Ranks in the Wing Commander Movie
I was disappointed in myself recently when I realized I had never bothered to learn the rank insignias used in the Wing Commander movie. Just like the full motion video games, Chris Roberts' team developed an entire system of rank insignias that was never explained… just shown in action! AD was kind enough to grab some screenshots and as a result we have created this guide to identifying officers and enlisted men in the film.
Previous Wing Commander games have used Air Force style ranks for most pilots and Navy style ranks for shipboard officers (like Admiral Tolwyn.) The movie drops this conceit and instead seems to use a variation of the US Navy's rank structure (with some changes; the retired Commodore rank is still used.) You can find the previous Wing Commander rank chart from Victory Streak here. What follows are the officer ranks visible in the film:
Lieutenant (Junior Grade) (O-2/O-3): Blair and Maniac, newly arrived on the Tiger Claw, wear a single stripe. Note that Tolwyn erroneously refers to them as First Lieutenants at one point in the film; Blair correctly identifies himself as a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) when he reports to Commander Gerald.
Lieutenant (O-3): Two stripes denote a Lieutenant. Many of the Tiger's Claw pilots, including Hunter and Rosie, wear this insignia… as do several members of the crew, including Lieutenant Obutu (pictured.)
Lieutenant Commander (O-4): Angel, intended to be the Tiger's Claw's Wing Commander in the film, wears three bars. (She would later be retconned to be one of several squadron commanders aboard the ship.)
Commander (O-5): Commander Gerald, XO of the Tiger Claw, wears the same three bar insignia as Lieutenant Commander Devereaux.
Captain (O-6): Captain Sansky of the Tiger Claw wears four bars.
Commodore (O-7): Commodore is an unusual rank which does not exist in the current United States Navy schema (it was replaced by Rear Admiral (Lower Half) and is now used as an honorary title for Captain who commands multiple other Captains.) In previous Wing Commander games, Commodore is treated as a standard rank. While we see two Commodores in the film, Taggart does not wear a uniform; Tolwyn's adjutant Bellegarde has the same four bars as Captain Sansky.
Admiral (O-10): Two Admirals appear in the film: Tolwyn and Wilson, the commander of Pegasus. Both wear five bars. In reality and in previous Wing Commanders there are several different types of Admirals including Rear, Vice and full. (Tolwyn is first referred to as a Vice Admiral in Secret Missions 2, though historically he should be only a Commodore around the time of the movie.)
Wing Commander does not introduce many enlisted characters and previous productions did not devise rank insignias for them (Rachel Coriolis holds the rank of Chief Petty Officer in Wing Commander Prophecy, but has no apparent rank insignia.) The movie changes this for the better, with square sets of bars to denote enlisted ranks. Servicemen with one, two, three and four bars are visible at various times and we know that three bars refers to "Spaceman Second Class" as it is worn by Miguel Rodriguez who is named in the script.
Victory Streak did establish both Naval and Space Forces enlisted ranks for Wing Commander III, but the chart does not include a Spaceman Second Class. Similarly, the 'real world' US Navy ranks do not have an apparent direct equivalent (there's both a Seaman and a Petty Officer Second Class, but no Seaman Second Class.)
So what power does this new-found knowledge give you? You can now read the ranks of background characters in the movie! For example, Chris Roberts chose a Lieutenant (Junior Grade) badge for his cameo: