Top 20 Movie Badasses
From cowboys to ex-cons, all these big-screen tough guys have a serious history of violence.
20. Seu Jorge
City of God, 2002
It’s not easy being beautiful. Knockout Ned makes looks-impaired Rio crime lord Li’l Ze jealous, inspiring Ze to rape Ned’s girlfriend. The clean-living Ned promptly becomes a gangster and settles things the old-fashioned way: with lead.
Tough talk: “One condition: No killing of innocent people. I can’t accept that.”
19. Vinnie Jones
Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, 1998
A Brit soccer thug before getting into acting, Mr. Jones as Big Chris crushes
heads with doors while still making Little Chris mind his manners (parenting’s a full-time job).
Tough talk: “You use language like that again, son, you’ll wish you hadn’t!”
18. Jack Palance
Think Palance is a badass in City Slickers? Check him out in his prime as Toriano. He’s an Apache chief’s son who pretends to be assimilated, only to lead a bloody rebellion against the white man (Charlton Heston
is not amused).
Tough talk: “We must dance before we kill.”
17. George Clooney
The American, 2010
Clooney puts aside his usually genial, smirking onscreen persona to play a cold-blooded assassin who is the best there is at what he does. And you thought Matt Damon was the only Ocean‘s crew member who could run and gun.
Tough talk: “All men are sinners. Everything I’ve done I’ve had good cause to do.”
16. Melvin Van Peebles
Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, 1971
Few people change the movie biz. Melvin’s one of them. His flick about a sex machine who goes on the lam after giving two white cops a taste of their own medicine spawned blaxploitation.
Tough talk: “You bled my mama…you bled my papa…but you won’t bleed me.”
15-12. Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden, and Ernest Borgnine
The Wild Bunch, 1969
They’re four guys who enjoy the simple pleasures, such as tequila, whores, stealing everything that isn’t nailed down, facing certain death rather than abandoning a buddy, and firing off thousands of rounds in a brutal final showdown with the Mexican army. Ah, friendship.
Tough talk: “When you side with a man, you stay with him…You can’t do that, you’re like some animal.”
11. Gene Hackman
The French Connection, 1971
Popeye Doyle will stop a heroin shipment no matter how many suspects he must slap around or pedestrians he nearly runs over or Feds he shoots accidentally. Be glad he’s on our side (kind of).
Tough talk: “You put a shiv in my partner. You know what that means?”
10. Choi Min-Sik
Inexplicably imprisoned for 15 years, self-absorbed drunk Dae-Su has five days to find out who did it and punish them. Fortunately, the Korean put that time away to good use, emerging wiser, more considerate, and way better at hammer fighting.
Tough talk: “Revenge is good for your health.”
9. Tony Jaa
The Protector, 2005
Be you an anonymous henchman or a thug with biceps the size of Camryn Manheim or a whip-wielding transsexual, Kham will snap your limbs in the most savage manner possible and leave you for dead. Let’s hear it for equality.
Tough talk: “You killed my father and stole my elephants!”
8. Michael Caine
Get Carter, 1971
Before his “Good night, you Princes of Maine” phase, Caine was a London gangster who returns home to Newcastle to avenge his brother’s death by killing…well, pretty much everyone in Newcastle.
Tough talk: “You’re a big man, but you’re in bad shape…Now behave yourself.”
7. James Caan
Frank may be a safecracker (and, worse, a used-car salesman) with a dream of the simple life in the ’burbs that leads him to work with the Mob, but you still pull for him. It’s easy to like a character mentored by Willie Nelson.
Tough talk: “If I wanna meet people, I’ll go to a fuckin’ country club.”
6. Jean Reno
The Professional, 1994
Reno’s Léon oozes such quiet cool as a hitman raising an orphaned 12-year-old that we had to rethink our attitudes on the French (now we don’t say all Frenchmen are pussies; we say most Frenchmen are).
Tough talk: “The closer you get to being a pro, the closer you can get to the client.”
5. Charles Bronson
The Magnificent Seven, 1960
All seven gunslingers are good—magnificent, really—but if you have to pick one, take Bernardo O’Reilly, a killer who loves the kiddies.
Tough talk: “You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility!”
4-2. Jamison Newlander, Corey Haim, and Corey Feldman
The Lost Boys, 1987
It’s tough being new in Santa Carla. For one, the cool kids are vampires who turn you into the undead. Luckily, the Frog brothers are ready to help out (with an assist from Haim, the lesser Corey).
Tough talk: “Totally annihilated his night-stalking ass!”
1. Lee Marvin
Point Blank, 1967
To portray the ultimate movie badass, it requires a real-life one. Enter World War II marine Lee Marvin. Walker is a man of principle. When the Organization owes him $93,000, the man is going to receive his $93,000—no less, no more—even if he has to take down everyone in the entire frickin’ Organization while he’s collecting. Pimps everywhere, discover how it’s done right.
Tough talk: “I want my money.”