Armies Are Evil

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
"We're here for you."

Howl: Filthy murderers...
Sophie: Are they allies? Or enemies?
Howl: Does it make any difference?


The military (Army, Navy, Air Force, whatever) is portrayed as being evil, misguided, or just plain warmongers. They're eager to commit to massive attacks which would leave massive casualties on all sides, including civilian, chalking it up to "necessary losses" or some other such excuse.

Furthermore, they pay no attention to the infinitely wiser and more moral civilian experts, who are in the right and are vindicated in the end when they fix the military's screw-ups.

This trope is a relative of Ancient Conspiracy, Government Conspiracy, and Nuke'Em, and is often the mirror image of Science Is Bad, unless the Science in question was a military research project to begin with. It is often commanded by General Ripper, and formed of Sociopathic Soldiers. Army will sometimes, in relatively rare circumstances, make use of Human Wave Tactics ... rare because while civilians are cheap and expendable, good soldiers are not. At least, to the Army.

If a Real Life military is portrayed in this light, expect the film not to be Backed by the Pentagon. For right or wrong, most institutions generally prefer to not be party to their own disparagement.

An increasingly common variant of this trope draws on Democracy Is Bad; Soldiers try to do their job, which most of them view as "defend my home from threats" as opposed to "smash the enemy at all costs". They may have incomplete information or bad judgment, but most of them want to do the Right Thing, and are willing to sacrifice themselves to that end at the drop of a hat. They just run smack dab into Sturgeon's Law—for every superior that is A Father to His Men, an Officer and a Gentleman or even just a plain old Reasonable Authority Figure, there are dozens if not hundreds of General Rippers and/or Neidermeyers looking to pull a fast one -- and as soldiers they are supposed to obey all of them. This is sometimes called "Hate The War, Love The Soldier".

Finally, there's the counter to the prior argument; being a soldier doesn't make you a robot, and that means they still deserve all the hate they get when they cross the line -- Just Following Orders is not a justification for committing crimes.

See also War Is Hell and Rape, Pillage and Burn. The (mostly) opposite of Straw Civilian. Not to be confused with the army of Team Evil.

No real life examples, please; Calling real-life people "evil" is an extremely bad idea.

Examples of Armies Are Evil include:

Anime and Manga

  • This trope is an extremely common in post-war Japan. The sad truth is that it was Truth in Television during Japan's imperialist age, and as a result Japan neutered its military and constitutionally forbade offensive warfare. Most Anime and Manga reflect this mentality by portraying the government in general and military in particular in an extremely negative light.
  • Ralph's motivation in Soukou no Strain comes from his viewing the Union as an Evil Army. Of course,part of his concern is justified, but by the time you find that out, you also realize that he doesn't just hate the Union -- he hates everyone.
  • Partially subverted by the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, while High Command is full of General Ripper types, the generals that remained uncorrupted are moved to dead end positions in the East, or North. The soldiers themselves are honorable, brave men who only wanted to protect the civilians but are instead forced to kill them. The general result is that as soon as the soldiers find out the truth they quickly join the resistance group within the military.
    • It still kinda makes you feel weird when you realize that every one of those goofy soldiers who work with Ed participated in the Ishbal Genocide, and have individually killed more innocent people than most of us will ever even know by name. And that's just the rank and file -- State Alchemists such Mustang and Armstrong have personally torched and crushed several thousand people each.
      • And were left with serious emotional scarring. War Is Hell, and this war seemed pointless.
      • So just like the rank and file Nazi soldier they are not so subtle expies of.
        • Rather subtle as far as Nazis go. They're actually supposed to be expies of Japanese Imperial Soldiers, with the Ishvalans being Ainu expies. The similarities with the Germans are cosmetic as far as the European-expy countries go, and because Japan and Germany were both Axis Powers.
  • The army of which the protagonists are part of in Pumpkin Scissors is this. The war that tore the continent apart has been over for a while, but there's no shortage of corruption and decadence that it's a wonder Alice can still be the Wide-Eyed Idealist that she is.
  • The Allied Federation in Eureka Seven.
  • The Red Ribbon Army in Dragon Ball.
  • The military in Genesis of Aquarion performs some pretty nasty experiments on Dark Angels they capture.
  • The American military in Blood+
  • The Golan/God's Army in Fist of the North Star, oh so very much.
  • The JSSDF in EndofEvangelion
    • To be fair, the JSSDF were more like misguided than evil. The only reason that they attacked NERV was because SEELE had manipulatd them into doing it, and they all died when SEELE initiated Third Impact. Although their take-no-prisoners attidude does cause one to call their morality into question.
  • The Britannian Military from Code Geass qualify. They have soldiers who have deliberately killed civilians in several notable instances, they're willing to purge entire districts if a member of the Royal Family orders it, the Royal Guard willingly tries to kill a student for simply getting caught up in the whole mess, and they're notoriously bigoted towards conquered subjects. Granted, the whole society is like that, but the military are the ones conquering and killing them. One faction in particular, the Purists, are completely against Honorary Britannians joining the army and have no problems with framing people for murder in order to reap the political benefits.
  • Entirely subverted with Yomigaeru Sora Rescue Wings where the main characters are all JASDF soldiers and portrayed entirely as heroes and rescuers. Quite very much the shining exception that proves the rule...
  • Generally subverted as well with Zipang - the portrayals of the 1940s era soldiery is somewhat sympathetic, though the upper officers strongly tends in this way for good reason. Entirely subverted by the Mirai's crew.


  • Many, many B-grade monster movies from the 1950's and 60's, and many more in the 90's and 2000's.
    • Especially any Syfy Original Movie. Even if there's no real logical reason the American military would be involved in the slightest, they will find a way to take an antagonistic role. One had them with a secret base near Stone Henge just so they could pounce on any poor, innocent unsuspecting scientists who happened to be around when weird stuff started.
  • In the Made for TV Movie Locusts, General Ripper wants to use VX nerve gas to wipe out the locust swarms, despite their hovering over heavily populated areas.
  • Inverted in In the Loop. The sociopathic Secretary of State is opposed by Four-Star Badass General "Flintstone" Miller.

Miller: This is the trouble with civilians wanting to go to war - once you've been there, you never want to go again unless you absolutely have to. (Beat) It's like France.

  • Parodied in the film Mars Attacks!! where General Decker's warmongering instincts ("We have to strike now, sir! Annihilate! Kill! Kill! Kill!") prove to be entirely well founded.
  • Played out on a small scale in It Came from Outer Space (1953) with the sheriff who wants to go in with a posse and the amateur astronomer who's willing to trust that the aliens are telling the truth. It does however subvert this trope in that both aliens and humans are paranoid about the others intentions, yet in reality both are reasonable—the humans just want their friends (who are being held hostage by the aliens) returned unharmed, while the aliens just want to repair their spaceship so they can leave Earth.
  • The notorious Irwin Allen disaster flop The Swarm (1978) attempts this, with the military wanting to use pesticides that would damage the environment while Michael Caine keeps suggesting other methods. Unfortunately the threat of the killer bees is so over-hyped (at one stage they cause the explosion of a nuclear power plant) that Caine's continuing refusal is hard to justify.
  • The military branch of the RDA (Resources Development Administration) in James Camerons Avatar ("Give us more time and a peaceful solution is possible." "There is no time!") It was mentioned once in the first part of the movie these guys aren't properly military, more like very well equipped Private Military Contractors (although they are stated to be ex-Marines in the intro).
  • In Short Circuit, NOVA Labs keeps a standing army for any... malfunctions. They're portrayed as dumb and trigger-happy, and the lead NOVA scientist fires the head of the army at the end of the movie.
    • On the other hand, Number 5 was, as far as anyone knew, a robotic war machine gone rogue and potentially hazardous. So one can excuse Captain Skroeder being eager to pull out all the stops to eliminate the potential threat (and PR disaster).
  • This is a staple of any movie made by George Romero. One of the best known examples is The Crazies, where the soldiers are idiotic and trigger-happy (not that the armed civilians resisting them were much better though), threaten a scientist with violence when he asks for better facilities, and apparently don't even know the faces of their own men (a scientist that manages to develop a cure is put in a quarantine area while trying to deliver said cure).
    • Land of the Dead saw them treated slightly better and they try to protect the poor folks outside Fiddler's Green along with the rich people inside. Both examples have the military as incompetent more than evil
  • Evolution features a General Ripper who wants to napalm the aliens and gets mad when scientists get in his way.
  • The US Air Force in Super 8. More concerned with hushing up what's going on and making sure anyone who knows the truth isn't allowed to disseminate that information.


  • Mijak's army in Karen Miller's Godspeaker Trilogy which was originally just for dueling warlords but formed into one army under one warlord to conquer all.
  • In the Stephen King novel The Stand, the military is portrayed as being willing to gun down civilians with no compunction. In the Complete and Uncut edition, one group of heroes encounters a group of ex-soldiers who've banded together as a rape gang.
    • The first point is somewhat justified, though - having a disease like Captain Trips going around would make anyone paranoid, especially when it's causing civilization to collapse around them.
  • Slaughterhouse-Five contains a depiction of a straw-man general espousing the bombing of Dresden as a victory of military planing and ingenuity. This also seems to be Kurt Vonnegut's understanding of the military in general.
  • Zig Zagged by Eric Flint. In 1632 the Catholic army at the Battle of the Crapper is portrayed as a combination of murderous and violently lecherous criminals, and slave soldiers who defect almost right away. Of course this is the Thirty Years' War so it's understandable. However the Poles in The Eastern Front are a Worthy Opponent. Likewise the Malwa army in Belisarius Series is composed of enslaved peasants herded around by steepe savages. But the Malwa vassels, the Kushans and Rajputs are honorable as well as effective warriors.
  • In Death series: Nora Roberts seems to believe in this trope. Just check out Purity In Death, Survivor In Death, and Creation In Death if you want proof!

Live-Action TV

Tabletop Games

  • Surprisingly enough for the setting, the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 mostly avert this trope (yeah, you heard) because generally speaking your average Imperial Guardsman is just a normal human soldier doing his duty to protect the Imperium. Occasionally the bureaucratic and theocratic elements - civilian rather than military - like the Administratum and the Ecclesiarchy (the organisations that direct the Guard) sometimes fall under tyrannical complete monsterdom, but even then it's not universal. In other words, the Guard are usually treated as the victims of those running the show.
    • It all depends on who is in charge of the regiment focused on when it comes to the Guard being evil. Take, for example, Valhallan Commander Chenkov. One of his special rules in the game is called "send in the next wave" and it works exactly like you think it does. Some of the fluff bits written about him speak of sacrificing tens of thousands of troops regularly, having troops walk across minefields to clear them so the tanks won't get damaged, rumors that he's killed more of his own men than the enemy, and one notable victory on a planet where he poisoned the water supply by clogging up a river with the corpses of the millions of men he'd sent to their deaths. Usually he's given commendations and medals for finishing wars in record time. It takes all kinds.
    • That's the whole point. The guard is set up as buttmonkeys for the reader to experience all the grimdarkness through.
    • As per the Tagline of Warhammer 40,000 ("In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war."), military action is standard as opposed to special circumstances where this trope will usually be used. This mostly removes any other options for any side from the vicious cycle the galaxy is in, leaving combatants relatively grey at best.

Video Games

  • The army of The Empire in the videogame Drakengard is made out to be this, but it goes even further when their soldiers start to speak while you travel the castle in the first level. They all speak in a monotone, in a sort of stuttered, robotic fashion, and at times show single-minded obsession for a certain goal. This is the result of the Big Bad mind-controlling them all into being her servants.
  • In Advance Wars: Days of Ruin, the New Rubinelle Army is seen as this. While the ISR Army is an army of clone soldiers, there is absolutely no redeemable CO nor soldier within the ranks of the NRA. Greyfield's a butcher, Waylon only cares about his own well-being and Davis is a cowardly sycophant.
  • In Half Life, the surviving scientists are overjoyed by the arriving United States Hazardous Environment Unit... who immediately commence a savage purge of the facility of everything that moves, alien or human.
    • This gets double ridiculous when you play as one of the Marines in an expansion pack and despite the fact that you never go rogue, other Government agents try to kill you anyway.
    • That's due to increasing desperation to cover the events at Black Mesa up. The HECU Marines fail to contain the situation, and so pull out. The Black Ops roll in to wipe out everyone left behind, including HECU stragglers.
  • The ur'Guard of Lusternia, who emphasise discipline, unity and absolute obedience over piddling matters like "compassion" or "living".
  • In Prototype, the United States Marines are presented as Punch Clock Villains whose primary goal is to contain the Infection. Meanwhile, the Blackwatch organization controlling the occupation are the real villains, and have no qualms with massacring civilians and nuking Manhattan. Their Badass Creed even goes so far as to point out that "nothing is sacred" and "we will burn our own to hold the red line."
    • To be fair, despite their gung ho appearances, Blackwatch is right. Only the random fluke that a particular strain of the blacklight virus that thinks is Alex Mercer is not hellbent on destroying all humans (though it is an unrepentant murderer, it doesn't want to destroy the city) makes them villains. The rest of blacklight is an unstoppable plague hellbent on destroying humanity and Blackwatch are the sole thing that can stop it, as far as they know. What makes Blackwatch monsters is their willingness to experiment on people (which started this whole mess). The marines, while presented as most definitely gung oh, are almost shown sympathetically, being used as meat shields by Blackwatchs (ultimately left on Manhattan when Blackwatch plans to nuke the island, being woefully unprepared and uninformed about what they are facing.
      • In addition, Blackwatch's reason for creating such virus in the first place was to make biological weapons capable of targeting specific minorities. Once that caused the Hope incident, Blackwatch switched over to their current practice of shooting first, performing autopsies, and never asking questions.
      • Of course this attitude doesn't work well when a shapeshifter is your enemy. When impersonating a Blackwatch member Alex can freely kill anyone without suspicion so long as he loudly announces that he thinks it's him in disguise and can call Blackwatch airstrikes on their own men and bases because of this attitude.
  • The majority of the antagonists of Xenogears are members of the Gebler Special Forces, the state army of the Sacred Empire of Solaris. Some of their highlights include: Staging a suicide attack on the power plant of an enemy capital knowing full well it would kill thousands of innocent civilians. Menacing women and children with 30 foot tall Humongous Mecha. Attacking a pacifist nation with virtually no standing army of its own. And sicking a gigantic autonomous weapon on the capital of a recently liberated puppet state in order to eradicate it. Interestingly enough, every member of Gebler eventually Heel Face Turns except for two: Vanderkaum and Miang. Vanderkaum is an idiot and dies early on in the game, and Miang is actually the Big Bad.
  • In Beyond Good and Evil you have the Alpha Section, a shady group who always seems to arrive too late to be any good to anyone. And for some reason they've set up barriers all around Hillys. And they don't seem to be doing anything to stop all the recent abductions...
    • This is inverted by Hillys' regular army though, who actually are good and decent, but are being done away with by the Alpha Section.
  • Played straight and subverted in both F.E.A.R. games. The protagonists in each game are members of highly specialized military forces and are decidedly the good guys (F.E.A.R. team in the first game and Delta Force in the second). The soldiers that they fight, however, are either cloned killing machines in the case of the Replicas, or irredeemably evil corporate mercenaries.
  • Assassin's Creed II and Brotherhood, provide us with the Borgia army which happens to be the official army. The good guys Ezio can ally with are the Condottieri and Merccenari.
    • Revelations semi-subverts this with the Ottoman Army - whilst they will still kill you and bully the citizens of Konstantiniyye, they are serving the lawful authority and hate the Templars. After you kill their commander, it is revealed that he was good all along. Played straight with the Byzantine Army.
  • Dead Rising, featuring the standard "scary guys with assault rifles and gas masks who try to kill you to cover up everything" depiction of the U.S. Military that appears in countless other works such as Prototype, Half Life, The Crazies, etc.
  • The Subspace Army from Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
    • Subverted with the Ancient Minister and his R.O.B. Squad. While they do side with the Subspace Army initially, it becomes clear as the plot is revealed that they are being forced into doing so. The villains (Ganondorf, Bowser, and Wario) under the guidance of Tabuu, have essentially enslaved them, and the Ancient Minister joins the heroes as R.O.B. for the rest of the game, essentially making him and his kind Tragic Anti Villains.
  • In Metal Walker, this happens in the backstory. In contrast to the peaceful Professor Eriko, Professor Xenon wanted to use Cores for military purposes. Cue an explosion and a ruined landscape.
  • Lab of the Dead: While the military is not universally evil (indeed, the player sympathizes with a soldier who committed suicide, since the world is overrun with zombies), the general he is with blames science for the world’s problems, even though it was in fact the military that had caused it. A scientist helped design the virus, but she was the first one to realize there was something seriously wrong with what they were making. But the military simply did not do the right thing. And the whole world suffered for it.



General: There are basically two divisions in the collective we call "The Military." There is the heroic military, as represented in most of your early war movies, and the conspiratorial military (filled with subterfuge and deception), as represented in bad sci-fi films and The X-Files.
Zoe: And you would be from ...
General: General Mayhem! Pleased ta meetcha!


Western Animation

  • Futurama does this many times for humor, normally involving Zapp, but of course it all goes wrong, leaving the gang to sort things out. This also happens in the movie Beast with a Billion Backs.
    • Of course, it's arguably not the military that's bad...just Zapp, who for some inexplicable reason manages to stay in command.