Who is the all-time best military character from TV and movies?
You will decide in Military Times' new Battle Bracket, timed alongside that other March bracket competition.
Round 1 voting is open now for our Clash of Characters bracket: militarytimes.com/battle-bracket. Sixty-four of your favorite fictional military characters from film and TV are squaring off to determine the best ever. Rambo, Reacher, Gunny Hartman and even Gomer Pyle made the list. Share the link, and campaign for your favorites, on social media with the hashtag #BattleBracket.
In previous years we've determined conclusively that "Full Metal Jacket" and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier are the greatest military movie and the greatest piece of military equipment ever. That's respectively, of course, although " Carrier" has its fans.
A full-field breakdown is below. First-round voting will close on or near March 16; check back then to see results and vote on Round 2.
ACTION HEROES REGION
John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone, Rambo series) vs. Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, Alien series)
- Different styles, different enemy, same result -- a lot of sequels.
- Seagal had some help from serious star power in the first "Under Siege" (Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Busey), as did Van Damme (Raul Julia).
- Pitt's next turn in uniform comes in May on Netflix.
Chuck Norris Eliminator: Maj. Scott McCoy (Delta Force) vs. Col. James Braddock (Missing in Action series)
- We heard that Chuck Norris ... you know what? Pick your own.
- Look for Evans in a series of Marvel Universe-based films in the coming years. Look for Johnson in pretty much everything else.
- Both characters are more than shoot-'em-up stars, but they leave an impressive body count.
- Harley's antics were seen as over-the-top for his day, but he never had to battle zombies, nor deploy with this level of hair product.
- Schwarzenegger pumped iron with some soldiers in Kuwait in 2016.
Col. Nathan Jessep (Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men) vs. Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker)
- Nicholson's character brought depth and malice to a courtroom battle with Tom Cruise. Renner's character brought some harsh words from the military community.
- Both save the world from takeover and/or destruction ... at least until the sequel. Only one can move on.
- It's the bracket's only sub-on-sub showdown. "Crazy Ivan's" are allowed and encouraged.
- Crowe's film was part of the actor's six-year run that included "Cinderella Man," "Gladiator" and "A Beautiful Mind." Wahlberg would go on to enter the nonfiction realm in "Lone Survivor."
- These two met up in an earlier clash pitting Joe versus a volcano. They also starred opposite one another in 1998's "You've Got Mail," with the then-nearly absurd premise that the lovelorn could find romance via something called "The Internet."
- Sinise's continuing commitment to the military has manifested itself in many forms, including a 2007 honor from the GI Film Festival. Mayo's presence in this part of the bracket is best explained thusly:
Lt. John Dunbar (Kevin Costner, Dances with Wolves) vs. Lt. A.K. Waters (Bruce Willis, Tears of the Sun)
- Costner's frontier epic took home eight Oscars. Willis has been in and out of uniform for his acting career, including a stint as Gen. Joe Colton, better known as the original G.I. Joe.
- A testament to the actor's range as the movies cross eras and services, and feature notably different amounts of beach volleyball.
- Ermey's performance has become the stuff of Marine Corps legend. Will Highway be able to improvise, adapt and overcome?
- Whichever naval officer advances from this sea-service showdown will be welcomed into the second round by an angry gunny.
- Both follow hard-and-fast rules for successful supporting characters: Be memorable in your own right and, if at all possible, work with Clint Eastwood.
- Wayne's military roles could've filled up an entire side of the bracket. A reader poll narrowed them to these classics.
- Choose a side from this Oliver Stone drama, but whoever wins will face "The Duke" in the second round.
- Two classic actors who stood apart from two remarkable ensemble casts.
- The showdown that proves military absurdity can exist regardless of generation or paygrade.
- The classic is back in the news as game developers seek millions to bring it into a new medium.
BEST OF THE REST REGION
Star Trek Takedown: Capt. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) vs. Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)
- Quite the comfort to fans of this series that once this matchup is over, nobody will ever need to debate it online again. Fun fact: Stewart's take on Macbeth-as-military-general was part of PBS's "Great Performances" series in 2010, and Shatner remains the only actor to appear in both "Judgment at Nuremberg" and "Range 15."
- Our pick of two characters from the acclaimed series that lasted longer than the war it portrays. Apologies to the Blake/Burns/Klinger/O'Reilly/Potter/etc. fans.
- No bias against Bilko, but here's a must-read first-person story from Navy Times staff writer Mark D. Faram on meeting and photographing Borgnine.
- Hogan outwitted the hapless Nazis guarding Stalag 13. Pyle and "outwitted" didn't come up in the same sentence much.
- Smith, the TV character, was a Medal of Honor recipient. The award was downgraded for the 2010 movie. Harmon's no stranger to military showdowns, having played opposite Sean Connery in "The Presidio."
- Grammer navigated a sea of star power that include naval officers played by Rip Torn, Bruce Dern and William H. Macy. Hays' co-stars weren't too shabby, either: Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Leslie Nielsen and a memorable turn by Ethel Merman as Lt. Hurwitz.
Pvt. Judy Benjamin (Goldie Hawn, Private Benjamin) vs. Lt. Jordan O'Neill (Demi Moore, G.I. Jane)
- Feminine star power is hard to come by on this list, but both stories showed (very, very) different versions of perseverance.
- Not to stack the deck, but Vader starred in a 2012 Navy homecoming video that also serves as one heck of an "Empire Strikes Back" spoiler alert:
Kevin Lilley is the features editor of Military Times.