There is too much emphasis these days on capes and energy beams and flying and so forth in our action movies. You must remember the days when all you had to be was a regular guy or gal with a gun, a sword and a lot of attitude to get the job done. Check out the 11 most badass action heroes from the movies,.
PLAYED BY: Uma Thurman
Quentin Tarantino crafted a female action hero whose path to revenge is paved in the kind of pain that only a mother who’s had her child violently taken away from her could know. Uma Thurman carries that pain into every brawl, swordfight and kill she undertakes over the course of both Volumes.
PLAYED BY: Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig
Ian Fleming’s 007 has changed very little over time. He’s still the same hard-drinking, womanizing, manipulative bastard he always was, and that’s why we love him. His borderline invulnerability gives him an almost fairy tale-like nature, but it’s a tale we loved to see told year after year. Sean Connery will always be the iconic Bond, although Daniel Craig has made inroads towards being appreciated in the same strata.
PLAYED BY: Toshiro Mifune
In Akira Kurosawa’s western-influenced Yojimbo and its equally-fun sequel Sanjuro, Toshiro Mifune was able to craft a Japanese ronin with a much sloppier, grungier and more swaggering style than had ever been seen up to that point. His samurai warrior may have been informed by America’s old west heroes, but he also influenced our next entry…
PLAYED BY: Sigourney Weaver
As seen in Ridley Scott’s Alien, Ripley was the only member of the crew that recognized the danger in bringing an infected crew member onboard, and that survival instinct served her well in her remaining three movies. James Cameron’s Aliens in particular posits Ripley as the quintessential reluctant hero who can literally wipe out a whole species if she’s determined enough.
Subsequent to the Dollars Trilogy, Australian helmer George Miller took rogue-ish elements of Sanjuro and The Man With No Name and gave them to his loner ex-cop roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland.
Mel Gibson made Max a legend by killing the Toecutter gang, besting Lord Humungous and surviving Tina Turner’s Thunderdome. Then came Tom Hardy’s feral portrayal in last year’s Fury Road, which also saw the birth of Charlize Theron’s equally-formidable Furiosa.
PLAYED BY: Clint Eastwood
Fistful of Dollars was a straight-up remake of Yojimbo, while For a Few Dollars More added Lee Van Cleef into the mix. It wasn’t until the epic Civil War gold hunt that was The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that The Man With No Name acquired the perfect foil in the form of Tuco, a sleazy-but-endearing bandit. Tuco brought out the badass in Blondie, and led into a final gun duel in a graveyard that is one for the ages.
PLAYED BY: Sylvester Stallone
While his initial appearance in First Blood was a relatively small-scale survival thriller with a nod to the poor way vets are treated in America, it wasn’t until Rambo II that the former Special Forces soldier was able to tame his demons by single-handedly winning the Vietnam War. He then fought side-by-side with Afghanistan’s Mujahideen in Rambo III and turned Burmese soldiers into Campbell’s Tomato Soup in the final Rambo picture. As Salt ‘N’ Pepa would say, Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man, what a mighty good man.”
PLAYED BY: Chow Yun-Fat
Director John Woo and his star Chow Yun-Fat created a new kind of cinematic gunslinger in movies like The Killer and A Better Tomorrow, but it wasn’t until Hard Boiled that Woo had honed his signature style (two guns, balletic violence, slow-mo, doves) to perfection. Although Tequila would never rescue a hospital full of babies onscreen again, he would return in Woo’s 2007 video game “Stranglehold.”
PLAYED BY: Harrison Ford & River Phoenix
If adventure has a name, it must be Indiana Jones. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of College Professor/archaeological badass in four movies (and one memorable episode of “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”) imbued the character with a laconic charm that only he could provide. In the opening flashback sequence in Last Crusade, the late River Phoenix also made a mark in a way that made us wish he was still around to play the character in a prequel.
PLAYED BY: Will Smith & Martin Lawrence
One’s a wealthy playboy, one’s a neurotic family man, but together they’re a couple of cops so good at their job that you won’t know what to do when they come for you. Smith and Lawrence’s easy chemistry helped sell the idea that these were two partners who had known each other since childhood, and its that bond that is at the core of both movies’ explosive Michael Bayhem.
PLAYED BY: Bruce Willis
What made this character so unique in the first Die Hard was not just his persistent wisecracks but also the fact that he was essentially a normal (albeit resourceful) guy trapped in an extraordinary situation. As the films have gone on, he’s transformed into more of a standard movie supercop, but in the two John McTiernan-directed films (the first and third) he gets hurt, he gets headaches, he cries when he pulls glass out of his feet… and kicks a lot of ass.