Maybe because it sounds really cool, but Commander is a very popular rank in fiction.
In real life navies, commander is the second-most senior field rank, right below the rank of Captain. A commander can be the commanding officer of a ship (a.k.a. The Captain), but generally he is the first officer, or as we put it: the Number Two. The army equivalent is lieutenant colonel; while there is no commander rank in any army, it is used as a title.
Someone who qualifies as commanding coolness can also be of the rank Lieutenant Commander. In the old days, lieutenants would be given command of ships that didn't necessitate the presence of a Captain or Commander. The rank itself was initially called "Lieutenant Commanding" or "Lieutenant in Command" before it was officially named by the US Navy in the 19th Century. This practice is continued today, with smaller ships like minesweepers and submarines being captained by Lieutenant Commanders.
In science fiction, commanders usually have their traditional position as executive officer. Some works will have commander as a general staff rank, along with the title or rank (or both) of the supreme leader of military forces. See also Colonel Badass. A commander who is decidedly uncool may be a Commander Contrarian.
Anime and Manga
- In Berserk, Guts was the commander of the Hawks' Raiders. As the Band of the Hawk was a mercenary unit, not a lot of attention was paid to ranks in the band.
- In Naruto, we have Shikaku Nara, the Jounin Commander of Konoha, who acts as a right-hand man to Tsunade.
- Captain-Commander Shigekuni Yamamoto-Genryusai.
- In the Star Wars films, this is perhaps the most common rank. By Return of the Jedi, all the Imperial officers were commanders (even Admiral Piett) due to a costuming goof.
- It is a replacement of the rank Major.
- Commander Roarke in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
- Commander James Bond, at your service. Mentioned while he banters with Xenia Onatopp in GoldenEye.
- Star Trek has Commander Spock.
- Luke Skywalker ends up a commander in the Rebellion not long after A New Hope.
- In most of the X Wing Series, Rogue and Wraith Squadrons are headed by Commander Antilles. Then he accepts a promotion to General.
- In the Human-Centauri Defense Force, Commander is short for "Battle Commander", and is a temporary title bestowed on a spacecraft's C.O. for only as long as a Red Alert situation exists.
- James Bond held the rank of Commander in the Royal Navy before he joined MI 6, as also noted in Film above.
- Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch in Discworld - promoted from Captain at the end of Men At Arms.
- Commander Dynamic of the book/comic book series Limekiller At Large
- In The Phoenix Legacy trilogy by M.K. Wren, Commander is a higher rank than Captain—and the highest military rank is "First Commander."
- The captain of USS Walker is Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy. An odd twist is that he refuses to use a higher rank, despite that he's promoted several of his officers (and a former enlisted or two) to full commander or even higher—and he's got admirals and generals, too, acclaiming him as their superior.
- Commander William Adama of the Battlestar Galactica. Enough said.
- Comes up all the time in Star Trek
- Benjamin Sisko of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine started off as a commander, as he was in charge of a station instead of a starship. He got promoted at the end of Season 3.
- The first officers of every other Star Trek series have been of this rank.
- Commander Shran of the Andorian Imperial Guard on Star Trek: Enterprise.
- Also with quite a few of the Lieutenant Commanders, especially Worf and Tuvok.
- Many of the villainous alien captains (Romulans, Klingons, Tholians, etc) are given the "Commander" title, presumably to avoid The Good Captain trope while keeping the coolness. One notable aversion would be Koloth from the Original Series, whose rank was Captain.
- Commander Taylor, leader of Terra Nova. Hell, he uses a crossbow as a fishing tool!
- Commander Anubis Cruger, of Power Rangers SPD; head of Earth's branch of the Space Police. A later Reunion Show reveals that he eventually gets promoted to Supreme Commander of the entire organization.
- Commander of The Protomen.
- The rank of Lord Commander in Warhammer 40,000. None moreso than Lord Commander Dante, Chapter Master of the Blood Angels.
- For Space Marine Commanders, one presiding over a battlegroup of several chapters for an engagement is referred to by the even cooler "Force Commander"
- Imperial Guard Commanders appear to be junior flag officers, possibly somewhere around brigadier. Lord Commander of the Segmentum is a much higher combined arms rank, the five joint highest in the Imperium answerable directly to the council of High Lords.
- A Space Marine "Commander" is simply the highest ranked Space Marine in a force. If a Space Marine battlegroup to really bad casualties, then the senior Battle-Brother would be "Commander".
- Commander Shepard, the Player Character of the Mass Effect series.
- In Mass Effect 2, during Tali's loyalty mission, the Quarians refer to Shepard as "Captain". A dialogue option is available to give Shepard's actual rank, but the Quarians (mostly) stick with Captain, as it accurately reflects the cultural role the character is taking by speaking up for Tali, as well as being Commanding Officer of the Normandy, meaning Shepard is The Captain in all-but-name.
- The Warden in Dragon Age later becomes "Warden-Commander of Ferelden" in the Awakening expansion.
- Their predecessor Duncan also held this title, although he was never actually referred to as such.
- The Dwarf Noble Warden briefly held the title of "Commander of Orzammar's Armies" during their Origin.
- The Space Marine's leader in Dawn of War of the Warhammer 40,000 universe is called Force Commander. The first game follows the rules for it by having the Blood Ravens work with Grey Knight infantry, but the second game does not involve other chapters, making the Blood Ravens' use of it either unique to their chapter (and likely Rule of Cool).
- 'Force Commander' actually refers to the senior Space Marine officer in charge of a campaign, regardless of how many Chapters are present.
- For example: Davian Thule is the Captain of the 4th Company, but in Dark Crusade, he was the Commander of the strike forc, having authority over the other companies and their captains present.
- In the Command & Conquer games, the player is referred to as a "Commander" by subordinates and superiors alike. There are exceptions: in the Generals incarnations, the player holds the title of "General", while in Red Alert's USSR faction, the player is a "Comrade-General".
- Throughout the Soviet campaign in Red Alert 1, you are referred to as "Commander"... right until the very last sentence spoken, which calls you Comrade Chairman.
- Halo has several. On the Spartan side, we have Carter-A259 and Catherine-B320, who hold the ranks of Commander and Lieutenant Commander, respectively, and Commander Miranda Keyes from the Halo Trilogy. In the expanded universe, we have Lieutenant Commander Kurt-051, and Jacob Keyes before he became theCaptain.
- Cobra Commander in G.I. Joe.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zhao is initially greeted as Captain Zhao by Iroh, but smugly corrects him by pointing out he's been promoted to Commander (presumably promoted; "Captain" usually outranks "Commander" in the Navy, but he was definitely acting like it was a promotion...it's probably because "Commander" sounds cooler, plus that way there's a close equivalence in Fire Navy and Army ranks, with Lieutenants and Captains in both, Colonels and Generals in the Army, and Commanders and Admirals (of which Zhao becomes one of a few appearances later) in the Navy.
- Commander Nebula in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, who used to masquerade as a bounty hunter to help Zurg's minions escape and even has a laser in his peg leg.
- In ThunderCats (2011) Leo, a Reverse Mole and Rebel Leader for La Résistance, is the Lieutenant Commander for an Evil Overlord who holds the rank of Commander himself. Leo and his allies are plotting a revolution to overthrow him.
- In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, many clone officers including Commander Cody.