The Captain

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
You and the Cap'n make it happen!

"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..."

Walt Whitman"O Captain! My Captain!"

The Captain is in charge. The Commanding Officer of The Squad or the Command Roster. Whether they're the Mission Control or actually working in the field, they're clearly the one running things.

They will almost always hold said actual rank, even if their performance would allow them to move up the chain of command. This is sometimes confused by the naval convention that anyone in command of a given ship is referred to as "captain", regardless of their actual rank (for most vessels, they're Commanders) - and all other "captains" receive a promotion for the duration of their stay. Horatio Hornblower becomes a captain while still a Midshipman...

The trope is undoubtedly Truth in Television since 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, even if his rank is not actually Captain. To accomplish this, he can Do What He Has To Do without getting labeled a Well-Intentioned Extremist. And not even the God-Emperor of the Universe can give orders past him in this case. (Failure may inspire Bad Dreams.) 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, so captains are usually the highest ranked and most experienced officers in a theater of war that still participate in the frontlines.

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. The ship's master should get to do cool things like officiate marriage. And any Captain must have a Captain's Log.

In a large number of cases, The Captain (often along with his senior officers) is depicted doing things that really should be delegated out to lower-ranked, more expendable personnel. This is mostly so that the main characters actually have something exciting to do, unlike in real life where they are mostly officers in the sense of doing lots of boring but important "office work". However, since there's no drama in conferences, meetings, and paperwork, the answer is to have him not behave like a real captain and hope no one notices. Of course, an even better alternative, even if it's a road less taken, is to not make The Captain the central main character.

Of course, one of the reasons it's a road less taken is that 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'. Dramatically, it just didn't work. Probably a more workable approach is to assume that the personnel available are a relatively small number, thus forcing and justifying the presence of the Captain and senior officers in field situations. Then again, Authority Equals Asskicking. The Captain may be 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. Do not confuse this with the Captain in Commedia Dell'Arte, who's a Miles Gloriosus.

Examples of The Captain include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Leijiverse gives us a whole space force worth of examples:
  • 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. Of course, 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.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha StrikerS has Hayate as the commanding officer of Riot Force 6.
  • 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).
  • The Gundam saga, with its love for Cool Ships, has a large share of Captains.
    • Captain Bright Noah from the original Mobile Suit Gundam survived so many of its sequels, he got dubbed "The Eternal Captain" by the fandom.
    • Murrue Ramius is The Captain of the Cosmic Era, though Talia Gladys from 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 in Mobile Suit Gundam 00. Also, Kathy Mannequin.
    • Jamil Neate in Gundam X
    • Berah Ronah in Crossbone Gundam
  • 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....
  • Bleach, deciding THE captain wasn't good enough, has 13 of them in the court guards alone (and named the Gotei 13 accordingly). However, even amongst these elite, 1st division captain Yamamoto stands out. He's in charge of the rest, he's been there for a thousand years because no shinigami stronger than him has been born in that time. On top of that, the Gotei 13 (while including the Covert Ops, because the 2nd division captain is also the Covert Ops supreme commander) excludes the mysterious Kidou Corps and the even more mysterious Division 0 (the Royal Guard) - both of which almost nothing is known about.
  • Sir Penwood from Hellsing is revealed to strive for this ideal despite his admitted incompetence. And his staff acknowledges it.
  • Bruno J. Global in Macross (Henry Gloval in Robotech). With his calm demeanor (and, in America, his Russian accent) he kept the Macross together and got them home. Humorously, his animation design is later used for Captain Nemo in Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Super Atragon features Captain Hayate, who rarely leaves The Bridge, has his own Catch Phrase and No Indoor Voice, always wears his full dress uniform, and sports a Badass Beard.
  • 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.

Comic Books

  • In some of the X Wing Series comics, the leader of Rogue Squadron, Wedge Antilles, is the Captain.
  • Gabriel Cole of The Mighty is in charge of Section Omega.
  • Frank Castle is a retired Marine Corps Captain in the MAX continuity.
  • Steve Rogers 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.
    • Don't forget Captain/director Nick Fury, the former top dog of SHIELD.
  • Hal Jordan holds the rank of Captain in the United States Air Force.
  • Nathaniel Adam is a former Captain in the United States Air Force.



  • Jack Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin series, as well as many other main characters.
    • As an Expy of Aubrey, Daniel Leary of the RCN Series was The Captain even when he was still a lieutenant.
  • 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.
  • Jerry Pournelle's CoDominium universe:
    • Commander Blaine of the Imperial battlecruiser MacArthur in The Mote in God's Eye.
    • Colonel John Christian Falkenberg in Falkenberg's Legion.
  • Horatio Hornblower in C.S. Forester's novels.
  • 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...). Interestingly, Pope mentioned that Ramage had served with Hornblower ....
  • Discworld: Captain Vimes before he's promoted to commander.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Captain Ahab of Moby Dick fame, distilled Captain essence.
  • Going to an age Older Than Radio gives us one of the greatest in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, and its 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 Villanous Breakdown and placed the Nautilus in the Maelstrom.
  • Captain Azarcon from the Warchild Series is the captain of a naval carrier In Space.
  • Although his official rank is Lt. Commander, Matthew Reddy is the commanding officer of the USS Walker in Taylor Anderson's Destroyermen series. Even after he becomes effectively an admiral, with other captains and even at least one admiral under his authority, he objects to being called by any rank higher than "captain."
  • Gerswin, protagonist of L.E. Modesitt'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'.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Eärendil is the captain of the Vingilot.
  • Captain Holly Short of the Artemis Fowl series, who refused at first the promotion to Major and then never got it anyway.
  • Captain Vincent Lorimar of the Unda Vosari novel actually has two Cool Boats but still only refers to himself as the Captain.
  • 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.
  • 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 quite literally, in fact, 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.
  • "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.
  • Bunovsky in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is no longer really a captin, being in the gulag, but he keeps up the act.

Live-Action TV

  • 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.
    • 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."

  • Jean-Luc Picard (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
    • Will Riker temporarily took the rank and position of captain in the two-part episode "The Best of Both Worlds", and would later permanently move on and become The Captain of the USS Titan at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis.
  • Benjamin Sisko (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; though originally he was a Commander, he would get promoted).
  • Kathryn Janeway (Star Trek: Voyager ; eventually promoted to vice-admiral).
  • Jonathan Archer (Star Trek: Enterprise)
  • Jeffrey Sinclair (Babylon 5, 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 (Babylon 5, 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.)
  • 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.
    • "Colonel" is the Army/Marines/Air Force direct rank equivalent to the Naval rank "Captain". Both Army/Marines/Airforce "Colonel" and Naval "Captain are rank O-6.
    • 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, all aerospace operations (presumably including space fleets) are operated by the Air Force.
    • 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"...
      • In the Air Force/Army/Marines, "Captain" is the rank immediately before "Major," and has nothing to do with the nautical commanding officer of a ship. Carter started with the rank of Captain, but she wasn't The Captain of SG-1.
  • 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. So I guess that makes him a Captain-once-removed.
  • Mal Reynolds (Firefly). Was a Sergeant, but held a brevet rank of Captain in wartime before becoming the Master of a merchant ship.
    • Oh, and don't turn on his crew, or you'll find out what space feels like.
  • Jack Harkness (Torchwood, but not Doctor Who; ironically, it's mostly in the latter that he's referred to as "Captain Jack").
    • The Doctor is technically the captain of the TARDIS, though he's never referred to as such, and is usually also the entire crew.
  • Nathan Hale Bridger (SeaQuest DSV, first through second seasons), though he left, and Oliver Hudson (seaQuest 2032).
  • Although it's never mentioned on-screen, off-screen media has Jack Bauer as a former Captain in Delta Force.
  • Adam Quark from Quark.
  • The fictionalized version of Edward Pellew, Captain of the 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).
  • Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear since its 2002 revival. The show is his, and what he says goes.
    • James "Captain Slow" May
  • Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith of The A-Team definitely belongs here.
  • Captain William Anthony Buck Rogers.
  • Captain Darien Lambert of the Fugitive Retrieval Section in Time Trax.
  • The police chief variety, Captain Francis Furillo of the Hill Street Precinct.
  • 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.
  • In one first season of episode of Airwolf, Hawke goes undercover as a former Army Captain. It's never made clear if that actually had been his rank when he served in the Vietnam War.
  • Captain Stephen Peacock. Subverted because he was really only a corporal.
  • Captain Marvelous
  • The Korean Drama Sign has Dr Lee Myung Han, who takes the helm of Bureau Chief after he forces the incumbent to retire.
  • It seems remiss not to mention The Captain in the sixth season of How I Met Your Mother
  • Lt Commander/Commander Mike Flynn of the HMS Hammersley.
  • 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.


Video Games

  • Oogami Ichiro (Sakura Taisen; partial subversion: While a natural leader, was given command of an elite fighting team as his first assignment)
  • Tact Mayers (Galaxy Angel gameverse; 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)
  • Falric better known as "The Captain" in Warcraft 3. 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.
  • Super Robot Wars, being a huge mecha crossover, naturally has a couple of their own, including:
    • 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 and is succeeded by his daughter Shihomi after a certain incident the captains the transformable and combining battleship Valstork.
  • 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 is too, though he/she resigned as a general prior to the beginning of the story and Bao-dur insists on calling him/her General
  • Jacob Keyes in Halo, and later his daughter Miranda Keyes in Halo 2 and 3, though his daughter was actually a commander.
    • 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 Captain Reynolds.
  • 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."
  • Lieutenant Commander Shepard is The Captain of the Normandy SR-1 in MassEffect, after being promoted from Number Two. This is consistent with the rest of the game; in reality, most ships 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).
      • The quarians of the Migrant Fleet do call Shepard Captain even if Shepard insists that s/he is a Commander, the reason being that s/he is in command of a ship and is responsible for the lives of its crew. It's a cultural thing.
  • None of the Pikmin were able to defend themselves from the various wildlife of their native planet were it not for the leadership of Captain Olimar.
  • Touhou Project 12: Undefined Fantastic Object brings us Captain Murasa Minamitsu, who is best known for flinging giant anchors at you.
  • 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.
  • In Modern Warfare Captain Price and later Captain MacTavish fit this trope to the T. When they start fighting together, nothing stops them.
  • 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.
  • Not sure if this counts, but 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 be soon Rear Admiral or with "Season 2" up to Vice Admiral, but still be in control of a ship (because of the beforementioned lack of Captains).
  • Captain Juno Eclipse in The Force Unleashed II where she gets her own frigate to command.
  • Captain Viridian from VVVVVV.
  • Captain Raynor of StarCraft. Doesn't really look like one, but besides that, he fits the trope to the letter.
  • 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.
  • Brother Captains Gabriel Angelos, Davian Thule, Indrick Boreale and Apollo Diomedes from Dawn of War, all from the Blood Ravens chapter.

Web Comics

  • 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.
  • Captain Kaff Tagon from Schlock Mercenary.
    • And (briefly, due to Time Travel shenanigans) Captain Kevin Andreysan.
  • Three of the protagonists [including the main character] in Operator 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.

Web Original

  • In The Gamers 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.
  • 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 and Privates First Class Simmons and Tucker.
  • 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.
  • Though they might have fancy titles like "Pirate Lord", The Captain is your basic character class choice for Open Blue (unless you prefer to be a marine/crewman/street urchin/whatever), seeing as it's a Pirate RP set in the age of sail.
  • Captain Nemo in The Endless Night is one obvious example.

Western Animation

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Goliath in Gargoyles, although his position as clan leader seems to be more one of responsibility than of privilege.
  • Robin of Teen Titans qualifies.
  • In Captain Scarlet, the main character is a captain, but The Captain is Colonel White.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Goodness knows how this page could get to 2010 without mention of 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.
  • Mulan's Captain Shang, who also happens to be Team Dad of his division.
  • Another literal example: Captain Zachary Foxx, leader of the Galaxy Rangers.
  • 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.
  • Shining Armor, captain of the Canterlot Royal Guard. And older brother to Twilight Sparkle.

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!"
  • 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].
  • 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.
      • To elaborate 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.
  • Captain Michel Bacos of Air France flight 139. When it was hijacked by terrorists in June 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 just about 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.
  • 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. All 155 crew and passengers were safely evacuated, Sullenberger walking through the plane twice to make sure no one had been left behind. Badass.
  • New York Yankees star shortstop, and team Captain, Derek Jeter.
  • 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 Two 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 pretty much 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.
  • Captain Tom Parham. First African-American to reach rank of Captain, and beloved Navy chaplain.
  • 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 Moment of Awesome, 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.
  • 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 Oklahoma in the late 1800's. They killed one of his friends, and mortally wounded the other, leaving Captain Davis outnumbered 10 to 1. The result; Davis guns down 6 and then engages in a knife-duel to the death with the remaining four and kills them all.
  • From the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men we have Captain Francis Drake