupert with five or six years practical experience, and it is the highest level to which a British Army officer is automatically promoted: promotion to higher ranks is by competitive selection.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sport anime, based on real life, usually has an extremely talented captain that is so valuable he can change the game's pace simply by just being there.
  • Tatemiya Saiji, the substitute supreme pontiff of the Amakusa-style church in A Certain Magical Index is essentially the captain of the group of Amakusa that work "in the field" so to speak. he is also often the leader of the group's jokes and attempts to help Itsuwa get Touma's affection...whether she wants the help or not at times.
  • Lelouch, of Code Geass, founded and rescued the Japanese resistance movement from near-inevitable defeat and obscurity by transforming them into "The Order of Black Knights" and using his abilities and natural strategic talent to enable daring and dramatic displays of resistance and victory over the oppressors (motivated at least in part by his personal desire for revenge, given that Lelouch is an Anti-Hero).
  • Eureka Seven has Holland, who at first rules his crew with an iron fist, frequently beating on Renton and others for stepping out of line. He becomes a competent (as well as compassionate!) captain by the end.
  • Hiruma Youichi of Eyeshield 21. The Foul-mouthed, Gun-toting, Jerkass and genius Magnificent Bastard who can get practically anything he wants through his book of threats, his brains or Cerberus, his dog. Oh, and he leads the ultra rookie football team to winning the most important match of high school football in Japan within 6 months of assembling the players.
  • The Gundam metaverse, with its love for Cool Ships, has a large share of Captains.
    • Captain Bright Noa from the original Mobile Suit Gundam survived so many of its sequels, he got dubbed "The Eternal Captain" by the fandom. In a series filled with Grey-and-Grey Morality, Bright tends to be the one authority figure the fans count as truly uncorrupt and an upstanding force for good, despite his occasional personality flaws.
    • Murrue Ramius is The Captain of the Cosmic Era, though Talia Gladys from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny also makes a good showing (and indeed the two women have quite a bit in common). Ramius' gradual acceptance of her duties and responsibilities as The Captain is an important subplot of SEED.
      • As is Talia's carrying hers out to the bitter end in Destiny.
      • Also in SEED/SEED Destiny are Captain Natarle Badgiruel, who captains the Archangel's rival, the Dominion, and Captain Neo Roanoke of the Girty Lue, a bonafide villain and Manipulative Bastard who causes loads of problems for the heroes in the first part of Destiny.
    • Sumeragi Lee Noriega and Kati Mannequin in Mobile Suit Gundam 00.
    • Jamil Neate in Gundam X
    • Berah Ronah in Mobile Suit Crossbone Gundam
    • Mobile Suit Gundam AGE has three, befitting its generational nature: the first is Grodek Ainoa (who actually stole the ship to pursue a personal agenda, but is otherwise a pretty decent guy), the second is former Bridge Bunny Millais Alloy, and the third is the young, timid, and woefully unprepared Natola Einus (though, to her credit, she gives her best effort at being a good commander and starts coming into her own near the end of the series).
  • Sir Penwood from Hellsing is revealed to strive for this ideal despite his admitted incompetence. And his staff acknowledges it.
  • The eponymous Irresponsible Captain Tylor is a subversion of this insofar as even his closest friends, subordinates and enemies cannot decide if he is an ungodly talented commander or a lazy bum with extraordinary luck. Sometimes he even manages to pull off the impression that he is both at the same time....
  • The Kings in K tend to be this sort of leader, but only Munakata, the Blue King, is referred to as Captain, considering that his clan is the military-styled one.
  • Kuroko's Basketball: The team captains are most of the time someone different than The Ace, being older and more mature than them and have actual leading qualities to keep their teammates in check. As such, they are most often designated with the number 4. Akashi and Hanamiya are the only aces who function as the team captain as they are able to coordinate, instruct and command their teammates.
  • Alex Row, the indomitable brain behind the Silvana (aka "Kill-em-all Silvana") in Last Exile. When Alex is captured, his XO Sophia Forrester also rises up to the challenge, competently skippering the ship during the final battle.
  • The Leijiverse gives us a whole space force worth of examples:
  • Macross:
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Hayate as the commanding officer of Riot Force 6.
  • Martian Successor Nadesico goes a long way in exploring... let's face it, deconstructing the function of a vessel's captain during its fifth episode. The conclusion reached by the Magical Computer is that the primary function, in an age of centralized command, is projecting an aura of confidence and collected calm, so that his subordinates can keep a cool head in critical situations. The analysis even notes that older, dignified captains (read: Captain Okita) have been increasingly replaced by young and attractive men and women who could motivate contemporary audiences...excuse me, crews. The Captain of the show, Yurika Misumaru, is a blatant and probably deliberate subversion of that analysis, since she is an actual tactical genius as well as a charismatic figurehead.
    • In the same chapter, they do a lot of funerals for each religion of the people that died in the previous chapter.
  • Being about pirates, One Piece has a lot of them. Hero Captain Monkey D. Luffy deserves special mention for appearing to be a complete Idiot Hero and Leeroy Jenkins, but eventually shows that he is actually a talented and inspiring leader with a very firm grasp on whether or not he and his crew can win a battle. His authority over his team is also absolute, regardless of his bouts of idiocy — when you have a loyal swordsman like Roronoa Zoro to ensure that his authority is respected, well, it's a good thing The Power of Friendship is the more prominent motivation.
  • Similarly, Slam Dunk also has team captains who serve as the Team Dad/Big Brother Mentor and act as the pillar for their teams, like Shohoku's Akagi and Ryonan's Uozumi. However, the two strongest players in Kanagawa, Maki and Fujima respectively, are both this role and The Ace of Kainan and Shoyo respectively.
  • Super Atragon features Captain Hayate, who rarely leaves The Bridge, has his own catchphrase and No Indoor Voice, always wears his full dress uniform, and sports a manly beard.

    Comic Books 
  • Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America as of the aftermath of SHIELD is officially a Captain, in charge of National Security, with his own team of shadow ops super-agents, no less.
    • Captain/director Nick Fury, the former top dog of SHIELD.
  • Captain Atom: Nathaniel Adam is a former Captain in the United States Air Force.
  • The leader of the Catstronauts is Captain Meowser.
  • Hal Jordan from Green Lantern holds the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force.
  • Gabriel Cole of The Mighty is in charge of Section Omega.
  • Ms. Marvel: Carol Danvers now goes by Captain Marvel, which is actually a downgrade since she left the Air Force with the rank of Colonel. In the Secret Wars alternate universe comic Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps, she is the leader of Banshee Squadron, who defend their homeland Hala Field. She's also set to be in charge of defending the Earth from threats from space in the new Marvel universe.
  • The Punisher: Frank Castle is a retired Marine Corps Captain in the MAX continuity.
  • Transformers: More than Meets the Eye: Rodimus commands the Autobot starship Lost Light in the search for the legendary Knights of Cybertron. As of the Dawn of the Autobots arc, he's relegated to co-captain alongside Megatron.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Diana acted as the captain of the rebel fleet's flagship while in the Sangtee Empire, and was responsible for the personnel of many other spacecraft besides as the leader of the main portion of the resistance.
    • Lt. Steve Trevor usually ends up promoted — in the Pre-Crisis days all the way to General before retireing after the Vietnam War — and has acted as the leader of several military units, including rather secretive ones containing superpowered agents.
    • While Young Justice was traversing in space on Impulse's space ship Wonder Girl (Cassie) acted as the captain, while Slobo acted as their pilot and together they were able to get the stranded and out of its depth team safely back to earth.
  • In some of the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics, the leader of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles, is the Captain.

    Fan Works 
  • A Crown of Stars: Although her actual rank is Junior First Lieutenant Asuka is in charge of the army tasked with freeing her world of the bunch of dictators running it, and she is responsible for her troops and for the success of the mission.
  • Among You: Yellow for the Skeld; Green for the Reliant.
  • Evangelion 303: Misato is the commanding officer of the "Evangelion" squad. She leads and trains the Children and chews them off when it is needed.
  • HERZ: After the battle of 2015 Asuka got promoted to Captain. She often leads the Evangelion and HERZ troops in the battlefield.
  • The Price of Flight sees Captain Olga Romanoff in charge of the Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch. She discharges her duties conscientiously but misses the old days when the Air Watch was much smaller and she was just a lance-constable.
  • In Recoil, Taylor Snow joins the PRT and is promoted fairly rapidly to the rank of Captain.
  • In XCOM: RWBY Within, Ruby is promoted to captain after Jaune is promoted to lieutenant.
  • In XSGCOM, Colonel Steven Caldwell is given command of a starship, similar to the original series, but this time it's Cronus's Ha'tak, which (thanks to some manipulation by O'Neill) is christened the Enterprise (much to Caldwell's chagrin). Likewise, Colonel Chekov is given command of Anubis's Ha'tak (the one with Jaffa ninjas). To keep up the theme of naming starship after actual naval ships, the Russians call it the Admiral Kuznetsov.
  • In A Is A, Capt. William Campbell is platoon commander of MV-4, the First Multiversal Reconnaissance Team, and shows himself to be a capable, even-headed captain for the majority of the stories where his team is part of the focus. Conversely, this is soundly averted by Capt. Nick "Havoc" Parker, who on his best days is an abrasive and sarcastic jarhead with little regard for the feelings of others.

    Films — Animation 
  • Mulan's Captain Shang, who also happens to be Team Dad of his division.
  • Captain B. McCrea of the BnL ship Axiom, from WALL•E, is a true blue hero in every sense of the word, and very much The Captain.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Apollo 13
    • Flight Director Gene Kranz at Mission Control is a model leader who commands respect. Unassuming but firm, he's cool on many levels; he's calm and collected, exactly what is required when time is at the essence, makes critical, unprecedented and right decisions on his feet and never fails to be assertive but polite. When the occasion requires it he's stingy without being smug and proudly shoots down any defeatism. His empathy solidifies him as the perfect captain.
    • Jim Lovell, the savvy, competent and balanced commander of the Apollo 13.
  • Colonel Sharpe in Armageddon (1998).
  • The Captain of the U-96 in Das Boot.
  • Down Periscope has two due to Hot Sub-on-Sub Action, with the protagonist Lieutenant Commander Dodge of the Stingray and his opponent, Commander Knox of the Orlando.
  • Captains Murrell (destroyer escort) and Von Stolberg (U-boat), The Enemy Below.
  • Captain Miller of the Event Horizon, portrayed by Laurence Fishburne.
  • The 80's Disney movie Flight of the Navigator features a kind-of-coming-of-age story about a boy learning to become the captain of a semi-sentient automated alien spaceship.
  • Galaxy Quest plays it straight in a Show Within a Show of the same name with Commander Peter Quincy Taggart of the NSEA Protector (an obvious Expy of Kirk). The film, however, is about the Real Life actors playing them. Jason Nesmith, the actor playing Taggart on the show, definitely does not qualify as this trope, although he tries to be, when a bunch of naive aliens show up expecting Nesmith to be their hero Taggart (they have no concept of fiction and assume all Earth transmissions are documentaries).
  • Captain Robert Gould Shaw from Glory, later promoted to Colonel.
  • Captain Mallory, played by Gregory Peck, in The Guns of Navarone.
  • Hostile Waters features two - Captain Second Rank Igor Britanov of the K-219, and the unnamed captain of the USS Aurora.
  • The Hunt for Red October:
    • Captain First Rank Marko Ramius (Sean Connery), and his US counterpart Commander Bart Mancuso (Scott Glenn) of the USS Dallas.
    • And his former student-turned nemesis, Captain Tupolev (Stellan Skarsgård).
    • Ramius's Number Two Vasily Borodin (Sam Neill) also technically qualifies, by rank (Captain 2nd Class) if not by post.
  • United States Marines aviator Captain Steven Hiller. Played by Will Smith in Independence Day
  • Captain Jack Aubrey of Master and Commander.
  • Commander Melissa Lewis in The Martian is a cool and competent captain, but she does deal with guilt for leaving Mark behind.
  • Captain Ramsey and Lieutenant Commander Hunter in Crimson Tide.
  • The oddly unnamed Captain of the Nillian starship Dave in Meet Dave.
  • In Morning Departure, the captain of HMS Trojan is Lieutenant Commander Peter Armstrong, who represents the finest of Royal Navy tradition and maintains a stiff upper lip in even the darkest circumstances.
  • Lt. Commander Matt Sherman in Operation Petticoat.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
    • Captain Jack Sparrow is either the greatest or worst pirate captain ever. Maybe both. Funny enough, for most of the time, he's not the one in charge, though he'd like to be (and he does manage to get a lot of characters, even enemies, to do his bidding).
    • We also have the Four-Star Badass version, Commodore Norrington, commander of the HMS Dauntless. He, perhaps, fits this trope best (during the first movie, anyway).
      • The villains give us a ton of Large Ham captains. Captain Barbossa, sometime commander of the Black Pearl. Davy Jones, commander of the Flying Dutchman.
    • Then we got Captain Blackbeard in the fourth movie. Complete with Cool Sword and Cool Ship.
  • Captain Janek of the USCSS Prometheus. Complete with Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Captain Miller, played by Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan (not the same Cpt. Miller from Event Horizon).
  • Unusually for a Titanic film, Captain Smith does not appear in Saving the Titanic; only references to his orders are made. Instead, the film focuses on Chief Engineer Joseph Bell, who is in charge of the engineering crew and equivalent in rank, if not responsibility, to the captain.
  • The USS Enterprise from Star Trek (2009) goes through no less than three commanders; in order, Captain Christopher Pike, Commander Spock, and cadet James T. Kirk. Kirk even fulfills his Badass Boast when he becomes Captain of the Enterprise in three years, something Pike said would be possible in eight.
  • Star Wars:
    • Captain (later General) Solo and Commander Skywalker of the Rebel Alliance.
    • Former Millennium Falcon captain Lando Calrissian, who becomes general, and commands the ship one last time in its mission to nuke the heart of the second Death Star.
    • Captain Phasma of the First Order is captain in name only, she is the commander of all First Order Stormtroopers.
  • John Wayne played this role several times in his Navy-oriented war movies:
    • Operation: Pacific, after he moves up to command of the submarine USS Thunder Fish.
    • They Were Expendable, as Lt JG 'Rusty' Ryan, commander of a PT boat.
    • In the first part of In Harm's Way, as Captain Rockwell "Rock" Torrey (before he's promoted to Rear Admiral and becomes a Four-Star Badass).
  • Will Smith went on to play a post-Civil War Army Captain, James West, in Wild Wild West.

  • Poul Anderson, telling many star-ship stories, has many:
    • There are three in After Doomsday — the first captain of the men's ship loses his grip and is replaced by Donnan; on the women's ship, she maintains command.
    • In "Brake", the captain must first deal with terrorists trying to seize his spaceship, then somehow stop the crippled ship which is moving at Ludicrous Speed.
    • In "The Burning Bridge", the captain must keep his fleet united despite a message from Earth that could disrupt their mission.
  • Older Than Radio: 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea (1870) has the unforgettable Captain Nemo. However, this trope is deconstructed with Nemo: He is so charismatic a captain that his crew doesn't notice that he is going a Villainous Breakdown and placed the Nautilus in the Maelstrom.
  • The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: Amina became famous as the captain or nakhudha of the Marawati, leading her crew on grand swashbuckling adventures by virtue of her extensive expertise, charisma, and force of arms.
  • Deconstructed in Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series. Two men used to being in charge are forced to work together, one just beneath the other. It very nearly ends in mutiny.
  • A number of characters throughout the Arrivals from the Dark books:
    • Captain Paul Richard Corcoran of the frigate Commodore Litvin in the second book.
    • In the third book, his great-grandson Sergey Valdez was a Commander in the fleet when the Void Wars ended and he fleet was reduced in size. After signing up as a mercenary Defender for the Lo'ona Aeo, he and two other veterans were given a small patrol craft they named the Lancelot. While one of the others was also a Commander, Valdez had seniority and thus became Captain of the Lancelot. Also the ship's pilot, while the other two became gunners.
  • Captain Holly Short of the Artemis Fowl series, who refused at first the promotion to Major and then never got it anyway.
  • Jack Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin series, as well as many other main characters.
  • Bazil Broketail:
    • Hollein Kesepton holds a rank of Captain and he is a badass officer, ready to fight alongside his men in the first line if necessary.
    • Like Kesepton before him, Rorker Eads is the Captain in charge of a squad that includes the 109th Dragon Squadron and he is both a competent officer and valiant soldier in his own right. In fact, he perishes along with many of his soldiers while fighting bravely at Sprian's Ridge.
  • A Brother's Price Captain Tern. Very capable captain of the royal guard.
  • In Captain French, or the Quest for Paradise, the titular protagonist is a space trader, who owns a merchant ship. However, he doesn't really have a crew (the ship's computer is smart enough to do everything with the help of the robots). Most of the time, he travels alone, although he gets married (again) at the start of the novel.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium universe:
  • In Temeraire the majority of the human protagonists are captains, but Laurence is the Captain prototype, often being deferred to even by more experienced captains due to his competence and Lightning Bruiser heavyweight dragon. He's eventually made admiral, and puts to rest the idea that he only got the position for Temeraire's sake when he just keeps winning battles due to his adaptibility and willingness to try new strategies.
  • Tavi in the Codex Alera books. He begins his service in the legions as a cursor — a spy — in an experimental legion made up of volunteers from different parts of Alera. The First Aleran, as this legion is called, would never attack any one city because there would be officers in the ranks who would not stand for it, and would theoretically be useful as a highly mobile force that could put down trouble as it happened around the realm; in reality, it was pushed through the Senate and came to fruition to serve as an espionage hotbed. This "show and pony" legion was thought of as the one that would not see combat in the incipient civil war, but it just happened to be in the way of an invading Canim armada. Ritualists in the aforementioned armada brought down a wall on lightning onto the command tent during a meeting, effectively wiping out the upper echelons of officers and leaving Tavi in charge. He's very good at it, given that he has a functional grasp of the Canish language, society and tactical ability, and that he's a very flexible thinker and tactician, and ends up being in charge of the most battle-ready legion in Alera. His legionnaires adore him and will willingly follow him to their deaths.
    • There's also Captain Demos, captain of the Slive. He serves as absolute master on his ship because he can control the whole ship with his mind. He also tells Tavi that while he was the Princeps, Demos gives the orders on the ship; Tavi, regardless of his rank on land, would merely be a passenger at sea.
  • Subverted in The Culture short story "The State of the Art". A member of the crew dresses up as Captain Kirk and tries to get the crew to elect him captain. As the ship is run by its Mind (a vastly superior artificial intelligence) no-one takes him seriously. The Mind plays along to make him happy, but otherwise just carries on as normal.
  • "Der Alte" (German for "The Old Man"),or more formally "Herr Kaleun" (short for Herr Kapitanleutnent, or Lieutenant-Commander), commander of the U-96 from Das Boot.
  • In Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series, although his official rank is Lt. Commander, Matthew Reddy is the commanding officer of the USS Walker. Even after he becomes effectively an admiral, with other captains and at least one admiral under his authority, he objects to being called by any rank higher than "captain."
  • Discworld: Captain Vimes before he's promoted to commander.
    • Following Vimes' promotion to Commander, the position of Captain is filled by Carrot Ironfoundersson, which he holds for the rest of the series. Angua eventually gets promoted to this as well.
  • Quetza in El Conquistador. He is both captain of soldiers and a sea captain, so clever than he even discovers Europe several years before Colombus even ships the three Caravels.
  • Gerswin, protagonist of L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s The Forever Hero, is widely known as 'the captain', and serves as a captain for a large portion of the first novel; He is later promoted, and eventually leaves service, but he is still referred to as 'the captain'.
  • Roman praetors in The Heroes of Olympus.
  • Tons of 'em in Honor Harrington, including main character Honor Harrington. This is slightly subverted in that Harrington only commands "one ship" in the first book; afterwards, she acts as CO to task groups and fleets.
    • Well, in Honor Among Enemies she plays single captain again, and in both The Honor of the Queen and The Short Victorious War she's technically the captain of a ship but also has responsibilities to a larger task group. It's not until her reinstatement in In Enemy Hands that she's promoted past the point of responsibility for a single ship.
  • Horatio Hornblower in C.S. Forester's novels. His lieutenant Bush is promoted in Flying Colors as a compliment to Hornblower (as it's not like they could promote him).
  • In Kea's Flight, Brandon is in charge of the optimizing computer Monarch, which controls all the other computers on the ship. Brandon controls everything from navigation to food production to the atmosphere to the artifiical gravity.
  • Whoever's in charge of the ship Kydd is serving aboard at the moment during his early years in the Navy.
    • What Kydd becomes in Command, though at that point, he's technically only a commander.
      • In Victory, Kydd finally "makes post" and becomes captain of the Cool Boat, L'Aurore.
  • The captain in Rick Cook's Limbo System finds it disconcerting to deal with making first contact when he is completely out of touch with any superiors. Another character urges him to remember that he is the "master under God" of the ship, and suggests that he consider how captains of old acted with such authority.
  • William McTavish of the SS Longhope in Passage to November, a 40-ish, decorated veteran of the Royal Navy who came to America at the request of Cleveland Transport to run their sole "salty."
    • Retired Royal Navy Commander? Check. Brawny Scotsman with a hair-trigger temper? Check. Shades of Crazy Jealous Guy who will stop at nothing to protect the young woman in his care? Check and check mate!
    • Having survived many a storm on the open seas, it takes a lot to scare him. But the Great Lakes are prone to sudden gales, particularly in the autumn — the worst being called the November Witch, the sort of gale so vicious they're known to rip steel hulls to shreds and take entire ships to the bottom of the lake. His greatest fear is realized in November 1913 when the worst storm ever to strike the Great Lakes tears a swath of destruction from Duluth to Buffalo. Before it's over, more than 20 ships will have been forever lost and nearly 300 souls will have perished including most of the Longhope's crew.
  • Captain Ahab of Moby-Dick fame, distilled Captain essence.
  • Played with in The Nautical Ballad of Ben Bo Bohns. The captain of the Will o' the Wisp is Ben Bo Bohns, who fits all positive traits ascribed to The Captain but also is, along with his crew, a Death Seeker. They become ghosts.
  • Bunovsky in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is no longer really a captain, being in the gulag, but he keeps up the act.
  • Sarah Collins in The Osmerian Conflict is Captain of the Cool Starship.
  • Many in Pale Grey Dot, but none more notable than Ezza Jayens, who went from being a super spy to commanding a warship. Not a bad move!
  • Captain John Brannigan, in the Revelation Space series by Alastair Reynolds. In addition to being over 700-years-old, Captain Brannigan is a mostly cybernetic member of the Ultranauts, a cybernized interstellar space-faring faction. Near the end of Revelation Space, Captain Brannigan, who has a variant of the Melding Plague (a virus that distorts nanotech machinery, and turns it malignant), is unfrozen, and his nanotech virus takes over the ship, rendering the Captain also his own Cool Ship. In Absolution Gap, he uses as a sort of avatar a 21st-century mechanical spacesuit, and kills invaders of himself by turning walls into spikes, and setting up similar traps.
  • Ramage: Dudley Pope's Captain Ramage regularly leads boarding parties, espionage missions, and anything else that's going, and has several times been picked up wounded (white patch in his hair from being creased across the scalp; kayoed by a giant wood splinter kicked up by a cannon shot; nearly bled to death from a cutlass wound...).
  • The Reynard Cycle: Roenel, captain of the Quicksilver. Call him anything other than "captain" at your own peril.
  • Nicholas Seafort in David Feintuch's Seafort Sage series (Midshipman's Hope, etc). A boy/man tortured by the heavy responsibilities that fall upon his shoulders.
  • Sharpe: Richard Sharpe is made The Captain of the South Essex light company in the first novel (well, the first one in writing order). He ends up as acting battalion commander on several occasions (the closest equivalent to commanding a ship) and briefly acting brigade commander (roughly equivalent to a commodore), although much of his time in senior ranks (he rises to lieutenant-colonel) is spent in staff posts. It probably helps that the South Essex gets through a lot of colonels (two killed, one injured, three relieved of command).
    • Whem Sharpe is promoted to major, Peter D'Alembord replaces him as captain of the light company, while his old lieutenant Harry Price is also made a captain in the later books. Both of them get made majors during the Waterloo campaign thanks to the large number of officers killed.
    • Sharpe's original lieutenant, Robert Knowles, becomes a captain in another regiment.
  • In The Silmarillion, Eärendil is the captain of the Vingilot.
  • The captain in the Stories of Nypre series is literally called the captain. He is a somewhat minor character who takes his crew consisting of more important characters on their various journeys in the second book.
  • Kaladin Stormblessed from The Stormlight Archive. When he was injured and likely to die, Gaz tried to assign his crew a new bridgeleader. His men just started calling Kaladin Captain instead. Later he got the title officially after being made leader of Highprince Dalinar's bodyguards. Dalinar notes the position should probably carry a higher rank, but he can't promote a dark-eyed man higher than Captain, without upseting a lot of people by ignoring centuries of social convention.
  • Captain Francis Crozier, captain of Terror, in Dan Simmons' The Terror. Captain Sir John Franklin is also present as a much less badass version of the trope.
  • Captain Vincent Lorimar of the Unda Vosari novel actually has two Cool Boats but still only refers to himself as the Captain.
  • In Under Pressure (aka The Dragon In The Sea) by Frank Herbert, a psychiatrist assigned to a submarine during a tense Space Cold War is alarmed by the crew's blind faith in their captain, and when his instruments pick up his Dissonant Serenity fears that he's a dangerous religious schizophrenic. He's not, but is simply the one who has best adapted to their conditions.
  • Downplayed in The Voyage of the Space Beagle. While he runs the Space Beagle, Captain Leeth is not in charge of the expedition itself, so doesn't take the foreground as later spaceship captains inspired by this classic sci-fi tale would.
  • Captain Azarcon from the Warchild Series is the captain of a naval carrier In Space.
  • The Wing Commander series has more than a few, in all its incarnations, but the split between the title of Captain and the rank is made most clear in the first part of the novel End Run, titled "Milk Run". The corvette sent on the reconnaissance mission is commanded by a Lt. Commander who, in the course of a mission, clashes with a mission specialist that holds a higher rank.
  • Xandri Corelel has Captain Chui, the captain of the First Contact ship Carpathia.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24: Although it's never mentioned on-screen, off-screen media has Jack Bauer as a former Captain in Delta Force.
  • Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith of The A-Team definitely belongs here.
  • Captain Dylan Hunt of the Andromeda Ascendant (a gleaming heavy cruiser from the glory days of the Commonwealth) fits the bill. Captain Beka Valentine of the Eureka Maru (a purely utilitarian cargo hauler) fits as well.
  • Are You Being Served?: Captain Stephen Peacock. Subverted because he was really only a corporal.
  • Ascension (Miniseries): William Denniger, the commanding officer of the titular Colony Ship.
  • Avenue 5: The core of the show is a subversion of The Captain trope with Hugh Laurie playing gruff American Captain Ryan Clark, who is revealed to be an Englishman doing an American accent and who was hired to handle and reassure the passengers because the real captain lacked the social skills to do so.
  • Babylon 5:
    • Jeffrey Sinclair serves the role in the first season, a rare Commander instead of a Captain). The fact that Sinclair holds a greater position than his rank would normally warrant becomes a major plot point, as we learn that he was specifically requested to command Babylon 5 by the Minbari. In "Eyes" we meet a higher-ranking officer who resents this fact and attempts a coup.
    • John Sheridan, second through fourth seasons — he has to resign at the end of the fourth season and becomes the President of the new Interstellar Alliance instead.)
    • Elizabeth Lochley steps into the figurative Captain's chair (B5 doesn't have a Cool Chair) for the fifth season and beyond. Susan Ivanova, the XO, gets promoted and takes command of a new Earth Warlock-class destroyer, due to the actress not returning for Season 5.
    • The Spin-Off Crusade gives us Captain Matthew Gideon of the IAS Excalibur.
    • The would-be Spin-Off Legend of the Rangers has Shok-na (Captain) David Martel of the Ranger ship Liandra.
  • Barney Miller: Hal Linden is the titular police captain here, of the fictional 12th Precinct in NYC; he is also the Only Sane Man there in that precinct detective squad.
  • Commander Adama (Battlestar Galactica), commanding officer of the titular warship in both versions. The peculiarities of the Colonial rank system make him a Commander rather than a Captain. Later in the re-imagined series, after Admiral Cain's death, Roslin promotes him to Admiral.
    • Also Admiral Cain and Lee Adama, neither of whom held the rank of captain at the time (Lee was promoted for the purpose): both filled this role when they were each in charge of the Pegasus.
    • Lee Adama (call-sign "Apollo") was the re-imagining of Captain Apollo from the original Galactica series, holding the rank of Captain from the Miniseries to Season 2. Becomes a Mythology Gag when Laura Roslin nicknames him "Captain Apollo" after initially mistaking his call-sign for his actual name, but continues to do so afterwards as it has a nice ring to it.
    • Deconstructed when the fleet decides to replace their obsolete planetary-based system of government with one based on their spaceships. The politicians are used to negotiation and compromise, but as each captain is used to running their ship their own way, the government quickly devolves into a Not-So-Omniscient Council of Bickering.
  • Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory appoints himself captain of the paintball team:
    Sheldon: Gentlemen, if I may interject, I’ve decided my rank will be captain. If it’s good enough for Kirk, Crunch and Kangaroo, it’s good enough for me.
    • Leonard fits the role when it comes to the group's general dynamics, with even Sheldon equating him to Kirk at least once.
  • Downplayed in Blake's 7 as the crew of the Liberator (and in Season D, Scorpio) are criminals, rebels and mercenaries who by their very nature tend to reject authority. They generally accept Blake (and later Avon) as their leader, but have been known to outvote them on occasion (this is why Blake and sometimes Avon are Manipulative Bastards). Avon was a Sour Supporter to Blake, and when he becomes The Captain finds himself in a running dispute with cocky newcomer Tarrant over who should be in charge of the ship.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Xander Harris. Come Season 8, he's the de facto leader of the international Slayers' organization because of his uncanny ability to bring out the best in his girls.
  • Captain Brass from CSI, although as a kind of subversion, since the actual team leaders were Grissom and now DB. Brass *was* the team leader, until Ecklie got mad and put Grissom in charge in the first episode.
  • The makers of the TV drama Colditz wrote the token Royal Navy officer, Lt. Dick Player, as an amalgam of several famous, or perhaps notorious, British submarine commanders who saw German captivity. In reality, there is a story of submariner Tommy Catlow getting onto the roof — disregarding an artillery barrage from the nearby Americans — to set out a large Union Jack where it could be seen, so as to advise the Yanks they were approaching a POW camp.
  • Subverted in the shortlived scifi comedy Come Back Mrs. Noah. Carstairs claims the role of captain when the luxury quarters are allocated on the Britannia Seven, but rejects the idea that he's captain when it's suggested he remain on board the space station so the others can return safely to Earth. Given that they're all there by accident, he hasn't been trained properly for the role anyway.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is technically the captain of the TARDIS, though he's never referred to as such, and is usually also the entire crew.
    • Jack Harkness (Torchwood, but not Doctor Who; ironically, it's mostly in the latter that he's referred to as "Captain Jack").
      • Technically, his greatcoat bears the insignia of "Group Captain", which is a full title, is never referred to as "Captain", and has the equivalent rank of "Colonel" in the armed forces. And in his first appearance, his uniform bears the insignia of "Squadron Leader", which has the equivalent rank of "Major".
    • Captain Mike Yates is one of the most senior members of UNIT, usually functioning as second-in-command to The Brigadier.
    • "Voyage of the Damned": The space Titanic is commanded by Captain Hardaker, who gives leave to the other crewmen. He's also dying and has been paid off with money for his family to wreck the ship.
    • "The Waters of Mars": Captain Adelaide Brooke is the commander of the first human expedition to Mars, and is very much in charge of her base and her ship.
  • Captain Hammer (first season) and Captain Stanley on Emergency!. Captain Hochrader was a character of,the week, and Gage and Desoto become captains in one of the films. Various other captains pop up when other stations are assisting on fires, and they are identified by the white stripe on the helmet.
  • Farscape. In Season 4, Pilot gets tired of getting conflicting orders from everyone and insists they elect a Captain of their ship Moya. Instead of the protagonist John Crichton becoming Captain, the majority of votes (including Crichton's) are for D'Argo, who is at least liked and trusted by everyone.
  • Firefly: Mal Reynolds — Was a Platoon Sergeant, but held a brevet rank of Captain in wartime before becoming the master of a merchant ship.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Euron Greyjoy is the captain of a ship called "The Silence", captained by a crew who have their tongues cut out.
    • Already the de facto commander of the Iron Fleet (well, most of it anyway...), Yara becomes the commander of Dany's armada after she and Theon swear themselves to support her cause.
  • Hill Street Blues: The police chief variety, Captain Francis Furillo of the Hill Street Precinct.
  • Hogan's Heroes: Colonel Robert E. Hogan, despite being a Colonel Badass.
  • The fictionalized version of Edward Pellew, Captain of HMS Indefatigable (which he commanded for a time in real life) in the Horatio Hornblower novels and television miniseries (where he was played by Robert Lindsay).
  • JAG: Although Harmon Rabb spends the series steadily rising up the naval ranks from Lieutenant all the way to Captain in the Series Finale, he never commands a ship of his own. This is because he is an ex-aviator and a lawyer, so he isn’t exactly command qualified. When we catch up to Rabb a decade or so later in NCIS: Los Angeles, he still is just the XO of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, so he is on track to becoming a true ship’s captain.
  • Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger: Captain Marvelous of Gokai Galleon. His crew considers him to be insane weirdo and for a good reason, as his zany schemes can get out of the hand quickly. It makes him quite competent at his job, though, and they all have a well-deserved Vitriolic Best Buds relationship.
  • The Last Ship: Commander Tom Chandler, the captain of the US navy destroyer USS Nathan James must deal with The End of the World as We Know It when an outbreak of the red flu wipes out most of the human population with only scattered bands of survivors. After finding a cure, distributing it and preventing yet another outbreak of a mutated version, Chandler is promoted to Admiral and is designated Chief of Naval Operations. His XO Mike Slattery becomes the new captain and has to deal with a new “red rust” plague and a resurgent China. He too gets promoted to Admiral by season’s end. The last season sees Kara Foster-Green, a lowly lieutenant for the first two seasons Rank Up and take command of the Nathan James.
  • Legends of Tomorrow has Rip Hunter (Arthur Darvill) as the captain of the timeship Waverider. In Season 2, the position is briefly passed to Martin Stein, before he voluntarily gives it up in favor of the much more capable Sara Lance. Even after coming back, Rip doesn't take the position back.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power: Elendil is a captain of the Sea Guard and a respected commandant.
  • The Love Boat: Captain Merrill Stubing, formerly of the U.S. Navy, commands the Pacific Princess in most of the episodes, and the Island Princess in the ones where the more exotic locales are visited.
  • From a military standpoint, M*A*S*H's captains, Hawkeye and Trapper may be two ranks below Lt. Colonel, but they'll show their authority when needed. In "Deluge," Hawkeye sees a soldier smoking beyond the doors of the O.R.:
    Hawkeye: Hey, put that out. There's a lot of ether in here.
    Soldier: Hey, I'm a sergeant, fella.
    Hawkeye: And I'm a captain, fella. Which means if this place blows up, I'll go higher than you. Now put it out!!
    Soldier: (grudgingly) Sorry, sir. (extinguishes his cigarette)
  • McHale's Navy has actual Captain Binghamton as the commanding officer of the naval base of Taratupa, but he is more of a subversion since his experience is more administrative than sea duty and he is universally hated by his men. Played very straight with Lieutenant Commander McHale, commanding officer of PT-73 who has earned the undying loyalty of his crew.
  • Ed Mercer of the USS Orville. While being a Deadpan Snarker, he is nevertheless one of the best ship commanders in the Union fleet and was on the fast-track to command until he caught his wife in bed with an alien. The resulting year-long rough patch nearly ruined his career, until his ex-wife (feeling guilty) uses her connections with an admiral to get Mercer his own ship. Under Mercer's command, the Orville resolves several crises and manages to defeat a number of powerful warships in one-to-one fights.
  • Adam Quark from Quark.
  • Sea Patrol: Lt Commander/Commander Mike Flynn of the HMAS Hammersley.
  • SeaQuest DSV, first through second seasons: Nathan Hale Bridger (though he left), and Oliver Hudson (seaQuest 2032).
  • The Korean Drama Sign has Dr Lee Myung Han, who takes the helm of Bureau Chief after he forces the incumbent to retire.
  • Stargate:
    • Stargate Universe: As the ranking officer present, Col. Everett Young is effectively The Captain of the Destiny, but the politics surrounding that situation make his standing very, very tenuous.
      • Command of the Destiny may be up for grabs, but there ain't no question that Colonel Samantha Carter calls the shots as captain of the USAF General George Hammond.
    • Jack O'Neill, Stargate SG-1. Though he started off as a Colonel and ended up a two-star General (in Stargate Universe he's been given a third star) — Colonel is the closest rank in the Air Force to what people think of when they think "Captain" anyways.
      • Carter becomes the Captain of SG-1 in Season 8 (when O'Neill isn't with them), and Mitchel takes over the role in Seasons 9 and 10.
      • In fact, in SG-1 and Atlantis, the Captains of most of the Air Force ships like the Prometheus or the Odyssey are ranked as Colonel. This is accurate, considering that in the U.S. Military at the time, all aerospace operations (presumably including space fleets if they were had) were operated by the Air Forcenote .
    • John Sheppard of Stargate Atlantis, too. Although he started a Major and became a Lieutenant Colonel, he has remarked that "a lot of people never thought I'd make it past Captain"...
      • The Navy rank of "Captain" corresponds to the Air Force/Army/Marine rank of "Colonel". Both are Officer Grade Six (O-6) with rank insignia being a silver eagle. The Air Force/Army/Marine rank of "Captain" corresponds to the Navy rank of "Lieutenant". Both are Officer Grade Three (O-3) with rank insignia of two silver bars.
      • However... (you knew there was going to be a "however"). In the Navy, the commanding officer of a vessel underway is always referred to as "Captain", regardless of his or her actual rank. A visiting Navy officer with the actual rank of Captain is referred to as "Commodore"; a visiting or assigned ground/air forces officer with the rank of Captain is referred to as "Major". There can be only one Captain on a ship. (This is a combination/expansion of several previous entries.)
  • James T. Kirk (Star Trek), promoted to Admiral in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, is the real, true, one-and-only classic example of this trope in fictional media. However, the writers conspire to trap him in command of the Enterprise and its crew for the duration of that four-movie plot arc, and at the end of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, he is permanently reduced in rank to Captain. This seems to satisfy him, as he feels his proper place in the world is in the Captain's chair; in Generations, he tells Picard never to let himself be promoted out of it. (Though that might be due to the prevalence of Insane Admirals in Trek).
    • Spock would agree that Kirk belongs in the captain's chair.
      "If I may be so bold, it was a mistake for you to accept promotion. Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material."
      • So would Bones, in fact, and those two never agree about anything.
        "Get back your command. Before you become a part of this collection. Before you really do grow old."
    • Kirk was preceeded by Christopher Pike, as seen in the original pilot, who himself followed Robert April, introduced on-screen in Star Trek: The Animated Series.
    • Spock becomes a Captain sometime between The Motion Picture and The Wrath Of Khan; Scotty is promoted during The Search For Spock, and is named "Captain of Engineering" for good measure; Sulu becomes a Captain between The Final Frontier and The Undiscovered Country; and McCoy must be promoted to Captain at some point between the TOS movies and TNG, in order to become Admiral of Starfleet Medical.
      • Out of all those promotions, the only one who becomes The Captain, rather than just a Captain, is Sulu. "Fly her apart, then" indeed.
  • Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation). To the series' credit, Picard is often shown in his ready room (the captain's personal office with access to the bridge), presumably working on the mundane administrative duties of his rank.
  • Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; though originally he was a Commander, he would get promoted).
    • Major Kira gets promoted to Colonel, and takes over when Sisko joins the Prophets. In the relaunch novels, new character Elias Vaughn takes over her position as XO. (Vaughn himself later succeeds Kira as The Captain, although as a result of a Time Skip this period has yet to be chronicled. He is then himself succeeded by Ro Laren.)
    • Eddington lampshades this when Sisko is promoted. People don't join Starfleet to be admirals or security officers or any other rank; they do it for the captain's chair.
  • Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager; eventually promoted to vice-admiral).
  • Jonathan Archer (Star Trek: Enterprise)
    • In the Mirror Universe double episode "In a Mirror, Darkly", Archer is a Commander to Captain Forrest (Admiral in "our" 'verse). He leads a mutiny and takes command by force. While crewmembers loyal to Forrest end up freeing Forrest, who takes the ship back from Archer, Forrest is later killed (along with the ISS Enterprise), while Archer becomes captain of the USS Defiant. It's only a temporary step, though, as his goal is not the captain's chair but The Emperor's throne.
  • Philippa Georgiou of the USS Shenzhou and Gabriel Lorca of the USS Discovery (Star Trek: Discovery). Notably, Lorca is later revealed to be a Shell-Shocked Veteran from the loss of his previous ship USS Buran, being forced to kill his own crew to spare them from Klingon captivity. And then even later revealed to be pretending to be a Shell-Shocked Veteran to cover the fact that he's really the Lorca from the Mirror Universe, having switched places around the time of the Buran's destruction. By the end of Season 1, Saru becomes acting captain of the Discovery, having grown from a coward to a leader. In the Mirror Universe, Sylvia "Killy" Tilly is the captain of the ISS Discovery (well, she was, but the Mirror!Discovery was destroyed by Prime!Klingons after swapping with the USS Discovery), while Michael Burnham is the captain of the ISS Shenzhou. In addition, Emperor Phillipa Georgiou is in command of the flagship ISS Charon, before briefly taking command of the USS Discovery while impersonating Prime!Georgiou. In Season 2, Christopher Pike assumes command of Discovery and falls neatly into this trope. In Season 3, Saru is captain again, before Prime Universe Michael Burnham is captain for Season 4.
  • Star Trek: Picard: An interesting case with Cristóbal "Chris" Rios. While he is undoubtedly the captain of La Sirena, she's a civilian freighter, and initially there's no other living crew with him using emergency holograms (all programmed to look like him) to fill in the various duties. By season 2, he has re-joined Starfleet and has been given command of the new USS Stargazer (Sagan class). In the alternate timeline, he's now Colonel Rios in command of CSS La Sirena, a patrol frigate (basically a militarized version of the freighter). Meanwhile, Picard is a General whose former command was the CSS World Razer (a heavily-armed version of the Enterprise-D).
  • At long last, Discovery Spin-Off Star Trek: Strange New Worlds depicts the weekly adventures of Captain Christopher Pike aboard the USS Enterprise.
  • Captain Darien Lambert of the Fugitive Retrieval Section in Time Trax. It appears to be a police rank, although modern police captains don't normally go into the field.
  • Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear (UK) since its 2002 revival. His status as the unofficial leader of the other presenters is lampshaded by the visiting German presenters of D-Motor, who refer to him as "Top Gear Boss".
    • James May's most commonly used nickname is "Captain Slow".
  • Almost every entry in the Ultra Series has a captain as the leader of the defense team, usually a man about 10-20 years older than the rest of the team. Depending on the show, he either heads out with the rest of the team on field missions or he stays at base to give commands most of the time. Notable examples include: Toshio Muramatsu from the original Ultraman (who paved the way for the rest to come), Kaoru Kiriyama from Ultraseven (his title was "Commander", but he served the same role), Megumi Iruma from Ultraman Tiga (the first female example in the franchise), Gousuke Hibiki from Ultraman Dyna (much more of a Boisterous Bruiser than most), Shingo Sakomizu from Ultraman Mebius (who acted as The Mentor for GUYS), Hiroshi Hyuuga from Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle (a more literal example as he's a spaceship captain and a badass at that) and Gento Hiruma from Ultraman Blazar (who was also the show's protagonist and host to Blazar).
    • A rare crossover example: Dan Moroboshi, protagonist and human form of Ultraseven, served this role in Ultraman Leo, being also Gen/Leo's mentor.
    • Ultraman Gaia had a far larger crew than a typical series, so there were two captains — Seiichiro Tsutsumi (who commanded the various XIG squadrons) and Akio Ishimuro (who worked with the bridge operation team).
    • Ultraman Trigger: New Generation Tiga has Seiya Tatsumi, a young charismatic captain who unites people of all ages and places under the GUTS Select movement. He is in charge of directing his team and giving orders with a calm demeanor.


    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Exalted: The Captain constellation in Exalted rules those journeys defined by the leadership over them. Sidereals who take on this archetype bear the trappings of concern for their followers' well-being, emblems/tokens of rank/authority, fearlessness, indefatigability, unkind fairness, and a scepter. In its positive aspect, The Captain is determined, disciplined, organized, strong-willed, and prudent in use of power. In its negative aspect, The Captain is selfish or irrational, paranoid of power, abuses authority, and is stuck within bureaucratic inertia.
  • Valkur, the god of naval warfare in the Forgotten Realms setting. Among his titles is "Captain of the Waves".
  • The Imperial Navy in Warhammer 40,000 obviously has captains, but it also has the even more awesome title of Lord-Captain (also sometimes known as flag captain, but that doesn't sound quite as cool), which is reserved for the captain in command of a detachment of vessels. It is a title so awesome even in-universe, that most Rogue Traders refer themselves as lord-captain despite most of them not qualifying on the title(while large Rogue Trader dynasties do have fleets of ships, most of the time they operate independently), and technically since it's a rank in the Navy, which Rogue Traders aren't part of, they wouldn't be able to use it even then. Not that any of them gives a damn.
    • The individuals in charge of large Space Marine ships are referred to as "shipmaster", since they often have Space Marine Brother-Captains on the bridge at the same time and using the same rank would cause confusion. The shipmaster himself is not a Space Marine, but a Chapter serf: an individual selected for (and not being up to par for) Space Marine training, and serving the Chapter otherwise.

  • The unofficial in-field leader of a team is called a captain. The role is frequently honorary, but most times given to The Ace or The Smart Guy of the team. In some cases the captain may be given the responsibility of interacting with game officials regarding application and interpretation of the rules.
  • Notable captains include:
    • Michael Jordan.
    • Bill Russell, the main gear behind the Boston Celtics dynasty. He led them to 11 titles in 13 years, whereas before his coming the Celtics had never won a single title.
    • New York Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter, who at 12 seasons was the longest-serving captain in Yankees history.
      • The position had previously been retired in honor of Lou Gehrig, who served for four and a half seasons before he was forced to retire due to his illness. George Steinbrenner unretired the title for Thurmon Munson, and it was awarded intermittently after Munson's death.
    • National Hockey League Hall-of-Famer Mark Messier. In 1994, the New York Rangers were trailing the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in the best of seven Eastern Conference final, with the sixth game in New Jersey, where the Devils had proven nearly unbeatable. Many writers were saying that there was little to no chance of the Rangers winning. In his personal crowning achievement, team captain Messier emphatically stated that the Rangers were going to win Game 6, no matter what. On the ice, he scored a hat-trick (three goals, kinda like a baseball player going 5-6 with 2 home runs) and Rangers won the game in overtime. They eventually beat the Devils and went on to win the Stanley Cup.
      • And before the Rangers, he was captain of Oilers, following no other than Wayne Gretzky.
    • Fellow Hall-of-Famer Steve Yzerman. He was the captain of the Red Wings for 20 years (a record), led them to 3 Stanley Cup championships and his jersey was retired with the captain's C on it.
    • Often compared to Yzerman is Joe Sakic, who captained the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise from 1992 to his retirement in 2009, winning the Cup twice along the way to the Hall of Fame. Like Yzerman, his retired-number banner bears a captain's C (though it only bears his years of service in Colorado).
  • Association Football puts a much heavier emphasis on the role of captain than most team sports, with the captain wearing a special armband and — officially — being the only player on their team allowed to initiate a conversation with the referee. The role is considered sufficiently important that each team must not only have a captain, but a vice-captain, and often, two more deputies in case the first two are unavailable/not selected. Also unusually, they are almost invariably selected for leadership qualities rather than general talent (meaning that some of the greatest players in the game's history never captained their team).
    • Steven Gerrard, legendary captain of Liverpool FC and later, England, was considered to be one of the greatest players of his generation and a superb leader, dragging an otherwise mediocre squad to win a 5th Champions League title in 2005, and coming up with vital goals whenever they were required. Both tendencies earned him the nickname 'Captain Marvel'.
    • The FIFA World Cup world champion captains, including Diego Maradona.
  • In Cricket the team’s captain is given a great deal of on-field tactical responsibility. Since bowlers are restricted to bowling only six consecutive deliveries before they must be swapped out, the captain must decide who bowls at any given time. The field also has way too many positions for only nine fielders to fill, so the captain must decide which positions should be occupied by whom, based on who is currently bowling. Different kinds of bowlers and different situations in the game will require different fields to be set accordingly. When batting, it is the captain who decides the batting order.

  • Captain Corcoran, the captain of the H.M.S. Pinafore. And a right good captain, too!

    Video Games 
  • Three of the main Assassin's Creed characters end up being ship captains:
  • In Company of Heroes, the British Troops refer to you as "The Captain". There is also a unit called "Captain" which must be built unlock the M3 Stuart Light Tank and the Next Tier, however he is not a Hero Unit (he's actually pretty weak) and does not represent the player in any way.
  • The Captain in Crusader is a minor subversion of the trope. He's definitely the lead character, but he doesn't make any decisions except how to accomplish his mission. He uncomplainingly takes mission directives from his superiors and seems to be content in his given role "Dude Who Blasts the Shit Out of Entire Civilizations of Mooks."
  • Brother Captains Gabriel Angelos, Davian Thule, Indrick Boreale and Apollo Diomedes from Dawn of War, all from the Blood Ravens Chapter.
    • From Warhammer 40000 Spacemarine, there's Captain Titus from the Ultramarines' 2nd Company.
    • In Warhammer 40000 Spacemarine II Sevastus Acheran is the current Captain of the Ultramarines 2nd Company, having succeeded Cato Sicarius after the latter was made Captain of the Victrix Guard (and the latter also having been Titus' successor after Titus was held in Inquisitorial custody).
    • It's, at least, justified in this 'verse why a battle barge commander personally goes down in a drop-pod to battle hordes of Tyranids. That's what a Space Marine ought to do, no matter the rank.
  • Final Fantasy: Most Ivalice Games feature clans, and all clans has clan leaders, right? Montblanc seems to be the most known clan leader, which he leads Clan Nutsy from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and Clan Centurio from the two other games.
  • Captain Juno Eclipse in The Force Unleashed II where she gets her own frigate to command.
    • The novelization reveals that she is a pretty competent commander, although she is heavily criticized by some of the Rebel Alliance leaders (it's all political). In the past, she was in command of an elite bomber wing and convinced Vader to amend his order to kill civilians.
  • Captain Falcon from F-Zero fights like a few dozen people in one and apparently has the title of Captain because he was once a Captain in the Galaxy Police, which means he actually had men at his disposal, once.
  • Tact Mayers in the Galaxy Angel gameverse. He refuses to take on a higher authority, and was even reluctant to become Captain of the Elsior, because he believes authority distances people and makes them more unfeeling. He continues to play the role in the first installment of Galaxy Angel II when he commands the Luxiole, albeit by then he's already moved up in rank as Brigadier General.
  • Halo:
    • Captain Jacob Keyes of the cruiser UNSC Pillar Of Autumn in Halo: Combat Evolved and later his daughter, Commander Miranda Keyes of the frigate UNSC In Amber Clad in Halo 2 and [[Halo3.
    • Fleet Admiral Sir Terrance Hood in Halo 2 and 3 probably qualifies as well.
    • Captain Veronica Dare from Halo 3: ODST, leader of the squad of Helljumpers that the Rookie is part of, would count, if not for the presence of Gunnery Sergeant Eddie Buck. Despite not actually holding the rank, he's a far better fit for the role. In large part due to him being played by Captain Reynolds. There's also the little fact that Dare's not ODST. While she does hold the rank of captain in the UNSC Navy, she's primarily an ONI spook. Naturally, your typical ground-pounder will resent that.
    • Rtas 'Vadum(ee) (AKA Half-Jaw), who became Shipmaster (captain) of the Shadow of Intent and Fleetmaster (admiral) of the Fleet of Retribution.
    • From Halo 4 onward, Thomas Lasky takes on this role. The previous captain of his ship, Andrew Del Rio, is a subversion; he turns out to be incompetent and loses the respect of both his subordinates and superiors when he tries to arrest the main character.
  • Captain Jason Narville of the ISA from the Killzone series. Not the most creative of leaders, but he's a rock solid superior who looks out for his men.
  • Despite having no actual rank, the player in Knights of the Old Republic is definitely the Captain of the Ebon Hawk
    • And the Exile in the sequel too, although Bao-dur insists on calling him/her General, due to it being their rank during the Mandalorian Wars.
  • Tetra from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker became Pirate Captain around the age of 10, because her mother died and left no heir but her. The leadership qualities she got this way are probably what later helped her founding a whole Kingdom with her as the Queen.
  • Mass Effect:
    • In the first game, Lieutenant-Commander Shepard is The Captain of the SSV Normandy SR-1. Initially they are Number Two to Captain Anderson, but when Shepard becomes a Spectre to track down Saren, they are handed captaincy of the Normandy. This doesn't include a direct promotion to Captain however so their rank is now a full Commander, but as the highest-ranking officer aboard the ship they effectively have the role of Captain anyway. This is consistent with the rest of the game; in reality, most modern warships are actually commanded by a Lt. Commander/Commander, rather than an actual Captain.
    • Shepard fulfills the role again in Mass Effect 2, despite no longer technically being in the Alliance (though s/he probably received an offscreen promotion to full Commander in between, given what happened in the first game). On the Cerberus side, Shepard was brought back specifically to continue their role from the first game, so plonking them in as a Commander makes a lot of sense.
    • The space-faring quarians of the Migrant Fleet refer to Shepard as Captain Shepard, despite Shepard pointing out that s/he only ever reached the rank of Commander. It's explained that since they command a ship and are responsible for the lives of their crew, this is Shepard's legal status under quarian law, allowing them the authority to speak as an advocate for their crew in legal matters.
    • The Russian version of the game has Shepard referred to as "Captain", as the Russian equivalent of "Commander" is "Captain 2nd Class" or "Captain" for short. The translators just figured that transliterating "Commander" would be too awkward for Russian gamers.
  • In Modern Warfare Captain Price and later Captain "Soap" MacTavish fit this trope to the T. When they start fighting together, nothing stops them.
  • Pikmin: None of the Pikmin can defend themselves from the various wildlife of their native planet were it not for the leadership of Captain Olimar.
  • Puyo Puyo Tetris has Tee, the tactful but powerful Tetris King and the captain of the S.S. Tetra and its crew. He joins Ringo, Amitie, and Arle in trying to set things straight when the Puyo Puyo and Tetris dimensions inexplicably start merging.
  • The Boss in the Saints Row series, from the second game onwards. After resurrecting the Saints, they take on the role of gang leader, taking them from a small-time gang to international celebrities and beyond.
  • Sakura Wars:
    • Ichiro Ogami is a subversion: while a natural leader, he was given command of an elite fighting team as his first assignment.
    • His nephew Shinjiro Taiga from Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love is in a similar boat; in fact, Rachet Altair technically remains the captain for most of the game.
  • Explicitly namedropped in Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters with the player character, and he only has the role because the leader of the original mission, Captain Burton, performs a Heroic Sacrifice to keep the Precursor vessel from being captured/destroyed en route back to Earth, and only the player character can easily interface with the vessel's computers.
  • Commander Raynor of StarCraft. Doesn't really look like one, but besides that, he fits the trope to the letter.
  • In Star Trek Online, much like in the movies and series, you will be "The Captain" of a ship. Although you start out as Ensign in the Tutorial Missions, then you get promoted to Lieutenant and get your own Ship, because Starfleet lacks Captains for all the ships with so many threats around them, later you rank up to eventually become Captain in rank too. But only for short as you will fairly soon be a Fleet Admiral, but still be in control of a ship (because of the beforementioned lack of Captains).
    • The game also points out in its loading screens, quite correctly, that naval tradition holds that any person in command of a ship is addressed as "Captain," even if they don't hold that rank.
    • The situation is much the same for Klingon and Romulan characters, although in the Romulan case there isn't actually any rank called captain (Romulans refer to the analogous rank as Commander instead).
  • In Sunrider, this duty is split between Kayto Shields and Ava Crescentia due to the nature of the Sunrider as a carrier vessel. Kayto is the one who holds the rank of Captain, is addressed as such, and commands the Sunrider's carrier group (including its ryders and any attached ships), as well as ordering any use of the Vanguard Cannon. Ava (the XO) serves as flag captain for the Sunrider itself during battle.
  • Super Mario Bros.: The titular Mario becomes the captain of the Starship Mario in Super Mario Galaxy 2.
  • Super Robot Wars, being a huge mecha crossover, naturally has a couple of their own, mostly from the Super Robot Wars: Original Generation subseries:
    • Lt. Colonel Daitetsu Minase. Cool Old Guy. Captain of the Hagane, which has a BFG attached to the front. Occasionally commands the Kurogane, which has a DRILL instead.
    • Tetsuya. Starts as Daitetsu's sidekick, but eventually inherits the Kurogane and comes into his own after Daitetsu is killed.
    • Lt. Lee Linjun. Jerkass. Turns on the heroes. Trys to ram the Kurogane, which as mentioned before, has a drill on the front; not his brightest moment.
    • Lefina Enfield. Captain of the Hiryuu Custom and considered a Teen Genius (youngest person to ever pilot a battleship), and the only female captain. She and the Hiryuu Custom could be considered Shot Outs to Yurika Misumaru and the Nadesico.
    • And sometimes, Elzam von Branstein takes this role and rides the Kurogane, after Tetsuya takes over Hagane.
    • Blessfield Ardygun, patriarch of the Ardygun family, captain the transformable and combining battleship Valstork. After a certain incident, he is succeeded by his daughter Shihomi.
    • Super Robot Wars 30 has Mitsuba Greyvalley, a young woman chosen as captain of the super-carrier Dreistrager and leader of the autonomous unit Dreikreuz straight out of the Academy and given the mission of defending the Earth Sphere from the myriad threats surrounding it.
  • Touhou Project 12: Undefined Fantastic Object brings us Captain Murasa Minamitsu, who is best known for flinging giant anchors at you.
  • Captain Viridian from VVVVVV.
  • Falric better known as "The Captain" in Warcraft III. He was Arthas's loyal sidekick, but when in Northrend he did not hesitate to temporarily take command and try to get the army back home against Arthas's wishes. Just a shame Arthas went and sunk his ship first, so the Captain's glory moment as a true Captain was short lived. In fact, he ended up making a Face–Heel Turn alongside Arthas, and can be seen in the campaign's ending cinematic accompanying his master into the capital city, where he helps murder the aristocracy and watches Arthas kill his father. In effect, he became that which he hated most.
    • In the new Wrath of the Lich King instance, Halls of Reflection, Falric returns as the first boss, engaging the players during the fifth wave of a gruelling gauntlet of undead foes.
    • A few years later we have the Skybreaker, commanded by High Captain Justin Bartlett, and Orgrim's Hammer, commanded by Sky-Reaver Korm Blackscar. Both captains send adventurers on missions throughout Icecrown, and are a source of PvP daily quests. During the ships' most important action, however, they are commanded by Muradin Bronzebeard and Varok Saurfang.

    Web Animation 
  • If the Emperor Had a Text-to-Speech Device: Karstodes of the Fab Custodes is actually the rank of Shield-Captain and not only that, he's also one of the Tribunes, the elite of the already elite Adeptus Custodes. As for commanding anyone he was the leader of his small group but spending actual time with The Emperor and meeting Cegorach has led his two fellows to become more independent and even oppose him at times.
  • Church in Red vs. Blue, while the de-facto leader of the titular Blues, is the only one to actually consider himself a Captain, despite their previous Captain's death occurring prior to the start of the series.
    • Subverted in an odd way as he's tied for the second lowest rank of either army; he's only a standard Private (along with Donut and Caboose), compared to Minor Junior Private Negative First Class Grif (although he might technically still be a sergeant) and Privates First Class Simmons and Tucker.
  • Starship Regulars: Captain Bellagen.

  • Captain Crunch is naturally played as a heroic leader figure in Breakfast of the Gods.
  • The Captain from Cloudscratcher.
  • Parodied in Homestuck, when Vriska declares herself the Captain of the expedition to find Lord English's weakness. She later learns that the "naval nicknames" she gave several other characters, such as "Commodore" and "Admiral", actually means they outrank her. (The characters given the names already knew this, and had been silently laughing at her misunderstanding the whole time.)
  • Captain from I Was Kidnapped by Lesbian Pirates from Outer Space!!!, though it is revealed at the end of the first arc that her name is Janet.
  • In Operator, three of the protagonists [including the main character] hold the rank of Captain. The only two named German characters so far both hold the rank of Hauptmann, which is roughly analogous.
  • The Captain (actual name unknown) from Romantically Apocalyptic leads his squad through the comic's post-apocalyptic setting.
  • Captain Kaff Tagon from Schlock Mercenary.
    • And (briefly, due to Time Travel shenanigans) Captain Kevin Andreysan.
  • Captain Bailey from Whispers in the Wind, a former military man who has turned to piracy.

    Web Original 
  • The Call of Warr: Gravesite is the captain of the unit all the characters are from. He's good at making orders, keeping everyone in line, and doing what he thinks is right... until he starts to go crazy and care more about his movie than his team, which forces Prince to usurp him.
  • Captain Nemo in The Endless Night is one obvious example.
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, several characters hold the rank of captain. Some examples are Ax (leader of the Blades of Vigilance), Kaizoku (pirate captain and commander of the Black Hunters), Varalia (captain of the Myridian palace guards) and Razoul (captain of the Black Guard) among others.
  • The Jenkinsverse has Captain Owen Powell of the Special Boat Service, the UK's naval special forces unit, which draws from the Royal Marines, making him not just an officer and a leader, but also a card-carrying badass.
  • Open Blue: Though they might have fancy titles like "Pirate Lord", The Captain is your basic character class choice (unless you prefer to be a marine/crewman/street urchin/whatever), seeing as it's a pirate RP set in the age of sail.
  • Tech Infantry has several, from Erich Von Shrakenberg (until he gets promoted to Commodore and then Admiral) to James Welthammer (who technically is a rankless civilian, but commands a space freighter). Xinjao O'Reilly eventually gets his own ship to command as well.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Another literal example is Captain Zachary Foxx, the Galaxy Rangers' leader.
  • Dodder the gnome from Baldmoney Sneezewort Dodder And Cloudberry starts out as the leader of an expedition to find his lost brother, and ends up in command of a clockwork paddle steamer.
  • Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a Captain. Like he could be anything but. For whatever reason, in the Toy Story movies Buzz assumes more of a futuristic Knight in Shining Armor role and the role of the Captain is assumed by Woody. While Woody and Buzz are equals, it is Woody who is the commander in chief of the green army men and who coordinates missions and projects.
  • Captain Simian of Captain Simian and the Space Monkeys qualifies. Though he's very open to suggestions from his crew, he's always the team leader. He gets rebuked all the time by his second-in-command for jumping in headfirst without a plan, but it usually works out; his crew is confident in his ability to get them out of any situation.
  • Futurama's Captain Zapp Brannigan, not-at-all-erstwhile hero of the Democratic Order of Planets, and apparently its entire general staff. Definitely a subversion of the trope, and a gigantic send-up of the mythology around Captain James Kirk. Brannigan's portrayal was actually intended to be less Kirk specifically, and more what the real (and now rather doughy and loopy) William Shatner would be like as a starship captain. Turns out, not a very good one.
  • Goliath in Gargoyles, although his position as clan leader seems to be more one of responsibility than of privilege.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Shining Armor, older brother to Twilight Sparkle, is the captain of the Canterlot Royal Guard. Considering that it is the only military force seen in Equestria (as of the end of Season 3), his position is equivalent of a real life General.
  • Barnacles Bear is the Captain of the The Octonauts. And he is so cute!
  • Much like Col. Jack O'Neill, Skipper from The Penguins of Madagascar fits this role as the head of his Five four man band. In one episode, he becomes a literal ship captain when they build the Penguin One spaceship.
  • Carol Freeman (Star Trek: Lower Decks) is notable in that her daughter (Ensign Beckett Mariner) serves under her. Lower Decks also features the now Captain Riker aboard the Titan.
  • Star Trek: Prodigy: 17 year old Dal appoints himself as Captain of the Ragtag Band of Misfits who have stolen the Protostar, passing themselves off as Starfleet cadets to the resident Emergency Training Hologram, who herself appears in the form of Captain Janeway. As it turns out, the Protostar was previously captained by former Voyager First Officer Chakotay.
  • Robin of Teen Titans qualifies.
  • ThunderCats (2011) has a few
    • In "Old Friends" achieving this rank rapidly is a Downplayed element of the Backstory of Grune and Panthro, who both see it as a stepping stone to becoming a Four-Star Badass in Thundera's army.
    • In "Ramlak Rising" it is Deconstructed with Captain Koinelius Tunar, who's fixation on Animal Nemesis the Ramlak has made him prioritize Revenge Before Reason and steadily eroded the relationship between himself and his crew.
    • In "Journey To The Tower of Omens," the hands-on, field-leader type is exemplified in Captain Tygus, who conducts a one-man assault on a heavily guarded tower powered by a MacGuffin he's Plundering for his Commander.
  • Optimus Prime (or Primal), any Transformers series. In Generation 1, he was eventually replaced by Rodimus Prime, who passed the mantle onto Fortress Maximus in Headmasters.
    • The Optimus Prime of Transformers: Animated is more The Hero than The Captain. Technically, Ultra Magnus fills that role.
    • Ultra Magnus commands the entire Autobot Defense Force, while Optimus Prime was captain of a Space Bridge repair force, and now commands a single unit of Autobots on Earth (which are the same 'bots really). The rank of Prime is thus equivalent to the rank of Captain, while the rank of Magnus better matches that of Admiral, or Grand Admiral.
    • Optimus Primal actually was a ship captain until the events of the show. The Maximals' base is their crashed ship, the Axalon, in the first few seasons. Then they relocate to the Ark. Megatron (not the original one) is also, technically, captain of the Darksyde, even though his allies stole it from the Maximals. Likewise, the crashed hulk of the Darksyde is the Predacons' base. Near the end of the series, they relocate to the Nemesis.
  • Shiro of Voltron: Legendary Defender gets promoted to this trope in Season 7 with the introduction of Earth's battleship the IGF Atlas. Initially a battlefield promotion due to him being the only Galaxy Garrison officer with any experience commanding a ship in a space battle, he's gained the rank proper by Season 8.

    Real Life 
  • Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, commander of PT-109.
  • You know all that stuff that Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey did in the movies? Captain Thomas Cochrane did it all first; and did it for real.
  • John Paul Jones. Badass quotes include; when being asked by a British officer if he was ready to surrender, he responded, "I have not yet begun to fight." And upon being asked if he'd strike his colors for surrender, "I may sink. But I'll be damned if I strike!", and lastly his Dare to Be Badass speech: "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm's way."
  • Lieutenant-Commander Malcolm Wanklyn VC DSO**, British submarine ace, who sank a truly massive amount of shipping in the dangerous, shallow and exposed waters of the Mediterranean as the CO of HMS Upholder. See the other wiki: [1].
    • The British seemed to have a cottage industry of these in WWII. Consider Lt. Commander.Gerard Roope of HMS Glowworm was such a badass, the German captain who defeated him told the British government "you need to give this guy a medal." And they did, specifically the Victoria Cross.
    • Captain Addison "Joe" Baker-Cresswell. His escort group was responsible for capturing a German U-Boat and, more importantly, its Enigma coder.
    • Also Lieutenant James Launders DSO* DSC* commanding His Majesty's Submarine Venturer. Not only did he sink the U-864, he did so using a three dimensional firing solution he worked out on paper, as both submarines were submerged at the time, the only time in history such an attack was ever made.
    • Lieutenant-Commander Tommy Catlow, who escaped from a pre-war submarine disaster (HMS Thetes sank with a full crew in the Mersey Estuary in 1937. Catlow, then a junior officer, tested an untried and unreliable escape system, and got out to deliver messages to the rescue team). He spent the early part of his war sinking Axis shipping in the Med. Captured by the Italiansnote , he attempted escape so frequently that he was handed over to the Germans and incarcerated at Colditz. At war's end, he was on the short-list for a place in the famous glider... the makers of the TV drama Colditz wrote him in as the token Royal Navy officer, Lt. Dick Player.
  • Captain James A. Lovell USN, Flight Commander of Apollo 13.
    • Perhaps moreso, Gene Kranz, the NASA Flight Director who served as the primary authority figure during not only the Apollo 13 crisis, but also the first manned lunar landing during the Apollo 11 mission. The American space program designates a Flight Director for every manned space mission. While confined to the Mission Control center, standing policy dictates that "Flight" has ultimate authority in all decisions regarding the mission; not even the President of the United States can supersede a call made by the Flight Director.
      • And on that note, Christopher Kraft, who essentially created the position of Flight Director, served as Flight Director through many of the most important moments of the Mercury and Gemini programs, and, in the wake of John Glenn's problematic Mercury-Atlas 6 flight, was the one who decreed that Flight has the final say in Mission Control. As Wikipedia states, "More than any other person, Kraft was responsible for shaping the organization and culture of NASA's Mission Control."
  • Lovell is hardly the only Captain to command a NASA mission:
    • Captain Wally Schirra USN (Apollo 7)
    • Captain Pete Conrad USN (Apollo 12)
    • Captain Alan Shepard USN (Apollo 14)
    • Captain John Young USN (Apollo 16)
    • Captain Gene Cernan USN (Apollo 17)
    • Captain Alan Bean USN (Skylab 3)
      • Suffice to say that when the US determined to set sail among the stars, we had Captains to lead us.
  • Captain Michel Bacos of Air France flight 139. When it was hijacked by terrorists in June of 1976, they freed all non-Jewish passengers. Captain Bacos emphatically stated that all the passengers were his responsibility, including the Jews, and he flat-out refused to leave if they weren't going to either. His act of badass inspired the flight crew to follow suit. Whatever the French term for badass is, he's it.
  • In case of airships (that is, anything that flies, from balloons and blimps to Space Shuttle), once an emergency happens, the commander of the airship (no matter of actual credentials, as long as he/she is not usurping the command without valid reason) is operating under "prevention of catastrophe" as the only law concerning him. It is said that the crew of the famous Concorde crash sacrificed themselves and their passengers in order not to crash into housing area, which would bring many more deaths. So when an aircraft makes an emergency landing on your property destroying it, expect a long talk with your insurance agent, as any court will send you packing in first hearing, probably with verbal whipping.
    • You will find in every air emergency that the crew always considers where the plane might crash and will do what is necessary to avoid hitting a populated area.
    • Speaking of airships, one of the coolest Captains in history was Hugo Eckener, commander of the Graf Zeppelin, the Zeppelin that invented the Cool Airship trope. Captain Eckener himself was a reporter, editor, airship captain, doctor of psychology, president of the Zeppelin Company, engineer, political rival and bitter enemy of Adolph Hitler, explorer and international diplomat. His airship was the most successful airship of all time, having circumnavigated the globe faster than any airplane before it, went on voyages and expeditions to the far corners of the world, explored unknown regions of the North Pole, and eventually became the first transatlantic airliner ever, flying from Rio to Berlin, transporting tens of thousands of passengers in luxury, speed and perfect safety. It served for over a decade and flew over a million miles. Captain Eckener's Graf Zeppelin also happened to be... A mere prototype, which had never been designed to do half of those things.
  • Likewise, the US Coast Guard/International Navigation Rules for seagoing vessels essentially state in the very second rule that any of the rules in the whole book can be broken if breaking them was necessary to avoid danger such as collision or grounding.
  • Most US nuclear submarine commanders hold the actual rank of Commander. Most Soviet/Russian nuclear sub commanders are two ranks higher up the list.
    • Commander Eugene P. Wilkinson, the first commanding officer of the first nuclear submarine the USS Nautilus.
    • Commander William R. Anderson, who took the Nautilus on its famous voyage under the North Pole in 1958.
  • Captain Chesley Sullenberger of US Airways Flight 1549, the plane that made a successful emergency landing in the Hudson River after its engines failed in early 2009. Everyone was safely evacuated off the plane. Badass.
  • Captain Anna Ivanovna Shchetinina, the world's first woman to serve as a captain of an ocean-going vessel, evacuated people from Tallinn during World War II and smuggled war cargo supplies during enemy bombardment.
  • Captain Isaac Hull of the USS Constitution. During the War of 1812, the Constitution was confronted by the British ship HMS Guerriere. The Constitution warred the other ship to scraps, an action that served notice that Britain's feared Navy now had a contender.
    • This is a main reason (combined with Jackson's victory at New Orleans) why Parliament ratified the treaty ending the War of 1812. If Hull and Jackson hadn't convinced them that the American military deserved to be taken seriously, that would have been unpleasant for both sides.
      • ...Sort of. The British had already had serious problems with other American armies and ships before. On land, the problem was that the British knew from experience that they couldn't actually occupy the colonies, and raiding the coast had proven expensive. On the sea, the actual damage caused by the Americans was a pinprick, but the mere fact that they could deliver that pinprick was sobering.
    • You hardly need to be a Captain Badass when the ship you're sailing, despite being about as seaworthy as a haystack, is immune to the enemy's guns and massively outmatches her in firepower; that goes double when the other ship is overdue for refit and repairs. Hull never commanded in battle again, as he learned his brother had died while he was at sea and left a widow and children that he now needed to care for.
  • Captain Tom Parham. First African-American to reach rank of Captain, and beloved Navy chaplain.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the man who survived a Mandela-like incarceration in the Siberian gulags, was formerly a Captain in the Red Army.
    • And because surviving Soviet work camps isn't impressive enough, he found time to survive undiagnosed cancer.
  • Badass of The Week was kind enough to profile Captain Jonathan Davis, who was ambushed along with two of his friends in California in the mid 1800's. They killed one of his friends, and mortally wounded the other, leaving Captain Davis outnumbered 14 to 1. The result; Davis guns down 6 and then engages in a knife-duel to the death with the remaining kills their leader plus three others and the last four flee.
  • From the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men we have Captain Francis Drake
    • That era probably provided the archetype of what The Captain is.
  • The famous Battle of Trafalgar had more of these than you can shake a stick at. Notably, the two captains/hereos of that engagement were actually admirals; Horatio Nelson of the (aptly) named Victory and Cuthbert Collingwood of the Royal Sovereign.
  • Two particularly notable examples emerged in the attack on Pearl Harbor:
    • Captain Mervyn S. Bennion of the battleship USS West Virginia (BB-48). A devout Mormon, Bennion had a well-deserved reputation as A Father to His Men. Bennion's chest was torn open by shrapnel from the first bomb to hit West Virginia on December 7th. Though grievously wounded and in blinding pain, Captain Bennion refused attempts by his steward, Cook 3rd Class Doris Miller, to move him to sickbay and remained at his post. When Miller tried to bring a corpsman to the bridge instead, Bennion stopped him and said that too many other men needed help more than he did. Bennion maintained command, ordering counterflooding to prevent the battleship from capsizing, organizing firefighting crews, and keeping the antiaircraft guns in action until he bled to death. His last words before losing consciousness were ordering Miller to "Tell the XO he's in charge." For saving his ship at the cost of his own life, Bennion was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Miller found the XO and advised him of the situation, then replaced a wounded gunner on an antiaircraft mount, shooting down a Japanese bomber. He would be the first black man to receive the Navy Cross.
    • Commander Cassin Young was captain of the fleet repair ship USS Vestal (AR-4), which was moored alongside the battleship Arizona on the morning of December 7th. Young was a firm-but-fair leader who drilled his crew to a high standard, even if Vestal was a lightly-armed support ship not intended for combat. That high standard payed off that morning, when Vestal was one of the first ships to return fire on the attacking aircraft, with Gunner's Mates bringing her antiaircraft guns into action, while the snipes immediately lit the boilers and got steam up at the first sign of trouble. She was also one of the first to be hit, taking two bombs probably meant for Arizona. One started a fire in the repair ship's magazine, while the Other punched through the ship's bottom and detonated on the shallow harbor bed beneath, miraculously failing to break her keel. Young was on the bridge when Arizona was sundered by an apocalyptic explosion of her forward magazine alongside his own ship. Vestal took severe blast damage, her superstructure Swiss-cheesed by shrapnel, and dozens of men topside — including Young himself — were blown overboard. Thoroughly pissed off at having been thrown off his own ship, Young swam back to Vestal, climbed back aboard, and started channeling John Paul Jones. A junior watch officer had panicked and ordered the ship abandoned, the crew were in confusion, though some of the Bosun's Mates were pulling badly-wounded men off of the mortal remains of Arizona, the guns were out of action, and the ship was on fire and taking water. Young countermanded the order to abandon, got the guns firing again, and gave the order to cast off and get underway. With the flooding and fires out of control, Young conned Vestal two miles northeast and beached her in Aiea Bay. He then sent every man not essential to his own firefighting effort, including all of his divers, to assist other stricken ships in the harbor. Over the next few weeks, Young's crew refloated their own ship, refloated California and West Virginia, cut through Oklahoma's hull to pull trapped survivors to safety, and got Raleigh, Tennessee, Maryland, and Pennsylvania ready to fight again. Vestal herself never saw the inside of a drydock. Cassin Young was awarded the Medal of Honor, promoted to Captain, and given command of the heavy cruiser USS San Francisco. He would later be killed in action against a Japanese battleship off Guadalcanal. The Navy further honored him after his death by naming a Fletcher-class destroyer after him, which is still afloat and can be visited at the Boston Navy Yard, along with the USS Constitution.
  • Captain Thomas Gatch of the fast battleship USS South Dakota (BB-57) was an avid student of history who found inspiration from the accounts of British Admiral Horatio Nelson. He often quoted Nelson's words that "No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy" and also firmly believed that a warship's captain must never show fear in front of his crew. This attitude nearly cost Gatch his life during an attack by Japanese bombers in the summer of 1942. Gatch was on the flying bridge when a bomb fell on the #1 turret. Gatch refused to duck behind the armored splinter shield and took shrapnel to the chest. Gatch was taken to sickbay in critical condition, nearly dying, but he had inspired such loyalty from his crew that they threatened to jump ship if the Navy tried to give Thomas Gatch's command to anyone else while he was alive. Gatch recovered against all odds and kept command during his convalescence. During the Battleship Night Action off Guadalcanal that November, South Dakota suffered a freak electrical fault that silenced her 16-inch guns and disabled her fire control. Despite multiple hits from Japanese cruisers and the battleship Kirishima, the secondary 5-inch guns were brought back online in local control. Gatch skillfully conned his ship through the battle, raking the enemy with his secondary battery, dodging multiple torpedoes, and drawing enemy fire away from the battleship USS Washington, whose 16-inch guns left Kirishima burning and dead in the water. South Dakota survived despite serious damage, and was repaired and back in the fight within a year.
  • Lieutenant Commander Ernest E. Evans — captain of USS Johnston (DD-557) of Taffy 3. This completely badass Cherokee Indian who commanded Johnston from the moment her keel first hit the water to her Dying Moment of Awesome at the Battle Off Samar. When the Japanese fleet during the Battle off Samar was first sighted, Evans did not hesitate, and his ship immediately headed directly towards the far superior enemy without waiting for the other destroyers with them, while simultaneously laying smoke to obscure the escort carriers they were assigned to protect. He is reported to have told his crew over the ship's 1MC: "A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected. We will do what damage we can." In his attack run he managed to take out of the battle two Japanese heavy cruisers in moments with highly-accurate fire from Johnston's 5-inch guns, while forcing the rest to dodge his torpedoes. Evans's ship took critical damage from Japanese gunfire during this first attack, so much that men aboard the other ships of Taffy-3 were only able to recognize her by the "557" painted on her bow, and retreated towards the other American destroyers and destroyer escorts. A shell from a Japanese battleship wrecked his bridge, killed several of the bridge watch, and wounded the rest, including Evans himself (and also blew off all of Evans's clothes, skivvies included). Naked, bleeding, and pissed off, Evans moved aft, finding the Auxiliary Conn also destroyed, so he continued to the fantail and shouted orders down an open hatch to Sailors who were cranking the rudder by hand. At this point, Johnston passed the other destroyers, who were beginning their own torpedo runs. Evans ordered his ship to turn around and join them, with every gun they had left blazing. USS Johnston fought to the bitter end, out of ammo and dead in the water. She has caused so much damage that a Japanese destroyer was ordered to shell her foundering wreck at point-blank range, just to make sure. That ship's captain mustered his crew at the rail and saluted the burning American destroyer as she went under. While he abandoned ship with the rest of his crew when Johnston sank, Captain Evans was not rescued. Maybe his brass balls took him to the ocean floor on his way to Valhalla. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • The sinking of RMS Titanic had three civilian sea captains who would go down in history in three very different ways.
    • Edward J. Smith of Titanic, an old school sea captain with an exemplary performance record with a good relationship with his crew. However, he would be forever stained, fairly or unfairly, as a reckless bungler who drove his ship into danger, resulting in a horrific end for over 1500 people on board, including himself. That said, his direction of the evacuation — such as trying to prevent panic, firing constant orders, comforting crew members — brought him eternal respect from many survivors.
      • Smith was given command of Titanic with his embodiment of this trope more or less in mind. Smith was seen as 'the captain's captain', an archetypal, reassuring presence whose duties included being very visible and social amongst the First Class passengers. Whether he lived up to his image during the sinking is in fact contested. Some praised his command and dedication, and even recalled unlikely stories of his last being seen handing children to the safety of boats from the freezing ocean. Others claim he dithered and was too stunned to be effective, and failed to communicate vital information or even let all crew know what had happened.
    • Stanley Lord of SS Californian, who was a callous tyrant of a captain who intimidated his crew into fearful complacency. Furthermore, he is definitely guilty at the very least of failing to respond to an obvious distress signal rocket pattern from a ship nearby on the night of Titanic's sinking, while likely being a sociopath selfishly responsible for not lifting a finger to assist Titanic in its desperate hour of need and then doing everything he can to cover up his misdeed. Thus he would go down as a scoundrel of modern maritime history no matter how much he bellowed for the rest of his life that he did nothing wrong.
    • Arthur Rostron of RMS Carpathia, who was by comparison the ideal British captain. He was firm, on amiable terms with his crew and passengers as well as being decisive, courageous and efficient in his command. Those were qualities dearly needed as the Captain who was the first to race to Titanic on that horrible night of April 14-15, 1912.
      • Upon receiving notification of a passenger liner in distress, Captain Rostron immediately ordered his First Officer to turn Carpathia around and make all speed to Titanic. Then he briefly turned to confirm with Harold Cottam, the wireless operator, that he was sure of his information; upon being answered in the affirmative, he began getting dressed. By the time his hat was on his head, he was ready to give the following orders: wake all off-watch personnel, sailors and hospitality staff alike; Navigator, plot Titanic's position and best course to reach her; boiler rooms light everything and put up all the steam they possibly can; Engineers shut off nonessential systems and divert all steam power to the screws for maximum speed; deckhands rig additional lighting outside the ship, run out the boats, rig lifelines, and post an extra watch to look out for hazards and survivors in the water; stewards and maids gather every available blanket and heat them in the ship's laundry, and set up the ship's parlors, lounges, and dining areas as emergency shelters; cooks prepare hot soup and brandy in large quantities to help treat hypothermia. He also regularly offered up a prayer when he issued orders, and later said about steaming full speed into an ice field in the dark that "I can only conclude another hand than mine was on the helm." This is how Sir Arthur Henry Rostron KBE RD RNR handled an emergency. Quite understandably, he would eventually become the Commodore of the entire Cunard fleet.
  • Ruben de Cloux, the legendary windjammer captain of Gustaf Eriksson Line. He won several times the Great Grain Race, and set several records for voyage from Australia to Britain. He mastered the winds skillfully and could actually outrun steamships.


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Captain Amelia

Captain Amelia is the no nonsense, snarky, sophisticated, battle hardened, acrobatic and cat-like captain of the RLS Legacy.

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Main / TheCaptain

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