Top 10 Movie Badasses

Here is a Top 10 list of my favorite movie badasses. These folks are hardcore invincible types. No animated characters and no superheros. I have eliminated movies where folks are more than just badass. So if there is someone missing from the list that you think should be there, it is either because I haven’t seen the movie, had forgotten about it, or the character is a lot more complicated than being just a badass [i.e. Katsumoto [Ken Watanabe] from The Last Samurai]

10. Tom Powers [James Cagney]:The Public Enemy

James Cagney was one of the first tough guys in film. This particular film, dealing with the criminal mind in the basest of thugs, is still effective in portraying the so-hard-he’ll-break-before-he-bends criminal archetype. Cagney’s Tom Powers is like an old, dry, mud-covered boot.

9. Chingachgook [Russell Means]: Last of the Mohicans

Russell Means has a minor role in this film, for all that he plays Chingachgook, The Last of the Mohicans. Weary but enduring, Chingachgook is like one of those really old mountain pine trees. That is, until his son gets killed. Then he becomes smooth flowing death without batting an eyelash, shocking, brutal and strangely calm. Chingachgook can withstand the pain of being last of an entire nation.

8. Grégoire de Fronsac [Samuel Le Bihan]: Le Pacte des loups

Fronsac, a Frog naturalist recently returned from the Americas, has a buddy named Mani who is a badass himself. But Mani gets wasted. So Fronsac busts out his bowie knives, flaming arrows and martial arts and beats the tar out of a battalion of guys. Then he gets thrown in jail but is freed when he gets poisoned, buried alive and then revived. Then he takes two short swords and fights the big bad evil guy. The wire-fu is awesome and his rage rivals Chingachgook’s but is expressed much more forcefully.

7. Rocky Balboa [Sylvester Stallone]: Rocky IV

Rocky IV is a badass movie. It doesn’t have much plot or character development. It is a clash of the titans movie. Rocky takes on Drago [Dolph Lundgren] in one of the most punishing fight scene of all time. Rocky, who has been training in Siberia, hauling giant logs up mountains, doing upside-down sit-ups with a bag of rocks tied to his balls, you name it. Then he almost gets wailed on by the Ruskie anyway. He gets brain-damaged but Wins For America™. Bad. Ass.

6. Lee [Bruce Lee]: Enter the Dragon

Now we are in to territory where the names are certainly to be expected. Bruce Lee is still the gold standard for martial arts films. Enter the Dragon is a classic and we all know just how badass he is. Tasting his own blood, wigging out and wailing on his guitar. Yeah buddy.

5. Sanjuro Kuwabatake [Toshiro Mifune]: Yojimbo

Toshiro Mifune is probably the most well-known foreign badass. Yojimbo was adapted into Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars which spawned The Good The Bad and the Ugly trilogy. Kuwabatake’s badassness comes purely from selfishness coupled with skill. He doesn’t give a shit about anything and is strong enough to deal with it. You can take nothing from a man who refuses to acknowledge weakness.

4. The Stranger [Clint Eastwood]: High Plains Drifter

Clint Eastwood made his name in spaghetti Westerns. The characters he plays aren’t exactly groundbreaking, and in fact, he is best known for being a Yojimbo clone. But no one ever said that being a badass is a different thing. We all love to see ’em. In High Plains Drifter, Eastwood is such a badass that he doesn’t even have a name, like Kuwabatake, he takes what he wants when he wants and no emotion is betrayed by his squinty eyes. He can shoot the whiskers off a coyote too.

3. The Terminator [Arnold Schwarzenegger]: The Terminator

Hey look! Another stone-cold emotionless killing machine! Well, if you are a badass, you can afford to be cliché. Especially if you are a post-apocalyptic cyborg with an explicit knowledge of how to destroy anything that keeps you from your objective.

2. John McClane [Bruce Willis]: Die Hard

I think everyone has seen this movie. Bruce Willis gets the tar beaten out of him from beginning to end. Memorable moments include, broken glass slashed feet, climbing down an elevator shaft and into a ventilation duct, duct-taping a pistol to your back and memorable lines like “Ho Ho Ho, Now I’ve got a machine gun.” and “Yippie-kye-ay Motherfucker.”

1. Robert Roy MacGregor [Liam Neeson]: Rob Roy

Why the hell does Liam Neeson’s Rob Roy sit in the top position? Well. If you effectively faced down an entire bandit group while unarmed, barely escaped hanging and then recapture by crawling into a rotting cow, stopped your own death by seizing and refusing to let go of the sharp blade [while someone tries to tug it from your grasp] that Tim Roth is trying to stab you with, then you cleave Tim Roth in twain with one mighty blow, refuse medical treatment for your own wounds and then walk home. Well, you are one badass swashbuckling motherfucker.

19 thoughts on “Top 10 Movie Badasses

  1. Try Creasy (Denzel Washington) in Man on Fire or Scott Glenn in the original version. Of course, Joe Pesci in Casino is about as bad ass as it gets.

  2. I think I’d add on Steve McQueen’s character in BULLIT as well as DIRTY HARRY.

    And maybe Al Pacino’s Serpico too.

    And maybe Leon from THE PROFESSIONAL as an honorable mention for BADASS WITH A HEART OF GOLD.

  3. OH! And also Samuel L. Jackson in pretty much anything (but more specifically in PULP FICTION). I mean, dude, the man has a wallet that says BAD MOTHER FUCKER on it. How much more bad-ass can you get?

  4. Haven’t seen Man on Fire, the original version or Casino. Haven’t seen Bullit either.

    oh yeah, Dirty Harry would’ve been a better one for Eastwood than High Plains drifter. It slipped my mind.

    I was thinking about Pacino or de Niro but I’ve only seen half of Serpico and I think Taxi Driver is a bit too pathetic for true badassness.

    Leon can’t make it precisely because he has a heart of gold. Too complicated of a character.

    and I’ve never seen Pulp Fiction.

  5. You should see Bullit Adam, one of the best care chases on film IMHO. I do like High Plains Drifter or Eastwood as The Good, in the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m surprised to see Terminator in there, I thought it would be DQ’d along with Robocop. If you wanted Ahnold in there you should have taken his character from Preditor (real badass there) I am surprised that there is no Steve McQueen in there, he was bad ass in Bullit and in The Great Escape.

  6. People seem to be forgetting female badasses!

    1) Elizabeth Shue: “Adventures in Babysitting.”


    or/ (in all seriousness)

    2) Uma Thurman: “Kill Bill”

  7. Ward, yes that was a realultimatepower reference.

    I thought about putting in Eastwood for TGTBTU but since it is too closely related to Yojimbo I passed. Predator was in there as well, but at the last minute I changed it to The Terminator. And Steve McQueen is a pretty boy.

  8. I thought about Uma Thurman’s character but I hate Tarantino, so that axed it. For what its worth, both Elisabeth Shue and Uma are on my harem list.

  9. Yeah, I considered both of those as well. Both got axed because their characters were much more complicated than simply being ass kickers.

  10. It just occured to me that you are missing one of the biggest badasses ever on here…
    John Wayne in The Searchers
    Also missing George C. Scott playing the tittle character in Patton Total badass in that movie with his ivory handled revolvers. He even won an Oscar for playing one of the biggest badasses of WW2

  11. Where is Charles Bronson, he’d kill every one mentioned on this page… Except Clint Eastwood who should be number one, have you seen Unforgiven?

  12. Personally I think when it comes to badasses we have to consider Oh Dae-Su from “Oldboy”. I mean, come on, he ate a live squid….Oh and beats sixty people down with his bare hands…

  13. I dunno about you guys, but for my money I like Tommy from Goodfellas and Doc Holliday from Tombstone

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